Circuit City was founded in 1949 on little more than a dream. A dream that one man, with little more than his financial wits and a firm handshake, could launch a successful retail operation based on over-inflated prices, uneducated employees, and a general philosophy that the customer is an inconvenience. Despite sticking to that modus operandi for the past few decades, the chain — shockingly — just couldn’t compete.
Stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart came in with their high-falutin’ “customer service” and elitist “affordable prices”. They made sure that even if THEIR employees weren’t always the best-educated or most customer-friendly, they at least had enough fear of being fired that they did their job with a minimal level of competency.
But Circuit City held on. During the rapid-fire changes in corporate culture throughout the ’90s, Circuit City even went so far as to replace their clearly-dated mantra of “To Mislead, Irritate, And Rip Off Consumers At Every Prudent Option” with “Suck It, Customers”. But it was to no avail. Around the turn of the millennium, Internet-only retailers like Newegg and Tiger Direct were slaughtering Circuit City’s prices alive. Despite Circuit City’s best efforts to stop the hemorrhaging (including their third and final corporate mantra, “Seriously: Suck It, Customers. We’re Not Fucking Around Any More”), they were forced into bankruptcy at the beginning of this year.
While management and employees of Circuit City are still reeling from this shocking development — scratching their heads, trying to figure out exactly what went wrong — customers who rarely frequented Circuit City to begin with are beginning to come up with some ideas of their own.
This afternoon I was in the Harrisburg Circuit City (along Jonestown Road) to see if they had anything useful left. Sure, I’ve heard all the stories about how they jacked up their prices 35% before dropping them 10%, but I had nothing better to do. Besides, I was headed to Costco anyway — practically the same parking lot. I knew I wouldn’t see any major discounts, since source after source after source has been constantly reporting on how Circuit City’s “50% markdown” is more or less a scam.
But when I found a 100-pack of generic DVD-Rs (single-layer, non-printable, non-LightScribe) for $40.99 before a 50% discount, I decided my trip might not be a total waste after all. Since Newegg sells a generic 100-pack of 16x DVD-Rs for $20 (with free shipping), I figured the extra $1.74 I’d pay at Circuit City was worth it for what amounted to same-day delivery.
Until I got to the checkout.
“That’s $26.50,” the checkout girl helpfully announced. I asked if these were supposed to be 50% off.
“Um yeah, but the price on them is wrong. We marked that when it was only 30% off. It’s supposed to be $49.99 now.” I ignored the fact that 30% off a $50 item is $34.99 and not the $40.99 actually marked on the product, and told her I wasn’t buying. I can swallow a buck or two, but a $5 difference, coupled with incorrect pricing and apathetic employees, made me come home and order from Newegg. In fact, for $23 (free shipping), I scored a 100-pack of name-brand DVD-Rs.
Ordinarily, I point out that I feel some degree of sympathy for terminated employees of a bankrupt company. Normally, it isn’t really their fault that the management above them cluelessly ran the company into the ground. But when so many people have so many complaints about so many bad experiences, the employees take on a lot of the blame themselves. It’s been my experience that Circuit City workers are beyond useless. And after today, when it’s become apparent that they’re “accidentally” mis-pricing items, I hope the lot of them wind up homeless.
With employees this worthless and stores this poorly run, it’s amazing that they haven’t gone out of business yet.
EDIT: This story got greenlit on Fark. Visit the thread to read responses from Circuit City employees, including calling me an “asshole” for “being upset that (I) didn’t get what I wanted”. Yeah, stupid me. I figured the bright yellow signs screaming “50% Off” meant that things would be, you know, 50% off. What a jerk I am!
EDIT EDIT: Yet another reason not to buy anything from Circuit City, especially during their bankruptcy liquidation. That 42″ LCD TV you just paid $1100 for after discounts is broken? Too bad, your loss.