Mystery shopper: Epsom

Our Mystery Shopper visits Epsom on the hunt for a gaming mouse under £50
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It is the home of one of the country’s most iconic race courses, but this month our Mystery Shopper visits Epsom on the hunt for a gaming mouse under £50

Game – 7/10

Upon entering GAME, it’s clear the store is not primarily aimed at PC gamers. 

Making my way through the swathes of blue and green plastic cases to the till, I am met by a modestly sized PC section with a rack of games and a few peripherals, most of which are in excess of my budget. 

After lingering around the area for a few minutes, a member of staff saunters over and asks if I need any help.

“Hi, I’m looking for a mouse with a price range of around £40 to £50.”

The member of staff describes the £35 Mad Catz R.A.T. TE mouse to me.

When pushed for a recommendation on a mouse should money be no object, the store assistant turns to his colleague behind the till who then speaks to the manager in the back room. Seconds later, they emerge with a new £50 Corsair mouse.

While I was impressed by the personable tone of the staff members, I was left wanting more items. The staff are more knowledgeable on PC gaming than they were.

Sainsbury’s – 3/10

MAKING my way to the large tech section at the back of the supermarket, I’m met by a wide range of budget and moderately priced tablets, notebooks and 2-in-1s, as well as gaming products. 

In fact the only item over £400 is a Microsoft Surface 3 at £450. While there are a lot of gaming goodies, however, there is a lack of PC
gaming peripherals.

As the pricing of the computers suggest, this is not really a place for PC gamers to buy systems, and likewise, there is little to be seen of peripherals. Sainsbury’s only stocks three HP mice (two Bluetooth, one wired, all under £30), none of which look particularly well equipped to deal with the rigours of gaming. So, unfortunately, the large section has a disappointing lack of service for PC gamers.

Equally disappointing is the customer service. I stand around for 15 minutes before approaching a hurried looking member of staff who says that tech and gaming wasn’t their area, before rushing off. Disappointing.

Staples – 4/10

Staples is not renowned for its computers or peripherals, but I thought the office supplies store might have a few tricks up its sleeve.

The mouse and keyboard section has several demo units on display but a distinct lack of gaming mice. 

The closest thing this store sells to a premium mouse for gaming are two Logitech ones: the MXMaster and the MXAnywhere, retailing at £79.99 and £69.99 respectively. I am unable to actually look at them because they are locked to a rail. 

Still, willing to give the store the benefit of the doubt, I wait to see if an assistant can present me with an alternative.

After standing around for 15 minutes and having several staff members walk past me, I stop one and ask if there are any more I can see. After they take me to the section I had already been to, they direct me to look on the website because “there should be more on there”. 

While I was not expecting there to be a wide range of options in Staples, I found the whole experience unfulfilling.

Argos – 5/10

This Argos store – situated in a quaint bricked arcade – has definitely not seen the updates that the company has prided itself on over the past year. 

Walking into the store, I am confronted by the all-too familiar mountain of catalogues and rows of tables with laminated pages, pencils and slender sheets of paper. 

Ruffling through the tome in front of me, I am initially perplexed when, while looking in the gaming section, there is nothing to do with PC gaming at all (save for a copy of Star Wars: Battlefront that, after checking, was out of stock). Likewise, flicking to the index and scanning under the letter ‘M’, there is no mention of mice. 

Almost ready to give up, I turn to the page for keyboards and, lo and behold, there are two options for me. What’s more, they are both within budget: a £34.99 Corsair Katar and a £29.99 Steel Series Rival 100. But they are out of stock.

A member of staff is set on selling me the item and having it delivered though.

Maplin – 10/10

Almost immediately after entering the store, a polite member of staff asks me if there’s anything I need. I ask about gaming mice and am led to the visually-appealing gaming section. 

There’s a demo PC here that allows users to try a Corsair mouse and keyboard set. A screen above plays videos of Overwatch (which the sales assistant admits is a passion project for staff). 

This lighthearted exchange might not seem like much but it shows that the store assistant not only knows their stuff, but is also an avid gamer – and it lets you relax into a conversation without feeling pressured.

Asking me the type of games I play, the assistant directs me to a mouse that’s on offer for £39.99 down from £44.99. The staff member describes the features, including DPI. 

I did not feel pressured in the slightest to buy, I did not feel that I was being upsold, and I was spoken to by someone with an authority on the subject. This is what shopping should be.

Summary

While PC gaming is growing, it would appear that only a minority of High Street retailers are really catering to the burgeoning audience. 

Maplin had both the largest selection of gaming mice and the most knowledgeable staff. It should come as no surprise that it was the winner, given its reputation for a wide array of stock and knowledgeable staff. 

By contrast I was most disappointed by Argos, because even though there were two stores that ranked lower, Argos with its reputation as a one-size-fits-all store could be doing more to garner gaming customers.

The member of staff I spoke to in GAME made a valiant effort to assist me, but unfortunately the company’s business model is currently so heavily dependent on console gaming that there was little he could do to help. 

By contrast, the two largest stores on this list provided me with the worst experiences and proved to be a waste of time for PC gaming. 

While the specialist stores have jumped on board, more general stores have a lot of catching up to do.

PCR's Sector Spotlight on Gaming - in association with VIP Computers - is running throughout September 2016 - click here for more articles

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