Mystery Shopper: Bristol - PC Retail

Mystery Shopper: Bristol

With a budget of ?150, will they be able to get a laptop for work?
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Comet

The monitor display was a bit of a mess when I arrived in the large store; with missing products and no power it didn’t inspire confidence. After asking for help and waiting a few minutes I was approached by a salesman. I explained my quest, to which he told me that a 1080p resolution was all I needed to look for.

Only a couple of the screens available were within my budget – an LG 2243S at £119.99 and the 18.5- inch Acer P195HQL at £99.99. I pointed out the options in my price range but I received no useful information, just: “I’ll try to turn them on for you.”

After much fiddling, the screens remained black, but my helper didn’t know what the problem was. By now I could see the end in sight and the salesman obviously felt the same as he left me to my quandary.

While I was taking some notes a second salesman asked if he could help, so I went over my needs and he talked me through the benefits of a greater contrast ratio.

Whilst explaining he connected a few wires and the majority of the monitors burst into life. Moving from side to side he spoke about viewing angles and how the more expensive models available had much wider fields of vision. He recommended the HP S2331A and Acer S221HQLBD; both above my budget at £169.99.

The initial salesman left me totally bewildered and I could have left at this point. The visit improved slightly with the second assistant but I still expected much more.

Score: 4/10

Tesco Home

Row upon row of electricals greeted me at the top of the escalator, but unfortunately monitors seemed to be missing. The website had listed many possible products that met my needs but where were they? I approached a salesman and asked.

“We don’t have every product on the shop floor, although we do have a lot of the online stock in our warehouse – it’s a bit like Argos. Let’s have a look on the computer at what’s available.” Moving to a computer terminal the Tesco website was opened up and the monitors displayed.

We discussed the HP 20-inch S2031A (£149.99) featuring a 15000:1 contrast resolution, 5ms response time and integrated speakers. The HannsG HH241D 23.6-inch matched HP on the spec side of things, but was £5 cheaper with a bigger screen. It looked like the best value until I spotted a flashing LG banner at the top of the page promoting the W2243S-PF a 21.5- inch display with a resolution of 30000:1, full HD and 2ms response rate, all for £119. “It’s currently awaiting replenishment so you need to register your interest via email and we’ll notify you that it’s available to buy. I’ll print you out the details,” the member of staff said. As I got up to leave I noticed a school desk with a desktop set up. “Is that the LG monitor?” “Yes, it seems to be, but it’s not powered so I can’t show you it working – but you can at least see the size.”

The visit was not what I expected; the Tesco Home store set-up had large displays of certain products with the option of ordering online and collecting in store, but unfortunately not monitors, which made choosing the right model difficult. If I had been shopping for a digital camera or TV the visit may have been completely different.

Score: 5/10

Currys/PC World

Working my way along the PC monitor aisle I was pleased to see they were all switched on and running the same video feed. For me, this made comparisons easier and not just about the information on the price tickets.

Behind me a sales assistant was unpacking a laptop for a display but was more than happy to take time out to assist me. I’d narrowed my search down to a few 20-inch models in my price rage: AOC 2036Sa (£99.99), LG W2053TQ and HP 2010i (both £119.99). After pointing these out the staff member explained the differences in contrast and how that would improve the work I was doing on the screen.

We mulled over the choices for a few minutes without a clear recommendation before the salesman pulled out the trump card: I’d missed a Packard Bell 23-inch monitor (Viseo 230 DVI), reduced by £50 in the sale to £159.99. The screen has a 80,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, 300 cd/m2 brightness, 5ms response time and full high definition resolution.

“This is just over your budget but you can see the picture is the best. If you can afford £10 more this would be the one; you are saving £50,” I was told. I had to agree, and my decision was aided by the fact that all the monitors were running the same video at the same time. The member of staff checked he had answered my questions fully before heading back to the notebook he had been unpacking.

This visit was very impressive, from the wow factor of the store itself to the customer service demonstrated. It was a shame I had to search out the staff attention I required, otherwise this could have taken the crown.

Score: 8/10

Maplin

Before visiting the store I browsed the website, which showed a decent range of monitors within my budget so my hopes we high. However, this quickly changed upon locating the display with only three AOC monitors to choose from. After reading the shelf tickets I found the sales assistants all gathered together next to the tills. I explained my query and help followed me back to the display. “A lot of the stock we have is website exclusive; we don’t have that much in store,” the member of staff told me.

Working through the models the salesman took them off the shelves one at a time to establish the connectivity and resolution. He fiddled with the front facing buttons on a screen before admitting: “I can’t seem to get the screen demonstration to come on,” so we were left looking at the AOC logo. I asked if the brand was any good, to which I was told: “I can’t say I’ve used one personally but I don’t know of any returns and they are very good value. My boss has one I think, I’ll ask him.” We both approached the manager, but it turned out he didn’t have an AOC after all.

The visit didn’t inspire me to spend. The products available met my criteria but the sale process itself was rather odd. By the time the manager told me he didn’t own an AOC I was by the door and escape was far too easy.

Score: 5/10

Currys Digital

Searching the store for any type of monitor, I eventually gave in and asked for help. It turned out there was only one display in stock – a 20-inch HP model for £119.99. The sales assistant scanned the shelf ticket for more conversational points.

“It’s got a contrast ratio of 1000:1, 5ms response time and 0.276 pixel pitch,” he said, to which I replied: “Sorry, I don’t mean to sound daft but what’s that?” The staff member seemed as puzzled as me. “I don’t sell many monitors, I’m afraid I’m not sure either. We have a number of small LCD TVs that can be used as a PC monitor,” he responded.

The display featured a number of sets but the prices exceeded my budget. “If you are willing to push your budget slightly you can get a much better screen than the HP monitor, with the bonus of having a digital TV as well,” he said. The TV in question was the LG M227WD (£179.99). The image quality was an improvement over the HP but the £60 increase meant the hunt for the ideal monitor wasn’t over.

The salesman did his best with the very limited options available. The addition of a TV tuner was appealing and the screen contrast was greatly improved, but with numerous live TV streams now available it wasn’t really necessary.

Score: 5/10

Novatech

Hidden in a business park, the warehouse-sized retailer had a small but extremely well laid-out shop front with various products on display. Not all of the SKUs depicted on the website were there, but the sales area was clean, tidy and full of additional information about Novatech services and PC related questions.

Waiting patiently as the salesman finished talking to other customers I was impressed by his sales manner and personal anecdotes in conversation. I explained my query to him and he said: “If you aren’t stuck on having a 20-inch screen, 22-inch models are actually cheaper.” The monitors were displayed all around the sales floor, each one was switched on and linked to a PC of some sort.

He talked me through the monitors in stock, including two HKC displays well within my budget, and an LED backlit LG for £154.99. He asked what I would use it for and when I told him mostly writing and artwork, he said the LED was probably best, but also suggested a cheaper 24-inch HKC which might offer better value.

My visit was very informative; the options were endless and the customer service was excellent. I never felt patronised, and the salesman made an effort to show me what the tech speak actually meant.

Score: 9/10

Summary

With more well recognised brands such as LG and HP competing with little-known display vendors like AOC, HannsG and HKC in the £100 to £150 price bracket recommendations usually revolved around four key factors: contrast ratio, price, response rate and resolution. Other features including USB connectivity and integrated speakers were largely overlooked.

The visits themselves ranged from mediocre to excellent, with Novatech and Currys/PC World taking the top honours, thanks to things like great store displays, combined with low prices and strong customer service. Comet let itself down with an untidy display and some very puzzling advice from sales staff.

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