The Tragic Last Days of Circuit City

By  |  Monday, March 2, 2009 at 10:39 pm

The Tragic Last Days of Circuit CityLiquidation: It’s an ugly word for the ugly process of shutting down a retailer by selling off stuff little by little until there’s nothing left that anyone’s going to buy at any price. And my most recent visit to my local branch of the soon-to-be-defunct Circuit City in the Bay Area was…ugly. Literally. The place, which says it’s down to its final week of business, was in gloomy disarray–one part rummage sale, one part junk closet, and barely recognizable as the splashy consumer-electronics merchant that has been around for sixty years. And the bargains still weren’t exciting enough to attract more than a trickle of shoppers. After the jump, a bunch of photos I snapped with my iPhone.

The place looked a little desolate even before I went inside: The “Store Closing” banner was twisting in the wind like a Circuit City creditor, a “For Lease” sign was up, and you still tell where the signage promoting the Verizon Store within (which is gone) had been haphazardly removed.

Circuit City outside story

Circuit City Last 7 Days

Inside, large sections of the store floor were cordoned off like a crime scene, with stern warnings forbidding customers to enter them. These were the only areas of the place that didn’t look a little like a dump.


So the big question with any liquidation sale is: Are there deals to be had? This one did have at least a few–$45 for a fresh copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student is a steal–it goes for appreciably more even at eBay.

Circuit City Microsoft Office

Curiously, Circuit City hasn’t seen fit to do anything insaaaaaaaaaane with PCs yet. Despite signs around the store claiming that everything was at least 30 percent off, desktops and laptops have still only been marked down by 20 percent. Most desktops seemed to be gone, but it had stacks and stacks of one HP model.


I didn’t see any factory-sealed notebooks remaining–Circuit City is still trying to sell open-box ones (floor models?) for only 20 percent off. As one shopper I overheard commented, “My socks remain firmly on.”

Circuit City Laptop

TVs were 40 percent off, including a 42-inch LG model that was in plentiful supply. I tried to find the LG elsewhere to see if Circuit City’s $779.49 price was a big whoop, but couldn’t find it–looks like it may be an old model. I did find TigerDirect selling an LG model that looks similar, but with better specs, for $20 more. And LG’s own site says that Circuit City’s set lists for $1049, not the $1299.99 that Circuit claims.

Circuit City LG TV

This left me feeling melancholy: The TVs that were still plugged in were running a video in a continuous loop bragging about the fabulous after-the-sale service and peace of mind that buying at Circuit City brings.

Circuit City TV

Weird: In same cases the store had dozens and dozens of one item on hand, as if someone in the purchasing department had been engaging in irrational exuberance. Such as one particular blue iPod case.

Circuit City iPod Cases

Circuit City also remains a great place to buy DVDs, as long as they’re either The Dark Knight or Hancock.

Circuit City Dark Knight

What was the single steepest discount I saw in the place?”Mobile Accessories” were eighty percent off. Most of them seemed to actually be parts that the store’s installation department would have used, such as car model-specific faceplates for installing aftermarket stereos.

Circuit City



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23 Comments For This Post

  1. Chris Dunphy Says:

    I think I was in the exact same Circuit City this evening. The rack was filled with The Dark Knight and Hancock…

    I happened to be at the Seramonte Mervyn’s for the final few moments of life. The last announcement on the PA was “all items, 10 for a dollar”.

    It is sad and surreal to watch these retail giants die.

    – Chris

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    Yup, same Circuit City, if it’s the one within a stone’s-throw of the late Serramonte Mervyns.

    I wonder how much the stock varies from Circuit City to Circuit City? Are they all well-supplied with copies of Dark Knight and Hancock?


  3. Nathan Says:

    i worked at a location in IL that was in the first batch of closing stores, sure the signs may say 30% off but there are limited exceptions which is stated on the signs. laptops won’t last past 50% off and the same for desktops and TVs. i promise you when i say everything will sell in that store no matter what. so far the company wide liquidation has been working the same way it did from the first 155 stores that closed. On the final day at my store everything was 80% off, as the day went on all the employees were told to change the signs to 90%, then later on everything was at 95% off, and the final thing we did which made sure every item was sold was having everything you can fit in your basket(those red baskets they have) for 20 bucks. So trust me when i say everything will sell

  4. Matthew Says:

    About the same in my circuit city (Vestal NY), but the dvd assortment is a bit larger (I don’t remember that many dark knight and hancock). There are also and assortment of cds and A/V accessories. There are about 10 floor model tvs, but only one laptop (and its destroyed.) There are easily 100 copies of guitar hero (70% off) and 30 Lexmark printer/scanner copiers (still $40). Guitar hero is the only thing going for less than it would online. Their used A/V cables are insanely overpriced.

    There are about 10 50″ 1080p Panasonic Plasma TVs for $1,400. There were also 5 or 6 56″ DLPs.

  5. Nathan Says:

    they may not be allowed to sell those panasonic plasmas due to an agreement between panasonic and circuit city that they would pay panasonic after they sold the TVs so they may be sent back to panasonic

  6. Cat Says:

    The Staten Island, NY branch that I visited was in worse shape. Apparantly that branch has been suffering from some minor looting because each ailse had signs on them that ranged from direct, “Don’t be stupid – DO NOT OPEN”, to sarcastic, “If you can read this, you don’t need glasses, but you need to STOP OPENING THAT”. The signs didn’t appear to be working, as each ailse had a few items whose packaging was broken and either all or some of the contained product was missing – for some reason, some crook took only 2 of the 3 dvds for the first season of ‘Oz’. Oh, and the only film available was ‘I am Legend’ – about 75 copies worth.

  7. Joe Caporale Says:

    Its time for circuit city to burn in the depths of retail hell where it belongs alongside tweeter fretter wiz lechemere service merchandise bradlees caldoor ames woolworths ann and hope

  8. sauer kraut Says:

    As a former Circuit City audio/video salesman, I’m not the least bit nostalgic. The company often undercut its sales force, violated labor laws and allowed managers to steal sales commissions earned by the sales staff.

    Good blessed riddance to this greedy company.

    I do not, however, believe Circuit City belongs in the same sentence as either Lechmere or Tweeter. Those were good companies that I miss having as options to unBest Buy.

  9. E Says:

    I went to the Circuit City in Deerbrook Mall a couple weeks ago, and it was insane! People cussing out employees and managers because no one was helping them. If they would have taken a minute to look around and see why, it was because THE STORE WAS PACKED AND EVERYONE WAS WANTING TO KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT SOME PRODUCT!

  10. Matt Thomas Says:

    Forgive me for my naïveté, but is it a common practice to lock laptops up in that thing that looks like a torture device? I’ve never bought a computer at a big box store but that looks just as sad as anything else in the store.

    Ahh, Circuit City. I think the last Circuit City ever built is a few miles from my house. Construction finished on the store in late 2008, complete with “grand opening” signage — but the store never opened, even for a day.

  11. David Says:

    I would love for you to tell the 34,000 people who are now jobless that you hope they”burn in retail hell”. Circuit City made poor fiscal decisions which led to its downfall, its a shame. There were a lot of good people who worked for that company over the years. Good luck to all of you in your future endeavors

  12. James Gordon Says:

    i found these movies on youtube that reminded me of Circuit City and the experiences I had there. take a look.

    Retail movie 1-5

  13. josh Says:

    I work in one of the last Circuit City remaining. We will be closing our doors for the final time Sunday, March 8th. Quick F.Y.I. to all those CCity haters and complainers: 1. The reason most Circuit City’s have more inventory in one or two products than others can be explained by the same reason we were forced to close. Venders, under these economic times, wanted to be paid in cash, not credit. Circuit City filled Chapter 11 to get relief from creditors in order to pay cash for inventory for the holiday season. Since a company can’t come up with the same amount of cash as banks would offer credit, Circuit City had to attempt to buy smart. Only buy the things that sell often, ie Dark Knight and Hancock, new releases at the time. 2. Signs that say “30% to 60% off” or “40% to 70% off” really mean items are between those percents off. Laptops, desktops, ipods, and some other items have caps on them, and can not be sold for less than 10%/15%(depending on the product) until a certain time. 3. Nothing is perfect and I’m sure everyone reading this had a bad or unpleasant experience at a store you shop at often (if you are shaking your head no, keep shopping there, you will). I can’t say how things were ran company wide, I am just the shop supervisor in my store, but at my store, we were extremely focused on customer satisfaction. Now this is not to the idiot who buys a laptop with no warranty and a year later drops it off his/her bed and wants a free laptop, but to the people who were looking for more than just a walmart shopping experience. 4. For all the people, after the store announced its closing, there are signs at every register, on every support pole, and on most door…ALL SALES ARE FINAL. This is not Circuit City, or the liquidation companies closing us way to screw you over or take your money. A federal judge deemed that there would be no more returns. This is to insure all Circuit Cities would be closed during a certain time period. Stop yelling at us, stop taking up our time crying your sob story. YOU should have read the signs, and YOU should have made sure what you were buying was what you really want. YOU choose to buy from a liquidation company…a company that will no longer be open. Why would you think there is a return policy? And for the people saying they got something and it didn’t work, EVERY Circuit City has a test station, where after you pay for you product you can test it, if it does not work, then an exchange or return can be made(still abiding by what the judge said). To the people who were loyal customer, I’m sorry that whoever was in the corporate offices were allowed to make as many bad decisions as they did. Unfortunately, their bad decisions closed the door on this company. Hopefully another company will come forward to the challenge of competing with Best Buy. Competition lowers prices, and with Circuit City being gone, how long will it be until prices are raised well above the M.S.R.P.?

  14. Billy Koesoemadinata Says:

    wow,, is it really? i wonder if it happened in my country, maybe i’ll buy some new notebooks.. 😉

  15. Devourer of Books Says:

    I was in a Circuit City last night and it was much the same thing. Actually, from your pictures, I think the one I was in looked a lot trashier than the one you were in. In fact, most of the laptops on display were missing one or more keys from the keyboard, one even had a cracked screen. You’d think they could offer an additional percentage off of THOSE. Only thing we could find worth buying was an ink cartridge for our printer.

  16. Harry McCracken Says:

    Sauer Kraut: I -still- miss Lechmere…and am still angry at Montgomery Ward (RIP) for buying Lechmere and turning what was a pretty good place to buy all kinds of stuff into a disaster zone that never stood a chance…


  17. O-Dog Says:

    Circuit city was once a reputable company with sales people making 50k to 100k a year. Customers could get a product that best fitted their needs. In 2003 cc laid everyone that was making over a certain amount off to save a couple of bucks. I was one of the people that was right under the “kick your ass out of here”line. I worked in the car stereo departmen(roadshop) till they had another massive lay off in march of 2007. They let me go because I made too much money… I was the top salesman in the district. The remaining employees felt threatened to do a good job, because they could get a raise and get laid off. Can you believe how sick this sounds. Being laid off for doing a good job… That is why this company FAILED! because they’re incompetence in the coorporate offices affected the backbone of the company, the employees who came face to face with customers everyday. I hope the best for the remaining employees. It’s not their fault, it’s the coorprate morrons.

  18. Sean Says:

    “They let me go because I made too much money… I was the top salesman in the district. The remaining employees felt threatened to do a good job, because they could get a raise and get laid off. Can you believe how sick this sounds. Being laid off for doing a good job… That is why this company FAILED!”

    And that is why the USA will fail within the next few years because Obama has taken away incentive for people to do anything. The USD will crash within the next 3 years.

  19. MySidesHurt Says:

    OMG! Thanks Harry. That is the funniest article I’ve read in a long long time. So sad, but sooo sooo funny. I laughed, I cried. I laughed until I cried. I laughed until that “silent laugh” convulsion is all I could do. Light-headed and teary-eyed, I am left feeling the need to parrot the good one-liners like a college freshman as he tries to impress with his intricate knowledge of a South Park episode.

    ** 2 days left and everything still costs more than can easily be found online
    ** funky handheld game? $89.99
    ** $52.19 for this wireless Microsoft Mouse. Which is missing the USB dongle ****>>it needs to work<<****.
    ** the “lost” box of Lost
    ** $2 mop handles
    ** 50c for a used can of pledge WTF???
    ** dirty damaged traffic cones that anyone can find on any street any given night
    ** Carol Burnett Show

    You seriously can’t make this stuff up! That is Waaaay beyond pitiful. Do the people that work there have any sense at all, or even eyes! Maybe they are just souless lumps of human essence without the will to care. Who knows. I mean really – mop handles?? used cleaning supplies?? traffic cones?? You’re supposed to sell the merchandise not every last ounce of your pride. What’s next banana peels and used Capri-Sun pouches? Wow! Just …. wow.

    What else is left to say except ….

    How much for the “mop handles for sale” sign?

  20. slw4884 Says:

    Seriously, who cares? Bestbuy will be open in the morning!

  21. cgj Says:

    i was there today and saw all the employees bringing their carts of merchandise to the front to pay in the waining hours – carts full.
    one employee brought a canon 5d and about 12 dvd and games and his final bill was $59.97 (wow that is a $3000 slr -guess the liquidator wasnt watching) i guess it is considered severance pay. best wishes to circuit city employees –sad to see you go.

  22. edgewiseonthemarkets Says:

    I went to a local store to grab some last second deals but they had nothing. I mean nothing at all . Was a bust.

  23. John Smith Says:

    I went to my local Circuit City on the 6th and saw a pile of USB hard drives – Toshiba 320GB going for $70. I could get them for around that from NewEgg as a normal price. Hardly worthwhile. They had some scrappy looking laptops and printers going for between $50 and $100, none of which were actually worth more than $2 on a good day. I had a look a few weeks before and the prices were 10% off a jacked up price. Nothing in the Circuit City sale was worth bothering with, to be honest. I never did. After all – why buy a Toshiba 320GB for the same price I’d get from NewEgg with a warranty. No warranty from Circuit City!

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