Saturday, December 22, 2007

Interesting comment from CompUSA

I don't know if you've heard or not, but CompUSA is going out of business. Well, we have one here, and I decided to drop by and see if there was anything worth picking up off of the sale prices. Thing is, I used to shop at CompUSA all the time, till I found pricewatch.com, then newegg.com through Pricewatch. CompUSA didn't just have prices 10% to 20% higher than online sales, I found a 20gig drive at CompUSA that was over $70 more than the same exact model offline. Same with all the hardware, CompUSA was easily 40% to 50% higher than online stores.

So, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that CompUSA's sale prices... were still above that which I would pay through any pricewatch.com vendor, as well as Newegg.com

So, instead of picking up any hardware, I decided to harass the remaining sales staff. I asked one of the employees off the record if he could comment at all on the impact of Vista sales on the end of CompUSA's business, expecting no comment. Afterall, most such retail chains don't want local employees speaking out for the company.

That... isn't what I got. With a glaring look he responded I'd be better off asking about the returns. Returns? Well, the employee asked me to follow him to the back, and he pulled out a cardboard box opening it up to reveal it was packed full of copies of Vista.

Returns.

Every single one of them he said was returned from consumers... and that they (CompUSA) couldn't ship them back. As he heard, Microsoft wasn't giving credit back for unsold or returned copies... and didn't want the returned figures made public... He wouldn't say that every single one of them exchanged for a copy of Xp, he didn't know if that was true. So, I asked how many boxes did they have. Same glare, followed with a "You do not want to know" type statement.

***

All in all an interesting trip then... I do need to stress that this is third hand information, that the employee was not a manager, and that he declined to allow his name to be published.

Even so, the implications are staggering. CompUSA isn't exactly a tiny retail chain. Underperforming, yes. Tiny... not really. If what the employee stated was true, Microsoft isn't counting or claiming returned numbers on sold versions of Vista, which cuts far into the current estimated number that I have personally placed somewhere on the wrong-side of 30 million.

This isn't exactly a new practice, it's one Sony was confirmed to be using back when the N64 was catching up to weekly Playstation sales in order to make the Playstation sell better. It's one that a couple other software vendors have neglected to talk about before, and why many retail and online stores have a strict Open-Software policy in place. The idea is that nobody is ever supposed to get a handle on exactly how badly a piece of software does on returns.

It also brings to question how many returns that CompUSA refused to honor... and why so many were honored at the store to begin with... questions I did not receive any answers for.
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