The Last Will and Testament of Circuit City

The even later, even more tragic last days of a one-time retailing giant.

By  |  Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Last Will and Testament of Circuit CityFor Circuit City, it passed for good news: On Friday, a press release trumpeted the “record shopper turnout” at the failed retailer’s going-out-of-business sale and said that the liquidation proceedings were ahead of schedule. All U.S. stores are therefore closing forever as of tomorrow. And so I made what will almost certainly be my last visit ever to my local Circuit City today, six days after I found it had been reduced to selling used cleaning supplies.  Back on Monday, it still stocked some factory-fresh consumer electronics products, too–albeit at discounts too low to send anyone into a shopping frenzy. Today, with 24 hours to go, very little worth buying at any price was still available…

After the jump, a final set of fuzzy iPhone photos from the scene of the sale. I wonder how long it’ll take the landlord to fill the space, and what will replace Circuit City there–and in the 566 other storefronts that the chain’s failure leaves without a tenant?

As I wended my way towards the store, I noticed that the huge STORE CLOSING banner was gone. I don’t think this is a clue they’re having second thoughts. And it probably doesn’t mean they sold it to anyone, although that would be kind of cool. I suspect that the store is simply so near its end that they’d already started to remove the going-out-of-business signage. Either that, or it was torn asunder during the blustery weather we’ve been having here lately.

ldcc-outside

For the first time since my first visit to this store’s liquidation, it was packed with consumers–more than I’d seen in any Circuit City in a long time. And they were buying stuff, too. I was shocked to see a queue at the checkout.

Circuit City Last 2 Days

Around seventy percent of the store was now cordoned off. I don’t know what the “SERVICE DEFECTIVE” on that tape means, but it’s sort of fitting: Circuit City died, in part, because its service was too often defective.

Circuit City Closed

In normal times, you expect the signage attached to PCs in a store to brag about the features they contain. At a nearly-moribund Circuit City, it lists what’s not inside. Kind of like “no radio” signs tacked to car windows.

Circuit City PCs

All the remaining laptops I saw were apparently floor models, missing fripperies like…oh, like all their keys, for instance. Despite signs saying that everything in the store was at least fifty percent off, computers were still marked down by only forty percent–Circuity City still hoped that someone would plunk down $539.98 for this one. (Tip: You can buy a pretty good brand-new laptop for less than that these days–one with a full set of keys, even.)

Circuit City Laptops

The store had planted folks brandishing signs promoting the sale around the neighborhood, and their placards stated that all TVs were 50 percent off. As far as I could tell, “all TV” consisted of one TV. As the description taped to its front explains, it has a red line down the middle of the screen. Bsut hey, it’s still a 1080p HD set with an impressive 10,000:1 contrast ratio.

Circuit City TV

The ample supply of blue iPod cases I’d seen last Mondaay were still there, still looking hopeful that someone would buy them. Sadly, it wouldn’t be these two ladies, who sauntered off after I snapped this photo.

Circuit City iPod Cases

Also still on hand: vast quantities of armbands for various Sandisk Sansa MP3 players. For thirty cents apiece. You gotta think they could knock them down to a penny apiece, and still have trouble getting rid of them.

Circuit City Sansa Cases

The same Canon gadget that mystified me on my last visit was also still lurking about (upon further reflection, I think it’s a little photo printer). It’s really just not that much more tempting at $60 than it was at $90. When Circuit City closes for the last time tomorrow night, I wouldn’t be shocked if this were the last unsold item in the place.

Circuit City Canon

Most of the CDs I’d seen on my last visit were gone, but I did run into Mary J. Blige. Repeatedly.

Circuit City Mary J. Blige
Circuit City Mary J. Blige

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64 Comments For This Post

  1. Liz Says:

    what’s with the iPhone photos all the time. A semi-good digital camera will set you back around $100. You could then take GOOD QUALITY pictures instead of posting all these horrible quality iPhone photos.

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    I have several swell digital cameras (just picked up a Panasonic TZ5, in fact–great camera) and have used them for other Technologizer reportage. I didn’t use any of them at Circuit City because I felt a little guilty skulking around and taking photos, and using a phone rather than a camera attracted less attention. Also, I wouldn’t have used a flash no matter what camera I’d used, so the pics might have iffy no matter what.

    And maybe it’s just me, but for these sad Circuit City photos, the fuzziness seems kinda appropriate to the mood. I didn’t want to take beauty shots…

    –Harry

  3. Dr. Bob Says:

    You’re gonna blame OBAMA for this? Really? It takes longer than 7 weeks for an economy to fall apart. This happened under Bush’s watch, you know.

  4. Dr. Bob Says:

    Oops. Sorry — this was intended for your earlier post, Harry…

  5. Randy Garcia Says:

    Great post, great pics, Harry. The YouTube video was a nice find too — check out those Packard Bell 486’s in the last couple minutes of part one, then click through to part two to hear about the virtues of DIVX!

  6. Anonymous Says:

    I bought an ATX power supply tester and a fixture UPS for a total of $10 on Friday. The tester works, but the UPS’s battery is dead. Ripping out a bunch of plastic from the battery compartment let me shoehorn a spare I had lying around into it. (For some reason it was made with big plastic plates in the battery compartment; like they needed a quick solution to make a budget model.) Works perfectly now!

    That was probably the last thing worth buying they had. They ran out of cannibalized computers, half-dead TVs, and beat up floor model laptops a couple weeks ago. (They even sold the 80s TV with knobs from the employee break room for $10.)

  7. tced Says:

    I too visited my Circuit City for the last time (Indianapolis). There was hardly any merchandise left to purchase. The only computers present were demonstrator notebooks at just so-so prices. The new merchandise in largest supply were MP3 player cases/holders – many of them. Only 1 TV with a sold sticker. I used to like them some years ago – their TV displays were much better than Best Buy – and they had knowledgeable (commissioned) sales people. So long Circuit City.

  8. Dan Says:

    Used to work at Circuit City up until 2 months ago. Ended up quitting about 3 weeks before they announced they were closing. Was pretty horrible.. horrible pay, horrible hours, horribly incompetent coworkers in every department but mine, which resulted in more work for me. Working there definitely gave me motivation to do well in college, though!

    Oh, and go-gets were online orders that people were going to pick up in store. There was a “Ready in 24 minutes, or you get $24″ guarantee back when the store actually had a website. Couldn’t resist sharing :D

  9. Harry McCracken Says:

    Thanks, Dan! Can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here, but I had good luck with Circuit City’s online order pickup service. (With Best Buy on the other hand, my one experience was a fiasco–they kept me waiting for 20 minutes, then decided they didn’t have the product in stock after all.)

    –Harry

  10. NanoGeek Says:

    So who’s going to buy the circuitcity.com domain? :)

    Also thanks to Mr. McCracken for wasting his time visiting Circuit City for our amusement. I for one have enjoyed your posts.

  11. Yonah Says:

    Nice blurry, noisy pictures. I realize taking pictures indoors without a flash requires a longer exposure and higher ISO setting, but perhaps it would have been wise to purchase a “discount” tripod before taking these pictures.

  12. Tammy Says:

    I totally agree. The photography is terrible. Please take your photos with a decent camera next time. ughhhh.

  13. Kip W Says:

    Yeah, Harry! You should get one of those cell-phone tripods. It only adds two pounds to the weight of your phone, and can be carried with a strap. Because when you take pictures of a Circuit City going out of business, razor sharpness is a must.

    I saw a guy holding one of those signs by the road, and he was dancing. If I hadn’t been driving 40, I might have tipped him. He deserves better in life than to be holding a Circuit City closing sign, anyway.

  14. ruinevil Says:

    Mysterious object at jr.com

    http://www.jr.com/canon/pe/CAN_CP770/

  15. CameraDude Says:

    Could ya’ll shut the **** up about better photos.. You want better photos, go to the Circuit City yourself, learn to blog and do it yourself. Jesus, everyone’s a critic.

  16. brian Says:

    I went by my local CC (Orlando) on Saturday. Funny what they had left. A million copies of a rainbow-colored book about DSLRs, and a MILLION USB extension cables, regularly $35 or $40 (the signage was questionable), now 90% off. Ironically, $4 is what they SHOULD cost. And yeah, mine also had a million crappy non-iPod MP3 player armbands.

    Also, in the ads, am I the only one who thinks the plug that flies in to become the corner of the store is proportioned EXACTLY like an Apple iPhone/iPod AC adapter?

    The only thing you’re missing is a Christmas ad. (Unless I missed it. I kinda skimmed through a little.) Where Santa rides the plug while a bit of “Deck the Halls” plays. Seriously, I liked those.

  17. Jack Says:

    It’s the mentally ill that buy Apple and Microsoft products. hmm yes. That is 99% of the population. ohh well.

  18. dale Says:

    Seriously? someone is going to blame politicians for the collapse of a company? i am 100% certain that neither BUSH nor BO were on the board of directors that lined their pockets with cash to keep themselves afloat as the company sunk like a plague infested ship.

    lets blame politics for the collapse of the company.

    wait a minute… people are buying consumer electronics! just look at Best buy! they are still doing fine.

    this had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with bad financial decisions.

    should we tack on another 10 billion to the stimulus to keep them afloat? i think not. lets just let it go down.

    what happened to the good old days when a company that FAILED did just that, it FAILED because of the MANAGEMENT.

  19. Harry McCracken Says:

    Ruinevil: Interesting! But the mysterious object I saw was nowhere near that tall. Wonder if it was the TOP of a photo printer?

    –Harry

  20. garap Says:

    Bingo! http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=ModelInfoAct&fcategoryid=118&modelid=17141

    Although I have been in US for just three years, Circuit City was always a good hangout place for all things electronics next to Frys. I still cannot forget my excitement during my first Thanksgiving Day shopping with them: a 1GB pen drive for $4 after $26 rebates.

  21. Jared connell Says:

    I don’t think that anything could be done at this point to reopen all circuit city stores. I think the absence of the banner means that they’re finishing the store closing phase and now in the store closed phase.

  22. Liz Says:

    if you are happy with the cruddy photo quality your iphone affords then don’t apologize for the poor quality in your posts. I think this is a great post – don’t get me wrong. I just was saying about the crummy image quality. CameraDude.. Nice attitude and mouth/vocabulary!

  23. Bobby Says:

    > @Liz writes “what’s with the iPhone photos all the time. A semi-good digital camera will set you back around $100. You could then take GOOD QUALITY pictures instead of posting all these horrible quality iPhone photos.”

    Liz, No one cares. Get a life.

  24. Iso Says:

    Jeeze, what’s up with you people and the picture complaining, were you planning on making a calendar out of these shots or something? Give the man a break, he was trying to be inconspicuous.

  25. matt Says:

    why is everybody giving this poor guy a hard time about the photography? most stores will kick you out if you take pictures inside anyways…

  26. bayhammock Says:

    Circuit City got what they deserve. Twice we purchased a new computer from circuit City (in Canada they call themselves The Source)Twice were were sold a used computer as new. We may be slow learrners but we will never shop there again – no matter how good the deals seem.

  27. bayhammock Says:

    Circuit City got what they deserve. Twice we purchased a new computer from circuit City (in Canada they call themselves The Source)Twice were were sold a used computer as new. We may be slow learners but we will never shop there again – no matter how good the deal seems.

  28. Stuart Says:

    Thanks for this. I had considered going out to one of our local Circuit Cities (or should the plural of a trade name be “City’s” or “Citys”. A moot point, now.) but didn’t make the time.

    Now I realize I missed nothing.

    I thought about the LG with the red line down the screen. I imagine that would be covered by manufacturer’s warranty, but the cost of packing and shipment would probably eat up those savings.

  29. Liz Says:

    regarding images…. I guess you guys are right. I will lower my expectations of this site… I will expect crummy photos and sub-par other things.. and when I want professional photography and etc. I’ll go to the NY Times, Wired, or some other site. Thanks for setting me straight guys.. I will not expect professionalism or excellence from this site. YOU WIN

  30. emptysuit Says:

    some circuit city stores could have been saved if private owners would have stepped in. No one wants to take a risk.

  31. bearmancartoons Says:

    Eliot Yamin CD’s were aplenty.

    Amazing that in the last month of its existance, the service level was incredible. If only they provided that level the last 4 years things would have been different.

  32. TivoGuy Says:

    Just remember, the people that are running the liquidation are probably not looking at the WORTH of things, but the target revenue to be gained by it… that’s why I saw things early on that were marked UP 10%, only to mark it back down 10%. I think the $650 broken HDTV was proof of that.

  33. se Says:

    Captions go UNDER pictures. Really off-putting.

  34. jas Says:

    shaddup! pictures are fine

  35. Omari Says:

    Thanks for the photos; they are fine for their intended purpose. I mean, you are not going out for a Pulitzer or something. How can people have the nerve to complain about the photos, when they did not go to a Circuit City and take the photos themselves, and they are not paying to look at these photos? Geez, what nerve.

  36. R Says:

    What? They’re closed already? I was hoping to get back and maybe get one of those video distribution amplifiers.

    Oh well.

  37. Jeremy Says:

    Liz is just mad that nobody cares to read her crappy blog. ‘Fess up, Liz…It’s your party and you can cry if you want to…

  38. Tim Says:

    Why is it that Liz and Tammy are complaining about the pics, yet none of the guys are?

    Also, was it just me or did everyone else notice that in the kitchen appliance center it was full of women?

  39. XENCOR Says:

    WTF are all of you gonna do with better pics…?
    The last sale of this crappy store was also crap….not a big surprise. And you poops need HD pics to commemorate those nostalgic days?? Whatever!

  40. John Says:

    Taps!

  41. Joe Says:

    ya lookup kicked out of walmart on youtube some random guy dragged them out for shooting video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWHj8AxdvsA

  42. dethknite Says:

    Actually it doesn’t take more than 7 weeks to help destroy the economy. I would have to say that the recent events under the Obama administration (bailouts of bad banks, bills to fund pork, and increase in taxes on capital gains and dividends) has directly affected the economy and the stock market specifically. The stock market is based off of predictions in the future… 1-2 years. And the stocks are dropping like mad since the only way one makes money from stocks is capital gains and dividends… both of which Obama wants to tax more. So we see less people buying stocks, predictions gloomy, and stocks ever decreasing along with the economy, market, and jobs.

    So yes… I do blame Obama and the Democratic congress for making things worse when we elected him to make things better; for instilling fear and a “suckle on mom’s teet” mindset in many Americans instead of hope and faith in our banks and economy. The gov’t wants us to need them, so that they can take more money and distribute it as they please. I see socialism creeping ever so deeper into every crevice of America everyday.

  43. davelog Says:

    Hey Liz,

    You’re perfectly justified in expecting a better class of pictures. Harry’s also justified in expecting a better class of reader.

  44. Harry McCracken Says:

    Howdy folks,

    Probably makes sense at this point to bring the discussion of the quality of my photos–which, incidentally, I criticized before anybody else did, in the story itself–to an end (we’ve heard all sides repeatedly, no?) and also the political debate (I assume we can all agree that Circuit City’s woes weren’t brought on by any political party, and predate the current economic situation).

    I think I’ve mentioned this on the site before, but Jim Collins’ 2001 book Good to Great uses Circuit City as a case study…of how to run a company -well-, not drive it into the ground. The book was published more or less exactly when CC began its decline. If I had to come up for an explanation of what happened, I’d attribute it to multiple factors, including the rise of Best Buy (a well-run company with larger stores and possibly marginally better customer service), the advent of online retailing (with better selection and pricing), the fact that the customer experience at Circuit City seriously degraded in recent years as they struggled to deal with their challenges, and, last and least, the fact that the current economic situation makes it more likely that a company that files for bankruptcy won’t emerge from it than was once the case.

    –Harry

  45. D Says:

    “We may be slow learners but we will never shop there again”

    Yeah, I’m not gonna shop at Circuit City anymore either.

  46. Marfin Says:

    On the last day, my CC had tons of USB cables, hundreds of ipod arm bands and a few interesting unopened gadgets.

    I spoke to a clerk who said that all the USB cables were brought in when the warehouses were emptied. The cables were all the house brand and they would all be destroyed if not sold.

    The most interesting thing I noticed was the mob mentality of the customers. For example, one set of items might go untouched for weeks. Literally the same number of product X sitting on the shelf day after day. Usually the price wasn’t great, so you could see why they wouldn’t sell. Then all at once they’d be gone. I witnessed this on the last day with several computers and gadgets. Once two or three people took one, then a swarm would come and they’d all be gone. Come to think of it, I recall seeing something like this on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

  47. powerleg5 Says:

    I can’t say it surprises me about Circuit City going under, especially if most of their customers had problems with them like I did. I am not going to bore you with the details of that incident, but I will say that the back of my boots was last seen by one of their employees with an attitude quite a few years ago.

  48. Eric Mesa Says:

    I think it’s pretty clear why CC is closing a huge chunk of their stores. Their prices suck. It’s that simple. Everything they sell can be had for cheaper on Amazon or Newegg.com

  49. Ernie McCraken Says:

    ..a guy named Manuel. Priceless.

  50. Robin WERY Says:

    The photo’s look very reminicent to the demise of Woolworths in the UK, where over 600 branches were closed down just before Christmas.At the end there was a feeding frenzy on what was left.. Oddly enough the last bag of ‘pick and mix’ sweets sold by a woolwoth’s store was sold on Ebay for over $5000 (yes five thousand dollars).

  51. Andy Whiteman Says:

    I am glad Circuit Cirt is gone. I couldn’t shop there because they had LOUD, BLARING MUSIC which they refused to turn down. I even called their main office. They had no concern for customer satisfaction and did not deserve to remain in business.

  52. jim Says:

    I took calls for Circuit City Advantage Computer Support. Let me explain something to you. What happened to Circuit City was a long time coming, and was self-inflicted, and not a result of the economy. It was years of word of mouth spreading about unscrupulous business practices conducted by Circuit City and its store employees. I could tell you stories.

  53. TheLion Says:

    Pretty much junk the last few days – I did manange to find a Panasonic Blu-Ray theater system for $500 though. Use to shop CC and BB all the time, but now TigerDirect, Micro Center and Fry’s are all around the area and they do typically have some better deals.

  54. Eddie Says:

    Circuit City began its long road to demise years ago when it instituted “A Better Way”. They stopped paying the commisioned sales people to sell the best product, rather they encouraged them to sell to “the direction of the company”. To make good money you had to sell the worst, cheapest quality crap rather than a product that would make people happy and want to return for the next item they bought. The new president of the company was only interested in high margins not repeat customers. They also stopped selling major appliances, an extremely high margin group, because it was not a growth industry in their opinion. They were at the time the second largest seller of appliances behind only Sears. This was about the same time all the good sales people left (late 90’s) because they could see the writing on the wall. They also used to have a great training program and decided that was not worth keeping either. To me the only surprise is it took a decade for them to fail.

  55. Eduardo Gonzalez Says:

    Unfortunately, The City, a Circuit City branch on Hato Rey, PR, might be also affected, even if they’re doing the independent way

  56. Rose Says Good Riddance Says:

    I for one am not sorry to see them go. I once purchased a new computer from them. When I got it home and plugged it in it was dead. When I called the store they told me to mail it out for repair under the warranty. I told them it was purchased 20 minutes ago and was being returned for an exchange. They gave me a hard time for about 2 minutes when I got back there. I started getting loud enough for other prospective customers to hear me and they changed their mind and replaced it. I did not return to their store til their “Going out of Business Sale”. That was a joke and I left empty handed. A friend bought a 500GB external hard drive for $112.00 thinking it a great buy. It was on sale at Staples and Wal-Mart for $99.00. When she got it home she found it didn’t work. She had to send it back to the manufacturer to get a replacement because Circuit City was not giving exchanges for defective items. She should have gone elsewhere. The loss of jobs is the ONLY sad thing to come from their closing.

  57. Don Says:

    I went to my local CC about 3 days before the closiongs. I found to XM radios for 70% off. Since I wanted to replace the old ones (screens were getting hsrd to read) I snatched them up. Bout=ght both for $60. Other than that, there wasn’t much left to pick over.

  58. John Murphy Says:

    The pictures are OK for me. I didn’t want to frame them anyway. The words are what count.

  59. William Rogers Says:

    They got what they deserved I stopped going 17 years ago becaused of being overcharge .Went back for close out and was over charged $70.00.The worst of the worst.Crooks

  60. JOHYNNY69 Says:

    Well they say “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”! This refers to an old term for the finish of an Opera.
    I was one of the “Attende’s” at the final days of Circuit City. My comment? NO GREAT DEALS unless you knew what you were buying and looked closely for missing parts and opened packages.
    I did find some deals. Kaspersky software for 10 bucks, APC 550VA UPS’s for 14 bucks, a digital picture frame for 10 bucks and some 10 AMP power cords for 25 cents each. Otherwise? Nothing!
    What the public didn’t know is that just before the “Fire Sale” employees were directed to mark up the already discounted pricing of items to full list. Then mark them down to the 50, 40, 25 or whatever discount price. I think that is called creative theft. That’s all I have to say. I guess Office Depot will be the next to fall. Stock at $1.01 doesn’t mean a healthy chain.

  61. JOHYNNY69 Says:

    Oh, by the way, maybe they should use those cleaning supplies and toilet paper to clean up their act before they go to the next job. IF there is one.

  62. Scott Says:

    I too grin over the demise of Circuit City. I purchased my first computor from them and was cohurst and tricked into a “extended warrenty” after repeatedly saying no. And when I did have a problem they had no repair people on staff and sent it to Kansas City for 3 weeks. When it came back they said that they would not work on it as it had additional programs that were not originally on that unit! I also got very angry and loud. Was told to quiet down but made sure everyone around knew how I had been treated. I had several repair taken care of at Staples in house repair quickly and reasonably. I never returned to Circuit City but took every advantage to inform anyone who would listen how I was treated. So I don’t belive it is the economy that got Ciruict City, they just finally got what they diserved!!!

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  64. Richard Says:

    I think the photos are awesome! Good job getting this documented. Thanks for your hard work and risk taking.

    It never ceases to amaze me the sheer mass of stupid, entitled people in this world that will complain about anything. And then there’s another group of sheeple that will jump right behind any idiot that complains about something. Some of these idiots posted links to cameras, as if you don’t know how to shop online, and I think I saw one idiot even suggesting that you get a tripod. The only thing more amazing than your article on this page is the idiocy of some of these people complaining. THESE are the folks that have the finesse to screw up a free lunch, as the old saying goes.

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