Update: A list of Fry's sale items is available at http://www.shoppinglist.com/sl/p?p=n&by=store&s=F&store=Fry%27s+Electronics.
Fry's Electronics is a huge store that sells computers, software, household appliances, junk food, and electronic components (as well as other unrelated items). Their selection is huge and their prices are not bad. They frequently have full-page ads in the newspaper. This is where the great part of Fry's ends, however.
Fry's likes people to buy their products, but they hate customers. The people who work at Fry's typically have no training and are frequently encouraged to not help customers. No employee can make any decision (probably because Fry's won't train them). Every decision must pass through a manager. Because of this highly ineffecient system, this often leads to long waits and a significant amount of frustration on the part of the customer.
What Fry's don't want you to know, however, is that many other stores have similar prices but much better customer service. I guess the other stores spend more money on hiring more qualified employees and training them and less on advertizing. Usually the best service is at small mom and pop stores, and often their prices are competitive with Fry's. Try shopping around a bit. You'll be surprised to find that Fry's often doesn't have the lowest price. One other advantage of other stores is that they often have their catalog on the web where customers can look up prices and selection.
Fry's doesn't trust anyone. They don't trust their employees, and they certainly do not trust their customers. The customer is always wrong at Fry's. Fry's regularly searches their employees at the end of the day and even inspects their own dumpsters (see the article at Forbes). Fry's also has a security person at the front of the store who inspects the items of customers leaving. What Fry's wont tell you is that you do not have to let them inspect your bags. In fact, it is illegal for Fry's to detain you to search your property without first charging you with shoplifting.
Another illegal practice of Fry's which I have been alerted to is that for large purchases payed by check Fry's will copy your ID. Apparently this is illegal, but don't quote me on that (I am not a lawyer).
Fry's has a great return policy. Unfortunately people need to use it far too often. I have read numerous reports of returned defective items being placed back on the shelf. I can attest to this from personal experience. There have been numerous times where I have had to return items that were obviously previously opened and defective, sometimes in a nicely sealed package without the sticker indicating it was previously opened. If you do see a sticker on the box, stay away from the box, as the chance that the item inside is defective or missing some critical part is very high. It is also a good idea to open the box as soon as you purchase an item. I have read on several occasions about people buying an item and finding that they just spent $100 for an empty box. My experience is that around 1 in 4 items at Fry's is defective. If there are a lot of items on the shelf with the restocking sticker, assume that all of the items are probably defective.
It is always a good idea to inspect tthe items you purchased before you get very far. If the box has a sticker indicating that it was restocked you might want to inspect it up at the cash register to make sure everything is present (although it still has a high probability of being defective).
Always keep your receipt! It is much easier to return an item or get a discount if you find a lower price if you have your receipt. This is one area I can't fault Fry's. Would you accept something back from a customer if they don't have a receipt?
Always double check the receipt. If it has "REF" written on it then the item you purchased is refurbished and use it at your own risk. Fry's may not indicate that an item is refurbished except by the receipt.
If you buy a computer at Fry's, have them test it out before you take it home. If you buy RAM modules at Fry's, make sure that they match, as non-matched RAM modules frequently do not work well together. With Fry's there's no telling what brand of RAM you will end up with.
Fry's extended warrantee is often a waste of money. If you use it, your item will often sit for weeks or months before Fry's actually ships it back to the manufacturer or delivers it back to you. Remember, those extended warantees are there for Fry's to make money. Often you'll get a better response by using the manufacturer's warantee rather than Fry's warantee.
Never write a check at Fry's, and be wary of using your credit card. A friend of mine regularly shops at Fry's and has on several occasions found them to be double-charging his credit card. Always check your statement carefully. As for checks, Fry's hates them. Writing a check will add anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes to your checkout time, sometimes more. Fry's will call your bank to make sure you have the funds to cover the check. They often screw up, however, as one of the stories in my other section mentions.
Always double check the price they try and charge for their merchandise. What you see on the receipt is not necessarily what you see on the price tag. Also, some times their prices are way too high. Fry's attempted to rip me off for $29 for a black ink cartridge for my Epson Stylus 800 color printer. Fry's did not understand that there was a difference between a black ink cartridge and a color ink cartridge for this printer. After arguing for 30 minutes I gave up in disgust and went down the road to Central Computer and found the same cartridge for significantly less. Fry's tried to tell me that I could use a generic-brand ink cartridge instead, but I could not convince them that it did not support my printer model (which I learned before the hard way).
Another trick is to look at all of the items on the shelf. It is not uncommon for the prices to vary for the same item. Why pay more when you don't have to. Also, if you do buy a previously opened item, ask for a discount. Often Fry's will give you a discount. When you get out to the car, open the box and make sure nothing is missing or broken. If anything is, you can go in and usually exchange it for an unopened box at the same price. This is risky, however, in that sometimes empty boxes are placed back on the shelves. If the box was empty, Fry's won't refund your money. Also, don't do this for inexpensive items, as your time is probably more valuable than the amount of money you save.
Some of Fry's merchandise is of questionable quality. For example, NEVER, and I mean NEVER, buy a computer case from Fry's. They are the worst made cases I have ever seen. At least one of the cases I bought had such soft metal that by just touching the side of the computer would cause some of the adapter cards to pop out of the motherboard. My sister fried several adapters due to this case. Another case I tried to assemble was mechanically impossible to assemble. The screw holes were threaded for a different screw than came with the cases. It wasn't compatible with any of the spare computer screws in my employer's lab either. I discovered that if I go down the road to Central Computer that I can get a much higher quality case for a significantly lower price. I am sure that other stores are similar to Central.
Fry's has a bad reputation with the Better Business Bureau. They give Fry's an unsatisfactory rating. Their report for the San Diego Fry's is available here.
Be careful on sale items. Fry's loves to use the bait-and-switch approach. They'll advertize some item on sale but only have 3 of them in stock. They immediately sell out and when you try and get the item they will try and push some other item that costs twice as much. All they want is to bring you into the store.
As for the security people at the front door, you do not have to stop and have them search your bags. I have heard this from several sources. The reasoning is that Fry's cannot search your property unless they have observed shoplifting. Detaining you otherwise is illegal. I personally have never had a problem ignoring the security people and just walking out. It's bad enough that you must wait in long lines to pay for or return defective merchandise, but it's worse that they treat people like criminals.
NOTE: this does not apply to membership stores like Costco since with Costco you agreed to the search in your membership agreement. Do not try just walking by the security person at Costco.
Fry's is not the only store that behaves this way. I have heard horror stories about Best Buy which sound very similar to the Fry's stories, although these reports seem far less numerous than Fry's. If you want good service, the small mom and pop stores are usually pretty good, and they often have competitive prices.
Don't blame all the problems on the cashiers and other employees you see in the stores. Most of the problems are caused by stupid policies that the employees must follow. I am sure that many employees are almost as frustrated as the customers. Almost all of the cashiers are newbies with little or no training. Fry's doesn't believe in training its cashiers on how to properly use their archaic billing system (they still havn't discovered bar-codes). If you want to blame someone, blame the managers.
Here's just one of my incidents at Fry's. It isn't my worst. If you don't want to be bored, just skip down to my other Fry's links, as this pales in comparison to some of the other experiences described.
I went to Fry's to buy a lead-acid battery for $19.95 to replace one that won't hold a charge. When I returned home with the new battery I found that it was slightly too large to fit into the device. So what do I do? I go back to Fry's to return the battery. After all, Fry's has an excellent return policy and I hadn't removed the wrapper. This sounds really simple, doesn't it?
I arrive at Fry's at 4:45pm and get in line at Customer Service for electronic components. The line has around 8 people in it, which is unusually short. Great, I'll breeze right through here.
4:48pm - A customer service agent comes around and tells me to get into the line for Audio/Video, which only has around 3 people in line. I figure that this doesn't sound right since my item is clearly a component, but why should I argue when this line is even shorter.
4:55 - The person handling the station to the right of me mysteriously disappears. I guess it's time for a smoke or something. They were in the middle of handling a customer's return.
5:00 - The person handling the line I'm in (which now has 2 people in front of me) tells the people in the other line to merge with my line since the other employee disappeared. Meanwhile the employee at the front of my line has been trying to figure out how the person who bought a defective walk-man can exchange it for the last 10 minutes. How hard can it be to handle an exchange when the customer has the receipt? I guess it's too taxing on the brain.
5:02 - Somebody else arrives to handle the station to the right of me. The person who had the previous employee leave on them is now being helped.
5:05 - The person in the front of my line who is exchanging a walk man is finally helped. The person directly in front of me is returning a home stereo system. The person in the other line who has been waiting to exchange their walk-man is finally helped as well. I figure it's probably a bad idea to purchase a walk-man at Fry's since two in a row have been returned.
5:18 - The customer service manager comes around and says I'm in the wrong line and I'll need to go over to the computer line. There's only one person in front of me at this point, and I really don't want to change lines, especially now that they're longer than they were earlier. This is after they already told me to change to this line from the component line. I explained to the employee that around half an hour before they directed me to this line and I really don't want to move to the back of a much longer line. Talking to the floor director was like talking to a plant. I finally give up and move to the back of the computer return line, at this point very frustrated.
5:16 - The person who was in front of me in the old line was helped and the person who was behind me is being helped. In other words, I'm being shoved back to the end of the line because of the floor director can't figure out which line I should be in.
5:30 - I finally reach the front of the customer service line to be helped. I notice, however, that all of the people who were behind me have already been helped in the old line, and in the original line. I am really pissed off at this point. It took 45 minutes for me to be helped by Customer Service to return a battery. Meanwhile in that time everyone who was behind me as well as in front of me have already been helped thanks to an idiot floor director. Why should it matter what line I'm in since all three appear to be able to handle any type of merchandise (i.e. a walk-man)?
5:35 - Surprisingly it only took 5 minutes for them to complete my returning a battery. Of course it probably helped with my complaining at how long it took to get through the line and how everyone behind me had already been helped.
5:35:30 - Go to the manager and complain. I think a plant would comprehend me better than the manager did. The manager couldn't understand why I was upset at having to wait almost an hour when if I stood my ground I would be out of there in 32 minutes.
5:38 - get stopped by the security people at the exit because I have my old defective battery with me to show them the size difference. They stop me and require that I convince them that that was indeed the old battery. I tell them to ask Customer Service. They let me pass.
This type of experience is more common than you might think. It's hard on customers and on employees since the employees now have to deal with irate customer. If you value your time and sanity shop somewhere else. The money you save at Fry's, if any, will be offset by the amount of wasted time there and the frustration you will go through.
Fry's Electronics URLs: (note: these were checked with whois)
Other Fry's Electronics related URLs
Jokes about Fry's employees
(Q) How many Fry's employees does it take to change a light-bulb?
(A) None. They need to call a manager.
(Q) Why do I always wait so long in line?
(A) Because there's only a few managers and they're busy changing light-bulbs.
(Q) How can I get through security quickly?
(A) Tell them to ask for Customer Service to verify your story. (this really works)
This joke came from Christine Death:
(Q) How many Fry's employees does it take to ring up an order?
(A) 5. 1 to ring it up and to yell "Customer Service". 1 to get the memory and CPU from "the cage". 2 to verify a check and yell "password" and "customer service". 1 manager to realize that your have a check history about a mile long.
If you have any experiences with Frys, feel free to email me at and I'll add them to this page. (Note: I am a bit behind keeping the stories up to date and currently have a big backlog)