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My Second Article About Best Buy In 3 Years

Do you remember these guys? The guys who ran your town’s computer store in 1980?

computer guys from the old days

The above graphic is pulled from my original post on this topic: Best Buy Brings On Crashing Wave Of Nostalgia. In that piece, I compared my fondly-remembered formative experiences in the computer stores of three decades ago to the headache of shopping in the 21st century at the box store that came to replace all those neat small businesses.
Why am I writing about Best Buy again? Because Larry Downes has just published a really worthy article at Forbes entitled: Why Best Buy Is Going Out Of Business…Gradually. If you are a business owner on a scale from one-man-shop to corporate enterprise, please take a few minutes to read Downes’ piece. And please pay special attention to the author’s remarks regarding Best Buy’s most obvious failings:

Their “people” are not knowledgeable; they are annoying. The store “format” is entirely generic; perhaps a little confusing. The stores and Websites are not “preferred destinations”—they are destinations, at best, of inertia, or in the case of exclusives, destinations of the only resort. The “shopping environment” is the opposite of fun and informative. It’s depressing and humiliating, as in “I can’t believe I had to go to Best Buy to get this.”

Hear, hear, Mr. Downes! I salute your astute appraisal of the very qualities that have made shopping at Best Buy so unsatisfactory for so many people for so many years.
How you treat your customers is critical. Yet, the sad truth is that you can abuse your customers and succeed financially for a long time in America. After all, being wonderful to customers did not keep all of the little computer stores in business once the Best Buys and Circuit Cities came rolling along. But perhaps there is some type of long-range karma involved. Circuit City is gone, and if Larry Downes’ predictions come true, Best Buy will eventually disappear, leaving empty, hulking blue-and-purple hulls across the land where once a fortune was being made, for a little while.
We live in a service economy. Best Buy has never gotten this right. I’m not one to kick a man when he’s down, and I certainly sicken at the thought of further lost businesses and lost jobs in our present crazy economy. But moments like these should elicit introspection.
As the business owner – are you willing to put customer service first? As the consumer – have you learned a lesson yet? Do you miss the little shops yet, with their personal stake in good customer service and their personal accountability? Would you be more loyal, this time around, if – after the hypothetical closing of a store like Best Buy – the new only game in town was being run by a couple of old computer programmers with quirky manners and a world of real knowledge to share with you to make your interactions with electronics less problematic and more fulfilling? And when the next box store came to town, 5 years in the future, would you stay loyal to the superior experience or repeat the same mistake all over again?
Something to think about.