I really don’t want to be “that guy” who’s known for giving bad reviews about retailers or tech businesses. I love my weekly trips to Fry’s and Best Buy because it allows me to see what geeks and non-geeks alike are being exposed to in the retail world. What products are being pushed right now, and what appears to be selling the most?

Frankly, I’ve pretty much had it with third-party salespeople at Best Buy. If I have one more pushy Clear representative stop me and my wife as we attempt to make a quick purchase, I’m apt to just quit going to Best Buy entirely. It isn’t so much that I get stopped by someone and asked if I’m a Direct TV customer, or a Clear customer, but that when I tell them “no” their immediate response is to continue their pitch. This leaves me in the uncomfortable situation of either rudely about-facing and walking off or standing there for five minutes why a rep tells me that I need to sign up with them to receive more of a service I already subscribe to.

Best Buy isn’t the only offender here. I get pitched by Clear, Direct TV, and a number of other third-party vendors at Fry’s Electronics as well.

Stop it.

What’s Happening Now

The most recent occurrence happened while my wife and I were stopping in the Best Buy to take a look at their camcorders. I know exactly what camcorder I want, and wanted to see if any in-store specials were currently being run that might help me grab the particular model at a lower price.

We were approached by someone wearing a shirt with the Clear logo on it. It’s the same person I’ve been approached by twice already in the past, and one of three or four I’ve dealt with in the past couple months during my regular trips there. He started asking me about my current Internet provider, to which I responded, “I’m already with Clear. I have two modems right now, actually.”

He didn’t skip a beat. He said, “Well, you know if you sign up with me today, we can get rid of that two-year contract. You’ll need to purchase a modem, but you’ll be free of the contract.”

Now, I understand how commission works, but I didn’t walk into a Clear store. I walked into a Best Buy. I told the rep that he had already tried to pitch me in the past, and I was frankly surprised that being told I already had two modems and plenty of service wasn’t enough to make him stop pitching me. In fact, I signed up for my Clear service through that very same store.

DirectTV is another third-party vendor that camps out at my local Best Buy. Like clockwork, every time I pass by the televisions on my way to the PC area, I’m asked if I’m happy with my present provider. My response, which I’ve repeated so many times at this point that I have it memorized, is simply that I’m happy with my present provider, and have no intention to install a dish for my apartment.

Fry’s Electronics is about the same. There’s a space smack in the middle of the store in a crossroads between gaming, PC components, media, and audio that has one or more booths set up by third-party vendors complete with pushy salespeople. I’ve been approached by more Internet service providers, newspapers (why are they there, really?), software vendors, and other subscription-based services than I care to remember.

Am I in their targeted audience since I’m visiting an electronics store? Maybe, but at one point the store itself may be chasing away customers. Isn’t it hard enough to get people to visit a brick-and-mortar store these days without adding harassment to the downsides?

What Electronic Stores Should Do

Give your vendors a passive license to exist in your stores. I’m not necessarily advocating driving these vendors out entirely as many of them do provide a service that customers might well be looking for. For example, someone who just bought their first PC for their new home might be interested in signing up with an ISP. In that sense, it provides a one-stop solution to the store’s customer’s needs. This is a value add, not a detriment to the customer.

Here are some general guidelines I’d propose third-party vendors be required to adhere to:

  • Vendors may set up a booth in the store with plenty of visibility and demo units.
  • Vendors must not approach, stop, or otherwise wave down customers passing by en route to other parts of the store.
  • Vendors must back away when the customer indicates they’re not interested in the product and/or service.
  • Vendors may not bad-mouth their competitors.
  • Vendors should, at all times, remain within five feet of their booth when speaking with customers.
  • Vendors may not solicit signatures or other written documentation unless a direct sale is being made.

With these rules in place, a store can better protect its customers from harassment while bringing the added value of extra products and/or services to their shop. These vendors can be an asset to any store as long as they do not distract customers from conducting their intended business.

Final Thoughts

I’m frustrated with my favorite stores being invaded by salespeople that don’t have anything to do with the store I’m visiting. Would you want a friend chicken vendor to go out of his way to sell you fried chicken at a vegetarian restaurant? No, of course not.

There’s room for ISPs and news agencies to exist within a larger electronics store. It isn’t out of the question to imagine that customers buying a TV might want to upgrade their cable service. It makes sense, and that’s why these vendors pay to be there. The problem is that when I’m standing in front of flash drives, the last thing I want to deal with is a pushy cable provider telling me why I need to drop my existing service to switch to their more expensive and less reliable one.

Really guys, this isn’t rocket science.

Do you agree? Are you tired of seeing third-party vendors walking up and down the isles of your favorite electronics store? What would you do to change this?

Photo By: Craighton Miller