Continuing our saga from Part 1...
The time was Friday, July 17, 1998, at about six o'clock in the evening.
The place was Fry's Electronics in Fountain Valley, Orange County, California, United States of America, Planet Earth, Sol system, Milky Way Galaxy, Local Cluster... you get the picture.
No, it wasn't long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, but I wish it was.
Once again I was going computer-stuff shopping at Fry's, and this time I had selected not one, but five 99-cent boxes for purchase, along with some other stuff.
I didn't get tackled by a line-backer this time. I got up to the cash register without incident. My friend Mike Rivers, who had given me a lift to the store, was waiting in the parking lot while I checked out my stuff at the cash register.
It was about six PM when I got to an available checkstand. I presented my goods for purchase, and the cashier rang them up, and I paid for them, and she gave me a receipt and my change. It was then that I noticed that I had been charged $1.50 each for the five 99-cent boxes. I called this to the attention of the cashier, who then confiscated my merchandise and receipt and went and conferred in a foreign language with her supervisor.
An hour later, at about 7 PM, she came back with another employee who attempted to do a "price adjustment" on the 1.44MB Maxell disks which I had bought. I explained that the actual price error was with the disk-storage boxes, not the disks. Both employees ran off together, chatting in yet another foreign language which I didn't recognize. (Flemish? Mongolian?)
Another hour later, at about 8 PM, a third employee came back to the checkstand and agreed to let me have a 23-cent price adjustment. Hmmm... I was over-charged 51 cents each on five boxes, and she added it up to 23 cents? Well, no one in their right mind ever accused any of the employees of Fry's Electronics of having intelligence beyond the "imbecile" level, so I accepted the 23-cent price adjustment and went out to the parking lot to let Mike know what the scoop was. Mike was not amused, and frankly, I was getting very angry at this point.
So, I made the decision to go back into the store and demand a major downward adjustment in price. I did so at about 8:15PM. I demanded to speak to the General Manager. After waiting another 30 minutes, I finally met the mangier. I explained the situation, and he filled out a form and gave it to me, and instructed me to fill in my name, address, home phone number, work phone number, and social security number. I filled the form out, using phony information of course, and went to checkstand 1 (returns and exchanges).
It was now about 9PM. The clerk at checkstand 1 did not understand the form, and kept looking at it and saying, "This is WRONG! Someone do it WRONG! This is all WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! This is all WRONG! I can't figure this out! This is WRONG! It's WRONG!" She went on like that for about 30 minutes. Then she went off and consulted with the manager for a brief spell, then came back and babbled some more about how the price-adjustment form was "WRONG!", then finally gave me another $2 in price adjustments. This still left Fry's owing my $0.32, but at this point, I wasn't going to spend another 5 hours arguing about it!
It was now about 9:45PM. I went back out to the parking lot to meet my friend Mike, who by now was very angry over the extreme delay (3 hours and 45 minutes) in obtaining a $2.23 price adjustment. We drove home in silence.
I later learned that this type of thing is far from unusual, and that the average time required for Fry's Electronics to execute a return, exchange, or price adjustment is 3 hours! And yet, people keep coming back to Fry's, in spite of the slow, surly service. Everyone wants great prices and selection, even if it takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to do $2.23 worth of business. That's the mystery of Fry's.