Best Served Cold?

I'll admit, when Circuit City proposed, and then shoddily implemented, something called Divx, as an alternative to the just born and still struggling DVD format, I did wish things upon them that only Johnny Carson's Carnac the Magnificent could have imagined. You know, things like "May the fleas of a thousand camels nest in your shorts." Divx discs were designed around the rental model, except without the hassle of a return. Buy them for $4 and you could watch them for 48 hours after the first play. You could buy a few more days at a later date, or convert them to "silver" for some other higher price. In the end though, they would be unplayable landfill. Of course such Tom Foolery required a dedicated Divx player which, if you were foolish enough to buy one, would now join the discs at the landfill. I've never seen such corporate "hey-that's-a-great-idea-nah-forget-it"-ism before. In about six months, Divx had come and gone.

But Circuit City lingered on and, despite my personal boycott, prospered. Until recently that is. Last week, right after announcing they were closing 155 stores, they also decided that entering chapter 11 bankruptcy protection would be a good thing as well. But while for the briefest of moments, I experienced a mild sense of vindication and satisfaction, truth be told, the last thing our hobby needs is the reduction in the number of places competing for our business.

Granted, Circuit City is manned by vultures sales associates who want to establish up front that you're buying the installation, setup and "calibration" or additional warranty for the product that comes with a free trip to Jamaica for the vulture sales associate that is the number one seller of Mitsusonic flat panels in the tri-state area. And granted they helped lead to the demise of high definition music by mixing SACDs with the DVD-Audio discs in the same bins, didn't know where they were when you asked, didn't know what they were if they did find them, and certainly didn't know the differences between the formats or what you needed to play them. If pushed, they would venture "a Divx player???"

But still, if you did your research in UltimateAVmag or Home Theater magazine, Circuit City had what you wanted if what you wanted was a flat panel TV. And if your wireless router got fried by a power surge, you could always pick up a new one from Circuit City (and a better surge protector) that day and be back in business. There is definitely a need for brick-and-mortar stores. Most of the high-end "stereo shops" of the world are gone, and I don't relish seeing the low-to-mid-market stores like Circuit City meet the same fate.

Circuit City is not going out of business, they are reorganizing and hopefully will come through it mostly intact. But if consumers know about their chapter 11 status, will they be reluctant to pick up that extended warranty? What about picking up gift cards for a store that, whoops, might not be around after the gift is given? I don't think things will be that bad, but that's just mostly wishful thinking on my behalf. Only time, and the books, will tell.

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Kris Deering's picture

Interesting thoughts Fred, though I must make a correction. Divx players didn't need to join their silver platters in the landfill. All Divx players were DVD compliant and could play standard DVDs as well, long after their pay-per-view software was gone.

dave j's picture

I'll admit that over the years I did lots of business with them without any real serious problems. But, then I started seeing the product line being slimmed down and also (would you believe this?) starting seeing bedding appear in some stores in my area. This was very odd to me since it is suppose to be an electronics store. But now, as you mentioned, Circuit City is filing for bankruptcy. It will be very interesting to see what gives here. BTW, as a side thought, If Circuit City goes under, I wonder where Onkyo is going to go?

David Vaughn's picture

Fred, Great blog. I think Circuit City blew it years ago when they went away from commissioned salesmen to hourly employees. My local CC had some pretty knowledgeable guys who understood the technology and were seemingly well paid by their sales. Once their "new" model went into effect, these guys left and low-wage drones without any product knowledge became the norm, similar to Best Buy--or what I call CC now, Best Buy lite. Their inventory isn't as deep, their stores are generally smaller, and frankly, their service is worse (is that even possible?). Regardless, I hope they survive this as well because we do need B&M shops to give us something to look at during our lunch hours.

Frank's picture

Bedding huh? Seems to me I saw a bunch of pool tables at another not quite so major home entertainment chain when I stopped by last week.

Fred M.'s picture

Kris, My $899 Denon DVD player from back then is also in the landfill, along with a $89 Toshiba from only 2 years ago. So when it comes to things with moving parts, they always end up in the landfill. Besides, an old Divx player doesn't upconvert . . .

The Flap's picture

CC and BB have done more to hurt the industry than anyone else. I say GOOD they need to go away. It is time for a new model of store with solutions and not cheap china crap to hock. Consumers are not buying HDTV's becasue of the confidence factor, BB and CC just don't give it. Time for a new retailer to emerge.

Ralph Cortigiano's picture

BTW, the responder to your Circuit City blog that noted the change when they let their knowledgeable commissioned sales people go

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