Fifty Shades of Frustration: Why Women Hate Best Buy


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Women retain cortisol longer than men so this visual cacophony could have longer lasting effects.

It is the Saturday before Father’s Day and I’m sitting at the Cold Stone Creamery with my son. That’s when I notice something strange—even eerie. Women are rushing into all of the other stores, but avoiding Best Buy, which is directly across from us.

Men typically like gadgets and electronics. Therefore, Best Buy should be an ideal place to shop for Father’s Day. However, it is as if there is estrogen repellant wafting from their doors. I point this out to my son and terror spreads across his face.

I’m curious and can’t stop myself—no matter how much my son begs, pleads, or threatens to run away. I explain to him that this is the scientific method in action. I’ve noticed something odd and I want to understand it.

Doing my best imitation of my high school science teacher, I explain that there is no alternative but for me to begin peppering the women who bypass Best Buy with questions. Would Newton have stopped? No. Would Einstein have stopped? Of course not. Nor shall I. Now, I’m not only lame and boring, I’m so embarrassing that he ducks into the Five Below and tells me to text him when I’m done.

The Research

I fish out my notepad and start asking women “Are you shopping for Father’s Day?” Of the eight women I accosted, all but one said they were. “Does your dad or husband like electronics, music or movies?” There I got a 100% response—minus the lady who walked away. I’m not ashamed. I’m fully willing to be shunned by society in pursuit of science. Mrs. Trent would be proud.

As I get to the heart of the matter, “So if you dad or husband likes what Best Buy sells and you are out shopping for him, why not go in there?” I poise my pen over paper, like Darwin on The Beagle and wait to be illuminated. Of the seven women I didn’t scare off, they simply say, “I hate Best Buy.”

It is only by assuring them that I’m just a curious woman who writes blogs about retail that they went further. Plus, I’m on crutches so pity is working in my favor or perhaps they think I’ve had too much pain medicine. Anyway, I see my son peek out of the store and cower in shame.

When asked why they dislike Best Buy, the complaints fell into the following categories:

  • Visual assault
  • Lack of context
    • -Products themselves
    • -Products in usage
    • Lack of Connection
    • Associate allocation
    • Logistics
    • Policies

Noticing that I’m finished stalking innocent shoppers, my son tentatively emerges. I say, “We are going to Best Buy.”

From the look on his face, I know that he is fully aware of what is coming next. I bribe him with, “You can get a game.” It still isn’t enough to be seen with me. Once more he retreats to the safety of the Five Below.

The Experiment

I have to admit my bias as I go into Best Buy. I’m a bit of a gadget geek. Therefore, I vow to shop like a neophyte. Strolling around the store, I search out evidence to disprove the women who are now hopefully enjoying their ice cream.

Visual Assault

I’m sure that the promos they show on the bank of TV’s look great when the agency is presenting them to executives or the vendor sends it to Best Buy.

However, the whirling, swirling, movement that makes content engaging on one screen is nauseating on 50. Not to mention, there is different content on many of the screens. It is mind numbing to the point that I can’t focus on the individual products themselves. I study six TV specs in that environment and then I am mentally exhausted.

Another complaint was over the lighting. I frequently hear this about warehouse stores. There is a constant flicker because they swing and the types of bulbs. This is already annoying but in the visual cacophony that is Best Buy it makes you wish for a Dramamine.

Lack of Context

The women I spoke with complained that they didn’t know what to buy because they didn’t know which products met their needs. I mean do I really need a DSLR camera or would a lower level be ok for taking pictures of my dog? Or should I get my husband a plasma or LED TV? Even once they knew in which category they should shop, it is hard to decide if 14 megapixels is enough. Or whether they should wait for OLED to become ubiquitous.

You can’t read the information on the placards nor is there anything that might indicate which camera is best for your purposes.

Moreover, I looked at the spec sheets in the camera section. I have been researching DSLR cameras for a year now. Not only could I not read the specs of the cameras because the print was so small, the information I wanted to know wasn’t even on the card.


How would you know if this were the right camera for you?

Associate Allocation

There were more people charged with keeping me from stealing than to help me. The Best Buy reality is that people come in and look at products on the shelves, whip out their phones and search for a better price.

I figured with the ‘showrooming’ trend that I’d be swarmed when I started snapping pictures. However, only one guy asked, “Can I help you?” I respond, “I’m not sure which camera to get my Dad. I need to do some research.”

While he was courteous, he didn’t ask me what type of pictures my father takes. He didn’t say “Is this for Father’s Day?” He didn’t ask me if I need anything else—remember I’m on crutches. He seemed almost eager to go off to some other task rather than interact with me. Maybe he’d heard that I’m a nutter from the women I spoke to earlier or possibly my son has posted it to Facebook by now.

I guess I should commend this guy because I was ignored when I entered and exited the store by the four people congregating around the ‘greet and show me your receipt’ stand. Otherwise no one else ventured to help me at all.


I needed some new computer speakers because of my recent Spotify addiction. Therefore, I used this opportunity to shop for them. I knew what I wanted, but I was enjoying my method acting experiment. I waited patiently in the computer speaker section— 6 minutes. I finally read all of the placards on each set of speakers. I took more pictures. Still no associate.

Finally, I make my selection. The box is large and I’m hobbling toward check out. Again, of the four people at podium in the front, not one offers to help. I think about the women I have interviewed-the one with the small kids, the really petite woman and the older lady. I’d hate Best Buy too if I were not the impartial scientist limping toward the parking lot.


I could not test this in this experiment. However, two of the women told horror stories about trying to return things to Best Buy that either didn’t work or were the wrong thing. I think they only talked to me for the free ice cream and the opportunity to rant about this.

The Results

Here is the ironic thing, I chose Insignia speakers—Best Buy’s own brand. I’ve bought them before because they sound good and the price point is low enough that I can rock out to my 80s play list on Spotify in any room in my house. Suddenly, I’m panicked that Best Buy will screw up so badly that I’m not going to have access to this brand.

I can’t help but think that the women I spoke with have a point. Best Buy IS a difficult place to shop—not just for women.


If Best Buy wants to win with women, they are going to have to rethink their in-store experience—seriously. There is no reason that promos have to look like they came from the X Games. Moreover, cortisol stays in a woman’s body longer than a man’s. Anything that induces stress will have a longer impact. Also, women also have a bigger hippocampus, which means they have a greater memory of how things made them feel. If a retailer irritates a woman, the effects of that can be long lasting.

Also, studies have show that showing emotion in marketing materials can have more effect on women. Some of those promotions should have images that women can relate to if they want to sell to them. I understand that Best Buy is frequently beholden to the vendors in how they display products. However, they ultimately share the same customer. Why not do what is best for them? I’m guessing they have no desire to alienate a large portion of the population.


Women don’t want to buy a pink hair brush at Best Buy. Instead, they want to know which products are right for them.

The only evidence I could find in the store that Best Buy had thought about women as consumers was one very pink aisle. Even though I’m fond of pink, I’m not sure that I’d go to Best Buy to purchase a hairbrush. Instead of making a Hello Kitty aisle, how about trying to make it easier for us to buy a TV or camera?

Amazon is making it impossible for Best Buy to compete on price alone. They have to face the fact that they are in a commodity game. The only way they can differentiate is to create superior shopping experience. That means making it fun, informative and establishing their associates as experts on electronics and media.

Best Buy will have to find innovative way to do guided selling at the shelf level. If their associates need tablets to be informed, I’d think they’d know where to get a good deal on them. How hard is it to create a color-coded system that categorizes the cameras into beginner, intermediate, expert, and finally Ansel Adams? How difficult is it to set up a family room in the store that shows how all the products work together?

If Best Buy isn’t going to make it easier for shoppers to get the right thing and then establish Draconian policies about returns, they will find themselves with more and more store closings. Plus, I’ve never seen a retailer thrive by focusing more on protecting themselves from their customers than serving them.

Retailers who want to thrive need to start thinking about how not to alienate their customers. This isn’t just about targeting women, but making it easier for shoppers as a whole. That means:

  • Creating an environment that is less jarring
  • Broadening appeal to women in content and context
  • Empowering associates with information
  • Abandoning a philosophy of protecting themselves from the customer rather than serving them
  • Eschewing the vendor-dictated model that isn’t working for anyone.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Sheridan Orr
Sheridan Orr is considered the Ralph Nader of the customer experience. She is a noted speaker and author as well as the managing partner of The Interrobang! Agency, a consulting firm focused on crafting customer experiences. Her primary area of expertise is consumer behavior in a connected world. She has over a decade of experience working with some of the world's most recognizable brands. When she's not waxing poetic about the modern, connected customer, she's an avid skier and atomic soccer mom.


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