Think tech is just a young person’s game? Don’t tell that to Bob Kaufman.
Bob, who turns 89 on April 7, is a sales associate in the computing department at our Best Buy store in Sarasota, Florida. He has worked there for 15 years and has become a favorite among customers and coworkers alike.
The energetic Massachusetts native is the oldest Best Buy employee in the country, but he can still hang with the best of them, working two to three days a week.
“If I seem upbeat and excited, this is how I am with customers,” he said during a recent phone call. “I just love to talk and make friends.”
Bob’s journey at Best Buy started when he and his wife visited the store in 2004. There was a kiosk promoting jobs at the company, and his wife urged him to apply.
“I want you to get out of the house,” she told him.
Bob, then 74, replied: “They’ll never hire me. I’m too old.”
But they did, and he’s been there ever since.
“Sometimes customers will ask me, ‘Why are you still working?’” Bob said. “I tell them, ‘This isn’t work. Work is when I go home and make the bed and clean the sink.’”
A passion for customer service
Bob grew up near Boston, attended Tufts University and served stateside in the Air Force Reserves during the Korean War. After the war, he went to work for his family’s retail business. He spent several years as the company president, overseeing 35 automotive-accessories stores across New England.
From there, Bob started a technology services business. He installed computers and wrote thousands of computer programs before retiring at the age of 62.
Now, at Best Buy, he stays up to speed on all the latest technology. He’s usually one of the first employees at his store to complete online trainings about new products, and he often does additional research on his own time.
He enjoys getting to know shoppers, often starting a conversation by asking their name and where they’re from. He even learns the names of any family members who are with them, and he’ll thank them by name when he closes a sale.
“He’s someone you should play on a video to show kids how to interact with customers,” General Manager Bobby Borges said, noting that he receives at least one or two compliments a week about Bob. “He’s so genuine and sincere, unlike any other employee I’ve come across.”
Bob also speaks multiple languages. He studied French, German and Spanish in school and taught himself Portuguese using Rosetta Stone later in life. He’s also picked up a little Russian and Italian along the way, and he knows how to say “thank you” in 26 languages.
“It’s sort of a hobby, but it’s great when someone comes into the store,” he said. “Everything is, in my opinion, about making a connection and building trust. The customers love me because I love the customers.”
‘Just one of the guys’
Bob’s coworkers love him, too — even if most of them are 60 or 70 years younger than him.
“He’s one of the nicest people in the store, and he’s a very hard worker,” said Robby Silvers, a 27-year-old sales consultant in the computing department. “We all treat him like he’s our age. He’s just one of the guys.”
Bob can’t climb the ladder to get products from up high, and he sometimes needs help lifting heavier products for customers. But you’ll never hear his coworkers complain about having to lend a hand.
“I tell him all the time, ‘Bob, you are an inspiration to us all.’ And I mean that sincerely,” said Bobby, his manager. “He has a good attitude, a good heart. He’s a good human being. It’s a joy to work with him, and it’s uplifting for other employees to see what he can do.”
And Bob said he plans to keep doing it “until he drops.”
“I intend to stay as long as my health is good,” he said. “It’s a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. I have something to do, and it’s great to feel appreciated. It’s a pleasure for me to go to work.”
Click here for more information about jobs at Best Buy.