A Brand by Any Other Name

Did you ever shop at Circuit City stores back in the day? Have you shopped at the circuitcity.com web site recently? You know that they’re completely different companies now, right? The folks over at HD Guru have put together some warnings about other home theater-related brand names that aren’t quite what they claim to be.

A while back, I wrote about how the Philips electronics you buy in North America aren’t really Philips products at all. The real, original Philips still exists, but has abandoned the American market. The company sold its branding in this market to Funai. Any Philips TVs, Blu-ray players, or other gear you buy here are really just rebranded Funai equipment. Meanwhile, the true Philips continues to develop its own products (like those swanky Cinema 21:9 TVs) that will never see release here.

As far as Circuit City goes, I pretty much gave up on that store during the days of the DIVX fiasco of 1998 and rarely went back. Admittedly, I did pick up a few heavily-discounted Blu-rays in the throes of the company’s going-out-of-business sale, but that was about it for me. After pulling the plug (yes, pun intended) on its retail operations, the Circuit City brand name was later bought up by a company called Systemax, which revived it as an online-only operation, and has done likewise for CompUSA. However, the name is the only thing that these two incarnations of Circuit City have in common. Everything else behind the scenes is completely different. And, according to HD Guru, the new version isn’t particularly well-regarded for the quality of its service.

The article looks at Amazon customer feedback (circuitcity.com was recently made an authorized merchant at Amazon) and finds a number of complaints about the company’s slow shipping, lack of communication, and poor customer service.

HD Guru likewise calls out the Westinghouse and Polaroid brands as misrepresenting themselves and manufacturing TVs and other products of questionable reliability.

These are some issues worth keeping in mind as you do your last-minute Christmas shopping for the home theater nut (or wannabe home theater nut) in your life.

Read the whole article here.


  1. HuskerGuy

    Shopped at CC maybe 2-3 times a long, long time ago. They were run out of business where I live as they decided to go up against a local and very well established giant and lost badly. They literally put themselves across the street from this place. They were a truly horrible store to shop at and I’m surprised their name holds enough value to keep it alive under different ownership.

  2. Patrick A Crone

    The only time I shopped there was during the holidays when I was desperate to find gifts and when they cleared out all their HD-DVDs for $5 a piece. I did look at some of their blu rays when they were going out of business, but there wasn’t a huge variety to choose from. I always found the stores themselves to be a bit disorganized and the staff unhelpful. Most of the time I felt like they could care less about customer service and I guess that shows why they went under.

  3. Keith

    I actually used to work for Sysetmax back in 2000 or so. It was the worst job I’ve ever had in my life. I worked there for exactly 3 months before I quit without having a new job lined up! I was front line tech support and I could only take so many “my internet don’t work” calls before I lost it. It wasn’t about the quality of work there, it was how many calls we took in an hour. I was actually reprimanded once for spending too much time with a customer! The final straw was when they had a huge QVC (yep!) push and they made us all work on the assembly line for 2 days a week. I got to install nothing but video cards for 8 hours. By install I mean I seated the cards. The guy next to me put the screw in it. Ugh…

    Given how they treated their employees it doesn’t surprise me in the least to hear that their service sucks.

  4. EM

    Contrary to some of the opinions proffered here, I have fond memories of Circuit City “classic”, which is where I bought my first personal portable CD player (i.e., a Discman) and my first DVD player (fortunately, the sales clerk quickly took the hint that my mind was made up about the model and that I was not going to get a Divx-compatible player instead). I often found DVDs and CDs at reasonable prices there, too. Heck, this monitor I’m looking at was a Circuit City purchase. I did not have any problems with customer service at the locations I visited. I’m not going to say it was my favorite store, but I was a little sad when the local Circuit City closed down, a few years before the chain went out of business altogether.

    I’m sure I’m not alone in having had largely positive experiences with the retailer. I was aware of the chain’s demise and the transfer of the name to an unrelated Web-based business; but I imagine there are a number of people with positive memories of the old Circuit City who remain unaware of the big switcheroo (especially people who, like me, were not living near a Circuit City store at the time of the retailer’s demise). How unfortunate that they may be sucked in by this branding tactic.

    I’m not too happy about the way the “Atari” name has been banded about since the late ’90s either, but that’s another story. 😛

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