I’ve worked in the customer service industry in some form or another my entire life, working over 20 years in the hospitality business and various other customer-focused jobs. During this time, I’ve seen my fair share of M.I.T.O (Managers In Title Only) strut about pretending to be more important than they were while pushing off most of their work onto the assistant managers. I can’t count how many times I’d seen managers hide away in their office all day long, leaving the heavy lifting of problem resolution to regular employees like me and then Monday morning quarterbacking our decisions. Unfortunately, I can only count on one hand the number of managers I’ve had who really exemplified what it meant to be a leader.
My story began last week; while walking toward my 55-inch 4K Curved Samsung TV, I tripped over a cat toy and fell forward. Thankfully, I had something to stop me from falling on my face. Unfortunately, that something was the screen of my TV! So, I ended up leaving a nice-sized multi-colored crack on the screen, thus ending our five-year-long relationship. After doing a bit of research and getting permission from my wife, I was able to find a newer model on the Best Buy website.
While checking out, I saw that I qualified for their lease-to-own program. I figured it might be a good way not to spend a lot of money upfront, and I could always pay down the balance early. After completing my purchase, I arranged to pick up my new TV at a store in Arlington, Tx, on Sunday. That day I had done some Uber Eats deliveries in the area and decided to knock off around 5 pm to pick up my “brand new” TV set. I can’t lie; I was pretty excited to get a new set finally.
Pickup at the store went off without a hitch, and after loading the TV in my van with the help of an associate, I was on my way. The trip home took about an hour, and by then, I was pretty beat. But, I managed to summon the energy to bring the box inside and set the TV up with my wife’s help.
After we finished mounting the set, I turned on the set for the first time. And I was greeted by this blood-chilling image.
As you can see, the TV set was dark on one side. The first thing that ran through my mind was that I had somehow damaged the TV during the trip or set up. However, I quickly discarded that possibility as I had not dropped or mishandled the set. The only other explanation was that I had a bad TV. So after unmounting and boxing the setup, I called Best Buy customer service, and they arranged for me to pick up a new set at a store a few miles north of the store. I picked up the original since the store in South Arlington did not have any more in stock.
After driving for over an hour in a van with a broken A/C during an 85-degree day in Texas, I finally arrived at the store. When I went inside, I told the customer service rep what happened, and she asked me to bring the set inside. Once I hauled it in, she opened the box to check the contents. First, she checked to make sure everything was in the box, such as the remote, power cord, and TV stand. Sadly, it seemed that I had forgotten the stand at home, but since I was exchanging the set anyway, she said they could keep those that came in the new TV box.
She then went to check the back of the TV to match up the serial number to the box. Pretty standard stuff, and I did not indicate that anything was wrong until she called for her manager.
When the store manager, who later introduced himself as Preston, arrived, he, along with the associate, began looking over the serial number. After a few minutes, I asked if anything was wrong, and that’s when I learned that the serial numbers on the TV didn’t match.
Now, let me point out that I’m a black male, and I’ve dealt with looking “suspicious” my entire life by folks like store managers and police officers. Having worked in customer service, I could only imagine what Preston and his employee had to be thinking about me. However, I endeavored to keep my cool, knowing that I wasn’t about to let the matter end with an adverse decision at this store no matter what. I knew I had done nothing wrong and was well prepared to take this matter to court if I needed to.
Not only did the numbers not match, but he said the TV I brought in was an older model. He said, judging from the picture, it looks like a board inside the set had gone bad. Preston informed me that he was calling the store manager at the Arlington branch, someone who he’d known for several years, to see if they could work out something without me having to bring the set back to Arlington.
Preston showed me something else after about 20 minutes or so as the Arlington store was looking through security footage to find out if the box had been tampered with in the store. He pointed out how the box had been retaped using double-sided tape, a common trick used by people who returned items to make it look like they had not opened the box. Upon further research, he learned that the same TV set had been returned before I bought it by another customer very recently.
He immediately called for an associate to bring out another TV set, this time opening the box to check the serial number and show me that the set was indeed brand new. He then told me I had nothing to worry about and that they would take care of the rest before asking that once I received a customer service survey to make sure I remembered, it would be about my experience at his store, not the one in Arlington.
Now, let me say, in this situation, I had no way of proving that the TV I brought in was the one I left with when I picked it up from Arlington. By all rights, Preston had no obligation to oblige me; in fact, most managers I knew would have immediately pushed this off to the Arlington store within seconds. Instead, Preston made my problem his top concern and worked with the Arlington store manager to begin the process of investigating the situation. He then went way above and beyond by giving me the benefit of the doubt and honoring the return anyway.
Had I not been able to return the tv, I could have been out of at least $650 to $1,300, depending on how fast I paid off my lease. Not to mention, it wasn’t so long ago in this country when a black person in my position would have left that store in handcuffs after being charged with attempted theft and fraud. Not only did Preston treat me fairly, he moved heaven and earth to ensure I would not have to go out of my way to resolve this problem.
And that is why when I returned home, I informed my wife that we were not Best Buy customers for life. It’s experiences like this that make loyal customers, and I wanted to write this story to let everyone know about Preston’s excellent customer service skills. But, I also wanted to encourage others to take the time to let companies know about employees who deliver positive experiences. More often than not, most companies fail to recognize the value of their employees, and that’s why it’s so important to ensure they hear about how their employees represent their company in the best way.
I hope that Best Buy reads this story and reaches out to Preston. I also plan to write the company personally and provide more specifics so they can contact him.
Thank you again, Preston, for not only making my day but restoring my faith in good customer service. I hope you serve as an example to other managers on how they should deal with their customers.