Tag Archives | Best Buy

Best Buy, Wal-Mart End Used Game Kiosk Flirtation

When it comes to trading in used games, there really is no stopping Gamestop.

Best Buy and Wal-Mart, who both experimented with used game kiosks last year, are pulling out, according to IndustryGamers. Both companies relied on a third-party, E-Play, to run the kiosks, and will remove the machines over the next few weeks. E-Play’s Web site has a sombre little message saying they’ve suspended operations, and thanking customers.

In addition to offering credit or debit card credit in exchange for used games, the kiosks rented DVDs (as long as there wasn’t a Redbox machine in the store as well), Blu-ray discs and video games.

A couple guesses why the pilot programs failed: Unlike Gamestop, where you can call to find out a game’s trade-in value, a kiosk is unpredictable, and the prices E-Play offered — $25 for new titles down to 50 cents for throwaways — isn’t better than anywhere else.  Marketing and awareness could’ve come into play as well. If you call Gamestop, you’ll likely hear, “Thank you for calling Gamestop, where we buy and sell used games” on the other end. Somehow, “Welcome to Wal-Mart, check out that kiosk over there” doesn’t have the same ring.

All’s not lost for trading games outside of GameStop. Toys R’ Us, which began buying used games in select markets last year, expanded the program nationwide in September. Amazon will buy your old games in exchange for online store credit, and Wal-Mart still sells used games online, but does not buy them. Still, none of these competitors offer the whole package of buying and selling used games. Local stores and smaller chains, such as Game Crazy, are still around (barely), and thrifty gamers will still rely on Craigslist, eBay and Goozex.

But for most of the United States, for quickly unloading a used game and getting another one in its place, GameStop’s got it locked down.

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The Consumerist Investigates Best Buy

The Consumerist has conducted a superb, important investigation into a Best Buy “optimization” service that involves the Geek Squad pre-tweaking PCs on sale for alleged performance and usability benefits, for a  $40 surcharge. The investigation’s conclusion: The service can make it hard to buy a computer for the advertised price, and the benefits, if there are any, aren’t worth forty bucks.

It’s certainly true that many new Windows PCs aren’t as well configured as they could be–some, in fact, are so laden with demoware and other stuff that it’s downright annoying. Here’s an idea: Why doesn’t Best Buy, a tremendously powerful company in the industry, use the leverage it has to convince PC makers to do a better job in the first place, rather than trying to squeeze an extra $40 out of consumers?


Best Buy Does Digital Movies

Best Buy CinemaNowWhat happens to Best Buy when all of the content we rent and buy comes to us via the Internet rather than on shiny discs we buy in stores? The company won’t go the way of Tower Records or the Virgin Megastores, but it’ll surely miss the money it made selling CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray. And it’s clearly girding itself for the day when those racks of discs go away. Last year, it bought music subscription service Napster–and now it’s announcing a partnership with Sonic’s Roxio CinemaNow service to get into the digital movie business.

More details on Best Buy’s plans are yet to come, but Sonic told me that the retailing giant will create a Best Buy-branded version of CinemaNow, and will work with hardware manufacturers to build it into gadgets such as HDTVs and Blu-Ray players. A Best Buy representative told the New York Times’ Steve Lohr that the service will be available early next year, and that the goal is to let us pay for a movie once and then watch it on an array of devices: not just TVs and PCs but also media players and phones.

Sounds good to me. I’ve bought Walt Disney’s Pinocchio so often over the past twenty-four years, in so many slight variants, that I’ve lost track. I’d love to think that I could buy it just one more time and be done with it–if not for life then at least for a long, long time to come…


Best Buy to Lump E-Readers With Other Random Stuff

Sony E-ReaderClearly, Best Buy doesn’t know what to do with all those e-readers that it plans to stock, because they’ll soon be thrown into a section that contains electronic Rubik’s Cubes, digital pens and — wait for it — Sharper Image products.

Dealerscope reports that Best Buy’s creating a new retail section called “Gadgets and eReaders,” located near the movies and music, and will soon launch a corresponding page on its Web site. Along with Sony’s Reader Daily and Touch Editions and the new iRex e-reader, you’ll find the Livescribe Smartpen and the Rubik’s Touchcube, among other things.

I understand where Best Buy is coming from. E-readers are hard to categorize. They’re not quite tablet computers, nor are they full-blown media players. They are their own category, but right now there just aren’t enough e-readers (or enough interest in them) to warrant a dedicated section of the store.

But lumping e-readers in with “Funky Gadgets You Don’t Need” (my terminology, not Best Buy’s) isn’t really the best way to foster market growth. Granted, someone who’s going to Best Buy with the intent of buying an e-reader won’t care where it’s located as long as it can be found, but to the casual shopper, e-readers’ placement in an obscure gadget section is just going to make them seem frivolous.

What to do then? Put the e-readers near the iPods and Zunes. After all, e-readers are high end entertainment devices, and they share some common features with media players, such as wireless connectivity, digital content and, in some cases, touch screens. Sony’s Reader Touch Edition can even play music.

The gimmicky gadgets can have their own section, but Best Buy should think a little harder about which devices earn the dubious distinction.


Best Buy, Verizon Team on New E-Book Reader

Move over, Amazon Kindle. Best Buy and Verizon have unveiled a new e-book reader Wednesday that will sell for $399 and is built by iRex Technologies. The reader like the Kindle would be able to purchase content over the 3G network, and will be sold in about 100 of Best Buy’s locations by October.

Barnes and Noble’s e-bookstore would be used to supply the device with content, the companies said.

Verizon stands to benefit from this new device as it would receive a portion of the revenue to pay for the use of bandwidth by these devices over the network. Best Buy benefits from a device that is a direct revenue stream for them: the company is so serious about e-readers that it is specifically training its associates on how to sell the devices.

The two companies may be getting on the bandwagon at the right time. After only selling around a million of these devices in 2008, over five million are expected to be sold this year according to research firm iSuppli. Much of this increase has to do with the success of the Kindle, which has continued to sell very well by all accounts.

Regardless, the issue of price still looms large. As we reported here on Technologizer at the beginning of this month, e-readers are still too expensive for most consumers. At $400, iRex’s new reader seems to be more than twice what consumers would consider paying for a device.

These companies still need to address this issue if they plan to continue growing sales of these devices well into the future.


Microsoft to Best Buy Salespeople: Windows Good, Macs Bad!

Over at Ars Technica, there’s an interesting piece on training materials prepared by Microsoft for Best Buy staffers making the case that Windows 7 PCs are preferable to Macs. Most of the points in Windows’ favor that the materials raise are true; it’s just that anything that might tend to favor the Mac is left out. I guess that’s an improvement over earlier Microsoft PC/Mac comparisons that involved both truth-stretching and errors.

If I ran Best Buy, I’d do my darndest to keep anyone with an agenda other than serving the customer out of the selling process. Pretty much by definition, that would prohibit companies from doing these sorts of comparisons of their own products with those of competitors. I mean, if Macs are so crummy, why does Best Buy sell them?

It reminds me of an experience I had at CompUSA years ago: I was eyeing a Canon inkjet printer when a salesguy strolled up and gravely warned me that Canon printers’ ink cartridges had an alarming tendency to dry up–unlike those in HP printers. I couldn’t figure out why a CompUSA rep would care whether I bought a Canon or HP product–until I realized that he was actually an HP employee who CompUSA had allowed to troll for customers in its aisles…


Keep Your Old PS3, and Best Buy May Reward You

playstation3With every upgraded product launch, this is bound to happen: A few unlucky and ill-informed customers buy the old product, just before the upgrade is revealed and released. They complain, hoping to exchange their outdated product for the latest one.

If this happened to you with the Playstation 3 Slim (unlikely if you’re a regular around here), Best Buy may have an offer for you. A leaked company memo, acquired by Kotaku, says stores can offer a free game and a price match to anyone who takes their beef to customer service.

The games on offer — Infamous, MLB 09: The Show and Killzone 2 — aren’t bad, either. Add in the $100 credit you’d get back to reflect the Slim’s price cut, and you’ve got an enticing reason not to upgrade.

This, of course, isn’t a selfless maneuver by Best Buy. Though there’s no official date, the PS3 Slim’s launch is imminent. Amazon has the console shipping on Friday, and some stores around the United States have started selling it already. With no price difference at all between the old and new models, the original Playstation 3 will begin to look like a paperweight to prospective buyers.

I’ve heard that you can still pick up the old Playstation 3 bundle, with LittleBigPlanet and the film Wall-E on Blu-ray, for the new price of $300, but I don’t expect that deal to last, as Best Buy doesn’t have the bundle on its Web site any more. Even so, Best Buy does not want those old units lingering on store shelves, and it certainly doesn’t want to be restocking old consoles that were already sold.

So if you’re a late buyer of the Playstation 3 Fat, speak up! If not, keep an eye on those old models, just in case any more deals come about.


Best Buy Doesn’t Want to Sell Me a 52-Inch HDTV for $9.99. Reasonable Enough.

bestbuylogoEarly this morning, Best Buy had a deal on its site that was not merely a best buy but a mindbendingly, impossibly cheap one: a well-reviewed, high-end 52-inch Samsung LCD HDTV for…under ten bucks. $9.99 to be exact. Here, I’ll show you:

Best Buy HDTV for $9.99

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Best Buy’s Interesting, Imperfect Experiment in Customer Service Via Twitter

TwelpforceOver at Zatz Not Funny, blogger (and frequent Technologizer commenter) Dave Zatz has blogged about Twelpforce, Best Buy’s interesting experiment in aggregating the knowledge of hundreds of its “blue shirt” staffers into one Twitterstream of advice for Best Buy customers. Dave points out that some of the blue shirts’ tweets (both on Twelpforce and their own Twitter accounts, which you might stumble across while reading) are a tad odd. He also says that the Twelpforce feed’s method of aggregation eliminates the “in reply to” links that make it a lot easier to read a Twitter conversation.

Perusing Twelpforce led me to a couple of other conclusions:

1) It’s increasingly clear that Twitter sees the use of its service as a customer service tool to be one of the keys to its long-term success. But Twelpforce is, among other things, a reminder that Twitter just isn’t a very good platform for customer service. Even if it did preserve “in reply to” links, it would be tough to reliably follow a discussion, in part because Twitter still doesn’t provide true threaded discussions. Twitter is generally pretty guarded about telling the world what it’s up to, but I’m wondering if it plans to roll out the features that would make it easier for companies to help their customers via Twitter. (The fact that folks such as Frank Eliason and the @comcastcares team do so much is a testament as much to their hard work as the power of Twitter in its current form.)

2) It’s fascinating to see Best Buy let the blue shirts do their thing in an open, largely uncensored venue. Oddly enough, the blue shirts in Best Buy commercials are consistently smart, courteous, and generally with it; the real blue shirts I’ve dealt with over the years have been a lot less consistent. (I recently had a question about a car-stereo component at my local Best Buy. The guy in that department shrugged and told me he couldn’t help, and directed me to go to the installation center for assistance. Which was across the store, behind a locked door When I got there, another rep told me…to go back to the car stereo section and ask guy #1 for help.)

Up until now, customer service with Best Buy or any other retail chain has been an essentially private affair. (Unless you like to go to electronics stores and eavesdrop on other shoppers’ experiences…which, I admit, I like to do as a source of story ideas.) With Twitter, it’s all out in the open. A blue shirt who knows his or her stuff can become a star; one who’s clueless will embarrass him or herself in public. I’d like to think that over the long haul that might help improve the quality of customer service, period…


A Pre for Under a Hundred Bucks? Good Deal!

bestbuypre[UPDATE: As noted in the comments, Best Buy is saying this is an error. I still think we’ll see a $99 Pre before too long, though…]

PreCentral.net is reporting that Best Buy is living up to its name by offering Palm’s Pre smartphone for $99.99 with a two-year contract–no rebate paperwork required. That’s $100 less than the previous price, which you’ll still pay if you buy a Pre from Sprint (and which you’ll only get after you apply for and receive a $100 rebate). We don’t know whether Best Buy’s new price is permanent, or whether Sprint will match it soon, but it seems like a good bet that it’s the price that the Pre will ultimately end up at.

Only Palm and Sprint really know how well the Pre is selling, and whether it’s living up to their initial expectations. But I don’t think the 50% discount a few weeks after the Pre’s release is a sign of panic on anybody’s part. When Apple cut the price for the iPhone 3G to $99 two days after the Pre debuted in stores, it pretty much set $99 as the new starting price for a smartphone with specs comparable to those offered by the Pre, and there was nothing Palm could do about it. At $199, the Pre looked a tad pricey compared to an iPhone 3GS with twice the storage and video recording, even though it had more RAM and a keyboard. At $99.99, however, it costs…exactly what you’d expect.

You gotta think that part of Palm’s response to the iPhone 3GS will be a Pre that matches some of its features–especially the starting storage capacity of 16GB–and which can be sold for a similar price. Best Buy’s price cut might even be a sign that the new model will arrive soon. One way or another, I hope that the Pre sells well enough to be considered a major success: It’s an excellent and innovative phone, and even iPhone owners will benefit if Apple has plenty of healthy competition.