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Best Buy & Beyond

I did something last week that I haven’t done in a few months: I went to a Best Buy store. (And then I went to a Staples. And finally, for good measure, I went to a Target.)

As the editor of TWICE, I should probably make a habit of visiting more brick-and-mortar stores, and more often at that. The truth is, I’m not much of a shopper. I’m also the father of 9- and 11-year-old boys who equate shopping in a store with sitting in a dentist’s chair. But in this case, there were school supplies to procure and I wasn’t tackling that task alone.

So, the three of us set off with their school-supplied school supply lists — comprehensive to a fault — and the best attitude we could muster.

Our first stop was Best Buy. Among the things my older son needed for his middle school debut: an 8GB flash drive, a scientific calculator and a digital audio recorder. (Yes, I know I could probably find those items at either of the other two retailers but I also have had my eye on finally making the switch to a wireless multiroom audio system and figured I’d kill two birds …)

Best Buy was pretty crowded for a weekday evening and while the boys immediately bee-lined to the gaming section, I pretty quickly found everything I was looking for, including a flash drive in the form of a baseball, which fit my son to a tee.

The surprising part for me, though, was how often I was approached by a Blue Shirt and asked if I needed any assistance: three times inside of 10 minutes. In my experience this was not the norm at Best Buy.

When I entered the audio section and eyed up a Sonos system on display, not one but two(!) Blue Shirts greeted me and proceeded to ask very tar-geted questions. How many rooms? What type of music do I generally listen to. Do I have a deck or patio? I chatted with the guys for a few minutes, playing dumb mostly, and when I had answered their questions they made a good-better-best recommendation that was spot on (I had done my homework.)

When I broke the news that I wasn’t ready to make a purchase that night, one of the Blue Shirts immediately handed me a business card with his contact info. On the back he scrawled his Gmail address “in case I had any questions after I left the store.” I walked away impressed.

Most of you reading this are probably thinking, “Well, that’s just good basic salesmanship,” and you’re right. But having been to that same Best Buy off and on for 11 years now, this was the first time I could remember being approached unsolicited, and walking away feeling more educated than when I walked in.

I’m not sure if my local Best Buy location is indicative of the state of the national chain but judging by the success stories coming out of Minneapolis lately, CEO Hubert Joly is on to something. The chain, by all accounts, is clicking on all cylinders: stellar financials, pricing parity with rival Amazon, a budding bromance with Apple.

For a look at the “new and improved” Best Buy, turn to p. 4 for our report on what senior editor Alan Wolf speculated was perhaps Best Buy’s “best week ever.”

As an epilogue to my shopping story, I followed up with two questions via email to my Blue Shirt friend. He answered me the next day, with his cellphone number and his hours in case I wanted to discuss further. Looks like I may finally be getting that Sonos system after all.