Worst? Buy

I know I’m not the first person to have a bad customer experience at Best Buy.  Neither will I be the last, no doubt.  This is what happened last week.

I went with my daughter, who is a college junior, to Best Buy to look for a laptop.  (Why didn’t we purchase it online?  Because she didn’t want to wait.)  After spending an hour looking at all the models, prices, features, screens, keyboards, etc., she decided on a Dell Studio 15.  It was well equipped and less expensive at $780 than we could get it through any other channel such as the Employee Purchase Program.

So I asked the salesperson if they had one in stock.  He looked around a bit and then checked his inventory system.  The only thing he had was the display model, which he said he would sell for 10% off, but at the same time he wouldn’t recommend that to us.  The inventory system told him that another store 5 miles away did have one and it was listed at $733.  Excellent, we thought, so he called the second store and asked them to hold it for us at the customer service desk.  We immediately took the short drive and found the box waiting for us at customer service as promised.  We paid and went home happy.  So far so good, right?

The next day I unboxed the system to set it up for my daughter.  I expected to see the standard Vista “mini-setup” or sysprep – the final steps in installing the operating system and preparing the new computer for first-time use.  Imagine my surprise when I was greeted instead by a screen showing two user accounts.  As I investigated further, this is what I found:

  • neither of the accounts were protected by a password
  • the system had been in use for 3-4 weeks
  • multiple applications were installed that I didn’t purchase, including Microsoft Office 2007 Enterprise
  • 100 GB of the hard drive was in use, including 23 GB of music, multiple bit torrents of DVDs, etc., none of which I had purchased
  • a document titled “Resume” with a number of revealing details about the user:
    • full name, address, phone number, and e-mail address
    • he graduated from high school in 2005, making him approx. 21
    • he was looking for an IT job
    • he was an employee of that Best Buy store in the Geek Squad

Let that last part sink in a bit.  How in the world had Best Buy sold me a laptop as new that not only wasn’t new but contained a huge amount of copyrighted material that I didn’t purchase?  At the very least this was a serious security breach involving a person who others are entrusting with their computers and data.  How could any Geek Squad employee not have a password on his own computer account?  No matter the circumstances of his use of the computer, how could the computer possibly have ended up being sold to me without him removing his data?  Did he use the computer without the store’s knowledge and somehow sneak it back onto the shelf?  Did the store not know they had sold me an open-box computer as new?  My mind was racing without a lot of information but all kinds of speculation.

Needless to say, I took it back to the store.  Ironically, the person who greeted me at the customer service counter was none other than the previous user of the laptop.  I asked to see the manager.  When he came I asked if there was a place we could speak privately.  When I explained, the manager was shocked and immediately seemed to grasp the seriousness of the situation.  To make a long story short, it turned out that the employee had purchased the laptop and then returned it.  Best Buy’s errors were twofold: 1) they failed to restore the hard drive to the factory load; 2) they sold me the machine as new.  It’s quite possible they knew it was an open box item, accounting for the lower price at the second store compared to the first, but no one at the second store ever told me that.

The manager’s resolution?  He offered his apologies and provided me with another Studio 15 with a slightly better configuration that sells for $865.  (According to the manager, this second unit had been serviced by the Geek Squad to apply latest service packs, updates, etc.  So it wasn’t exactly in the factory shipped configuration.  I took his word for that in spite of the obvious fact that Best Buy had already given me ample reason to question their trustworthiness and procedures.)  He then asked if I was interested in the extended warranty.  I said I would take it if he gave it to me for free, which he declined.  So how’s that for a mediocre response to what was at best major-league mistake?

I’m now attempting to reach the person at Dell who is reponsible for the Best Buy account in the midwest.  Managers far removed from the sales floor occasionally need to hear from real end customers so they can better visualize the kinds of situations that arise at retail and the systems that need to be in place to serve customers well.

CITRT Fall 2008 Day 3

Once again, the Church IT RoundTable managed to be the coolest thing ever.  Here are my quick, contemporaneous notes from the roundtable sessions.  I moderated in Studio B, so my ability to take good notes was limited.

Conference WiFi

  • 24 laptops in the room.  Most if not all connected to the demo Xirrus array in the room.  Worked perfectly.  Kudos.

Mac OS issues

  • magic triangle – term used by Apple to describe AD-OD integration
  • Why do AD-OD integration?
  • Daryl Hunter at LifeChurch not sure why it’s needed.  Mac people have tons of files all over the place, completely unmanaged, not searchable, etc.  Hezekiah Barnes – Mac admin from Southeast very strong
  • Brian O’Neal – faith based support from Apple
  • Biggest issue is setting up ACLs so they sync between the two directories
  • Exchange 2007 even worse problems with Entourage than before.  Entourage database corrupts occasionally.  Problems with people using Entourage on one computer and Outlook on another.  Entourage 2008 is more stable with better features.
  • Don’t need AD integration for file and printer sharing.  Ideally it will work for single sign-on, but this is tough.
  • People love their Macs partly because they’re not managed.  Everyone lets their Mac users be local admin.  Some are doing the same for PC users.
  • Too much Mac data isn’t getting backed up.
  • Can become a certified Apple shop and then do your own repair.  Don’t have to pay for Apple Care.
  • Backup Exec has an agent for Mac.


  • Compellent has cool interface
  • EMC is awesome performance, difficult to manage
  • EqualLogic is fast
  • SAN Melody is a software-based SAN – does storage virtualization.  Cheap.
  • KVM virtualization for Linux – feature equivalent with ESX.  KVM easier to manage than Xen.  Performance is very good.
  • Windows people love Hyper-V
  • Mark Rock says ESX people are always looking for a place to hold a user group.  Love churches with an open area and WiFi.
  • Compelling reasons for virtualization:  Better hardware utilization.  Quicker disaster recovery.  Lower space requirements, lower heat.


  • Joomla has a CRM plug-in
  • Tony says all ChMS are too hard to use.
  • Most discussion around check-in and attendance.  Various theories about hospitality and whether self check-in or assisted check-in is better.
  • David Drinnon built a system using RFID for check-in
  • Text to a short code number (like we did our survey this morning) used by Southeast to do student ministry attendance  http://www.polleverywhere.com/

Desktop management/Help desk

  • Altiris.  Dell is a reseller.
  • Spiceworks
  • AuditISX – open source
  • Easy Audit
  • Everrest Corporate Edition
  • Dave Waters works in the IT Dept. for Numara, makers of Track It
  • Ruckus does authentication integrated with AD
  • Dameware – remote support NT Utilities includes Mini Remote Control.  (Numara resells as Track It Remote)
  • Vista image utility boots from a USB drive.  One image for any kind of machine so long as all drivers are present.
  • Help Desk – Reimage.com

Network monitoring

  • Cacti
  • Ground Work
  • Open NMS


  • David Drinnon: “I don’t like Sharepoint.  We’re playing with it.”
  • Daryl Hunter: “LifeChurch built an internal portal.  No adoption.  Abandoned.  What does an intranet give us a search server doesn’t?  We live in e-mail.  Use corporate IM, Yammer.”
  • ACS has a home-built intranet.  Couldn’t work without it.
  • Al Fresco – Sharepoint competitor


  • ACS – music not on the network except certain users and certain specific network folders

Remote access

  • Don’t use port 3389 for terminal services.  Consider 2-factor authentication.  Security concerns.

New facility construction

  • 20% “forward thinking”
  • Two 4″ conduits between buildings
  • Two 4″ conduits into the building for the telecom providers

IT Management

  • Surveys of users about help desk experience
  • How to measure IT health?  Key indicators?  My answer: ticket load, project time lines, annual goals
  • Identify felt need -> evaluate how a particular solution fits with mission/values
  • IT Staffing – importance of team affinity is Jason Powell’s #1 lesson of the last year

David Kinnaman at Resurrection

David Kinnaman, President of The Barna Group and author of unChristian, gave a talk at Resurrection tonight and took questions from Adam and the audience.  Here are my notes.

David has been with Barna for 14 years, since he was a junior in college (which makes him approx. 35).

The public thinks present-day Christianity is no longer like Jesus intended

Favorable view of evangelicals:

  • 16-29 year old outsiders: 3% favorable
  • Boomer outsiders: 25% favorable
  • Elder outsiders: 27% favorable

75% of Americans over 40 say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important in their lives. 70% of Americans believe the resurrection is literally, historically true.

60% of Americans under 40 would say the same.

“Biblical World View” defined by Barna – 3% under 40 and 9% over 40.


  • Post-Christian context invites effectiveness in living as true missionaries, in tension
  • Political backlash invites opportunity to change “culture ware” rhetoric
  • Limited number of Christians with BWV invites expression coming from serious discipleship
  • Global awareness invites leadership for social and environmental justice
  • Hyper-individualism invites counter-cultural movement of community and non-materialism
  • Pluralistic culture invites opportunity to work alongside non-Christians to renew our cities
  • Desire for transparency invites authentic opportunities for spiritual conversations and project-focused churches
  • Search for purpose invites empowering students to pursue lives of service and clear vocations, energizing and equipping spiritual entrepreneurs

We suffer from a failure of kingdom imagination

What does it mean to be Christ-like?  Luke 7:36-50. What would the woman in John 7 say about Simon? He was judgmental, hypocritical, anti-sinner, too political, insincere, out of touch. This is what young people say about Christians today.

Births to unwed mothers: 1960 – 5%, now – 38%

Next generation is very relational. Music piracy – loyalty to peers is much greater than loyalty to authority, etc. Loyalty to peers is their primary moral compass.

How to post-moderns perceive truth? The majority of young people don’t respond to an apologetics approach (some do, but not majority). Being a Christian should make people have a clearer picture of what God has called them to do in their life. If a lawyer, a lawyer who is called to restore justice, etc.

Young people want deep answers, not simplicity, canned, or phony answers. For example, student ministry might be better with fewer students (lower student/teacher ratios) and deeper investment in their lives. We might think a great curriculum or a great program will communicate the gospel effectively. Since they’re relationally-motivated, that may be less true for young people.

It’s very easy for us to slip into patterns of judgmentalism, superficiality, and religiosity. For example, students often say that rather than being accepted at church, they’re socially shunned at church just like they have been at school. Church leaders favor the popular, beautiful, smart, rich, etc.  Students conclude the church is no different, or even worse that secular social groups.

It’s very possible for Christians to use terminology that non-Christians don’t understand.

43% of Americans say they’ve gone to church in the last 7 days. That’s probably over-reported (“halo effect”). Frequency of worship attendance among committed Christians is declining. People have many more options and fragmented attention. People can listen to podcasts, etc. (Adam says it has gone from 2.7 times per month to 1.4 times per month.)

Situational awareness is important, but relational awareness is even more important.

The media doesn’t get spirituality at all. Barna has recently gotten lots of questions from the media about Sarah Palin such as, “Why would she speak about spiritual things in her leadership?So it’s no surprise that the media doesn’t project positive portrayals of committed followers of any religion.

Young people today: it’s cool to care; they’re eager to take on big things and solve them.

12 years ago 80+% of people had a positive view of Christians. Now it’s something like 40% who have a negative view.

Young people don’t want to feel that they’re the object of someone’s attempt to win them to Christ. How do we feel when a Mormon comes to the door? We notice that if we’re not a great target for conversion, they move on. We don’t want friends who are friendly with us because of an agenda: insurance salesman, etc.

Critiquing Christians has become popular. There is very possibly a “bandwagon effect” going on.

Table talk: We incorrectly believe that non-Christians are faithless. Imago Dei tells us all people have a spirit that believes in something and is potentially open.

Unplanned blogging hiatus

Why did I launch clifguy.com and then not blog for 6 weeks?

  1. trip to Florida to meet with Christ Fellowship and Flamingo Road
  2. personal briefcase/laptop bag stolen
  3. lost my assistant Amy (promoted to the executive suite – good for her, bad for me!)
  4. interviewed for and hired Amy’s replacement
  5. several staff teams moving from one office to another requiring changes to the cable plant
  6. new private office for me (yea! but a took time to move)
  7. IT staff vacations, leaving me to cover
  8. end of fiscal year for my wife’s church for which I am the unofficial CFO
  9. obtained a new vehicle for my wife (yea! but a pain to research, test drive, etc.)
  10. replacement laptop arrived so I had to move onto it
  11. Glenn Kelley of Vine Hosting in for a 4-day visit
  12. my daughter returned home from 6 weeks study abroad in Europe
  13. major rain storm that flooded the basement of my wife’s church, the cleanup was left to me and Glenn due to many people from her church going on a mission trip
  14. trip to Colorado to take my 16 year-old son backpacking

In his blog roll Brian has me as “Clif Guy Some of the Time”. In truth, for 6 weeks it was “Clif Guy None of the Time”. Now you know why.

The sad tale of my laptop’s demise

June 17-19 Chuck Russell and I visited South Florida to benchmark the Internet Campuses of Christ Fellowship and Flamingo Road. When we arrived at the Palm Beach airport, I hit a snag totally of my own making. Somehow I forgot that I had carried my bag on to the plane whereas Chuck had checked his. So we moseyed on down to the bag claim, whereupon I regained my senses and realized I had left my bag on the plane. By the time I found the right person with US Air’s baggage service, it was too late and the plane was already on its way back to Charlotte. I’ve traveled a lot on business and never have done anything quite that absentminded.

Jason Reynolds, IT Director at Christ Fellowship, had met us at the airport. He waited while I filed a report with the baggage service. They said they would bring the bag to my hotel as soon as it came in. I would just need to be patient. I was mad at myself over the inconvenience, but it wasn’t a huge deal.

Jason showed us around the Palm Beach area a bit and then we went to dinner at a great seafood place where we were joined by David Helbig, Internet Campus Pastor at Christ Fellowship. A church member came into the restaurant and saw us. There were introductions all around. Before we knew it, dinner for our whole table was picked up by this generous man. The evening had taken a decided turn for the better.

After dinner, Jason asked if we would like to go check out the beach before going to our hotel. Being from landlocked Kansas, Chuck and I readily agreed. Here’s the sunset, captured on my (bad) cell phone camera.

Juno Beach in Jupiter, FL

Jason Reynolds at Juno Beach

Little did we know as Chuck, Jason, David, and I discussed Internet Campus while enjoying a beautiful night on the beach that just a couple hundred feet away in the beach parking lot, Jason’s car window was smashed and my briefcase/laptop bag was stolen containing my laptop, digital camera, web cam, cables, and all kinds of personal items. It was a sinking feeling when we returned to the car and I discovered my bag missing and Jason’s window smashed. The Jupiter police were very professional and courteous, but it’s now been 6 weeks and (no surprise) nothing has been recovered.

After filing the police report, Jason took us to our hotel. It was very weird walking in to the hotel and checking in without luggage of any kind. My only possessions at that moment were my wallet and cell phone that were in my pockets.

Jason was very generous and hooked me up the next morning with a Dell D530 laptop out of Christ Fellowship’s inventory so I could at least get my e-mail and have a way to take notes during the trip. However, without all my usual tools (camera, PhotoShop, Windows Live Writer, etc.) I wasn’t able to blog. In fact, due to that incident and a lot of other things I’ll share soon, I’m just now getting back to a normal workload and routine. Hence the sudden return of my blogging.

I wish I had a profound theological comment to add here, but alas, it just sucks to have your laptop stolen. Don’t be like me. Be sure to put your laptop in the trunk or otherwise hide it from the prying eyes of thieves. Also, it’s a really good idea to encrypt the contents of your laptop hard drive. You’ve been warned.