Circuit City Stores Inc.'s recent announcement that it would close all 567 of its U.S. stores caused dismay among employees and long-term customers but left some shoppers excited about looking for good deals.
About 34,000 employees of the Richmond, Va.-based company will lose their jobs nationwide, and stores will close throughout the Bay Area, including locations in San Mateo, San Jose, Daly City and Sunnyvale.
But with liquidation sales now under way, customers are complaining that prices are sky-high, and the company has little information on the number of local employees or details of the sales.
Staff at the San Mateo store, located at 1880 S. Grant St., said liquidators had barred them from speaking to the media. But one employee said the store officially closed Friday when liquidators took over operations. A second employee, who also asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak to the press, said about 45 people work at the store and some of them have been there as long as two decades.
A man who answered the phone at the Daly City store said he couldn't give out any information on the sale to the press.
As of Wednesday, the sale featured discounts of 10 to 30 percent, with most big-ticket items selling for 10 percent off.
"The liquidation, as of Saturday (Jan. 17) up to today, has totally ridiculous prices," San Mateo resident Tim Kelley said Tuesday after visiting the store. "They jacked everything up to retail and took 10 to 30 percent off. That's not even a sale."
Kelley said he had shopped at the store's San Mateo location for more than 15 years and didn't fault staff for the high prices. He added that he had gotten good deals in the past because Circuit City would match any competitor's prices plus 10 percent.
Scott Carpenter, executive vice president of Great American Group, one of four liquidators handling the closures, said the pre-discount prices were the same as what Circuit City had always charged apart from weekly specials.
"We discount off of the regular price of the item -- the price that Circuit City keeps in their price file," Carpenter said. "We don't change any of those prices ever."
Based on customer complaints, the Daily News took Best Buy's Jan. 18 advertising pamphlet to the San Mateo Circuit City store and did a comparison shop. Despite the liquidation sale, most of Best Buy's advertised prices appeared to beat Circuit City's.
Circuit City's price for a 46-inch Samsung 1080p LCD HDTV television set was $1,890 Wednesday afternoon, $440 more than Best Buy's price of $1,450. Smaller television sets, such as the Toshiba 22-inch 720p LCD HDTV-DVD Combo and the Samsung 22-inch 720p LCD HDTV were about the same price at both stores with Best Buy's prices coming in slightly lower thanks to a $50 discount.
DVDs of the movies "Step Brothers" and "The Incredible Hulk" were $17.59 at Circuit City, 20 percent off the original price of $21.99. The same titles apparently cost $14.99 each at Best Buy, down from a regular price of $19.99.
Carpenter said prices advertised in a competitors' Sunday circular might be lower because those publications typically feature big discounts on a few items.