Microsoft blows Surface Pro launch, but Best Buy and Staples provided excellent customer service

Microsoft blows Surface Pro launch, but Best Buy and Staples provided excellent customer service

Summary: I am not sure if Microsoft was not confident about the Surface Pro or what, but they didn't provide inventory needed to meet demand at their online store or in retail stores. The retail representatives were fantastic though and I was encouraged by their efforts to help out.

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I was all excited to go and buy a Microsoft Surface Pro this morning at Best Buy or Staples, but apparently Microsoft did not think there would be much of a demand as they severely limited stock at retail locations. I found a couple of 64GB units, but no 128GB units and I just cannot deal with the memory limits of the 64GB one so am left without a Pro at this time.

Update : A reader told me to call the Microsoft Store 50 miles away and they confirmed that they had 128s in stock. They couldn't hold one so I drove right away and got behind about 75 people in line. 40 minutes later I had a 128GB Pro, mouse, and HD adapter in the bag. It's great that they have so many in stock at their stores, but with so few around the country Microsoft needed to load up retailers too.

The folks at both Best Buy and Staples were outstanding though and I wanted to give publicly thank them for their efforts. I went to the Best Buy website a couple of days ago to get phone numbers to my local stores so I could call and see what they might have available and figure out if it was worth my time to camp out. Best Buy in my area has changed to an 888 number with no local direct number and the customer service rep on that line did not have any details. I did discover that the manager of our local Best Buy actually has his direct email address up on the site so I sent off an email to ask about Surface Pro plans.

I was shocked when I received an email within two hours from Brian Boerum, store manager in Puyallup, WA. He clearly informed me the store was opening at their normal time, He thought there would be very limited supply, but their system wasn't letting him see exactly what Microsoft was shipping, and he had some inquiries so it was hard to tell if there was going to be a line outside or not.

I went to the store an hour before opening today and there was one other kid in his car. As I was about to get out and be first in line at 9:30, an email arrived from Brian. He let me know that they only had two 64GB units and zero 128GB units to sell. He said the stock was limited by Microsoft and given previous Surface RT sales they didn't know what the demand might be for the Pro version so it was hard to commit to higher stock levels. I then left at 9:45 and there were already two in line so that store was going to sell out.

Even though I called Staples a couple days earlier and they had no idea if they would get the Surface Pro, I drove the two miles down the road to visit them. I was first up to the counter when they opened and the manager came to tell me they did not have any. She did say that UPS often comes on launch day and delivers things so she took my name and phone number. She called just a short while ago and told me that one 64GB model came in and it was mine if I wanted it. I thanked her very much for the call and told her to go ahead and sell it to the next person in line as I really needed the 128GB model.

I now know I should have just stayed home and ordered online since the Microsoft Store sold out within a couple of hours. I now don't have any order placed for a device, but will keep working with Brian and try to buy one locally from his store to support him and his amazing customer service.

It's nice to see people seem to be excited to purchase the Surface Pro, but it's sad that Microsoft failed so miserably on launch day by not having anywhere close to the demand out in retail locations. Apple sells out on launch day due to extremely high sales, but it looks like Microsoft sold out due to low available inventory.

Related ZDNet Surface coverage:

Topics: Mobility, Tablets, Microsoft Surface

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62 comments
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  • Deliberate illusion of a sell out?

    According to the reports on Paul Thurrott's SuperSite (and others sites now), most Best Buy and Staples stores were allocated 1-2 units per store! That's at best 6,000 total units if true. Also if true, this is not mere incompetence, but a transparently cynical attempt to create the false illusion of a sell out.

    Hurray! The Surface Pro is an amazing success! It sold out within hours across the nation! But such a claim is completely absurd of course. Yet THAT'S what's going to be reported on the brain dead alphabet network news and the bird-cage-liner press this evening! (NBC is already reporting a SELL OUT!) This also means that both Best Buy and Staples were willing to participate in such a scam to the detriment of their customers' needs.

    Microsoft must be frightened beyond imagine if they feel that they have to limit availability to a few thousand devices in order to assure the illusion of a grand slam home run sell out!
    Asok Smith
    • They just didn't want to take the risk of having too high inventory

      and too low demand. This just goes to show that Microsoft learns their lessons from the past, and that is a good thing. The Surface RT had too high inventory and not enough demand so they looked at the Surface Pro and didn't want to take the same risk. It's always reassuring that there are some companies that learn from their mistakes.

      BTW we all know you're a Google/Apple fanboy and are anti-Microsoft.
      Jabe124
      • Two 64GB units and zero 128GB units per store

        Talk about risk adverse. Call me whatever kind of fanboi you want, but this is the classic definition of lowered expectations.
        Info Dave
        • I think the BB and Staples is their doing.

          The local store (BB) said they only requested 2 units due to the RT staying in inventory for too long and were surprised to have about 10 people there to buy one at open. But the basic math is starting to look like:

          6,000-9,000 at BB and Staples.
          9,000-12,000 at MS Retail Stores.

          If we make the assumption of 50% allocation to on-line, we are looking at 15,000-20,000 for on-line for a total of 30,000-40,000 units for the weekend. With an average cash outlay of $1,100 that makes for $33,000,000 to $44,000,000 for opening day.

          Much better than the Galaxy Tab 7" that sold 1/2 that total.
          Bruizer
          • MSFT Still Learning

            Microsoft is learning that what Apple is doing is very difficult. Apple by the way, sold way more iPads at their last launch than Microsoft will sell Surface Tablets. It's hard to get all the manufacturers in line and have everything ready for the consumer at launch date.

            Apple is a master of the supply-chain. They know how to work with suppliers to not only get products out in a timely manner, but at the best prices to maximize efficiency and profit.

            I don't know where MSFT makes the Surface, nor do I know why they picked Feb 9 for their product release. Last year Apple deliberately released the iPad around the March/April timeline because their tablets are made in China.

            Chinese New Year is a big deal in China and the Year of the Dragon started Feb 22, 2012. Apple had to give the Chinese a chance to celebrate the Chinese New Year for a couple weeks before coming back to the factories, allowing them to ramp up production for their big release.

            Today is Feb 9, the day before Chinese New Year. Many asian countries are in the midst of celebrating Chinese New Year now. Why you would have a product launch in the middle of a celebration is beyond me, but I can assure you celebrations are going on around Thailand, China, Japan, Phillipines, Cambodia, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

            MSFT might have a hard time ramping up production immediately if the Surface Pro is indeed made in a major asian country like China where they take many days off to celebrate.
            Maha888
          • Nice comments Maha

            Apple's production capacity is two or three orders of magnitude ahead of Microsoft, maybe four. This is not going to change anytime soon.
            Info Dave
          • Look at all the Surface RealToys available!!

            In Canada...

            http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-CA/category/windows-8-tablets/31040.aspx?path=b9391d439de4616a2eb60e2567176d38en01

            http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/category/windows-tablets/31088.aspx?path=6d56ed26a8e2432d145864a8ee45cd37en01
            Arm A. Geddon
          • And one more thing...

            Staples in Canada didn't even get any Surfaces.

            http://www.staples.ca/en/Tablets/cat_CL200622_2-CA_1_20001#filterList=%5B60084%5D&viewDetails='listView

            DEFEND THE HIVE!! DEFEND THE HIVE!!
            Arm A. Geddon
        • Risk Adverse

          The term is "risk averse", not "risk adverse". Maybe you should pay attention to the details next time you try to sound intelligent.
          James Dong
          • Thanks!

            I learned something. I wasn't trying to sound intelligent, I always sound this way :) Did you pick up on the SNL skit reference?

            BTW I did not flag your comment. Only spineless shill with the inability to communicate flag comments unnecessarily. Keep us real!
            Info Dave
      • WE?

        "BTW we all know you're a Google/Apple fanboy and are anti-Microsoft."

        Really? We? And you ALL know, hey? And who EXACTLY is WE? Oh, of course! I know! You "we' are the lot of PAID MicroTrolls!
        Asok Smith
        • Well I guess the Paid MicroTrolls can smell you

          paid AppleTrolls and GoogleTrolls a mile away.

          Face it, nobody spins these MS stories like you do unless you're a paid troll.

          I mean, what would make you do it for free, it makes no sense since none of this affects you personally in any way, does it?
          William Farrel
          • Who would be paying me?

            There's one thing I'm curious about. WHO would be paying me? Apple? Google? A hedge fund planning on shorting Microsoft stock?
            Asok Smith
    • Easy to "Sell Out" when you only shipped one

      I can substantiate what you are saying Asok. I Charlotte as well as across North Carolina, Best Buy stores only received ONE Pro 128 each. They have no idea when they will have more. The Microsoft Store said they had some but they were holding them for people who had reserved them in advance, a process that no one knew about unless they visited the store a couple of days before the "launch" I have nothing to gain by this, I wanted to buy one or I wouldn't have run around trying to get one today. I called the Microsoft store number and the national call center people gave me a different story each time I called to ask about whether or not a particular location had any in stock. Why some of the people here are trying to say you are just anti-Microsoft, I don't know but, I am sending this from a MS Windows 8 laptop that I like so well that I wanted a Windows 8 tablet. I will have to rethink this now as I have my doubts about MS right now.
      RB225
      • Just Sad.....

        From Charlotte NC as well. Was told at the Best Buy that each store only got 1 Surface 128GB. The people at Staples (more than 1) said they got in a delivery that they would unload on Monday, but they did not know yet how many they received. Called the number for the Charlotte Microsoft Store and got someone in Texas trying to sell me a Surface 64GB with a 64GB SD card so I could have 128GB! Really?
        Sad excuse of new product launch! Now I am considering other options.
        llenc
    • IT'S NOT A SELL-OUT!!

      Unless you're referring to the United States. In Canada as of 9:00 p.m. MDT both versions are available!!

      http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msca/en_CA/pdp/productID.264843900
      Arm A. Geddon
      • Actually they're not available

        Microsoft Store Canada site doesn't really have any stock and a bit misleading since they're still waiting for next shipment around Feb 15. You can still order but it will not get shipped until they have enough supply. Technically it's a pre-ordering system now.
        Samic
        • 64GB STILL IN STOCK!!

          As of Sunday 2:46 p.m. MDT.
          Arm A. Geddon
          • From Microsoft's Canada Store...

            CHOOSE YOUR DEVICE
            64 GB (Tablet only)
            CDN$899.00
            128 GB (Tablet only)
            Out of Stock
            CDN$999.00
            Arm A. Geddon
          • And the Checkout page...

            Cart
            order #: 9749032541

            Remove
            64GB Surface Pro

            Quantity:

            CDN$899.00
            Promo Code:
            Shipping Method:
            Standard - FREE (3-7 days, excludes weekends & holidays)
            Shipping: CDN$0.00
            Subtotal before applicable taxes: CDN$899.00
            Arm A. Geddon