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TheStreet Open House

10 Sleazy Moves by Everyday Companies

Geek show
Cruise consumer-oriented websites and Best Buy (SBBY) is almost always in the mix of their coverage.

Since the demise of Circuit City, even a casual shopper can attest that the sales staff has become far more aggressive in pushing nearly worthless extended warranties and the services of the much-maligned Geek Squad.

Founded in 1994, Geek Squad was once a great idea -- a mobile team of tech support pros. Now, as a subsidiary of Best Buy it is seen as a racket by critics, who view this potentially helpful service as having devolved into a means to fleece those who lack tech know-how.

Atop the critic's hit parade: optimization.

For an extra $40 to $70 Geek Squad promises to boost your computer's speed and performance, tweak the operating system, remove unwanted software, set up basic functions and, for the higher price, install anti-virus software.

Engineers for Consumer Reports (part of Consumers' Union, which also owns the site The Consumerist) compared a selection of "optimized" computers with ones with default factory settings and found no performance improvement. In one case, an optimized laptop performed 32% worse than the factory model.

As bad, if not worse, is Best Buy's habit of "pre-optimizing" stock, meaning that if you want to go home with the computer you wanted, or take advantage of a sale price, just taking something off the shelf means you are automatically stuck with added fees and questionable "upgrades." If you want to pay extra for a system restore disc, just like the one your computer comes with, you can hand the boys in blue even more extra green.

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