A little while ago, I realized that EBC Computers went out of business. I'm not very surprised that they are gone, but I am actually a little sad. Not only because I worked there years and years ago, but because they were the last fairly decent computer retailer I would get parts at. If I want to buy any parts now, I have to go online and wait a few days. Let's look at some of the businesses that have disappeared.
EBC actually had pretty terrible service. Having worked there for over a year, I got to see some very interesting business practices. Things I can't really agree with, but I can see why they would operate the way they did. For example, when a customer would return a part and say it didn't work, EBC would send the part back to their headquarters where an employee would test the part. That makes sense, but if the part tested fine, they didn't sell it as open-box, they would repackage it and sell it again as new. It sort of makes sense in that it is still a new part, it's just been "tested."
They also had a huge contract for customers posted on the wall. People would never read it, and you could hardly expect them to because it was so long. But whenever there was a dispute, the employee would find the fine print there and point it out. The problem was that most of the policies were not common sense if you shopped at basically any other retail store. When I worked there, sometimes I'd go home and review the day, wondering how many customers I'd screwed over that day. That was actually one of my brother's favorite questions: "Mike, how many customers did you rip off today?"
My favorite story from working there was when we sold dial-up modems. For some reason, they didn't come with a driver disk. EBC decided to make the drivers available online and told us to give that information to the customers. What good does that do? They have to use the modem to get online to get the drivers right? Stupid. I bought a big box of floppies and started copying drivers for the people that bought those modems.
EBC did have some good aspects thought. They did have decent prices and they usually got recently released products in a timely matter. If you kind of understood their operating practices, they weren't horrible to do business with. They also lasted longer than the other two retailers in this review.
Alas, EBC went out of business. They posted a final message on their site that said: "EBC is closed, for any warranty will go through manufacture. Sorry for any inconvenience" I really liked the message. It seems like their final act of screwing over their customers. Not only is it hard to understand, they didn't post any information on how to contact the manufacturers.
I was never a big fan of PC Club. I would go there because I had co-workers who were big fans. Also, once in a while, they had something that EBC didn't or had a better price than EBC. They were much more like a retail store than EBC as well. They had more of a show room where you could pick parts off of the shelves and then take them to the counter to pay. I liked that much more than EBC and LS Micro, where you had a part list and you'd tell the employees what you wanted and then they would disappear into their warehouse and pull them for you.
I had two big complaints with PC Club. One was that the prices they showed online didn't match what was in the store. Even if you picked the individual store you would visit. I'd often price out a system and then find it costing 20-30 dollars more in the store. It was very weird.
My other complaint was that the employees really felt they were superior to you as a customer. I remember I bought a video card and found out later that there was an incompatibility between that particular model and the particular motherboard I had. I would never have expected that because it's been so long since I've had to deal with hardware incompatibilities, but the employee didn't believe me. He didn't want to let me exchange the card for another one. Finally I convinced him to let me exchange it and the new card worked wonderfully. Pretty silly though, just let me exchange the part.
The big problem with LS Micro was their prices. They were a lot more expensive than other stores and they didn't really have a reason to be. On parts that were exactly the same, they were five or so dollars more than the competition. When I asked them about it, they said they offered better service. So I asked them what better service they offered and the employee mumbled something about building systems and doing upgrades. So I asked him why that would make individual parts more expensive if I wasn't having them perform any of those types of services. He didn't really have an answer. They didn't necessarily offer better warranties, so I still don't see how they justified it. I guess that's why they went out of business.
I would imagine it's difficult to be a brick-and-mortar computer parts reseller. First, most of your customers are probably tech-savvy enough to shop for parts online where they can find the lowest prices. This would cut your customer base down to people who need parts that very day. The parts you sell are also pretty standardized, which means it's difficult to differentiate your store from any other store. I guess you could tout better service or better warranties, but that usually means you'll need to charge higher prices to meet those claims. Higher prices means less customers willing to pay. Oh well, might as well just shop online.