Bits & P.C.s: CompUSA revisited

Bits & P.C.s: CompUSA revisited


About a year and a half ago, I did an article that described the bad experience that I had encountered with one local retailer. Although I did not specifically name the store, I did give enough information that most readers (and store employees) knew that I was speaking of CompUSA. Let’s take a look at the store today.

Unlike before, most items in the store have their prices plainly displayed. This isn’t true on 100 percent of the items, but it’s a great improvement over the way it was. The shelves have been lowered so that the products can be displayed better, and the store appears to be better organized.

There is not as much old stock on the shelves, and most of what there is has a reduced clearance price on it. In the past, it seemed as though there were more open box items on the shelves than new stuff. At Christmas time they did a major markdown in an effort to clear out older models of digital cameras and camcorders. I saw items being sold for one-third to one-half of their original selling price.

The store has now taken the Macintosh computers, accessories and software and grouped it together, making a store within a store. The same has been done for the repair center and the cameras and PDAs.

One of the major additions to the store has been “techie” accessories. You can now find fluorescent lights, fans, cases, and other items to make your computer “one-of-a-kind.” Anyone can have a beige or white box, why not put in a porthole, install some lights that flash to the music and do a custom paint job on the case? It’s a lot cheaper than customizing a car.

The employees seem to have a better attitude toward the customer. There are still delays at the check-out; at times they need to bring out stools for those in line to have a place to sit, but they have learned how to process the company-issued gift card.

Many of these changes can be attributed to a change in management. In the past, the store manager was rarely seen on the sales floor. The current manager, Rich McHugh, can often be seen in the store helping customers.

When this store was owned by Tandy Corporation and was known as Computer City, it was one of the few locations that was actually making money. A lot of the success can be credited to the store manager, Mike Dore. Mike was on the sales floor most of his working day. If there was a backup at the checkouts, he would open and run a register until the backlog was cleared. I haven’t seen Rich do this, but he has been the most visible manager since the store became CompUSA.

My criticism of the store was not meant to be an “attack” piece, but rather a “wake up” call. It appears that over the past 18 months, they have paid attention, and the store is in much better shape.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

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