This is Why Retail is Failing
Nothing surprising will be revealed here, but it is just another example of why physical retail is going the way of the dodo and why it's their own fault. On Thursday I bought the new Mac Mini and had my usual wonderful experience in the Apple Store. This machine was to replace an aging (and recently dead) Windows box to take over media server and bedroom duties. As part of the process I was moving all my media files onto the new 1Tb drive. The only missing piece of the puzzle was a drive caddy to throw the old hard drives into. Normally, I buy stuff like this online but, since I wanted the job done over the weekend, I decided to check if PC World had what I needed without too much price gouging. A quick search revealed they had what I wanted, in a reasonable brand and only about a fiver premium over online prices once delivery was factored in. Stock check showed none in my local Bangor branch but available in Sprucefield. This meant around a 50 mile round trip but I had podcasts and the time. It's important to note that the online reservation service asks for a contact number and also says to allow for an hour before collection. So, 2.5 hours later I arrive at Sprucefield and (eventually) get someone to take my reference number. Unsurprisingly, as has been typical of my experience with their reservations, it wasn't ready, nor had someone gone to look for it yet. Ten minutes later the staff member returns and manages to grunt they don't have any and then stares at me. No apology, no explanation, nothing. I pointed out, in no uncertain terms, that I had made a 25 mile journey to get here and he wandered off to get someone who presumably did have some ability to deviate from merely stating useless information. A manager returned and, to his credit, at least apologised before letting me know they had one in the Bangor store he could get held for me. I sort of lost it at this stage, pointing out that if the staff had been doing their job properly and had bothered going to look for the item in the hour following my reservation they could have saved me the journey. I then asked what he was going to do for me and, after some humming and ahhing he offered a £5 reduction if I paid for it there and collected in Bangor. On the basis I had been happy to travel to Lisburn to pay full price I was reasonably happy with this offer. I questioned the manager on how they were showing stock and Bangor wasn't and, alledgedly, the online system doesn't show available stock if the system reports three units or less (though apparently PC World has terrible stock control and huge stock shrinkage). So, back I went to Bangor and collected my drive enclosure, a fiver better off (technically) but with two hours wasted unnecessarily. Ok, I've worked retail, this sort of stock thing can happen and, had I turned up 20 minutes after reserving and it hadn't been available, I would have been pissed at their online reservation system but at least couldn't have faulted the store staff. Instead, lazy staff who couldn't be bothered to check for stock when the reservation arrived (or in the 2.5 hours after) wasted my time, their time, cost them money because of the compensatory discount, created bad feeling making me even less likely to return and generated the small amount of bad publicity this post will produce. It's as if retail doesn't realise that treating customers poorly only serves to push them deeper into online purchasing and to recommend to friends and family that they do the same. This is how the situation should have gone. Reservation made. Within 30 minutes the store staff go to pull the item so it's ready for collection (they had plenty of staff, three of them were standing chatting when I went in). Staff discover item is not available, double check to confirm. Staff check availability in other stores. Staff phone me, apologise, let me know there is a stock error so don't bother coming up. Offer either alternative product they do have or tell me other stores that have the item I want. I say "great, Bangor store is two miles away", they transfer the collection order to Bangor and I go home a happy punter They don't lose £5 and I might even write "PC World in awesome customer service shock" blog post. DSG has been losing money hand over fist even before the current financial woes, they should be focussing on how to retain customers instead of driving more of them away. I will pay more for the convenience of buying locally, not having to wait on deliveries and getting to look at things in advance, but only if the experience is pleasant. The Apple Store makes retail a pleasure, many other places make retail a pleasure but the majority of retail is notable for sullen staff and difficulty in actually buying what you want. In a difficult market the ones who do it right will succeed, but those who have been coasting on the buoyant economy will be following Woolworths into the dead pool.