Best Buy Apologizes For Strongarming Some Xbox Customers

Apparently, some customers looking for the best buy on the new Xbox 360 instead were met with less-than-stellar sales tactics at some Best Buy stores, with sales personnel “requiring” customers to purchase unwanted accessories as part of a bundle in order to get the base Xbox unit. Gamedaily reports:

“Console bundles for new hardware launches certainly aren’t unusual-many retailers (especially online) have been selling the Xbox 360 in bundle form only-but this practice is one that doesn’t sit well with many consumers and was not supposed to have been adopted by popular retail chain Best Buy. Perhaps these gamers left with a sour taste in their mouths by the selling tactics of these console retailers will be drawn towards the world of PC gaming instead where such antics are nonexistent. Sites like GameGator (check it out here – help PC gamers get great deals on the latest releases, so they’re well worth checking out if you’re looking to make the switch from consoles – or even if you just want an additional device to game on.

Despite this, certain Best Buy stores in the U.S. apparently ignored the standalone $299 (core) and $399 (premium) SKUs and either forced consumers to buy Xbox 360 bundles or strongly suggested that they do so.”

For example, back on November 23rd, the Northwest Indiana Times reported:

“Glancing down the line Tuesday morning at the Valparaiso store, there was a sea of heads covered with knit caps or hoodies. The crowd consisted mostly of guys in their late teens to early 20s, sprinkled lightly with motivated soccer moms and young women.

It wasn’t just the weather that was unpredictable. At 8:15 a.m., after many nighttime hours spent shivering in line, a Best Buy employee announced that the unit would not be sold alone for the $399 advertised in the sales flier. Instead, those in line were told they would have seconds to decide whether to buy a higher-priced bundle, adding a game and other accessories.”

In the wake of this, did some looking around and just tripped across the following memo, penned by Brian Dunn, Best Buy’s President of Retail for North America (via Mike Antonucci at the Merc):

“TO: Open Letter to Customers

FROM: Brian Dunn, President – Retail, North America

RE: Launch of Xbox 360

CC: Best Buy Store, District and Territory Employees; All Officers and Directors

DATE: December 6, 2005

I’m writing to apologize.

While all of us at Best Buy were thrilled to be part of the recent launch of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 video game system – one of the most anticipated events in the history of electronic gaming – the launch did not go as we had hoped. We sold out of Xbox 360s nationwide in less than two hours, and most of our stores did an outstanding job of serving our gaming customers. I’d like to thank the majority of our employees, who provided a terrific experience for customers at the launch date. However, our promotional activities in certain cases failed to follow company guidelines. As a result, some of our valued gaming customers had an experience in our stores that was inconsistent with what you’ve come to expect from us, as a leader in the consumer electronics industry.

Specifically, customers in some Best Buy stores were told that they were required to buy additional Xbox accessories or services if they wanted one of the sought-after Xbox 360 consoles, even though we advertised the Xbox 360 console alone. I want to be very clear that Best Buy does not condone pressuring customers to purchase items they may not want or that may not fit their lifestyle. In fact, these behaviors are in direct conflict with our desire to serve customers’ needs better than anyone else, and our values of honesty and integrity.

We are currently investigating all leads about promotional practices that may have violated the company’s guidelines, and we will take disciplinary actions as appropriate. We also have reminded all of our stores about our policies with respect to launches of hot products. Meanwhile, on behalf of Best Buy, I’d like to offer a sincere apology to any customers who felt pressured to buy items they did not want.

Customers who are unhappy with Xbox 360-related purchases made in November 2005 may return unwanted items for a full refund at any Best Buy store. In addition, if your Xbox 360 purchasing experience did not meet your expectations for any reason, please email us at [email protected] . (Employees with information pertinent to our investigation are encouraged to call our Ethics Hot Line instead.)

Last, I would like to invite you back to our stores, particularly later this month, when Best Buy will receive more shipments of Xbox 360s. While supplies continue to be very limited, we are truly excited about this new gaming platform, and we’d like to deliver the best of that experience to you. We promise an in-store experience that is focused on your needs and the needs of everyone on your holiday gift list.

Brian Dunn”

(UPDATE: The letter has since been posted here, with a miniscule link to a PDF buried next to the garish page navigation photograph .)

So, from both the communications and customer interaction points-of-view, a well-handled episode for Best Buy. Although a few individuals tried to take advantage of customers, Best Buy corporate is doing the right thing in not only investigating (and, presumably, disciplining) the responsible parties, but also taking an aggressive tack to make whole the customers who were affected by the issue. Of course, it would have been better if this never had happened in the first place, but still an “B+” response based on relative timeliness and assumption of responsibility for the issue. (Would have been an “A” if they had done this in an even more timely manner and made the letter to customers more visible on their web site.)

We’re Not Worthy!

Pete Townshend’s profile on Blogger is most excellent. His blog (which is a serialized novella) is pretty sweet, too. Far from the distanced, affected rock star, he’s right in there connecting with folks in the comments, responding, and having a conversation. Brilliant.

The community around this novella is phenomenal as well. Most chapters seem to have 150+ comments, a virtual book club.

Thought for the day: if Pete frickin’ Townshend can do this, and connect with the thousands (tens of thousands? more?) folks who are reading his blog, doesn’t it seem to be a pretty lame excuse when business execs say they don’t have time to connect with folks outside their organizations via blogs?

(click image to enlarge)

Are Customers Really The Best Marketing?

In a far-reaching post, Brad Feld asks the question: “Are customers your best marketing?

Yes. Well, yes (mostly). To beat an already overused word into twitching submission, the marketing done by customers has to “authentic,” doesn’t it? (Don’t get me started on the whole Bzzagent thing again.) In other words, what a company provides has to do one of two things:

  • Provide real value (in the form of information or insight)
  • Provide something that is creative and/or entertaining

These are the obstacles that need to be overcome in order to get folks talking around the real and virtual water coolers, IMHO.

Back to Brad. Feld:

“[Companies need to] stop talking about “marketing” and instead focus on getting their existing customers to tell the world about their product through blogs, references, online interviews, and at cocktail parties (these are both products that the target customer will ultimately start talking to a friend about over a drink).”

Good stuff. Read the whole thing.

Update: Graham Hill brings up two great points in the comments below.

The Social Customer Manifesto Joins The Corante Marketing Hub

A big post-Thanksgiving “thank you” and immense kudos to the folks at Corante who today launched the Corante Marketing Hub, which includes the Social Customer Manifesto and nearly two dozen other blogs concentrating on “the best writing and thinking on marketing across the blogosphere and beyond.”

I’m proud, honored and humbled to be associated with this group. Here are some of the best-of-the-best from the network:

and last, but not least…

This group rocks. Subscribed!

Thank You, SearchCRM Readers!

Wow. Just got the following email from Mia Shopis, Associate Editor,

Dear Christopher,

Congratulations! We’ve tallied the votes and we are pleased to announce that you have won’s Best CRM Blog Award. Our readers have chosen The Social Customer Manifesto based on four important criteria: Personality, usefulness, content and likelihood to encourage return visits. Not only does your personality shine through in each of your regular entries, but readers also find your commentary both useful and relevant to the demands and trends of CRM. In short, our readers rely on your blog for the latest in CRM.

I’ve attached a winner’s logo to display on your site. Let me again extend our congratulations to you.

Keep on bloggin’,
Mia Shopis
Associate Editor

A huge(!) thank you to the SearchCRM readers who voted, and congrats to co-winners Paul Greenberg and Mark Rittman.