With increased netbook choice in the market over the recent months, our Mystery Shopper visited Lakeside Shopping Centre to research the latest deals, product availability, specification and prices. In the second part of our monthly feature, we see if Comet, Marks and Spencers, and Tec 7 can beat Currys' respectable score of 8/10.
This Comet store was tucked away in a little trading estate just outside of the Lakeside Shopping Centre. There was no need for searching for the devices here; they were straight in front of me as I walked through the store entrance.
Without a moment to lose, I was approached by a very cheerful chap who pointed me towards two different types of Toshiba netbooks. Asking for his opinion on both, this is where he really excelled when giving his verdicts. Launching into his sales pitch, he told me that one of the machines, the Toshiba NB100 11R, used Linux, and the other, the Toshiba NB100 12 used Windows XP. This was pretty much all he told me about these models.
He finished this chapter by asking me what I was likely to use it for; from my answer he suggested the Samsung NC10. This was the most expensive of the models shown so far and was priced at £319.99. Realising that he might lose a sale, he added that if I wanted a ‘normal netbook,’ than the XP version of the Toshiba model would be okay.
He briefly touched on some, ‘price saving packages’ including discounts on Norton Antivirus. He also advised to buy extended cover; the reason given was that due to its portability, there was a higher probability of damage.
To finish, Terry asked me if I would be making a purchase offering to print off product information for the three netbooks discussed.
This concession within House of Fraser was merchandised to a high standard, pristine in its appearance with a plentiful supply of stock for the potential customer to try out. I was approached by an assistant, who offered, very politely, to help in my potential purchase.
I told him I was keen to look at netbook products and to make comparisons between manufacturers, including specification and price. My understanding was that they were smaller and easier to use than laptops. However, as there were so many now in the market, was unsure as to which one to buy. I added the last part to ensure that it elicited a response, which I hoped was going to be full of recommendations.
Reflecting on the product range before us, he proceeded to talk me through the specifications of each machine. He asked pertinent and leading questions checking my requirements such as screen and keyboard size and my preference of Windows; XP or Vista. This was impressive as he obviously wanted to make sure I was comfortable buying a product that suited my needs rather than the most expensive machine on sale.
Our conversation continued onto screen quality; he was quick to pick up the fact that I was really keen to ensure that the viewing experience was good. I think I gave him the impression that I wanted a laptop due to the fact that I did labour a bit too long the details of screen quality.
The sales assistant recommended two machines, these included the following specifications: Toshiba NB1200 12A, 8.9-inch TruBrite WSVGA TFT display, Intel Atom N270 processor, 120GB HDD, 1GB DDR2 Ram, and integrated VGA Webcam at £292.99, and the Samsung NC10, 10.2-inch WSVGA LED Display, Intel Atom N270 processor, 160GB HDD, with 1GB DDR2 Ram priced at £329.99.
The service and knowledge was impressive and I was additionally given a brochure with full details to take home and consider the options at my leisure.
Marks and Spencers
This High Street veteran and newcomer to the technology sector only stocked one netbook. The technology department was devoid of customers. This allowed me to spend some time in store talking to the staff member. I told her that I was considering buying a netbook largely to surf the internet on the move. I asked her opinion of these smaller machines.
She took considerable time and patience listening to my needs. In her view, there was little point in buying a laptop, if all I wanted to do was surf the internet. This was a refreshing approach and not unexpected from this customer service orientated retailer.
She answered all my many questions concerning the processor’s speed, hard disk drive and explained the benefits of owning a netbook over a laptop; these were largely the ease of use and portability aspects.
The Toshiba machine had a Toshiba NB100 12A, with a 8.9-inch screen, Intel Atom N270, 1GB RAM, 120GB HDD, Windows XP Operating System and was priced £279.00.
The mystery shop conducted in this store was excellent; the customer service superb. It’s just a shame the store didn’t stock more models. It would be beneficial if the selection was increased in the coming months.