If Best Buy Can’t Deliver a Dishwasher, How Can It Be Having a “Turnaround?”

Bully for Best Buy, which is reporting increased earnings in its most recent quarter thanks to gains in online sales. The Wall Street Journal says it is a “stark change” from just four years ago, when the retailer was struggling with plunging sales and dwindling profits. The stock price is up more than 50 percent this year.

But how solid can Best Buy’s performance be when it can’t even deliver a dishwasher? My wife and I went to our local Best Buy in Mohegan Lake, New York, about two weeks ago and ordered a Bosch dishwasher. Delivery was promised on Monday November 14 but we received a call from an 855 number over the preceding weekend telling us that they could not honor that date. Could they push back delivery from November 14 to December 2? No, our existing GE dishwasher had crapped out on us. It was disconnected. We needed a new one. Now. The fact that Best Buy discovered it didn’t actually have that dishwasher anywhere in its system was stunning.

So I went back to Best Buy’s store on November 14 and heard a tale of woe about why our dishwasher wasn’t available. There had been an earthquake in China and ships coming out of South Korea were backed up because of the Hanjin shipping bankruptcy.

Okay, let’s get a different white Bosch with a steel tub and heated drying. After much research, a nice young man said to me, “Okay, here’s a Bosch we can get to you on Thursday.” That would have been yesterday November 17.

Long story short, it was scheduled for delivery in the 8 a.m. to noon time frame. It never arrived. We started calling the store for answers. None were forthcoming. Then we “escalated” the calls and found ourselves on the phone with people in Minneapolis and eventually Alabama. Where is the driver? Can we speak to him or her? It never happened by 8 p.m. when we turned off the lights and locked the doors. ┬áThis morning, we will cancel the purchase.

Here for the benefit of Best Buy’s management chain, and the analysts who follow the company and the consumers who shop there, are details of what went wrong yesterday.

We sat around and waited until 2 p.m. This was disrupting our whole day. We called the Best Buy store and spoke with Kyra. A nice young woman. Where is the dishwasher coming from, the store or a centralized warehouse? “That’s a good question,” she said. It was obvious that Best Buy, as a system, did not know where the dishwasher was. Kyra said she was going to call the store manager and escalate the situation with a complaint to something called 888. I think this was a crisis response center. The store manager also was supposed to escalate the issue to 888. Michael called from 888 and said he was assigning the situation to a case officer, who had to respond to me within the hour with answers. He was another nice young person. He genuinely seemed to want to help.

At about 3:30 p.m. as I was running errands, I got a call from someone at Best Buy. I was in a hurry so I didn’t get her name. The dishwasher was coming in the 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. time slot, and probably toward the later end of that time slot. Okay, all’s well that ends well.

Then back home, I got a call from Minneapolis. I didn’t take the call because I assumed it was a junk call. But in a message, my case officer, Aleta, implored me to call her. She said I would receive “compensation” if I called her. Another nice young person. Best Buy has a lot of them. None of them seem to know what he or she is doing. She promised to get answers. But she didn’t know that someone had promised delivery by 8 p.m. And, oh, what about that compensation? That makes sense. They should waive some costs. We’ll see, said she. This was a deceptive practice.

It’s now after 7 p.m. I call the 800 number and ask for Aleta. I’m put on hold for seven minutes with no pretty music, no nothing. I dial back and after waiting again, I get her. Oh, says she, the driver is running a little late. Our routing software seems to have him driving large distances over a wide geographic area, so he’s a little late. A little late? I’m pushing back.

Okay, I want the name and number of the driver so I can call him and guide him to our home, which is in rural northern Westchester County. Even people with GPS get lost around here. I imagined a nice young driver (another nice person) driving around aimlessly in the dark.

Oh, we can’t give you his number. Then I am put in touch with something called XPO Logistics, the Last Mile. It seems Best Buy is outsourcing the delivery of its goods to this company. Their call center is in Alabama. I get Toya on the phone. Very nice, very young. Oh, we’re closed. No, no, no. I need to find that driver.

She couldn’t give me his telephone number. But she would send an email to him instructing him to call me. It never happened.

Today, we’re cancelling that order. There’s something fundamentally wrong in the systems that Best Buy is using. It is utter chaos down deep in the trenches. Over the years, I’ve seen top managements who are able to make their numbers look good for a quarter or two. But if something is rotten deep inside the company, the good numbers won’t last forever.


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