Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Why I do not Buy at Circuit City

I am entirely comfortable with business. I get starry-eyed and dewy-eyed about many things, but I don't have any real problem with the fact that businesses fail and succeed, and that sometimes this results in regrettable dislocations and hassles for people that can pragmatically be alleviated a bit but not prevented.

I tend not to boycott retailers. I understand and aympathize with the intentions of
some who disfavor large corporate retail interests, but I really don't really share that outlook. I want to see a greener, better world, but I remember that many things about the "good old days" were not really as good as the brochures now in vogue suggest.
I want a marketplace in which goods and services are available, employees have health care programs and a living wage but not a whole lot of bureaucratic engraftments onto those basics, and in which we all use this incredible technology to create a market boom in sustainable living. I'm fine, though, if the small businesses which still are the backbone of the economy are accompanied by large corporations which are, if not its ribcage, perhaps its elbows and a good bit of femur. In general, I want to do mild, palatable reforms in our corporate system and not seek to abolish it or anything similarly radical.

I do, though, choose the people from whom I am going to buy. I'd like to discuss why I choose not to buy at Circuit City.

Circuit City is a large electronics and technology superstore chain. Its inventory is extensive but not particularly revelatory. You can find anything they sell on the internet, usually at the same or a lesser price. Circuit City lacks the techno-fun orientation of its competitor Fry's or its competitor Microcenter. Circuit City had one raison d'etre--you used to go to Circuit City instead, of, say, Wal-Mart, because the folks who worked at Circuit City knew their little product promotional literature by heart and were trained to give you advice that really mattered as to which product to buy.

I had a friend who worked there, and, in contrast with other chains at which he had worked, he was impressed because years ago, when he was there, the store really encouraged and rewarded people who knew their products well. He moved on years ago, but I always viewed Circuit City as a good place for semi-literates like me in technological matters to get straight-up input on purchase decisions. The experience there certainly exceeded the one I had at a Los Angeles CompUSA, when some fellow from the 43rd Dimension spent my entire shopping experience when I asked for a laptop telling me in a patronizing tone that the term "laptop" was outmoded technology and that people only sold "notebook" computerss now. This discussion, a decade or more ago, wishes I had had a time machine, so that I could have taken that kid to 2007 and all the ads for laptop computers still on sale today. Needless to say, I never owned a CompUSA notebook, but instead my brother got me this incredible HP that I loved until it got outmoded by time.

In March 2007, though, Circuit City announced it was laying off its 3,400 most expert salepeople. Their problem? They sold too well, had acquired too much expertise, and made too much. In short, Circuit City was going to cut out the heart of its sales force becuase it was afraid of bleeding from shaving cuts.

Let me be quick to say that I am not over-sentimental about the sad need in retail to compete on wages. If one's margin is too thin because Best Buy pays a dollar an hour less, then of course this must be considered.

Yet Circuit City's one key virtue, apart from kind of cool store-box architecture, was its knowledgable staff. Don't get me wrong, they didn't pretend to have invented the internet. But that's just the point. They were regular girls and guys who spoke the local non- "massively-multi-boring-moping-addicted-to-the-mouse-and-killing-orcs-or-being-one-player-game" dialect, and yet they knew their products. Circuit City had taken the one reason to shop Circuit City, and laid it off--3,400 reasons to shop elswhere.

I stopped going to Circuit City then. They cannot compete on price or selection, and now it cannot compete on staff, either.

Two shoes dropped this week.

Circuit City Third quarter sales, announced yesterday? Completely unsatisfactory. Losses. Despair.

The Board of Directors' remedy for this boneheadedness? on Wednesday Circuit City announced a retention plan for its senior executives. If vice presidents stay with the company in these troubled times,they could earn a $ 600,000 bonus.

Damn the torpedos, shoot the lifeboats, and then let's down periscope and sail to Treasure Island.

This is why I do not shop Circuit City. I don't mean "never"--if I'm bored and it's on sale at a loss leader price, I'll go buy the sale item and nothing else.

But some days I think, as we all can think as consumers--I have a choice. I can buy toys made in the USA. I can buy digital downloads and other virtual products rather than non-green tangible music. I can buy compact fluorescent bulbs.

This post relates why I do not choose Circuit City. I have a choice, and I am going to use it.

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