Mystery Shopper: How easy is it to buy a wireless printer on Oxford Street for less than £60?

Our Mystery Shopper visits some of the biggest tech retail stores in London
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This month our Mystery Shopper takes a trip down London’s iconic shopping district in search of a wireless printer for less than £60.

Here’s how they got on:

SELFRIDGES – 7/10
After wandering around for a few minutes, somewhat distracted by all the colourful headsets and booming speakers, I asked a member of staff if they sold any printers.

“Yes, in the IT section around the corner,” he said.

It was disappointing to see the computer area off to one side, with gadgets and audio products taking centre stage. I struggled to find the printers, so I asked another sales assistant where they were, and he walked me over to the section. There was a small selection of printers – all wireless all-in-ones – on show, from the £49.99 Epson Expression Home XP-235 to the £199.99 Canon Prixma MG8250 premium printer with 4800x9600DPI high-res scanning. The latter was down from £329.99 but still well out of my price range.

The assistant gave me a brief overview of the printers on offer. However, I couldn’t help feeling a bit boring looking at the printer section in such a snazzy shop packed full of exciting tech. Maybe Selfridges could have done more to shake up this area.

JOHN LEWIS – 8/10
I had high expectations walking into John Lewis’ Oxford Street store.

My first impressions were bright – there were lots of staff walking around and a plethora of products on show.

I found two rows of printers right away – the £39.95 HP Desktop 3630 E-all-in-one inkjet printer caught my eye. There was also a £199.99 Epson EcoTank printer.

I realised that despite being close to an employee computer, where several senior management staff stood, no one had asked if I needed help. I waited. And waited. And still no one came. After about 15 minutes I was about to approach someone when I noticed two customers walking to the printer area, accompanied by store assistants. I decided to sit back and observe.

The staff were patient and helpful, asking every question thrown at them and offering advice and suggestions to the customers. This resulted in a sale from each customer. But I was slightly deflated that no one approached me.

CURRYS/PC WORLD – 7/10
Like most Currys/PC World stores, the Oxford Street shop boasts a clean, open layout.

After strolling through the aisles of notebooks and headphones, I eventually came across some printers in boxes lumped on the floor at the end of a row.

They were in a ‘flash sale’, so perhaps the store was in the process of reorganising its categories.

There was a £79.99 HP OfficeJet 4650 on show, as well as a £99.99 HP Envy 5546 all-in-one, plus £59.99 and £99.99 Epson all-in-ones. There was also a £29.99 Canon Pixma inkjet printer available.

A store assistant approached to give me a hand. I asked her which of the printers would be best.

She gave me some impressive answers and recommended Canon over Epson and HP at the high- end. At one point she was rudely interrupted by a store manager, who shouted at her from across the room.

This completely broke her flow – and admittedly put me off the buying experience.

JESSOPS 5/10
I wasn’t expecting to find any printers in Jessops, what with it being a camera and photography specialist.

So I was surprised and delighted when I asked a store assistant if they had any and he replied: “Yes sir – downstairs.”

I headed downstairs to the photography and printing section, and found a small selection of printers in the corner. Another staff member offered his assistance and talked up the £119 Canon Selphy device. But while it was neat and portable, it only prints 6x4 photos. So I asked him which of the full-sized A4 printers he’d recommend – from the £150 and £200 Canon ones on display – and he shifted uncomfortably. It was obvious he wasn’t an expert in printers.

I asked him for more information and the differences between the printers, and he replied: “You pay more for the brand, for example Canon is a top- quality brand.”

As there wasn’t a printer available in my price range, I left the store underwhelmed.

STAR STORE – MAPLIN – 9/10
I almost missed this Maplin store, as it’s located on a side road just off Oxford Street.

Before I entered the store, its window display caught my attention, with products like drones and smart CCTV cameras on show.

Inside, the store was small and clustered, but boxes and goods were neatly packed in and honestly it gave the shop a certain charm.

A friendly young store assistant approached me and I asked him why there was such a large difference in price. He gave me a thorough, honest answer, explaining that cheaper printers may be costly in the long run, as they may have smaller ink tanks that need replacing more regularly than the top-of-the- range printers.

I asked him which brand to go for and he said they will all do a decent job, adding that he currently has an Epson device. The £59.99 Epson XP- 335 wireless all-in-one looked great and was within my price range.

I was delighted with the customer service.

SUMMARY
While printers may not be as essential as they might have been a decade or so ago, I was still expecting to find a larger range on display, especially from the big-name High Street retail brands.

John Lewis had the largest range of printers, although I was surprised that no one offered me assistance in that store. In terms of customer service, I was most impressed with Maplin, who once again showed why techies rely on them for knowledge, support and range.

Jessops, while it failed to offer a wireless printer in my price range, also deserves a mention for being brave enough to stock items like printers.

All in all, I wasn’t surprised with the lack of knowledge store assistants had. I almost can’t blame them – printers aren’t as exciting as a snazzy set of speakers or an action camera. There was something sad about seeing the printers resigned to the sorriest sections in each store, usually somewhere near the back or shoved into a corner out of sight. Perhaps the old printer category needs a bit of TLC from retailers – and vendors.

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