Was that CrapUSA or CompUSA



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My experience with CompUSA as an employee and a customer


The Job

I started working at CompUSA in November of 1998 as a technician. At first I was happy, surrounded by all the goodies I liked to play with. Then reality set in. The service manager had been there 5 years and was fed up with the public and everything else. I guess some chairs had flown around the room before I started and not by themselves. He refused to go out to the counter and talk to any customers even though they asked for him. The customers would then go to the store manager, who in turn would dump on the service manager, who in turn would dump on us for decisions that we were not empowered to make.

I was a night shift guy. I was often left alone to make my quota of work, answer phones, and work the front counter all at the same time. Many nights, I didn't take a lunch or ate while I worked and consequently didn't punch out for lunch on the time clock. No problem! I discovered months later that the person in charge of time was punching me out for 1 hour without my knowledge (which is against the law) in order for the store to avoid any labor issues. How thoughtless of me, I forgot to thank him.

In the course of my 17 years of employment, they went through 4 service managers. Shortly after I left they laid off or reassigned all but a few of them, even a few they had just finished training. They thought that the business manager could drop by once in a while from across the store to do this more than full time job; dealing with warranty issues, tracking work flow, handling higher level customer complaint issues, reviewing performance, etc. Many jobs didn't get done on time because technicians didn't have the authority to resolve customer/manufacturer/warranty issues. I guess that's one way to stop returns or warranty claims!

Getting things like an ink cartridge to test a customer's printer was not allowed. So what if you didn't have a known good one to test with? No one ever had an answer for that. You just got them from the stock and no one talked about it. Then they complained about unaccounted-for inventory and searched everybody's pockets at the door!

And then there were the 8 AM Sunday mornings on my days off when I had to drive in for 1 hour (whoopee) to be at the morning meetings. These were to introduce yet another new manager (old ones disappeared mysteriously) or a new incentive program or to talk about our attitude problems and how to treat customers well (like we were not being treated). The vacation "request" form read something like this:

"This is a request for time off and is not to be interpreted as a demand! Management reserves the right to alter or cancel scheduled vacation based on businesses needs. Not showing up for work during the requested time when it has been canceled is grounds for disciplinary action". Hello! Ever buy a plane ticket, book a motel room, or buy a vacation package? I guess you couldn't afford it anyway. I really thought they might spank somebody right in the middle of the sales floor!

As an employee you can buy items at cost, a perk if you can afford it. I was told one time when buying a hard drive that if I didn't purchase the insurance plan with it (as a show of support for that program) that the manager was "seriously" considering not letting me buy it. Another tech had bought a computer and the warranty for it several years before. It required replacement because the parts were no longer available. The manager coerced him into submitting for the full retail replacement value to the warranty company, gave him the PC at store cost, and kept the difference. I'd bet the warranty company would love that one!

Physical inventory, which is supposed to be done every quarter, failed to get done 5 times as scheduled and when I left the store, they still hadn't done it. Every time they thought they were going to do it, everyone had to come in for extra duty, disrupting their lives and not making plans with their families, only to be told to turn around and go home (without getting paid for any time). Everyone showed up and not one manager had the courtesy to call their people and tell them not to come in. It sure builds up confidence that your leaders know what they’re doing and care! And it really helps their credibility too when they say, "It's definitely happening on Saturday, be there or we'd write you up!"

One store had a big software copying problem and fired 5 techs and their service manager over it. All the stores were asked if they could share their techs to help keep up and catch up until new people could get on board. They were desperate. 70 jobs were backlogged - about a week to even look at something. Customer: "Hello, my PC has been there almost a week - What did you find?" Sound familiar? They offered mileage and paid lunches for anyone willing to help out. I went to this store for about a month and submitted all of my expenses to an unwilling manager (he didn't want the hassle). Then I was informed that my old store didn't need me full time and my choice was limited, so I had to drive twice as far through downtown traffic. The manager couldn't remember where my receipts had gone and didn't know anything about the status of my expenses. Finally, when my paycheck, which kept getting sent to my old store, didn't show up on time, I quit (no direct deposit for the peons, only management). My wife had to drive down to the store while I was at my new job and wait for hours for them to issue a check at the store. They don't like to do things that way! It's not procedure. I had to take CompUSA to the labor board for my expenses which I finally got months later. They had to issue my check to the labor board 3 times before they finally got it.

The Policies

And now for some insider tips:

CompUSA strategy #1: The CompUSA shuffle.

Never leave anyone in a position long enough to answer for their actions or what they say. Relocate them or otherwise make them unavailable to answer questions or remember details of what took place only a little while ago. That way, the new person has no idea what you are talking about and will take forever getting answers, if they even bother, if they even can. Remember, they have a full time job doing other things besides helping you! Be patient and don't be so selfish! They're busy!

CompUSA strategy #2: The CompUSA round-robin.

If you are a non-technical person and don't know what the customer wants, transfer them to tech support. We know everything and love to answer all those questions about pricing and store hours instead of meeting our quotas. And the customer is really happy when we transfer them back to the reception phones.

CompUSA strategy #3: The CompUSA excellence.

Why bother to train people when they can muddle through on their own; By constantly interrupting others trying to meet their quotas; By asking months worth of questions and gathering knowledge one piece at a time? And be sure to humiliate anyone in front of others for making the wrong decision with no information to go on. Make them feel real guilty about what they have cost the store. I wonder what it costs to muddle through?

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