I know that Bars Luhrmann says that the best advice he can give is to wear sunscreen, but I must disagree.  Keep your receipt.  That is the best advice I can give you.  This advice applies to the extreme if you are a shopper at Best Buy.  I wouldn’t want you to have to go through the hassle I was subjected to when I lost my receipt and attempted to make an exchange at the Best Buy in Dedham, MA.  To put it mildly, my opinion is that the customer service at Best Buy can best be described by a word whose definition is, according to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary1 : to draw something in by or as if by exerting a suction force; 4 slang : to be objectionable or inadequate.  How I came to that conclusion is detailed below.

 I had received a couple of Best Buy gift cards for various reasons, and they totaled $80. The first time it was convenient (Sunday, February 16), the Megger and I went to the Best Buy in Dedham, ready for a pleasant shopping experience.

 MISTAKE #1:  I purchased a memory chip for the Megger’s digital camera ($49) without checking the camera to see if it would fit (I know, I know, but at the time, the store only had one type of memory card in stock, so it didn’t occur to me that it might not fit…mea culpa).  I also bought a couple of DVD’s, Pulp Fiction and A Few Good Men, and a camera case for the digital camera.  The total of the purchase was $107.06.  I paid $80 with the two gift cards and the rest in cash.

 MISTAKE #2:  In the trip between Best Buy and my apartment, we managed to lose the receipt.  We searched the car and the bags, but the receipt was nowhere to be found.  The reason for the extended searching:  We found out after opening the package that the memory chip didn’t fit the camera.  I wasn’t overly concerned about the lack of a receipt, however, since I would only attempt an exchange for a chip that fit the camera (which I also bought at Best Buy), rather than trying to get cash for the return.

 Saturday, March 1, 10:30am:  I drive to the Best Buy in Dedham.  On my way into the store, my memory chip sets off the alarm bells on the anti-theft system.  The “greeter” (read:  the man who stands near the front of the store checking receipts) asks me if the chip is a return.  I answer that it is, and he puts a blue sticker on the chip’s packaging. 

 First of all, why the heck do the stores bother with anti-theft devices if they don’t bother de-activating the security devices?  Every time I buy something at one of these stores, I end up setting off the anti-theft device.  It’s not a pleasant experience to stand there in innocence while the loud horns call me a thief.  All of the customers in the store always turn and stare and must wonder if I stuffed a Rolling Stones CD down my pants.

 Armed with my blue sticker, I go into the store and find the appropriately sized memory chip.  I then bring both chips to the return desk, where I meet a young man (looks to be in his young 20’s) named Tim (nice name).  I explain to Tim that I accidentally bought the wrong sized chip, and that I don’t have my receipt.  Tim tells me that there is nothing he can do to help me.  He asks if I paid the remainder with my credit card, and I tell him that I don’t think so, but I let him run a check on my card just in case.  No dice.

 Tim tells me that he can’t help me.  I calmly ask if I may speak to his manager.  He refuses, informs me that he is a manager, and that there is nothing he can do to help me (I think to myself, “This kid runs the store?”).  I ask him if this means that I’m out $49, and he says again that he can’t help me.  My face turns red and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but I don’t begin shouting at Tim.  There is a long line of people behind me at this point, and I don’t want to cause a scene.  I pick up my ill-fitting memory chip and stalk out of the store.

 On my way out of the store, of course, I set off the @$#!#$$!@#$ anti-theft alarm.  A store employee calls to me in the parking lot and asks me to come back.  I wheel on him and shout, “I ONLY HAVE THIS CHIP THAT I TRIED TO RETURN AND YOU PEOPLE PUT THIS STICKER ON I’M NOT STEALING ANYTHING!!!”  It’s possible that my head spins around completely once while I’m yelling this.  The employee takes two very obvious steps away from me and goes back into the store.  I climb into the RB and roar off in a fit of rage.

 Saturday, February March 1, 10:45am:  I leave Best Buy and go to the Jiffy Lube in Dedham to get an oil change.  I am still stewing about Best Buy when the Jiffy Lube Dude (didn’t catch his name) pulls up the list of “extras” that Jiffy Lube offers, which can force the cost of an oil change up around $100.  I tell Lube Dude that I can save him some time, and that I don’t want anything that costs extra.

 He looks perplexed for a minute, and then tells me that he is required to read me the list of extras, because his manager almost got fired last month because someone didn’t read the list.  I tell him that if he absolutely, positively has to read me the list, that he is welcome to, but that I don’t want any extras.  Lube Dude reads the list while I blatantly ignore him.  I feel a little bad about it, but if Jiffy Lube requires Lube Dude to read lists to uninterested people, it’s not my fault. 

 Lube Dude eventually releases me to the waiting room, where I find that I’m too angry to read the book I’ve brought.

 Saturday, March 1, 1:00pm:  I’ve been stewing about this for a couple of hours, and I decide to call the Best Buy in Dedham and talk to the store manager, because I think that they must be able to look up the gift card purchases.  I call the store and get the voicemail system.  I press the number for customer service and the phone begins to ring.

 Saturday, March 1, 1:30pm: The phone at customer service is still ringing, and no one has answered it.  I hang up and call back, this time selecting the digital cameral department.  When the person answers (2nd ring, apparently if you want to spend money, they’re ready to help you, but they have no time for customer service) I ask for a store manager.  The person puts me through to customer service, where someone actually answers.  I tell them that I would like to speak with a store manager, and they put me on hold.  The recording I am forced to listen to while I’m on hold has a jingle that says, “Lost your receipt?  I know how that is.  If you paid by check or credit card, just come into our stores and we’ll issue you a replacement.”

 Saturday, March 1, 2:05pm:  After being on hold and listening to the “Lost your receipt?” bit for 35 minutes, I am disconnected by their phone system.  Listening to the dial tone, I resolve that I will never shop at Best Buy again.  Also, if I happen to run into the poor guy whose voice is used in the “Lost your receipt” bit, I am likely to punch him out.  I will take this up with them during the week.

 Wednesday, March 5, 10:00am:  I call Best Buy and again choose the customer service option on their phone system.  Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment.  The phone rings for 15 minutes, at which point I become disgusted, hang up, and call the camera section again.  Someone answers on the 2nd ring and sends me to customer service.  This time, however, I am connected to a manager named Josh.

 I explain my situation to Josh and ask him what he can do for me.  He repeats the party line that without my receipt, there is no way for them to make the exchange.  I tell him that I paid with gift cards and that I know exactly what I purchased, but he tells me that it is “too difficult” to keep track of purchases made with gift cards, so he can’t look them up for me. 

 I explain that I’m not overly thrilled with the customer service at Best Buy and I tell him about my experience with the phones.  He tells me that because of my issue with the phones, he can offer me 10% off of a future purchase, but that he still can’t help me with regard to the memory card.  He also mentions that he has run into problems with the phones before, and that the phone system is a “pain in the ass.”

 Me:  “Josh, I’m not looking for cash here, I just want a memory card that is going to work in my camera.  I don’t want 10% off of anything, I just want to exchange this memory card.”

 Josh:  “Sir, don’t take offense, but without your receipt there is no way for us to tell whether you are an actual customer or if you stole the merchandise and are trying to exchange it.”

 Me (I can’t believe this guy just essentially called me a crook):  “Josh, I am willing to give you as much personal information you need about me to prove that I’m not a thief.  I realize that people go around exchanging stuff that they’ve stolen, but I’m not that guy.  I could return this chip at other stores that aren’t as strict with their return policies, but I don’t want to sneak around and do something like that.  I bought the chip at Best Buy, and I want to return it to Best Buy.  You’re telling me that you can’t look up the information about my gift cards?  What if they were stolen, you wouldn’t be able to look up the transaction to tell if they had been spent?

 Josh:  “Not really.  It’s just too much trouble to do it.  I mean, the only way this could work is if my boss decided to make an exception for you this time.”

 I then ask Josh for his boss’ name and he gives it to me.  Surprisingly, it isn’t Tim, the guy from the exchange counter who apparently has no supervisor.  Josh and I continue this same conversation for about 15 minutes.  I ask him to help me, and he refuses.  At one point, he says that in order to look it up for me, he would need to “take time out of my day to look this up for you,” and he says it in a way that makes it sound like he might not be willing to do such a big favor for me.

 I tell Josh (for about the 5th time) that I know exactly what I bought and the date and time that I bought it, and ask him again to look it up for me.  He agrees.  I list for him the items I purchased and the approximate location of the register I went to, and the time of day.  He agrees to look it up and call me back.  It is now 11:00am.

 Wednesday, March 5, 11:15am:  Josh calls me back and leaves a message on my voicemail that he has found my transaction.  It took a total of 15 MINUTES of his “valuable time”.  I waited on hold and listened to the “Lost your receipt?” guy on Saturday for more than twice that amount. 

 I call Josh back and he asks me when I’ll be in the store, and I tell him it could be quite some time.  He puts me on hold for another 15 minutes (“Lost your receipt?”) while he hunts down the transaction number that he just called me about.  When he comes back on the line, he apologizes for taking so long but explains, “Some old lady cornered me and wouldn’t let me get away.”  He laughs in an “aren’t customers annoying?” way.

 I ask Josh to fax me the receipt, and he agrees to do that.  I receive the fax at 11:59am. 

Once I have the receipt, I decide to write Best Buy a letter. I figure that I will give them an opportunity to buy me off and keep me as a customer, but if they don’t, I’ll be shopping at Circuit City from now on.  And keeping my receipts.