Comp USA, Sharper Image now Circuit City!

In 1995, the first Windows 95 Computers hit the market.  The Circuit City in Fashion Island opened and they had everything. IBM, Compaq, Dell computer machines filled their shelves.  Their TV Department was very small and in the corner.  The choices in printers where pretty much restricted to Ricoh and HP’s.  The sales people were knowledgeable, kind, understanding and very helpful.  If they didn’t know an answer, which happened infrequently, another knowledgeable sales associate arrived almost instantaneously.

We bought our first Windows 95, Compaq, 266Mhz, 32Meg RAM machine there in early 1996.  We also got our first Panasonic Thermal paper FAX machine there!  Hey, Circuit City was our go to place for everything connected to computer gear.  We loved those guys!

Then Fry’s opened over in Fountain Valley…and everyone talked the talk about what great deals could be had there.  The rumors however were that the products they delivered however, were from other store returns, 2nds and partial system open box issues.  They had lots of products, little tech assistance and you were more or less on your own.  If you had taken the time to visit three other electronics chains or spent lots of time on the World Wide Web doing research….when you did get to Fry’s …you might even get lucky….if you checked everything thoroughly.  The “Returns line” was always packed… and that always worried us.  We did get a great router there once.  The parking lot was always packed and the buying panic feel seemed crazy!

Comp USA down the road off the 405 was one of those places that always had the best RAM at a reasonable price.  The sales people were never jolly, and the management always looked stressed.  Like Fry’s, Comp USA was for those infrequent purchases we couldn’t find at a reasonable price elsewhere.

Sharper Image in Fashion Island was reknowned for being overpriced.  Whatever they had, from Massage Chairs to Air Purifiers…..everything was so expensive….that if you wanted something unique that much….you were going to have to pay the price and not complain.  In the many years that Sharper Image occupied space in Fashion Island….we may have bought ten items at most.

Best Buy is over in South Coast Plaza and has the two door men at the front guarding the entrance and exit.  About three years ago, Best Buy decided to be more business and customer friendly.  They tried doing a free program of special assistance and discount rebates if you joined up.  We never bought much at Best Buy.  We occasionally puruse their Sale table for open box and returned items.  But we did buy a great TV there…and their home delivery services were great.  Their prices are competitive and when you do find someone to talk to…..they are generally knowledgeable and helpful.

That leaves Micro Center, up the 55 Fwy at Edinger.  We have two people at Micro Center that are truly wonderful people.  They have helped us with two very serious returns and made our lives more beautiful.  The main problem with Micro Center is they don’t have many “really knowledgeable or intuitive” sales people.  They never ask what system you have(problem relating) and they just shove product at you and really don’t care whether you bring it back or not.  Looking at the line of people in the “Returns Line” gives you a good idea of what is going on.  Micro Center is a very clean store, with lots of products and no one to explain anything.  If you know exactly what you want and are willing to pay about 20% above the best rate…it’s good!

So, Comp USA, Sharper Image and now Circuit City are gone!  More and more people buy products on the web from Amazon or Amazon associates.  You get good products and even though you may have to pay for shipping…..the prices are generally lower than brick and mortar operations.  We recently got a top rated International GPS unit for $100 less than the going in store price on Amazon and that included a big fee for overnight delivery.

We are sad for the passage of all these consumer electronics stores.  We are sad for all those that lost jobs and will continue to lose jobs in the process.  But we hope that the next time we go to Best Buy, Micro Center or Fry’s…that the people will be glad to see us.  That they will walk up boldly and say:  “Anything I can do to help you sir and ma’m?”  One thing is for sure: finding a knowledgeable tech or calling the GEEK Squad is going to cost more and more.  This is an area that all those out of work people might consider filling!

Whatever happens to our economy, let us hope that all consumer sales will be driven by kind, knowledgeable and caring sales people.  This should apply to virtually every retail outlet and product.  Those days of the snippy, self important sales associate – should be over!

About Ron & Anna Winship

Independent News Producers/Writers and Directors for Parker-Longbow Productions. Independent Programming which includes a broad variety of Political, Entertainment and Professional Personalities. Cutting Edge - a talk the flagship of over 30 URL websites developed or under development. The Winships have been blogging for the Orange Juice since back when nickels had buffalos on them, and men wore onions attached to their belts, because it was the fashion back then.