Jun 12, 2008  •  In Career, Geek, Personal

Confessions of a Former Best Buy Employee

The Consumerist is currently deep into the 2008 Worst Company in America contest, with 16 companies left in the round 3 bracket.

They just posted the third installment of its “Sweet 16” matchup: Best Buy vs Diebold.

Personally, I think Diebold is worse than Best Buy. Not only due to the voting machine fiasco, but to the fact that I’ve dealt with them many times in my prior job and I’ve found that the company couldn’t be more poorly run.

That being said, Best Buy is pretty terrible too. I should know, because I worked there.

My tenure at Best Buy was short, from 2000-2001, and things may have changed since then. (But from reading comments on sites such as the Consumerist, things do not seem much different.)

I was taking a break from school and my mother threw me out on my lazy ass to go get a job. The local mall had just opened a Best Buy few months prior. I loved technology, and I knew quite a few things, even back then. I wanted to learn more and share my knowledge with others…while getting employee discounts, of course. I applied, and I got in.

Best Buy offered paid training. My eyes shone like stars as I imagined all the cool things I would learn about the latest gadgets and technology. I would be given insider info, and all the facts needed to recommend the best product for each customer.

Pshah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.

The first half of the training period consisted of videos and mini quizzes. History of the company. Sexual harassment policy. Safety rules. Employee benefits.

The latter half of consisted solely of sales techniques and what we should/shouldn’t be pushing.

Not one word on the products.

We were then thrown to the wolves and told to sell.

Salary was not commission-based. We were told to emphasize this fact as to gain the customer’s trust. “Tell them that you won’t make a dime from the product you’re recommending. Tell them that you’re only recommending this product based on their needs and preferences. Just sell something.”

The funny thing is, most large chain stores like Best Buy do not make much money off expensive consumer products. For example, the profit margin on a washer-dryer combo may be as low as 2%. The real money (and profits) come from the extended service plans and accessories, which may be marked up as much as 800%.

Thus it came to no surprise that we would constantly be told to quickly recommend a product, then try our very best to push the accessories and service plans on the customer.

Every three months, a manager would give me an evaluation. “Pretend I’m a customer looking to buy a new stereo system,” he would say. I would then start my spiel while he pretended to play dumb. At the end of the mock sale, he would tell me what I did well and where I needed improvement.

Once again, the evaluation was based solely on my sales technique, not my knowledge of the product.

In fact, most of the employees knew jackshit about our products. If someone was to come into a Best Buy and take away all the yellow labels (with the price and specs) at the bottom of the shelves, I’m pretty certain that the entire store would be filled with blue polo-wearing monkeys scratching their heads in confusion.

However, I have to admit that the employee discounts were pretty sweet. I ended up spending a large portion of my paycheck on new gadgets, CDs (remember those?), and DVDs. And although we weren’t supposed to, I hooked up my friends and family with large discounts on various items.

When the Game Boy Advance was released, moms and full-grown geeks flocked into the store, demanding the latest “it” handheld gaming system. I would answer every phone call with, “Thanks for calling Best Buy. We currently do not have any Game Boy Advance in stock. How can I help you?” People begged me to hide an extra unit for them when the next shipment arrived. I even got yelled at several times.

However, the fervor of the Game Boy Advance was nothing compared to the PS2. I distinctly remember having the 6am-10am shift on launch day. As I drove into the parking lot at 5:45 on that cold, dreary October day, I cringed to see the large crowd that had formed at the front door. I felt like a celebrity as I walked to the store. People shouted, yelled, and even grabbed. They begged me to hold one for them. Some even offered money (I should’ve taken it!). When the store finally opened its doors at 10am they stampeded into the building and 3 minutes later, all the PS2s were gone.

The begging and yelling would ensue for the next few months, and it grew exponentially as Christmas grew near.

And once again, Best Buy didn’t teach its employees a single thing about the Game Boy Advance or the PS2 – the two most popular items at the time. I read up on the gaming systems in my spare time just so I wouldn’t feel like a complete idiot when talking to the customers.

However, they did teach us all about the cool and fun accessories accompanying each system. Oh, and we can’t forgot the extended warranties.

It is precisely for these reasons that I hardly ever ask for help when I walk into tech stores. I always do my research beforehand, and sometimes I even “play” with the employees to test their knowledge. And it’s always amusing to see the employees’ reactions when I ask them a question they can’t answer, and/or I refute their statements with cold, hard facts.

This is the way of the world of retail, and no store is immune. Radio Shack, Circuit City, Apple…yes, even Apple. I’ve had quite a few chuckles overhearing the so-called-specialists describing the products to potential customers.

But I have to admit that Best Buy trumps them all.

Please note the dates of my employment at Best Buy โ€” I worked there over a decade ago! Things may certainly have changed since then, and I have no idea how things work there now, or if the company as a whole or the store that I worked at is running any differently.

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82 Responses to “Confessions of a Former Best Buy Employee”

  1. George Bush says:


  2. suitablegirl says:

    My little sister worked at Best Buy, too! Like you, she doesn’t miss it and she thinks most employees at similar places are less than useful. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Seriously though, reading this was like listening to her, and since I can’t do that right now (she’s in Iraq), it felt a little bit like a gift. Sorry to be so sappy (about Best Buy, of all things!).

  3. zzz52 says:

    I used to work at best buy as well, actually i worked there on and off for two years, because of school, and i had a little different experience. Most of the things you described are true. Like 800% profit on certain products ( mostly low priced accessories, so your not paying 800 dollars for a tv that cost the store 50) and what not but some of what you described wasn’t quite correct, at least at my store. Most of the employees that were department specific, which is the majority of them, knew what they were talking about in their department (Appliances, Media, Computers, Home Theater… etc). In fact most could recite the features that were listed on the yellow takes verbatim and then tell you everything else you need to know out of their own knowledge on the product. Now I’m not say this is because best buy trained their employees on product info extensively, except for in appliances were we actually had to get certified on product info before we could sell the product, but if you work there for more than a month you get hit with so many question about a product that you either find the answer, or get told the answer from a customer. So basically most people that work at best buy know what they are talking about, but if you happen see "Appliance Specialist" on the name tag of someone working in computers just know that he might not know as much about computers as he does about appliances.

    • Justin says:

      Agree, the employees I’ve met are great and know a lot or only (a lot) in there department. Compared to other retail stores the employee crowd always seems willing to learn and assist whoever needs their help which is a rare in retail. If it’s fun to work there (even the slightest bit) you are very lucky in this economy.

  4. RickRoss says:

    If you are really going to say that yo hated working at best buy is b/c u must HavE just beeen the laziest dumbest person ever. Everything that u needto know is common knowledge and th e learnings are just to fill in the blanks in ur memory and to give u answers to some questions that wierd people might ask.so before u make a blog about your bosses firing you cause ur a lazy Fuk up. I work at best buy and I honstly love it, it’s a well paying really fun job and the people who don’t like it ar the pussies who live in their moms basement and get babied there whole life…..

  5. Kriscross says:

    Damn you just blew up man lol props haha

  6. Ana says:

    There are so many products available both in your local makeup counters and over the internet.

  7. nonya says:

    I actually just got hired at best buy, in the computer department. I have about 2 months of training to do and three certifications to acquire before I am eligible to sell anything. Also what I thought was cool was minimum wadge is $7.00 an hour and I am starting out at $9.50 an hour.

  8. bbemployeepc says:

    I just got hired at Best Buy in the PC department after previously working at another electronics store. I disagree with ya on the elearnings, at least whats its like now. Every time there is a new product in stock, its on the e-learning webpage. Of course they are going to show training videos on how to sell, that's the nature of retail. You could be the biggest computer geek or be a car enthusiast, but if you can't recommend something based on a customers needs than your knowledge means squat. However, most of the attachments that they recommend overall benefits the customer's experience. Price-wise I agree they could find some of these accessories cheaper, but the people that shop at Best Buy, especially in the PC department, shop here because they simply don't research what they want, so they rely on employee's opinions. And some people are quite frankly comfortable with that. Now yeah its absolutely embarrassing when a fellow employee is just "winging it" and knows nothing about their products, but to generalize and say all employees are like (or better yet every store) that is absolutely unfair. While I will admit I don't tend to recommend cables unless they ask for it just because of the huge price difference (or if its a printer just because they don't have many that come with one nowadays), I have no qualms recommending things like routers with the laptops or sleeves just because part of the reason for shopping at retail is convenience in terms of returns and having it at that time vs waiting for it to be shipped. Its all about figuring out what kind of customer you are helping and what their needs are. I would recommend the black tie plan to people who aren't too computer savvy or clumsy with their laptops (including families with children who may damage their laptops, mind you even tripping over a power cord can do socket damage), on the other hand I wouldn't if they are somebody who can repair laptops or are a computer builder. If your buying a laptop thats like $1500, you'd be crazy not to protect it with something that is only 15-20% of its cost.

    Oh and if you were to take away all the yellow labels from the laptops, I'm sure you'd be confused as well. The company sells over 150 laptops, of which 50 or so different models in one store. I would never expect an employee to memorize every single spec for them all. I would expect them to know though what to recommend based on their needs, whats on sale at the time, and at least with accessories like routers, their quality/reviews. This coming from a computer builder.

  9. alsobbemployeepc says:

    Very well said.

  10. BBY Employee says:

    Fair wage??? HAhahahahaha… not to mention the sexism and seriously questionable sexual misconduct of management…

  11. Karen says:

    Very well-written!

    One thing I will say about Apple as someone “in the know” (let’s just say that) โ€” their “Mac specialists” don’t really know too terribly much about the products, but OMFG the geniuses certainly do.

    The specialists are brought in as $9/hour sales people, and given a brief rundown of specs. The belief with Apple is that if you’re working here, you’re already an Apple fan/user. If you have any tech questions at all, either research online, or definitely ask a genius. They are extensively trained and certified. Even the smallest retail store’s genii (yes, it’s genii at Apple) are trained at HQ for more than two weeks. They know of what they speak.

    Just my two cents. I feel sorry for anyone put in a position of having to sell something they don’t understand.

  12. BestBuyEmployee says:

    I have worked at Best Buy for over a year and everyone in my store knows what they are talking about with their products. Each of us undergoes extensive training to know about the products we are offering our customer. No, we can’t tell you just from looking at 2 identical laptops without the tags if one is an i7 or i5 processor, but we can tell you which you would need depending on the activities you are performing on your computer. In my store we are very well trained in both selling and knowledge of our products. We are one of the highest rated Best Buys in the nation because we have store meetings at least once a month to keep our employees in-the-know on new products, complete with demos when possible, and keep us motivated to find solutions that actually work for the customer. I don’t think it is fair for you to judge Best Buy as a whole based on your one store experience. There are good and bad stores in every company, but the good outweigh the bad in my opinion.

    • Please note the dates of my employment there โ€” I worked there over a decade ago! Things may certainly have changed since then, and I have no idea how things work there now, or if the company as a whole or the store that I worked at is running any differently.

      • bestbuy says:

        Ur a dumb bitch, dont criticize something u havent even been to in 10 years. I work there and its one of the best jobs i have ever had. They have e learning to train u for ur department idiot

        • OperationsMGR says:

          Best Buys are the same EVERYWHERE…I started at this company when I was 16 and I’m now a MGR in my last year of grad school…thankfully I knew how to play the game with all the pathetic bby lifers who don’t know what they hell they’re doing and will throw you under the bus the first chance they get if it comes to their job or yours…thankfully my position wasn’t terribly sales oriented and I slipped under the radar as fellow sups and now mgrs when not having sex with their subordinates or kissing a useless district mgr’s asses were throwing each other under the bus to be one of the GM’s pets to be kept prior to a big restructure…THIS COMPANY IS A SINKING SHIP for LOTS of reasons…thankfully instead of drinking the kool-aid I milked the company for all it’s worth and used it as a supplementary income while i went to college and grad school. DON’T LET THE POSITIVES OF THIS COMPANY FOOL YOU!, UNREALISTIC GOALS ARE SET FOR UNDERPAID EMPLOYEES AND OVERPAID MANAGEMENT. I CURRENTLY WORK THERE AND GLAD I UTILIZED THIS COMPANY AND AM LEAVING BEFORE THE LEAKY SHIP STARTS TO SINK INTO THE ABYSS AS WALMART, TARGET AND E-COMMERCE DOMINATE THE MARKET. THIS COMPANY AND ITS’ INDIVIDUAL STORES NEED MORE THAN A CALL THE HR…

        • OperationsMGR says:

          P.S. ….in regards to your “dumb bitch” comment to the writer..let me reiterate that I CURRENTLY work there and incase you didn’t see in my prior message…I’m the Operations MGR in my current store…nothing has changed that much in 10 years…SAME SHIT, DIFFERENT TOILET…E Learnings don’t really mean much if the employee doesn’t have a leader that has conceptualize the knowledge given in an e learning and relate to an individual employee…(granted there are some dumb employee’s but they eventually work themselves out of the system) Unless the sup/sr/mgr is talented and a great motivator and coach…those e=learnings mean absolutely DICK…particularly because of the lower caliber of employee that works at bby and is eventually promoted because of their tenure there, and that is a culture very prevalent in most stores, having gone to other locations to train after each promotion…maybe it’s my bachelors and my soon to be masters in teaching that see’s that…but don’t play that game like Best Buy has changed…it gets worse and worse…the peak of stupidity being when full time positions were decreased and part time positions increased during the summer of 2009(ONE SUP FOR MEDIA, AND ONE FOR HOME THEATER…) COME ON NOW…

          • BestBuyForever says:

            OperationsMGR, apparently you worked in some shitty district or something. I have worked in several stores and yea some of them sucked but, I really liked most of them. I have to admit, I’m passed a decade with the company and I still think it’s one of the best jobs I had. We are under paid employees but I still stand by the company. I hope you got canned by now.

          • Eric says:

            Unrealistic goals for underpaid employees???? ROFL im geek squad and my sales are crap have been like that for a year now. I still get my regular 32 hours a week. Never had my hours cut. So idk what unrealistic goals your talking about. Sure I get the speech about bringing my sales up but they still give me all the hours and time off I want

  13. Kimberly Shelden says:

    Your post made me laugh..very well written, are you now a writer??

  14. lisa says:

    been a bby worker for a while now and after reading your post i’m assuming you worked at the retard best buy? besides trainings (e-learnings) and the awesome discount and money made on extended warranties literally NOTHING you said was true.

    • None of what you described was around when I worked there (and the discounts weren’t that great). Please read the note at the end of the post โ€” I worked there over a decade ago!

  15. Geek in Heels is dumb says:


  16. bestbuy computers girl says:

    I work at BestBuy now and I can assure you its the exact same. My store also has the training on computers every time a new product or processor comes out.. but our managers do what they can to save time and hand us the answer key. Employee discount is pretty awesome, wish we got more on laptops. I’m the only girl in the computers dept at my store, its pretty crazy. Anyway, yeah, considering how difficult it is to move up in a place like that, I won’t be there much longer… since I see no advancement. On top of that you should see customers who come shopping during busy times and yell at you when you cant spend 2 hours with them.. lol.

    • Best Buy store ### says:

      I absolutely love that you wrote that, “..I see no advancement.”

      I have only been working at best buy since October and I can honestly say I will not be full time unless I either switch stores or quit and come back. I’m not going to go in detail about our awesome discount (yes they are awesome, I got dre beats studios for $165 and my Kicker accommodation brought my $1100 system which consisted of 2 L7s and a 1200 watt amp to $350 after enclosure and install lol) or how pathetic most of the employee knowledge is but I will say that their is no advancement. I work at one of the smaller stores in my state, which the highest stats. Myself, I’m sitting at 23% GSBTP and roughly 56% accessories and 44% Hardware for the month. I don’t work in PCHO or Home theater/Appliances by the way. I have been number one in my store for not only credit apps and black tie but I have been top 5 in sales with about $185/Hr profit. I applied to my store with not an ounce of sales/retail experience/job history. However I had endless knowledge on just about everything except appliances and home theater. My dept is now number 3 out of all the stores probably because of me and I have not been reach out at once about full time or supervisory positions. I am still make slightly above minimum wage like they started me and the other Occasional seasonal. My hours got cut and basically I did their bidding for the holidays. I think in December I racked in a solid 80 something apps. Best buy gets roughly $160 per app I believe?

      Okay I’m ranting now, back to the point.
      I’m sure anyone who is an employee with best buy will tell you, you won’t advance. I’m executing sales excellence like there’s no tomorrow and I am not so much as given employee of the month. I don’t shove apps down customers throats like they preach me to and I don’t always offer black tie on CERTAIN product because yes, it will break and you will have less stress just buying a new one. However my numbers, in my eyes, are f%#king insane. I’m making like 10x more than im paid an hour lol. I know I won’t be put to full time tho and thats why I’m quiting as soon as I buy everything I want.

      One thing I will mention about the best buy credit card though is that it’s a great way to build your credit. It honestly is. 0% interest is a great way to do same as cash and build you credit. I do understand not everyone wants credit cards now but if you have the money to buy that laptop/tv or anything expensive. Just do yourself a favor and apply for the card, you can pay it off three days later and not get fined and get double RZ points which means not only do u get free credit but you get free money back too lol. Idk, its tough to explain that to customers when they typically don’t trust you right off the bat.

  17. Any Best Buy wireless employees looking for a change, please check out the opporunities at http://www.wirelessvision.com/careers. We operate T-Mobile stores.

  18. Meagan says:

    I too worked at bb a decade ago and everything you have mentioned was true! I worked at the store on 494 in richfield. In addition to all you have said, i was taught by the general manager to flat out lie about products. Upsell and say “my aunt bought that and it broke” and another sales person would know to chime in and agree that just to upsell. Like you, i too do my own research and looove messing with sales people who dont know jack. So glad you have outed the good ole best buy.

  19. G-LO says:

    A decade is a long time. You should be at least 27 right? There is always two ways to look at a particular situation. This is too funny not commenting on, because i think you are regretting writing this blog.

    • Actually, this post was originally written in 2003 or 2004 for a now-defunct Xanga blog. I had just transferred it over from there. I had only added the addendum because so many random people were happening upon this post from whatever they had googled, and automatically made the wrong assumptions.

      And no, I do not regret “writing this blog” (Did you mean “writing this blog post”? That would make more sense.) โ€” if I did, I would just take the post down or close comments. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. G-LO says:

    oh ya WestSideIDK!!

  21. denny says:

    one thing you ll learn in life is, becoming self proficient you cant expect to be handed info from your place of work i worked at circuit city and bestbuy, you can teach yourself and take the initiative to become a better employee, you cant expect to be coadled through a job like that, you learn on the fly and do alot of your own research, that being said i kind of had an unfair advantage being as i worked in home theater and i carried a second job through both circuit city and best buy as an authorized tv repair service for an authorized repair center. so there wasnt much in that depot that would shock me. but college is the same depending on what prof you get, sometimes you have to teach yourself some stuff, you know! ๐Ÿ˜€

  22. Bestbuy employee says:

    Most of what your saying is done with. From what you said you were a mcsa(tje person that answers phones). Why would you be trained on product knowledge? You deal with operations and every question you might have is on the computer you sit at. I work for bestbuy and I have producy training for multiple departments in the store monthly. I demo some so I can give feedback on it. It sounds like you did work at a profitable location. My store has been number one in selling protection on the company for 6 months straight now and operations hit a goal of 45 daily. We don’t have a lot of returns and we offer great customer service. You were fired after a year back in 2001 a lot has changed since then and changing still.

  23. Bibi says:

    I must say I live working for best buy is So different from some retail jobs. They really make you feel comtarble and we are so friendly and genuine well some of us ๐Ÿ˜‰
    We get a 30% discount witch is awesome too, flexible scheduale and decent lunch periods

  24. To Geek in Heels says:

    I must say I agree with you. I work for best buy now and the training is good but the managers are just horrible. they pretty much hire anybody and throw them out there plus there are alot of best buy closing thanks to amazon.com.

  25. GeekSquad1000 says:

    Honestly, I just read the entire post, and every single comment, I’ve worked at Bestbuy/Geek Squad for the past year, I’m 19 and im the head repair agent at my store, and I find the post to be pretty true today, I frequently have to go through my computer department and make sure the PC reps arent lying to customers. I would say my Cameras are the most knowlegeable people in the store (besides Geek Squad of course) and Gaming, MP3, and Home theater know what they are talking about because its not hard at all to understand, overall I say the “thought” of Best buy is awesome, but once you put it into practice with management, all the bullshit they push on their employees, quotas that need to be met, ect ect it gets corrupted and ruins the entire experience of it. I only still work here because if i dont agree with somthing my managers tell me to do, i flat out dont do it. they arent going to fire me, Im the only repair Agent and they have no means to get another haha

    • PCHOMan says:

      I agree with you with the lying part. Working in PCHO isn’t the easiest thing in the world, the pressure in the department is insane. We obviously get no benefits whether we are selling 3 year GSBTP all day or none. It’s still the same pay, which blows. Selling a couple computers with no services in that department, immediately gets the supervisors and managers to stalk you. It’s one thing to pitch and offer everything, but it’s another when the customer truly doesn’t want it due to ignorance/actual reasons/not enough money, and regardless get pressurized for it. I think most people in that department lie, so they don’t have to deal with the threats/pressure. I rather let the guy go with no services than Lie and get a return. It’s still revenue anyway.
      I think Best Buy needs to be more strict on who they hire for their main source of profit.

  26. Suprised Employee says:

    Wow. I’m astounded at how much free time people have… and the reaction some had made me laugh. I thought it was a well written post and found it fun to read- if outdated. People need to learn to be more open to other people’s thoughts and opinions instead of blasting out their own.

    also @bestbuy: Your grammar is terrible… learn to read/write English before leaving replies. You lose 90% of your credibility when you post silly comments like “ur a dumb bitch”

    Anyway Geek in Heels, I thought it was a fun post ๐Ÿ™‚


  27. Mr. E says:

    I read all of these posts from top to bottom. If any of you are wondering why you are stuck in what you consider a “dead end job”, it is because you are poorly educated, or just generally ignorant. What kind of an impression do you feel you make on people when you speak and act like a fool. “Ur a dumb hoe” “Scheduale” “Witch is awesome” Honestly it’s brutal to watch the direction society is headed. It is due to a complete lack of work ethic. Can anyone really tell me that it saves an exponential amount of time to type “u” instead of you? No honor or honesty amongst employees in todays work force either. That goes for management as well as line employees. I work at Best Buy as a second job. It is a nice extra chunk of money and it is true that our discounts are nice. Geek in Heels shame on you for abusing the employee discount. That is technically stealing if you break it down to brass tacks. For those of you that feel like your hard work is unrewarded, you are absolutely and justifiably correct. You are working for a large corporate company, for the most part they do not care about your, or your problems in life. You are nothing more than a number when employed for a big box retailer. You knew when you signed on that it was a non commission paid position, therefore you cannot complain about not getting any extras for killing it in your department. If you want something better for yourselves you have to go out and earn it. Grab the bull by the horns and take responsibility for your own actions and life.

  28. Eisentrout says:

    I enjoyed the read, but the comments section from top to bottom was an extra bonus. I’m not sure why certain people became so heated over their loyalty for Best Buy (unless it has something to do with jealousy against someone who’s outgrown the company), but I for one thought the post was well written and good to know. Even if the information might have been dated, it seems that many of these practices still hold true today at Best Buy (according to some of the other employees). Thank you for writing this (regardless of time past)!

  29. Matthias says:

    Oh, Lord. This was great. I have an interview on Thursday at my local Best Buy, so, I was just doing some research beforehand. I’d heard through the grapevine that they were a little shorthanded management-wise; I’d be lying to say I wasn’t gunning for a better position. Regardless, it’s been pretty funny reading the varied comments left for this blog post. Firstly, good writing! Secondly, thanks for the laughs! Thirdly, I’m still more excited about the correlations between Chuck’s life and mine than any sort of work environment I’m going into. A lot of times, what really counts, isn’t what you’re doing (or what circumstances you’re having to do it under); but, how you go into it. So here’s me, crossing my fingers and saying my prayers, that the CIA chooses me as the next super computer/super spy! (;

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