Crazy Good, Bad Customer Service

I was in Best Buy recently and had a technical question. The receiver I’d bought back in August was acting strangely, so I walked over to the Home Theater department and explained the situation. The blue-shirted lackey had no idea what I was, like, um, like, talking about, so he referred me to “that guy over there” and walked away. “That guy” turned out to be on the store’s Geek Squad. OK, I thought, now we’re getting somewhere.

As I explained the problem again, he listened carefully and waited patiently for me to finish before explaining that the receiver was acting that way (it was defaulting to ‘Mute’ every time I hit the volume button) as a failsafe to protect my speakers. Some sensor told the receiver not to allow additional volume because it believed the speakers would blow.

Makes sense. So, what’s the fix? His reply: “You’ll have to get into the system and shut off the calibration regulator.”


My receiver’s remote control has 946 buttons and while I am tech-savvy, I sensed that I’d be back the next day asking the same question. Looking over at the bank of televisions, I asked if he could walk me over and show me while I was there. His reply, word for word:

“I can’t. If I do, I might lose my job.”

At this point, I did my best Scooby imitation. You know the one when he cocks his head to the side and makes that noise? Returning to reality, I asked for clarification. He continued…

“We sell that solution as a part of a $149 service where a technician comes to your house and sets up the receiver. If I tell you how to do it instead of selling you the service and my manager finds out, I will get fired.”

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • idk

    Simple, Best Buy is a place you shop to get the lowest or close to the lowest price, just like most people shopping for online print today. With Apple there is no deal, you pay top dollar for the product and service (like the good old brick and motar printshop).

  • Teresa Leite

    Great article Bill. Had me laughing because I run into customer service issues every week that have me shaking my head in wonder: wonder how they are still in business or wondering how I get a message to powers that be to tell them I was impressed. Now my kids do the "wonder" head shake too. Here’s to teaching the next generation how to recognize "Crazy Good, Bad Customer Service" Hopefully "Crazy Good" will become the rule.

  • Beefy

    My favorite bad experience with customer service was about 15 years ago with SPRINT. I was having problems with their product and systems. I notified customer service several times, and EVERY time, they started a new service ticket because notes that were entered on my previous call could never be found. I spoke to several CSR’s and even 2 different Sprint Corp VP’s. When I threatened to take my business elsewhere if I did not get appropriate customer service I was told that they knew their customer service was bad but they "could not" do anything about it. I promised not only to take my business elsewhere, which i did, but I also promised to tell the story every chance I got. Here I am, 15 years later, still telling the same story. And I have not done business with Sprint since.

  • Noel Ward

    Apple service strikes again!
    In August I went into the Apple store needing a battery for my younger daughter’s MacBook. This was a mid-2008 model that we’d bought in 2009 for to take on a 2-month trip to Japan. We’d gotten it from online Apple store and it was a refurb. Now, two years later the battery was shot.

    When I went to pay the cashier asked, "DO you have an AppleCare plan for this computer?" she asked.
    "Yes, but I don’t know the number or anything."

    She lined me up with a Genius and we chatted for a few minutes. I made a point of noting that we have 4-5 Macs in our house and have had Macs for over 20 years. He took the $129 battery I was about to buy out of the box and handed it to me. "Have a great day!" he said.

    This wouldn’t have happened anywhere else.

    This is one of the many reasons I happily will pay more for Apple products.

  • Chris Goodman


    As my friend told me once…They call it Best Buy NOT Best Service! I also agree with you about Apple. I have been converting all my electronics to Apple if they make it. Apple treats it customers like we treat our customers. That is why they are loyal to us and price is secondary.

  • Michelle L. Bracali

    This story reminds me of the experience I had a few weeks ago at Barnes and Noble. As I waited in the check out line I couldn’t help but overhear the customer at the register attempting to return a book. While the cashier was extremely nice she kept saying the return wasn’t possible because the date for doing so had passed. The book looked brand new and not as if it had been read but still the cashier refused. All I remember thinking is "Geez, lady! Why give a customer an incentive to make future book purchases elsewhere?" I’m sure the cashier’s hands were tied by corporate policy but it still made for lousy customer service.

    The takeaway from Bill’s post and from the comments of others is "Yes, we can" is probably the best phrase for happy and satisfied customers.