Once in a blue moon I have a valid reason to visit Best Buy. In this particular case, an upcoming snowboarding trip had me wanting some cheap headphones that wrap around your ears. I found a pair from Sony that looked like they’d do the trick, but they weren’t on Amazon Prime so I couldn’t get them delivered on time.
Best Buy’s website showed the same model for $9.99 in stock at my local store. It was a bright and breezy Saturday morning, so I made my first trip to Best Buy in recent memory.
Oh man it sucked for so many reasons…
I could write a whole seperate rant on the search inadequacies of brick-and-morter retail stores, but let’s just focus on the particular item I was at Best Buy to acquire.
I walked in and saw two distinct sections on separate sides of the store:
- iPods/MP3 Players
Which of these two sections would you expect to find the headphones? That’s a trick question. There are headphones in both sections. Except each section has different models.
I first glanced at the Music section and saw a rack of headphones. These particular headphones had “sports” and “fitness” keywords on their packaging so I figured I was in the right place. They were specialized headphones which are designed to stay on your ears while doing physical activity.
Bingo, right?! Wrong.
My $10 Sony’s were nowhere to be found. The cheapest alternative on this rack was $29. If I didn’t already know that the Sony’s existed somewhere in the store I probably would have walked out paying 3x for a similar product.
It turns out the right place to look for $10 stay-on-your-ear Sony headphones is in the iPods/MP3 Player section with all of the noise cancelling and professional-grade headphones. Naturally.
The IRL (dis)Advantage
Once I found the pair that I came for, it was time to evaluate the product to see if they were a good fit for the job. At this point I’d expect Best Buy to cream the online stores where you’re left to look at a few low resolution images and read other people’s opinions.
Nope, not in the least.
Most of the headphones are wrapped in their standard plastic packaging, my Sony’s included. There is no way to easily open the package to inspect them closer. There are no demo units. You literally can’t put them on or hear how they sound. Wha?
Come on, Best Buy! This is your one chance — your only chance — to put Amazon’s shopping experience to shame. Have a demo pair of each headphone and an iPod there loaded with music. Are you ascared of theft? Fine, latch the freaking iPod to a table or something. Just do something! You’re doing nothing to improve on what the Internet offers. NOTHING.
They forced me to be that guy who pries open the packaging of a potential purchase and squeezes the item out just enough to get his fingers on it… just enough to hold the whole package up to my ear and see how it fits. We all know that guy. We don’t want to be that guy, but I was without choice.
The Crap Canal
I don’t know when it happened, but at some point Best Buy decided it’d be cool to force all of their paying customers through a crap canal on the way out the door (they may have cribbed this idea from Ikea, which is infamous for it).
Typical items you might find in the crap canal: Funyuns, Tamagotchi, a Justin Beiber bracelet, or the Superbabies Director’s Cut on DVD.
You know, the good stuff. The stuff we all came to an electronics store for in the first place.
What’s worse is that once you reach the end of the canal — where the crappiest crap resides — you have to stand there and wait for the next available cashier. They won’t let you queue like normal behind each cashier. You have to queue right there next to the Barbie Pez Dispensers and the Zune case/charger combo packs.
The Tipping Point
Where my Best Buy experience went from Just Bad® to The Worst Ever® was at checkout. After politely declining a Best Buy Rewards account, I was prompted with a question so ridiculous that the cashier felt compelled to preface it with “I have to ask you this”:
Would I like to buy a $5 warranty for my $10 purchase?
Would I what? Like to buy… a $5 warranty… for my $10 purchase?