On Best Buy’s Departure

Best Buy in Shanghai, China

Photo by IceNineJon on Flickr

Recently Best Buy (百思买) announced that it’s closing its China stores. I normally don’t pay too much attention to this kind of news, but Best Buy is a little different. Somehow it felt a bit more relevant to me this time.

Best Buy is an American chain, and there’s still a huge Best Buy store down the street from where I live. I welcomed the arrival of Best Buy because I hate its domestic competitors, Suning (苏宁) and Gome (国美), which, incidentally, are also just down the street from me. I had high hopes that Best Buy would prove that the citizens of Shanghai, too, are willing to pay for better service and assurance of high quality.

Alas, it was not meant to be. It’s hard to say for sure how much of the equation is price, and how much of it is Best Buy’s failure to live up to the levels of service it upholds in North America. But something didn’t work.

I won’t say any more on the matter, though, because Adam Minter did a much better job than I ever could on his blog, Shanghai Scrap, in a post called Bye-Bye, Best Buy (China): You had it coming.

I especially liked this post because Adam shares a lot of my same sentiments. Adam notes:

> …let me note that I would have loved it if Best Buy had succeeded in China. In part, out of Minnesota pride (I’m a native, and still consider it home) but also because I liked being able to shop for electronics in China without having to bargain, worry about buying fakes, or not being able to return items. The laptop upon which I’m writing, right now, was purchased there, as was the printer to my right, the speakers in front of me, and the iPod in my gym bag. I’m as sorry, and as irritated, as anybody that this happened.

Meanwhile, business is booming at the Apple Stores across Shanghai…


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Damn. I got my phone there, because they had fixed prices and no fakes. 🙁

  2. now, I wonder how Media Market will go in Shanghai .

  3. Funny because in New York at least, Best Buy is known for being very competitive with prices but saddled with appalling service.

  4. I normally buy from Newegg and 360buy. Yeah, i hate to worry about buying fake and bargaining. Their price is low too and you don’t need to lug the stuff home.

    I believe Media Market will be next.

  5. I had such bad experiences with BB. I bought so much stuff there and bought the warranty and they never fixed it properly and made excuses! It was a mess! Their service suckkkk! Media Mart on the other hand is a different story. I had a problem with one device I had and they exchanged it even without the warranty. So I am not sad to see them go!

  6. Come on, Suning and Gome are not that bad. As two of the largest home appliances chain stores in China, they’ve got to give their customers some assurance on quality. I’ve shopped at Suning a few times and I think the low prices they offered are worth you bearing their lousy service. Also, when you think of the wages these poor shopping assistants earn, you will become more understanding of them.

  7. light487 Says: March 7, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Do you think that this “pulling out” (at what appeared, to me at least, to be very short notice; leaving people unemployed and consumers stuck with next-to-useless warranties and guarantees etc) will leave a smudge on large American retail stores in the minds of the general populace? I mean.. how much trust can the general populace place on another large American department store chain should it choose to setup shop in Shanghai?..

    To me, it would seem like not only have Best Buy ruined the market for themselves by “failing” in China.. but also may have crippled the chances of others to come and do the same thing (ie. sell high-quality at fixed price point etc)

  8. The press reported a couple months ago about Best Buy’s lack of acceptance in China. The reason given was the Chinese consumer’s shopping habits, they like to make their own choices rather than be given a curated selection. Anyone who has been to a typical Chinese shopping market would understand this. Related, does Best Buy CN allow haggling and discount, bargaining that a typical Chinese shopper would expect? Further, does Best Buy CN have the typical 15-30 or 45 day return exchange policy? This typical Western feature of retail shopping is something that causes a lot of headache and economic woes for Western retailers. Most shopping centers have their return desks at the entrance since the lines for returns/exchanges are larger than the lines for buying.

    The one nice feature of buying from such an establishment is the smaller chances of buying fakes. The cons are plenty, but when it comes to consumption from retailers, the more selection, the better for the consumer.

  9. […] been impressed by either Suning or Gome (国美), but my most recent visit made me wonder if with Best Buy’s recent closing, they’ve just kicked back and completely stopped trying […]

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