Experiences at Fry's Electronics, Page Seventeen

August 23, 1997

I have been a long time adherent and sufferer of Fry's Electronics. I began my ugly habit at their first store (now long gone) in Sunnyvale where the potato chips were literally stacked next to the microprocessors. Ah, for the good old days, where the store was packed with nerds and hackers (both were honorable terms then) and asking for help was never attempted - after all, who would want to admit that they did not know all of the technology. Things were simpler then - incompatibilities - what are those? We all suffered with DOS or fell in with the money-gouging Apple freaks and then disappeared from the Fry's experience.

Too make a short story long, I want to relate my August purchasing experience as an illustration worthy of Dante or de Sade.

I went to Fry's Palo Alto to buy a hard drive following my semi-annual hard disk catastrophe. Fujitsu had a nice one at 2.1 gig for what was then an attractive price - $179. After getting the necessary 14 signatures (this is not a joke, although two were my own) and enduring the final indignity, I departed, hard drive in hand, anxious to enjoy the lost pleasures of hours of system and file restoration.

Upon getting home, I foolishly failed to check the jumper on the drive and assumed that the "factory default" was as stated in the one-page fly sheet included with the anti-static wrapped package. After about an hour of frustration, the old skeptic in me came out, and I pulled the drive and checked the jumper - oops, what a fool am I.

Once set correctly and after applying the necessary overdrive software, I was ready for a monumental restore. But alas, the drive would not format properly and Windows kept blowing up. Scandisk revealed that starting at about sector 1640 and continuing to the end at 6040 the sectors were bad and could not be fixed. Woe is me. Well, back to Fry's for their helpful service and generous return policy.

Upon entering the waiting room for returns (not unlike the emergency room at SF General) which is conveniently located in the entrance of the store, I steeled my nerves for the long wait. After a short 20 minuets, the friendly greeter addressed me in some language I had never heard and we attempted to converse about my problem. Looking down at the anti-static plastic-wrapped disk, he exclaimed something, and told me to stand in a specific line, behind a woman who must have been renewing her passport without documentation and changeing her vacation travel arrangements to Ulan Bator. After a further 30 minuets, I greeted the clerk in charge, who upon seeing my anti-static wrapped hard drive exclaimed "You must wait for the components person, he will be here in a while, please stand aside for the next customer." Ignoring my foot tapping and continuous repetition of my stress-relieving mantra "Fry's loves me, prices are better at Fry's, there is a God in heaven," he proceded to indulgently process countless other customers returning with all sorts of things - even some that I did not know Fry's sold. Eventually, the clerk noticed my by now full growth of beard and called on the telephone/intercom for the components guy.

After the fourth Ice Age, the components guy showed up. He was a really nice chap and was knowledgeable. He understood the errors I described and noted them down in the computer record. It's nice that they have multiple monitors so you can watch what they write. "Failed Sectors beginning at 1640 - Scandisk failure," he wrote. He could even spell "sectors" and "Scandisk." He processed some paper and then shouted some magic spell and eventually another clerk, look very annoyed and self-important, came over and typed into the computer the magic password of "000000." Ah, relief is in sight, progress has been made, my blood pressure can't possibly be more that 190/140. Eventually, following the true path, a store credit was issued - including the three initial signatures needed as well as my own. Back to the hard drive department.

At the hard drive department I asked for the same Fujitsu drive model, and the helpful clerk gave me over to another clerk who, in Fry's time, speedily processed my paperwork. "Oh," he exclaimed "you get a deal, today's price is $159, you will get a credit!" "Fry's loves me," I muttered. When all was said and done and the required 14 signatures obtained, I treked to the checkout counter. I counted to the required 10 to the minus 12 backwards in hex and was rewarded with cash register 32. Three signatures later, and a further wait, a slightly dingy anti-static wraped FJ hard drive was placed on the counter. Passing through the tunnel toward the bright white light I breezed through the "final indignity" and headed toward the promised land.

Upon arriving home, I got smart - check the jumper first, then run Scandisk. Jumper was ok, but the drive kind of looked familiar - kind of smudgy with fingerprints. Scandisk was run - and KABOOM - errors at 1640. In addition, on the ok sectors was Windows with my name prominently displayed - they had sold me the same drive that had failed for $20 dollars less. Back to Fry's.

This time I took "War and Peace" which I had always wanted to finish since high school, but after some 35 years I had forgotten all those complicated names and had to start again. With book in hand, mantra in mind and love in my heart, I entered and, to make a long story short, got to the place where Napoleon is torching Moscow. Eventually the nice components guy is recalled and I explain the problem. "Oh no!" he moans, "Don't tell me they put it back in stock!" Embarrased and no doubt mindful of my inconvenience, he flashed into action. By Fry's Time he was post speed of light. Within only a few nano-years he returned with a personally delivered FJ hard drive. This time, using my expensive Stanford Education, I carefully checked the serial numbers and looked for smudgy fingerprints. All looked fresh and new. Oh happy day, "Fry's loves me."

Upon returning to the safety and security of my home office, I applied all that I had learned that week, checked the drive and got ready to format. I set up the FJ supplied disk overdrive manager for the correct geometry, and sat back. Oh, the joys of a restore and the comfort of watching that little white bar turn to blue before my very eyes. But alas, that was not to be - the drive was a smaller version of what I had purchased.

Now I faced a moral dilemma. To return to purgatory and finish "War and Peace," as I had told Mrs Torry (my high school literature teacher) I had done, or to accept the hand that fate had dealt me and live with the smaller drive - after all, I had a $20 dollar store credit. After considerable agony I decided - "Fry's loves me" and I must do what is right. Back to Fry's and the nice components chap.

The customer returns clerks spring into action and about the time they are rebuilding Moscow, I attain an audience with the components guy and leave with a shiny new correct FJ hard drive.

The moral of this true tale is don't lie to your high school literature teacher or the karma of Fry's will get you.

What's that screeching sound coming from my PC?

Better send this email and shut the system down:

Fry's loves you.

( Tim )

August 24, 1997

I am one who detests shopping at Fry's electronics. I shop around, and go to Fry's as the very, very last resort.

Most of the time, clerks at Fry's are peculiar for their penchant for dodging to assist customers and for their rudeness. I am an electrical and software engineer; I require minimal technical assistance. Some times I do need assistance to find products and their pieces, and it is then when I have had bad clerk experiences.

But what I detest the most of Fry's is its policy of frisking customers when leaving the premises. Fry's keeps a person at the exit door who searches customers' bags, that is, searching one's property. Once one has paid the cashier, the goods one paid for are one's property.

Fry treats customers as thieves.

However, what is even more damaging is that Fry's practices illegal and inconstitutional searches. There is something called THE FOURTH AMMENDMENT, which protects us from being searched left and right.

The 4th Ammendment allows searches approved by a court of law or searches made by authorities when there are reasonable grounds for the search. To Fry's, it is reasonable to believe that all customers leaving the premises are thieves.

Fry's and COSTCO/Price Club have pioneered with that most detestable practice of making illegal and unconstitutional searches on customers leaving the premises. CompUSA also does it, or at least did it in the past, I rarely go to CompUSA for that reason.

I entirely never go to COSTCO/Price Club because there is Pak 'n Save and other discount stores where one is treated as a customer. So, I will never go to Fry's when Micro Center and other competitors that respect customers come to town.

Meanwhile, if I have to go to stores where customers are searched, such as at Fry's, I ignore exit-door searchers. And if they insist, I just shout very loud, so that everybody in the surroundings can hear, that whatever I am carrying is my property because I paid already for it.

I hope that the District Attorney reads this letter.

( Rene )

August 24, 1997

I saw the site address for your page in the Sunday edition of the San Jose Mercury News, which contained several articles about Fry's. I thought you might find the following letter to be of interest. As you might expect, I never received a reply. It wasn't until I read the SJMN article that I realized that lousy service and ill-informed, clueless employees are part of their business model. That considered, they probably viewed the following letter as a confirmation that they were performing according to plan rather than one of complaint:


                                                        John MacPherson
                                                        [address deleted]
                                                        July 15, 1995
Manager, Customer Service
Fry's Electronics
440 Mission Court
Fremont, CA

Dear Sir or Madam:

I suppose it's only fair to start out this letter by stating that I am an
unhappy customer with a complaint.  That will give you a chance to ball up
this letter and throw it away without ever having to actually read it.

Ha! Ha!  Of course, I am only kidding.  Everyone knows that the "S" in FRY'S
stands for "SERVICE" (although only a few learn in advance what the "F" stands for).
So I am confident that you will give this letter the full attention that I have
come to expect from Fry's employees (snort).

I came to your humble store seeking a replacement battery for my laptop computer.
In reviewing the parts list with a Ms. Charito Alcantara, I found that I needed
more information about the model number to place a special order for the battery.
Ms. Alcantara gave me her card, and suggested that I phone in my order once I had
the correct information.

After about 14,000 phone calls to your components department a few days later, it
suddenly dawned upon me - no one ever answers your phones.  In desperation, I
called other departments, who, after thoughtfully and carefully listening to my
tale of woe, helpfully forwarded my call to the components department again.

Finally, I was able to reach someone who took my order and told me to sit tight
for two weeks; I would be contacted when the battery arrived.  After waiting for
four weeks with no phone call, I made the mind-roastingly difficult effort to again
contact an actual human by phone at your store.  It took me two days of phone calls
before I was able to get through.  I am not exaggerating here.  I had to call your
customer service department to get anyone to answer the phone.  "Do you remember the
name of the man who took your order?" everyone kept asking.  I suppose it is this
system of organizing special orders by the salesman, rather than the customer's name,
which helps Fry's to cut costs and keep their prices low.

Finally, I was passed along to Ms. Alcantara.  Although she did not take the special
order at the time, she nevertheless took all the information I had to offer and
promised to call me back the next day.  Much to my delight she actually did this.
Unfortunately, there was no record of my order in your system.  She did offer to
contact your buyer, to see if any orders had been placed for that type of battery,
and have her call me with the results.  Would it surprise you to hear that I never
heard from your buyer?  If so, then you have not been fully exposed to "The Fry's

Now, you are probably thinking to yourself, "If this twerp is so unhappy with our
phone service, why doesn't he just come into the store?".  The same thought crossed
my mind, too.  Wouldn't it just be easier to drive to the store, be unable to get
any sales help, and then stand in a long Soviet Union-style register queue?  Gosh,
there's just so many good ways to shop at Fry's!

You seem to have two types of sales people at Fry's.  Type One, like the redoubtable
Ms. Alcantara, are anxiously trying to service a large knot of customers surrounding
them.  The other type, Type Two, are paid by Fry's to stand around and bullshit with
each other.  This is so the customer will feel grateful to finally purchase the product
at any price.  It's just amazing to be standing there, a customer actually wanting to
spend money in your store, and have to wait while the sales guy finishes a long story
about his big water skiing weekend before he will turn his attention to you.

But when all else fails, it's comforting to know that you can rely upon Fry's for
knowledgeable technical advice about your planned purchase.  An actual conversation
I had at your store went like this:

ME: Do you have any 386 motherboards with on-board I/O?

SALESMAN: The motherboards are right along this wall.  Here's the 386 models.

ME: Yes, but none of those have on-board I/O.

SALESMAN: Let me see your old board there [peers at board, squints].  Yes, this one
is bigger than ours. [begins to walk toward Pentium motherboards]  Maybe one of these
will substitute.

ME: Actually, none of these have on-board I/O.  My old board fits in a midget chassis
so there is no room for a separate I/O board.

SALESMAN: Well, we sell chassis for $39.  You could buy one of these and upgrade
everything at one time.

ME: [Leading salesman back down to 386 section]  Here, let me show you what I'm
talking about.  See the connectors here on my board?  They're not present on these
boards here.

SALESMAN: [Struggling with the concept of what I/O means] Yes, your board does have
more memory slots than these do.

ME: What I want to know is [picks up megaphone and shouts in salesman's ear] Do you
have any motherboards with on-board I/O?

SALESMAN #2: [Having finished story about upcoming trip to Cancun, walks over to see
what's going on] Can I help you?

ME: Do you have any 386 motherboards with on-board I/O?

SALESMAN #2: 386 motherboards are right here. [gestures helpfully at the display
boards about 6 inches from my elbow]

ME: Do you have any with on-board I/O?

SALESMAN #2: I/O boards?  They're over on aisle 7.

ME: Bang. [Commits suicide with large-caliber handgun].

You might be interested to know that I did eventually upgrade my whole computer.
And in the time it normally takes me to get waited on at your store, I:

A) Was waited on
B) Discussed some of the technical features
C) Had my components pretested before they were sold to me
D) Paid my bill
E) Found their prices were lower than yours

All of this at Hi-Tech USA.  I'm writing this letter to you on it right now.

By the way, if my order for the batteries ever turns up - feel free to put it up
your...well, let's just say what the "R" in FRY'S stands for.

Sincerely Yours,

John MacPherson
A Dissatisfied Former Customer

August 24, 1997

I recently moved to the Bay area from Los Angeles and had never set foot in a Fry's store until May of 1997. I went in to purchase a telephone headset for work since 80% of my job is on the phone handling marketing for a film industry company. I made the purchase and went through the unusual checkstand.

The headset was incompatable with my phone system at work I returned the item the next day and without any problem. I opted to take a store credit instead of cash and used it to purchase a CD car stereo kit and paid the balance of the cost on my credit card.

Sure enough, just as the earlier product ( the headset) was defective, so too was the CD Car Kit. Plugged in with adapter and nothing. Put fresh batteries in, and nothing. Tried different wall outlets in my house, still nothing. Plugged it into my car cigerette lighter, dead!

So again, I went back to the MAYAN FRY'S to return the item and explained why I was returning it. I told the clerk that I was not upset with Fry's as they did not manufacture the product but I simply wanted my money back.

Then came the red tape...the clerk told me that because I had purchased the CD player with a store credit, that they could only issue me a credit/voucher to purchase something else. I told them I was not interested in buying anything from their store as I was very frustrated. He told me that was their store policy.

I simply replied [that] they "cannot keep my money" and "all you had to do was credit back my credit card." I had returned the item the very next day and within the time frame of their return policy as well as with receipts. If he didn't want to handle, then I would eventually get my money back from Randy Fry directly because I would be writing him if he didn't give me a refund and that I would also inform my credit card company not to accept the charge and that the items were returned.

I then glanced at the counter and found a Fry's Customer Service form and took it with me. At that point the supervisor approved the return and credited back my refund.

Needless to say, my very limited and only experience at Fry's was a poor one and it will be a long time if any that I consider purchasing or shopping there again.

Oddly enough I did get a letter from Randy Fry two months later thanking me for my comments on their customer service.

( another ? customer )

August 25, 1997

We now have a Fry's in Sacramento, too. It's the same chain that I saw in Palo Alpo but it's here for us to enjoy. And yes, a lot of idiots work there and the prices aren't always a deal.

( Gary )

August 25, 1997

I have found that alerting Fry's as to their problems is fruitless.

I have had one singular good experience at Fry's in Campbell, yet even that was tainted with the rudeness of the customers (who no doubt are upset because of how they've been treated by Fry's employees). Never stand in line to DEMO anything, because other customers will bite your head off.

Here [are] two unrelated experiences:

  1. I often use Fry's as my one-stop shopping center for Playstation games. One day I noticed that two games of the same title were priced differently. I was excited to see the price difference as $20.00. I thought perhaps it was a mistake and looked through all the games. To my amazement, there were two rows of games, one row priced at $49.95 and the other row priced at $29.95 for the same exact game. I then, in an effort to be honest, took one of each to the cashier.

    At the cashier's desk I explained to the lady that I found two games priced differently and that it is customary that when a customer finds an error of this type he is granted the benefit of the doubt and charged the lesser of the two, as has happened to me in other stores. She was curious and, while our communication was not all it should be, she took several minutes to investigate. I waited and waited for customer service as did she. Finally, she took initiative and sold me the cheaper game, and kept the other one to correct the problem.

    I walked to the security booth "Final Indignity" and was halted. Upon glancing at my receipt, the first time I noticed anyone actually read the prices and compare them to the price tag, he said, "Something is not right here." I have to commend him on at least knowing his playstation game prices.

    Grabbing my bag from my hands and placing his hand on my back in a very incriminating way, and bringing me back to the cashier, he plops everything onto the counter. "This isn't right," and he spoke to me "Did you place another price tag on this game?" very accusingly. I said "No, all the games in one row are like that." He refused to believe me, and called his supervisor, who was the much awaited customer service. I explained what had happened and fully expected "Sorry for the inconvenience, sir, please have a nice day." But instead got, "Well this is a pricing error and I'm sure it's only the one game." His customer service skills came right out of Guns & Ammo magazine. I then insisted they check the aisle.

    At the aisle, I was proven correct, and then escorted back to the cashier, where I was forced to wait while they Xeroxed everything to prove what error had been made and then... the much awaited "We're sorry" message came.. Right?... WRONG!.. "Sir, this is a pricing error, and that isn't our department... so you're going to have to pay full price."

    I responded, tactfully and calmly, yet obviously upset, "Pardon me?.. A different department?.... Does this different department contract for Fry's or are they full time employees?" I asked. "Full time, sir," they responded. "And as full time employees are you claiming they do not represent Fry's with their actions? You claim that they are acting on their own and that Fry's doesn't take responsibility for them?" "No sir that's...." "And as a customer service supervisor do you contend that Fry's does not claim responsibility for the errors of its employees... that they are working completely independently?" "Sir, I apologize.. yes you're right... the mistake is the responsibility of Fry's and we do share in that but..."

    "But nothing... I hope that as a Fry's representative.. YOUR department will take steps to solve this problem and avoid this problem as well as work with THAT department in reprimanding whomever caused this error. For now.. what do you propose to solve my dilemma?"

    "Well sir, you can either have your money refunded as store credit, or buy the game at full price," came the answer.

    What a choice that was.

  2. The only time I ever had a good experience at Fry's was when I was not shopping and simply walked through. However, to see how good the technical people where, I purposely stood in front of the modem cards for PC's aisle/section/shelves and waited for a hurried employee to race by, stopping him. "Excuse me.. could you please tell me where the PC modems are located?" He then told me go to two aisles over and down a bit. I walked over there and found Macintosh modem cables. I then made a big hoopla to my friends to try this, and since then having tried it 4 times, have only been told once, "Oh, they're right next to you, sir." "Thank you and have a good day."

( gimpel )

August 25, 1997

I went to Fry's store in Burbank on August 15, 1997. I wanted to get a QUICK CAM 2, which CompUSA was selling for $169 with an instant rebate and a manufacturer's rebate. Fry's was selling the same thing for $249.95 with NO rebates. I attempted to get them to honor CompUSA'S price, but they said they couldn't because CompUSA's price was "too low," they were "surely losing money." I said "I don't care if FRY'S was losing money," they had an obligation to not only MATCH the CompUSA price, but to "BEAT" their price, per their written guarantee. They claimed they didn't have to match "rebates," but I pointed out that their guarantee didn't make that exclusion. After THREE hours, that's right, THREE HOURS, I made up my mind I would annoy them until they honored it, which they finally did. I also made them write on my receipt that the rebate from QUICK CAM, which their box showed as expired, was, in fact still valid. They wrote it down that it was still valid. The next week, QUICK CAM sent me a rebate certificate, but it was still expired. Regardless, they claim it is still valid and will be honored.

The bottom line is that FRY'S did whatever they could to try to get out of honoring their guarantee. They came awfully close to calling me a liar, and wasted THREE hours of my time.

Today I went back into FRY'S in Mahnattan Beach to return a bad microphone which was purchased on the SAME receipt as the time I bought the QUICK CAM 2. I only had a photocopy of the receipt, since I had to send the ORIGINAL receipt into QUICK CAM for the rebate I'm still waiting for. Fry's today told me they wouldn't give me a refund since I didn't have the Original receipt. I explained that I was obligated to send the original receipt in for a refund, per their offer in the store, and per what they handwrote on my receipt two weeks ago. They would only give me store credit. Since it was a small amount, I accepted that and didn't feel like wasting ANOTHER three hours arguing with the imbeciles there.

( Jim F.)

August 25, 1997

I was at Fry's today in Manhattan Beach and witnessed the strangest thing for everyone trying to return something: as soon as the transaction was done, the clerk yelled to the greeter at the front door to come over. The greeter then typed in (I assume the day's return code), which I think was 18612 for today (August 25, 1997). The code stayed on the screen every time. It seemed so stupid, because the clerk sees the code EVERY TIME since it remains on the screen. What's the point of having a greeter input these five numbers for every return transaction?

( Jim F.)

August 25, 1997

I purchased a lemon of a computer, a Cyrix 6x86 P150 from Fry's in Fremont October of 1996. It never worked properly. I sued them in Small Claims court. They were represented by a member of their legal staff, Julie Maggio. The crux of the problem was the faulty Windows 95 software which had been included with the computer. I wanted an original copy of the Windows 95 program to reinstall in order to get the computer running again. My copy downloaded from the computer upon start-up, had downloaded incorrectly, leaving me with an unusable back up. Fry's agreed to give me a copy of the correct software and I gave them a CD which had been mistakenly packed with my computer system: it was WordPerfect 7 Suite. When I got home, I realized that they had not kept their word. They had instead, given me a copy of the over-the-counter Windows 95 (version 1995) which I have not been able to install in my Cyrix 6x86. I plan to sue them again to make them install the correct Windows program which came with the computer originally, or have them refund the purchase price. I no longer will purchase anything from Fry's Electronics.


( Larry )

August 25, 1997

I feel your pain with dealing with Fry's. How about this? I went into the Campbell store to buy a Mitsubishi big screen t.v. $3000.00 cash. All the negotiations with the a.v. MANAGER were progressing fine. The sale was just about closed when we got to the point of where I lived. I told him I lived upstairs in a condo. Nothing fancy, just straight up the stairs and into the condo. I had moved in a short time ago with no problem. When he heard upstairs he said, and I quote, " I'm sorry sir, but I'm not going to sell you this t.v." "Why?" I replied. He said he would not deliver upstairs unless I signed a waiver saying if his drivers dropped it I would take a total loss on the merchandise! Uhh, thank you.. no! I left! Drove straight to Andersons T.V., got a better price and told the saleman I lived upstairs and he looked at me and said...SO! We can deliver it tonight if you like! SOLD. Thank you, Fry's, for turning me on to an excellent electronics store..Andersons T.V.

BTW, as far as computers go, thank God... Micro Center opens in Santa Clara in October!

( Steve )

August 25, 1997

They just open a store in Tempe AZ on Monday Aug 25, 1995 3 times I called twice over 40 times the phone rang the 2nd time left message the CSR return call at house return is call he was busy ask for him and store manager to call


Have you got a e-mail address for any of the Frys brothers.

( Jim )

Page Author's notes: (1) He means the Tempe store opened in 1997. (2) Sorry, I don't have any e-mail addresses for any of the Fry brothers.

August 27, 1997

I'm in Computer support for a very big company. I go to Fry's a lot, not because I like it, only because at the time they are the only ones that have what I need.

Every time I visit Fry's, I come out with a pain in my head so bad that I feel like passing out. If it was not for the customers I support that need quick turn arround on bringinig their PC's back, I would never go there - ever.

I will tell you this: before I go to Fry's, I always check other stores like Comp USA. If they have it, that's where I get it. If you could avoid going to Fry's, DO SO!!!! ( Very Mad )

August 27, 1997

Have you been contacted by any Fry's personnel, attempting to make ya remove the page?

It's prolly the next step now that they stole the frys.com domain from Frenchies Fries.

( Jim )

August 28, 1997

I, too, have often wondered why Fry's does not trust me on my brief walk from the cash register to the door. I decided it was nothing personal when I saw that the small group of nuns in front of me also had to wait for an employee to search the contents of their bags against their receipts.

( Bob )

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 09:30 PDT on August 30, 1998.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA