As Donald Sensing points out, this is sometimes as much an individual store thing as anything else. On the other hand, I’ve had my own share of problems with them. Mine, however, involve something worse–upselling, with accompanying defamation in some cases.
On one occasion, a neighbor asked me for my opinion on what to buy for a memory upgrade. I examined the memory in the computer and wrote down the exact quantity and speed to ask for. A few days later, I saw him again; he gave me a funny look and told me that he bought something different on the advice of the sales clerk. Upon questioning, it turned out that the sales clerk had taken my recommendation, told my neighbor that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and sold him some dual-speed memory at twice the price. I told my neighbor that he had been tricked, but he decided to stick with what he had, since it seemed to work.
Later, I had opportunity to buy memory for myself, and decided to check out the situation. The back shelf had all their memory laid out, with prices; after an exhaustive search, I located the memory I needed (on a bottom shelf, somewhat well-hidden), and asked the clerk to give it to me. He replied that I should probably buy something else that should work much better: yup, dual-speed memory, at nearly twice the price. I literally had to argue with the young punk behind the counter to get what I wanted, and nearly walked out on him; he gave me the dire warning that the memory was likely not to work as he handed me the package. As of this writing, that memory has been working perfectly for over a year.
Some people have mentioned Best Buy. I’ve had mixed results from them. Their habit of rebating everything is irritating, and I’ve had one rebate refused for missing some portion of the magic pixie dust ritual they make you go through. On the other hand, I bought my current laptop from them; the first model was busted out of the box (probably a short in the sound card circuitry) and they just exchanged it with very little hassle. When they heard I was planning to run Linux on it, they even found a resident Linux tech expert to consult with me, which was far more respect for Linux than I’m used to.
Between these and Circuit City (who completely melted down in the face of an exclusive distribution agreement to sell a white-hot item, something most retailers would kill for), I’m not sure what to do about the current sorry state of electronics vendors.
UPDATE (2007-12-09): Commenter JD wrote, “I am amazed every day that they are able to stay in business.” Well, wonder no more.