Friday, 20 January 2012

By Bye Best Buy part 2

In late 2006 I and a few other broadband technicians in Talk Talk were taken in to a small room and shown several videos of a US organisation called Geek Squad. This showed a team of people that were passionate about customer services and who also loved technology. They dressed in white shirts, black clip on ties, black trousers and white socks and were about to join up with us to solve some of the problems our customers had.

What surprised Geek Squad in the US was how good we were technically and out of that team of broadband technicians came a group of 12. This 12 were to become the first ever Geek Squad agents in the UK. Eventually the team grew and grew and then we started taking on mobile phone problems for The Carphone Warehouse, then CPW rebranded their own Lifeline insurance policies and they became Geek Squad insurance policies, in my opinion this was the start of the dilution of the brand.

The Geek Squad agents were eager for the Americans to come over and let Geek Squad get on with what it did best, fix broken technology. Best Buy bought half of Carphone Warehouse and announced their intentions to take the UK market by storm. They would show the likes of PC World, Curry's and Comet what it was all about and become the biggest brand in Europe and possibly the world.

Then we waited and waited and eventually the first store opened and then the next and then came the Aintree store that I worked at. What was evident during the training was that the management wanted sales people that could cope with technology and the agents were taken on primarily as a differently dressed sales person diluting the brand and making them less effective. Other stores opened and then came Rotherham, the manager there wasn't interested in the Geek Squad philosophy or long term relationship building. Agents were there to sell products and services and if they had time, then maybe they could fix the odd thing or two as long as it didn't get in the way of selling and making sure the price tickets were correct.

11 stores were open by now and Best Buy had yet to make a profit in the UK, they tried with all sorts of price match promises and satisfaction guarantees and things started improving but too much time had elapsed before announcing they were coming into the UK and the opening of the first store. The competition had time to restructure and re-organise. Indeed if you went into the new Rotherham PC World and closed your eyes you would have sworn that you were in a Best Buy store.

Then came November and Best Buy announced that they were closing all the UK stores down and retreating back to the US, they hadn't in fact been driven out by the competition, the UK shareholders had caught cold feet over what they thought were huge losses but really weren't that big when startup costs were taken into account.

How they expected to run stores properly when they employed store managers that had no idea about technology and some that couldn't even send an email or use a fax machine I do not know. But they did and these managers in turn quite often employed some useless department managers. How, I asked,  can a person who has managed a DIY store or an underwear department manage a store that sells all the latest technology? The answer is of course that they couldn't

And so Best Buy come in like a lion and went out like a little frightened kitten, I hope that one day they will return and give the marketplace another shake up.

God knows it's needed.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Beef and Mustard Sandwich

I've just enjoyed a salad for lunch and to spice it up a bit I had some mustard which was quite nice and a little hot. This brought back memories of the time when I used to work in North John Street in Liverpool for a company formation firm. As we were pretty much in the centre of Liverpool, there was a vast selection of places to go for lunch. There was the bar across the road that used to servce all day breakfast, they were called this as they were so large that it used to be brought in on a trolley and used to take all day to eat. Then there were places with fancy French sounding names where you could buy a lettuce leaf, an olive and some strange sounding dressing for the price of a luxury car and then there was Sayers.

Sayers specialised in providing stodge for people that were hungry and who had malfunctioning taste buds, in this Sayers they served a Steak, onion and mustard roll. I had indulged in the past and to be honest they were quite nice and actually had some taste.

This one however was different, I returned to my office, made some coffee and sat down to carry on with work as I ate my lunch. The first two bites were quite dissapointing as there appeared to be a complete lack of mustard, then there came the third bite.

This mouthful appeared to contain a complete jar of Colmans special hot bastard edition mustard double strength with added Ralgex and it was all in my mouth. My eyes started watering and my breath started melting the screen on my laptop. Then my nose felt like it was swelling up and any minute now would explode, the top of my head started evaporating and my eyes felt as though they wanted to run away from my body. Agony was not the word to use, indescribable pain that just increased until the people in the room above me started to feel it was what was happening.

I couldn't stand up and go and get water as my eyes were glazed over and I could only focus on what was left of the Steak sandwich. After some time the pain subsided and I could once more see and breathe again. Thankfully the wallpaper and the ceiling tiles hadn't suffered too much.

The rest of the sandwich was inspected and there was no mustard in it, all of it was contained in that one searingly hot mouthful.

I've never been back for one and now check any dishes with mustard for hidden surprises