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Best Buy ad: Our people are better than Wal-Mart's

A new TV spot for Best Buy features a sales associate who describes how a customer called her from Wal-Mart and how she solved his problem.

Now that Circuit City has enjoyed something of a last lap in physical retail, Best Buy seems to have decided to take on another large rifle in electronics retailing: Wal-Mart Stores.

Wal-Mart has been upgrading its electronics offering and Best Buy clearly sees the Arkansas retailer as a potential source of pain and anguish.

In Best Buy's new TV ad, we meet employee Rachel Muñoz from Best Buy store (No. 1,473, if you're interested) in McAllen, Texas.

Muñoz, who seems like a very nice woman, tells the story of how she took a call from a man who asked some searching questions about TVs. It transpires the man was not merely full of purchaser's angst, but also at Wal-Mart.

Muñoz recalls saying to him: "Well, you're obviously calling us because we're knowledgeable."

So she persuaded him to hotfoot it to store No. 1,473, where he became, Muñoz thinks, "a BestBuyer for life."

I must confess I did stop a little when I heard Muñoz's claim to knowledge. I read CNET's Sharon Vaknin's slightly sobering description of her experiences as a Best Buy employee. Example: "We have no formal training in consumer electronics."

But one's view of a retailer is always colored by one's own experience--very often the first experience--with the retailer's service.

I confess that at my local Best Buy (I'm sorry, I don't know the number of the store. Until today, I didn't know they had numbers like schools in Eastern Europe) it is very easy to get a "Hello, welcome to Best Buy" and a little more difficult to attract an associate's attention thereafter.

And once, when I inquired about buying a rather substantial sound system and TV, I was told I would have to wait 10 days for the Geek Squad to drive the two miles to my house to install it. Which the associates found terribly normal and I found terribly disappointing. (I bought elsewhere.)

Still, it is heartening to think a retailer might actually put itself in the position of using its customer service as a point of difference.

The only problem will be, naturally, delivering the service.