Last week I decided that I needed a new computer. Specifically a Sony Ultrabook. While I love my Samsung Slate to bits it has hardly any internal storage and the behaviour of the USB drivers when you turn on hardware virtualisation is less than exemplary. So I went down to a well known computer store (they have a World of PCs there) and tried to buy one. This was not a good experience.
In the first branch I tried they had the computer I wanted proudly on display. But of course they had none in stock. And according to the salesman (I use the term loosely) there were none to be found this side of York (although he could order one for me for delivery – just like I could from Amazon).
Of course, when I go on to the internets and check stock levels I find lots of local branches showing the item. So I head for one of those. Yes, they have one in stock. No, they can’t sell it for the price advertised. This is because, as a special service to customers, they’ve taken it out of the box, set it up and then made a backup CD. Which costs twenty quid extra. So they want me to pay for a service I don’t want or need. When I refused to pay the extra they were miraculously able to track down another device that hasn’t had this treatment, and so I actually managed to get the one that I wanted at the price advertised. At this point I thought I was out of the woods. But no.
I now had an experience not unlike the uncomfortable ones that I used to have at school when I went to see my headmaster to be told off. The salesman sat at one side of a desk and I sat the other side feeling defensive. He then tried to sell me services that I didn’t want for a computer that shouldn’t need them, implying that I was taking a risk in not going for the extended warranty and other gubbins that they are all undoubtedly under great pressure to sell.
Finally I managed to escape with the goods. I’m loving the new machine. Very, very useful. I’ve been horrible to it already, plugging and unplugging devices, and using it as if I didn’t care how much is left in the battery when I charge it, and generally just opening it, using it a lot, and closing it again. And it has taken the punishment with aplomb. I’ve got an extra 4G of memory for it from Crucial and it fair whizzes along.
But I must admit that I fear for the future of shops selling hardware if my experience is anything to go by. At a number of points in the process I felt I was being told stuff that was at best a bending of the truth, purely to serve the agenda of the person and company I was buying from. I’m pretty sure I’d have had a much better experience buying from an Apple Store and of course if I’d gone to Amazon I could have cut out the person completely. And given the hassle that I had, there is now an even greater chance that I’ll do that.