"Unbeatable price guarantee" at Circuit City - yeah right...

Maybe it's cause I spent the past week at SugarCon and heard a lot of talk about "customer experience" and business, but right now I'm pissed. Today is one of the few times I've let laziness get the better of me and referred to a manager in a colorful, albeit lazy, vernacular as I walked out of the store. But let's back up to how this all began...

Meg's main computer has been an iBook that is nearing the terminal point in its life. It's already had a motherboard replaced and now the touch-pad is on the fritz. Throw in the power cord that only works if you rotate it once clockwise, twice counter-clockwise, and then jiggle and well, it's time for a new computer for her. We've been talking of getting a desktop and I wouldn't mind having a slightly more powerful system for gaming, so I decided to pick up a run of the mill desktop.

I've had a Circuit City card for a few years now that I use when I need generic electronics as they almost always have some sort of special going—90-days no interest, no interest for 18 months, no interest until the 4th moon after the third year of life after today, etc., etc. Last week before I left, I picked up a reasonably good deal on a Compaq computer and a new monitor. I ordered it online Saturday night before I left because I knew if they had a better deal the next day I could just use their "unbeatable price guarantee". In case you're not familiar:

Find a lower advertised price from another local store with the same item in stock, and we'll gladly beat their price by 10% of the difference. Plus, if you see a lower advertised price within 30 days of your purchase with us, we'll refund 100% of the difference.

Emphasis mine. Low and behold, Sunday morning they're advertising the same bundle I got for $100 less, plus a printer. I don't need another printer, but to save a hundred bucks and have a spare one laying around, sure, I'll take it. The only problem is the store opens at 10 and I need to be at the airport 20 minutes away from it by 10:40 to get checked in and make my flight. I'm not worried as I've never had any issues with customer service at Circuit City, I'll just pick it up and wait until I get back in town before I get the new one, take my receipts in, then let them work their magic.

Well, today I tried that. Now, back to where this started. Here's how the conversation went:

  • Customer Service Rep: What can I do for you?
  • Me: I bought a computer a week and a half ago and this past week you had a special on it but I was out of town until yesterday afternoon. I wanted to get a refund for the difference.
  • CSR: I can't. We don't do price matches on specials that are no longer valid.
  • Me: I have the sales sheet right here and was out of town and unable to get back in here until today.
  • CSR: Well, I sorry, but I can't do it.

You have to realize that the "sorry" here is as saturated with the poison of not giving a damn about the person they're talking to or their problems as is possible by someone who finds themselves behind a customer service counter in JoCo at 11:30 on a Sunday morning as is possible.

  • Me: Ok, so you've got two choices then. Refund me the $100's difference, or I'll just return the computer.
  • CSR: Blank stare, then turns to the person who is apparently her supervisor "Is there..."
  • CSR Supervisor: You'd have to run that by so and so. —apparently the store manage
  • CSR: back to me: Just a minute...

At this point I'm slightly annoyed that I'm having to argue the case. They don't advertise "run down with the ad as fast as you can and we'll get you hooked up". No, they advertise "buy it now cause we'll take care of you if the price goes down". A few minutes later after talking to someone in what I can only describe as a cross between a Cosby and a Mr. Roger's sweater, she comes back over and asks for my receipt. No full explanation of what's happening, but takes my receipt, prints out another, compares a few things, then takes off to Mr. Cosby Rogers.

Another few minutes later, and she comes back. Now she tells me what's up. Apparently they're only going to credit me $60 for the monitor because there was a mail-in rebate that they won't credit retroactively. I'm still a little annoyed but I'm not armed with a copy of their policy (which I would have been had I thought this was going to be a hassle) so I say ok. I'll double check everything later and take this up with corporate.

While she is finishing everything up, the manager comes in to the service desk for something else and checks on this to make sure everything is going and literally takes my breath away.

Dipshit of a Manager: So we're only going to refund the $60 on the monitor because it's not our policy to refund on sales that aren't still going on. I'm doing it this one time as a courtesy, but if you try to do it again, I'm not going to ok it.

Emphasis mine, but the fact that "try" is in that sentence at all is un-fuckingBooning-believable (Pat Boone says in an interview in the movie Fuck that he uses his last name as a swear word if he can't think of something else to say). So apparently, trying to use Circuit City's own policy is trying to slip one past 'em.

  • Me: You know, I've never had this issue before. I've even had stores change prices when I ordered online and picked it up in the store because the store was selling at a lower price than they were online.
  • DoaM: Yeah, but what was it?
  • Me: Fifty bucks or so on an iPod.
  • DoaM: Yeah, they probably just let it slide since it wasn't that much.
  • Me: Silence...

At this point, I can't believe what I'm hearing. Store managers, actually, it was a CSR the last time that adjusted the price of her own free will without me even asking for it, have the power to decide when they enforce Circuit City's own policy. Interesting.

So Circuit City struck out. Not to be one to only complain, here's how I would have handled this situation assuming I was a CSR dealing with me.

  • Customer Service Rep: What can I do for you?
  • Me: I bought a computer a week and a half ago and this past week you had a special on it but I was out of town until yesterday afternoon. I wanted to get a refund for the difference.
  • CSR: Hmm... We don't normally honor sales that are no longer on, but let me go check with my supervisor and see if there's anything we can do.

Then disappear for a few minutes. Head in to the break room, then text your boyfriend, gossip with whoever's on break, drink a soda. I don't care. Appear to be trying to make my life better, then come back and tell me you can't.

  • CSR: I'm sorry, I can't.
  • Me: Ok, so you've got two choices then. Refund me the $100's difference, or I'll just return the computer.
  • CSR: I tell you what. Let me go take this to the store manager and make sure there's nothing we can do.

Now you've got a live one, actually try to get something done. At this point, the store manager should have come over and personally oversaw or done the refund himself. You know money is being made on these at the price you sold it at 14 hours earlier, so you take advantage of that leeway you have under the auspices of "customer satisfaction".

Looking back at our exchange, the part that pisses me off the most isn't that I had to threaten the dump the computer back on them, it's that the manager came over and acted like such a prick. The vindictive side of me wants to feel sorry for the guy. Life's got to be rough if you're working the opening shift on a Sunday at a Circuit City in the middle of the golden ghetto, but still. You've got an opportunity to make someone's day a bit better, make a customer happy, and make more money for your company in the long run. Instead, you blew it.

I'm kind of snobbish when it comes to customer service, I'll acknowledge that. I like to feel like I'm being taken care of. Satisfaction is a perception. If you had the $60 leeway, use it, but make me feel good about it and like you actually cared and were trying to help me out. Don't come over and make some snide comment about how if I come back in again asking for you honor your own policy you won't. I want to feel like when I walk in the store you're actually glad I chose you as the place to make my purchases.