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Ryan’s and Ross’s retail revelations

Ryan Block shares that the CompUSA where he had his first job is closing and recounts some of the lowpoints of his time there as he dispenses some consumer advice. My local CompUSA is closing, too, as are all New York stores east of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. I suppose I’m lucky that my neighborhood has a Circuit City, Target, Best Buy, P.C. Richard and two Radio Shacks all within walking distance so it’s usually pretty easy to find the occasional electronic necessity or washing machine. When I moved here, there was a Nobody Beats the Wiz as well. I do wish we had an office supply store a bit closer, though.

My local CompUSA is actually located in a cool triangular extension of a nearby office building, which contributes to a high-tech look. I don’t think its replacement will do the space as much justice. Those familiar with Manhattan might consider it similar to the Sprint store jutting out of the front (side?) of the Flatiron Building, but this is a much larger space with two floors. I’ll try to get a picture before it closes.

In any case, it turns out Ryan and I have something else in common beyond Engadget. My first job was also at a computer retail store , albeit a long-gone small Apple-only dealer of ill repute, not a chain. There’s now a Houston’s restaurant where it once stood. I can assure you that CompUSA is a paragon of business ethics compared to some of the shenanigans that went on there. The store was “featured” on Arnold Diaz’ Shame on You watchdog segment and for reasons that were not the most egregious of its management’s indiscretions.

I also worked in service (and later the store’s very nice training facility) although I only occasionally took in machines. I mostly did repairs and installations (TOPS anyone?). Two of the senior service guys were an odd couple if ever there was one — a brash and boastful Army reservist and and a quiet sarcastic French sophisticate.

One of my favorite exchanges took place when the former was strutting around the department and crowed, “I’m good at everythng I try!” The other muttered under his breath, “Have you ever tried shutting up?”


  1. Ryan Block Ryan Block March 12, 2007

    You can’t just leave us hanging like that. We want to hear of these indiscretions!

  2. Ross Rubin Ross Rubin March 12, 2007

    Probably the most notorious was selling “new” Macs to unsuspecting customers that had been, uh, “burned in” for a couple of months on salespeople’s desks. (Hey, at least they ate their own dog food.) The Macs were wiped down with a household cleanser and put back in their original boxes.

    Also, on at least one occasion, bothersome customers had their motherboards “arced”, i.e., shorted so that there was no chance of their functioning after a payment dispute.

    I never participated in the former and wouldn’t have even known how to do the latter. The head of the service department thought of me as “the software guy,” that is, I knew more about Mac OS than how to install it.

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