Saturday, September 04, 2010

How Does PC World Stay in Business?

There's a reason I hate going to PC World, and yet like a dog returning to its sick, I continue to do so. Today's visit illustrates why I reckon its the chain store with the worst customer service in Britain. It's staffed by acne-ridden, monosyllabic teenagers with barely a GCSE between them, few of whom know anything about the products they are supposed to be flogging. And its computer system seems to hail from the time of Noah's Arc. It makes BBC Basic look state of the art.

Anyway, why did I end up there today? Because Olly Grender, bless her heart, finally persuaded me to buy an iPad after she showed me all the things she did on hers. She has a lot to answer for. So, I've decided to go over to the dark side. I started to order one online from the Apple Store, but then thought, bugger it, I want one and I want it now, so off I trolled down to PC World in Tunbridge Wells. Normally when I try to buy anything from there, there's some sort of problem. Usually they haven't got what I want in stock, but today I thought I had struck lucky, as yes, they had a 65GB 3G iPad in stock and also a Vodafone SIM to go with it. Excellent, I thought.

Then their computer system seized up. Five minutes later the assistant started asking me my marital status. I never quite know how to answer that one. They don't have a box for 'civil partnered'. So I said 'married'. He then asked how many credit cards I had. Er, none of your business, I said. In any case, I haven't a clue. Why do you need to know that, I asked. I should have known the answer. The computer says so, said the nerd-geek. He then told me all the other personal info they would require. This was all to set up a direct debit for Vodafone, nothing to do with PC World! I have never had to give any of that sort of info to Vodafone, so I am damned if I am going to give it to PC World, supposedly on their behalf.

I told them exactly where they could shove their iPad and have just come home and ordered it via the Apple Store. Which of course I should have done in the first place. Lesson learned.

How does PC World manage to stay in business? Because I am buggered if I know.


Unknown said...

Erm. They were credit checking you.

Get off your high horse.

Should teenagers be denied employment to satisfy middle age, middle class men?

Nobody forced you to go there.

Jonathan Hunt said...

Never had a bad experience in Cheltenham. Knowledgable and helpful staff. You grumpy old man.

Martin Curtis said...

I don't do PC World for major purchases any more because they are too expensive - but I did many years ago before the internet became as useful as it did, and I got the best piece of customer service from a shop that I had ever had and had since.

I still use them for smaller purchases.

Jim said...

They stay is business by selling poor quality junk to the clueless.

Anonymous said...

I am not a middle aged man, but I too a m very dissatisfied PC World ex customer
Why - bad service yes and indifferent service
A computer taken in there under warrenty that took eight weeks to get back.
Lack of stock and better prices elsewhere
I too wonder how they survive

Marshall Buckley said...

Assume you were taking out a Vodatone contract? If you were going to go pay-as-you-go they wouldn't gave needed the info.

I'm inclined to agree about PC World, but they are a chain, catering to those without the skills to buy from a more specialist retailer. In this case, though, I think you're being more than a little unfair.

Unknown said...

I've often wondered. They have some very high-rent properties, but I never see anyone in there actually buying stuff.

The one in Lincoln has never got anything in stock, and the one in Peterborough can't get the price of things right to save its life.

There is one in Poole, Dorset, which has the most bizzare things on sale, like 5 year old HP laptops "upgraded by our technicians" to Vista, and 'manager's specials' which consist of customer returns with all the cables missing for a couple of quid off the original price.

I reckon it must exist to launder profits made in some other place

Cogito Dexter said...

Odd that you should have such an awful experience.

I bought my 64Gb iPad 3G from PC World the day it came out.

I walked in at 10am. 5 minutes later I walked out the proud owner of one iPad and a '3' Sim. No hassle, other than a security call from my credit card company because of 'out of pattern' spending (big deal).

Mind you, the set up of the '3' Sim was fairly tortuous - it took half an hour over the phone when I got home, but I think 90% of that was cultural differences: the other end was based in Hyderabad or somewhere like it!

Anonymous said...

I went to the PC World in Cambridge recently, wanting them to build me a computer. These were a little older, but they just weren't interested. I took my business elsewhere.

The Author said...

Do lighten up. You'll have plenty to moan about when your Ipad really gives your testacles a squeeze with its glitches and failings.

Hell hath no fury like a gadget boy badly served.

Unknown said...

I'm waiting for the iPad 2nd generation....

They just announced the iPod Touch 4th generation and it is basically an iPhone 4 without the phone. The iPad is like a bigger iPod Touch.

I predict iPad 2nd gen will have a camera and support facetime video conferending over the internet. It might have a higher resolution display too.

I'm not sure when it will arrive though, probably not for another six months.

Gordon Brown said...

Iain darling,

This is how to do it.

1) Head to high street retailer to check out desired product.

2) Once in store, demand to use one and ask a million questions.

3) Whilst testing desired product, subtly see how easy it is to break, scratch or pull apart desired product to test build quality. Clumsily drop it on floor whilst testing to see whether it still works once dropped.

4) Write down model number of desired product, say "thanks very much", leave store sharpishly and head home to search, and google for cheapest online price.

PS Apparently, if you are a member of the Tory party, they are also supposed to ask you whether you have ever shared a hotel room with a 25 year old man. They must have forgotten to ask you that.

The Purpleline said...

Iain you mean you never uttered the immortal line'Do you know who I am' and yes I am married to that racist journalist women Yabba Ali Brown.

Catch me on LBC most nights or on TV at the following times and then give him your schedule for September/October.

Finally you should have checked his name again and taken a closer look, it was the name on the CV that was sent to the other place. Gotcha!

richard.blogger said...

Iain, now perhaps you can understand why I am so frightened by Lansley's plans to privatise ALL hospitals? The private sector just treats you as the holder of a credit card, a source of profits. There is no concept of "service".

To be fair to them, since competition has pushed prices down so much, they cannot give you any more than the barest of services. (This is the EasyJet/RyanAit model, get used to it, we will see that in health, education and local authority services in the next few years).

As to the additional information? That's easy to explain. PC World sell it on. Where do you think that the credit rating agencies like Experion get their information from? (Other than personal information, they analyse large datasets of information.) DSG (Dixons/Curries/PC World) are very good at making as much money out of you as possible. But as an ardent capitalist I would have thought that you would be in favour of what they do.

Michael said...

I agree with you on the PC World bit ... poorly trained and ignorant staff. They don't know their products. Quite often items are mis-priced, or not labelled. Many items such as cables and small simple accessories often 10-20x what you can get them on the internet. I avoid them.

Finally ... Vodafone for iPad .. Why? It's £10 for 1gb each month, £25 for 5gb. The 3 tariff is only £7.50 for 1gb and £15 for 10gb. By far better value. These pay-as-you-go iPad tariffs aren't linked to any mobile plan. I've been happy with the 3 coverage, and it's the cheapest one by far.

With the right apps, you'll find your iPad indespensible.

Danny Law said...

sorry carl - you dont need all that info for a credit check. you need your address and a bank account to take the payment for the montly subscription for. i have never been asked how many credit cards i have.

we all know what these companies do - they sell the information on and i suspect thats what PC World are doing. thewy are taking more information than they need because it gives them more to sell

The Purpleline said...

As an aside if you ever want anything electrical or anything really go to John Lewis.

The best trained shop employees in the business.

Unknown said...

Recently I urgently wanted a SATA cable to attach a new internal drive. Went to PC world and the guy tried to get me to buy the type they sold for £8.99.

I told him in no uncertain terms that I wouldn't pay that rip off price.

Went home, bought one from Amazon for £1.19 including postage. Allow 3-5 days for delivery. Ho hum.. must learn to be patient.. Arrived the next morning.

PC World are a rip off.

Dual Citizen said...

Haven't they opened Best Buy over there yet? Those guys know their stuff (well over here they do); perhaps because they give their staff loaner products to try out at home.

killemallletgodsortemout said...

A fully justified rant.

The PC world in my neck of the woods is similarly staffed with pizza-faced geeks, who are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Iain why do you not find a small local computer shop. I have used them all the time without problem and their knowledge is second to none. Shop around and find one you like. You will not be sorry and I guarantee they will not be the slightest bit interested in your marital status.!!!

Gordon Brown said...


I don't mean to be fussy, but how exactly is the spotty teen supposed to recognise Iain from the R-a-d-i-o?

Martin said...

Your experience is actually typical of what you get in the UK, everyone should visit the USA to see proper service.

Good luck with your iPad but I really don't get them. How can any device be that useful with a rather poor phone operating system installed on it?

Why didn't you go for a nice Netbook Iain? Half the price and you get a reasonable keyboard, you can plug in any normal device watch DVD's and surf the net and type at a reasonable speed.

If the iPad had come with OS Leopard on it, then it would be a killer device, as it is I don't see the use.

Devil's Kitchen said...

"So, I've decided to go over to the dark side."

Ha! I knew we'd get you one day, Iain...


Anonymous said...

PC World stay in business because their goods are readily available and cheaper than those of smaller computing shops ... err, when they're in stock.

I agree, their service is a joke. I stopped shopping there when I went in for some PC screws. Unable to find any, I asked a disinterested 'attendant' whether they had any.

His reply? "We don't stock PC screws"!


I now use DABS. Next day delivery, damned good prices and full descriptions of products available.

They even sell iPads!


Anonymous said...

Not all PC Worlds are that bad and I've had hassle when buying from Amazon.
It may also be difficult to attract good quality staff in Tunbridge Wells for the same pay rates that are adequate in Sunderland or Swansea

Eamonn said...

Saturday is a bad day to go to those places, largely because they're staffed by children. You're better off going midweek, if going there at all.

Stephen Wigmore said...

Dear God Iain. I would have hoped you would have learnt. Never shop at PC world. They are horribly incompetent. Every single thing I have ever bought from them has failed horribly within a few months. Don't touch them with a bargepole.

Ski Test said...

Worst customer service. I ve no objection to spotty geeks, I have huge objections to spotty, disinterested, incompetent pushy staff [always a bad combination].

My last experience was returning a printer which died after three weeks - the excellent customer service department gave the sage advice 'it's fu**ed mate'.

Firstly I d figured that without his expert help. However I did have to spend best part of an hour arguing for a refund [and quoting consumer law at length] before they realised that the best thing they could do is get me out of the shop with a refund.

ONLY reason to buy is if you KNOW what you want and it s cheap.

PC world is possibly the only business of its scale where the customer service offered on the Post Office counter on 'benefit day' is vastly superior. Avoid at all costs.

Thorpe said...

Unless it is too late for you Iain, you'd do better to get a non-3G IPad and buy a PAYG MiFi from 3 to go with it for about £50. That'll hook you up to the 3 coverage when you can't get free wifi, and you're not paying the £25/monthly contract.

I rarely use more than £5/monthly PAYG on 3, and I surf the net / do emails etc most days of the week on the Peterborough / King's Cross commute on the East Coast main line. Holds the signal pretty well, except through the north London tunnels. In the office or on the sofa at home I can get the internet on my wifi, ditto most hotels for free.

Joe Public said...

"....few of whom know anything about the products they are supposed to be flogging."

"Usually they haven't got what I want in stock, but today I thought I had struck lucky, as yes, they had a 65GB 3G iPad in stock..... "

Well that'll be the single, unique iPad in the whole, wide world then.

Caro said...

Iain, shops are SO last century! If you really can't wait, increasing numbers of online stores do same day delivery.

Ellee Seymour said...

I'm desperate for an iPad too. I wonder about PC World too, particularly its Tech Guys, which you helped me with when I had problems. And I'm not alone, far from it:

Rush-is-Right said...

Ski Test... "PC world is possibly the only business of its scale where the customer service offered on the Post Office counter on 'benefit day' is vastly superior. Avoid at all costs."

Brilliant comment. Talk about "in a nutshell". PCWorld is a fine place to go if your printer ink has run out and you have to get a new one like THIS MINUTE. Otherwise go to DABS, Maplin or better yet your friendly local one-man band specialist.

Oh and as for Apple stuff, the comparison I would make is with the Bang & Olufsen Hi Fi equipment. It looks great, but it's actually gimic-laden crap. And it's all Proprietary Software too. None of their stuff works on anything else, just like IBM in the 1970s. That HAS to be a big step backwards to the bad old days.

Richard Holloway said...

Two words...
John Lewis
(I must declare my interest. I do work for them, but I wouldn't go shopping anywhere else if I could help it, and not just because of the discount)

Roger Thornhill said...

@Richard Blogger,

you have it backwards - PC World is a de facto monopoly for those who do not want to think or choose and who have been "told" by constant propaganda that it is a great place.

Ring any bells?

PC World is the "bog standard" sink comprehensive of computer supply. It is bad because people put up with it. Under Socialist/Statist thinking, Apple Store would be shut down because it was only used by a "pushy elite" who thus gained superior service and created a "two tier" Market.

Patrick said...

i think they do a fantastic job of 'analyzing' the hard drives of the great unwashed - a la garry glitter!

MikeyP said...

You should have waited for an Android or Google tablet. They are being announced at IFA in Berlin now, and will be what the iPad should have been.

Alex said...

Lots of swearing on this blog recently.

And quite a bit of acnephobia too.

Steven_L said...

Ha! You've obviously never worked in big business have you?

I've worked in telesales for a load of the big mobile and utilities firms.

A contract of employment with a multinational utilities giant is like a licence to defraud the general public with complete and utter immunity!

On my Saturday morning shifts, still a bit drunk from Friday night, I sometimes used to have to hit the 'personal' button (they time how long it takes you to go to the toilet in these places) so I could stop laughing about it.

Jeff999 said...

"It may also be difficult to attract good quality staff in Tunbridge Wells for the same pay rates that are adequate in Sunderland or Swansea"

Nah, they're just as useless in the North East, trust me!

Anonymous said...


My 80 year old mother, who has never typed a letter or used a computer in her life, has fallen in love with the iPad we bought her a couple of weeks ago from PC World in Preston.

Before you go any further in you "dissing" of PC World, may I take this opportunity to remind you who started the business....

Yes....that former treasurer of the Conservative Party, Iain....

Unknown said...

In a rash moment while in sixth form, I decided I needed a job. So, I got myself down to Currys (owned by the same folks who own PC Worlds, and the two stores often share stock) and got a job selling and working on the tills. So for a few months at the end of 2007/start of 2008, I was the precisely the employee you bemoan. I knew nothing about electrical items, I'm sure I had a spot of acne, and yes, when the computer asked me to take information, I did so.

But there seem to be fairly obvious reasons for doing so. If someone's buying something on credit, we clearly needed to do a credit check. If someone's buying a television, we were legally required to take certain information for licensing purposes. And yet people like you always get huffy about it: as if 1. Currys would make sale of the item contingent on receiving the information if it wasn't a legal/financial necessity, or 2. The individual employee is going to sell you the item without taking the information that they are contractually obliged to take. It's their job. They have to do it.

Ultimately, I was always more willing to help customers who were polite and didn't act as if evrything was my fault. It's inevitable that in an organisation like Currys or PC World, not every salesperson can know all there is to know about laptops - but if you're polite to staff, they're a) generally willing to help you acquire the information you want and b) more likely to help find you a cheaper way of getting what you want.

Urrrrgh, rude customers.

Steve said...

They actually used to have better trained people at PC World, but they found it was cheaper to drive them out and use masses of part time staff. The normal zero hours contracts etc.

Iain Dale said...

Andrew, But I wasn't buying it on credit. And the monthly charge for the SIM was on direct debit, and I am an existing Vodafone customer. So there was no justification for obtaining this information.

Furor Teutonicus said...

He then asked how many credit cards I had. Er, none of your business, I said.

A bit slow on the draw are we not?

The bastard would have been nursing a broken nose and a bucket full of teeth at the "marital status" stage if it had been me.

Twig said...

"How Does PC World Stay in Business?"

Beats me.

I use Misco, for better pre and after sales service, technical support and prompt delivery.

Your description of PC World matches my own experience exactly.

As they say on Ebay feedback - AVOID!

Brian said...

Now I understand why you need an Executive Assistant to keep the world at arm's length.
Most companies ask for apparently unnecessary information to assist their marketing and advertising people with selling you more stuff. Vodafone information probably = commission for the company.

Unknown said...

If you think PC World is bad, you should try buying something from a Screwfix shop. Their systems won't allow you to pay unless you give them your address.. even if you are paying in cash!

Charlatans the lot of 'em.

Furor Teutonicus said...

I have had similar. At the time someone said "Oh just invent one. They will never know, and it will mess the system up."

THAT totaly misses the POINT!

What the HEL and WHY the Hel should they need/get my address?

Anonymous said...

Yep - PC World are crap

Little Black Sambo said...

(Richard.Blogger) "The private sector just treats you as the holder of a credit card."
Which wonderful state-run computer shop do you recommend then?

Elby the Beserk said...

Your marital status? FFS. If I get any question in a form which none of their business, it is answered quite simply with

"None of your business".

Easy really. If it means no transaction, then fuck 'em - someone else will have my money, that's for sure. I hope you asked the assistant what his marital status was, and how many credit cards he has?

Mind you, anyone who shops at PC World is asking for it. The only good thing they have ever done is to unmask the ghastly Glitter being

Unknown said...

Furor Teutonicus said..

I have had similar. At the time someone said "Oh just invent one. They will never know, and it will mess the system up."

Working on the adage that "garbage in = garbage out" I always misquote my details in some way. Saves a lot pf arguments in the shop!

The Grim Reaper said...

It's safe to say that PC World is pretty awful, even by the low standards of the high street today. I don't think your depiction of their staff is entirely fair, but I would say they have a horrible penchant for endlessly pestering their customers. If I want help or want to buy a product, I will tell them I want to do that. They don't need to come up to me every 2 minutes asking that. You do get some staff who are excellent, but they are hard to find.

Service standards tend to be higher from Monday to Friday, I would say. You get a lot more teenagers and such come the weekend. Nothing wrong with that, but many of them are there simply to earn their crust. Mind you, considering the pittance most service sector staff get paid, I'm not surprised the sector is plagued by disinterested and apathetic workers.

I really must find out if Gordon Brown has ever said anything positive regarding PC World. If he has, that would explain why the place appears to be cursed.

Steven_L said...

The only good thing they have ever done is to unmask the ghastly Glitter being (elby)

Thta's because they snoop through your computers when you put them in for repair.

Remember that Sky News investigation last year?

Lauchlan McLean said...

Is 'buggered' a term you should be using.However good critique of an awful establishment, if you think Tumbridge Wells is bad you should try the Lakeside(Essex)branch, there you can lose the will to live.It is a pity that a director of the DSG Group cant read your comments as they are probably unable to use a computer as no training is required to work there.

LibCync said...

BBC Basic IS state of the art! :)

John Slinger said...

You state that PC World is "staffed by acne-ridden, monosyllabic teenagers". Perhaps you might consider the offence and upset you and others cause to people who suffer from acne by trotting out this nasty rhetoric. You wouldn't write "blind, monosyllabic", or "black, monosyllabic", or "female, monosyllabic". So why do you feel it is acceptable to mock people with acne, who often feel extremely self-conscious and intense psychological pain.

Furor Teutonicus said...

HAY Crater face! Shut your mouth and give your zits a chance!

Unknown said...

well i would say congrats on buying your shiny new toy but sadly i just cant.

you ask how a company like pc world can stay in business and i'm sorry to answer because of people like yourself, it makes no difference how pretty an item is, what matters is if it can do the job required and sadly the i-products fall in to the former category, sure they look nice but i'd rather have access to all of the internet than access to part of it and i'd rather have the freedom to run the apps i wanted not be told which ones i'm allowed to buy.

i hope your website doesn't use "flash" because if it does there will be no new posts appearing unless you get to a cyber cafe or find someone with a far cheaper and much better tablet computer that does a proper job rather than look pretty.

oh and btw rumour says ipad 2 will be shown in January so you just bought something that is not only overpriced and under equipped for the real world but its about to be outdated too.

welcome to pc world.

jas88 said...

This is actually why I rejected Three's notionally cheaper tariff for O2's: Three demanded both credit card AND bank details, along with all the credit check minutiae, even though they only charge by direct debit and the plan is a PAYG one - all in broken English from a call centre which obviously wasn't anywhere near the UK. At the end, I was told I had been put on the £15/month tariff - not the £7.50 one I had wanted all along - and that it was now "too late" for Three to correct their mistake, but I retained the option to cancel if I wanted. Of course, when I immediately called back to cancel, I was told it was still too early to cancel, so I would have to call back later...

With O2, on the other hand, I put the SIM in, entered my credit card details on-screen, and was online. The end. Well worth an extra £2.50 per month, even if it didn't get me WiFi access in a lot of places as well!

Charlie the Chump said...

Found an assistant? You lucky bastard! Never happens to me in PCW.
Anyway, Carphone warehouse is worse, far worse.

Cling_peaches said...

I did wonder myself how PC World survive. Dreadful barns, full of overpriced rubbish.

They don't even pretend to try: Their discounts are fake. They stock Belkin stuff. The TVs are purposely set up so that you can't compare the displays in a meaningful way. Misleading shelf tech spec information. They've been known to sell repackaged goods as new. Their Tech Guys don't listen to your clear explanations. They also assure you that they won't reformat your hard drive, and then do exactly that, charging you the earth for what you could have done at home yourself using the recovery partition. Often what you want or have seen advertised is out of stock, and apparently PCW don't use computers themselves, as you can never find out when a particular item will be back on the shelf again.

So how do they get away with it? Careful observation indicates that PCW thrive on impatient people, impulse purchasers, people pressed for time or otherwise desperate, and those people who need their advice (God help them). Some of their customers are also distrustful or older persons, who don't like using their plastic online. There are more of all these types of people than you might think. Where I live (South London), they also get a lot of business from the large number of people who don't actually have access to plastic or even private broadband. For those that do, they make at least as much profit again per item from'0%' HP agreements. Then of course there are the little side extras like flogging your personal details as mentioned.

I notice that the smaller an item is at PCW, the more outrageous the relative price, and the PC sector is notable for the number of cables, memory sticks and other small doodads necessary.

I can't imagine why anyone would buy an iPad from them, but if you are that instant gratification addict, or just need some printer's ink, then from a customer service point of view, it is slightly better to have your printer beep on a weekday than a weekend.

You do have to laugh at PCW's current tagline: 'The expert's choice'. Lie much? That's corporate chutzpah on a level with McD's insisting that their establishments are restaurants.

Boris Backer said...

My letter to PC World, on my new blog. Thought you might approve...

Nick said...

They were probably struggling to find a "65GB" ipad! Seriously, agree with your comments - but for gods sake in order to write the article you know better than to sponsor Dixons (in all their guises; Currys, PC World, Curry's PC World, Dixons onlin etc) with YOUR money.

They are truly the WORST retailer in the UK and you should have known better.