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The ultimate tech store: B&H Photo

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If you’re ever in Manhattan, head over to B&H on 9th Avenue and 34th Street (you can shop online, as well, but you’ll get a kick out of the bricks and mortar). This store – one of the last like it in the country – is part mom and pop and part Rube Goldberg contraption with knowledgeable salespeople and everything under the sun for cheap. But the absolute best thing is their delivery system.

Items are shipped from the basement up a weird conveyor belt up into a track that runs along the ceiling. The item then pops down right where it was requested. If you buy something, a total of five people are required to get you the item. Here’s Spolsky’s take:

And what a roof it is: The whole operation is a crazy Willy Wonka factory. If you want to check out a product that’s not on display, a salesperson orders it by computer terminal from a vast stockroom in the basement. Moments later, as if by magic, the product arrives at the retail counter, via an elaborate system of conveyor belts and dumbwaiters. You can try out the gear, see if you like it, and, if you do, the salesperson puts it in a green plastic box and places it on another conveyor belt, which runs, above your head, to the pickup counter. There, an employee bags your purchase. Meanwhile, your salesperson gives you a ticket, which you take to a payment counter. After you have paid, you get a different ticket that you take to the pickup counter to get your merchandise

Compare that to the rough treatment you used to get at Circuit City – ignorant salespeople, high prices, and a shakedown at the door for a bit of security theater – and you’ve figured out what helps B&H thrive. First, they have little, if any theft. Second, their camera guys know cameras and their laptop guys know laptops. And, finally, everyone in the organization is important and the customer is a trusted part of that equation. I haven’t been by in a while but it’s a great place and I bought my first Canon Rebel there. Good times.

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