Receipt Checking No Longer Required at Best Buy

Discussion
Sep 14, 2012

Best Buy has reassigned 2,000 security personal at the front of the store to the sales floor. The move was designed to better help, better welcome or stop annoying shoppers — or all of the above.

The front door security routine called for checking customer’s receipts as they exited. But complaints partly led to the workers’ reassignment, which quietly happened in July.

"It’s evidence of us listening to our customers, who told us that they don’t like having their receipts checked," Kelly Groehler, a spokesperson for Best Buy, told the Pioneer Press in Minnesota. "We removed a pain point they didn’t like."

The move also reflects efforts to increase interactions between managers and consumers. The stores will still have greeters but apparently removing the security personal encourages managers to remain in front. Ms. Groehler told Bloomberg News, "It puts more emphasis on assistant managers and the general manager of the store engaging with customers when they walk in."

Finally, the Bloomberg article implied that shifting the 2,000 security workers to its sales floor supports the intention of Best Buy’s new CEO, Hubert Joly, to put more focus on customer service. None of the security workers were laid off.

In an interview with Bloomberg on Sept. 6, Mr. Joly said training will be notably increased with a goal of making associates "an undisputed point of reference" for customers.

Illustrating this, the former CEO of Carlson Cos., the hotels, restaurants and a travel company that includes T.G.I. Friday’s and Radisson, spent his first week on the job working as a Blue Shirt in several Best Buy locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. His Blue Shirt tenure included a house call with Geek Squad technicians to calibrate a television.

"The last time I worked in a store was in 1975," Mr. Joly said in an interview with Reuters last week. "I want to not learn our businesses from the headquarters. I want to learn from the front line."

Besides enhancing customer service, other near-term fixes include cutting non-salary expenses, maintaining competitive prices, securing ample hot product, and expanding its smaller store base that focuses on mobile devices. The second quarter marked the eighth consecutive quarter of same-store declines by Best Buy.

First, what are the benefits as well as the risks of the security personal reassignment? Second, what tangible and symbolic benefits were likely gained by Mr. Joly spending a week on the selling floor?

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17 Comments on "Receipt Checking No Longer Required at Best Buy"

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Robert DiPietro
BrainTrust

I can’t remember the last time anyone actually did more than look at me and say goodbye at BBY security. The risk is a simple math equation — will the increased sales associates on the floor drive more incremental sales/margin than the increase in shrink/theft?

I have a hunch that field feedback was “why waste the security payroll when we can have more sales help?” If that’s the case, then it’s a huge win that the new CEO is a “field guy.”

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

The primary benefit is letting customers know that they are listened to and respected. In addition, moving these employees to the sales floor will assist in greater customer involvement and potentially greater sales as a result. Obviously, the risk is greater shrink.

I like when CEOs and other senior executives work in stores for an extended period of time as opposed to the “King and his Court” phenomenon which occurs when folks from corporate visit the store. Normally, everyone knows when the entourage is visiting and the store takes on a surreal atmosphere.

Spending real time in stores, interacting with customers and other staff is a terrific way of understanding what is really happening on the front lines, producing both both tangible and symbolic benefits.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

This is a risky proposition, obviously. Some of BB’s products are high-theft items and there’s a reason they put the security personnel up front in the first place (although I’ve wondered how effective they are anyway).

I think it’s partly a symbolic move, partly an attempt to get more bodies on the selling floor. One does have to wonder just how helpful a security guard can be in helping potential electronics buyers.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

This wasn’t the beginning of Best Buy’s renovation — but it is the most visible and best step to date. Let’s hope there is much more to come!

Ed Dunn
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

Receipt checking is the biggest anti-service offered to paying customers. A customer already went though the entire sales process of browsing, buying, checkout and instead of a thank you upon exit, customers are being asked to produce a receipt and checked as if they are suspicious.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Honestly I’m still not quite sure what this article is about. At first I had a picture of 2000 huge muscular employees wearing black T-shirts with “BEST BUY BOUNCER” emblazoned across the back. Their job: to deal with troublesome customers. Apparently a chronic problem at BB. I trembled.

Then I read about how BB is trying to show more love to the customer and I got all misty. The ‘breakthrough’ seems to be that managers will now actually engage with the customers. Modeling all that is the new CEO who decided to learn what working in a retail store is actually like since he hasn’t experienced that in 37 years. I wonder if anything’s changed.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

I always thought that receipt checking was something akin to the TSA — treating everyone equally (badly.) Thanks, Mr. Joly!

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
4 years 9 months ago

All senior retail executives should spend time on their store floors at least a few days each quarter. What better way to understand what customers experience, as well as associates? I am sure Mr. Joly spent a few hours working the front of the store checking receipts and realized what a waste of a great associate and what little value it provided to the store and customers. Tough to see that when you sit at headquarters.

UPS makes every headquarters executive drive a UPS route for 1-2 weeks before heading to their office at headquarters. This way when they make decisions about how to run the business, they appreciate what actually happens in the field with their drivers. I have always been impressed with the practice and thought others in retail should learn from it. Mr. Joly obviously has the same idea and it is already paying off.

Tom Redd
Guest

Bravo! Receipt checking at BBY may not have been as painful as some other popular (and successful) retailers, but a pain nevertheless. Standing in line to check out (our BBY uses a single snaking line for all registers) and then walking the 20 feet to stand in line again for security to check that the cashier charged me for all the items in my cart or bag is a waste of my time and their time. Yeah, shrink might go up, but tradeoffs are everywhere we go.

And Kudos to Hubert Joly for working the sales floor; there’s a Midwestern humbleness about this move that will go a long ways to emphasize the importance of the BBY associates. Now to make those sales associates (and the former security personnel) “an undisputed point of reference”….

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

Only time will tell. Many of the high-value items in the store are LP tagged, and based on my experience, there hasn’t been a discipline to check receipts like you would see at a Costco. For Best Buy to succeed, the #1 priority has to be customer service and revenue to the store, unless they see a large spike in shrink after this move, I see this as a good move on their part.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

I still see no future for this company. They’ve had their head arrogantly in the sand for too long for a small change like this to have any real impact. I stopped shopping there years ago, when we had to return a $19 arm band and they demanded to see a driver’s license — the same move that years earlier ended my relationship with Sears.

To believe that as Ed Dunn pointed out, not rechecking a paying customer’s receipt is a benefit to customers, is to completely misunderstand what customer focus and user experience is all about. And to re-assign presumably untrained security people to technical sales assistance raises a number of questions as well.

Mr. Joly and staff will likely make a series of these at best, mildly effective moves, before he cashes out and moves on in the twilight of this company.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Something just struck me as I reviewed our comments on this discussion today.

If “receipt checking” is such a huge customer turn off, why do we all love Costco so much?

As Stefan Kouzoumis (sp?) used to say…

…hmmmmmmm….

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

“The last time I worked in a store was in 1975. I want to not learn our businesses from the headquarters. I want to learn from the front line.”

I’m glad this quote came toward the end of the story, because I don’t think my head shaking would have allowed me to go on if it had come at the beginning. Anyway, like many people — increasingly many, it seems — I’ve never had to deal with receipt checking at BB because I’ve never actually bought anything there; but I’m having trouble picturing simply moving people from the (presumably) low-thought jobs in security to the sales floor. Are the former so well trained, or are the latter so poorly trained, that the jobs are simply interchangeable?

Mark Burr
Guest
4 years 9 months ago
The risk of putting these folks on the sales floor is that if they are the same employees at the two locations in my area, they’re “Bouncer” types, not just receipt checkers. The further risk is putting them on the floor without in-depth training. (See the Apple story today.) This process and the treatment received and their out-of-stock issues on major sale items kept me away from BB for a long time. It became simply a place where it wasn’t an enjoyable, fun experience. Secondly, I hope that Mr. Joly spends a lot more than a week on the sales floor. If he hasn’t been there since 1975, one week just won’t cut it. If that’s it, he will be in fact doing what he said he didn’t want to do — learning from the office. It’s not often that I would disagree with Ben. However, there’s a huge difference between BBY and Costco in the process and reasons for receipt checking. In my local BBY, there was no way possible to exit the store without either climbing a barrier or actually going through the checkout. At BBY, the receipt checkers literally watched you at the checkout, watched what was… Read more »
Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
4 years 9 months ago

The potential benefits might also include reducing the length of checkout lines — another step forward. BB has done many things that worked, but other things still need serious attention.

Management that does not have a strong sense of the shopping environment and associate issues will not succeed. Success will come from spending real time and making a strong commitment to improving the customer experience that drives loyalty.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Finally. Stop treating customers like they are a problem, instead of the reason for your success. Focusing on a positive store experience will help change perceptions of what people think about BB, rather than having BB lose market share every quarter. Oh yeah, it is the better use of these human resources, rather than hassling their customers (who will probably never return). Learn from this and don’t ever forget it BB….

Mark Price
BrainTrust

Benefits of moving the loss prevention staff to the floor could include reduced time to get answers or locked-away product for consumers. These employees are not trained as associates, so substantial training will be required to deliver a consistent customer experience. The downside, of course, will be increased shrinkage. The magnitude of that cost will be based on the processes that they have placed at checkout to reduce theft.

Joly’s time in store is exactly what he needs — he just needs a lot more. As to whether he is given the time to build a strong, store-level knowledge base is yet to be seen.

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