Experiences at Fry's Electronics, Page Fifteen

July 13, 1997


I ran my gripes (plural) against Fry's in a city newspaper I was so angry. I got lots of sympathy calls. I had a good dozen problems all combined into two innocent, and final, visits.

Here is my horror story as it ran in the Benicia Herald:
A Class Z store

I used to hear nothing but praise about Fry's Electronics down in Fremont as THE place to shop for computer components. Every other store in the state was rated as Class B by those in the know, with Fry's standing tall in a separate league as a Class A computer store.

Well, well, well. I sure got my bubble burst. They do have a massive inventory, but that is their only plus. Let me share my nightmare.

First, I drove down and bought a Zip Drive, a portable 100 MB floppy drive for my computer. The price was $20 more than at Egghead, but I bought it. It didn't work. I took it back. It took an hour to process the return, and then they said they would only refund me by check because I paid by check. Even though my check had cleared, they wouldn't give me my money. It came in the mail three weeks later. That left a bad taste in my mouth, but I wasn't disillusioned yet.

Then came the big snafu. I went down last week and bought all the parts to build two computers, one for journalism class and one for home. We wanted to buy 166 MHz Pentiums, but the sign above their Intel motherboards said they handled up to 133 MHz maximum. We whined to the clerk about not having faster motherboards. He shrugged and mumbled, so we went with 133s.

When we tried to buy cases, the ones we liked were sealed and not on display. Another clerk said we couldn't open the boxes unless we were certain to buy. He went in the back to get help and never returned. A third clerk opened the boxes for us.

We went to buy Western Digital hard drives. The 2.1 gig was $454 and the 2.5 was $399. We asked a third clerk why bigger was cheaper. He left to find out and never returned. A fourth clerk looked in her system and saw that the prices were reversed on the signs, but both were out of stock. We bought 1.6 gigs.

It took 5 hours to complete our purchases, 2 hours in the checkout line. Fry's doesn't have a check approval service, and because it was Saturday and my bank was closed, they didn't want to accept my check. After complaining and involving several managers, they made me write my Visa card number on the back of my check (which I believe is illegal) before they would accept it. Exhausted, we drove home.

All the parts were shrink-wrapped like new, but when we opened the motherboards, one box was missing all the necessary cables and had an outdated manual. The other board's manual said "This board handles 166 Mhz Pentium chips and faster." Clerk #1 had given us a bum steer and a used board. When we installed the used board, it didn't work. When we installed the CD-ROM, the software was faulty.

I had to drive back (100-mile round trip) for a swap. Before going I called to confirm the items were in stock. The computer dept. phone ran 40 times. I hung up and called customer service. They promised a call-back within 30 minutes. I waited 70 minutes and called them. The Intel boards were in stock.

When I returned for the swap, clerk #5 misunderstood and wrote up a refund slip. Then he started over and did the swap forms. When he brought out the board, shrink-wrapped like new, I opened it. It had an out-dated manual covered with handwriting and the cable bag was open - another used board. We got another off the shelf and opened it. This one had no manuals, no static bag, and no cables. We opened a third. This one was missing the static bag and had an out-dated manual. We opened a fourth. This one had unrelated diskettes, an old manual, and opened static and cable bags. They had no more on stock, so we pieced together the best from four boards.

They're supposed to test returned items before reshelving, but apparently they don't. Buying new, working equipment from Fry's is a crap-shoot at best. The moral of the story: Don't shop there. I never will again.

( Steve )

July 13, 1997

Children at the Porno Section

Dear Dave:

Today I was at the Fry's in Sunnyvale. They have this rack of pornographic CDs with CD covers of girls and sex acts. We're talkin' full frontal nudity!

Now anybody who wants to sell that kind of trash can be my guest, but they should have the decency to conceal such material from small children. There were 2 or 3 little Asian boys, no older than 5, standing there picking up this trash and staring at it. This is not funny! Why not just have an adult section, off limits to small children? This rack was about 6 feet tall and had material on it less than 3 feet off the ground, right in child's eye view.

Well, there are few things that irritate me to the point of reacting in a public setting, but this did it. The sales guy in the area says, "What are you yelling at me for?" Another 4.0 graduate of the customer service university.

If you or any of your readers know where I can report this store for violating whatever laws there are to protect small children from accessing this kind of trash, I would appreciate the information.

Thanks for letting me vent.

( David M. Gronbach )

July 13, 1997

Thanks for a great idea in webformation. I live in Oregon and Fry's just took over the Incredible Universe Store that folded south of Portland. Having watched the Grand Opening ads for several days I decided to fly to Fry's. Having no experience with the company it was exciting and adventurous to be on my way. I imagined a compugeek's paradise, a veritable E ticket ride on the motherboard of cyberspace, visions of row after row of all the little gizmos, framastats and dohickeys I have ever felt without, danced through my head. My excitement mounted as I drew near. Then where the once Incredible Universe expanded, I saw Fry's. Jumping from my Gyrocopter I ran to the entrance and presented my ID. Unimpressed by my Incredible Universe membership card I was nonetheless ushered into this temple of technology, the one I thought to be the most ADVANCED CONCEPT IN RETAIL MARKETING THE UNIVERSE HAS EVER KNOWN, boy was I surprised! There in a building that once thumped and bumped and lasered and smoked and even had a pizza place right in the store and sold ice cream granules, and had a Karaoke department? (what's up with that?) was aisle after aisle of stuff. Just plain stuff. No light shows, no virtual sales guys with radio controlled order pads, no THX Dolby ProLogic surround yourself with Tom the TOP GUN Cruise rooms. No nuttin'. Just stuff. Well, needless to say, I was extremely disappointed, but determined to save some money! (after all in America it's not how much you spent, it's how much you saved that counts) Well I did indeed save. After much looking around and combing the aisles of stuff. I decided to take them up on a Grand Opening special "32meg 72pin simms" oh boy oh boy just $96.00 each. Two to a customer please. Well I bought a 56k modem kit and a SIMM stacker for my old SIMMs and just one 32meg sale SIMM. All dutifully tabulated and sent via networked computer systems to Fry's central processing no doubt. My less than cyber sales guy handed me my order print out and I headed for the chutes. In no time at all (really) a young Hispanic woman waving a red paddle beckoned me forth. I asked her if she was going to discipline me now or wait for my credit card. She then proceeded to ring my purchases up. After doing so she said $656.05 please. I said,"Hold on there, senorita, I kinda keep a running tally in my pornographic memory and I am convinced my purchases are not over $316.00." After showing her the error of her ways and she mine, we went hand in hand to my original less than cyber sales guy. He spoke with her in Frysese and cryptic hand gestures and she assured me everything was now A-OK. Back to the chutes and with the plaintive bellowing of happy customers she rang my purchase up again. This time only $527.00. Oops, no cigar. Anyway to make a long tedious and boring story shorter, they got it right and to my GREAT SURPRISE in my bag when I got home was two 32meg SIMMs. Savings like this don't come around everyday. Thank you Fry's.

( EJL Portland OR )

July 14, 1997


On a very recent to trip to California (last week) I visited FRYS !!!!. I made a BIG mistake. I went there on the 5th July - (4th July sales). Well I purhased various items which totalled around $600 US.

I lined up for around 40 minutes. When I finally got to the cashier and said I wanted to use Travellers Checks that was a mistake. It took her another 20 minutes to list individual check numbers, call her supervisor, call someone else ask for two lots of photo ID. I thought she was about to ask for my personal reference from the POPE.

You can keep them in California. They should have kept selling groceries.

Cheers Mate
Gary Brown
Sydney, Australia

July 14, 1997

My tip for making a Fry's visit bearable can be stated in two simple words: VISA CARD.

Do not write a check. They don't like them. They assume you're a risk. It doesn't matter if your last name is Rockefeller. They make it purposely annoying for you. I laugh watching the patrons around me at the check-out counter becoming increasingly flustered while the English-language-challenged cashier attempts to verify your bank funds for the fourth time on a Sunday morning. Save yourself the hassle. LEAVE YOUR CHECKBOOK AT HOME.

Amazingly, I was once hassled and was forced to wait twenty minutes to complete a CASH purchase. Knowing about the checkbook curse, I felt going into Fry's this time that at last I was armed with the unbeatable purchase attack plan -- crisp $100 bills. As luck would have it, I was directed to check-out counter #40 (Burbank outlet) where young Ms. Aberanmanianstankowski (some last name with 17 consonants) was starring in her first day of employment in America. Well, apparently my 22 $100 bills to cover my purchase was too much for the nubile employee to handle, thus forcing her to beckon the ever-elusive and seemingly non-existent assistant-manager to punch in his bypass code to open the register box. While the vain search for the manager grew on, my frustration level began boiling over. I turned around to the long line snaking behind me, yelling "For God's sake, I'm paying in cash! You can't even buy something here in cash! This is a f***ing outrage!" I took an extra bill out of my wallet and held it in the air. "You can't even pay in cash without getting the run-around," I yelled. Waiting customers shouted back words of encouragement: "This is the worst place to buy stuff," responded someone. "Go on, brother," said another person. An armed guard approached me with his hand on his mace (finally some attention). He told me to stop shouting or he'll remove me from the building (I should be so lucky). I told him and the assistant manager who had just returned from the can that waiting twenty minutes to pay in cash is outrageous and unacceptable. I could get prompter service in an Indonesian rain forest. The manager opened the cash register and young Ms. Aberanmanianstankowski placed my $2200 she'd been holding for twenty minutes in the register and gave me back my $30+ in change, saying with a smile on her face: "Thank you and please visit Fry's again" (I think this is what she said).

Some weeks later, I returned to the Burbank outlet and used cash to purchase a printer cable and a cartridge. This time, the $40 dollar purchase went amazingly smooth and hassle free. But my advice is still the same: Use that VISA card.

( John )

July 16, 1997


Last month I made the mistake of going to Fry's in San Diego, well the modem I bought didn't work so I returned it the same day. After standing in three different lines they told me that they did not give out cash refunds and that I would receive a check in 5 to 7 days. Well that was June 3rd,1997 it is now July 16th, 1997, how long do I have to wait, every time I call it's the same story; your check is in the mail.

HA HA I'm not amused.

Who do I contact now besides the local news?

I can be reached at limpingbear@juno.com or cbear@pacbell.net and I'm telling everyone I know DON'T SHOP AT FRY'S.

Thanks for this web site.

( C. Limping Bear San Diego County CA )

July 21, 1997

Dear Dave

It's real nice to have a store like Fry's Electronics. No doubt it's a huge store with a gigantic inventory in it. If you don't find something anywhere you will find at Fry's, and if you don't find something at Fry's it's almost impossible that you find somewhere else. My understanding is that this is the main reason that most of the people shop at Fry's.

Anyway Fry's is one of my favorite stores. I had been enjoying shopping there but lately I have experienced a great deal of distress. I have been reading on the web about the other people's comments and I realized that most of them are similar as I mine. Lately customer service has dropped markedly. Sales persons do not have the knowledge of the equipment where they are assigned. To tell you the truth that some of them I found were hesitating to help because of their lack of knowledge. I have many examples I can code here but I wonder if it is ever required.

Not only that the representatives have lack of knowledge about the equipment but they also are not full aware of their inventory. Like the other day I was asking about the batteries for cordless phone in telephone section. I asked the lady working in the same section because I did not find the type of battery I was looking for, she checked the same area where I was checking earlier and told me no they do not carry. Interestingly enough that I found the same battery I was looking for in the other aisle at the telephone accessories. I felt lucky that I found but was little surprised that why she doesn't know that they have more at some other aisle inspite of me asking her that do you store at some other place.

I usually buy Audio CDs from Tower Record and their return policy is very simple: 30 days even if opened. This time I decided to buy at Fry's and prior to my purchase I asked the sales person that what is the return policy and she told me 30 days. I asked what if opened? "No problem," she replied. Unfortunately I did not like the songs so I decided to return it. I took to the customer service waited in the long line and then I was told that Fry's do not accept opened CDs. When I asked that why I was told that I can return an opened CD. "I don't know," he replied. I asked him to contact the person who made the sale so that I can talk to her he said he does not have time for that.

Its not a matter of one CD, it's a matter of trust that can you trust what they told is guaranteed. What is guaranty that tomorrow they will not deny what they have told you. How comfortable will you feel to buy at a store where you can not rely on sales person? My suggestion to you is that at each section people should be available for customers from upper management who can judge the sensitivity of the matter and who are decision makers. In this way customers will not be disappointed just because of one worker's mistake.

( Mahmud )

July 23, 1997

It all started with the purchase of a mother board upgrade for my quickly aging 386 system. I entered the store with great expectations. I'd seen Fry's incredible discount prices so I naturally had the same enthusiasm about their "Technical Service Department". Why do I still shudder when I say those words?

Anyway, I don't live close to Fountain Valley so with each trip back to the store to have the same install correctly done I got a little angrier. It took 3 visits to have it completed. But wait!, this isn't what really pissed me off the most. You know what really got me in the end? EVERY TIME I WENT BACK TO THE SERVICE DEPARTMENT I HAD TO EXPLAIN MY PROBLEM TO SOMEBODY NEW!

Of course nobody knew what the previous guy had done or even recognized his name. And don't you just love how in the middle of explaining your problem to these guys they leave you to do something and you can't find them again. I had one guy excuse himself and disappear. A little while later I asked somebody else where this "Jharingnejurnbglsolsienf" guy was and you know what he told me? Oh, he went to lunch.

I'm glad I have a forum to express my feelings about this "Wonderful Place."

( Paul )

July 25, 1997

Thanks for taking the time to put the Fry's comments on the Internet. I wish I had seen it before I took my computer there for servicing. All I have to say is that my experience there was the most un-professional service that I have even had! It would take two pages to explain what happened. I wish I could put a billboard on Freeway 15 in San Diego to let people know not to go there. From all the other arguments that were going on at the service counted I wasn't the only one not satisfied. Oh well, if they keep it up they will last about as long as the Incredible Universe!

( Pat )

July 26, 1997

I never stop at the security checkpoint. I walk by and if they want to check, they can walk with me to the car (they only did once).† After waiting in lines, I refuse to wait to leave. It's my stuff and I do not have to show it to anyone!

( another customer)

July 29, 1997

While I haven't seen the type of behavior at Fry's that you have documented I have experienced the following.

I was buying a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff and when they ran my check through their systems they encountered an NSF. I told them I had just received a bonus that day which I had deposited prior to going to the store. I showed them my deposit slip and the supervisor ok'ed the purchase.

My boss had seen that the most recent Fry's ad listed the price of a JAZZ drive as $149. He went to the store to purchase and when checker scanned the item it came as costing $499. My boss showed the checker the ad which said Iomega JAZZ. The store manager was called and said it was a misprint and that the store would honor the price for those people in line while another employee was dispatched to put a correction notice at the door.

These events happened at the Burbank store.

( A.R.P. )

July 29, 1997

As a computer consultant I have thousands of stories about Fry's. This happened about two weeks ago.

I went into the store at around 8:00 PM because I needed to purchase some equipment.

I purchased a Compaq laptop machine, an Epson Printer and a scanner. The total of my purchase was $3,500.00.

I waited at least 20 minutes in line to make the purchase, etc. I remembered upon leaving that I might need a small audio adapter. I found the adapter and it was $1.99.

I asked the manager if I could get it for free since I had just made a $3,500 purchase.

She went to speak to another manager. Eventually the verdict was NO.

I couldn't believe it.

If I hadn't HAD to have that order that evening I swear I would've asked for my money back right there and then.

That same evening by the way I was looking at portable DAT machines. The sales person dropped one while showing it to me-and put it back on the shelf.

( Scott )

July 30, 1997

First let me say despite this fiasco I am still a dedicated Fry's shopper for reasons that are obvious to anyone who has set foot inside one. I have changed which Fry's I go to though.

I purchased a new HDD for my laptop at the the Fry's Anaheim store. Despite having built many desktop computers, I didn't feel comfortable ripping into the insides of my laptop, so I put up the extra $50 to have the drive installed. First off, it took 3 return trips at different "promised" delivery dates before the computer was ready. That wasn't a good start. I finally got the computer and took it home where I reloaded all the software. So far all ok.

I take the computer on my first trip, go to fire up the modem and check my E-mail, when I discover I can't plug the phone cord in. It takes a few seconds to figure out that I need to plug it in upside down. Ok, did that but now what a surprise, my software can't seem to find the modem. I may be a bit slow, but it does eventually dawn on me that having the modem upside down in the PMCIA slot is probably not a good thing. Ooops! I go to flip the modem and I find that it is jammed in the slot at a funny angle.

More than a little pissed off I return to the store to have the modem repaired. The first thing they do is hassle me since it has been more than 30 days since the drive was installed. I explain that the drive is working fine, but I don't go on trips that frequently and don't use the modem except when I'm on the road. The response to that was a very sarcastic, "Well, if you don't use it that often you don't need a laptop anyway." I told him how I use MY computer is none of his business. The service tech confirmed that the card was jammed in upside down and was trying to free it when his supervisor came over. He asked what the tech was doing and when he heard what was going on he took the tech into a back room. The supervisor came out in a few minutes and picked up my computer and brought it back to me and demanded in a very accusatory tone to see my paperwork. I showed it to him and he looked at it for a few minutes then shoved by computer over the counter to me and said they wouldn't work on it. At which point the HDD stopped working as well! I inquired why they wouldn't work on it? He said the paperwork said they had only worked on the hard drive and therefore hadn't touched the modem card. I explained that it was the only card I had and I therefore never removed it. Plus it worked fine when I brought the computer in (never mind the fact that the HDD had just crashed!).

He retorted that the modem was nowhere near the hard drive and they wouldn't have touched it. I pointed out that the PMCIA cover needed to be removed to open up the computer, therefore they had to have worked near the modem. He then grabbed the paper and pointed out my signature that the computer was properly functioning when I picked it up. Yes, I explained the HDD worked fine, I didn't think it was necessary to try out every accessory on the computer as I hadn't asked them to work on the modem. He said that ended the discussion. I demanded to see the supervisor, he said he was the supervisor, so I demanded to see the store manager. The store manager was in a meeting and could not be disturbed. They finally took me to the ubiquitous person at the lectern. They wouldn't let me hear or join in any of their conversation, but her only response was there was nothing they could do for me and to suggest I leave. At which point she refused all further conversation.

This has turned into a very long story already, but suffice it to say I made at least half a dozen calls to the store trying to reach a manager and was told 100% of the time they were in meetings and could not be reached. I did manage to reach a customer service person on one of the calls who seemed to understand what I was saying and was clearly trying to help. However, after about 20 minutes he went away to ask someone to help. He came back about 5 minutes later, clearly severely beaten for his efforts and in a some what sing-song tone started spouting the party line (his tone of voice clearly told me what he was thinking, that he was saying something he was told he had to say to me).

By this time I needed to go on another trip and I figured I had nothing to lose, so I disassembled the computer myself. Inside I found that the PMCIA slot and hard drive bay do indeed share adjacent spaces. The original factory installed HDD was considerably larger and friction fit into the drive bay. To keep the smaller drive from rattling around, the person who had worked on my computer had torn off a flap some cardboard box (for a computer accessory I didn't own) and wedged it under the card slot, along with a wad of bubble wrap in front of the drive. To do this they had to pry up the box around the PMCIA card which accounted for the weird angle I noticed.

With the computer open I was able to pry out the modem card. I noted it was in fact upside down and that they had sheared off the alignment tab when they jammed the card in. The bubble wrap in front of the drive had slipped up under the keyboard which had allowed the drive to become unplugged when they shoved the computer across the counter at me. I removed the cardboard, plugged the HDD back in, cut a piece of black electronic foam to hold the drive securely and plugged the modem card in correctly. As a tribute to the ruggedness of Toshiba laptops and Megahertz modems the whole rig worked wonderfully when I did this, despite the abuse suffered.

I packed up my evidence and went to Fry's to demand my $50 installation fee back. They insisted that none of this had in fact happened and I was just trying to shake down the store. Oh yes, the store manager was still in a meeting.

Fry's is a great place for computer parts, but CAVEAT EMPTOR, they'll happily lie through their teeth when something doesn't work.

( Eric )

August 1, 1997

I work at the Wilsonville, Oregon Fry's Electronics. A lot of the things I encountered in these pages are right on the money, but here we actually try to correct them. If anything, we actually commit mutiny against corporate on many instances.

Get this... A customer comes in after I had talked to him on the phone (about 3 hours before) because he was worried that he could not get the item he wanted for the ad price due to the ad being expired. I had told him he could, because his explanation was that he had talked to someone on the phone a week prior, who said they would keep in touch , and he was left dead in the water. (You'll love the end of this), and I go and retreive his item (an AV2 shinho monitor), and proceed to the DSC to get it approved. LO AND BEHOLD the DSC was an a**hole from the San Jose store! NOT one of our usual supervisors! (who would rather give the sale price than aggravate a customer.... P.S. he's only a temp!) He puts on this show of how we cannot give price reductions after a sale has ended unless he has a rain check. I explained the situation, and he remained adamant about screwing this guy over a measly $40!!!!!! So, I take the customer to the front PIC podium and state my case to the PIC (with a few comments about the supervisor, which almost got me suspended.), who takes the quote from me and authorizes the price reduction. By now, this has wasted 30 minutes, and quite a few peoples' time. It was then when I realized how screwed up the Californian employees are! I would like to tell anyone that we up here in Oregon are different!!!! Most of us are actually computer techs! I can understand the prejudice against the Cali. stores, but give Oregonians a chance. Please?

Just as pissed as you,

( Fry's employee )

August 3, 1997

I like the page on Fry's but I do dislike the rewrap they do on returned articles, even the ones that don't work. I always check for a box that was not opened. They do a[n] excellent rewrap with the shrink plastic, don't they? ha ha.

( Ed )

August 4, 1997

Re: Children at the Porno Section

This gets so much better...

I was so frustrated with my experience at the store and the confrontive, threatening sales rep, that I took my case to Fry HQ. First I went to the store on Portage in Palo Alto, but found out that their HQ was moved to Brokaw in San Jose.

Upon arriving at the HQ front desk I met a security person. They don't have a receptionist at the front desk, but a security person, carrying a "walkie talkie". I very calmly and civilly told this person of my purpose in being there, calmly demanding to know who the person in charge of that store was.

Get this...the guy--used to be--the [xxxxx] of the Fry's in [xxxxx]. Now he's working security. Turns out that he's a Christian and that he had made noise about this sort of thing in the past. He told me that he was really supposed to ask me to leave, but he wanted to keep me around in case one of the Frys happened to pass by. I suggested letting me walk Mrs. Fry over to the section. He said, "as long as it makes money, she won't care."

He gave me names and phone numbers from the company directory (for all the good it will do). He also told me that He would personally go back to that store and mention it. I haven't gone back to check out if the display has been moved or not. I've been rather busy these past few weeks. If it has not, I will make good on my "notice" to picket the store until the display is permanently relocated to a section of the store that is safe from small children.

( David M. Gronbach )

I am no longer actively soliciting comments to be posted on this page.

The experiences posted here are those of the individuals involved.

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Last updated at 15:45 PDT on August 29, 1998.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA