And Now For an Important Commercial Message...

I don’t do a lot of commercial plugs, but I figure they’ve earned this one.

Last week I received a “special invitation” to schedule a personal tour of the newly-remodeled Best Buy in Springfield (Virginia, that is). For my trouble, I would receive a $100 Best Buy gift card. The invitation tried very earnestly to insist that there was no catch, but the fact that they emphasized their “personal shopper” service and the “home theater” display rooms made me suspect that shopper education couldn’t be their sole aim. And as a rule, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to “junk mail” (though I give it infinitely more attention than spam or telemarketing calls). Still, a hundred bucks is a hundred bucks, and there are worst ways to spend my time than sitting in front of a bunch of widescreen, high-definition televisions, especially since there was absolutely no chance that I’d be buying even the least expensive model.

So I called, set up the appointment, and last Wednesday, I took the tour. Sure enough, a salesperson was waiting at the front entrance for me, with my name written on a big card (I suppose it was the closest I’ll come to the chauffeur-waiting-at-the-airport-gate feeling). And once he began the tour, it became clear that he was a consummate salesman. He spoke quickly, efficiently, and had clearly run through this routine many times before. Still, he was definitely knowledgeable about the equipment, he answered my individual questions without ever coming across as flustered or interrupted, and he was — at least in my assessment — honest. For example, when I asked about a particular universal remote control, he said that if I was serious, I’d want to wait a couple of months until X model came out, since it would be priced similarly and have more capabilities (and once he described the differences in detail, I concurred). He even mentioned — positively — a competing store chain when the discussion went to truly high-end televisions (hey, I can dream, right?).

But most amazing of all, there was no sales pressure whatsoever. No “what can I do to get you to take home a new television tonight,” no “with our special financing, this can be yours for only $400 a month,” no “you understand that your gift card will only be valid on purchases of $3,000 or more,” nothing. He just went through the tour (which did run closer to an hour than the initially promised half-hour commitment), gave me a (very nicely printed) brochure, and handed me the gift card. Now I may not have looked affluent, but, having come straight from work, I like to imagine that at the least, I looked presentable. And (as I learned) the Best Buy salespeople — even in this new “home theater” arena — aren’t working on commission (there’s a whole discussion to be had on workplace motivation, but that can wait for another occasion). Still, I was impressed. I didn’t end up buying anything that evening, but I spent some time looking around the new store — particularly the Springfield-exclusive “business solutions” center; I scouted a new stand-alone DVD duplication unit that we need for the office (though at nearly $1,500, it was a bit too much for me to just buy and put on an expense report).

And one more thing — with that $100 gift card, buying an iPod from them seems to make a lot more sense than going anywhere else...


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