Best Buy/Magnolia: Can This Kid Sell $15k Home Theaters?
A district-level employee tells Electronic House that Best Buy and Magnolia are 'going to lose their best people'
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Can this young, hard-working, friendly Best Buy employee eventually take the place of more senior-level A/V sales and design associates?
April 15, 2009 by Julie Jacobson

It’s no secret that Best Buy and its Magnolia Home Theater stores are eliminating positions and slashing wages of key personnel.

One employee suggests that the skilled veterans will be replaced by inexperienced “high-school kids.”

Let’s just say that some of the more experienced Magnolia sales and design associates must take pay cuts from $17 or $18 an hour to something like $12.56 per hour (as has been reported).

Certainly many of them will leave the company, to be replaced with less experienced personnel.

Will that necessarily lead to diminished service?

A disgruntled district-level employee of Best Buy called Electronic House recently, predicting doom for the home-entertainment chain.

He said that a wage of $12.56 is about on par with Best Buy’s “line-level employees,” aka the Blue Shirts.

“They’re going to lose their best people,” he said. “I imagine as people quit – you’ll probably have a mass amount leaving – their positions will be filled by PSAs (personal shopping assistants) or CAs (customer assistants) who are basically unskilled labor units – kids in high school who walk around the store with a broad knowledge of nothing.”

Our source explained that $15,000 media rooms are the “bread and butter” of Magnolia Home Theater. He predicts that these sales will evaporate because there won’t be experts left to sell and install those systems.

Not surprisingly, Best Buy disagrees with this assessment. Understandably, the retailer is reassessing its business and making cuts like the rest of us. But the big-box giant is more focused than ever on “face time” with with its customers, according to spokesperson Justin Barber.

Best Buy is creating some “leadership roles in the stores and giving them more face time with customers, so there will be an elevated experience for more people,” says Barber.

Moreover, he explains, “There are indeed some jobs being eliminated, also some being added, and some getting shuffled around. … Some people whose pay was affected, there are things being put into place so they have time to find other positions [within Best Buy],” he says.

Still, our source predicts that Best Buy, or at least its specialty Magnolia stores, will suffer the same fate as other A/V retailers who lost their most experienced employees and brought on lower-cost amateurs.

“It’s just crazy how similar this seems to what happened at Circuit City,” he says.

Indeed, Circuit City was widely criticized for replacing its experienced A/V salespeople and installers with more affordable, but apparently ineffective personnel.

What do you think?

If Magnolia Home Theater (along with other specialty divisions of Best Buy) slashes the wages of its most experienced and enthusiastic associates, will that necessarily mean the level of service will fall?

Or will the veterans and newbies alike rise to the occasion?

At least one (purported) Best Buy employee is happy just to have a job. “NC” writes:

What Best Buy had to do with the pay cuts sucks—no doubt about it. As a retail employee there and being one of the people affected by the change, I am quite frankly thankful that they didn’t just ELIMINATE our jobs. The economy is going through rough times, and the reason why Best Buy has not seen the fate of Circuit City is because it does re-organizations. Best Buy makes changes that makes current business sense.

Follow Electronic House on Facebook and Twitter.


Julie Jacobson - Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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