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Not all users want or need a ?2,000 PC and a lot of them have started to realise this after having been oversold by the multiples in the past.

Opinion: Why good indies keep their customers

I couldn’t even attempt a guess at how many times I’ve been told how expensive the glorified word processor/solitaire playing machine in front of me that’s being booked in for repair, cost in the first place.

Needless to say, although that first sale went to the big shed, the customer is much less likely to be fooled again.

Here is a point of view that separates the independent retailer from the High Street multiple. Decent indies take a long term view and see the customer as someone they want to keep happy so they will return, whereas the short-sighted chains are quite happy to mis-sell as much as possible and don’t care when they are found out because there’s always another mug punter coming along with the misguided idea that big shops are cheaper.

Even though they often appear fickle, people respond favourably to getting the right advice, and if we can win them over by finding out what they really need and supply it to them, we can ethically change their buying habits to our favour, helping us beat the continuous onslaught of bigger competitors. This brings me to a couple of quirks in the marketplace.

The first just seems plain daft to me. Standing in the Post Office queue I saw a Lexmark printer for £16.99 complete with the nos. 17 & 27 cartridges. On another shelf they had a 17 & 27 ink multipack for sale at £26.99. While we all know that those cartridges are half empty and the 16 & 26 are a better buy, Joe Public will replace like for like until he knows better.

Is he going to be impressed at paying £10 extra for the ink without the "free" printer? And when he discovers the price of the 16 & 26? I would bet that his printer will be landfill when the first inks run out. Incidentally, I did a quick ring around to get the best distributor pricing for the 17 and 27 multipack, which came to £17 excluding VAT!

Secondly, there seems to be the beginning of a pronounced movement towards Linux. There is wide scale public dissatisfaction with Vista. Then there is the Asus Eee, which is ideal for the common occurrence of the customer who only wants to surf the net and do a little word processing.

The makers, Asus have also said that they will be loading Linux into the chipset on their entire motherboard range (don’t worry, they’ll still accept Windows). There is also an easy way to try out the latest Hardy Heron release of Linux at www.ubuntu.com.

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