Saturday, August 25, 2007

Caveat Emptor, 100 Percent ...

Today, my bank account received my first dollars from my Zap2It/Design Star blog assignment. (You've been reading, right? No? That's OK. No one else is, either. Which is a shame, because I gotta say, the posts I'm writing for that gig are damn clever. Meanwhile, over at HGTV's official blog for the show, hundreds of people comment on every post. Note to self: Approach HGTV about future blogging opportunities ...)

While I certainly have bills that will benefit from this direct deposit, I decided to spend a little of it on myself. So I went to Target and bought 40-some bucks worth of paper towels and shampoo and such. Hardly a reward. So I went to Best Buy, 'cause I've meaning to pick up a car adapter for my iPod since, oh, the day I got my iPod, which was Christmas a couple years ago. Yeah, I dawdle. I'm a dawdler. But I also didn't know which one to buy. I asked Dave, the King of All Technology, which one he uses.

"Mine's hardwired into my car audio," he said. Of course it is.

I wandered around where the iAccessories used to be and didn't find what I was looking for. A guy who didn't look like a Best Buy employee (no blue polo shirt; I mean, he was wearing a shirt, just not a blue polo shirt) asked if he could help me. I told him what I was looking for. He asked a guy in a blue polo shirt to help me. So I guess the first guy is the guy who susses out whether you need help, and then finds help for you if you do.

So Mr. Blue Polo Shirt Guy led me around the corner and handed me an adapter, saying, "This is the one you'll want." (Was he the son of Carnac? He didn't look like Johnny Carson.) It wasn't the most expensive adapter, nor was it the cheapest. It was $74.99. I asked about another one. He said it was wireless and therefore was more prone to static and interference. The one in my hand, he pointed out, plugged right into my cigarette lighter (and also charged my pod) and into the pod itself.

I thanked him for his help and looked at a few of the others. The one he'd handed me seemed to suit my needs, so I went with his recommendation. At the checkout, I swiped my debit card for $79 bucks and change. Tax. It's such a disappointment.

For what it's worth to this story, I need an FM transmitter for my car. I don't have a cassette player that will accommodate a cassette adapter because when I bought this car, I didn't bother to get a cassette player, thinking, "Cassette? I'll never use a cassette player." Because all my cassettes were stolen out of my last car. (Aside to thief: Seriously? You bashed out a window to steal cassette tapes? And left my cell phone and radar detector? You might want to bone up on your thieving skills.) And who uses cassettes anymore? Of course, when I was asking Dave for an adapter recommendation, he didn't hesitate to tell me that I should get one with the cassette feature. Sigh.

So I drove home and opened the package without the need for a blowtorch. This package, in fact, had perforated plastic for ease of access.

Finally! No more burning CDs for the car! Woo hoo! I grabbed my new gizmo and my pod and headed out to the car. I sat in the car, windows down. The instructions told me to search for an FM frequency that broadcast only static or, more preferably, silence. Hello? I live in one of the largest radio markets in the country. Almost every frequency is a station or has carryover from the frequency before or after it. Ah, but 87.9 seemed like it would work. Except that my device wouldn't let me go below 88.

Sigh again.

I came back into the house to see if I couldn't find some advice online. Surely someone had run into the same problem.

Sure enough. Some helpful soul named Josh mentioned switching the device to international mode (other countries broadcast over a wider range of frequencies, apparently). My instructions didn't mention switching to international mode, but holding down the Select button had worked for switching other settings, so I thought I've give it a whirl.

I found this information in a very helpful comment on the product's page on Amazon.com.

Amazon.com. Where the price for my iTrip is $37.43. Yes, that's right: $37.43. As in less than half than what I had just paid at Best Buy.

Less. Than. Half.

And Amazon ships for free.

And the list price for the item at Amazon.com, provided so that we can see what a great deal we're getting? $69.99. Not $74.99 like I paid at Best Buy. Best Buy is charging five bucks more than the list price. Put another way, compared to Amazon.com, Best Buy is charging more than 100 percent more for the same exact item.

More than 100 percent more.

I get that Amazon can charge less for items because it doesn't have the overhead of retail stores, but come on. Charging more than the list price? What's up with that? Way to rip off your customers, Best Buy. Because the mark-up on retail goods isn't enormous enough?

I went back out to my car to try the 87.9 International setting. My neighbor saw me sitting in my car with the windows down and said, "Hi, Beth," in that tentative voice you reserve for approaching people who look like they're mentally unbalanced, the way Garth spoke to Russell at the end of Wayne's World: "Benjamin is nobody's friend. If Benjamin were an ice cream flavor, he'd be pralines and dick." (Let the record show that I typed that quote from memory, and just verified it at IMDb.com. Woot! My brain is full of worthless movie trivia!)

"I just bought an iPod adapter for my car and I'm trying it out," I reported. "I bought it at Best Buy for about 80 bucks, and I just found it on Amazon.com for 37. This one's going back."

I repackaged the device. (I'm very good at repacking things. I once returned a set of sheets and the woman asked, "Was there a problem?" and I said, "Yep, the package says queen size but they're king size." "How do you know?" she asked. "Because I tried putting them on my bed and they're too big," I said. She looked at the package and said, "You got them back in here perfectly?" Yes, yes I did. I'm also very good at folding sheets. It's astonishing that I'm still single. I mean, I can fold fitted sheets, people!)

Anyway, I got everything back into the package just so, and headed back to Best Buy, prepared for a bit of a tussle with the customer-service person. I figured I'd be charged a restocking fee, and I wasn't about to give Best Buy money for ripping me off in the first place. Yes sirree, I was practicing my "I'll need to speak to your manager" delivery.

I was second in customer-service queue. When it was my turn, I approached the woman and said, "I need to return this, please."

She said, "OK. Is there a problem?"

And I said, "Yep. I just found this on Amazon.com for $37 and you charged me $74.99."

"OK," she said, and started punching things into the computer.

OK? That's it?

"I put it on my debit card ..." I said.

"You'll get the cash," she said. And counted out my money for me. "Would you like your receipts?"

"Yes, please," I said.

And off I went, with an extra $80 in cash in my wallet and a crumpled-up Best Buy bag in my hand (so I could put it in my recycle bin when I got home).

I'll be writing a letter to the CEO of Best Buy, so I just Googled "CEO + Best Buy" to find out his name.

His name is Brad. Bradbury H. Anderson. I clicked on an interview with him that ran in Fortune. The lede says, in part, that he "decided to overhaul the company's retail philosophy to focus on customers, not gadgets, a process called customer-centricity."

I admit that from a customer-service perspective, today's experience with Best Buy was lovely. I was girded for a confrontation that never came. I wonder if the customer-service girl processes a lot of returns when people find the product for less money elsewhere?

But I think my Best Buy days are numbered because now, every time I walk into a store, I'm going to assume I'll be paying too much.

At the very least, I'll check Amazon.com first.

Update (yes, already): OneEar posted a comment with this URL to this post before I was even done editing it. I just spent 20 minutes reading the linked post. It's very long, but there are many pictures – and videos, if you get that far – but it's the coolest damn idea and funny! "Thomas Crown Affair! Thomas Crown Affair!" cracked me up! Thanks, OneEar!

Update II: Oooh! Could this be what I'm looking for?! If any of you are techy types, let me know if you know anything about this product, eh? It seems like just what I'm looking for!

Update III: Woot! Dave has given the above-linked device his blessing. I just ordered it! Fingers crossed that all works out OK.

5 Comments:

Blogger OneEar said...

Apparently you haven't been warned about the zombies.

http://www.improveverywhere.com/2006/04/23/best-buy/

9:26 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

I think Best Buy tends to be more expensive on a lot of its gizmos and cheaper on a lot of its CDs and DVDs. At any rate, I usually find myself going to Amazon if I need any sort of electronic gizmo.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Yup, lesson learned.

D'oh! Just realized I didn't check Amazon.com for the new device I ordered this morning ...

Just checked. Phew. Same price. I guess Amazon would get it through the retailer, so there's no difference.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous girlanddog said...

Oh, Beth, you should've posted before buying in the first place. I just got a "Monster" adapter, and it works really well because it will search for the best available station, and then tell you to tune into that station, where you will immediately hear your iTunes music playing. And it's less than $80. I hope the one you bought works for you, but if it doesn't, return it (again) and get the "Monster" one.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thanks, girl. I just looked it up on Amazon and it has mixed reviews, but then again, all of these products have mixed reviews. Why can't I find the product that will reveal itself to me in a beam of pure white light with angels singing so that I'll know that it's the right adapter for me?

Fingers crossed that my hardwired device performs well. But thanks for the Plan B.

9:54 PM  

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