The Decline of Fry’s Electronics

Fry’s Electronics used to be one of those places I looked upon with awe.

Back when I was first delving into computer related things, the closest Fry’s to where I lived was roughly an hour and some change away. This was before we really had any form of internet, and the idea of ordering something online even though Amazon had been around a few years by this point? Eh. No thanks.

My first experience there was something profound. Look at all this stuff! Look at all the components I can buy here! This place is amazing! It wasn’t the first electronics store I had been to (CompUSA has that honor), but seeing so much stuff, and seemingly a bunch of employees who looked like they knew their way around these things? Oh shit yes.

Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long to get a more consistent slice of this nerd nirvana, as Fry’s soon opened a new store right in my hometown, and for the most part it was just as amazing as the one I visited prior. Bunch of cool stuff, really good prices, so on and so forth.

As the title of this piece suggests, however, all good things must come to an end, and this tale began coming to its end before the articles and news that Fry’s isn’t doing so hot these days. I have my own theories as to why.

I’ve been a pretty regular customer of Fry’s for a while. They’re pretty much the only game in town in the SF Bay Area since Micro Center (regrettably) closed their doors some years ago on their San Jose location. It used to be that one could get in, get what they’re looking for, and get out pretty easily, and the employees for the most part knew what they were doing, but those qualities have declined hard over the last couple of years, and with Amazon being the juggernaut it is, the prices to deal with Fry’s and their (mostly incompetent) employees isn’t worth it anymore.

The Store (in)Experience, or “why no one wants to shop there anymore” 

Stock on the shelves is usually a mess, or it isn’t even there to begin with even though the site says it is, and a lot of things are kept out of customer view so you have to flag down an employee to get help or to get them to find it somewhere. The problem with this is that if you’re trying to find something in one of those in between departments? Good luck finding an employee who gives a shit enough to help you.

Once you clear that hurdle, you aren’t even done yet! Most employees will try to upsell you, and worse, will insist on “writing you up”, which means they drag you to one of their terminals (running XP, I might add), ask you for all your personal information, and then print you a paper (assuming the printer even works) that you have the cashier scan instead of the product you’re holding, and it gives commission to the employee that wrote you up.

This even occurs when you don’t need help at all. I remember looking at the NAS units with a friend of mine at Fry’s and they’re all out there, you can just take one and bring it to the front and buy it normally. Even though we had done our research and already knew what we were getting, an employee tried, insisted on writing us up as if he deserved something for us even venturing into his department. We said nope, we were on our way.

(Oh, and I’d advise checking whatever you bought before you leave, too. Too many times we’ve bought something and it turned out someone opened the box, took components, resealed it, and threw it back on the shelf.)

There was also the time we went to buy an i5-4690k that was discounted as they were being rotated out to make way for the new Intel CPUs. The employee we dealt with tried to upsell us to an i7 (which would have been severe overkill), and when they had to write us up for the 4690k (unavoidable, as they obviously don’t have CPUs out for people to just pick up and take), they took 45 minutes to finally, finally give us the paperwork that would allow us to purchase the thing. We would have walked, but that was the only choice for getting a 4690k that day without having to wait on shipping.

You think that just because you finally got your product that you’re done? You sweet, summer child. You still have to clear the cashiers and receipt checkers!

The problem here is Fry’s and their halfassed backend system, so it seems. I’ve had numerous times where I’ll bring up something and their system will say it is a completely different price than what the tag says. And before anyone asks, yes, I did compare UPCs to make sure the tag was correct. Sometimes they’ll honor the price. Sometimes they’ll tell you to get bent. It’s a coin toss.

The most memorable time these kind of shenanigans happened was when we were buying a car radio and the cashier managed to accidentally scan it twice, and decided to get in a yelling match with us saying the $300 total was correct even though we were trying to point out that the radio rang up twice. She was having none of it. Eventually a supervisor had to come over and fix things. That was great.

Alright. Home stretch. The receipt checker. You’re home free. Just let them check the thing and you’re done. It’s easy. Right? Right…?

Yeah, nope.

Most of the time, things are okay, but if you have anything that costs a decent amount of money they’re going through your everything with a fine toothed comb. That’s fine, whatever. But if they spot even a damned cent discrepancy, you bet your bottom dollar you’re getting pulled aside while they take a half hour to figure out what went wrong.

To pull from my own experiences again, there was a time where one of the smaller items (in a bigger order) was overpriced. By 10 cents. They absolutely insisted that I stay behind while they figure it out even though I really did not care. I just want to go home. It took 20 minutes for a super to come over and refund me my 10 cents. That I didn’t care about. Time is money, and you guys just cost me a ton more in time by not just letting it go.

I totally get it for bigger pricing gaffes. But ten goddamn cents. Come. On. Guys.

There may be other reasons why Fry’s isn’t doing so hot, but I really think them being second to none in absolutely being world-class failures at ensuring customers have a good shopping experience is one of the big reasons. I used to like going to Fry’s, now I actively avoid it and dread it if I have to go.

It may also be the reason why Micro Center is still doing relatively well, even being in the very same market. That and Micro Center actually has good prices on things and excellent customer service all around with employees that stay out of your way until you need them.

Shopping at Fry’s is like falling off a tree and hitting every single branch on the way down.