WILSONVILLE, Oregon - Fry's Electronics is one of those supercenter stores where you generally enjoy roaming around to see what's new and what you may not need but would enjoy having if nothing else but to play with it, usually a computer or video part. You can spend hours looking around at all the gadgets, some of the more recent computer deals or big screen TV, or perhaps even a motherboard you'd like to try your hand at assembling.
But this isn't an ad. It's a review, a complaint about the Fry's Electronics store in Wilsonville, Oregon.
Okay, let me jump right in. I purchased three modules of computer RAM memory recommended to me by Fry's staff. It didn't work. Microsoft's MEMORY test said at least one module was defective and one of the other modules, even by itself, caused my system to beep three times at bootup. I tried everything I could think of. Nothing worked.
A few days later I made the 40 mile trip back to Fry's to return the three modules. I had my receipt which clearly indicated what I had purchased and when I had made the purchase just a few days earlier. I was well within the 30 day return policy.
At the Fry's Return Desk there were four Fry's staff standing around talking. I waited for someone to take my return, standing there for several minutes before a guy named Mike finally decided my look meant I'd like some help please. Even though I was forced to return to Fry's, I was in a good mood, cordial and easy to be friendly.
I gave the Return Desk clerk the memory I was returning, in the original Fry's bag with the receipt. He gave me a neutral but not hostile look, removed the plastic packaging, then looked at this computer screen. All pretty normal and understandable. Memory was expensive. Mine cost $220. Understandably, they had to be careful. Not rude but careful.
Another ten minutes passed while I stood there, the only return customer. I was now annoyed. The Returns Desk clerk who was waiting on me, went back to the memory sticks, then to his computer screen, back and forth. At this point, I had been standing in line for nearly 20 minutes, for no reason. This should have been easy but it was not. Murphy's Law. I eventually asked if there was a problem and was promptly told that two of the modules had a metal covering and that one did not.
"Yeah, so?", I said, a bit perplexed at the remark. I told him that I had wanted three matched modules but that Fry's only had two and I was told by a clerk that there would be no problem with the module without the metal jacket. And anyway if he was concerned about the modules, I was only returning them. (I had already purchased manufacture suggested modules from Amazon, at a higher price.)
The serial numbers were clearly marked on the modules so it had to be obvious, even to any potentially mentally impaired person that these were indeed the modules I purchased. Was he attempting to interrogate me about the purchase, implying these were not the modules I had purchased? It was incredible and insulting. Eventually I told him to either give me the refund or hand over the memory and my receipt. He mumbled a bit and continued to look at the modules. I had enough and told him to return my receipt and the modules to me, which he did.
I then walked over to the assistant manager's office, Brian Rash and briefly told him what had happened, and I also characterizing the Return Desk as The Gestapo. I thought this might be the time for Brian to ask me about my feelings so he could perhaps do something about it, or at least inform the store manager when they next talked. But he did not. He just lost that great opportunity.
The assistant manager, Brian Rash walked me over to the Return Desk and within 30 seconds had refunded my purchase. He was great.
Almost great. Here's the problem:
Brian told me that he took exception to my use of the word "Gestapo", that with his heritage, or faith, I'm not sure, he found the word insulting. Well, so did I and that's why I used it. I felt insulted by Fry's tactics and lack of good customer service. I didn't need a smile but I did need to get the refund and move to my next appointment, which was now in doubt of making on time.
I had made the original 40 mile trip to Fry's, taken lots of time to make my purchase, listened to Fry's advise and took it, only to discover later than one or more of the modules was defective. Yes, crap happens. Murphy again. You'll have to take my word for it that the way I was treated, a customer of long standing, and hell, that should make no difference, a customer, just a customer should not be treated with such indifference, petty if not indirect accusations based on nothing, from someone bored with their job and wanting to have a little fun at the customer's expense. Could I be wrong here? Sure. But I had to wait far too long, forcing me to eventually call and cancel my next appointment.
But does assistant manager, Brian Rash apologize? Does anyone at Fry's apologize for my having to return on a 40 mile journey to return defective merchandise?
No. All I got was a rude and indifferent clerk, who, if he was doing his job correctly would, at the least, have told me he was sorry for the long wait but he had to check on this or that first. But there was no such indication or suggestion. Just the stare, the endless waiting, and final sneer and indifference. Am I overemphasizing? Absolutely not.
Fry's Electronics Assistant Manager Brian Rash was so occupied with his personal feelings about my Gestapo remark that he forgot his customer, no apology, just a stern, unfriendly attitude. So, I asked Brian point blank, "Would you prefer I used the term, "Nazi", which was, I admit, a far-fetched hope of interjecting some humor, if not a point. There was no answer so I said, "Or would you just prefer I called him an asshole?"
Brian seemed to have no objection to "Asshole" for the clerk. Brian also told me he was disappointed that a news reporter would use such terms. I pointed out that I had not told the clerk I was a reporter and anyway, I was not at Fry's in any sort of reporter mode. At least, not until after my conversation with Brian.
I wonder, is the term "Gestapo" so important as to make such an issue of it, over and beyond my having wasted my time, twice, a total over about 80 miles for nothing, only to be treated in the way I observed? Is it just me. Is Gestapo the new G word? Should I reserve my opinion because of my job, even when I'm not on the job? Just sit back and take it, over and again?
I have to wonder at how Brian got promoted to assistant manager. Why would someone on duty, allow his personal faith (I have to assume he's Jewish by his own remarks but honestly, I'm not sure and don't care one bit) get in the way of doing his job? Yes, we can all have opinions but it seems to me Brian has a double standard here. I was not on duty. He was. I was the customer, the only person who lost something. Fry's basically broke even. I lost my time and the gas it took to drive 80 miles.
I understand this story is perhaps not that important but it brings up issues about Fry's that many people have pondered over the years. It's the attitude Fry's Electronics has. And yes, in my opinion, the Return Desk still has people working there who make you feel they are the Gestapo and you are the Jew. Brian, what the hell were you thinking?
Let me move on to an earlier problem I had with Fry's, which is actually more of a problem than dealing with the asshole at the Return Desk.
A few years ago I purchased a $5000 big screen TV from Fry's with the understanding I would need help getting my other 30 inch TV, an older vacuum tube type off the stand where the new TV would sit. It was quite heavy.
I was watching when the two Fry's delivery guys lifted the old TV off the stand. One guy let go and the TV hit the floor with a thud. It was not until the next day, when I attempted to turn the old TV on that I noticed it was broken. I hired a TV repairman and found that the circuit board had been cracked right where the TV hit the floor.
I called Fry's and complained about this but the two delivery guys lied and said they had not dropped the TV. I mean, I've been around for a good number of years but this blatant lie was surprising, after the fact that I had just spent $5200 at Fry's. It wasn't so much the old TV, even though it has still worked and that I had wanted to put it into the den, it was that they lied, lied big. And it was that Fry's Management did not even want to look at the evidence. I could only conclude that FRY'S Electronics were crooks. I can say this without fear of being sued because I still have the bill from the TV repairman and the photos of the dented and cracked old TV.
But it was disappointing that Fry's Electronics let me down.
I eventually just let it ride, and continued to hold my breath each time I had to return anything to Fry's. That is, until today.
Okay, here's a bit more of my observations and strange history at Fry's Electronics:
You'll know you're in Fry's when you understand the owners save every last penny they can by using archaic sales equipment, updated only when totally necessary, and too often, not even then. That's not the fault of local management but the three Fry brothers, John, Randy, and Dave; and of course, Kathy Kolder. Let's not forget Kathy.
You talk to one of the associates who generally knows more about computers than the average person but all too often, not. That means if you do buy something based on their 'expertise", there's a good chance you'll need to return your merchandise for a refund. That's when the trouble begins.
I've been shopping at Fry's for many years, even before they were "FRY'S", when the store was known as INCREDIBLE UNIVERSE. I've spent over $30 grand over the years myself. We've seen management change quite a bit. The last to go was Michael Anton, fired for a reason I'll refrain from getting into.
Fry's is not above executing it's power over other businesses or individuals. The domain name frys.com was owned in 1997 by David Peter Burlini, who understandably manufactured and sold French fry vending machines under the business name Frenchy Frys.
The Fry's brothers much have been upset they were forced to use a different domain name but they hired a lawyer and brought suit against Burlini that year, alleging trademark infringement, and eventually won a judgment, forcing Burlini to fork over the domain he had originally registered.
In 2001, Fry's prosecuted a man who was posting its own print ads on the Web using the domain frysad.com. In 2007, Fry's Electronics lost a domain dispute against Prophet Partners Inc., an online advertising company with thousands of generic and descriptive domain names. The arbitrator in the case rightfully dismissed the complaint, which requested transfer of the Frys.us domain, ruling that Fry's Electronics did not have any more right to use the "Fry's" mark than other entities with a similar surname or commercial use of the word.
Hey, I'm not the first to use the Gestapo label. For Fry's, it's a pretty common label. Here's a reference to it found on this page published last year:
QUOTE: "I went to Fry's to purchase software. Nobody asked me if I needed help as I walked through the aisles looking. When I got to the counter to pay for the software, the associate mumbled something unintelligible almost in another language. I would have taken the bait by saying "huh?" but have been to Fry's enough to know that this is Fry's employees standard modis operandi. It's almost like a game they play to see who can treat a customer the worst without being reported to management.....unfortunately management is probably playing too. Anyway, and for those of you who haven't had the wonderful experience of a Fry's visit, as you head towards the exit you are greeted by the Gestapo who begins an interrogation process of reconciling the items in your bag against your receipt before you can leave. Ironically, they check off your receipt with a PINK marker as though to say "we know we're assholes but the pretty pink checkmark makes it ok for us to treat you like crap"......."Have a nice day". It's like they hire these associates from planet Dull..."
Could I have acted a bit less pissed? Was I a bit juvenile for losing my cool? Probably. Sure. I could have ignored it or simply not used the Gestapo word. But I purposefully chose to use it and would do so again. It fits. It's true and perhaps Brian or new store manager Debi Levitt will find a way to improve their customer-relations by changing their "Gestapo" tactics at the Return Desk.
Photo: Fry's Electronics Wilsonville, Oregon store.
Photo 2: Assistant Fry's manager Brian Rash and store manager, Debi Levitt.
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