Before Geek Squad existed, it was known as the (dreaded) “Tech Bench”
In the last few months, Best Buy stores around the nation had their Geek Squad machines and pseudo- tech employees scoured for illegal software and company policy violations. Read the full story here:
Well, before my days at AOL, I worked at Best Buy. I started off in the merchandising department but felt wasted there, and wanted to be an asset to my company. Keep in mind, I didn’t think anything was wrong with the company at the time (now they make me gag). I really wanted to work at the Tech Bench, which is now known as the Geek Squad.
I managed to grab the attention of the head Tech Bench supervisor and informed him of my computer knowledge, and finally got an interview. He liked what I had to offer and requested that I be transferred over to his area. When I reported to my first day at the Tech Bench, they told me to help out computer sales. I thought, wasn’t I supposed to work with the techs at the actual counter? The tech supervisor informed me that they wanted to see “how well” I do in sales first before working with the techs. Ok, that’s fine. A few weeks went by working with computer sales and finally I was able to work with the techs and become trained in their procedures and practices.
Only a few weeks in this (un) wonderful new position, I found out quickly that amid the fancy decor and plethora of (false) smiles, there was chaos ebbing from within. First off, there were only 3 people who really knew what they were doing, not including me. The others strayed away from the technical aspect and attempted to sell ridiculous “services” to customers. Behind the actual tech counter was a small room that contained multiple shelves for storing desktop computers and related hardware and a locked cage with laptops, digital cameras and cellular phones. Each computer back there had an order slip in which briefly described the work needed to be performed on it, mainly OS reinstalls, virus removal, or just simply in need of memory upgrades. Because these systems would be on the shelves for quite some time, customers would come in or call asking about the status of their system. The items in the locked cage, well that’s a different story.
One day, no sooner did I clock in and get behind the desk, did a customer approach me with an inquiry: customer – hi, I checked my computer in two weeks ago, and wanted to know the status. Best Buy used this application known as S.T.A.R.S., not to be confused with the special forces team from the Resident Evil series, which was actually good. This program was horribly bloated, convoluted, and lacked a logical interface. I used this so called S.T.A.R.S. to track the customer’s status and it said “awaiting work”. Me: “Ok, let me take a look in the back.” In the back room on the bottom shelf, there it was. The order slip said it needed a new CDROM drive installed, but it sure as hell wasn’t completed. Back to deliver the bad news. I informed them, “Sorry sir, it’s still waiting to be worked on.” They abruptly shouted “What??!! That’s been with you guys for two weeks, and nothing has been done??.” “Yeah, I’m sorry, we’ve been experiencing a large amount of orders lately, but I’ll see to it that it gets done in the next day”, I replied. The locked cage was a foul mess of grand proportions. Instead of having major repairs done on-site, or at least in the same city, these items were shipped way south of our location. Most of the time, these items just sat in the cage, hanging around collecting dust and whatnot. Same scenarios as above occurred… Customer – “Hi, I was told that my laptop had a defective motherboard, and that it would need to be replaced, but it’s been two weeks so far and I haven’t heard anything yet.” Me – “Ok, let me go find out the status”. I checked in the S.T.A.R.S. program for the laptop’s status, it said “awaiting transit”. To get a second opinion, I went to the back to see it with my own eyes. I had a manager unlock the cage, and way in the back was the laptop with a tag attached. The information on it indicated that it was to be sent out to the service center for a motherboard replacement, and was dated over 2 weeks back. I delivered the unfortunate news to the customer, in which a great rage ensued, followed by colorful language. I notified the main tech supervisor of the situation and he took care of it, along with a severely disgruntled customer. I doubt they will be buying an extended service plan from Best Buy ever again.
That day, there were two other techs on duty, and I asked them about having one person stay in the back and complete some much needed labor by getting items labeled properly and prepared for a parcel pickup, etc. They told me that “the supervisor wants everyone to be at the front and to help sell services”. What kind of illogical nonsense is that?. If people don’t get their computers and equipment back in a timely fashion, then the name becomes blackened and no one will bring their computers in for any kind of service, not to mention lost business. There was countless times that upon clocking in for my shift, there was a line of people at the tech bench, waiting to check in their equipment, and using that forsaken S.T.A.R.S program was so awfully slow to operate, even for the tenured techs. A week went by, and I learned how their horrible business model works.
In order for Best Buy to make huge profits, they need to sell “services”. These services include packages known as “system customizations” and “anti-virus install” among others. I’m not sure if the Geek Squad still utilizes these names or services, but this is what I had to face. A system customization involves launching the system configuration utility, disabling all the startup items, then rebooting the system. Wow, all this for just $19.95!!! What the heck?. Just as bad as that was the horrid antivirus install. It involved installing Norton antivirus or Norton internet security (double gag) and then installing the newest updates/definitions. All this for just $24.95!! Usually customers who just purchased a new PC would get suckered into this. The sales people or tech would tell them, “Oh, if you don’t get this now, this poor computer will be destroyed by plague carrying computer viruses”. What a scam.
Other services we provided weren’t too bad like a data backup, or OS re-installs, those were fine, however the software used wasn’t. Someone had recently wiped off the hard drive on our test/backup system, and was in the process of reinstalling the standard software. I needed to back up some files for a customer but since the backup computer wasn’t ready yet, the supervisor hands me a CDR with the words written, “Nero Burning ROM”. He told me to go ahead and install that on the members computer to help backup all their files. I examined the folders once I inserted the disk, there was the main install executable for Nero along with a serial key generator. What the hell, so I’m installing pirated software onto a customer’s computer?? That’s bad business practice, highly unethical, illegal too. I just followed through with the backup and didn’t say anything. Later on, I found the CD binder where they kept the software, in it was countless CDRs with multiple copies of Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP. There was also a disk containing a phony copy of Norton antivirus, McAfee antivirus, Nero, Win DVD, among others. The sad thing was, I never saw any software discs with the actual factory label; they were always on CDR’s. I wondered if the head store manager(s) knew of this. Maybe, maybe not.
The Best Buy service plans depend on factors like duration (in years) and price. The “Performance Service Plan” ranged from $250-$300 and varied from 2-3 years. It stated, in these shortened terms, “If the item experiences defects with functionality, etc, we will replace that affected area without any charge, including all labor.” This means like a CDROM drive that fails would be replaced for free if it occurred during the duration of the warranty service plan. Now thats all fine and dandy, but does not include software problems, which is understandable. No one wants to deal with operating system glitches, and the problems and combinations of problems are nearly infinite. The bad thing is, when a particular component failed such as a motherboard, we didn’t keep those on hand, so once again, it had to be shipped far south for a replacement. The only thing we were capable of replacing was DVD/CDROM drives. This customer brought in their desktop computer which had a failed DVDROM unit and was within our performance plan. I happen to be the one who was going to be replacing the drive. The tech supervisor led me to the shelf and grabbed some major generic off brand, which was very low in price. “Use this one”, he said. There happened to be a matching brand and model number of the original broken drive on the shelf as well, I pointed this out to the tech supervisor, but he said, “I said use this one”. I was stunned.
Another instance of poor practice occurred at the beginning of my shift. A fellow tech was laughing at the fact that the customer’s computer contained pornographic material. “Ha hah ah aha hh ah ah ah, this guy checked his computer in for spyware removal and I just found this folder full of porn pictures and videos!!!” I sarcastically replied, “Wow, well I guess that’s where the root of the issue is.” He smiled greatly, “Yes it is”. He continued to browse through various folders on the hard drive, hoping to find more, probably for his own amusement. Keep in mind that all techs, excluding me, had USB flash drives handy at all times (I never bothered buying a flash drive at the time), and his was indeed plugged into the customer’s computer. I pretended to ignore what I just witnessed and helped out some customers at the main desk.
On a Friday night during the last 3 hours, the tech supervisor approaches me with a sheet of paper containing columns of numbers. Him: “Ok, this is where we’re at as far as services are concerned, I need you to sell some asap”. He pointed to a lonely $24.95 on the sheet. Me: “Ok, I’ll see what I can do”. Him: “I hope so, we really need this”. His tone was demanding and unprofessional. Sadly, this wasn’t the only time I had to deal with the “service profits” sheet I’d grown to love. At random times during my shift, other sales managers would approach me and “inform” me of the amount of services being sold. Manager: “this is where we’re at, this is where we need to be”. I began to think in my monologue, “No, this is where YOU want to be, since your bonuses come from a chunk of the profits made”. I made friends with a few people in various departments (ones who were there long before me), who shared the same ideas as me. We worked hard to sell additional “services” and such, made the company a profits along with bonuses for the sales managers, and yet we didn’t get anything in return. No commission. No goals. It wasn’t as if, ‘if you sell this amount in this amount of time, we’ll give you a raise, or enter a drawing to get a TV, or even a silly pizza party….”, nope, we got nothing. This further progressed my hatred for the company, but it wasn’t the killing blow.
The holiday season was upon us, as was the hiring of seasonal people for all departments. Among the few they hired for tech was someone I went to high school with and known for 4 years. After the 2nd week, he began to say, “Man, what is up with this place?? This job is a joke.” He began to see how the tech area operated, it’s poor procedures, scams, and severe neglect among other things. Out of conversation, he blatantly told me how much he was making per hour. I found that peculiar since he was making $3 more an hour than me, in fact, I was making the same amount since my hire date. I approached the tech supervisor that day and said “Why is it that the seasonal people, whom are temporary and only been working here for two weeks make more money per hour than me? We all do the same amount of work, we’re all with the tech bench.” His eyes were cold and dark. He swiftly responded, “Well, you’re actually computer sales helping out the techs, thats what I hired you here for.” I responded out of partial shock, “Oh, ok, sure”. What a filthy lie. At this point, I no longer wanted to help out the company in any such way. It’s sad that I actually sold a few service plans for $250 and $300 along with “system customization services” for the company and all I received was deceit. So, I perform “tech” work, sell their services, make the company huge profits and all I got was the wool pulled over my eyes. It was like the company “sheep” had just stuffed his ass in my face. This was the turning point of my “career” with Best Buy. No more Mr. nice tech.
It was time for me to give back to the community, and let Best Buy taste my vengeance. I changed from pitching services to pitching the meaning of their uselessness . I still needed to keep my job for at least a month so I still pitched the services when management was around, or least pretended to, but once I had the customer isolated, I told them, “Don’t buy the service plan, it’s a waste of money.” Customer (bewildered by what I said) “Umm, why??!” I replied “Because it’s a scam and a pure profit for them.” I could see that the customer was trying to disbelieve the fact that I was a genuine employee. “Look, this is a great computer, and I’m sure it will give you plenty of enjoyment, but you don’t need the service plan. Chances are, if anything fails, its still going to be 3-4 years from now, seriously. The chances of a hardware component failing is so slim, it’s best to save your $250.” The customer felt relieved that I had told them the truth, and purchased the computer (minus the useless service plan) and thanked me once again before leaving. I used this same scenario on numerous occasions. Distributor of pain, your loss becomes my gain. I thrived at the fact that the company was losing out on a lot of profits, it made me tickled yellow. You lie to me, I’m going to tell a reverse lie to your customers. Simple as that. There was a small handful of sales folks in computers, both permanent and seasonal, who also agreed that the company was festering with ill doings. When the customer attendance was low, we would get together and discuss how to strike back. They were unhappy with what was occurring, regardless of being permanent or temporary. I gave pointers on how to help turn down any additional services and to minimize store profits.
They trained me how to operate the register, a few weeks back, which I hated. I’ve handled cash in my past jobs, and I resent it like no other. On a Friday evening, 1 week before Christmas, I pulled the ultimate anti-scam. A customer had purchased a new PC, printer, and it’s required accessory cables and extra ink. I happen to be on register for the time being and had the opportunity to do my worst. The head tech supervisor was also next to my register, going over some paperwork. I rang up all the items, the customer paid, then was gone. Immediately afterwards, tech supervisor says, “There was something very wrong that you just did!” Me: “Well, I don’t think I left anything out that was in his cart” Tech boss: “No! You failed to ask him so many questions, oh my God” You didn’t ask him about antivirus, system customization, performance service plan, nothing!” (at this point he seemed very upset, as if his vehicle was stolen or something). Tech boss: “Because of that, we have just lost out on a few hundred dollars!” On the outside, I looked concerned but inside I was like a little kid at a carnival full of glee. The tech boss grabbed another computer sales person to take my place at the register, then said “come with me”. He led me to the Loss Prevention room and said “have a seat”. Haha, this is gonna be good, I thought. He left and momentarily came back with the main supervisor of computer sales. They sat down, tech boss began to tell computer boss about what I did, while I just looked at them. They asked me what was wrong, I told them I was having major family problems (which was a downright lie) and that I couldn’t get it off my mind. Tech boss gave me the spiel about “leaving family issues at home” and “coming to work with a positive attitude with the intent to sell”. The computer sales supervisor was far more professional about it when he threw in his input. After our little conference was over, I returned to the floor. I notified the people in our little group about what had happened, it made their night for sure, mine too.
One particular night, the tech supervisor was acting inappropriate with a poor attitude, most likely due to sales being low. As I was retrieving a finished computer in the back, he came slithering in and said, “I need you in computers, and sell a lot, we need services badly.” His tone was cold and unprofessional. I was having a relaxing evening so far, I actually got to reinstall an OS and some new memory on another machine. Well, this irritated me greatly, so I set out to do my worst. A middle-aged couple approached me and informed me that they were looking for an entirely new system. I assisted them in finding the best unit that met their needs. We were just about settled when the tech supervisor, whom was frantically attempting to talk to every customer in an attempt to sell useless services, managed to pull the husband away while his wife was still talking to me about the new computer. I told her how useless and wasteful the service plan was. “No matter how hard that guy persuades your husband to purchase the service plan, tell him NO!” She agreed and once the tech boss left to spread his poison to another customer, her husband came back to our area. He attempted to discuss the service plan with his wife when she nicely cut him off and said “No honey, we really don’t need it, I just had a good talk with this nice salesperson and says that we really don’t need it.” He agreed and that was that.
Me: (insert high score here) Best Buy: big fat zero.
Christmas and New Years came and went, and the new year was upon us. I was planning on working there for a few more weeks, then get the hell out. They began to cut a lot of people’s hours including myself; you would clock in, then 10 minutes later the supervisor would say “we didn’t make enough in services today so we have to send you home”. Lovely. By this time, I was no longer in the tech area at all, simply in the computer department, which was much better since I didn’t have to work with that horrible tech supervisor. Customers would come in, inquiring about our computers, and I just told them to buy from some other store. They asked, “Is Dell good?”. Me: “Oh yes, the best, here’s their number give them a call and they can custom create a system for you that suits your needs.” Even though I’m not fond of any type of manufactured system, I said anything just to prevent them from buying a system at the store. Some of the highest profits were from selling USB cables and printer cartridges. When customers came in, looking for these items, I would walk them over to that particular isle and show them the variety. “Oh my, these prices are so high, but I really need one.” I quickly replied, “I agree with you 100%. You can purchase one of these for several dollars less at the local Target or K-Mart.” They thanked me and left the store. I would share these stories of victory with the others who joined the resistance, Best Buy rebels if you will. They would initiate similar acts like me, but not nearly as bad. They would sell someone a computer, but purposely fail to pitch any of the services. I finally quit in February, and that was the end of my so-called tech career at Best Buy. Amen.
Well, I hope you took the time to read this genuine personal account about the horrors of Best Buy. It seems like all corporations have ill intentions of making money, and have poor management running the joint. For everyone’s sake, I hope they cleaned up their act immensely. Perhaps when the Geek Squad was created, they changed policies, ethics, and replaced some horrid workers. My guess is that they just changed their image as far as the public is concerned, sadly. It’s been said that evil never dies, and old (bad) habits die hard.