Above all else, Wal-mart is about offering the lowest prices possible (seemingly at all costs), but when it comes to electronics products like HDTVs, being the cheapest only gets you so far. Best Buy has remained strong during the recession in thanks to its service offerings, most notably its Geek Squad of techies who can be hired to install that $2,000 home theater you just purchased.
Since the Geek Squad has been a huge cash cow for Best Buy, it shouldn't come as a total surprise that Wal-mart has made a move to cut into that competitor's market by announcing that it will offer home theater installation services (as well as other tech support) as the holiday season approaches. But while Best Buy started out hiring the Geek Squad before acquiring the company and integrating it into its stores, Wal-mart is not developing its own tech troop, choosing instead to work with N.E.W. Customer Service Companies (which calls itself "the nation's leading provider of extended service plans, buyer protection programs and product support for retailers") to supply the installers.
Wal-mart will charge $99 to install that new TV you brought at the mega-retailer and give you a tutorial on how to use it. It will charge up to $339 for other services, which presumably would entail setting up an entire home theater system—and possibly more. The move follows the decision last month for Sam's Club, the warehouse brand Wal-mart runs, to use a new supplier (probably N.E.W.) for tech support for electronics purchased at its locations.
Given its price-conscious clientele, will Wal-mart be able to match Best Buy's success with the Geek Squad with its offering? Would you pay Wal-mart to install your new HDTV or home theater? Or have you already used the Geek Squad for that? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in our TalkBack section.