Best Buy today just took the axe to Reward Zone and Reward Zone Premier Silver status.
The programs are being replaced with “My Best Buy“, with Elite and Elite Plus replacing Premier Silver. The minimum purchase cutoffs are $1,500 and $3,500, making it easier for people to get premium status, versus Premier Silver’s $2,500 cutoff.
Unfortunately, the deal is much weaker. Gone are 60 day return periods. Elite Plus nets you 45 days, Elite nets you 30 days. Standard return period stays at 15 days.
Elite Plus does gain free Expedited (2-3 days) shipping, and both Elite and Elite Plus get you a 24/7 Customer Service phone number, but it’s not clear if that’s for ordering 24/7 or just My Best Buy questions. It might be beneficial if you could place a phone order when the web site isn’t working on a midnight deal, but I suspect the 24/7 phone number is limited to My Best Buy queries — in other words, making it practically useless.
In all, I’m pretty disappointed, but not surprised. It’s clearly a drop-down in benefits unless you spend between $1,500 and $2,499 per year at Best Buy… then it’s a moderate step up. There is a small benefit to those that buy primarily online and use free shipping, but if a Best Buy retail store isn’t nearby, you’re more likely to shop with Amazon Prime to begin with for expedited shipping.
I suspect Best Buy tested this pretty carefully in the post-going-private-attempt era. The 60 day returns benefitted people who were likely to buy at Best Buy anyways, to take advantage of the long return period and price-matching potential during that window. Only Costco and Sam’s Club are competitive in return periods, and their selection certainly is not competitive.
At the end of the day, as long as Elite Plus stays atop Amazon, Best Buy knows customers are likely to go retail to lock in the longer price-match and return windows.
The silver lining for Best Buy, is the improvement in branding. Reward Zone always stunk like a skunk in terms of branding. I don’t want to feel like I’m in the endzone at a football game when I shop for technology. Reward Zone sounded cheap and lame. Premier Silver added to that effect… the short-lived Premier Black never left the testing launchpad.
I could see Best Buy extending out My Best Buy to higher tiers, so “My Best Buy Elite Black” could re-emerge for those spending, say, $5,000+ per year and get 60 day return periods back. I just don’t see it happening until long after the dust has settled.
Personally, for some big-ticket items, I could see myself defecting to Amazon. I don’t have to show ID when I return stuff that is defective, and I don’t have to spend an hour trekking to the store. Now that I’m only getting an extra 15 days in return period on most items, it’s certainly not a net-positive from my end.