Mystery Shopper: Bedford

Bedford has produced a variety of prominent figures from Ronnie Barker to John Bunyan and even Page 3’s Lacey Banghard. But how capable is it of providing decent security software? Our Mystery Shopper hunts for the best anti-virus product for less than £50
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Bedford has produced a variety of prominent figures from Ronnie Barker to John Bunyan and even Page 3’s Lacey Banghard. But how capable is it of providing decent security software? Our Mystery Shopper hunts for the best anti-virus product for less than £50…

CURRYS 6/10

As I walked into Currys, I noticed that an expectant-looking staff member was facing me.

“Can I help you?” he mumbled.

I told Mumbles I was looking for security products. He gestured at a basket full of Norton boxes and blabbered empty buzzwords. As he hadn’t asked what I was specifically after, I threw a few questions at him.

“Different prices mean different security levels”, he said, but couldn’t explain exactly what the different levels would provide me with.

He scanned the shelves and burst out with random sentences taken from the back of the boxes. Finally, with the enthusiasm of a sloth, he surmised that “all the different types are here,” and left me to read the boxes myself.

Products ranged from £30 parental control software to £50 ones for my budget – which would get me three-PC protection – and stretched to £100 five-user multi-device bundles. Mumbles was right – they were all there. It’s just a shame he wasn’t able to help me out in greater detail.

VERDICT:

With a large selection, Currys would’ve been perfect if I’d known the precise piece of software – but to help me find out what I needed, it could’ve done a lot better.

PC WORLD 9/10

Greeted by the back of the sole staff member in PC World, I started examining the Norton stand that faced the entrance in the hope he would hear.

Surprisingly, he did, and as soon as he clocked me, walked over and offered help. The software selection was slightly larger than Currys, but nearly everything was half price, putting all of them well within my budget. My helper also offered a £20 reduction on the £60 Norton 360, which wasn’t marked down.

I asked if free software was comparable to £40-50 protection. AVG and Avast wouldn’t offer the same protection, he told me, but mentioned premium upgrades are available. I asked what the difference between Internet Security and Antivirus are, which he happily explained. “iOS devices don’t generally need protection,” he added. “But products do cover Android.”

The aisle itself was tidy and labelled. An ad for McAfee universal protection bundled with 1TB cloud storage was good value too at £100. McAfee alone was £50, hitting my budget.

As I left, other employees greeted me with “good morning.” My time here was certainly a good morning well spent.

VERDICT:

With knowledgeable, well-mannered staff, tidy organisation and a big range, knowing what to look for couldn’t have been easier.

MAPLIN 2/10

For a tech-stuffed store, its rather Victorian-era lighting was surprising.

However, there was enough light for me to fruitlessly check shelves for security software and see one staff member ignore me before walking on without offering assistance.

Failing to find any products in the scattered sections, I approached a man who had just told someone to check PC World for whatever he was after.

“‘ight,” the assistant said, with his hands in his pockets as if we were off to the pub. I asked whether they had any PC anti-virus products.

“Think we might’ve had one,” he said, slouching towards a rack.

He span a carousel labelled ‘Budget PC Games’, looking along rows of pet simulators in search of the security software I had requested.

“Nah, haven’t got any,” he said.

I asked him where I should check.

“PC World, probably,” he replied.

I wondered if he had any specific recommendations.

“The latest one, y’know, up to date, is probably best.”

I left, feeling that I had bothered him by expecting him to provide a decent level of customer assistance.

VERDICT:

While there was an on-floor customer assistant and the man did greet me, he had about as much interest in his job as snails do in salt. The shop itself wasn’t best organised, poorly lit and sadly had no security software available.

ARGOS EXTRA 7/10

Expecting little customer service from a shop dominated by ‘do-it-yourself’ laminated catalogues, I flicked through one in search of security software offerings.

There was a page consisting mainly of Norton products, stating that Argos provides a free Norton Family download. The page was full of deals, such as Norton 360 with a PC for half price. Argos also offered the lowest price of any anti-virus product at £20. McAfee had two pieces of software listed, swamped by the yellow boxes.

Interested in whether Argos’ Norton partnership extended any further, I approached a customer service counter occupied by a pleasant woman.

Having told her that I was looking for security products, she admitted she wasn’t overly clued-up on the subject, but offered the packaging behind the counter for me to compare.

To my surprise, though I hadn’t seen them in the book, Kaspersky Premium and Ultimate packages, priced at £40 and £60 respectively, were handed to me alongside – you guessed it – Norton products.

VERDICT:

As a non-specialist shop, I didn’t expect a lot of knowledge or choice from Argos. If I’d been after Norton, the prices would’ve been great, but there wasn’t quite enough range here.

RYMAN 4/10

My stop in Ryman was a quick one and started off with the chirp of a young woman.

“Can I help?” she said.

I asked her whether they stocked security software.

“I’m sorry, we used to have Norton, but we don’t anymore,” she said instantly, suggesting the question was common.

Despite the shop’s own lack of products, the cashier instantly offered me the chance to look online, and suggested I try WHSmith.

VERDICT:

Pleasant and helpful as the cashier was, there was no software for me here.

WHSMITH 3/10

After ten minutes spent wandering around, I eventually found a Norton stand hidden facing the wall in the furthest corner.

Products included Mobile Security, Internet Security and 360. Like PC World, Internet Security was half price at £25, while 360 sat at a non-reduced £60. The mobile product was £20.

I spotted staff chatting around discarded boxes, ignoring customers. After several minutes, I approached one man who wasn’t in the huddle, but was seemingly attempting to avoid customer interaction by continually moving.

He said that only Norton was available, but struggled to find the stand. Once identified, he pointed at it, reluctant to approach, and said products were behind the till, before running off.

At the till, the cashier spotted me coming and quickly left his post. A woman replaced him. I asked for her help choosing anti-virus software.

“You don’t need tablet security,” she told me, when I said I needed protection for my Android device. “Tablets don’t need protection.”

She was enthusiastic, but seemed to make up details, confusing product features as she handed me boxes including Anti-Theft, which wasn’t on the stand. It seemed her recommended protection for technology was unfortunately ill-informed.

VERDICT:

A mixture of seemingly uncaring staff, a lack of knowledge and limited Norton products meant WHSmith wasn’t as useful to me as the other stores. There is certainly room for improvement.

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