Darwin's Theories Blog

New Theories for a New Time

Best Buy Gets Worse

'Fast, Free shipping'? 'Worry-free ordering'? Not so much.

On Saturday, November 27 this year I placed an online order with BestBuy.ca for a small plastic equipment carrying case which was on sale for Black Friday at $30 off (regular $70).

By Nov 31 the order wasn’t shipped and was still showing as "in progress". I inquired as to why the order was not shipping. The person on their chat service promised me that it would ship "today or tomorrow". It didn’t.

On Dec 1 I was on the phone with one of their CSRs trying to find out the cause of the delay. After explaining the issue and asking why the order was delayed, I was left on hold for 8 minutes. Finally the rep came back on to tell me something I already knew, that I would get an email when (or if) it actually shipped. I asked them again to find out why it was taking so long, and again was kept on hold for several minutes. Then the call dropped, and they did not call me back. I wasn’t going to start over with a different rep, so I gave up.

Now I respect the smaller, local computer stores, and do try to use them. But I have also bought lots of stuff from BestBuy over the years, and this is the worst service I’ve ever had from them.

"But wait, there’s less!" Just as I was about to send a long missive to their head office asking about the missing piece, their droids sent me the following (from behind the cowardice of a no-reply email address, no less):

Thank you for your recent order of VCUTECH Waterproof Hard Shell
Carrying Case for DJI Mini 2 - Black.
Unfortunately, we ran out of stock and weren't able to secure
additional inventory for this product, so we had to cancel it at this
time. Rest assured, you won't be charged for this order.
We're extremely sorry about this cancellation and would like to make it
up to you with a $10 eCertificate.
You can apply this eCertificate to the purchase of almost anything onBestBuy.ca.

Now obviously there is stock available somewhere as two BestBuy "market sellers" have it in stock. To add insult to injury, the product still shows up in search results - and in Google ads - as "available to ship" at the $40 price at which I ordered! The market seller prices are $66 and $74, though. BestBuy undertook a firm contract to sell it to me at $39.99, and they not only reneged on that, they didn’t offer me anything near the $25-35 that they clawed back by canceling.

Worse, this product currently shows as in stock at most of their Vancouver stores! Best Buy Canada’s head office is in Burnaby, BC (a 'burb of Vancouver); Ontario orders normally ship from their Brampton, Ontario warehouse. If they cared about customer service, they would have the Vancouver warehouse pick one of those and ship it to me. I understand that parts of B.C. have fires and floods (and we all have the plagues) to deal with. I hope all their staff are safe, but "the show must go on."

The $10 eCertificate is an insult, not even a down payment on wanting "to make it up to me". So in the end I requested that they either ship my case from Vancouver, or, send me an "eCertificate" for AT LEAST the $25 extra that it will now cost me to buy it from the Market sellers, to say nothing of my wasted time and effort.

BTW, they also need to work on their inventory management software. Selling goods that can’t be found in the warehouse may be said to border on fraud, and at the very least augurs poorly for a company’s reputation.

How does it happen that a company can take your order and not be able to fulfill it? One possibility is internal theft - a person stealing something to flip on eBay is not going to update the inventory database. But an equally probably scenario is a software issue which has to do with something called "database locking". Just like stop signs are our way of preventing two cars from trying to occupy the same bit of road at the same time (crunch!), database locking tries to stop two customers from buying the same individual item at the same time. But there are degrees of locking, and the more strict the locking is set, as you might guess, the slower the database can respond. Most organizations selling low-cost items, then, typically run with a bit of sloppiness to get the fast response that is needed to compete on today’s impatient internet. The result is that they not infrequently sell the last item twice, before the fact that there are none left gets "committed" to the database. I know it’s not all that rare because it happened to me twice, on two different "big box" stores' web ordering systems, in the same calendar year - this case’s case being one of them.

For every customer who complains about a problem, of course, there are ten or a hundred that will silently take their business elsewhere, or complain to the BBB, or roast the company on Reddit. I did reach out to BestBuy before doing any of these, sending a letter similar to this article. I had to contact them using a FAX service, since there’s no way to get past their voicemail defences and low-level CSR staff. I hope there are people above that pay grade who care enough to do the right thing. We’ll see. Meanwhile, not having heard even an acknowledgement in twenty-four hours, I’m going public. And end by noting that in this 'case', Best Buy is, at best or at least, not living up to their name.

Update: I never ever heard back from them on this. I gave up and found a case that was very lightly used for a few $ more than the one Best Buy flunked out on, with a lifetime warranty, and made in North American instead of shipped from China. Made by Nanuk Cases right here in Canada.