Best Buy has appeared alongside the word "troubled" in recent stories, as if the company were sitting in a dark bar looking pensive, playing country-western songs on the jukebox. It is a tough business: Competition from the Internet has hammered brick-and-mortar stores -- even the ones that sell brick and mortar. Amazon gives free shipping with a 40-ton order.
I've shopped at the flagship store in Richfield -- yeah, I'm one of those old-fashioned types who still leaves the house now and then -- and the staff has always been smart and helpful. Perhaps because it's close to the mothership. It's like an army base six blocks from the Pentagon: Oh crap, the Joint Chiefs are here. Polish something.
But there's always room for improvement. Some suggestions:
• Stop selling stupid things like Internet-connected refrigerators that have tiny screens on the front. Really? Someone updated his Facebook page! I must run over to the fridge and stare at it! Please stop now, before someone offers computers with a sliding drawer for produce.
• Explore niche marketing. Speaking of fridges, Amazon sells them. (But I'd never buy one online. What if it's the wrong color? You'd have to box it up, take it to the post office, stand in line; good luck getting it up on the scale, or covering the front with 4,000 first-class stamps.) Amazon's fridge page says: "This item ships in its own packaging and cannot be gift-wrapped or concealed." Hah! Opportunity! Let it be known you can not only wrap a fridge, but conceal it. How, I don't know. Hire ninja installers.
• Try guilt. If a couple comes in, talks to your TV salesman for half an hour, takes notes, chooses a set, but leaves without buying it because they can get it online for $5 less, allow the salesman to say "you're taking money out of my children's mouths" as they leave. I doubt the CEO will announce that good quarterly sales were due primarily to "an uptick in Shame," but it can't hurt.
• Admit that printer ink isn't made out of whale tears and moon-rock shavings, and could cost less. You will earn our respect.
• Take a page from Ikea and sell Swedish meatballs. In fact, just get out of electronics completely and sell Swedish meatballs. But you can skip the lutefisk -- unless you want to make a bunch of new shirts that say "Gack Squad."