As loyalty goes these days, we were pretty loyal customers to Circuit City. For a long time, Circuit City was the only large national electronics retailer in the area. We bought lots of stuff from them over the years.
I took some sort of strange pride from the long list of products triggered by entering our phone number in Circuit City's computers.
We certainly hadn't been exclusive Circuit City customers, but looking back on all that we had purchased, we were definitely in the list of good customers. We also felt good enough about our experiences with Circuit City to give them a chance to win our business when looking for new products.
In fact it was only a couple of weeks ago that we visited the Roanoke area Circuit City store in an attempt to find someone who could actually demonstrate one of the all pervasive all-in-one printer, scanner, copier, fax machines that I'm guessing will be hot products this holiday season. As I wrote in the post, "Attack of the all in one machines & customer service," we didn't have any luck finding a competent sales person in Roanoke among the two Staples, Best Buy, and Circuit City stores that we visited. We ended up buying a HP AIO in a Morehead City, NC Staples purely because we ran into a really good sales person who gave us a great demonstration and answered all our questions.
In the past we had really good luck with Circuit City. In summer of 2005, I dropped the Nikon Cool Pix 5200 that was what I like to call my pocket camera. The very critical optical zoom feature stopped working. Knowing that to have a repair done on a digital camera costs a minimum of $250, I decided it made more sense to buy a new camera. We looked around and ended up buying a very nice Sony which would easily slip into my pocket. I believe it ended up costing about $400 because we bought a couple of years of extended warranty.
We did that for some good reasons. The Nikon was the second camera I had dropped and had to replace. Previous experience with Circuit City led us to believe that they had one of the best no hassle extended warranties in town. My son, when he was a teenager, went through two or three CD-ROM players that didn't work well. Circuit City, true to their word then, swapped them out, no questions asked. We also bought our oldest daughter a music system that had a CD-changer that never could be repaired so Circuit City to their credit also swapped that out with no problem.
My wife and I both heard the pitch when the Circuit City sales person promised that my camera would be repaired or swapped out no questions asked if there any problems with it during the Circuit City protection period.
After my Sony camera stopped working recently, we took some time on a Saturday afternoon to drive to Jacksonville, NC from our second home in Swansboro, NC to take my camera for what I thought would be a quick swap. We went directly to the service area, where after checking our warranty, the girl at the desk told us we would have to call a 800 number and trouble shoot the camera first.
That's when I should have picked up the first signal that Circuit City's no hassle, cover any problem warranty had become something that looks like a scam at least in the case of my camera.
So we turned around and worked our way through some nasty Saturday afternoon traffic in Jacksonville and got home in about 45 minutes. I called the 800 number and since the camera would no longer turn on, I was told they would send a box for shipment to their repair center. Of course the box went to our other home in Roanoke, Va and on our next visit there I forgot to bring the camera with me. I ended up having to haul the box to NC and ship the camera from there.
We got back from NC last night, eleven days later, and a message was waiting for us the phone. It was that Circuit City had found corrosion in my camera and the warranty didn't cover that. They promised to return my camera to me without being repaired. I am sure there was some fine print in their extended warranty or extended service plan to cover their rears, but instead of increasing their profit, they just permanently got rid of a big profit center, namely me.
The interesting result of this is that Circuit City has turned out to be exactly the kind of electronics store that I don't need contrary to what their currently television advertising is saying. Instead of getting a customer for life, they've lost a customer for life.
Now I'll still visit their stores to look at products and even ask questions of their sales people, but under no circumstances will I ever buy another product from Circuit City. I'm done. Their no hassle extended service plan turned out to be a big expensive hassle that was worse than worthless. It cost me a Saturday afternoon and money.
In this day of 300 million Americans, I'm sure Circuit City won't lose any sleep over one customer any more than Volvo or Maytag did when they lost me as customers. Products like Maytag sometimes pay the ultimate price, Big box retailers usually just reorganize.
The one thing that Circuit City can't take to the bank is any more money of my money for any products no matter how small. I won't be buying there, and I'll make certain that my kids and wife understand that presents with a Circuit City receipt will not be accepted.
There may not be many choices in local big box electronics stores, but there is enough to make sure Circuit City will never process another charge of mine. If I run out of local stores, there is always the Internet.
So my new question is that given customer service and products are a real pain these days, will I run out of places to buy things or products that I'll accept before or after I can't figure out how to use most of what they're selling?