When Ian Griffith of Queens, New York, purchased an HP notebook from a Circuit City store in Brooklyn earlier this year, the salesperson urged him to have the chain's in-store Fire Dog technicians create Windows XP recovery discs in case Griffith needed to reinstall the OS.
"I specifically asked if this was something I could do on my own," Griffith says, and the answer was no. The salesperson, Griffith says, insisted that there were only two ways to obtain such discs: have them made at the store for $30, or buy them from HP for nearly twice as much.
But the clerk's assertions simply aren't true. Recovery discs are fairly easy to make yourself. And if you don't want to take on the responsibility of burning your own, you can buy them from HP for half what Circuit City charges.
In the end, just before handing over his credit card at the cash register, Griffith called a tech-savvy friend, who told him he could make the backup discs himself.
Griffith is one of several computer buyers who contacted us and other Web sites to report having this experience when buying a PC from Best Buy or Circuit City. Like Griffith, all of them say that the stores' sales reps told them that they couldn't get backup installation discs except by paying the store about $30 for fresh copies or by paying twice as much to purchase them from the notebook's manufacturer. Both Best Buy and Circuit City deny having a policy of telling customers that they can't create recovery discs themselves.
To investigate these reports, we shopped for notebooks at Circuit City and Best Buy stores in the Boston and San Francisco areas.
In our informal tests we found that some Circuit City sales reps pushed hard for us to pay the extra $30 for store-made recovery discs, but all of them ultimately acknowledged we could make them ourselves. On the other hand, salespeople at three of the five Best Buy stores we visited told us that we couldn't make the discs ourselves and would need Best Buy's assistance. Our alternative, these sales reps said, was to buy them from the notebook manufacturers for even more--sometimes twice as much--as the store would charge.
At the Watertown, Massachusetts, Best Buy store we visited, the sales rep advised me to buy an Acer Aspire 5570 notebook and told me that the system did not come with backup discs; according to the rep, I would have to purchase them from Best Buy for $30 or I'd have to buy them directly from Acer for upward of $80. Two Best Buy clerks at the cash register confirmed this information.
Nevertheless, I waived the purchase of reinstallation discs when I bought the Acer notebook. Back at my office, I created restore discs on my own in about an hour, using a hard-drive partition created for that purpose. In fact, both a brochure and the user manual that accompanied the notebook recommended making backup discs before beginning regular use of the notebook. The process wasn't difficult; I spent most of the hour simply waiting for the DVDs to finish their automated burning.