Welcome to Dave's
"Experiences at Fry's Electronics"

Please note the following answers to Frequently-Asked Questions: Thank you.
Northern CA stores*: Campbell, Fremont, Palo Alto, San Jose and Sunnyvale.
Southern CA stores**: Anaheim Hills, Burbank, Fountain Valley, Manhattan Beach and Woodland Hills.

Former Incredible Universe stores: Tempe (AZ), Sacramento* and San Diego** (CA), Wilsonville (OR), Arlington and Dallas (TX).

(June 2001): Houston TX, (August 2001): Austin TX.

August 20, 2000 - Fry's is online at http://www.frys.com/. It's mostly about the Fry's ISP, but you can find the "Fry's Electronics Feedback Form" under "Contact Fry's Electronics."

December 14, 2001 - Fry's is now selling products online at outpost.com.

November 24, 2002 - Fry's is preparing to open a big new store at 6845 Las Vegas Blvd South, at the northwest corner of "The Strip" and Interstate 215 in Clark County, NV. It's visible from Interstate 15, near the west end of McCarran Airport, right next to "Vacation Village" (now closed) and a short distance south of Mandalay Bay.

My Good Experiences at Fry's Electronics

I have had good experiences at Fry's Electronics. I enjoy many things about their stores: their different-themed stores, their wide selection, their frequent (but not always) low prices, their amazing juxtaposition of totally unrelated items, their long business hours, the wall of television receivers at the Brokaw Road (San Jose) store.

My Bad Experiences at Fry's Electronics

I have had previous bad experiences too numerous to recall. I will try to reconstruct as many as possible.

I have had previous bad experiences of extremely long delays in the checkout line.

I have had previous bad experiences of asking to talk to the "Person In Charge" and not getting any satisfaction whatsoever.

I have had previous bad experiences of going to the store in response to their newspaper advertisements, looking over the merchandise, talking to a salesperson (when you can find one) about which product to buy, deciding which product would best fit my needs, only to have the sales person go back to check inventory, then come back to tell me that they're out of the item I wanted. Would it be so difficult to put a tag on the "floor demo" that says "temporarily out of stock?"

Fry's insists that the checkout line ends at that point where each customer must look in two different directions for the next available cashier. Fry's seems to refuse to arrange their checkout lines such that customers can look down the line at all checkstands while looking in one direction. Note: The Brokaw Road, San Jose Store allows a customer to stand at one end and look down the row of 40 checkouts, but the other Northern California stores make you wait in the middle.

When you enter the "world" of Fry's Electronics, you enter a great big store with a great many bargain prices on a great many items in stock. But you also enter a world of complex rules and policies, some of which are not posted. If you are willing to wade through their demands, you can get great bargains. But you may also have to spend a lot of time waiting in the checkout line and again waiting at the cash register.

Example: June 30, 1996 - Campbell Store

I wanted to buy a printer for my niece. I had been told by a friend that he had recently paid $138 for such a printer. After finding a sales peson, I was told that he didn't know anything about that price, but that he would be glad to sell me the printer for $199. After getting the printer and taking it to the checkout line, I went to the next available cashier with minimal delay. I presented my check and my driver's license, pointing out that (due to DMV error) my license was expired but that the valid extension was attached to the back. I waited a long time while the clerk called a supervisor and they talked. After several minutes of waiting, including the supervisor making a telephone call, they told me that the delay was caused by the fact that my street address is not printed on the check. (All my credit accounts are at my Post Office box address.) After some more conversation, I was asked to write my street address on the check, which I did. There was still more conversation and more delay before the transaction was completed. The clerk apologized weakly.

Example: July 9, 1996 - Campbell Store

I wanted to buy an IOMEGA Zip Drive. Fry's advertised the normal price ($199) but the ads stated that there was a mail-in rebate of $50. This is a good deal.

As I entered the store, there was some Olympic merchandise hanging from various wooden parts of the entry lobby structure. One particular jacket was hanging across the sign giving general policies of the store, making it impossible to read them. The lectern labeled "Person In Charge" was not occupied, so there was nobody to talk to, nothing I could do.

I got the drive and some other items without sales person assistance and went to the checkout line. There was no delay. The clerk asked me the price of each item and verified that the cash register was charging the price I expected for each item. (This was an interesting procedure that I had not previously experienced.) She also gave me an IOMEGA rebate form, as advertised. I presented my check, upon which, based on my Example of June 30, I had written my street address. As I was opening my wallet to show my driver's license, the clerk asked for my driver's license. I told her, "that's what I'm doing." (Any reasonable person could have seen that this is what I was doing.) As a part of processing the transaction, the clerk told me that she would have to "call it in," since the purchase amount was over two hundred dollars. After a long delay, she returned with a standard-size piece of paper and asked for the name of my employer. I almost "lost it," barely holding my temper. I asked why she needed this information and did not get a clear answer. I gave her the name of my employer. She also wanted to know my work phone number. I told her that my work phone number is "9-1-1" and she hesitantly wrote it down. I told her that I cannot receive personal phone calls while I am at work. I pointed out that my home phone number is printed on the check and unanswered calls go to my voice mail. About this time a supervisor approached and asked the clerk if there was a problem. I told the supervisor that I was irate because of the delay, for reasons that were not clearly explained to me. The supervisor then ignored me and talked to the clerk. I clearly remember the question being asked, "does he have the money?" and the answer being given, "yes, he does." The supervisor initialed the paperwork and walked away. The clerk printed the receipt, gave it to me, and apologized for the delay.

I took my items to what I call "the Final Indignity," where you have to show all your purchases to one more employee, who then verifies that you have exactly what you paid for and nothing more.

I asked this employee if it would be possible to talk to the "Person In Charge," since the lectern was not occupied. She called him over and I told him that I was irritated at their policy of having to "call in" purchases over $200 and asked him where it was posted. He told me it was posted "at every register." I went over to three different cash registers and checked them. Their return policy was posted. Some requirements for paying by check were posted. For example, checks over $50 require that the customer show a credit card. There was nothing posted about having to "call in" checks for purchases over $200. I went back to the lectern and waited for the "Person In Charge" to come back. After several minutes of me standing there, he finally approached. I asked him if he could please show me at any register where their written policy about "calling in" checks for purchases over $200 was posted. We went to two registers and he could not find it. He stated that it's not posted. I forcefully exclaimed that it is very hard for the customer to be aware of, and follow, store policies that are not posted. I insisted that he pass on to his superior(s) before the close of business today that this information is not posted at any register.

I asked the "Person In Charge" for Randy Fry's mailing address. (I know from many "appearances" in the San Jose MERCURY NEWS' "Action Line" column that Randy Fry is one of the owners of Fry's Electronics.) He wanted to know why I wanted this information. I told him that I wanted to tell Mr. Fry of my experience in the form of customer feedback. So the "Person In Charge" gave me a business card with no name on it, but the Campbell Store's address, and said that I should send my letter to the store and it would reach Randy Fry.

I again showed my receipt to the employee at "the Final Indignity," and left the store. I came home and wrote this page.

Any fool can see that nothing on this page is intended to reflect anything except my personal experiences at Fry's Electronics. Everything posted above is an accurate reflection of my experiences, and therefore there would be no point for anybody's attorney to claim any damage to any person or company based upon my words. Fry's has caused their own problems by their own actions and omissions.
Letter mailed to Fry's July 22, 1996. No response has been received.

Other Customers' Experiences at Fry's Electronics

Regarding the "Final Indignity" place - I just breeze past that location and ignore them. If they have reasonable cause to believe I am shoplifting, they can detain me and risk a lawsuit, otherwise, I carry the business card of my attorney which I will gladly hand them if they tell me to stop. So far they haven't. I have no obligation to prove the legitimacy of my purchase 30 seconds after the purchase, especially considering the plain-clothed security and multitude of video cameras. After standing in line for 15 minutes and dealing with an oftentimes rude "customer service representative," I have no desire to stand in line again to help them catch thieves, of which I am not one. ( T. A. W. )

All I can say to you, Dave, is THANK YOU! I shop at Fry's in Fountain Valley and have enjoyed my experiences with an attitude of "curious expectations". You never know what you'll run into, who you'll run into or how you'll be treated by those that should be thankful you spend your hard earned cash there, but no, they look at you and treat you as though you're that guy that keeps making a mess by the dumpster as you dig for cans. Thank you, Dave. ( a guy named Howie Gregg )

Another customer posted the following address:

which is not the address of the Palo Alto retail store, but is very nearby.

I'll never go there again. I was in town from Wisconsin and stopped by the San Jose store to purchase a motherboard. Since I arrived just minutes before closing and trying to get to Santa Rosa, I found the board I wanted, took it up front, paid and left. When I got home, I found I had been overcharged by $20 plus tax. (The price the computer charged was $20 more than the label attached to the box. The label had their part number, item description and price.) I contacted Mastercard, sent copies of the receipt, copy of the front of the box with label, and asked they assist in getting what looked to be a clerical error corrected. I also sent a letter to the store manager, asking his assistance in getting this corrected, since it appeared to be an error in their computer system.

To date, (65 days) I have not received a reply from Fry, no credit, and a note from Mastercard it's not their problem.

Question, do you have an address for the attorney general's office?

Also, I'm taking this to the trade magazines, popular computer magazines, etc. I had to call the board importer (who I accidently found at Comdex-Chicago) to get an adapter which was supposed to come with the board. I also found out Fry is selling the board at about $50 above the SRP.

I gather that Fry refers to what you do after they rip you off. (You fry as you try to get them to answer).

This is something I've been hearing from others in the area who have dealt with Fry's: "If you want to take care of it, you MUST come into the store [where you] made your purchase." This seems to be the way they give 'customer service' to their out of town customers. ( retro@uslink.net )

I work for Fry's and [have] seen the kind of things described (if not daily at least too often) and there are reasons. Not excuses mind you, but reasons. When you enter a Fry's, you're dealing with a company that is dealing with too much success, a company that a very few years ago was basically a "mom & pop" operation and now is one of the fastest growing corporations in the country (be careful what you ask for, you're liable to get it!!) and is constantly trying to catch up to demand. Fry's usually promotes from within and if you've worked in or around corporate America, you know this can slow down any system while people get up to speed. As for policies that seem to conflict .... well sometimes they do (see above) but with some, eventually these problems will be solved (I hope).

The key to dealing with Fry's is to have an idea what you want (and some persistence). If you don't get the answers you want ask, for a supervisor immediately in the department where the problem exists, not up front where they have no idea what you're talking about. Believe it or not, there is someone in the store that can solve your problem even if sometimes you're flat wrong. And screaming and swearing at someone "ain't gonna get it done." It comes down to two philosophies: "winning is everything" or "if ya can't beat em ...maim em"..... your choice.... ( another customer )

I have visited Fry's a number of times but I have decided they are not worth my 30-minute drive or my money. I went in there one time to get a new hard drive. I saw the one I wanted behind a locked glass counter and then it was time to get some help. Not one CSR was willing to help me. I would ask one guy and he said it was not his department and he would TRY to get the person who could help me. No luck. Then I asked someone else and he said I needed to get a hold of a person who has the key. It turns out only two people have that key. These people were nowhere to be found. The hard drives are located with the motherboards, which are the hottest-selling items in the computer department. How can anyone buy anything there? Thirty minutes later, after nagging a CSR who can barely speak English got me in touch with the key holder and I got my hard drive, or did I? They said that it would go to the front of the store and get locked in their cabinet. They won't even let you carry it in your cart! They gave me a slip invoice for it, and told me to show it at the counter. After standing in the world's longest line at a store which has 25 registers, I was ready to check out. I show them the slip, they leave for about 5 minutes. They come back and say they can't find it. I told them that it was in the back of the store locked in a cabinet with all the other hard drives and motherboards. Then after 10 minutes, they found it. Then they give me the third degree because it cost over $200. I had to show two forms of ID with my credit card! My DL did not see to be enough. Then they sat and compared my 16-year-old DL signature with my 20-year-old one on the receipt! They did not believe it was me. With a stern look they processed my purchase and sent me to "The Final Indignity" place. If they have this stupid thing, why would they not let me carry my hard drive from the back of the store to the check out and I could have saved a half hour. Fry's knows nothing of customer service or respect and thus gets no more business from me. I hope they learn their lesson the hard way. ( another customer )

IMHO the only way to get Fry's to improve is to support their competition. It is because of their phenomenal growth in the last decade that created in them the arrogance.

When their business is still good, sending this web page to them will only feed their shredder! On the WEB, however, it will serve to inform unsuspecting souls.

Keep up the good work! I thought I was the only one having problems at Fry's. ( another customer )

Hi Dave,

I live here in Southern California and had several bad experiences with Fry's first the long lines. One day I tried to process a credit voucher and it took me almost an hour to get it taken care of.

The next experience I had was when I went to purchase with a check. They would not accept my check due to one having [bounced] about 4 months earlier. Even though the check cleared on the second try they did not update their computer so I was unable to make the purchase.

They also have poor locations. I live in Whittier and the two nearest stores were 25 miles in either direction. They finally have one closer; it is 15 miles away. I wish they would find a site in Whittier or City of Industry. There are plenty of sites in Cerritos and La Mirada available.

The good about Fry's after the check incident I wrote them a letter and explained to them all the problems I have had and the problem with their locations. They sent me an apology and a $25 gift certificate.

The other thing I like about Fry's is the size of there selection go into any other store and the selections is not as large. I am only talking about computer and Entertainment sections; their home appliance sections sucks.

I have also learned if you ask a woman that is working the floor a question and her shirt is half unbuttoned, don't bother. My friends & I say go to Fry's only if you know what you need or know what you are doing. There are a few knowledgable people.

Here's a funny experience for you I ran into a 19 year old kid who use to be my stock person at AST Research Inc. (at Fountain Valley) working as a sales person at Fry's in the computer section. This kid did not know the difference [between his] head and a hole in the wall. He was so stupid cause he had a free ride to college and passed it up so now he had to work for 6 dollars an hour. Now this should really point out some the stores Stupidity.

I will give them credit. I ran into another sales man I knew from when I worked at McDonnell Douglas. He knew what he was doing. The funny thing is was that if I had accepted the promotion at Douglas instead of going to AST Research it would have been his job I had taken after they laid him off.

Well, have fun at Fry's. ( Dave H. )

In all fairness, I have to relate a surprisingly PLEASANT experience I had at Fry's in Sunnyvale yesterday. Let me begin by saying that I absolutely HATE shopping there for most of the reasons described above, not to mention the noise, confusion, "uppity" salespeople (when you can find one!), etc., but they do have everything under the sun, so....

Last week I bought an Aspen 28.8 internal P&P modem which refused to work properly--it wouldn't "keep" the configuration. After several days of frustration I fnally called Aspen technical support (and somebody answered the phone!!). Their answer was that the BIOS on my Packard Bell really doesn't like P&P, that they don't have a workaround, and that I should replace their modem with one that doesn't have P&P or on which the P&P can be disabled/overridden.

With much trepedation I removed the modem, uninstalled the software, packaged it all up as best I could in the original package (which I had saved, thank God), searched fruitlessly for the receipt, and headed off to Fry's fully prepared to have to fight endlessly with their staff.

Much to my surprise, they took back the modem with very few questions, accepted my explanation of what the problem was, and gave me the full price despite the fact that the modem's now on sale for $20 less than I paid. The gentlemen in the Customer Service area were extremely understanding and helpful and (for once) treated me the way a customer should be treated--not the way Fry's customers are usually treated.

Maybe they're trying to improve their customer service, maybe it's because I was there early in the day and they weren't too busy yet. At any rate, they gave me what was undoubtedly the most pleasant experience I've ever had at Fry's. ( Rusty Andrews )

I was in Fry's at Campbell searching for a new mother board and some memory. Keep in mind that I have to be at SFO [San Francisco International Airport] in 2 hrs. So I get the mother board and I go to get my memory. First for all there are about 20 people there in a huddle with what only appeared to be one sales person. After finding out which type of memory I wanted I waited in this huddle. Finally after about 20 min I was help. I quickly said I want 2 of these and one of these. So we go to the computer and he tells me there out of stock on one of the items so I ask or the 70ns instead of the 60ns. Well low and behold there out of that too. So I get talked into some other memory.

If you know Fry's you know that when you buy memory or CPU's they give you a print out to take it up front. So I did just that. The line was long but it was moving fast. I finally get up to the register and it is now 1 hour plus later. I give him my paper work and he starts to ring me up. Great this is moving quicker than normall. Well it took me 30 to 40 min to get my stuff and I tell you I have never has a worst experience than that. Luckly I made it to SFO with a few minutes to spare!
( Charles Liss )

It seems this page attracts people who really don't like shopping at Fry's. Fry's has many faults and I personally had run into many of the problems reported by others on this page, but I keep going back to their stores. Why? For the same reasons that thousands of people frequent their stores and clog up their cash registers - selection, price, shopping environment, and an incredibly generous return policy. Fry's is a unique place and its inefficiencies aren't so bad compared to other computer chain stores. Has anyone figured out why the cash registers at CompUSA or Computer City are so quiet when the checkout lines at Fry's stores are almost always overflowing? Customers have been voting with millions of their hard earned dollars and as a business person it always fascinates me to watch how Fry's became such a big success in a short number of years while other computer and electronics stores come and go. Fry's is a weird place as far as retail stores go, but its incredibly inefficient procedures (involving "Customer Service" etc.) so far hasn't hurt them - amazing.

Fry's is a weird place and a strange success story that will no doubt become a business school case study one day. ( another customer )

Dear Dave:

Thanks for creating this sounding board. If Fry's management is smart, they'll spend some time scanning these pages.

I've bought a number of computer products at Fry's. Some of my experiences have been good, and some not so good. I'll describe one that stands out in my mind as illustrating some of the problems with the way Fry's does business, and as suggesting what may be intentional practices more unsavory than can be explained by a simple lack of knowledgeable employees.

A few months ago, I saw a Fry's advertisement for a 16 MB SIMM, at what was then a very good price. (Of course, prices have continued to plunge since then.) As is usual for Fry's, this price was stated to be good for two days. I made the drive and arrived at the store on the second day of this sale. When I went to the memory counter, I found that the advertised item was out of stock. (This has happened to me often enough that I really question if Fry's makes any effort to put in sufficient stocks of advertised items. A SIMM is a very basic component that people will be buying all the time, and that the store ought to keep in stock if it is going to be meeting basic needs. So to run out after less than two days of an advertised sale shows very poor planning at best. I have learned that it is a good idea to call ahead to find out if an advertised item is still in stock. This is a real hit-or-miss proposition, though, because it can be very difficult to get a live human being on the telephone.)

The staff person told me that I could get a rain check for the advertised SIMM. I explained that it was a 40 minute drive for me each way, and that I didn't really look forward to having to make a second trip. With some persistence, and after speaking with a supervisor or two, I managed to obtain an agreement to ship the item UPS when it came in. I paid for the item, together with the UPS shipping charge (not having the appetite left for an argument on that point).

About a week and a half later, sure enough, the SIMM arrived by UPS (packed in a very large box!). I eagerly opened up my computer, and unwrapped the SIMM. I could see right away that the SIMM appeared to have been inserted into a board previously, and probably a little roughly, because the contacts were pretty scraped up. Nevertheless, I plugged it in my motherboard and turned on the power. Nothing. Black screen. I could not get the computer to boot with this SIMM inserted, either alone or in any configuration together with my existing memory. Upon examining the SIMM more closely, it looked pretty dinged up on the edges. It did not look new.

I resigned myself to having to make another trip to the store. This time I brought along my computer. I explained the situation to the customer service person. To her credit, she did not raise any argument, but accepted my word. She sent me back to the memory counter for an exchange. Guess what--out of stock again! They were more than happy, though, to offer me "premium" memory, with a longer warranty, at a price that was nearly double. Back to customer service. She was able to offer me a large discount on the "premium" memory as an exchange, which resulted in a price still significantly higher than the advertised special, but pretty reasonable all the same. Wanting to put an end to the ordeal, I said that I would pay the difference if I could bring my computer into the store, and install the new SIMM to make sure that it worked properly. They allowed me to do this. I put in the SIMM, turned on my computer, and everything worked perfectly the first time.

This experience has led me to be very cautious about any more purchases from Fry's. I conclude that most probably, they had sold this SIMM to another customer, who returned it, perhaps as defective. They then resold it to me as new. What is the point in this kind of behavior? It just results in a lot of wasted time of their employees, and in bad customer relations. It's not as though anyone would keep a component that didn't work.

I have also learned that if you are calm but persistent in your dealings with Fry's employees, have reasonable expectations, and know exactly what you want, they will deal with you fairly. It does take a good deal of patience, and if you go in you had better be prepared to spend some time in the store.

By the way, the store had no memory testing device to confirm that there was a problem with the SIMM!

In other cases, Fry's has been incapable of coming up with technical sheets for boards that they sell. Technical support can be nonexistent, which can leave you with few options if you're buying a no-name product made in South Korea or Thailand or somewhere, that comes with no identification of the manufacturer and no indication of where to get technical information.

Fry's is basically just a big-box store, with problems similar to any other big-box store--but there's no other store like it in the world.

So why do I keep going back? Well, if you like computers, it's like a big amusement park. You can see just about any product on the market on display. You can see all kinds of cool testing devices and tools and parts for building components from scratch. And, although you have to shop carefully, some of the prices can be amazingly low. Whether they're low enough to justify the extra miles driven, the time standing in line, or all the other potential aggravation is questionable. But I guess there's a kind of thrill in thinking that you've found a bargain that transcends the question of whether you're really saving any money. It's what motivates every do-it-yourselfer. That, I think, goes a long way to explain Fry's success. ( Chris Valle-Riestra )

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The experiences posted here are those of the individuals involved.

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Created on July 9, 1996. Last updated on November 29, 2002.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA