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Bad PC Sales Staff Exposed 650

Barence writes "An undercover investigation has revealed how Dell's online sales staff take liberties with the truth when trying to sell customers new PCs. One member of staff told an undercover reporter that he would need a PC with a good graphics card to download digital photos. Another, who was more incompetent than devious, was asked how many photos could be stored on a 250GB hard disk. 'Its[sic] on average 2 MB then 1024 MB * 2,' came the bewildering reply. Meanwhile, a sales assistant at supermarket Tesco told the reporter that netbooks got their name because 'a Japanese man on a plane fell asleep with a laptop on his thighs and was horribly burned, so the industry has dropped the name laptop.'"


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Bad PC Sales Staff Exposed

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  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:35PM (#29568397)

    Q: What's the difference between a computer salesman and a used car salesman?

    A: The used car salesman knows when he is lying.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hyppy ( 74366 )
      Completely agreed. The staff at Best Buy or whatever other brick and mortar store carries computers is so completely clueless that it's comical. Why should online vendors be much different?

      The best part for me was seeing that they outsource their sales staff, too. Shouldn't they just be moving their headquarters to India by now? So much for the "American" company started out of the guy next door's garage.
      • Completely agreed. The staff at Best Buy or whatever other brick and mortar store carries computers is so completely clueless that it's comical. Why should online vendors be much different?.

        I think what's worse is when the sales person is actually good and can persuade someone into buying a product they don't need. I have to go to computer stores with my Dad when he tries to buy something simple like an ethernet cable or a power strip or he'll come home with a Cisco switch and an APC rackmount battery backup.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:49PM (#29568641)

        As we're speaking, I'm working on a laptop from a lady who came from Best Buy. The "Geek Squad" claimed that she had a failing hard drive, and that she would need to buy a new one, as well as a Windows Vista install. The only symptom was "My laptop is running slow"

        One pass of Malwarebytes, thirty minutes later, a S.M.A.R.T. check, the machine is performing properly.

        The trolls even left their stupid "GeekSquad" system checking software on my customer's machine. I checked the logs of the program, no found errors.

        People disgust me.

        • by zach_the_lizard ( 1317619 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:06PM (#29568967)
          I had to do something fairly similar for my grandmother's computer. Only problem was, the hard drive was working perfectly fine before she took it to Best Buy. I had given her a hand-me-down computer with Linux on it, and she wanted to install Windows on it. So she had to go buy a copy. Somehow in the process of installing Windows--an arduous task that involves the opening of the DVD drive--they had managed to open the case, unscrew the hard drive from the case, and then bust it up enough that it took over 24 hours for Windows to finish installing. I know this because they kindly provided my grandmother a receipt that had logs of everything they did, which I went over.

          The best part is when they decided the slowness was due to the PC not having enough RAM for XP. Which is curious, because I had run XP on that PC just fine. So they tell her they need to buy 2 x 1 GB sticks. Eventually we managed to get a refund on all of that stuff after Windows failed to boot up.

          After I had to head back to my home state, she was left with no computer and, even worse, no one who even remotely knows that they're talking about with computers. She went to the same Best Buy and asked for assistance on what computer to buy. They equipped her, someone whose most intensive task is copying photos off of a camera, with a quad core desktop with like 4 or 8 GB of RAM.
          • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:56PM (#29569955) Journal

            >>>Somehow in the process of installing Windows--an arduous task that involves the opening of the DVD drive--they had managed to open the case, unscrew the hard drive from the case, and then bust it up enough that it took over 24 hours for Windows to finish installing.

            They probably got confused when they saw Linux.

            I think I would file fraud charges against this company. If they are doing that to your grandma, just imagine who else they are screwing.

          • by slack_justyb ( 862874 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @03:51PM (#29570981)

            They equipped her, someone whose most intensive task is copying photos off of a camera, with a quad core desktop with like 4 or 8 GB of RAM.

            So they were getting her ready for doing the same task on Windows 7? I would thank them.

        • by morganslady2 ( 1646039 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:49PM (#29569795)
          my husband works with a man that used to work for geek squad. He was fired after reporting that fellow geek's were stealing memory and hardware from unsuspecting clients. According to his departure paper, he was fired for not being a team player. Best buy and the geek squad are a bunch of thieves.
        • by sherriw ( 794536 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @04:47PM (#29571981)

          Yeah my sister got a virus on her new PC and brought it to the Geek Squad. They told her she needed her hard drive wiped, but she had already spoken to me and I told her to hand them this piece of paper with the name of the virus on it- and for them to get the proper removal instructions and clean it off- no formatting the HD! (I didn't have time to do it).

          They came back to her afterwards and said "Gee, that was easier than we though it would be!". *face palm*

        • by Sardak ( 773761 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:03PM (#29574213) Journal
          Several years ago, I was working in computer repair at a locally owned business "competing" with the Geek Squad and a few others. And by "competing", I mean we were the place people came to get their computers fixed after the Geek Squad fucked them up even more.

          During my time working there, I had written several custom diagnostic tools, and eventually a handy front end for them so we could have a single disc with most of what we used daily on it. The front end was configurable to some degree, so we could add new tools without having to recompile the front end as well. Unfortunately, as tends to happen, periodically some of these discs would get left in a CD-ROM drive when a computer went back out.

          A few months after I originally created it, we got a computer in from someone who had recently taken it to the Geek Squad. In their CD-ROM drive was a utility disc from there. Upon further investigation, it was a CD running my front end that had been slightly modified to make it look like their own software. In one part of the program that doesn't get used frequently, it even still had the name of the company I worked for. So, as many others have said, they really are thieves.
      • by revlayle ( 964221 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:52PM (#29568685) Homepage
        What I find weird is... I walk into my nearest Best Buy: Their mobile staff is really REALLY knowledgeable; their computer staff are knee-dragging morons! Is the mobile section of Best Buy a better money maker and worth having knowledgeable staff more-so than the computer section?
        • by IKnwThePiecesFt ( 693955 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:58PM (#29568811) Homepage

          The mobile section is actually only half Best Buy, and half Carphone Warehouse. They work on a different bonus structure and different power structure than the rest of the store, which the Mobile Manager reporting directly to a district manager and skipping the General Manager of the store, unlike every other dept.

        • by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <DStaal@usa.net> on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:59PM (#29568833)

          A knowledgeable computer person can probably find a better job. There's not so many other jobs for people who know about cell phone handsets...

      • by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:59PM (#29568847)

        The incompetence of the sales staff at Best Buy is not restricted to the computer department. Case in point: the other night I went to look for a cordless phone with a switching power supply - i.e. something that could run on either 110V or 220V.

        Looking at the shelf of phones, none of the boxes gave any indication of input voltage or being dual-voltage capable. I asked a droid which of the phones would accept 220V and he said
        "All of them."
        "Are you sure? All of them?"
        "Any of these will work."

        I looked over the phones on display until I found one with a power brick attached. It clearly said Input: 110-120V AC.
        "What about this one? It says 110V AC input."

        He squinted at the brick and said
        "No look. It says 250 here."

        I looked where he was pointing and sure enough, it said Output: 250mW 12V DC.
        "Okay thanks. I think I'll do some research online or something and maybe come back in tomorrow with a specific model number in hand ..."

        If these guys can't master the simple concept of input and output voltages, there really is very little hope of them navigating the world of memory bandwidth, sockets, or video performance.

    • I think at least some of the computer salesmen know too. Sorry.

      I'm sorry, but when I witness some computer store guy tell an old geezer that he _needs_ the latest top-end NVidia card to watch digital photos of his grandchildren, 'cause photos are video stuff and and a bigger video card is better for that, right?... or that buying the latest Intel CPU makes their Internet go faster... I know Hanlon's Razor, "never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity", but it still trips my suspe

      • by lbalbalba ( 526209 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:57PM (#29568775)

        I know Hanlon's Razor, "never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity"

        ' A sufficiently advanced form of incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. '

    • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:52PM (#29568699) Journal

      There are some very knowledgeable salesmen out there. Unfortunately, they are the minority. That's because being knowledgeable is not a particularly well-rewarded attribute. Take a look at the following:

      1) When you walk into Best Buy or call Dell, you've already committed yourself: you are pretty much ready to buy, or you wouldn't be there.

      2) Salesmen are paid on commission. The more you spend, the more they make.

      3) Most people can't define the difference between a megabyte and a megahertz.

      4) If you leave without buying, the salesman will lose the commission, even if you buy later based on their advice.

      Put it all together, and you have a situation where salespeople are highly motivated to spout whatever bullshit they can concoct to get you to buy the more expensive doohickey RIGHT NOW, as long as they can get you to buy it. Since people typically judge the truthfullness of other people based on the confidence that they seem to have in what they are saying, you end up with a pack of know-nothing liars who make any kind of bullshit... with confidence.

      It's really not much different than the techno-babble bullshiz that they say on Star Trek - the words are unimportant, but it's important that it sound real. And since any computer that anybody buys can do pretty much whatever they need, the people are typically content with the scenario because they got something that actually does what they need. They will tend to accept this as evidence that their salesman was telling the truth in the first place.

      It's a sad, sad situation, and one that's not likely to improve any time soon.

      • by AndrewNeo ( 979708 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:07PM (#29568985) Homepage

        Best Buy's sales staff are not paid on commission, as far as I'm aware.

        • Best Buy's sales staff are not paid on commission, as far as I'm aware.

          True. Most stores do not have commissioned sales staff these days, including Best Buy.

          However, I believe that Best Buy people (and Circuit City people to an even greater degree, before CC imploded) are required to meet certain performance targets. I believe one of them is the number of extended warranties they sell. They may also be expected (and even trained) to up-sell from the low-end advertised models. If they don't meet their targets, they may be denied raises or promotions.

          Sears, Roebuck salespeople a

          • Re:Sales Targets (Score:4, Interesting)

            by tsstahl ( 812393 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @03:55PM (#29571023)

            Sears, Roebuck salespeople are on commission, at least in the appliances and electronics departments. If anything, I think you get better service from them, but they definitely try to steer you to their highest-margin stuff.

            They have to at least TRY to upsell. In fact, it is good salesmanship to start with the high end. You do not want to offend people by assuming they can only afford the wash tub and clothesline model.

            Being an educated consumer does not stop with computers. The consumer should know the rules by their 18th birthday. You want to buy, they want to sell; when you meet in the middle a deal is struck. Remember, the hallmark of a successful negotiation is when both parties walk away slightly unhappy.

            I sold paint for a number of years on partial commission (don't ask what that means). We had a very moral knowledgeable staff of 4. Our numbers were high and steady even in the CY first quarter simply because of repeat business (few people paint in the Winter, but more than you'd think). We would actually inform our big buyers when pending sales/promotions were occurring. Often we would get very large orders that we could place ahead of time to have stock on hand for the promotion--they didn't have ERP systems 25 years ago. ;)

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:47PM (#29569739)

          I used to work for Circuit City (right until they closed their doors), and our sales guys didn't make commission either. But they did have to meet certain quotas to keep their job, and in some ways, the quota frequently changed.

          Corporate would send in "budgets" each morning for each department, listing goals for the sales guys. The budget was a certain gross dollar amount, but the focus was always on things like extended warranties ("City Advantage"), services ("Firedog"), and peripherals (USB cables, anti-adware, etc). In addition to meeting the budget, which was a department-wide goal, a large percentage of your personal sales numbers had to be those three things. (I believe the minimum for City Advantage was 20% and Firedog was 10%, but I could be off.) They told us the reason for this was the company priced computers so low that we actually lost money on each sale, so we had to make it up by selling the services and such, which were basically pure profit. (It was probably the same deal with TVs, but the HE department was regarded as an elite group since TVs were the big moneymaker for CC, so they usually kept their briefings and meetings separate from the rest of the group.) A monthly list was displayed in the break room and behind the front desk, breaking down the numbers and ranking each salesperson. The guys in the red knew they were about to lose their jobs, so they would try to step up their game before the next month's numbers would come out. (It was also not uncommon for the managers to have patronizing or angry closed-door "meetings" with the salespeople who didn't sell quite enough of one of the Big 3. We had a very high turnover rate, and this is partially why.)

          In addition to this "incentive", some vendors would occasionally have contests and rewards for employees who sold certain items and packages. For example, about a year ago, Microsoft had a contest: whoever sold the most Zunes (company wide) would get a cash prize, and their store would get a party. Vendors like HP and Bose would regularly credit employees with "Rewards Points" for selling certain promoted items, which could be redeemed on CC's employee rewards site for things like giftcards and cologne.

          And for the record, most of our sales guys were high-school kids who knew very little about computers; all of their knowledge was based on watered-down e-Learnings that filled their minds with platitudes and corporate double-think. Firedog technicians were usually an exception, but not always, and the few guys who did know what they were talking about didn't last, because they were horrible with customers. The guys who stayed the longest and moved ahead in the company were not the knowledgeable ones; it was the guys who sold the most warranties and installs, and it didn't matter if they were dishonest about it, or if the customer even knew it had been tacked on to their receipt. (In fact, this latter practice was encouraged off-the-record by management.)

          I worked sales briefly, but quickly moved to a different job so I didn't have to lie to customers and worry about the quotas. I still got to help people with questions, which was great, but management didn't really care what my sales numbers were, so I was happy.

        • by db32 ( 862117 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:51PM (#29569835) Journal
          Years ago when I talked to them they proudly claimed they did not work on commission. However, every item had a 'point value' assigned to it, and if you reached certain tiers of points sold you would get a bonus added to your check. So since it was not a direct commission they could advertise that way to drag more people in thinking that their employees would be good honest folk since they weren't commission based sales.

          I was trying to buy the sale of the week hard drive once and they were taking AGES to help me because they had people looking at computers. I watched one rep sell an elderly couple a high dollar gaming rig so they could email their child who was doing missionary work abroad. He ran off to get the paperwork for them to sign and I walked up, walked them all the way down to the other end of the display and pointed out a machine that was $1500 less. They were VERY happy. The associates, when they could finally be bothered to help me, got the drive and walked me to the front of the store like a criminal. I would have left, but the drive was a really good deal, and I was feeling pretty good about screwing them on the $1500 for being assholes.
      • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:16PM (#29569155)

        I worked computer sales at an Office Depot. At that time, they did not pay commission. I got a (really low) wage and sales was just part of my job. (The most important part, though.)

        However, despite that, it doesn't change much from what you've said. Even if there are no commissions, sales (especially of warranties) are tracked and are linked to rewards or pay raises.

        I was one of the few salesman I've ever met that put the customer before the company. I got a -lot- of compliments from customers because I would explain anything and everything to them and put no pressure on them whatsoever.

        Why am I so special? I've done computer repair and computer programming all my life. That job was only because I couldn't get a 'real' job. I really didn't care if I lost it and the money was crap, so I got my reward by actually helping people. I even sent people to other stores when things were significantly cheaper. (It didn't happen often, though, and I saw almost every one of those people again for a future purchase.)

        As for the situation you describe, it's due to the customers' ignorance. If they would educate themselves, even a little, they wouldn't fall into that trap. This is true about cars as well, though, and we all know how long that has gone on.

      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:22PM (#29569277) Journal

        Actually, I still say that a lot of them know at least enough to know they're lying, but even that's beside the point. They should at least know they're making buzzwords up, and that it _is_ lying to a customer.

        What makes it odious in my eyes is that they essentially abuse those people's trust. We may argue about how smart it is to trust the guy getting a commission to do a fair analysis of your problem, but that's essentially what those customers are doing. Some old geezer comes and explains it all to the nice sales guy, not because he just wants to give the "I'm ripe for a con job" signals loud and clear, but because they trust that they'll be given a genuine solution to their problem. Because that's how the rest of society works.

        If I go to a dentist with a cavity, I expect him to tell me what's the best course of action for that problem -- e.g., just fill the hole -- not to smooth talk me into pulling the tooth out and replacing it with an expensive implant. Sure, the implant would make him more money, but the underlying expectation is that he'll solve _my_ problem not his own mortgage problem.

        If I hop in a cab and ask the guy to take me to the main railway station, I expect him to take either the shortest or the fastest route, or ask which of them. I do not expect him to just run in circles for more money, although he's on a commission too.

        If I call a plumber for a leaking pipe, I expect him to do essentially the minimum that solves that problem, not take it as an opportunity to invent reasons why he should replace the piping in the whole house. And if he does come up with reasons why I should replace all of it -- e.g., because it's an old house and it's lead pipes -- I expect those to be real, honest-to-FSM reasons, not made up buzzwords that just have to sound real to make a sale.


        And if your dentist, or your cabbie, or plumber, or accountant, or lawyer, took it as just an opportunity to milk the last cent they can out of you with invented buzzwords, probably most people would take them to court. Because it _is_ blatant fraud and betrayal of trust.

        But somehow when a computer sales clerk does it, nah, that's ok. Sorry, it looks the same to me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by schon ( 31600 )

        Most people can't define the difference between a megabyte and a megahertz.

        That's easy. The first one is what you do when you eat a super-double cheeseburger at Carl's Junior. The second is what your colon does afterwards.

  • by Grashnak ( 1003791 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:35PM (#29568413)
    Drones who sell stuff are prone to lie about their products? HAS THE PRESIDENT BEEN TOLD?
    • by Abreu ( 173023 )

      You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means...

      But seriously, salespeople lie and the rest of us have to support their wild claims. It's nothing new.

    • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Monday September 28, 2009 @03:04PM (#29570097)

      In the investigation they even found some Dell outlets were selling computers to pimps and prostitutes, even after they explained that they were going to use the computers to keep track of illegal alien prostitutes.

  • Is this news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:37PM (#29568447)
    PC sales staff are clueless droids - film at 11. It's been this way since PCs hit retail sales floors. Anybody with the smarts to sell a PC with competence has the smarts to not be in retail.
    • by caffeinemessiah ( 918089 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:01PM (#29568883) Journal

      PC sales staff are clueless droids - film at 11. It's been this way since PCs hit retail sales floors. Anybody with the smarts to sell a PC with competence has the smarts to not be in retail.

      Agreed, but PC sales staff can be very helpful, based on my experience. You can ask them where the Toshiba laptop you saw advertised is located, and they can expertly guide you to the correct shelf. You can ask if they have a fresh piece available instead of the display unit, and they can effectively locate one in the back for you. Based on their extensive experience, they can advise you about the best way to beat traffic on your way home.

  • Inf.

    Reason: The type of people who have to talk to a sales person, will run windows in a single partition, and will have to reformat before filling their drive.
    Storage really is cheap these days.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I run at least one instance of Windows on at least one of my various computers at home.

      Last time I formatted: last year. Reason: wanted to.

      Last time I formatted before that: probably 4 years ago. Reason: didn't want XP x64 anymore and went back to 32 bit XP.

      Last time I HAD to format: no clue. A long time ago....

      I really don't buy into the "if you run Windows, you're going to have to format yearly just to keep your computer at operating speed" stuff anymore than I buy into the "if you run Linux, you will

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by coolsnowmen ( 695297 )

        I feel like you didn't read your parent post before replying angrily to it.
        He said:

        Reason: The type of people who have to talk to a sales person, will run windows in a single partition, and will have to reformat before filling their drive.

        He didn't say, all people who run windows can't manage their pc and should be put out to pasture.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by c6gunner ( 950153 )

        Did you actually format, though?

        I think the last time I re-formatted the system partition (on my primary comp) was in 1998. That was about the time I figured out that there's absolutely no need to format the drive when you can simply install windows into a different folder, or rename the old folder(s) before you do the install. I've run the gamut from win9x to win2k, XP, Vista, and now Windows 7, without ever bothering to reformat my system partition.

        As for your main point - yeah, I haven't had to reinsta

  • Undercover investigation done online? Do you actually know what "undercover" means? The "hot shot investigator" chatted online until there was enough damning text transcripts. This is a story?
    • Pretending to be a customer would qualify as "undercover." I also don't recall anybody referring to him as a "hot shot" investigator, other than yourself.
    • Re:wtf? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cashman73 ( 855518 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:05PM (#29568957) Journal
      This is a story?

      No, it's not a real "news" story. But this is Slashdot, and the mods knew that by posting that, it would become nice bait for Slashdotters to share their stories about crappy salespeople and such, so they wanted to drive more people to the site to drive more ad impressions and thereby make them more money,... Basically, the mods are motivated the same way that salespeople are motivated, but just use different techniques. That's also why I'm probably going to get modded "-1 Troll" for this,... ;-)

  • by Jethro ( 14165 )

    Sales people LIE??? Noooo! My faith in mankind is DESTROYED!

    Now I must leave this place - my girlfriend is thinking about buying a car, and I MUST STOP HER BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

  • by pete-wilko ( 628329 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:43PM (#29568531)
    The tesco one isn't so bad in fairness. The rep could well have been thinking of NOTEbook - rather than NETbook. To be honest I thought that was the reason why PC makers no longer refer to laptops as laptops, but instead notebooks - so there was no implicit liability with someone burning their special parts from keeping a hot laptop in lap.

    And of course like a noob I just read the article and indeed that is what happened - the rep thought notebook - and the article takes a shot at the rep for saying a netbook is: "They're just small notebooks without word processors."

    So now im really pissed at giving pcpro a page click.
    • I thought that was the reason why PC makers no longer refer to laptops as laptops, but instead notebooks - so there was no implicit liability with someone burning their special parts from keeping a hot laptop in lap.

      Me too. Makes sense as one possible explanation of the popularity of "notebook", regardless of the original invention of the term. Especially since "notebook" suggests very limited applications, and since "laptop", "desktop", and "palmtop" sound pretty good as a way of explaining different mac

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:44PM (#29568549)
    ... is the majority of their customers

    While we, computer elites can laugh, or cry, at some of the stupid, stupid things that come out of the mouths of the sales drones - for a lot of people they are the experts. Most people neither know nor care about computers. They just want to GET STUFF DONE. They don't know or care about Gigahertz or Terabytes: just as they don't know or care about the kilo-Watt rating of their electric kettle: it's merely an appliance - it works or it doesn't.

    Maybe the IT industry should look inwards on itself and consider how we've failed to educate the public about the technology we make them use. Even worse, maybe we should reflect on how we've turned a subject that has such a huge potential for good, into a nerdy hell: full of jargon, technobabble and misinformation. To the point where the sales-staff don't even know when they're talking rubbish.

    • Excellent point. Machines don't matter. People matter. ONLY people matter. Machines exist only to serve humans.

      So, the deal is this. They paid money for your POS OS, machine or software. It had better work. Period. End of story. They don't care about closing processes, ending threads, reclaiming memory from the stack, optimizing the sorting algorithm, and so on. What they care about is the when they ask the computer to jump, the only question the computer has is "how high?"

      Seriously, computers are about mon

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kell Bengal ( 711123 )
      The problem here is that computer use and maintenance really is a technical subject. It's no less sophisticated than car repair - sure, some little jobs an owner-operator can get away with, but stripping the engine down or safety checking the brakes might be a bit too much.

      Thing is, we don't expect people to be able to walk in off the street and adjust a carburetor. We demand training, and credentials and certificates before we let people monkey around with car electricals. But somehow, somehow it's ok t

    • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:04PM (#29568933)

      maybe we should reflect on how we've turned a subject that has such a huge potential for good, into a nerdy hell: full of jargon, technobabble and misinformation.

      Right. Because fields like medicine, law, automotive repair, publishing, fashion, cooking, broadcast, engineering, carpentry, literature, mathematics, philosophy, psychology, politics, banking, insurance, etc. don't have any jargon, technobabble, or misinformation.

      Every field has specialized language.

      You either learn enough of the specialized language to make sure you aren't being taken for a ride, or you trust that the folks you're dealing with aren't going to abuse their position of power.

      The primary difference is that many people don't feel the need to educate themselves in any way when it comes to computers. Many people seem almost proud of their ignorance. They'll happily declare that they don't know anything about computers.

      Sure, they just want to get stuff done. So do I, when I get in my car and drive to the grocery store. But it's still a news story when the local repair shop is found to be lying to its customers and charging people for repairs they don't need.

  • by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:45PM (#29568561) Homepage

    Sales people's job is to move widgets. Sell more widgets == more take-home pay.

    -They aren't paid to be factual.
    -They aren't paid to keep the best interests of the consumer in mind.
    -The job, as designed, requires no training. In fact it rewards the absence of training.

    This is the same all over. Laptops, packaged investments, American health insurance. Doesn't matter.

  • no, no, no (Score:5, Funny)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare@@@gmail...com> on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:47PM (#29568607) Homepage Journal

    the term "netbook" comes from the fact that because they are small lightweight laptops, they are much more prone to contamination than regular laptops. therefore, they require the use of hairnets during operation. why this is true requires profound technological expertise i don't have the time to educate you fools on in this venue, but suffice it to say that it has to do with the cube of the static charge carried by the contamination proportionate to the surface area of the hard drive

    and i am flabbergasted and horrified evey time i see someone using their netbooks without the mandatory use of a proper hairnet. just one little hair sliding in a crack in between the keys on the keyboard! you fools

  • by barzok ( 26681 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:49PM (#29568635)

    I was shopping for a new laptop for my wife a year or two ago and browsing Circuit City (no intentions of buying there, I just like to get my hands on the products before I buy them online). One of the "salesmen" asked me if I needed help and I decided to play along. I told him I was just checking out a few models for an upcoming purchase for my wife.

    Him: Will you need a Microsoft to go with it?
    Me: A Microsoft what? It comes with Windows Vista, doesn't it? Microsoft makes a lot of software.
    Him: Will she need any office software?
    Me: Yeah, but I've got a copy of Office XP (maybe it's 2003, I don't recall) I don't use anymore since I bought a Mac, so she'll just use that.
    Him: Oh, no, you can't do that. Office XP won't work on this computer
    Me: Huh? It should work fine, it's recent enough, Vista works with just about anything.
    Him: Nope, Office XP/2003 doesn't work on Vista at all, you need Office 2007.
    Me: Are you sure that it's not just that Office 2007 works better than the older versions on Vista?
    Him: No, it's not going to work at all.

    And then people wonder why sales dropped through the floor when they laid off their best staff.

  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:51PM (#29568675)
    fascinating video from inside Dell's phone sales team....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TROhlThs9qY [youtube.com]
  • Hanlon's Razor (Score:3, Informative)

    by h890231398021 ( 948231 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:51PM (#29568683)
    Probably better explained as an example of Hanlon's Razor ("Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity") than outright intentional deception.
  • Not where I worked (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZekoMal ( 1404259 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:56PM (#29568771)
    Admittedly it was Target, and not a electronics-only store, but we (the workers) wanted to sell the optimum product to the customer. We don't get commission for selling the most expensive stuff, after all. So, we would listen to the entire problem, and then if we didn't know the answer, we'd call one of the other electronic-savvy guys. Usually, there was a camera guy, a tv guy, a radio/phone guy, and then me, the gamer girl. That left just a few gray areas, in which we would look over the box description and see how it fit with their needs. If all else failed, in the most extreme circumstances we would get the manufacturer number and ask them about the product.

    Returns are more of a pain to deal with.

    Of course, that's just anecdotal stuff. Plenty of stores do give out bonus goodies (or firings) based on total money made per individual worker, and there are plenty of people that just don't anything about electronics but needed a job badly.

  • by uncreativeslashnick ( 1130315 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:58PM (#29568825)
    So I mountain bike. Turns out these bikes have become more and more complicated, with more and more features, and I'm at the point where I don't really care about the latest carbon-fiber whatsathinger I just want to get on my bike and go, and have it not break. But when I need to fix the bike, or buy a new one, I've got to talk to sales people some of whom have a clue and some of whom don't.

    Computers are like most other reasonably complex products - you've got to do your homework and never, ever trust that the salesperson knows what they are talking about. Because most don't, whether we're talking mountain bikes or personal computers.
  • by dbet ( 1607261 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:00PM (#29568871)
    It's not just the salesmen who are clueless. People don't know what to ask for, don't know how to describe what they want out of a computer... it's a mess on both ends.
  • HDMI (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FunkyELF ( 609131 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:12PM (#29569063)

    The guy saying that you need a good graphics card to download pictures is like going to Best Buy and the guy says that you'll get a better picture with the gold plated $200 HDMI cable.

  • HDMI Cables (Score:5, Informative)

    by thisnamestoolong ( 1584383 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:14PM (#29569103)
    A bit of a different field, but I know that whenever I am at Best Buy to pick up anything home theater related (I help out a lot of friends/relatives with HT setups) I will inevitably end up arguing with some moron trying to sell me a $140 Monster Cable so it will 'look better'. Being ignorant/a liar is one thing, but it is totally something else when they continue to argue with you about it. I have even, on one particular occasion, taken the time to explain to the clown how digital audio/video works and why purchasing the "better" cable is equivalent to lighting your money on fire, and had him still come back with, "Well, I'm sorry but you're wrong, this cable will make it look better." It is amazing to me that this sort of criminal fraud is tolerated -- these people get away with making provably false statements in order to separate people from their money and they don't see any consequences. The average person should be able to walk into a store and at least be confident that the person trying to sell them things will, at the very least, not blatantly lie, but this is not the case.
    • Re:HDMI Cables (Score:5, Informative)

      by odin84gk ( 1162545 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @03:19PM (#29570355)
      I worked at Best Buy and Radio Shack. They both played "training videos" to teach us the basics. One of the videos was about Monster cables vs other cable brands. (I saw this at either BBY or RadioShack. I don't remember which). They would show us a simulated blurry TV screen, and a crisp TV screen that used Monster cables. Thanks to this training, I honestly believed that Monster cables were worth their $$. Some things you can blame on stupid employees, the other part you have to blame the company and their training materials.
  • by Bender Unit 22 ( 216955 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:18PM (#29569197) Journal

    I just bought a new reciever and I was a bit unsure if it was the right one with enough bass, but then the guy in the shop said they could modify it with a tk-421 upgrade. They gave it 3-4 quads more per channel by adding that and they did that modification right in the store.
    Plus it didn't add a lot to the price.

  • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:25PM (#29569331)

    Years ago, back in the prehistoric era when televisions had things called picture tubes, I can recall a time when a salescritter in a mall electronics store told me that one model of TV was better than another because it had more channels in the picture tube. Sensing that I now smelled raw meat, my wife had to drag me out of the store before I really got going in my attempt to see how stupid this guy might have actually been about the products he was selling.

    Then there was the guy that explained to me and a friend that one RF amp cost more than that other one because it contained more dBs. Of course that was at a small town Radio Shack so that wasn't exactly surprising.

    There will always be clueless sales people as long as there are retailers that care more about hiring warm bodies at a discount than having a knowledgable staff. Unfortunately, not all of them will see the same fate as Circuit City after they laid off all of their experienced staffers for lower paid entry level people. So we'll all have to do our own homework before walking into one of these places.

  • by fahrvergnugen ( 228539 ) <fahrv&hotmail,com> on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:30PM (#29569409) Homepage

    In 1999, I worked sales at PCs For Everyone, a (now-defunct, mostly) whitebox dealer in Cambridge, MA. They were a big operation, with a stellar reputation and good draw. People would drive for hundreds of miles to get a PCsFE system. As New England's largest whitebox dealer, they had about 15 guys in the back room assembling computers on any given day, and the burn-in racks were usually backlogged. We were always busy - when we weren't selling systems we were selling parts, and we got so packed on the weekends that there was a numbered ticketing system for counter help. I worked my ass off there 5 and a half days a week (the mandatory sales meeting was on my day off) and brought in, by my own conservative estimate, about $2M in gross sales during my year working for them. You wouldn't believe how many Celeron A 300's we went through. Those things went out the door like you could get high by smoking them.

    I know a lot about personal computer internals. I knew even more back then. I spent at least an hour every night reading up on Anandtech and Tom's Hardware, and the other big hardware sites of 10 years back. I helped set up the demos, and I never sold anyone more computer than I thought they could reasonably need. I did product research, recommended new kit for us to sell, and did basic troubleshooting with customers, spending 1:1 time. I had a base of dedicated customers who would wait for me rather than deal with another salesman.

    When stumped, other sales reps would come to me for answers much of the time. In short, if I haven't tooted my own horn enough, I was the goddamn bomb when it came to selling computers and parts.

    In that year, I made a little over $22,000, and was shafted out of my bonus . I was gone on day 380, off to a job that paid 3 times as much that I got through a customer.

    Taking away for a minute from the fact that my boss / the owner was a crook (and he was), even when shafting me that hard, here's the thing: I brought in $2M to a business myself, and that business 2 years later wasjust an online storefront.

    There is no margin in computer sales. Even with a locally-respected brand name that drew customers from out-of-state, even when the owner was as crooked as Quasimodo's back, even when bringing in gross revenues in the tens of millions, the storefront was gone inside of a few years.

    The reason PC sales sucks is because the margins are 0. The average PC salesman doesn't make dick unless he's selling in enterprise volumes, and you're lucky if they've even taken an A+ course. Anyone who genuinely enjoys both computers and sales quickly moves into sales engineering, or finds another lateral move that will net some income. The margins on each part are nil, the margins on systems are nil. CompUSA is gone because the margins were too slim. The Best Buy rep and the Dell consumer reps are incompetent because they're given 2 days with a 3-ring binder of training, then set loose on the floor. Like it or not, qualified sales staff costs money, and anyone with the know-how to be an effective salesperson with computers is going to chase the dollar out of that basement as soon as possible.

  • Problem of evolution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stokessd ( 89903 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:33PM (#29569457) Homepage

    This is a nasty problem because computers are not quite a commodity and not quite a geeky lab tool. People think of them as a commodity and companies try to sell them as a commodity but they require more care and feeding than say your toaster, microwave or VCR. Frankly if my VCR was as finicky and required the level of hand-holding (think frequent patching, etc) that my computer does, I'd toss it in the bin and get a new one.

    It's a problem from both ends. Simple gadgets like a toaster do one established thing pretty much one way. Everybody has the same expectation of the outcome and anticipates the process pretty much the same. So we are intrinsically "trained" to know what to look for in the purchase of a toaster. Computers don't have such clearcut uses and functional pathways. This means that even tech savvy people are a bit lost in what they want from a computer (I'm agonizing on my next media server: atom or other processor, mirroring or raid 6, which case, hot-swap, etc). Combine this with sales staff whose knowledge matches their pay, and you have a recipe for chaos.

    We complain bitch and moan about poorly trained sales staff, but at the same time, we want the widget at a brick and mortar store to be only ten cents more than online. We don't value well trained sales staff and good customer service. Some of us say we do, but "we" as a society feed our money to best-buy and wall-marts while many local higher caliber stores suffer and die because the prices are too high (which they have to be to cover the staff, etc). We are voting for crap employees with our wallets.

    This extends to Dell online, they are leading the race to the bottom of computer sales. I suspect if you call up PSSC, you'll get somebody who knows something, but expect to pay more.


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Old97 ( 1341297 )
      You nailed it which is why I find the outrage on this topic so amusing. We (the consumers) have told the market we are not willing to pay for competence. We want the lowest prices possible or free if we can get it. That's why we end up with big box stores and their ignorant minimum wage staff. If a PC retailer did invest in a competent staff (they did for awhile in the 80's) and professional service they found that they were just abused by the consumers. Consumers would go to these places, touch and fe
  • But...why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yoshi_mon ( 172895 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:49PM (#29569789)

    That salespeople lie either deliberately or unintentionally is no news. But why they lie is always the interesting bit.

    - Self interest: Here the liar is lying because it will net them some gain. Be it them keeping their job or making more money at the job or whatever. Or even, say when someone like Bill Gates lies, the results of the lie might not be any sort of immediate gain but rather part of a larger plan. (But we can't remove IE from Windows...because...because...)

    - Ignorance: The person does not know the answer and is just making shit up. Saying, "I don't know," on the sales floor never looks good.

    - Bad training: The person honestly believes what they are saying is true because their training was wrong, be it by design or honest mistake.

    - Dissatisfaction: This is a rare occurrence but it is worthy of note. Sometimes there will be a person in a sales job who knows exactly what is going on but out of spite for their employer or some such motivation they are out to mess with people. ('Short timer' sales persons often can do things like this.)

    Also keep in mind that none of these reasons are mutually exclusive. So when you get the ignorant salesperson who is highly motivated to keep their job you can really get some whoppers.

  • by ajlisows ( 768780 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @03:37PM (#29570721)

    Years ago, when to walk into a store and buy a computer meant you were going to drop at least $1200....probably closer to $2000, having someone to walk you through the buying process seemed pretty natural. Computers were high ticket items. You probably wanted to make sure you were getting the most for your money.

    Nowadays, when it is actually pretty silly for an average user to spend more than $400 on a desktop or $600 on a laptop (TOPS) for everyday use, how necessary are "Sales Staff"? At what price point will places say screw it and just toss the stuff out on the shelves like coffee makers and toaster ovens?

  • They are ALL idiots (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kral_Blbec ( 1201285 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @05:00PM (#29572183)
    I used to work at an office store doing printing and copy work, sometimes a little graphic design, photos etc. When I had nothing to do at my counter I would wander the store and talk to people. I'm a horrible salesmen, and my managers know it, because I don't try to push the expensive crap. I tell them what they need and the cheapest way to do it. Often times I've sent people out of the store with a notecard giving instructions on how to find some opensource app, especially if it is something not stocked in store. Printers can be pretty fun to sale, because most people really have no idea the difference between inkjet and laser (hint, its in the name) and most of what I do "selling" is really giving a tutorial on the technical functions and options available. Rarely do I try and push any particular model, although I tend to steer towards HP units.

    Selling computers on the other hand, SUCKS. There really isnt much of a valid selling point to a "better" computer to most consumers. Rule of thumb, if you have to ask what one is the best, you dont need that one. The only things I really talk about are screen size, weight, hard drive size, and battery. Other than that, any computer is going to work for most people just as good as any other. They aren't going to fill their 500gb hard drive, even if they ask how many photos they can put on it. They aren't going to tax the 2.0ghz dual core, even if they ask if it is fast. 3gb ram is plenty unless you are going to be gaming. Yet I still have people who are worried about if it is a good deal (another hint, you are in a RETAIL store buying a computer. Its not a good deal.) What they do with it after they take it out of the box affects how fast it is way more than the technical specs on the box. The only thing I try to push are netbooks. I've found customer satisfaction is usually a lot higher with them, because you are only getting what you need and nothing more.

    As for BestBuy, we recently had two new hires who came from there. One is our new tech manager and the other does the same stuff I do. Both are really good guys, not the sterotypical geeksquad loosers. I asked them once how in the world they could stand working at BestBuy when they really are geeks, not just wannabes. They both looked at each other, laughed and said in sync "Employee Discount". Turns out, their discount is 5% over stock price on EVERYTHING. That is an amazing deal. They told me about getting $1500 TVs for under $600 and computers for almost nothing.

    To sweeten that, their standard policy is like a 60 day probation period after hire before you get the discount. Not a bad idea all considering. However, that probation doesn't apply to seasonal workers, they get it from day 1. If you can take the abuse, not a bad idea to swing over for a few weeks/months, get a seasonal christmas job, load up with everything you wanted to buy all year, then after Christmas you're done :D
  • Not just PCs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @04:31AM (#29577625) Homepage Journal
    I recently decided to try and validate my years of experience on computers, by taking some courses and getting some proof that I know what I know. But there is a maze of options out there and I needed some help from someone who understood all the options. So I applied to a company called Skills Train [skillstrainuk.com] (amongst others) for some information on what they could offer in the way of distance learning. I first received a phone call from a sexy sounding woman, whose soothing voice promised me that they were sure they could help, and that they would have an expert call round to my house and discuss the options in person. The alarm bells started ringing right there. But I accepted her offer to see where it would lead.

    The next day while driving, I received another phone call, this time from the expert that was assigned to my case. He proceeded to embark on a lengthy sales pitch about the different options they offered, even though I said I was driving and could he call back. He was trying to enrol me on a course as a computer technician, something that I was doing as a business 10 years ago, and for which there is very little market these days, at least not if you want to make a living. I told him I wasn't interested, and was there anything else that was more knowledge based rather than practical. So he then tried to get me interested in web design, something I was also doing commercially 10 years ago. I let him blabber on because it became truly amazing the things I didn't know about computers.

    Apparently, HTML (according to this "expert") stands for Hyper Text Multi Lingual ! I laughed and ignored him. He then tried to tell me about a more complex course where if I passed, I could earn 100k working for the National Health Service. Apparently the NHS uses software called SQ and L which only runs on Cisco servers ! At this point I was in danger of crashing, so I told him to put his proposals in the post, and hung up.

    Of course, they wanted 1000s of pounds for each of these courses, which could be paid back in "easy instalments" and they could even help find me a job afterwards ! So I am slightly perturbed when ever I see one of their TV ads where they promise the earth to people- earn while you learn - utter shite. If the guy selling the stuff can't even get his shit right, how good are the courses going to be ? He even told me that he had done the web design course and had ended up working for the training company. It saddens me to realise that there are probably many many people enrolled in their stupid schemes, who went there to learn, and are being made to pay for useless dreck.

    On another occasion, I applied for a training course as an energy consultant, which exist because of government mandates that require all home being sold to have an energy efficiency report available. Apparently there is a desparate need for these consultants, with unlimited earning potential. So I arranged an interview for the next day, and sat back feeling like I was going somewhere. But me being me, I decided to learn as much as I could before I attended the interview. What I discovered on the internet was that not only was this the worst training company in the whole UK, charging the highest fees and responsible for the most malpractice, but also that the market for the consultants is dead, there are probably 3 times the number of consultants needed already trained and they are mostly out of work ! This company is still pushing this course in the job centres and newspapers. I have complained already, but to no avail. As far as the government is concerned, if you are training, you are not unemployed, and therefore you don't show up on their figures. No matter that you will show up there later, now is all that matters.
  • by Hillgiant ( 916436 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:52PM (#29582223)

    and into sub-prime mortgage brokering. In part because he couldn't stand all the lying required.

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10