While Samsung TVs and smartphones are well represented at retail outlets, their laptops and Ultrabooks have been harder to find. What a wonderful idea to bring together all of Samsung's consumer electronics, and feature lines like laptops that would benefit from more bricks and mortar exposure. Well, maybe. Here in the Dallas area, where disposable income tends to run high as does a love of gadgets, the Samsung Experience Stores inside Best Buy have been a mixed bag, making us wonder if Samsung isn't just throwing money at marketing, rather than doing it right.
Phony Phone Info?
One of our larger Best Buy stores near a major highway has a decent sized Samsung Store within the store. A Samsung rather than Best Buy employee manages the experience, and she was very friendly and chipper. When I asked about the Samsung Galaxy S4, which some might think the point of the Samsung Experience endeavor, she told me it wouldn't be out until sometime next month. I was disappointed since I'd heard that Samsung Experience reps were showing off their own S4 phones. I mentioned that the Best Buy website said the phone would be on sale this Saturday, April 27. She said that was incorrect. I asked her if the Best Buy website was wrong, and thus their pre-order shouldn't be trusted and she said the Best Buy website was likely wrong, and she works for Samsung not Best Buy, so she has the inside scoop. As George Takei says "Oh my!"
I then wandered over to the Best Buy regular phone section and told a Best Buy employee what she'd said. The Best Buy employee said they'd most definitely have the phone on AT&T this Saturday (she'd just received a status update that morning re-confirming) and I could preorder one for pickup then. The Best Buy rep headed over to the Samsung rep to straighten her out. Imagine if I hadn't said anything to the Best Buy rep. A visit to another Samsung Experience Store yielded more incorrect info about the phone, but the rep tried to sell me on a nice case for the Samsung Galaxy S III (which I do not own).
Shouldn't you be Able to Buy those Nice Laptops on Display?
I like Samsung notebooks, I really do. And I'd love to see them in more stores. The Samsung Experience Store has several fresh models on display; including the Samsung Series 7 Chronos 15.6" with touch screen and Radeon graphics and the 17" model with even faster graphics. They also have a Series 9 model, the poster child for gorgeous Ultrabooks. Were any of these actually in stock to take home in any of the 20 nearest Dallas metroplex stores? Nope. Nor have they been for the past few weeks. Some are simply listed as "unavailable" on the Best Buy website, so you can't even order one. So you learn all about that nifty laptop and are saved from an impulse buy thanks to poor corporate planning?
The really good Samsung Series 7 Ultra 13" Ultrabook has been available exclusively at Best Buy for a month. For some reason their website's product browse and search feature made it nearly impossible to find (not Samsung's fault), though it's stocked at most stores. Trust me, after reviewing the notebook, I received 100 emails and tweets asking me how to find it at Best Buy. It's a pretty hot product. Oddly, it was left out of the Samsung Experience Store, and sits in relative obscurity next to the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch, a much higher profile Ultrabook, in Best Buy's own notebook section.
Perhaps the Samsung Experience Stores inside Best Buy in your area have much better information and inventory. I can only report on our major metropolitan area. But here in Dallas, where Samsung has a large office, the Experience so far seems like a lot of dollars thrown away with little sense.
I've had bad experiences at Best Buy that didn't even have anything to do with Samsung. Best Buy loves to blame Amazon and other online retailers for their financial woes, but I would much rather buy locally and not have to wait, and would even pay a little extra - if they treated their customers better.
I guess some people still stand by Best Buy, and sometimes you can still have good experiences there, but it wasn't long ago that their top two executives were basically fired for malfeasance (although it was related to inappropriate personal relationships and not really anything technological or financial).
-------------------- Chief iPod Correspondent
Senior Time Waster
Captain of the Planet Express
Assistant Jedi Librarian
Aside from Best Buy's merits and failings, I'd like to see the big money Samsung spent on their Best Buy Experience Stores offer something positive. It simply isn't good enough to attempt to match Apple's store within a store floor space at Best Buy locations if Samsung is going to use the "Experience" to their advantage. In our area employee training (Samsung's problem) and lack of inventory (Best Buy's problem but Samsung should be pushing Best Buy on this) make for a poor consumer experience.
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview