Fry’s Electronics is a Bay Area institution. Fry’s has notoriously poor customer service paired with excellent selection and an amazingly great no questions asked return policy.
How bad is the customer service?
When Best Buy set up shop here, they ran a sequence of ads asking local Bay Area residents what they thought of Fry’s customer service. Let’s be clear, they said that their pimply faced sales reps knew more about the products they were selling than the other guys sales reps. They were saying the other guy had set the bar so low, that they could vault over it …
Fry’s Sales Reps Mislead
Many years ago I learned that a Fry’s Electronics rep would mislead you. The sales rep in 1998 sold me a VCR that he said could skip over ads. Stupid Kostadis, what the sales rep meant was that there was a 30 second skip button on my VCR.
Two years ago, I relearned that lesson when I tried to buy a portable AC. The sales rep tried to sell me the product he was tasked with selling even though it was the wrong product for my needs.
Fry’s as a warehouse
The last two years I have used Fry’s as a warehouse. I show up with a piece of paper that describes the precise product I want. I avoid every single sales rep in the store, pick up the product, and then leave. If I have any questions I use my cell phone to look the information up. If a sales rep approaches me I growl at them: Go away. If they try and offer help: I say no, I don’t need it.
That approach mostly worked. Until today.
The all-time low
I wanted to buy some memory for my new 10” netbook. So I write down the specifications, and I march into Fry’s expecting to find the part and leave.
Unfortunately I could not just pick up the memory module from an aisle. A sales rep had to enter the specifications and then fetch me the part. I was ready to turn around and leave but figured that the simple task of entering some data into a computer and fetching the memory should preclude the usual set of Fry’s shenanigans.
The sales rep enters the information I carefully wrote down, tells me the price and I say okay. But before I sign and she gets her commission, she asks me a question. The question made it clear to both of us that she didn’t have the part I wanted. Instead of admitting that she could not fulfill my order, the Fry’s shenanigans began.
First she says that:
The memory module does not exist. That the memory module whose specifications I recorded from a memory module being sold on Amazon did not exist.
When I look at her with disbelief and say, no I want this specific part, she turns around and says that
To get the memory module I wanted, I had to buy 4 GB.
And when I refuse to do that, she starts mumbling stuff. Frustrated, and concerned that her inability to speak English was causing a misunderstanding, I ask if she could just get me the part so I could read the packaging for myself and determine if I wanted to buy it. Her response was:
Okay, so I can’t get the part I want, I can’t look at the part I before I buy it, but there is an excellent return policy.
Wait, I know of a website that lets me get the part I want, doesn’t let me touch the part before I buy it, and has an excellent return policy …
And so 15 years later my sordid affair with Fry’s is over. I will never buy anything from that store as long as there is the option to buy it from Best Buy or Amazon. And if it only exists at Fry’s, I will live without the product.