Why I didn’t buy a kitchen range from Circuit City in 1998

“This glass stovetop is made of the same material that we use on our rocket ships,” says the Circuit City salesman.

“Rocket ships?” I stare blankly back at him. He reminds me of Carl Showalter from Fargo, but with greasier hair and a vest with bulging pockets. For a second I stare at the pockets wondering what on earth he could be carrying around in them. Tape measure? Human fingers?

He replies, “Yeah, like the ones we use to go to other planets.”

I don’t know if he really believes this and is desperate that I believe it too, or if he is just really bad at doing a snow-job. In either case, I manage to say, “I’ll think about it,” and walk out of the store.

It was about that same time that Circuit City dropped appliances from their product line and went strictly with consumer electronics. This move probably improved their bottom line since I’m sure that it was expensive to warehouse all that rocket ship material.

What didn’t improve at the electronics giant ten years later is Carl’s anti-equivalent, the bored 19 year-old “customer service associate”. He’s not paid on commission, so he has zero motivation to do anything but the bare minimum while he texts his friends to boast about how clever he is surfing myspace profiles on the clock using Google as a proxie server. He couldn’t care less if you buy a monitor, a laptop, or a package of CDRs, and he won’t bother to tell you if we did actually use them to go to other planets.

At least Carl was trying. He had some character. He gave you the opportunity to shake your head, smile, and say, “I think I’ll keep looking, thanks.”

Meanwhile Circuit City’s earnings are in free-fall. Same store sales were down 12% for the month of December in 2007, to which Chief Executive Philip J. Schoonover recently responded, “Our sales performance, while disappointing, was in line with our expectations.”

Genius. The ship is sinking, but that’s okay because it’s what we were expecting. Carl would know what to do. He would clean up the stores that have gone feral – those that are dark and dirty and upon walking through the door gag you with the smell of TAG body spray instead of the distinct plastic-y aroma of new electronics.

Anyway, mixed feelings about Carl aside, later that day I went to HH Gregg to purchase my glass-top stove. It was delivered the next day without incident and it worked fine. But I’ll never forget the Circuit City sales guy who tried to sell me on a stove whose exotic, easy-to-clean surface properties were of a status unmatched by other terrestrial glass-top stoves.

Way to go, Carl.

One Response to “Why I didn’t buy a kitchen range from Circuit City in 1998”

  1. “I’d like to take care of this right here in Brainerd… er um, Circuit City.” As some one who used to be an unmotivated customer service kid (I remember a big training session on why Electrolux vacuum cleaners were sooooooo much better than the competition. Five 18 year old guys standing around making fun of the vacuum salesman, trying disparately not to let any information seep into our formative little minds) and one who used to have to try to motivate 18 year olds as an assistant manager at Software ETC (Just sell the guy a Playstation already, and an extra controller, and a memory card, and a game. No commission.) I at least didn’t say that “Electrolux vacuum cleaners have the same measured sucking power as the black hole in the SNGC 3377 galaxy.”

    “Blood has been shed, Jerry.” At the CC.