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27 Confessions Of A Former Circuit City Worker

I had worked at Circuit City for quite some time, until recently when I could no longer stand the shady operations of its business. While working at Circuit City I worked in the Media and Technology department. I believe there are a few things that people should know about Circuit City...

1. When buying any product, expect the salesmen to tell you that after around 13 months, a certain part or battery will need replacing. The common manufacturers warranty only covers 12 months parts and labor, so the customer is pushed to buy the extended warranty under the impression it will fail later...
(Photo: VincenzoF)
2. If you do get an extended warranty (Circuit City Advantage Protection Plan), push for a lower rate. Nearly half of the cost is profit, so if you're buying a 2 year plan for you laptop that's running you say 200 bones, you could easily talk them down to 170, possibly 150.

3. Every salesman is ranked individually (unlike Best Buy) by the number of accessories they sell. When you pick up that desktop, salesmen are expected to add several hundred dollars in accessories and protection plans. If you opt to buy just the computer "naked" (meaning no attachments or extended warranty), prepare to be hammered. While being asked to buy certain items such as a wireless mouse, ask for a discount. Also, as for a "deal" on the protection plan covering it. For the salesman, it's a win-win situation; all the salesman has to do is discount that 30 dollar mouse 5 dollars or so, and throw in the protection plan. This brings up the next point.

4. Every salesman is ranked by the number of protection plans (or extended warranties) that they sell. At my store all the time we would throw on scratch protection plans to CD's, since they're only a buck, most people don't notice. During the $9.99 CD special days, customers who weren't aware of the sale were easy prey.

5. If you get an extended warranty, for the remainder of the manufacture's warranty you will be asked to ship it to them. We have all been trained to tell people to ship their defective computers back to the manufacturer, claiming that it will be "quicker." If the customer refuses, we may send it back to the manufacturer, only on the customer's part. Also, to avoid having to pay for fixing the computer themselves, see the next point.

6. For Compaq and HP computers, the "firedog" (Circuit's answer to Geek Squad) technicians are now certified to work on them, all paid by the manufacturer. For any defective Compaq or HP computer that is still under manufacturer warranty, you can take it in to Circuit City for work free of charge. HP pays "firedog" to work on their customers' computers. So whether you buy that extended warranty or not on that HP or Compaq of yours, for the remainder of the manufacturers warranty you have free rights to the technical use at "firedog." If you purchased a laptop, feel free to ask for accessories such as a remote or headphones, we can order them for free. This applies to mice, keyboards, and sometimes remotes for desktops.

7. If you want to try and save money, get an expensive protection plan and return it. The most expensive protection plan I remember seeing on a laptop was around $600, and when thrown on ask for a big discount, expect up to 150 to be knocked off the price of the computer. Then as soon as possible, return the protection plan, and keep the discount on the computer. All discount will always be applied to the product, not the protection plan itself.

8. When being pushed for additional products and services, there are a few different tactics. One is that once you refuse it, it is thrown in anyways. The other is one common at Best Buy, called "Code Green", in which we have another associate ring you up, and hammer harder to get the additional plans or accessories. Also while pushing sales associates will say that they're not on commission (true) and it's all from personal experience (not true).

9. When pressing customers to buy a software installation, we would tell a customer that they need to buy it because it has the AntiVirus and Personal Firewall by Norton, and Spysweeper by Webroot, all for $110. In reality if you want the firewall, you must pay additionally for Norton Internet security. Also, it's $110 after mail in rebates. The mail in rebate requires that you had purchased their software before or a competitor's, and have the UPC to mail in. When you're spending a grand, you will probably not notice an extra bit of a charge.

10. When buying a PC you will be asked to have a backup DVD made for a charge of $30. This is done through an application found on all computers, sometimes hidden. You could do it yourself for free. Also, it was very common to sell this on Toshiba laptops. Little do the customers know, it's already in the box. So we would charge, and do nothing.

11. Don't bother calling in to check if we have a CD, DVD or game in stock, chances are they'll say "no" regardless whether we have it or not. Just laziness.

12. Tags are often in the wrong place, so miss-tagged items are very common. You can use this to your advantage, and move some of those high speed SD cards onto a peg of cheaper SD cards. Customer service associates ringing up customers don't know jack about anything, so they will follow you back to the product, and then apologize and give you the right discount, just you may need to look a bit upset. Biggest discount I witnessed was an item that was $69 discounted to $12. Also you can look behind the tag on the peg, often people just put new tags in front of old, and leave the sale prices in the peg. Use that to get the (old) sale price.

13. When looking at computers, make sure that the tag you're looking at matches the floor model you're testing. We often would only put the faster computers on display that looked the same, so the customer would think that they're getting this fast computer when in reality, it's for the tag 3 feet away, and it's twice the price.

14. All protection plans are replacement plans. Which means it's a one time use. If you break your computer within the first year on a 4 year plan, you just wasted 3 years of the warranty, and might as well have gotten the 2 year plan, and if needed add the additional 2 years after the plan's up.

15. All accidental protection plans cover an additional month past what's advertised. (2 year plan covers 2 years and one month, 4 year covers 4 years and one month.)

16. Don't buy the protection plans just for the unlimited batteries, you can find laptop and camera batteries online for much cheaper.

17. Sales from ads primarily work off the bait-and-switch tactic. It's most likely that the item you're looking for is out of stock or no longer carried. It is hoped that since you came in to buy one and can't, that you will find a better and more expensive alternative.

18. I've seen in the past of people hiding the less expensive speaker wires for car or home theater, or other such cables in the back warehouse. This makes customers buy the more expensive cables, assuming it's all there is.

19. If you're buying an item with multiple gift cards, check to make sure that you're given back the gift card with the remaining balance. Several times I've seen associates give back the empty card, and keep the card with the remaining balance.

20. If you don't get the accidental coverage on the item you just purchased that's coming from the warehouse, it may be "accidentally" dropped a few times. It's believed that when the customer comes back in with the messed up computer, that they will then opt for the coverage.

21. Our price guarantee says that we'll beat any competitor's price by 110%. In reality, we just beat 110% of the difference in price. Say you were buying an item that's 110 bucks at Circuit, 100 at Best Buy. The difference is $10, and we will beat that by 10%, which means you only save a dollar by buying it at Circuit City.

22. Real names are not commonly used when answering the phone, just to avoid the chance of getting in trouble for bad customer service. Often used are other associates' names.

23 . When returning items, with every return possible, we will label the item as defective. For that 3k plasma TV you just "changed your mind on", it's most likely that instead of selling it as an "open box", that it will be shipped back to the manufacturer with some bogus explanation of why it's no good. Something like "fuzzy picture every now and then". Marking it down and reselling loses money.

24. Circuit City has violated "minor labor laws" to the extreme. I know of 16 year olds who worked 50 hour weeks, when it was only legal for 20.

25. Circuit City has laid off over 4 thousand employees recently to hire cheaper workers. They fired associates who were highly ranked in sales and service, and paid well for that reason.

26. Stores will keep great coupons such as "$10 off when you spend $100" up at customer service next to our ads that we give out. Sometimes they're only for the next week, encouraging that you come back Also almost everyday we were given a 10% off coupon to keep in our pocket in case we needed to give a discount to close a sale, making it look like we're making some special deal for them when really, it's just a plain old coupon that they could have brought.
27. Another shady fact that may not mean much to others is that they would send out 16 year olds to deliver tvs and computers. That's strictly against company policy, you're supposed to be 18 to assist or 21 to drive to a customer's house.

Goodbye Circuit Shitty.

- Anonymous


Crash and get burned?

Friday, November 03, 2006

One brand new computer, one tiny little problem, ten computer repair shops: The ABC15 Investigators put Valley computer repair shops to the test. Our consumer investigation will show you how to save money.

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Full text of this story:

We just want it to work. Don't ask questions - we don't have the answers... just want to plug it in and go. But what happens when it won't go? When your 'boot' looses its kick.

You do what any self-respecting computer owner does... head for the big ads in the yellow pages. From there - it's a leap of faith. Geeks, Nerds and Data Doctors... They all sound qualified - but the truth is most of us don't know the difference between our ram and our hard drive. So how could you possibly know what's a fair price to fix the problem? The ABC15 Investigators decided to put computer repair companies to the test.

Our hidden cameras are in place and we're ready with: Computer expert Gailand Baron, one brand new computer, and one tiny little problem.

Computer expert, Gailand Baron explains: "I'm going to lift this card slightly from the front and that separates the connection. All they have to do is stick it backs in and the computer will come on."

Baron says it should be a simple fix. "It's going to take them longer to get into the building than it is for them to get it fixed."

We'll see.

Seven days and ten computer repair companies later: K2graphix, Techs On Call and Geeks On Call spot the loose video card right away. Most of the companies identify the problem in less than five minutes... And six of the ten companies fix it for less than a hundred bucks. But not every company was this easy on our wallet.

Remember - this is a simple problem - the video card is just a little loose.

The tech from CompUSA said the problem was more than just a loose video card. "I cleaned up the dimm slot for your memory."

Computer expert Gailand Baron says he's not surprised. "They're trying to justify their cost. If they make it sound really hard, then ya, I can understand paying for all that really hard work." $149 later - more than double what a lot of companies charged us - our "dimm slot" was dust free and the "CompUSA" tech wasn't even aware of the problem he'd corrected.  When our researcher asked the technician if he'd done anything with the video card, he replied, "No."

Sometimes our tiny little problem required a very big explanation.  This is what we were told by a technician named Dru, who worked for Computer Renaissance. "Your bio settings load up all your processors so if your hard drive's not being recognized by your processtry then it does not allow it to boot up and then your video cards that were inside your computer weren't in there properly and we had to go remount it, retake it out and pull out the fire wire that you have in there also so that way it would at least recognize it on the second try."

The bill from Dru: $134. Seven of our ten companies were cheaper than Dru.

Actually, Dru charged our Visa twice for a total of $260 and, according to his employers, credited his private Pay Pal account. The company he worked for knew nothing about it until we brought it to their attention. They told us they would get to the bottom of the problem. We notified Visa to stop payment.

Next, we're diagnosed for free by the Data Doctors. For $99 plus parts she'll take our computer and fix it - or schedule another appointment at our place for $150 an hour.  Either way - it's going to take awhile. The Data Doctors technician told our researcher she didn't even have a screwdriver to look into the computer and that the problem would take time to correct. "It's not a simple fix."

Days later: a second visit, a screwdriver and a more accurate diagnosis. Here's what the technician told us on her second visit: "These screws were really, really loose and this card was not locked in as it's supposed to be." It took two trips, but Data Doctors cured what ailed us... and only charged $35... well within Gailand Baron's maximum of $125 an hour. "Would never go above that.  There's absolutely no reason to."

Unless of course, you call in the Geek Squad. They're part of "Best Buy." Thing was - it was our worst buy.  For exactly five minutes and 20-seconds worth of work we spent $249.00. The Geek Squad technician had an answer when we balked at the price.  "I'm sure you would feel much better if I spent a few hours here and I had sweat pouring off, wow he really worked for it."

As a matter of fact, we would. Our bill is more than seven-times what we paid for the very same service with Data Doctors.  But the Geek Squad technician was unfazed. "Actually, we are the cheapest."

Bottom line: It pays to shop around and don't believe everything you hear. Get prices ahead of time and don't be afraid to ask questions. So the next time you crash... you might not get burned.

The following are the 10 computer repair companies the ABC15 Investigators hired to fix our computer.  The only thing wrong was that the computer had a loose video card that needed to be re-seated. The average time for each company to diagnose and fix the problem was less than six minutes.

Geek Squad - $249.00
Comp USA - $149
Computer Renaissance - $134.00
Techs on Time - $110.00
Geeks on Call - $99.00
Geek Force - $65.00
K2Graphix - $65.00
Custom Computer - $40.00
Data Doctors - $35.00 (required two trips to house on two separate days)
Nerds On Site - No Charge

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