A couple of weeks ago I came across this article on The Consumerist written by an anonymous former Circuit City employee. Having had a friend who did time at CC, I will say that this seems like a very real article and I recommend that everyone give it a read.
It sheds light into the sales tactics employed by Circuit City, and you should also keep in mind that many of these are similar to all other consumer electronics (and other) stores. The moral of the story… information will set you free.
One other little note. Instead of simply asking you to take this anonymous guy’s word for it, I’ve provided substantiating links within the various points where available for more background reading. Hope it helps.
Originally posted at: 27 Confessions of a Former Circuit City Worker:
- When buying any product, expect the salesmen to tell you that after around 13 months, a certain part or battery will need replacing. The common manufacturers warranty only covers 12 months parts and labor, so the customer is pushed to buy the extended warranty under the impression it will fail later.
- If you do get an extended warranty (Circuit City Advantage Protection Plan), push for a lower rate. Nearly half of the cost is profit, so if you’re buying a 2 year plan for you laptop that’s running you say 200 bones, you could easily talk them down to 170, possibly 150.
- Every salesman is ranked individually (unlike Best Buy) by the number of accessories they sell. When you pick up that desktop, salesmen are expected to add several hundred dollars in accessories and protection plans. If you opt to buy just the computer “naked” (meaning no attachments or extended warranty), prepare to be hammered. While being asked to buy certain items such as a wireless mouse, ask for a discount. Also, ask for a “deal” on the protection plan covering it. For the salesman, it’s a win-win situation; all the salesman has to do is discount that 30 dollar mouse 5 dollars or so, and throw in the protection plan. This brings up the next point.
- Every salesman is ranked by the number of protection plans (or extended warranties) that they sell. At my store all the time we would throw on scratch protection plans to CD’s, since they’re only a buck, most people don’t notice. During the $9.99 CD special days, customers who weren’t aware of the sale were easy prey.
- If you get an extended warranty, for the remainder of the manufacturer’s warranty you will be asked to ship it to them. We have all been trained to tell people to ship their defective computers back to the manufacturer, claiming that it will be “quicker.” If the customer refuses, we may send it back to the manufacturer, only on the customer’s part. Also, to avoid having to pay for fixing the computer themselves, see the next point.
- For Compaq and HP computers, the “Firedog” (Circuit’s answer to Geek Squad) technicians are now certified to work on them, all paid by the manufacturer. For any defective Compaq or HP computer that is still under manufacturer warranty, you can take it in to Circuit City for work free of charge. HP pays “firedog” to work on their customers’ computers. So whether you buy that extended warranty or not on that HP or Compaq of yours, for the remainder of the manufacturers warranty you have free rights to the technical use at “firedog.” If you purchased a laptop, feel free to ask for accessories such as a remote or headphones, we can order them for free. This applies to mice, keyboards, and sometimes remotes for desktops.
- If you want to try and save money, get an expensive protection plan and return it. The most expensive protection plan I remember seeing on a laptop was around $600, and when thrown on ask for a big discount, expect up to 150 to be knocked off the price of the computer. Then as soon as possible, return the protection plan, and keep the discount on the computer. All discount will always be applied to the product, not the protection plan itself.
- When being pushed for additional products and services, there are a few different tactics. One is that once you refuse it, it is thrown in anyways. The other is one common at Best Buy, called “Code Green”, in which we have another associate ring you up, and hammer harder to get the additional plans or accessories. Also while pushing sales associates will say that they’re not on commission (true) and it’s all from personal experience (not true).
- When pressing customers to buy a software installation, we would tell a customer that they need to buy it because it has the AntiVirus and Personal Firewall by Norton, and Spysweeper by Webroot, all for $110. In reality if you want the firewall, you must pay additionally for Norton Internet security. Also, it’s $110 after mail in rebates. The mail in rebate requires that you had purchased their software before or a competitor’s, and have the UPC to mail in. When you’re spending a grand, you will probably not notice an extra bit of a charge.
- When buying a PC you will be asked to have a backup DVD made for a charge of $30. This is done through an application found on all computers, sometimes hidden. You could do it yourself for free. Also, it was very common to sell this on Toshiba laptops. Little do the customers know, it’s already in the box. So we would charge, and do nothing.
- Don’t bother calling in to check if we have a CD, DVD or game in stock, chances are they’ll say “no” regardless whether we have it or not. Just laziness.
- Tags are often in the wrong place, so miss-tagged items are very common. You can use this to your advantage, and move some of those high speed SD cards onto a peg of cheaper SD cards. Customer service associates ringing up customers don’t know jack about anything, so they will follow you back to the product, and then apologize and give you the right discount, just you may need to look a bit upset. Biggest discount I witnessed was an item that was $69 discounted to $12. Also you can look behind the tag on the peg, often people just put new tags in front of old, and leave the sale prices in the peg. Use that to get the (old) sale price.
- When looking at computers, make sure that the tag you’re looking at matches the floor model you’re testing. We often would only put the faster computers on display that looked the same, so the customer would think that they’re getting this fast computer when in reality, it’s for the tag 3 feet away, and it’s twice the price.
- All protection plans are replacement plans. Which means it’s a one time use. If you break your computer within the first year on a 4 year plan, you just wasted 3 years of the warranty, and might as well have gotten the 2 year plan, and if needed add the additional 2 years after the plan’s up.
- All accidental protection plans cover an additional month past what’s advertised. (2 year plan covers 2 years and one month, 4 year covers 4 years and one month.)
- Don’t buy the protection plans just for the unlimited batteries, you can find laptop and camera batteries online for much cheaper.
- Sales from ads primarily work off the bait-and-switch tactic. It’s most likely that the item you’re looking for is out of stock or no longer carried. It is hoped that since you came in to buy one and can’t, that you will find a better and more expensive alternative.
- I’ve seen in the past of people hiding the less expensive speaker wires for car or home theater, or other such cables in the back warehouse. This makes customers buy the more expensive cables, assuming it’s all there is.
- If you’re buying an item with multiple gift cards, check to make sure that you’re given back the gift card with the remaining balance. Several times I’ve seen associates give back the empty card, and keep the card with the remaining balance.
- If you don’t get the accidental coverage on the item you just purchased that’s coming from the warehouse, it may be “accidentally” dropped a few times. It’s believed that when the customer comes back in with the messed up computer, that they will then opt for the coverage.
- Our price guarantee says that we’ll beat any competitor’s price by 110%. In reality, we just beat 110% of the difference in price. Say you were buying an item that’s 110 bucks at Circuit, 100 at Best Buy. The difference is $10, and we will beat that by 10%, which means you only save a dollar by buying it at Circuit City.
- Real names are not commonly used when answering the phone, just to avoid the chance of getting in trouble for bad customer service. Often used are other associates’ names.
- When returning items, with every return possible, we will label the item as defective. For that 3k plasma TV you just “changed your mind on”, it’s most likely that instead of selling it as an “open box”, that it will be shipped back to the manufacturer with some bogus explanation of why it’s no good. Something like “fuzzy picture every now and then”. Marking it down and reselling loses money.
- Circuit City has violated “minor labor laws” to the extreme. I know of 16 year olds who worked 50 hour weeks, when it was only legal for 20.
- Circuit City has laid off over 4 thousand employees recently to hire cheaper workers. They fired associates who were highly ranked in sales and service, and paid well for that reason.
- Stores will keep great coupons such as “$10 off when you spend $100” up at customer service next to our ads that we give out. Sometimes they’re only for the next week, encouraging that you come back Also almost everyday we were given a 10% off coupon to keep in our pocket in case we needed to give a discount to close a sale, making it look like we’re making some special deal for them when really, it’s just a plain old coupon that they could have brought.
- Another shady fact that may not mean much to others is that they would send out 16 year olds to deliver TVs and computers. That’s strictly against company policy, you’re supposed to be 18 to assist or 21 to drive to a customer’s house.