How much is it worth to de-crapify your shiny new computer and other up sells when buying a computer

A recent visit to a local Best Buy to help a friend pick out a new laptop was quite an eye opener.  Now, in general, I like Best Buy and have, for the most part, had positive experiences there.  As with any retailer, some stores are ‘better’ than others and the same is true here in Richmond.  Locally, there are about six stores and two of them I would consider marginal stores in that the staff and/or the production selection seem to be sub par.  Given that, though, they all follow the same sales tact and when you purchase something like a large screen television, an appliance or a computer, they will then perform the up sell.

An up sell is an attempt to sell you something related, but in addition to what you are buying.  For me, today, I purchased a remote start kit for my wife’s mini-van (it is a gift, don’t tell her) as well as help my friend buy that laptop.  I fully expected an up sell with the remote start since the mini van is a relatively new Toyota and nothing is ever simple or cheap when it to comes to recent vintage autos.

What I did not expect, however, was the types of up sells for the computer.  My friend wanted something relatively in-expensive but something she could use in the business that she and her husband run.  Given the requirements, we had narrowed down the choice to three laptops.  NOTE: there’s a ton of laptops out there, good and bad, and picking one-for ANY price/performance range-is a daunting task.

Of the three, a Toshiba costing under four hundred dollars was the best choice.  The machine is a dual core AMD with 3gb of RAM that can be expanded to 8gb.  It had an ATI Radeon chipset and a pretty spacious 350gb hard disk-more than adequate for the machine’s intended purpose.  So, once the selection was made, the salesperson then proceeded with the up sell.

The first thing he tried to sell was an ‘optimization’ service.  For $40(US), the Geek Squad would, essentially, de-crapify the computer.  Yep.  They will remove the trial ware and the crap that these companies put on the machines.  Then, the person said, they would perform some registry clean up and optimization.  Finally, they would download and install all of the security patches and Windows updates.  I about choked and asked the guy if he were serious.  He kind of looked puzzled and said that, yes, he was serious.  Next, of course, came the protection plan.  I had actually told my friend that she may want to get one.  I normally don’t like these, but on some things that have parts that would cost more than the plan and device combined, I have purchased them myself.  In two of three cases, I had to actually use them and it paid off.  Usually, though, it is just free money for them.  And, in this case, it turned out to be not such a good deal after all.  Best Buy’s standard ‘warranty’ is pretty much in place of the manufacturer’s warranty: during the first year, if the machine has a problem, you bring it back to the store and they repair it.  If it is beyond the store’s ability to repair, they will send it to the manufacturer.  For the protection plan, it is the same thing only it covers user induced problems and not just defects in the machine. You can get a plan covering one, two or three years.  The problem is that the two and three year plans would come very close to the cost of just buying a new computer. 

Finally, the salesperson tried to sell anti-virus.  The lure is that you get the first SIX MONTHS free, then you pay fifty dollars and must renew every year.  Well, with several really good free anti-virus packages, there is no need subscribe to one through Best Buy.  Microsoft’s Security Essentials and AVG Free are pretty decent.  AVG’s paid application is also pretty good and you don’t pay definition updates.

Overall, however, the purchasing experience –sans the up sell – at Best Buy is pretty decent, I’ve experienced worse at other retailers. But the problem I have with them is that up sell.  I realize and understand that they are there to make money, but some of this stuff strikes me of taking advantage of people who just don’t know better.  Charging $40 to, essentially, remove a few applications and install updates is a bit much.  Though, I suppose, for some people, not having to that themselves is worth the money and it is probably lower than what others charge to do the same thing.  Sony, for instance, was selling machines without the crapware for FIFTY dollars MORE.  Incredible.

That visit to Best Buy just proves that I am in the wrong line of work.  Maybe I should market a de-crapification and anti-virus service myself.  Think of it…the Half Byte New Computer De-crapification Service.  Kind of catchy, huh?

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