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Will the New CompUSA Retail Stores Survive?

Back to CompUSA After Eight Years

The incident that led to my eight year boycott was a hard drive failure that happened just a couple of days beyond the 30 day return period. I took the drive to CompUSA customer service, explained the situation, and the customer service rep said something to the effect of “It’s a $300 purchase, I don’t see why the manager would have a problem with doing an exchange.”

compusa retail store

CompUSA storefront and logo courtesy of Systemax, Inc.

The manager did have a problem with doing an exchange. “You should have bought our service policy” he said, with a self righteous attitude. So I went to the Best Buy across the street, bought a replacement drive, and only went back to CompUSA when I was out of options. And even then, it was always a hassle.

There were store employee attitude problems, prices that averaged at least 33% higher than Best Buy and Circuit City, and, starting at 8:45 p.m., a relentless effort to drive customers out of the store, as if our cash and credit cards would become worthless the moment the clock struck 9:00 p.m. I’ve never understood the desire of businesses to chase away customers, and in the 8 years that I’ve shopped almost exclusively at the Best Buy across the street, the countdown to 9:00 p.m. is an annoyance that I’ve never once had to endure.

CompUSA closed all of its retail stores shortly after the end of 2007 holiday shopping season. I suppose they could blame the economy, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it was high prices and bad customer service that brought them to their knees. Since then, Systemax, parent company of the well established Tiger Direct, has taken over the CompUSA mail order operation, and slowly begun reopening CompUSA retail stores.

I had to replace a hard drive in a relative’s computer last week, so I decided to give the new CompUSA a try. The entire shopping experience was refreshingly different from the old CompUSA. Employees were helpful. Merchandise was easy to find. Prices were competitive. And, there was no annoying countdown to 9:00 p.m., a fact which seemed to irritate a couple of employees that I overheard. Employee #1 “You know what time it is?” Employee #2 “Yeah, I know what time it is…”.

Perhaps most surprising was the amount of merchandise that you’d normally find only online: Instead of the 3 to 6 showcases that I normally see in a retail store, this store had at least 12 to 15. There was also an ample supply of motherboards, and hard drives, IDE and SATA, from major manufacturers, in simple plastic cases. The drives came with no instruction manual, no CD, no cables and no expensive retail packaging. And, because none of those items were included, the drives were available at very affordable prices. And, that’s exactly what the computer repair geek in me was looking to buy.