Why I Like to Think CompUSA Went Out of Business
The operative word here is “think” because this is the narrative I hope is true. It all started back in 1997. Computers and the internet were starting to hit the mainstream, and there weren’t many stores when I was living in Dallas that specialized in computers. But CompUSA did, and it seemed like they had a thriving business. One incident (or actually two) had led me to believe that was the reason for their downfall.
On one fateful day, I purchased a computer mouse. At the CompUSA store, the cashier rang me up, charged my credit card, and I was on my way. I don’t remember the particulars of my problem with the mouse, but I had to return it to the store.
I only had the mouse for a few days, and I returned it unused and the packaging was unopened and I had my receipt—the prerequisites to get seamless return. “Not so fast, tough guy. At CompUSA, they make you work for your money.”
The return wasn’t as seamless as I had hoped.
Considering this happened nearly twenty years ago (I’m not scarred for life, but I have a lesson in here for all businesses.), I don’t remember the exact details of what the cashier said to me, but he didn’t make it easy. This was expected. I dealt with a lot of small businesses and this was long before the liberal return policies of Amazon and Zappos became well known.
Needless to say, the cashier told me that my credit card would be credited the amount in a few days or up to a week.
After about ten days, I checked in on it. There was no chargeback. So, I went to the store and inquired about it. They seemed to be clueless about it and ill equipped to handle my problem. They only assured me that the credit was going to go through. I just had to be patient.
All I could say was, “It takes you a millisecond to take my money from my credit card, so why does it take you over a week and counting to put it back on?” Unaware of how banking works, they didn’t have much to say but did managed to stare at me blankly.
After about two weeks, I inquired again about the chargeback. Again, no good answer. I was getting pretty irate.
I reminded them of what took place:
- I purchased an item from their store
- They charged my card in a fraction of a second
- I returned it in a few days unused and unopened with a receipt
- They claimed to have credited my card
- Two weeks later still no chargeback on my card
After three weeks, something dawned on me that should have dawned on me the first couple of days of this CompUSA fiasco. Through my apartment window I could practically see the CompUSA headquarters right across the street from my apartment complex. I pass by their headquarters nearly every day.
- Their address: CompUSA 14951 Dallas Pkwy, Dallas, TX 75254
- My address: 14500 Dallas Pkwy, Dallas, TX 75240
So, I walked into the headquarters and stood there in the lobby. After being ignored by nearly everyone that walked by, I said, “Hey, I bought a mouse over three weeks ago, and I want my money back.” Did I sound like a crazy person? Yup, I sure did. But that’s what it takes to get some kind of justice.
Suddenly, they got nervous. They didn’t want some crazy person in their lobby saying he got ripped off at one of their stores. To quell the commotion, a manager ushered me into a room. It was kind of like being questioned by the FBI. It was just me and this “Manager” in a tiny room.
I told him my story of how I never got the chargeback on my card, and it had been over two weeks since returning my mouse—my computer mouse.
He then got a woman to come in and talk with me. It was like “good cop” / “bad cop.” For them, it was like a really serious situation. They didn’t know how to handle it. How do they give money back to a customer who returned his merchandise? This was a real dilemma for them. They didn’t know how to handle it. They couldn’t believe a customer would actually show up to their headquarters and demand his money back. They didn’t have a policy for that. They figured that could just keep the money and the merchandise.
After talking to me for a while and getting an understanding that I wasn’t going away until someone could assure me that I was going to get my money back, they told me that I should see a chargeback on my card very soon.
After a few phone calls to the manager I spoke to at headquarters, I finally go the chargeback from CompUSA—a full four weeks after my return to the store.
CompUSA was the only game in town
Ok, here’s where it really gets interesting. Since CompUSA was this only game in town or at least the only one that I thought could sell me the computer products that I needed, I foolishly went back to make another purchase.
It was hard not to. The only other store that I was aware of at the time was Micro Center in which the name really doesn’t tell me anything. At least CompUSA has the word “Comp” in it so I know that they sell computers. And the “USA” tells me they are in the USA. The only thing that Micro Center tells me is that they are small as in “micro” small. I wasn’t aware that they sold computer equipment. I thought they sold microchips or something.
I’ll make this real quick. I went back to make a purchase. Again, I needed to return the merchandise unopened because I discovered it was incompatible with my system. It’s important to note that back in 1997 when computers were still finding their way, there was a lot of hardware and software that was incompatible with one another. Today (2017) it’s a little more streamlined.
Again, I was promised a chargeback and didn’t get one. I was patient and waited a week… and then two weeks, and then finally I went to the corporate headquarters.
Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for them, I knew where there headquarters were and I knew the drill. This time I was really screaming, and I was really pissed. Again, they seemed to be dumbfounded that someone actually wanted their money back after he returned his merchandise.
The attitude was just pervasive throughout the whole organization. It was almost like the corporate mantra at CompUSA was:
“Screw the customer. Never, ever, ever, ever give them their money back—especially after they return the merchandise unopened.”
Again, I had to call the person who I spoke to at the headquarters to get it squared away.
How to Win and Keep Loyal Customers
Needless to say, I soon found out that Best Buy had opened up—or at least it was new to me. I can’t really remember.
When I was there at Best Buy, I was dumbfounded by the attitude of the personnel there. A salesperson was helping me pick out a computer, and he said, “If you don’t like it. Just bring it back.” And I said, “To do what?” because I was so clueless and browbeaten by CompUSA that I didn’t understand this concept of “bring it back.”
He did a double-take and my ignorance and said, “For a refund.” I just looked at him wide eyed and my jaw on the floor and said, “What?” He said, “If you don’t like it, just bring it back for a refund.” Really? I could just bring it back for a refund. He assured me that I could bring back my computer after I used it and get a full refund if I didn’t like it. At that point, I was ready to buy anything he had to show me.
The Power of Risk Reversal
This is the power of risk-reversal. It breaks down the barriers. This is why I decided to ask for no money down on all my new clients. I want all my new clients to feel at ease.
Marketing genius, Jay Abraham, has three ways to incorporate risk reversal in your business. I suggest you read this article:
And it’s not just theory, here it is in practice. This is a letter telling how a consultant had an 18X increase in his business by using Jay’s advice about risk reversal. Read it here: https://www.abraham.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/abraham-basch.pdf
Needless to say, I’ve become a lifelong customer of Best Buy, and I’m glad I was out of that CompUSA hell.
It looks like I’m not the only one with a strong indictment of CompUSA’s Management as can be seen in this article: http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=compusa_sucks.
And I didn’t even do a search for “CompUSA sucks.” I just searched for CompUSA and this came up pretty high in the rankings.
Footnote: It appears that CompUSA is back. Good luck!
On their new website, they acknowledge how crappy they were (are) with this sentiment:
“…things are much different now in 2016 than they were back in 2007. It would be silly to compete directly with Best Buy and Amazon.”
Yeah, no shit—because Best Buy and Amazon treat their customers like every business should treat their customers and that’s with respect…and…and…they return your $%*&@ money when you return their merchandise!
The fact that they wrote such drivel sounds like they have no intention of changing their ways. Talk is cheap.
Ash Waechter is a sales copy writer who specializes in helping authors and speakers sell more books and products.