Perhaps This is Why CompUSA is Closing Stores

kinnon —  June 4, 2007 — 2 Comments

My friend, Terry Heaton, unwittingly paid $269 for what he thought was a Canon camera from CompUSA. It was, in fact, a Canon camera box with all the peripherals…but no camera.

The rub is that this was one of the CompUSA stores that was closing. CompUSA’s attitude is that since the bill said All Sales Final, Terry was the person responsible to make sure there was a camera in the box.

As Terry notes, he spent over $3,500 on that trip to CompUSA, purchasing from sales reps wearing CompUSA shirts and receiving a bill labeled CompUSA – but CompUSA will not provide any solution to Terry’s problem – they say he bought from a liquidator. And they wonder why they are in trouble.

(I should note that I purchased a number of things from a closing CompUSA store in Minneapolis last month…and thought I was dealing with CompUSA as the sales people were all CompUSA folk. Who knew that we were dealing with a liquidator. There were no signs to that effect.)

UPDATE: CompUSA blinks. Terry reports:

I got a phone call last night from Loretta Anderson of corporate customer service at CompUSA apologizing for the incident involving the empty box and offering restoration. Loretta called back this morning to tell me a $300 gift certificate is in the mail. I’d basically written the whole thing off, so this was a pleasant, albeit unexpected, surprise. Thank you, Loretta.

This incident has given many lessons, and I want to share a few here.

Firstly, somebody at CompUSA picked up on the story as it was flying all over the internet yesterday (and continues today). This is a lesson in the power of community — the very people CompUSA needs to court as customers spread the word and reacted angrily to what most viewed as a rip-off. I did nothing to manipulate “coverage” — I only wanted to share a slice of my life. The community took over from there.

Another lesson is how the web is changing the nature of authority. Businesses have black and white rules, but the public isn’t black and white. This mentality is fostered by a top-down, modernist culture that needs absolute adherence to rules in order to function. But nobody consulted the people on this. In fact, the reason we have judges in a free society is so that rules can be considered on a case-by-case basis. In the retail world, however, the onus is entirely on the consumer to find someone to function as judge, and the trouble generally isn’t worth it. Retailers know this, and so it goes.
There’s a lesson here for CompUSA and all retailers. The web was alive with this story yesterday, and it moved so fast that there was no way any company could have jumped in to control it. That means companies need to rethink the whole notion of customer service and then mean what they say when spouting fancy slogans touting how they value customers. I’m not anybody special, but every customer should be considered special in the world of buying and selling. I keep waiting for someone in the business world to realize how anti-customer telephone answering systems have become, but I’m not holding my breath.

Buyer beware? Seller beware.

I certainly hope that CompUSA CEO Roman Ross has learned to take a letter from a disappointed customer seriously and that he sets in place systems to treat people like people instead of pests that can be swatted away by underlings.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

2 responses to Perhaps This is Why CompUSA is Closing Stores

  1. Hey! I read about him on Consumerist!

    What a lousy deal. I feel so angry for him and others who get treated this way by big business. Sorry to hear about it and I hope there is some resolution.

  2. I am having a problem with CompUSA — and believe that fraud was committed in the store. This past October, my 16-year old son purchased, with his own money, a IMAC that was on sale at a San Diego store– when we asked why, we were told it was a floor model. We specifically said that we did not want a computer that had been purchased and returned. The salesman assured us this was not the case. At the same time, we purchased the Apple extended warranty. Now we have a problem with the drive on the computer and take it into Apple, since the CompUsA stores were closed in San Diego. We are told that the computer is registered to someone else and that we don’t have the repair warranty. When I called CompUSA they quickly took my complaint and told me they would call me within two days — it has now been four days and trying to call now has been a joke. No one has any information and the “so called case file” didn’t have all the key information that I had previously provided. I get stuck with a so called customer service supervisor who is more concerned about my being annoyed and raising my voice at her then helping me. I would love to be able to talk to Loretta Anderson directly (a name that was given to me when I first filed my complaint), but try getting thru — no one would put me thru.


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