Experiences at Fry's Electronics, Page Six

I work for one of those Incredible Universes that is going to be taken over by Fry's. Since I've never been to Fry's before, this forum of yours is the only way to find out what it is I'm getting myself into. (Besides what my supervisor is telling us, she says it's a "great" family company.) When they do take over, I will send reports from the inside, from the "Fry's" side.

( I.U. Insider/Fry Spy )

The Manhattan Beach store just lost their overflow parking lot. I haven't been able to find a place to park in the last three times I went there. I called their main number and asked where you're supposed to park. The lady answering retorted, "I don't know, we (the employees) are in the same boat as you." I don't know how a store like this can even stay in business!

I think the worse thing I experience is when you return things that are defective and you watch them immediately repackage it. Who knows how many times these defective things are recycled to the shelves!

( another customer )

I must say that it was entertaining to read all the "horror" stories about Fry's. My husband and I laughed our heads off at the striking similarities of the problems that we ourselves have had in the past. Yes, Virginia, Fry's does like to waste our time and make us feel like incompetent fools. So here is our "horror" story.... or should I say stories.

The first one is my husband's experience at the Woodland Hills "Alice in Wonderland" store.

I had decided to upgrade my mother board from a DX4/100 to a Pentium. I saw that Fry's was having yet another sale. Pentium 166 CPU and Motherboard for $184.00. I saw that they were also selling 60ns,72 pin, 32mb, non-parity RAM simms for $129.00, and I thought,"What a good price, I'll buy some of those too." My wife and I drove to the nearest Fry's(Woodland Hills). It's only three hours away. The motherboards for the sale were out of stock. The RAM was also out of stock. I found out from the sales person that they had had only 25 of the RAM simms in question in stock anyway. I asked that, in the interest of customer satisfaction, (an act of purest optimism) that a motherboard with identical performance characteristics be provided, together with the Pentium166 CPU, at the sale price. Much to my surprise, such a motherboard was located! It was then discovered that there were no Pentium 166 CPU's in stock. In fact, the only two Pentium CPU's for sale in the ENTIRE store.

A 60mhz, and a 75mhz CPU. Knowing that a 75 mhz Pentium and DX4/100 CPU are almost identical, but unwilling to leave empty handed after a three hour drive, I decided to purchase the 75 mhz Pentium CPU. It was a display model, so I was fairly certain that it was not defective merchandise, that had been returned, and marked as new. Now for the RAM. It was also out of stock, but I was certain that some accomadation could be made. Not that I thought FRY's would want to do anything, it was confidence in myself that spawned such optimism. Three of my stronger personality traits have always served me in good stead at FRY's. I am very persistent, I love to haggle, and I have no time sense. The supervisor in the memory department eventually decided (after we discussed it for FOUR hours), that the RAM simms that were $20 more that the sale simms, but had otherwise identical characteristics (except manufacturer), should be discounted to the sale price, and sold to me. I now had what I wanted, prompted by previous experience, I wanted to see if my purchases would work, before I left the store. I was told that there would be a $20 charge for installing the RAM/MB/CPU combination. Given the inconvenience of returning merchandise, I agreed to pay. The service technician installed everything in one of their test computers. Nothing worked. While the technician milled around, scratched himself, and waited for his supervisor to come diagnose the problem, I read the manual for the motherboard. During the hour it took the supervisor to arrive, I became thoroughly familiar with the manual. So familiar, in fact, that the reason the for the malfunction became obvious. I discovered that the motherboard was very unusual, in one way. Every Pentium motherboard that I have ever installed, or seen advertised, had one thing in common; they all required Non-Parity memory. This motherboard required PARITY memory! This could only be discerned by looking at the Simm combinations in the Memory Combination Table, in the motherboard manual! Nowhere else was it mentioned. After discussing the matter for three more hours, it was agreed that a motherboard costing $40 more than the sale motherboard (but having one fewer PCI slot) would be sold to me for the sale price. After checking the motherboard documentation myself, to insure compatability, I decided to let them try it again. I was informed that the new installation would take an hour. My wife and I went to dinner. When we returned, to my total amazement, the technician was able to demonstrate the working MB/CPU/RAM combination. For those of you who were counting, that's a total of NINE hours. Before I go, let me pass on two tips. 1. Never yell, or act threatening in any way. Always be polite and persistent. Acting hostile will only get you hauled away by plain clothes security. 2. When you ask a CSR to reduce the price on an item, he always goes to a computer. Watch the monitor. As the CSR enters price reductions a number toward the middle of the screen will gradually approach zero. When this number reaches zero, the price reduction that the CSR has typed in has reduced the price of the item to the price FRY's paid for the item. They will usually sell you the item if this number is zero, just to get rid of you, if for no other reason. They will never (in my experience) sell you the item if this number is negative.

PS-Nine hours is not the largest amount of time I have spent in FRY's dealing with a problem......

Okay so now that you have heard my husbands problem, here's mine.

Long, long ago, in a Fry's far, far away (Woodland Hills).....

While I was waiting patiently for my husband to deal with the Pentium Motherboard problem, I decided to look around for some last minute Christmas gifts (bear in mind that it is the 19th of December, and the store was somewhat packed) as well as a few gifts for me and my husband. In the entire store there was only one-count it kiddies- one intelligent, English Speaking salesperson. (gasp-quick! get the smelling salts!!) I needed a faster modem and a new cd-rom drive, both of which I got at a really good price (where else can you get a 10x cd-rom drive for a Mac for only 299.00?). So anyway, I found the sales person in the PC Modem aisle. I was quite confused as I could not find the modem I was looking for. The saleslady came up to me and asked "Can I help you?" I answered, "Yes, I am looking for a 28.8 Modem for my Mac." She politely informed me that I was on the wrong asile and led me to the Mac Modem asile, where we found what I wanted and shockingly enough it was in stock. She asked me if there was anything else, and I told her that I also needed a new cd-rom drive. She again led me to the asile where they were and I got my cd-rom drive. Amazingly in stock as well.

So let's see, I've got my modem and my cd-rom drive. I check on my husband; still busy with the semi-intelligent salesman. So I then mosey on over the toy/science project aisle. I pick up a pack of glow-in-the-dark stars for my nephew and I also checkout all the neat stuff that's there. I check on hubby again; he looks like he's about done, then-- wait....... It seems like the salespeople have a spouse detector, and if they sense that one is nearby, they try as hard as possible to take as long as possible. So I'm back to wandering around the store again. Finally, he's done. And I have to say that this is undoubtedly the longest I have ever been in a Fry's store. And to top it all off, there is still the 3 hour drive back home. If you live far from a Fry's you might as well get a hotel room for the night. So, after nine hours and some sore feet later, we finally got what we wanted. But Fry's has a long way to go to become a real leader in the computer industry. I think I got better service from the employees at Circuit City, Incredible Universe, and CompUSA. At least if they didn't have an answer to a question, they found someone who did. How many salespersons at Fry's can do that?

But Dave, kudos to this page. I hope to see more sound off's in the future.

( two more dissatisfied customers )

Wanted to find out when the store opened. Called the Burbank Fry's. They would not pick up the phone. Rang for 15 minutes. This is at 10 in the morning. I thought, the store had to be open. I will never know. 15 minutes is my limit.

Bought a motherboard from the Woodland Hills Fry's in August of 1996. Took it home. I like to think I am pretty computer literate (been doing this for 14 years). 8 hours later after installing the motherboard, the stupid thing could not count past 8MB at boot up and it constantly locked up. Had my wife take it back, they wouldn't give her a refund until AFTER they installed it themselves and tested it for a half hour. Remember...she went through the same half hour in the customer service line everyone goes through. Good part of this story was that she was also returning a Art Pad she had bought in December. Since she was replacing the faulty Art Pad with a more expensive pad the big dodos took the pad and gave her credit for a new one. At least you can say this about Frys...they are consitently dumb!

Wanted to buy a new monitor. Best prices are where? FRY'S. Went to the one in Fountain Valley (50 miles from my house). Thought, maybe the customer service wouldn't be bad (the only other Fry's I had been to was [in] Woodland Hills). Well, I stood in front of one of those Pits and asked for a monitor. There were two managers and two co-workers trying to figure out how to put in a purchase order for a PC. How many Fry's employees does it take to put in a purchase order for a PC? As far as I know ...the record stands at 4. It took them an HOUR, I swear, for them to put the purchase order in. Of course the family buying the PC had the spawn of Satan as their love child so my wife and I got to hear non-stop crying for an hour. During the course of the hour of waiting for someone to fetch the Monitor for me the 2 managers asked me "How can I help you? ' I said, "I want to purchase a monitor." His response, oh ...we will get someone for you in just a second. This was the 2 managers who were fighting with the terminal to put in the purchase order for the PC. Well after waiting for someone to finally get the Monitor for me, we waited 15 minutes for the guy to come back with the monitor. I was not a happy customer. My wife swore off Fry's forever. But you know how that works.

WENT BACK TO FRY'S :( The Monitor we bought was destroyed in a storm 3 months later and the place we stay at gave us money for a new monitor. We had to go back to Fry's. They gave us too much money back and we wanted to take advantage of the low prices at Frys and pocket the rest. We went to the Burbank Fry's (stupid me still thinking..well all the Fry's can't have bad customer service (someone slap me with a 10 page Fry's sale layout PLEASE!) Well, this time it was horrible. We get to the pit again. We see the monitor in a cage right behind the pit. The two guys standing there asked how could they help me. I said, "I want that monitor right behind you." Guess what they said? That is not our department. I stayed calm and said, "Ok, where is the department for the Monitors?" Of course, they point to the empty Pit down at the end of the aisle. So I am mega-p*ssed but I figured out the best way to get quality customer service from Frys. I swear this works everytime. I go over to the Motherboard department and start opening the boxes and pulling out the motherboards. 30 seconds later a guy runs over like a bat out of hell asking "How can I help you?" After that the customer service rep is at your beck and call until you leave the store. Frys does not tolerate thieves.

I just want to let everyone know...you are not alone.

( Bryan )

We purchased a box of Maxell Macintosh-formatted floppy disks at the Fry's in Fountain Valley yesterday. When we took off the shrink wrap and opened the box, we counted only eight disks instead of ten. And there was no little package of disk labels. Instead someone had applied the labels to each disk, not wrapping the label over the end, but flush with the top of the disk. This meant that the disk label covered the end of the little door on the disk so that it was glued shut. On each label, someone had carefully written "Windows 95."

Apparently, someone had purchased the box of disks, put labels on them and then discovered that the disks didn't work (gee, I wonder why) and returned them to Fry's. Fry's took them back, didn't open the box, didn't inspect anything, didn't count disks, but simply put new shrinkwrap on them and put them back on the shelf.

I don't see how I can ever again take Fry's seriously as a retailer.

( Timothy Rogers )


Hurrah for your page. If fry's would take the time to read some of the comments of their customers and do something to right them they would probably be unbeatable. My experiance doesn't seem so big after reading through your page. At lunch one day I headed to Fry's in Canoga Park to check on some camcorders. After my reasearch I could not resist a jaunt through the computer area. While drooling on the SIMMs I got the impulse to pick up 8 megs and be back to work no problem. My mistake, getting to the checkout counter was a breeze - no line at all. Once there I found out that my quote sheet was for two simms I alerted them to that fact and that I only wanted one. While now we rocked the boat so it takes two trips to get the quote sheet changed and then the clerk comes back and tells me it will be a couple of minutes until a new sheet is printed and then she can get me my stuff. Being at lunch I asked if it would be three, five, ten or twenty minutes. The answer came back in a short gruff "I don't know, these things take time, you'll just have to wait." It made me feel as if they know you aren't their only customer and so what if you don't like it. Trying to lodge a complaint was the same for me as it was for many of your authors. I guess it's good to know I'm not the only one.

Maybe if your page catches the right person's eye it will do some good.

( Paul Damas )

After reading almost all of these comments, I couldn't help but desire to put in my two cents.

I couldn't agree with most of these people more. I think most of us must be masochistic in some way; if Fry's wasn't so darn fun to wander through (unaccosted by the "help" of course), I and most others, it seems, would take our business elsewhere in a second. To be fair, I'll recount a horror story that had a semi-acceptable ending.

About six months ago, I went in to the Fry's store on Brokaw in San Jose to purchase a CD-Rom that was on sale. Knowing their packaging/restocking policies, I chose a box that looked very much unopened. I took it home, read the directions for the "Plug and Play," and attempted to install the puppy. Guess what?? It didn't work. I read the directions, checked the jumper positions, checked the wiring, checked the board that accompanied it, nothing. Everything SHOULD have worked. So then I brought my father over to see if he could help. No such luck--it was missing the software installation disk. Good! Well, everyone that shops at Fry's should know that buying something requires a minimum of two more visits to get something that works, so I decided that I would just return the whole thing in just one visit. Unfortunately, this was THE ONE TIME I actually couldn't find the receipt. With great dismay, I went into the store, expecting the worst. I waited 10 minutes in line to explain what had happened; I figured that with my check number, the acct. number, and my driver's license, they should be able to look up the receipt in the database. After half an hour of talking to various ignorant people, I found someone who said they could indeed do this. Of course, it took him another 35 minutes, apparently because he didn't think I gave him the correct checking account number. Umm, okay. You're right, I have NO idea what my own checking account number is. Just because I'm a female doesn't mean I need to be spoken to any slower. Do I have to pull out a copy of the PhD for some respect??? Anyway, they finally found it, gave me a full refund, and very little hassle after that. It could have been worse, I suppose.

As a post-script to this story, after this I still had the undeniable urge to browse. I ran into a sales associate (or so I thought) and asked him to tell me where the espresso machines were. Not only did he take me over there, but asked if he could get me anything else while I was there. Thanking him, I told him "no" and looked at his name tag. It was Randy Fry. :)

( Alicia A. )

My machine wouldn't boot yesterday. I have a major deadline to meet at work and I am three days behind schedule. So I said to myself, I can't afford to muck around my machine, so I took the machine to Fry's San Jose early yesterday morning. The manager of the service department told me that running a diagnostic would cost me $49.95 and they would do a thorough job to tell me which component is bad. I signed on. At 5pm, I went to the store. The guy who worked on my machine told me that I had a bad motherboard. He also told me they he took everything out and tested each piece individually and the only thing bad was my motherboard. I believed him and went home with a new motherboard. I installed the motherboard and the machine failed the same way. I became upset. I decided to diagnose the machine myself. I took everything out, put the old motherboard back in with only my graphics card, my floppy and keyboard attached. The machine booted right up. I then put my hard drives bock in, and it booted right up also. I then hooked up my CD-rom drive and the machine failed. The problem I had was with my CD-rom drive and not my motherboard. I diagnosed this problem without any sophisticated diagnostic tools. I felt I didn't get the service I paid for at Fry's. So, I went back this afternoon to talk to the technician. He insisted he followed all the procedures and tested everything in my mahine. I asked him if he tested my machine without the cd-rom drive installed. He said no, and it wasn't part of the procedure. I asked him what he tested. He said everything. At that point, I asked to talk to the manager. The manager had a major attitude problem. Told me there is no refund for labor, and he was busy and told me tough that they told me the wrong thing.

I consider myself ripped off, or at least met with total incompetence.

( Edward C. Kwok )

Fry's is really shameless. Today I bought a replacement HP IIP Toner Cartridge because the one I was using had gone bad (scored the pages). I bought the original from Fry's. In the HP Toner Cartridge box is a warranty from HP which says, "if the cartridge is defective, return it to the store where you bought it, and it will be replaced."

I took the bad cartridge to Fry's with the warranty and proof of purchase and they simply refused to take it back or give me a replacement. Further they would not even acknowledge that they refused to take it back in writing. In fact, the manager on duty sent me to the service desk knowing full well they would not help me. So, he intentionally gave me the run-around.

From here I go to HP. I hope their ethics are better.

( R. Sloss )

Dear Dave,

I highly agree with you about the crappy service, long lines, etc. at Fry's. I especially agree about the "Door Nazis" who check packages on the way out.

Beyond the mere lousy help and stock problems lie other, even more deeply rooted problems. In fact, I have my own tale about the kind of treatment my friends and I have received there.

I'm a tall, blonde white female and I went shopping in a dress (God forbid). I decided to go shopping for various computer programs and the like with my friend James, a clean cut African American male. He pushed the cart while I pulled programs off the shelves. The stupid Sales folks kept coming up to bug me with dumb questions like "Are you sure you know what you want Ma'am?" I did, so I shoed them away as they looked suspiciously at James.

As we finally finished up our shopping, after being seriously grilled at the counter, we walked out towards the doors. I had a few candy bars in my hand and no receipt, but they let me walk out without even looking at my purchases. My friend James, however, was grilled by not one, but TWO door nazis, who were on the verge of asking him for his Driver's License! When I turned around and waited for him, they said, "Oh you're with him?" and let him go by. It was so blatant that I wanted to puke!

I hate going to Fry's, especially if I'm going to need help. I don't usually have a problem finding someone to come running over to me, but when they do, they usually talk to me like I have no idea of what I'm doing ("That's a color scanner, this is a mouse.") It takes all my patience not to tell them off right away.

( Stephanie Emerson, La Jolla )

Dear Dave,

Believing that there are others that have the problems as I have at Fry's is frightening and also amazing. I have yet to be greeted at any Fry's store or questioned "Can I help you, Sir?" That would be a miracle if such occurance happened. I think that Fry's should read this site so that maybe they can find the problem and possibly fix it, yea right. Who are we, just a few of the thousands of dollars spent each day? Confused?

( Brian Thomas )

Today (February 16, 1997), I went to Fry's to purchase a printer. After ten minutes of standing around waiting to be assisted, a young lady approached to assist me in selecting a printer. We discussed various printers for about fifteen minutes. Her grammar was worse than mine in the third grade. When I finally found the printer I wanted, the Epson Stylus 500, I asked to have one brought out, and I was informed by my grammar-lacking customer service representative that they didn't have any in stock. I asked when they would have some. "Never. The model has been discontinued." I then, calmly, asked why on Earth they would have a printer on display that they did not sell, nor had any plans to sell. She mumbled something about a new model being introduced, for the "same low price." But I can't wait two months for the new model, nor do I want to spend an hour shopping for a printer they don't have, nor have any plans to ever have in the future. I will take my business elsewhere. In the meantime, I hope the customer service representative takes some time to learn English - it will greatly help her sales.

( T. A. W. )


I was reading your web page and thought you might be interested in hearing this story. A good friend of mine had recently bought a Cyrix motherboard at Fry's. A friend of his had purchased it on her credit card, and he paid her back the money. He wanted to get a VESA video card later on so they both had distinctly asked the sales clerk if the motherboard had VESA slots, befor it was purchased. The sales clerk had insisted it did. They paid for the motherboard and he went home, and installed it. Since he had paid extra for a motherboard with VESA slots, and was told by the clerk that it was VESA, he felt no need to actually check. A few months later, when he had gotten the new SVGA VESA video cards, he installed one only to find out it didn't work. He had thought it might have just been the card, so he tried another, and yet another, to find that none of them worked. Finding it hard to believe that none of the brand new cards, which were a known brand, worked, he tested them in my computer, which has VESA slots, to find that they all worked perfectly fine. After having his motherbaored checked out, he found the slots in it weren't at all VESA. The warrenty on the motherboard had run out, and he didn't have the papers because the person that had purchased it for him had them, and was out of town. He took it back to Fry's to try to exchange it, because he was told it was a VESA befor it was purchased, and had paid the amout for a VESA. He was there for two hours going from department to department and being given the runaround by each. It seemed no one there had even heard of the sales person that sold it to him. Finally someone (one of the original people he went to when he entered the store) told him that he couldn't exchange it because the warrenty had worn out. So since he has little money, and is in no position to sue anyone, he is stuck with a non VESA motherboard, even though he paid for a VESA one. I think this is completely outrageous.

The controler switch in my computer (a Gateway 2000 System) that controled the printer port and drive A:\ went out two months after the warranty wore off and Gateway said if I was willing to ship it back to South Dakota they would take a look at it and fix it for free. I declined because of the fact that it would take a few months to get there, be serviced, and get back, but it was still nice of them to offer. Also, on the way out of Fry's, they had stopped them and asked to look at his motherboard to make sure he wasn't stealing it from the store, these are the same people that told him he could bring it in the store to show to the salesclerk or whoever.

--- two weeks later ---

My computer is fine now :) It was just a broken controler switch. Didn't cost more than $25 to replace it. It would have just taken a long time to have it serviced at Gateway 2000 because they are in South Dakota, and I am in California, and since the warrenty had run out, and they had other computers to service, there would have been a wait. So though it was nice of them to offer, it really wasn't worth the time :)

( another customer )


I have bad experiences at Fry's, too. And I want others to take my misfortunes seriously. But that said, please consider this alternative analysis of Fry's as a business.

Market-leading businesses can be classified as either of three kinds: product leaders, customer-service leaders, or value leaders. A product leader would be Intel, a customer-service leader would be Nordstrom, and a value leader would be Wal-Mart.

Market leaders do not try to lead in more than one of these categories. For instance, Intel's customer service is not like that of Nordstrom. But it is adequate. Similarly, Nordstrom doesn't have the lowest prices, but they are not outrageously high. And Wal-Mart doesn't have the highest quality products, but it has an adequate level of quality for the value they provide. Historically, companies that attempt to lead in more than one of the three characteristics tend not to become leaders.

Fry's is a value leader, and so their customer support and quality need to be adequate. Interestingly, their current success suggests that their levels of customer support and quality are satisfactory! I'm afraid that I am not helping, either, since I continue to shop at the San Jose Fry's. I guess I want low prices more than I want excellent customer support and high quality!

In fact, one might draw the conclusion that the environment of a Fry's store is a result of us customers continuing to give Fry's business. Gads! It's our fault!

( please withhold name and e-mail )

I have hated Fry's since my very first visit. Their salespeople are for the most part useless (Rule 1: Never ask more than "What aisle is it on?"). Returning anything is a nightmare and typically will take you an hour mininum (Rule 2: Be VERY INSISTENT). Don't pay for anything with a check or cash (see above - Rule 3: Use a high service level credit card).

Also, if you want good service, buy something expensive. I recently purchased 60 Megahertz PCMCIA modems for about $9000 and you'd have thought I bought the company. They kissed my xxx.

Fortunately for me, there's an NCA on El Camino in Palo Alto just South of Fry's. It's rarely busy, and they'll match Fry's price on any item. I ALWAYS stop there FIRST to see if they have what I need.

( another customer)

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 15:30 PDT on November 1, 1999.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA