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Unassisted
04-07-2005, 04:22 PM
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-md.olesker08mar08,1,7594458,print.column?coll=bal-local-columnists
(You can get a login for this article from bugmenot.com.)


A tale of customer service, justice and currency as funny as a $2 bill

Michael Olesker




March 8, 2005

PUT YOURSELF in Mike Bolesta's place. On the morning of Feb. 20, he buys a new radio-CD player for his 17-year-old son Christopher's car. He pays the $114 installation charge with 57 crisp new $2 bills, which, when last observed, were still considered legitimate currency in the United States proper. The $2 bills are Bolesta's idea of payment, and his little comic protest, too. For this, Bolesta, Baltimore County resident, innocent citizen, owner of Capital City Student Tours, finds himself under arrest.

Finds himself, in front of a store full of customers at the Best Buy on York Road in Lutherville, locked into handcuffs and leg irons.

Finds himself transported to the Baltimore County lockup in Cockeysville, where he's handcuffed to a pole for three hours while the U.S. Secret Service is called into the case.

Have a nice day, Mike.

"Humiliating," the 57-year old Bolesta was saying now. "I am 6 feet 5 inches tall, and I felt like 8 inches high. To be handcuffed, to have all those people looking on, to be cuffed to a pole -- and to know you haven't done anything wrong. And me, with a brother, Joe, who spent 33 years on the city police force. It was humiliating."

What we have here, besides humiliation, is a sense of caution resulting in screw-ups all around.

"When I bought the stereo player," Bolesta explains, "the technician said it'd fit perfectly into my son's dashboard. But it didn't. So they called back and said they had another model that would fit perfectly, and it was cheaper. We got a $67 refund, which was fine. As long as it fit, that's all.

"So we go back and pay for it, and they tell us to go around front with our receipt and pick up the difference in the cost. I ask about installation charges. They said, 'No installation charge, because of the mix-up. Our mistake, no charge.' Swell.

"But then, the next day, I get a call at home. They're telling me, 'If you don't come in and pay the installation fee, we're calling the police.' Jeez, where did we go from them admitting a mistake to suddenly calling the police? So I say, 'Fine, I'll be in tomorrow.' But, overnight, I'm starting to steam a little. It's not the money -- it's the threat. So I thought, I'll count out a few $2 bills."

He has lots and lots of them.

With his Capital City Student Tours, he arranges class trips for school kids around the country traveling to large East Coast cities, including Baltimore. He's been doing this for the last 18 years. He makes all the arrangements: hotels, meals, entertainment. And it's part of his schtick that, when Bolesta hands out meal money to students, he does it in $2 bills, which he picks up from his regular bank, Sun Trust.

"The kids don't see that many $2 bills, so they think this is the greatest thing in the world," Bolesta says. "They don't want to spend 'em. They want to save 'em. I've been doing this since I started the company. So I'm thinking, 'I'll stage my little comic protest. I'll pay the $114 with $2 bills.'"

At Best Buy, they may have perceived the protest -- but did not sense the comic aspect of 57 $2 bills.

"I'm just here to pay the bill," Bolesta says he told a cashier. "She looked at the $2 bills and told me, 'I don't have to take these if I don't want to.' I said, 'If you don't, I'm leaving. I've tried to pay my bill twice. You don't want these bills, you can sue me.' So she took the money. Like she's doing me a favor."

He remembers the cashier marking each bill with a pen. Then other store personnel began to gather, a few of them asking, "Are these real?"

"Of course they are," Bolesta said. "They're legal tender."

A Best Buy manager refused comment last week. But, according to a Baltimore County police arrest report, suspicions were roused when an employee noticed some smearing of ink. So the cops were called in. One officer noticed the bills ran in sequential order.

"I told them, 'I'm a tour operator. I've got thousands of these bills. I get them from my bank. You got a problem, call the bank,'" Bolesta says. "I'm sitting there in a chair. The store's full of people watching this. All of a sudden, he's standing me up and handcuffing me behind my back, telling me, 'We have to do this until we get it straightened out.'

"Meanwhile, everybody's looking at me. I've lived here 18 years. I'm hoping my kids don't walk in and see this. And I'm saying, 'I can't believe you're doing this. I'm paying with legal American money.'"

Bolesta was then taken to the county police lockup in Cockeysville, where he sat handcuffed to a pole and in leg irons while the Secret Service was called in.

"At this point," he says, "I'm a mass murderer."

Finally, Secret Service agent Leigh Turner arrived, examined the bills and said they were legitimate, adding, according to the police report, "Sometimes ink on money can smear."

This will be important news to all concerned.

For Baltimore County police, said spokesman Bill Toohey, "It's a sign that we're all a little nervous in the post-9/11 world."

The other day, one of Bolesta's sons needed a few bucks. Bolesta pulled out his wallet and "whipped out a couple of $2 bills. But my son turned away. He said he doesn't want 'em any more."

He's seen where such money can lead.

creek14
04-07-2005, 04:27 PM
I haven't shopped at a Best Buy since 1996 when they tried the old bait and switch with me.

Unassisted
04-07-2005, 04:31 PM
I haven't shopped at a Best Buy since 1996 when they tried the old bait and switch with me.I buy appliances there, because I've never found 'em cheaper anywhere else. I've got better sources for everything else they sell, though.

bucksfan
04-07-2005, 04:32 PM
That is ridiculous. I am not in favor of frivolous lawsuits, but this guy should get a whiole buncha $2 bills coming his way IMO.

rdiersin
04-07-2005, 04:33 PM
I guess he should have used pennies.

jmcclain19
04-07-2005, 04:39 PM
When I bought my Ipod, the clueless salesperson told me, as I bought it, that extra parts were included with the kit that I was more than upset to get home and find out weren't apart of the kit.

I went back, told the dept manager about it, who apologized several times, and told me I needed part X to do what I wanted, and he gave me a discount. I got home, and part X was also incorrect. Lets just say I wrote a not so happy note about the incompetence of employees and managers and dropped it off w/ the Best Buy Manager. I've never heard back.

RedFanAlways1966
04-07-2005, 04:52 PM
For Baltimore County police, said spokesman Bill Toohey, "It's a sign that we're all a little nervous in the post-9/11 world."

That's good... blame this on 9-11. BUNK! The Best Buy and the police there mishandled this whole thing. And they looked very ignorant in the way they handled it. My guess is that neither one knew that $2 bills existed.

I hate frivilous lawsuits. But this is one case where I think this guy should own that Best Buy store and a few police cruisers when it is all said and done. Not quite sure if I believe he remained as cool & calm as he described. Regardless he has every right to run the store and the police through the ringer IMO.

My guess... Best Buy hires people who seem to be nice (during the interview) and not on dope. They receive next to no training on the items that they sell. They are put on the showroom floor soon after being hired. After the first few times of going there, I learned this real quick. If not for the vast array of selection and the good prices, I wouldn't go there either. I have learned to know exactly what I want before going there.

Reds4Life
04-07-2005, 05:07 PM
I buy games, CD's and DVD's from Best Buy, but I won't purchase anything expensive there. I tried that a few times and I had to turn down the extended warranty about 34 times before I was able to get out the door.

TeamCasey
04-07-2005, 05:11 PM
I buy games, CD's and DVD's from Best Buy, but I won't purchase anything expensive there. I tried that a few times and I had to turn down the extended warranty about 34 times before I was able to get out the door.

Whenever a store offers to SELL me a warranty, I always ask them why they don't stand by the products they're selling.

(One of my pet peeves.)

CTA513
04-07-2005, 05:21 PM
That is ridiculous. I am not in favor of frivolous lawsuits, but this guy should get a whiole buncha $2 bills coming his way IMO.

:thumbup:

Id see about suing them if I was that guy.

As for the Cashier that said "'I don't have to take these if I don't want to." she should be fired. :devil:

KronoRed
04-07-2005, 05:23 PM
What's wrong with 2 dollar bills? ;)

RFS62
04-07-2005, 05:48 PM
I've had several bad experiences with Best Buy. I wouldn't hit a dog in the ass with Best Buy.

Circuit City gets my money.

Johnny Footstool
04-07-2005, 06:35 PM
For Baltimore County police, said spokesman Bill Toohey, "It's a sign that we're all a little nervous in the post-9/11 world."

I agree with RFA66. This had nothing to do with "nervousness" and the "post-9/11 world." Did they think the $2 bills were made of explosives? Or honed to a razor-sharp edge?

Sheer ignorance.

Unassisted
04-07-2005, 06:43 PM
My late grandfather, who never met a superstition he didn't like, believed that $2 bills were bad luck. They certainly were for this guy.


Whenever a store offers to SELL me a warranty, I always ask them why they don't stand by the products they're selling.

(One of my pet peeves.)

I've done that, too. Seems like salespeople are more ready for that question these days than they used to be. Most of the sales sharks I've encountered lately can respond to that without flinching or cracking a smile.

ochre
04-07-2005, 07:09 PM
Bob Boone moved to the general vicinity of Baltimore...

Just Sayin'

Redsfaithful
04-07-2005, 08:12 PM
If we don't all pay with twenties then the terrorists have already won.

MWM
04-07-2005, 08:38 PM
If we don't all pay with twenties then the terrorists have already won.

:laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

UKFlounder
04-07-2005, 09:07 PM
Having him arrested was as queer as a $3 bill. :evil: :p: :bang: :help:

(I hope that phrase isn't offensive to anyone - please delete if so.)

UKFlounder
04-07-2005, 09:10 PM
Seriously, perhaps he ought to go back to the same store and buy something else, using all $2 bills again, just to see what they say to him - especially if the same lady is there.

If he's not planning to sue, perhaps something like that - done in a very smug and arrogant "I told you so" way - might be kind of funny.

Red Heeler
04-07-2005, 11:20 PM
I buy games, CD's and DVD's from Best Buy, but I won't purchase anything expensive there. I tried that a few times and I had to turn down the extended warranty about 34 times before I was able to get out the door.

I avoid the sales job hassel by shopping online. Both Best Buy and Circuit City have it where you can do your shopping online and pick it up at the store. Really nice if you want to avoid the salespeople.

DoogMinAmo
04-07-2005, 11:41 PM
I avoid the sales job hassel by shopping online. Both Best Buy and Circuit City have it where you can do your shopping online and pick it up at the store. Really nice if you want to avoid the salespeople.

Not so nice if you want to see and compare products in person. This has been my biggest gripe with Ebay and the likes, how an I supposed to know its for me if I don't SEE it?

Red in Chicago
04-07-2005, 11:42 PM
i hate best buy...it's one of those stores where no matter what you want, there is an issue. they are either out of stock, the line is three miles long, there's a code missing on the box, the manager has to approve something...it never fails...i learned my lesson a few years ago...it's actually pretty sad to, because i used to really like it there...circuit city gets my electronics business.

marcshoe
04-08-2005, 12:12 AM
My late grandfather, who never met a superstition he didn't like, believed that $2 bills were bad luck. They certainly were for this guy.

Wonder where that came from. My grandmother used to say the same thing; she'd give away any $2 bill she got.

I've been carrying a $2 bill I received in change when I visited Monticello for about a year and a half now. It's been a lousy year and a half.

Maybe I should have listened. :(

RedsBaron
04-08-2005, 12:38 AM
I've had several bad experiences with Best Buy. I wouldn't hit a dog in the ass with Best Buy.

Circuit City gets my money.
I had a terrible experience with Circuit City a few years ago. Only my threat of a lawsuit, which had some credibility given my occupation, resolved the matter in my favor.

Bigg Red Smokey
04-08-2005, 03:02 PM
"So we go back and pay for it, and they tell us to go around front with our receipt and pick up the difference in the cost. I ask about installation charges. They said, 'No installation charge, because of the mix-up. Our mistake, no charge.' Swell.

"But then, the next day, I get a call at home. They're telling me, 'If you don't come in and pay the installation fee, we're calling the police.' Jeez, where did we go from them admitting a mistake to suddenly calling the police? So I say, 'Fine, I'll be in tomorrow.' But, overnight, I'm starting to steam a little. It's not the money -- it's the threat. So I thought, I'll count out a few $2 bills."

If they tried to get me to come back and pay for something that they said was going to be free, and then said if I did not they were going to call the law, I would tell them to go get there selves F'ed. I would not even consider paying it at all. Not even with pennies. This reminds me of that "wuss doll" commercial.

REDREAD
04-08-2005, 03:17 PM
If they tried to get me to come back and pay for something that they said was going to be free, and then said if I did not they were going to call the law, I would tell them to go get there selves F'ed. I would not even consider paying it at all. Not even with pennies. This reminds me of that "wuss doll" commercial.

Me too. I'd be like, "Ok, take the radio out and put it back in the box, and give me my money back"..

No "deal" is worth all that BS. I'd pay $15 more (or whatever) for it elsewhere.

Yachtzee
04-08-2005, 05:40 PM
When I was an altar boy, I used to get tipped in $2 bills for weddings.

As far as Best Buy goes, I had a crazy mix-up with them that actually ended up working out in my favor. I wanted to get a DirectTV setup with a dish and a Tivo box, which they were offering for $99, with a $50 rebate. The girl who sold me the set said that the deal included 4 free additional receivers. I specifically asked her if I needed to have the receivers hooked up and she says "Oh no. People who sign up for service only need to have one receiver hooked up. You can save the rest for later, in case you want to have additional rooms hooked up...or you could sell them on eBay." So I say, "whatever, what about the Tivo Receiver." Of course, it was out of stock, so it would have to be shipped from another store. I was concerned because I knew that the warranty required purchase of the receiver at the same time as the dish. She says "Don't worry, you will get a rebate because we have a record of your purchase in the computer."

When I go in a week later to pick up the Tivo receiver, no rebate, as I expected. I immediately spoke with the manager, giving him the names of both the people I spoke to. I also had the brilliant idea of having the girl who helped me write down her name, the product number, and the promise of the $50 rebate. When I showed them to the manager, he rolled his eyes and simply took $50 off the price!

The installer later told me that I needed to have all of the receivers hooked up or I would be charged $150 for each one. Needless to say, I took back the four 'free' receivers and told them they need to make sure their sales staff is aware of the terms of the offer before they tell customers what it does or does not entail.

The thing that bothered me wasn't that the chick screwed up. I was actually delighted that she screwed up on the rebate, because it worked out that I got the $50 rebate without having to mail anything in. No, what bothered me was that she obviously didn't have any clue what she was talking about and just made stuff up. If I ask questions, it's okay to say "I don't know" or "let me get back to you on that." You won't lose the sale.

Unassisted
04-08-2005, 05:48 PM
BB sales people make peanut wages and get no commissions. Expecting broad product expertise from them is nothing but a pipedream.

Yachtzee
04-08-2005, 06:21 PM
BB sales people make peanut wages and get no commissions. Expecting broad product expertise from them is nothing but a pipedream.

Yep, I certainly wouldn't ask a BB person about which computer or TV has better performance or more reliable. Better to just bring along a bunch of printouts from Consumer Reports. But they should know the terms of their own deals.

Johnny Footstool
04-08-2005, 06:48 PM
If I ask questions, it's okay to say "I don't know" or "let me get back to you on that." You won't lose the sale.

Actually, it's very good customer service to say, "I'll go find out and I'll be right back," as long as you actually follow through with that promise.

I worked in retail while I was in college and grad school. Good customer service is so bloody simple. It baffles me when people can't manage to provide it.

Brutus_the_Red
04-08-2005, 08:09 PM
BB sales people make peanut wages and get no commissions. Expecting broad product expertise from them is nothing but a pipedream.

I worked at best buy for 2 years (I quit last month to take a job at Kohl's). I worked in the back, receiving and putting that little yellow sticker on every dvd, cd, software, and video game. I unloaded the trucks with refridgerators, dishwashers, dryers, washers, bigscreen tvs. I moved everything to the floor, put it all in topstock, loaded everything in the customers cars or trucks.

My job was the most physically demanding job in the store. My job intailed doing the most work. I was paid, on average, about $2.00 per hour less than a sales floor employee (even the cashiers.) I was considered a part-time employee (there were no full-time spots in the warehouse) yet for 11 months I worked over 36 hours a week with no benefits.

What you have to understand about Best Buy, is that they are a revenue machine. They don't care that they have a terrible employee turnover rate, because each year their business increases. In my case, I wasn't directly involved in the sale of product, thus i was considered by the company as "non-essential personnel" and was paid less than some 16 year old girl at the checkout lanes.

Best Buy makes A LOT of money off the PSP and PRP (product service plan, product replacement plan). For every one person that uses their PSP, there's 10 that pay for it and never do. DSubs (these are digital subscriptions, likes napster, AOL, roadrunner) get pushed on the customer along with PSP and PRP because they are free money for best buy. Magazine subscriptions give best buy $17 of free money for every one they sign up.

The average geek squad member makes about $450 per hour margin dollars for the company. The average geek squad member makes $11 an hour.

The way Best Buy sets itself up for productivity is by having strong competition between best buy stores. Manager's get their bonuses based on how their store stacks versus other store's in their district and region. There are no bonuses for any workers below a manager. So basically, what you get is management at the store level RIDING employees to get their bonuses. I have seen people fired for not offering magazines, fired for not selling the PSP, and moved to a different department because they "just weren't getting it done."

In my case, I went to my store GM to ask for more money an hour. I explained to him that I'm 21 years old, and $6.50 and hour might be wonderful for a 16 year old high school student, but that I'm trying to pay for school and housing, and a badly needed new car. He tells me, "All positions in best buy are tiered for pay by importance. I'm paying you as much as I can in your position."

So next, I ask that he make me full-time. That way atleast best buy would cover my cost for school, and i could get some much needed benefits like sicktime and vacation time, medical and dental coverage, etc. He told me he couldn't do that. I ask him why he's worked me 11 months at full-time hours, promising me he'd put me full-time when the "budget opens up," when he knows full and well that's never going to happen. He couldn't answer. So I quit right there.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that next time your in Best Buy, I know the employee is going to make a mistake, but just realize that this little 16-19 year old has it pretty hard. Take whatever fight to management, and give it to them good. They don't have to deal with nearly enough considering the money they make off a good kid's hard work.

Reds/Flyers Fan
04-12-2005, 06:14 PM
Everyone is ripping Best Buy, and deservedly so. But the Baltimore County police dept. needs some blame here too. This man was essentially arrested for paying cash.

I once used a $2 bill at the automatic check out lane at Kroger and the machine didn't take it. I had to tell the cashier there who had to get a manager. I admit that I was just experimenting to see if the machine took it and it turned into a 15-minute ordeal. But a $2 is legal tender and shouldn't be disrespected as it is.

Redsland
04-12-2005, 09:33 PM
Liberace once tried to pay with a $3 bill.

:)

REDREAD
04-14-2005, 11:44 AM
Brutus, I never worked at best buy, but I worked my share of jobs like that. People
do need to keep in mind that most customer service type jobs aren't paid anything, aren't trained or educated on the products and are abused by management.

Really, when it comes down to it, it's partially the consumer's fault for this system. Most consumers wouldn't not be willing to pay $20 more for a TV (or whatever) at a store where the employees were paid well and trained well. In fact, a lot of them would get the advice at the good store, and then buy the product off the net or the cheap store. That's why a lot of the stores with well paid/well trained employees are out of business now.