Woman Says Retailer ‘Junked Out' Her Computer

‘Junked Out’ is a term that has terminal meaning when it comes to electronics. One woman told NBC 5 Responds in Chicago she had never heard of that term, until she dropped off her PC for service.

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Michelle Burke was starting to think she had lost irreplaceable pictures of her family or important paperwork stored on her computer after she dropped off the PC at a Best Buy store for repair at the end of September.

"We left the computer, trusted Best Buy," she said. "Trusted the Geek Squad."

After more than a week and no word from the Squad, Michelle called and said she was stunned to hear her computer, which was under warranty, had been "junked out."

"And I said, 'Excuse me?'" she said she told the Best Buy representative over the phone.  "I said, 'What does that mean?'" Michelle said the rep told her the PC was "gone."

What does "junked out" mean? 

In Best Buy's lingo, it's a term for electronics that are "not cost effective to repair" and therefore sent on to the great salvage yard in the sky.  But can the store do that without a customer's permission? 

Michelle's service order says right on it: that can only happen if the Geek Squad is authorized to recycle it, something she told NBC 5 Responds never happened.

She said a Best Buy employee told her she never responded to any of their emails. 

"And I looked at her and I said, 'How am I supposed to respond to something when I don't have a computer?" Michelle asked, adding she doesn't own a smartphone as an alternative.

Michelle said she then pointed out her phone number right on the service order and asked: "You could not pick up the phone and call?"

She said the employee told her that wasn't the way they communicated.  Michelle said that's when the runaround kicked into high gear, after calls to Best Buy's corporate office and visits to two different stores.

"And I'm thinking does anybody know where my computer is?" she said.

No answer in sight, Michelle reached out to NBC 5 Responds.

"Things all of a sudden turned around like lightning speed," she said.

So where was Michelle's computer and did a store actually junk it without her permission?  In response, Best Buy said: "Computers are often sent to other locations for repair" and that it "…encourages customers to check their email for order and repair status updates to prevent miscommunication."

The very next business day a turn of events — Michelle's computer turned up at a store close to home.

"And they transferred everything off the older computer to the new computer and voila," she said.

A Best Buy spokesperson said, "This is not the experience we want any of our customers to have…" and apologized for the confusion.  Even though Michelle was told her computer was missing, Best Buy told NBC that was never actually the case, adding the company's policy is to only complete a "junk out" with a customer's knowledge and permission.

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