Ever since Circuit City and CompUSA entered bankruptcy and closed down their stores a couple years ago, Best Buy had been the only viable and trustworthy local option for consumer electronics and appliances in my area. Then, during the summer, the empty Circuit City location began a transformation into a new hhgregg store and I was hopeful that competition and options would come with it. When my father told me that we was looking to upgrade the television in his living room from the paltry 32 inch screen that was currently in place, and that the model he was interested in was at the recently-opened hhgregg location, I figured it would be a great time to not only check the place out for myself but do a review of it as well. As it turns out, my original hopes turned out to be just that: hopes, as my experience with the newly local retailer fell far short of my expectations, especially considering all of the claims they make in their tv and radio ads.
Not surprisingly from my in-person experiences, I discovered that as I write this, at 10:33 AM on Sunday November 27, 200 the website for hhgregg is currently down.
But, aside from his, let’s get to the actual review, shall we?
If anyone has never heard or saw one of their ads (which, by the way totally butcher the Beatles’ great Song “Help!”) the company boasts “Better Brands. Lower Prices. Smarter Associates”. I’ll get to these points in more detail going forward, but these are my initial reactions to such claims:
- Better brands–ridiculous claim, unless they have have some sort of exclusive contract with a manufacturer
- Lower prices–I never believe this type of statement for brand new items. If the prices across the board are much better than everyone else, it would lead me to think that they items are either: open boxes/refurbished or old/discontinued models.
- Smarter employees–The only way to attract smarter employees is to pay a premium. No retail chain is going to pay much more than minimum wage for that kind of work (not knocking retail workers, but that’s the economic truth).
The store itself is very well-kept. The floors were clean, and the displays were all in good condition. The problem that I found, and this may be my own personal opinion, was that the place was very sparse. Along the left and back wall, televisions and stands were prolifically displayed, and quite nicely at that. But, unfortunately that seemed to be where the major focus of the merchandisers was, and that’s where it seemed to end. The middle of the floor looked like the electronics aisle of a retailer that was just trying to fill in space with what little they could scrounge up from their storeroom. The shelves had lots of blank space, and the display units were so few and far between, you could walk a few people side-by-side with little worry of space limitations.
I have to say, that the pricing was pretty competitive in relation to Best Buy, which happened to reside in it’s own plaza across the street. On several items that I compared on my phone, the pricing was equal or a little cheaper. What I didn’t like was the fact that the advertisement in the papers claimed that the entire store over $99 was on sale for their “Friends and Family” promotion. When I looked at some of the offers, they just didn’t seem to be priced at sale price points, and what’s more, they were the same prices that I remember seeing in Best Buy advertisements. Upon closer inspection, the sale excluded a number of items including computers, tablets, specific brands, and other popular categories. Now, I understand that certain areas in this particular category have almost no profit margins, but I detest places that claim to be running such great “store-wide” sales, only to have the small print specify that the actual sales are limited to a relatively few items. I was specifically disappointed due to the ad campaign that hhgregg took out thanking Sears and Home Depot for mentioning the store in their own advertisements and taking shot at those other retailers. This just showed me they were looking for cheap publicity by taking on the giants but couldn’t back it up for my preferences.
The people working there were fairly knowledgeable. Some were very attentive, and that is a huge plus for some people. Others, it seemed, were more interested in playing with the toys rather than try to help the customers. One particular employee got me angry, and unfortunately I do not know his name. What had happened was my father went back to the store to show my mother which television he was looking to purchase, and to get her opinion on the matter. Now what you need to understand is that neither of them know anything at all about electronics or computers, and when I went to the store, I didn’t think they would be interested in the Smart TV functionality, so I didn’t ask any questions. My father did like the idea of having Netflix streaming directly on the tv itself, so he asked about USB network adapters with the model he wanted. The employee sold him a model that he supposedly “verified” would be compatible from the Panasonic website (the tv was a Panasonic, obviously). When I hooked it all up, guess what? The adapter was not recognized, so I went to the Panasonic site and lo and behold the adapter that the guy sold my father was not the one that was listed as being compatible. That kind of blatant misleading of a customer I cannot accept.
This is the biggest failure to me because in their television spots, the company makes a point to hi-light their employees as being better than their competitors. Not only would I argue that the opposite is true, the employee my father encountered most certainly proved it. I have never heard of such a thing as an employee lying to make a sale before. I would much rather have someone tell me that they need to ask someone who is more familiar with a situation or even physically go online right there to give a better answer. The company can certainly talk the talk in this aspect, but they fail mightily to walk the walk and back up their claims.
This is by no means meant to be an endorsement of any retailers mentioned, nor is it an indictment of the hhgregg chain as a whole. Although I may have one opinion from my personal experience, others may have had complete opposite experiences in stores located in other areas. This may have been an isolated experience, but it was still an experience nonetheless, and in my view, this is not a place I would go to if I was desiring a large selection of anything other than televisions, or if I was the type of person who needed expert guidance. But don’t let my visit be the litmus test, when you are in the market for something you should explore all options available to you–you may very well indeed find this place to be where you end up making a purchase from. I just have a strong feeling that it will never be that for me.