Best Buy Going Bye-Bye?

6 Jan
Best Buy Distressed

Best Buy Distressed: illustrating a less rosy, more hazy future. Created with Hipstamatic. Free for your use with attribution. Click to Download Hi-res at Flickr.

At this week, Larry Downes expands thoughtfully on “Why Best Buy is Going out of Business…Gradually.” Among other salient points, Downes slices and dices the following corporatespeak issued to some about-to-be-very-disappointed customers (you know, those who keep the company in business):

“Due to overwhelming demand of hot product offerings on during the November and December time period, we have encountered a situation that has affected redemption of some of our customers’ online orders.”

And then Downes totally pwns them:

Let’s parse that sentence for a moment.  The company “encountered a situation”—that is, it was a passive victim of an external problem it couldn’t control, in this case, customers daring to order products it acknowledges were “hot” buys.  This happened, inconveniently for Best Buy, during “the November and December period,” that is, the only months that matter to a retailer. For obvious reasons, the statement ties itself in knots trying to avoid mentioning that the “situation” occurred during the holidays.

Ugh. I can see Best Buy’s directors from marketing, legal and fulfilment all in a conference room drafting that missive, the poor souls. I don’t envy them, and I will not get on some high horse about how this kind of bad news could be better delivered — because it’s so obvious, as Downes rightfully notes. He continues:

The situation that Best Buy “encountered” has “affected redemption” of some orders.  Best Buy doesn’t fill online orders, it seems. Rather, customers “redeem” them. So it’s the customers, not Best Buy, who have the problem. And those customers haven’t been left hanging; they’ve only been “affected” in efforts to “redeem” their orders. It’s not as if the company did anything wrong, or, indeed, anything at all. — Larry Downes, for Forbes

Best Buy at Forbes

Click to view original article at

YIKES. So does Best Buy Even Apologize?

To Best Buy’s credit, they did apologize later in the same communication. Yet I can’t help but slap my forehead and wonder what could have happened If only they were more direct, maybe even going out of their way to make things right (free $20 gift cards, store credit, etc.) — they could even have turned this into a PR win… instead of something bloggers are writing about weeks later as a burgeoning harbinger of disaster.

Though I’m not sure I agree with Downes on Best Buy going the way of Circuit City in the immediate future, it certainly does not look rosy for them at present. And I’m not even talking about their finances. I’ve had great service and lousy service there, but the culture hinted at by this kind of language does not sound like that of an organization built to last.

At least, if it doesn’t want things like this written about it in Forbes.

And in blogs.

What’s your Best Buy experience been? Have you ever had an online order cancelled on you, and if so, what happened? Do you think the company is spiraling toward the drainhole? Let us hear from you in the comments!

9 Responses to “Best Buy Going Bye-Bye?”

  1. Tom Nixon (@tnixon16) January 11, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Best Buy now has the benefit of officially being on notice. They can either beat their chests in defiance or go to work now on curing what ails them. My experience is exactly that which the Forbes article describes. If I can get the merchandise elsewhere, and not have a horrible experience doing so, what brings me to Best Buy in the future? Not much.

  2. dickster1961 January 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Thanks for linking to my post. I ordered from Best Buy on Thanksgiving Day and received my order (A PS3 bundle) within a week. However, a friend of mine had ordered several things from them and did not notice until a week before Christmas that they had not shipped it. He then found out it was cancelled. He felt like they tried to make amends by sending a gift certificate for a future order.

    They could have been much more proactive in letting people know there was an issue with their orders instead of waiting until just before Christmas. If I was one of those who had not received their order, I know I would not order from them again. Knowing the issues others had may prevent me from using them in the future.

    • WilyGuy January 7, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      I was the friend to whom Dickster referred. Best Buy was not painted in a great light on my blog after this incident, but I made a subsequent update where BestBuy made an attempt at amending the situation.

      The truly disturbing piece of this is that some have suggested a pattern of this behavior. BestBuy makes advertisement of “Hot Buys” on the web and in store circulars and by lacking a proper supply leave customers feeling a sense of “bait and switch.”

      My referenced post is


      • rsmithing January 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

        Hi, WilyGuy – sorry for the delay in getting your comment to the site; ended up in spam for some reason. Thanks for stopping by!

        Without getting into numbers, did the amount of the gift card make up for the hassle to you? If not, is there an amount that would have (say, 2 or 3 times that figure)?

  3. Bob Stocking January 6, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    I’ve been to several Best Buys on both coasts and I get the impression they have ramped up the training of their staff. They are much more knowledgeable than in the past. I also have not felt pressure to buy, say, a bigger monitor or more powerful computer than I wanted. They do upsell warranties and such, which is a pain.

    The press release is embarrassing, but is standard corporate-speak. We’ve been in a recession for three years and if they were caught underprepared for holiday sales, well, that might be bad news for them in the short run but better news for our economy in the long run.

    • rsmithing January 6, 2012 at 11:43 am #

      Props to customers for stepping up, right? And for coming to Best Buy, right? And for helping make this a record season for retailers, right?

      None of that was in their statement. Such a missed opportunity, such a bungling of corporate communications. My jaw literally dropped reading Downes’ dissection of their words. And my heart goes out to Best Buy a little, because I know they agonized over it, and this is the best they could come up with.

      You make a very good point about the recession being better news for our economy in the long term. Something Best Buy could even have hinted at in their statement. But they didn’t. Sigh.

      • Bob Stocking January 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

        Great point! They could have thanked their customers for the overwhelming response, but instead played CYA. It’s all in the framing of the situation, isn’t it?

        • rsmithing January 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

          And in making sure you have enough of “hot” products to meet demand. But yes, after that, framing is everything.

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