Fry's Electronics. It's not what it used to be.

by William Grosso

Related link: http://www.frys.com/



Fry's Electronics is something of a Silicon Valley legend. They've got 5 or 6 stores spread throughout the area. The stores are big, full of computer gear, and jammed with high-tech professionals looking to buy things.


Or, at least, they used to be.


At the height of the boom, Fry's did an amazing business. The stores were jammed with all sorts of weird computer stuff. You could go in and walk out with five hundred dollars worth of stuff you hadn't heard of but which you had recognized (and knew you needed) as soon as you saw it.


Friends who emigrated from the valley to take technology jobs elsewhere missed it. Sure the service was beyond awful, but Fry's made up for it in selection and convenience. Visitors to the valley would make sure to stop at Fry's, to pick up things they couldn't even hear about in their hometown.


These days? Well, for starters, I hadn't even been to Fry's in over a year (a bad sign). Today I stopped on the way home to see if they had a book.


And it's a very different store. For the most part, they're selling DVD's, video games, and appliances. They didn't have many books, they only had a couple of aisles of software, and most of what they did have was woefully out of date. I'm sorry but if you're stocking a book on Visual J++ 6.0, you've pretty much lost all credibility with me. And if you have more books on Excel than on Java programming, the conversation is over.


Even worse for Fry's, they had an awful conversion rate. I'd guess that about half of the people who went in left empty-handed. People are going there and not finding anything to buy.


It's a sign of the long high-tech slump, and of the impact of the internet on retail, but I'm kind of saddened. The old Fry's, bursting to the seams with customers and equipment, bad service and all, was kind of a landmark for me. The new Fry's, which pretty much felt like a second rate Best Buy to me, is just depressing.


How are your local high-tech retailers weathering the slump? And where do you go for obscure computer gear?


13 Comments

Dunx
2003-08-14 16:24:17
Non-Valley Fry's
When I first moved to Portland, OR in early 2001 I was so chuffed to find a Fry's just down the road. It ranked alongside Powell's and as one of those that I dare not go into, but could not keep away from.


But now? I go in there and browse and, like you say, there is just nothing to buy. Maybe there's less cool stuff for them to sell, maybe there's a lot more commoditisation, or maybe the cool stuff has just gone mainstream: I bought my first MP3 player from Best Buy, for instance.


It's just not worth driving for half an hour to get to it any more.

anonymous2
2003-08-15 06:00:32
A reason
Erm... having read a small number of the stories on the Fry's complaints website, do you think the reason that they sell less niche stuff is because they are desperate to attract customers, and that the reason for that is the awful service?
anonymous2
2003-08-15 13:49:09
A reason
I would agree here. Last time I was in a Fry's was about 6 months ago at the Sacramento, CA store. The people who work there are very rude, and the ones that aren't rude just don't know anything. I walked out without buying anything, and I certainly won't be back. Then again, their customer service has never been good... as observed by this
mock employment application that's been up for several years.
anonymous2
2003-08-17 12:13:16
Also disappointed
I've been going out to the Bay area for years for personal and business reasons and have always been told about the myth of Fry's. I finally was able to make it into the Sacramento one this summer and was supremely underwhelmed, particularly with the book selection.This was an interesting experience though: I bought some networking gear for my inlaws and ended up having to return one of the wireless adapter unopened. I thought it was strange that the woman at customer service had to open it in order to accept it back. That seemed like a pretty silly policy even if there is a small chance of people returning shrink-wrapped empty boxes.
idiotprogrammer
2003-08-31 00:19:52
Fry's in Houston is great!
Ok, the slump hit us all, but in Austin and Houston, this store had everything. Every time I go, I discover something new and amazing. The Bay area gives probably a distorted view of the retail environment. In houston the cost per square foot is significantly below what you have in California.
anonymous2
2003-09-18 22:40:04
One Ugly Experience at Fry's
I completely agree with many comments that people had made. Not only, the sales people are rude but unresponsive to the queries that potential buyers have. My comments are based on the recent personal quest of buying a Sony HDTV. Can you imagine, they even charged sales tax on the delievery!!!


ccnsl@cherlyncurtis.com
2004-04-21 09:29:52
One Ugly Experience at Fry's
you can take your receipt in and get reimbursed for the sales tax they charged you on deliver if you purchased it in Ca. It is illegal to charge sale tax on labor---only on parts and components
PC3XP3RT
2004-05-06 03:20:23
...not what it used to be... -- Amen!
As previously mentioned, the majority of their staff is 'technically challenged' - a nice way of saying they don't know crap... even about the products within their department.


This is true of all 6 Fry's stores I've been to in southern California. If you knew the average wage of these Fry's employees, the reason for their incompetence becomes readily apparent; anyone with enough skill to be considered an asset already has a higher paying job elsewhere.


I used to go Fry's a lot in early to mid 90's (when I was just getting into computers) but I rarely go there anymore. Now, if I go, it is either for a specific item in one of their ads, or for my own amusement... provided by listening to 'wannabe' computer gurus, inept salespeople, and other computer illiterates who perpetually inhabit the aisle ways.


If you can wait for shipping, you'll save money buying from a vendor on www.pricewatch.com or on www.pricegrabber.com Example: A $330 stereo at Fry's was $230 from a vendor in N.Y. For the $100 savings, I was certainly willing to wait 5 business days for ground shipping.


Like the original article points out.... It's hard to find a computer guru in a store that sells refrigerators. However, if you're lucky, you might pick one of the times I'm there. ;)


-- PC3XP3RT


(that's "PC EXPERT" for all the noobs out there)

Yugami
2004-10-16 12:31:07
Fry's
Well, I guess Fry's sucks for you the way it used to be. But if you use the store correctly, it's a great source, and much better than Best Buy. All the big corporation computer places overcharge like crazy for computer parts. I understand that for certain things Fry's overcharges as well. But that's why you only go there for deals in the paper. Their hard drives dip WAY below online prices. Their memory has in the past too. One of the best things about them is their motherboard/CPU combos. I'm in the market for both a second hard drive and some more memory right now, and I'm definately gonna go to fry's for them. I missed the deal, but a week or so ago they had a 180 gig HD for 30 bucks after rebates...Some of the prices they get are pretty insane.


Anyways you might be able to find some competing prices on pricewatch or whatever, but pretty much the only online store I shop from is newegg, because I don't feel like dealing with the shit I might have to deal with from some random online company...I've learned from the experience of my parents who lost 1000 dollars from purchasing a surround sound system online from a retarded Texan guy. If newegg beats Fry's prices (Which they do quite often, with cases, video cards, speakers, keyboards, and many other things) then I'll buy online. If not, I'm off to Fry's.

Yugami
2004-10-16 12:31:58
Fry's
Well, I guess Fry's sucks for you the way it used to be. But if you use the store correctly, it's a great source, and much better than Best Buy. All the big corporation computer places overcharge like crazy for computer parts. I understand that for certain things Fry's overcharges as well. But that's why you only go there for deals in the paper. Their hard drives dip WAY below online prices. Their memory has in the past too. One of the best things about them is their motherboard/CPU combos. I'm in the market for both a second hard drive and some more memory right now, and I'm definately gonna go to fry's for them. I missed the deal, but a week or so ago they had a 180 gig HD for 30 bucks after rebates...Some of the prices they get are pretty insane.


Anyways you might be able to find some competing prices on pricewatch or whatever, but pretty much the only online store I shop from is newegg, because I don't feel like dealing with the shit I might have to deal with from some random online company...I've learned from the experience of my parents who lost 1000 dollars from purchasing a surround sound system online from a retarded Texan guy. If newegg beats Fry's prices (Which they do quite often, with cases, video cards, speakers, keyboards, and many other things) then I'll buy online. If not, I'm off to Fry's. There's no other store I've ever been to that beats online prices and actually sells the hardware I need.

WiFiMan
2005-01-06 13:30:34
Frys Is a Nightmare
No one who works there knows a god-damn thing. If you try to phone them, they will let the phone ring for 30 minutes without an answer. Last week, the power went out in the Manattan Beach store and the staff was all running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I had to suggest manual checkout before they picked up the ball. Jesus. They have a lot of stuff, true, but it's mostly retail crap that can be gotten anywhere. Their prices have steadily risen over the past 5 years. If you want a hobbyist card or a specialty tool, forget Frys and use the net instead. You may wait a few days but it's better than rewarding this socio-cultural nightmare called Frys. Puke.
frysrebates
2005-07-29 11:42:34
Announcement Regarding Problems with Fry's Rebates
Have you had problems obtaining a rebate from a product you purchased
at Fry's? Has Fry's or the manufacturer of the product indefinitely
delayed or refused to honor your rebate? Has any manufacturer informed
you that it does not honor Fry's rebates? If so, don't let Fry's get
away with it. Send an email to frysrebates@hotmail.com, with your name, email,
phone number (optional), and description of what happened to you. We
may be able to help you.
frysemployee
2005-12-07 20:46:13
Fry's Electonics in Austin, TX
I am an employee of the Fry's Electronics in Austin, TX. I have never visited the Fry's stores out of state or even out of my home city, but I must say that these comments do not sound like the Fry's I know. While we do have the same tedious procedures and policies that can be annoying to say the least, I would say 95% of the customers leave the story happy and are pleased with the service and price. Like with any retail store, there are going to be some not so good employees that don't know what they are talking about, most do have considerable knowledge of the department they are working in. In my department, we have weekly training that tells us what we need to know about the products we are selling. In addition, if we don't know the answer to a question we are supposed to find someone who does. It is a shame to hear of the bad experiences people have had at Fry's because it is really a good place... not perfect... but better than most.