As I wandered around the store looking for PC peripherals I spotted a staff member talking to the Apple rep. When he finished I asked him if he could help me, explaining that I wanted to get a gift for Christmas that would improve gaming experience.
We were stood right by the console section with gaming chairs in front of the Xbox 360 and PS3 demo pods – I asked the sales assistant if I could get one for the PC. “These chairs are only for the Xbox 360, PS3 and the Wii; you can’t get them for the PC. If you see the techy guys, they’ll be better as I am more a console man myself,” he said, pointing me in the direction of the tech counter.
Three customers were stood in front of me, all with laptop problems. I waited for ten minutes before I reached the desk. I explained my plight again. “That’s more for the sales guys,” I was told by the assistant. I said that the sales person had sent me there. “Oh, well we do have PC gaming accessories over there,” she said, pointing to three one metre bays.
In front of me were headsets, gaming pads, flight simulation controls, gaming wheels and joysticks. Left to my own devices, I browsed the plethora of gaming accessories. One of the bays was dedicated to Steel Series, where there were five different types of headsets ranging from £29.99 for the Steel Series E3136 to £69.99 for the Full Size USB Headset.
The variety of options available from Logitech to Microsoft began to confuse me, so I asked for help. I found a staff member and told him what I wanted, and that I would appreciate it if he could recommend something for me. He walked over to the bay with me and went straight for the Steel Series Full Size USB Gaming Headset.
“This is the best one we have for the PC. Steel Series creates products just for PC gaming, so the quality is excellent and there is a soundcard which creates a virtual surround sound 7.1.” I asked him if there was any literature I could have, but he informed me that it was best to take it from the website.
I thanked him for his time and began to read the box. It said the headset ensured soundscape, specification and comfort for long gaming sessions. There was a separate microphone for MP3 players that creates virtual surround sound 7.1. PC World had a great variety of PC gaming peripherals, but the customer service was a letdown. The store prides itself on being an expert, but without persistence to get an answer, I would have left none the wiser.
Locating the gaming peripherals section proved to be harder than I expected, so I sought help from a friendly sales person. He showed me to the relevant aisle displaying PC headsets, webcams, joysticks, keyboards and mice. I informed him of my quest and he was more than happy to help. “We have Xbox 360 controllers that can be used for PCs through a USB that I can show you.”
I asked for advice on headsets and was informed that Logitech was the best. He picked up the Logitech PC Headset 120 priced £9.99, which was half price and the Logitech 980445-0914 Premium Clearchat Notebook Headset priced at £39.99.
He then showed me the consoles and pointed out the Xbox 360 official wired controller priced £24.99. “The back of the game will tell you if it’s compatible. Unfortunately, we don’t have Call of Duty on PC so I can’t check for you, but PC World may if you want it today.”
I asked if there was any information I could have and he printed off some online specs. Upon reading them, I realised the expensive handset was designed specifically for notebook users, while the cheaper headset was ideal for multi-player gaming. Both had noise-cancelling microphones and behind the head design. Compared to PC World, the product range was smaller, yet the overall service was friendlier, with recommendations given.
PC peripherals were quite easily located in this store. After browsing the range for five minutes I looked for assistance and found two staff members talking about point of sale. I politely interrupted and asked for help. “Give me five minutes, wait until someone is free to help and I will send them right over to you,” came the abrupt answer.
Minutes later, the same man approached me. “I’ve asked and the wireless headsets are probably best, but they all pretty much do the same. If it’s for long periods of use, the padded ones might be more comfortable.”
He picked two models: the HP Premium Stereo Headset priced £29.99 and the Deluxe Multi-Media LH-758 priced £6.99. I asked why one was far cheaper than the other. “That’s a good question,” he said, and disappeared. When he returned, he said the more expensive one was better for gaming as it had better volume control and bass, which is ideal for explosions.
I asked for some literature and he told me that it was best to go on the Comet website, before he promptly left me to jot down the ticket information. The customer service was not what I expected, the store wasn’t busy, and to be told to wait by the same person who eventually served me was very odd. A recommendation was made, but it required a third party to answer and confidence in the decision was not evident.
This store was situated on Liverpool docklands on Brunswick Business Park, with a large, free car park for customers. A big glass cabinet with PC gaming headsets on dummy heads was displayed inside the doorway. A price list detailed the product models: the Trust MC-1200 High Sensitive Desktop Goose-Neck Microphone, £5.69; Dynamode HD-66USB Headset with Microphone priced £14.95 and a Trust USB Headset HS-4200 High Quality with detachable Mic, £24.73.
As I browsed the products, a salesman on the phone shouted across: “I won’t be long.” When he had finished I told him what I was after. “This store caters more for businesses and professionals, but if you can tell me exactly what you want we can order it in for you,” he said.
I asked for some advice on gaming for the PC, but unfortunately I was told that he was not a great gamer and he didn’t know. He did give me a leaflet with all of the prices of the items they sold from mice, hard drives, keyboards, modems, software, digital cameras and webcams. This was disappointing as there was nothing geared towards gaming and not much advice on the topic given either.
As I approached the Currys Digital store in the heart of Liverpool City Centre, I was met by a collage of posters in the window, advertising deals. I found the PC peripherals easily and was approached by a staff member within five minutes of beginning my search.
I explained my requirements to the sales assistant and was told that a wired mouse was what I needed. “You need a quick response when playing games and wireless ones take just a bit longer sometimes.” He also said that I should be aiming for at least 32 dots
per square inch for accuracy as he passed me the Microsoft Optical 1000 Mouse, priced at £16.99.
He pointed out more gear and said: “This Logitech 980445-0914 Premium Clearchat Notebook Headset priced £37.99 is the best headset we have for gaming, but the cheaper Logitech Clearchat Comfort may be better depending on whether you want padded ear pieces.”
I asked for some literature to take home with me and was told they had none left in store, but if I visited the website I would be able to find all of the information I needed. I thanked him for his time and left the store. This was not the largest product range I had seen, but nonetheless, it was the most confident and interesting recommendation I received.
Summary: In terms of staff knowledge, PC gaming seemed to be lagging behind the more common consoles. New headsets were a preferred choice in many stores, but there seemed to be little reasoning behind the recommendations, given the multitude of options available.
I suspect on a different day the results would have differed greatly. The product range in PC World was unmatched, but the staff input did little to make a convincing sale. In complete contrast, Currys Digital had a smaller range but a much more assured sales person with genuine interest and enthusiasm.