I was greeted by a woman on my arrival and led to the desktop PCs. “I don’t want a new PC but to upgrade the one I already have so I can play the newer games,” I told her, and was taken to the Tech Guys instead.
“I’m a PC gamer myself,” said the Tech Guy. “Unfortunately the best graphics cards are the most expensive ones so I’d say that the BFG Nvidia (1GB DDR3, 260 PCI-E), which costs £159.99, will suit your needs the best. There is a ten-year warranty on this one but you will also require an external power supply of 500 watts, as these games are just so power thirsty.” He then pointed out the Jean Tech PSU, which cost £59.99. “The PNY Nvidia graphics card (250 PCIE) is a bit cheaper at £129.99, but I would recommend the BFG as it will last longer. You’ll need to update graphics cards on a regular basis to keep up to date with the latest releases. The games and software themselves tend to have a higher spec, then we have to wait for the hardware to catch up half of the time.
“You could also expand your memory, as that tends to help with the quality of gaming.” He pointed to a Corsair DDR2 1GB memory costing £34.99 and the 2GB version (£64.99). “I would suggest that you bring in your PC so we can have a look at it, see which operating system you use and then we could upgrade your PC with all of the necessary requirements at the same time,” he advised.
I was pleased to find a store that could help with my requirements and offer a service that could administer the upgrades as well. It did seem a bit expensive, and I wasn’t told how much it would be to install everything, but the option was there. I was happy with the recommendations and was given advice from a person I trusted, as he clearly knew what he was talking about without confusing me with too much jargon.
All the sales people were busy with customers, so I had a quick look around the computer section before heading straight to the customer service desk.
“I’d like some advice about upgrading my boyfriend’s PC for gaming please,” I said. The man behind the desk didn’t need long to consider my request. “I know that you will need a high spec graphics card, but we don’t sell anything like that here, I’m afraid. Try this place,” he said, writing down ‘Aria.co.uk’ on a Comet leaflet. “They will be able to help you with your requirements, they are really good technically.” I thanked him for his time, took the leaflet and left the store.
This was one of two stores that recommended Aria to me, so I had a look at this salesman’s choice of website. There are a multitude of components and deals to be had if you know the sort of items you are looking for.
My eye was immediately drawn to a front page deal of a specific Nvidia Avatar 3D package, and a list of components I would need to play the game. This was very useful. The personal recommendation of the Aria website was appreciated and the customer service was as expected, but this store was not the place to go for PC component upgrades.
A confusing location and a store half filled with clothes meant my expectations of Computer Warehouse were mixed before a conversation had even begun.
A jolly man was standing behind the counter. He smiled and asked how he could be of assistance. I explained my requirements to him and was told: “We have loads of graphics cards that will enable you to enhance your gaming experience. They start from £20 and go up to £300.”
He recommended the BFG Nvidia GeForce 8800 (GTS OC 512MB PCIE 2.0) graphics card, which was on sale from £166.37 to £195. He went on to tell me: “You could also get more memory, as higher spec games tend to use a lot and that will slow down your PC and gaming experience as well. We have a Corsair 2GB DDR2 at a promotional sale price of £32.99. We can also install everything for you here in store if you bring your PC with you next time. If we make those upgrades I think you will be very satisfied with the results.”
Despite being sceptical on entry I was very pleased with the advice and customer experience I had in this store. The sales assistant’s recommendations were clear and given with confidence from a wide variety of products available. The suggestions were also backed up with the option to have the upgrades completed in store by someone who knows what they are doing.
The visit to Currys began with a long game of pass the customer, due to what the store admitted was a lack of staff knowledge.
After initially explaining my request to the customer service desk, a salesman who proclaimed he knew nothing about computers was first to offer help. “If you know what you want I can get it for you,” he told me. I told him I would like some advice, and he went to find someone else.
Next in line was a sales lady who, after listening to my story, explained she didn’t know enough about graphics cards to help. “I’ll find someone who can,” she said. Finally, after another five minutes a young salesman met me and understood my request. He told me: “Does your boyfriend play games like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft? You would need a graphics card of at least 7000, but we don’t sell them here. Your best bet would be to try either Aria or Micro Direct online. You also need to know if the platform is AMD or Intel. AMD works better on an ATI Radeon graphics card while Intel works better with an Nvidia graphics card; it gives you better clarity if you choose the right one.”
It was unfortunate it took so long to be given the right sales person as he obviously knew about the subject. Recommending rival websites when Currys’ own site stocks graphic cards was an interesting suggestion from a salesman who was friendly and helpful, but couldn’t provide me with anything other than words.
I entered the busy store and headed for two free staff members. Once they had finished talking to each other, they turned and acknowledged me. “Could someone help me with a PC query please?” I asked. “I’m afraid there aren’t any staff available,” said the male sales assistant, tapping away on a computer. I turned to the other sales person and she asked about my query and went to get some help.
She appeared a few minutes later with another lad and I told him what I needed. He looked at me a bit blankly and then asked the store manager for help. Finally, I was told: “I’m sorry but we don’t sell anything like that here. PC World would probably be your best bet. I know for certain that they do upgrade PCs as well as having the likes of graphics cards, but it is not going to be cheap.” I thanked him for his advice and left the shop.
Since the retailer sold a variety of components and gaming equipment on its website, I was a little surprised that the concept seemed so alien to them in store. The staff were initially quite unhelpful and the comment about the high cost of PC World was somewhat unexpected coming from a fellow DSGi colleague.
I found the consumer electronics section with ease, and it was quite busy with customers. However, the only sales assistant in the PC section was actually in the middle of training with a manufacturer representative. After looking interested and trying to make eye contact for five minutes I went to find some help.
After requesting some assistance from the ‘aftersales care’ desk, a member of staff approached me dressed in smart business attire and told me that unfortunately they didn’t sell anything like what I was after.
“In fact, we don’t even have high-end PCs or desktops for gaming either. Try PC World or somewhere online. Can I help you with anything else?” the salesman said. I declined his offer, thanked him for his time and made my exit.
The customer service was fine once I found it, but the mystery shop was cut short again due to the specialist nature of my requirements. A more appropriate store was recommended but I would have thought there would be more high-end machines on display, as John Lewis’ website does list some expensive desktops and a range of monitors which could have been classed as an upgrade for gaming.
The list of shops where PC upgrades are available is limited, but my request was vague enough that other products could have been pushed my way, such as gaming controllers, monitors, or speakers.
Customer service was fine in most of the stores once I managed to locate the right member of staff, but the nature of the request meant their knowledge tended to be from personal experience rather than what was required by the retailer.
PC World and Computer Warehouse both did the computer specialists proud by offering applicable advice and a full service. Website recommendations were welcomed from Comet and Currys, but without any prior knowledge buying the correct equipment would have been difficult.