Comparison Shopping: 3 Major Retailers That Make Up the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In the economy today, it’s important to be a savvy spender. No matter if you’re buying a new pair of shoes or a new car, you want to get the best deal and most bang for your buck, so more than likely you’ll shop around before committing.

Recently I did the most comparison shopping I’ve ever done in my life. My fiancé and I bought a house just a few weeks ago, and unfortunately it didn’t come furnished with appliances.

If you didn’t already know, appliances are SUPER expensive and we needed all of them. My first thought was to go to the big-box appliance stores and check out what they have and get a feel for the prices, so that’s what we did.

After the first store, we walked out almost in tears. $2000 for a refrigerator, $700 for a range, and almost $1500 for a washer and dryer combo! Where were we going to come up with $4200 in a matter of weeks? Even if we lowered our standards, and didn’t get the stainless steel appliances we wanted, we were still going to have to finance the purchase because we’re broke. So, now it’s not just a matter of who has the best prices, but also who has the best financing option. This is where the good, the bad, and the ugly come in!

My comparison shopping first started online. For the most part all the prices were in the same ball park. We finally decided on three retail stores to check out: Home Depot, Sears Outlet, and Best Buy. We ended up buying all of our appliances at one of those major retailers and got a great deal with awesome customer service. But I’ll get to that at the end of this post! I wasn’t so lucky in the beginning of this tedious process.

Let’s start with the bad and the ugly.

The Bad: Home Depot

The Bad: Home Depot

The Bad: Home Depot

The first store we checked out (and the store I had the highest hopes for) was Home Depot. They were running the 12 months no financing offer and had a 10% off appliance sale. This is the best offer we expected to find, so we were excited to check out their selection. We got to the store at about 8:30pm (the store closes at 10pm) so we had plenty of time to look around, check out the merchandise, and compare sales.

When we walked into the appliance department, a young girl yelled from the opposite side of the department to ask if we needed assistance. We yelled back that we were just browsing, so she nodded and went back to stocking the shelf she was standing by. I was happy she at least acknowledged our presence in her area, so I was still in good spirits.

We walked through the rows of washers, dryers, refrigerators, and ranges to check out the cool features of each one. I found a washer and dryer I liked, but it didn’t have a price anywhere on or around it, and upon further investigation, almost everything was missing prices.

Since we’re on a tight budget and price makes a big difference, we set out to find someone to help us. The girl who originally asked us if we needed help was nowhere to be found now, so we walked down a main aisle peeking in each adjacent aisle hoping to find someone to help us (with no luck).

Eventually, we made it to the front of the store and asked a cashier if someone could help us with appliances, and she said she’d get someone to meet us back there. We waited for about ten minutes, but nobody ever showed up.

We left the store fuming. They lost a $3,000 to $4,000 sale that night! I know it was close to closing time, but it’s no excuse to ignore your customers completely.

The Ugly: Sears Outlet

The Ugly: Sears

The Ugly: Sears

After my terrible comparison shopping experience with Home Depot, I didn’t want to waste more of my time, so I checked out the Sears Outlet store website. It was really easy to use and I found some really great deals. The banners on the website said: “30-70% Off New, Name-Brand Floor Model Appliances.”

What’s not to love about that, right? Just wait.

Strike #1: When we walked into the store, nobody acknowledged us or asked us if we needed help. We passed four employees while we were browsing, but not one person ever said a word to us.

Strike #2: The store was filthy. I’m not a neat freak by any means, but everything in the store looked shabby, including the merchandise. The appliances were covered in dust, and not just a little bit from a couple days or so — it was a thick layer. Not to mention, I also found a few dead bugs in a refrigerator. Then, my mom almost tripped over a can of Raid that was left lying on the floor. Would it have been too much to clean it up?

Strike #3: Every item had some sort of major damage. Now don’t get me wrong here, I completely understand that Sears Outlet is a discount store selling display models. But for the price of one damaged item in this outlet store, I could buy brand-spanking-new items without the dings and scratches at Home Depot or Best Buy.

I couldn’t believe some of the prices! It almost seemed like false advertising to me. I went in expecting deeply-discounted merchandise, and found most items were only 10-20% lower than the original price.

Once again, I left the store very confused and agitated due to a poor shopping experience. I felt defeated!

But wait, there’s good news! Just a week later, my faith was restored with Ed at Best Buy.

The Good: Best Buy

The Good: Best Buy

The Good: Best Buy

When I think of Best Buy, I think of quality electronics (we got a stellar deal on a really sweet TV last year), but I don’t immediately think of kitchen appliances. I know they sell them, but I’ve never had a reason to explore that area of the store before now. I’m glad I did!

We walked onto the sales floor and we were promptly greeted by Ed. He asked us if we needed any help finding an appliance, and we said that we were just browsing and comparison shopping. He said: “That’s great! Let me just tell you about our sales and financing options really quick, so you can keep them in mind while you’re looking around.”

He informed us of a package deal they had running until Saturday that could save us an extra $500. Also, we could get an extra 5% off and have no interest for 24 months if we used the Best Buy credit card.

Ca-ching! This was the deal we were looking for, and it was less expensive than all the other stores we visited — even before the extra 5% savings.

Needless to say, we told Ed we were ready to buy. He was happy and enthusiastic to help us. After we applied for the credit card, Ed set up the FREE delivery and gave us the run down on everything we would need to install the appliances properly. He also told us how to keep our new stainless steel looking beautiful and smudge free (hint: Pledge), which I thought was awesome!

By the way, they don’t sell Pledge at Best Buy, so Ed wasn’t making an add-on sale. He was simply being helpful.

I cannot tell you how important his great customer service was with this daunting task. Ed was knowledgeable, polite, and above all — helpful. Best Buy had the whole package, in my opinion. Home Depot and Sears Outlet could really use a lesson from them, and then maybe they would have happy customers (like me) spending thousands of dollars in their stores.

Have you ever had to purchase expensive products like appliances? How was your comparison shopping experience? Good? Bad? Or just plain, old ugly? How important is customer service to you? Would you pay more to get better service?

Let us know in the comments below!

Image credit to Dru Bloomfield, daysofthundr46, justj0000lie, and Alicakes*.


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  1. Eric

    Salespeople so, so easily make or break my business at a particular store.

    I had about the same experience as you when I went shopping for a new mattress a year or so ago, Jen. The first store? The saleswoman made it seem like she was doing us a favor by talking to us, wouldn’t come down at all on the price, wouldn’t include anything (boxspring, frame, delivery) with the mattress, made it seem like a burden she’d have to go ask her manager about including a frame, and then wouldn’t quote me a price unless – literally – I had my wallet out and was going to purchase it, then and there. That store was Darvin. I’ll never go back again.

    Went to “Back to Bed” after that. They’d a floor model sale, but usually they keep some in back that’re new and unsold, too. Tried out a few. Saleswoman came over, and she was easily nicer, but hesitant to offer anything save the mattress itself. I started walking out. The manager came over, asked what the matter was. As soon as I told him, he said he wouldn’t lose a customer simply over the small stuff…and included not only delivery, but the boxspring and frame, too. And gave me a new, unopened one. Delivered the very next day. Will I go back there? Absolutely, and I’d tell friends to, too.

    When it comes to selling big ticket items, it always helps to treat your customers well, because they’ll remember. And, if they liked their experience, they’ll be back.

    Totally was with ya on this post, Jen!

  2. Jen

    Glad to hear you had one good experience Eric. Sounds like those sales people need a bit more customer service training though. But I’m glad that manager knew what he was doing. I’m sure they don’t get a lot of foot traffic in their stores (mattresses aren’t a something people shop for on a regular basis), so you’d think they would be more helpful to try and make the sale. Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. Jenna Markowski

    I haven’t done much comparison shopping, but I still know that customer service makes all the difference in retail. I’m shocked that stores like Sears and Home Depot would treat customers looking to make such a big-ticket sales like yours so poorly. You’d think they would want to make sure all that money went to their company! At least Best Buy had the right idea. It’s good to know that helpful customer service isn’t completely a thing of the past!

  4. Jen

    So true Jenna, I really didn’t expect the lack of eagerness to make a big sale either. I’m glad Ed at Best Buy knew what he was doing, it made this really expensive and terrifying purchase much easier!

  5. Rachel

    Really interesting blog, Jen! It’s so true how much one salesperson’s attitude can make or break a shopping trip. We’ve recently been upgrading our home entertainment at my house — AKA shopping for TVs — and I’m glad I did a lot of research before going out to buy stuff. Most salespeople I’ve come in contact with so far haven’t been very knowledgeable, or have just recommended stuff that makes their store money rather than what’s right for me. Having worked on that side of retail, I get that there’s pressure from higher-ups to push certain products and whatnot, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer good customer service as well!

    Thanks for sharing your story, Jen; I’m glad you found the deal you wanted! 🙂

    • Jen

      Thanks Rachel! It’s not uncommon to run across sales people who don’t know what the heck they’re talking about, so doing a bit of research yourself and having a little knowledge going in is really helpful.

  6. Amy Swanson

    Excellent post, Jen! I’ve been inside a Sears Outlet store and everything you mentioned is accurate and not an exaggeration whatsoever. My mom was looking for a new vacuum cleaner but didn’t want to break the bank buying one. However, we ran into the same problem you did there. Everything was only a fraction cheaper and then they were sold “as is” so we couldn’t return it for any reason. Needlessly to say, they lost a sale that Target won 😉

    Congratulations once again on the new house! Hope your new appliances really make it feel like a home now!!

  7. Jeff Porretto

    I find it really interesting that no one saying hello to you is a strike against. I mean, I know why they do that, but if the 4 people you walked by all had actually said hello, I would be purposefully avoiding them!

    Personally, I like to get the lay of the land in a store before I even want to talk to anyone. But I feel like it’s a sales person’s job to figure out who they’re dealing with! Some people like to be left alone, some like a lot of personalized service. Going the wrong route in either case can lead to a lost sale.

    Interesting read, Jen. Thanks!

    • Amanda

      I agree Jeff. I hate it when salesman approach me when I’m not wanting to ask questions or need help. I’d much rather go up to someone/have someone paged when I need help with a purchase. But I can see what Jen’s saying here. I think with a big purchase like appliances, it’s much more usual for salesman to ask if you need help, and you’re more likely to need the help/ask questions.

      Thanks for the heads up on the chain appliance stores, I’m going to keep that in mind. And I am glad to hear you guys found a great deal, Jen. New appliances are so exciting!! =)

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