ExSKUse Me? (Rant: Big Box Electronics Retail)

best-buy-logoThis is going to be one of those blogs where I go into Old Man Mode, and bear in mind I’m only 37.

Whenever I go into a big box retail electronics store (Best Buy, hhgregg, etc.), beforehand I have gone online, found the exact thing I need, confirmed it is in the store I will be going to via that store’s website, and written down the SKU number along with the name and model number of the item on a piece of memo pad paper.

Sales staff – particularly those under the age of 27 – get very annoyed when I present them with that piece of paper and say, “One of these, please.” They don’t like that. I’ve written down the name of the product, the model and the SKU, and I get “the look”, as in the look of, “Why are you wasting my time?” Well, sales dude or dudette, you’re on the floor, I’m a customer, being polite, here’s the SKU, now go get it. Obviously I don’t say it like that, but you get the point.

And why don’t I go and find the item myself? Because THE STORE KEEPS CHANGING AROUND. There is zero consistency between one month and the next for any big box electronics retailer. Things keep shifting, moving, shifting, moving again and the vicious cycle continues. I’m surprised they don’t provide you with a handheld GPS at the door just to find stuff given how often things change.

Radio Shack is one exception to the norm here. Love or hate that store, if you walk up to the counter and give them a SKU, they’re happy to fetch what you want to buy. Why? Because RS’s SKU system is one of the best in the business. They have their SKU system down to a science so well that even an employee with only two day’s worth of training can find an item by SKU easily in any Radio Shack store. RS lives and dies by the SKU, and said honestly that makes me a very happy camper because they genuinely appreciate customers who come in and know what they’re looking for.

My guess as to why other big box electronics retailers hate customers who present SKUs is because there is zero opportuntiy to upsell you anything at that point. You know what you want, you’re locked in on getting just that product and nothing else, and there’s nothing they can do about it. That ruffles their feathers, but I seriously don’t care. Maybe it’s time they changed their floor sales policy to not so heavily rely on upselling just to make a buck.


  1. I agree completely. In my ignorance in the past I made several rather high cost purchases at Best Buy. Nothing was as they advertised and service sucks. To go into one of their stores is to be treated rudely and insulted by the children that claim to be knowledgeable sales persons. The rudeness meter rises ever higher if one is foolish enough to approach the geek squad desk. As a result I paraphrase an old tobacco advertisement…”I would walk a mile to avoid entering a Best Buy Store”.

  2. Yeah, just don’t even bother talking to the BestBuy people unless you absolutely have to.  

    I usually don’t, and reminded myself way a couple of weeks ago.  They sent me a coupon for a free stylus.  Just a $15 stylus, but still.  So I take in the coupon, and of course, the styluses (styli?) weren’t in the place they were the last time I was in there.  Then I get hit with the “can I help you?”  Well, the normal reaction kicked in figuring, a) he was probably familiar with the promotion, and if not, b) he’d know right where that one was.  I hand him the coupon.  Big mistake.  Over to the computer he goes, punching in…something.  Meanwhile, I find the stylus…he’s still at the computer.  I go over, show him I found it, and get my coupon back.  Later, I’m looking at something else, he asks to see the coupon again.  WTF.  Well, I made it out with the coupon, and won’t ask for help again.  Nimrods.

    • LOL, he was trying to see if it was in stock. The coupon probably had a SKU, so he was checking in our system if we had it first. Usually everything shifts around so nothing is in the same place. Plus, you can always say you don’t need any help. Best Buy’s not on commission, so honestly if you don’t need any help, we’re not going to be following you around making forceful gestures. – Best buy employee. 

  3. Brent Waggoner says:

    Keep in mind that the few people who do love Best Buy do like the help. It’s the employees job to ask questions, find solutions, and up-sell. Their job is to find out what you need. They don’t like the heat from management on why an “interaction” took only 15 seconds. Yeah, it’s what most of us want, but not what the suites want because they don’t make any money on laptop sales.

    • No customer should have to keep *any* of that in mind whatsoever because it’s not the customer’s responsibility to magically know how BB wants sales staff or managers to do their jobs. And the customer couldn’t care at all how BB makes money either. I go to BB to get what I want and get out, and not to be treated as if I’m at a car dealership.

      • Brent Waggoner says:

        I’m not saying the customer should care, I’m just explaining the reasoning, which I don’t like either. When I did work in retail, I got guff for not upselling or not “clearly explaining the value of the warranty and/or tech services.” They really need to look for other points of revenue as Apple or Dell’s warranty are usually better. BB should sell those warranties instead. Next day shipping instead of driving to BB.

        Other than that I don’t go in unless I need like a flash drive, tv, or router. Most things I hope I can find before a blue shirt finds me.

  4.      Wow!  my experience at Best Buy has been completely the opposite (No, I’m not an employee).  Yes, I almost always have to ask for help finding the specific item I came in for.  But, every employee that I’ve asked for help has taken me directly to the product (or the empty shelf, confirming that it is out of stock).  They have never tried to “up sell” me.  In fact, I’ve asked, and they don’t receive a commission.  So there’s no incentive to up sell.
         I must admit that I don’t go to Best Buy very often, since a Micro Center opend locally.  Between Micro Center and Staple’s (I love that store), I have little need to go to Best Buy.

    • Gordintoronto says:


      At Best Buy Scarborough Town Centre, I go in, I buy what I want, I leave. I’ve never had a bad experience with the sales staff.

  5. DOS_equis says:

    Don’t think you could try that at Wal-Mart. They have a lot of items in there that have custom SKU’s on them to keep people from price matching plus the manufacturers cheapen up a product just for Wal-Mart’s shelves since they dictate what price point the manufacturers can sell something at. I stay away from Best Buy as much as possible due to the salesman hovering crap and their crappy purchase terms.

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