A letter to PC World

Dear PC World Customer Care,

My laptop is on its death-bed and at the moment, fiscal constraints means I really can’t spend the money on a replacement/repair right now, my flatmate is building me a desktop replacement.

I just need a new chassis for it.

It’s nothing special, so I check for local retailers certain to have such a thing, and the ubiquitous PC World appears. I have heard horror stories about your stores, but this is just an off-the-shelf purchase. What could go wrong?

I check online, and they say that the Mile End store has some in stock – so I use my lunch time to go over to pick one up. After wandering around for a bit unable to find them, I ask a member of staff for assistance.

My request though was met with an exclamation of such shock and surprise that anyone would want to buy an empty chassis that I started to wonder what was going on. Despite her conviction that such a product is too bizarre to exist, she did call over to a colleague who then took me over to where they were hiding.

A display of 4 cardboard boxes without prices and two unboxed machines, with prices, but far more than I wanted to pay. I just wanted a cheap chassis.

Nope, he mumbled, such things are only sold online – but the branch in Tottenham Court Road might sell them as it is bigger, he mumbled. I had hoped he might then check with them for me, but no such offer was forthcoming, and frankly I wasn’t in the mood to trust the store – so over to TCR I went.

In the store, which certainly did not look larger than the previous branch, I was able to locate the display myself, and to my pleasure, this branch had taken the units out of their cardboard packaging, and put prices on them. Huzzar!

Now to find a member of staff.

OK, located one, no he can’t help me, but the “customer” standing next to him is actually an employee, and he can help me. Which one do I want? Out comes his mobile phone, and then he calls over to another employee. Who then takes a look at my intention and decides he is too busy to help.

Fourth employee – the most junior looking person in the store is dragged over to deal with the customer, and he does at least check the stock list and go and get me a box.

Now handed over to a cashier who efficiently handles the sale, but without any emotion or interest, and once she had languidly handed over my till receipt, turned her attention immediately to something on the computer screen and ignored me.

To add to the final insult, when I got home, it was obvious that the box had been dropped on the corner at some point in its life as the plastic fascia was damaged. Easy enough to fix with super-glue as I am really not in the mood to return to the store.

However, every morning when I look under my desk to switch on my computer, I will be reminded of the purchasing hell I went through to get it.

OK, it was a small purchase and I am not expecting the red carpet to be rolled out – but at some time in the future I will be replacing my laptop, so where shall I go for that?

Will I go to the Mile End store where two staff combined to deliver a totally unsatisfactory performance?

How about the branch in TCR, where three staff treated me like a leper and the cashier seemed on the verge of falling asleep from boredom?

I actually used to work for Currys many years ago, and spent in total about 10 years in retail – so I know that everyone has off-days, where we as sales people are not at our best. I have had them myself.

However, in two stores to have SIX people so utterly incompetent at their jobs suggests something far worse than someone having an off-day. I was seeing a systemic failure in the company to manage its staff properly and deliver even a basic level of customer care.

Even on my worst days at work, I cannot imagine ever responding to a customer request with a look of disbelief. I would never have handed a customer around to different colleagues simply because I couldn’t be bothered to deal with a sale.

To add to the insult, I am fairly sure one of the cardboard boxes in the Mile End store is the same one I picked up in the TCR store – so not only did the salesman misinform me about what he sold, had they marked up their displays correctly, I could have walked out of the shop with my purchase as originally planned, and this letter would not have been written.

Can I encourage you to send this letter to your Area Manager and give the stores a proverbial kick up the backside as something is seriously wrong with those two stores.

And finally…

I would have linked to your website to show you the pages where I checked the availability of the items and show how the store is supposed to sell what I want, but your website terms and conditions forbid me linking to your website without “prior written consent”.

Which, as Malcolm Coles has noted in the past, is a bit silly.

Can you clarify to whom I have to write to in order to request such a consent?

Thank you

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13 Comments

  1. Oh to live in a non-PCWorld

  2. Bryan Jones

    If you do a reserve online before going to PC World they will sell you exactly the same piece of kit as if you had just walked in off the street just it will be for a sometimes substantial discount which I find plain rude. That said, the one time I tried to use it with Old Kent Road branch everything that was in stock wasn’t. I have to be really desperate to go to PC World.

  3. TRT

    If you were going to TCR anyway, why not go to one of the grey importers down there?

    • IanVisits

      Because it was my lunch break and I really didn’t want to waste time popping in and out of stores looking for one who would might sell a cheap chassis as opposed to the monstrous gaming machine boxes you see in their windows.

      Also, as I arrived via Warren Street station, the PC World store was opposite the station exit.

  4. Martin Tolley

    In my experience, they aren’t much cop at selling kettles in the TCR branch either! When I asked what the difference was between two models from the same manufacturer with vastly different price tags – “Well they both, like boil water and things innit”

    • IanVisits

      I didn’t know they sold domestic appliances, but in the absence of any obvious reason for the difference in price, then it is likely to be this:

      Thanks to trading laws, for an item to be offered in a sale, it has to have been on sale at the higher price for a minimum period of time (IIRC 28 days).

      Also thanks to the consumer’s persistent pursuit of bargains, if you sell two comparable items at the same price, yet claim one is in a sale, the “reduced” item will sell faster.

      Therefore, most retailers have a batch of items they swap around every month – so when I worked at Curry’s we had items overpriced one month, then “half price” in a sale the following month. And just kept swapping them around.

      That probably is why one kettle seemed so much more expensive at the time.

      It is also why you should be very wary of things being sold at a substantial discount in the shops – you are probably paying the realistic price for the item. The only genuine sales in shops are discontinued/out of season goods. Everything else is a marketing fraud based on the consumer’s own desire to think they got a bargain.

  5. MD

    There’s a computer shop just over the road from PC World (called Milltec) that’re OK, used them for a couple of small purchases before.

    These days I buy most technology online, it’s often easier to return as it’s covered by distance selling regs.

  6. MD

    Missed out the link…I meant a computer shop opposite Mile End PC world

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&q=computer+shop&aq=&sll=51.520213,-0.04637&sspn=0.007704,0.015171&ie=UTF8&rq=1&ev=p&split=1&layer=c&cbll=51.521257,-0.04921&panoid=AMepBRG00nqY1MjuKT4Ylw&cbp=12,187.82,,0,0&radius=0.39&hq=computer+shop&hnear=&ll=51.521295,-0.049074&spn=0.007704,0.015171&z=16

  7. Ronnie

    Staff in PC World are no good. Ebay had the part you needed and you would of got it within a few days. I hope the DSG (or what ever there called) group go bust.

    • IanVisits

      The problem with shopping online is the inability to get the part on the same day – which, at the time, seemed like an urgent aspect of the shopping trip.

      In hindsight, we could have waited a couple of days – but on Sunday evening when I decided I needed the case, this was not known.

  8. TRT

    The case was altered? ;-)

  9. Reminds me of when I bought a printer/cartridge/paper bundle online from them, to collect in store. I waited quarter of an hour while he searched for ‘the pack’ which turned out to be sat behind the counter all the time. It hadn’t occurred to him that they didn’t all come in a single box!

  10. John

    I’m sorry, really Ian, have you just written a piece about the incompetence and inadequacy of staff and service at a DSG Group outlet, seriously? I follow your blogs etc with considerable interest but in doing so I have come to know that you are intelligent, competent and skilled in matters of IT and not one to be taken for a ride. How then you had the slightest hope of a visit to one of these shops being anything other than abject trauma in the context of what you hoped to acheive is utterly beyond me. The fact that you used to work there and you still thought it would be a painless experience only astonishes me more.

    ps. with only a half-measure of facetiousness, are you code-sharing your new website design with Londonist..?

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