December 3, 2020
John Vomhof Jr.Staff Writer
The customer was in tears when she first called the Best Buy customer service number.
She had traded in a laptop at her local store in San Diego, only to realize a month later that she had handed over the wrong device — one her grandma had given her as a gift. She was devastated.
The woman returned to the store, but the laptop was no longer there. So, she called Best Buy’s corporate office in a last-ditch effort to find it.
“She didn’t care if it was broken, didn’t work or had been wiped clean,” said Steven Sides, the customer service representative who answered the call. “She just physically wanted it back.”
And soon she had it, thanks to the determined, customer-focused efforts of some Best Buy employees at a distribution center more than 100 miles away.
‘A race against time’
As soon as Steven received the customer’s call, he was determined to help. He looked up the trade-in transaction and saw that the laptop had been shipped to our warehouse in Chino, California, so he reached out to leaders there for help.
Finding it would not be easy, though. The Chino facility processes more than 10,000 old devices every day, including a mix of store returns and trade-ins from across the entire West Coast.
“It’s literally a needle in a haystack,” said Terry Phomphakdy, one of the managers there.
Terry assigned the task to Curtis Flores, an employee who has a knack for tracking down items in the warehouse.
“I’m the sleuth of the warehouse,” Curtis said. “If they need to find something, nine out of 10 times I’ll find it.”
But he knew he had to work fast. Trade-in items are usually received, sorted and shipped out to an electronics recycler within a matter of days. And once they leave the building, they’re gone for good.
“It was definitely a race against time,” Curtis said.
A happy customer
Curtis searched the warehouse’s inventory system for laptops that fit the description and timeframe of when it likely arrived. He quickly narrowed it down to six possibilities, then raced across the warehouse to hunt down the right one.
“I had someone bring down the pallet, and I searched through about 200 laptops,” he said. “I went through each one, scanning the serial numbers. And, sure enough, I found it in all its shining glory. I was stoked.”
Curtis wasn’t the only one celebrating the victory.
“The whole team here was rooting for success,” Curtis said. “It was a rare opportunity to have such a direct impact for a customer.”
Then came the fun part: Steven got to call back the customer to share the good news.
“She was super grateful,” he said. “She was so, so happy. She said it was probably the most amazing thing any company has ever done for her.”
Once again, she was in tears. But this time they were tears of joy.