Best Buy Employee: ‘High School Kids’ Will Replace Skilled Magnolia Staff

Skilled Magnolia personnel will leave the company when salaries drop to $12.56/hour, says an anonymous Best Buy district-level employee. Best Buy counters: 'It's not that cookie cutter.'

Best Buy Employee: ‘High School Kids’ Will Replace Skilled Magnolia Staff
Who will sell Magnolia's bread-and-butter $15,000 home theaters? Image from Thomas Grace Construction
Julie Jacobson · April 13, 2009

Skilled A/V personnel at Magnolia stores will be replaced by inexperienced high-school kids in a major reorganization, according to a district-level Best Buy employee who asked not to be identified.

Apparently, the restructuring will include pay cuts of up to 40 percent. “We’ve known there was going to be restructuring, but the details are leaking out,” he says.

He tells us that at least three Magnolia associates who currently make $17 to $18 per hour cited a new wage of $12.56 per hour—typical of Best Buy’s “line-level employees,” aka the Blue Shirts, he says.

Apparently, June 3 will be the last day of regular pay.

Best Buy spokesperson Justin Barber cautions, “One employee’s particular experience is not necessarily the same for the [Best Buy] masses.”

He explains that the changes at Best Buy, as well as its Geek Squad and Magnolia franchises, are “not that cookie cutter.”

At least two years ago, Barber says, “We had announced we would look at the organization as whole—who to shuffle around, how to better allocate the resources we have.”

Ultimately, he explains, “It’s all about getting in front of more customers.”

Losing the Best People?

Our caller wonders who exactly will be getting in front of those customers. With the alleged pay cuts, he suggests, the experts will give way to amateurs.

“They’re going to lose their best people,” he says. “I imagine as people quit – you’ll probably have a mass amount leaving – their positions will be filled by PSAs (personal shopping assistants) or CAs (customer assistants) who are basically unskilled labor units – kids in high school who walk around the store with a broad knowledge of nothing.”

Even as a high-schooler working at Best Buy, Maggie was one of the smart and conscientious ones (spoken like a proud step-mom). But could she learn to sell $15,000 home theaters?

Barber would not confirm that there would be across-the-board salary cuts for experienced A/V technicians.

He would only offer, “There are indeed some jobs being eliminated, also some being added, and some getting shuffled around.”

When asked if Best Buy fears a mass exodus of talent, Barber hedged.

“Some people whose pay was affected, there are things being put into place so they have time to find other positions [within Best Buy],” he says.

At the same time, Barber explains, Best Buy is creating some “leadership roles in the stores and giving them more face time with customers, so there will be an elevated experience for more people.”

Our caller isn’t convinced.

It’s just crazy how similar this seems to what happened at Circuit City,” he says.

Indeed, Circuit City was widely criticized for replacing its experienced A/V salespeople and installers with more affordable, but apparently ineffective personnel.

Our source sees a similar fate if not for Best Buy then for Magnolia. The $15,000 media rooms that are the specialty store’s “bread and butter,” he says, will evaporate because there won’t be experts left to sell and install those systems.

Earlier this year, Best Buy closed seven of its 13 stand-alone Magnolia stores, and Best Buy corporate took over operations of the other six.

In 2007, Best Buy closed six other Magnolia stores because of “our desire to transform the model to become a more service-oriented provider,” said spokesperson Sue Busch back then.

Since then, Geek Squad has taken over the home theater installations for both Best Buy and the in-store Magnolia shops.

Arlen Schweiger contributed to this article

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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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