Mystery Shopper: Luton

Our secret agent goes looking for gaming accessories in the Luton area...
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Gamestation

I asked one member of staff how I could make my PC experience more enjoyable and was told: “we do not do any PC accessories,” which I found surprising as the shop had a fairly large section for PC games.

I mentioned that I thought this was really odd, and the assistant said: “There is not a demand for it and customers never really ask for PC accessories.” She recommended that I visit Maplin or PC World as they would have more relevant products.

Whilst she was telling me to go elsewhere, the other shop assistant pointed to the Thrustmaster Ferrari GT Experience racing wheel with a set of pedals, priced at £29.99, which is compatible for a PS3 or PC.

This shop assistant added: “I can’t tell you too much about it as I don’t know anything about this product”. I asked her what games I could use it with and she told me it should be good for driving titles, like Dirt 3 and other rally games.

I left the store feeling disappointed, although the PC section was fairly large and had a good choice of games. The store was also tidy and had everything sectioned in it, so it was easy for customers to browse.

Comet

Straightaway I was approached by an assistant, who asked how he could help. When I explained what I wanted, he looked confused and said “we don’t really stock a lot for PC games,” but then went on to suggest a couple of things.

He showed me the Bose Companion 3 Series II 2.1 Speaker System, priced at £249.99, which was located at the back of the store. He commented: “This is fantastic for gaming and I can recommend it personally. It’s great for hearing all the sounds that you need to listen to in games, like enemies firing from different directions or weapons being thrown at you. All you have to do is plug it into a head jack and use a control pod so that you can use your finger tips to control the volume.”

I was impressed with the system’s appearance – it would look very stylish next to a PC. He added: “This is also awesome to listen to music with and we have sold a lot of them for that reason.”

He then showed me the headphone section and recommended me the Logitech Premium Notebook headset, priced at £45.99. There wasn’t much other choice on the shelves.
“If you buy the Bose Speaker System and the Logitech microphone headphones I can give you a discount of £30,” he said. l told him l would think about it.

My visit was satisfactory but l found that the store really did not cater for PC games accessories. And although the assistant’s customer care skill were very good he seemed to struggle to make the recommendations because of the choice available.

Game

The store was sectioned off in a similar manner to Gamestation – PS3 games in one section, Wii games in another, and a pre-owned section.

The store had a lot of accessories for games, such as wheels, controllers, motion wands, cameras and headsets.

I was approached by a gentleman who told me “we don’t really do much in the store for PCs – what games are you playing?”

l told him games like Dirt 3 and Call of Duty. He suggested the Thrustmaster Ferrari GT Experience racing wheel with a set of pedals, priced at £29.99. “This has vibration feedback so you can feel when you go into walls and turn corners.”

I could see other wheels so l asked him about them, he told me “I am recommending this one because my friend uses it and he told me it is fantastic for racing games.”

He said that l should purchase some headphones as well, and showed me the Turtle Beach Earforce X I priced at £44.99. “These have a built-in microphone and volume control and they are extremely comfortable to wear for a long time – all you have to do is plug them into a USB port. They are good for war games.”

He told me that he was sorry that he could not recommend anything else but suggested that l go to Maplin as they had more accessories that would make my gaming a bit more exciting. I appreciated his honesty that they did not do much for the PC market, though I was disappointed as I presumed a Game store would stock everything for games.

PC World

AN ASSISTANT asked how he could help and l explained what l was looking for. He first suggested speakers, saying: “l think this is important when playing games as you can experience more and feel like you are in the game with the sounds.” Pointing to the Logitech Z506 5.1 speaker system priced at £69.99, he added: “these are designed for the PC and great for listening to music as well.”

He also recommended the Thrustmaster Ferrari GT experience wheel with pedals, priced at £44.99 for driving games.

Just above the driving wheel was a game pad. He said: “This is a must-have. These are very popular with gamers on the PC; it’s just like using a console game pad. All you have to do is plug and play – it’s not complicated.”

He also suggested the Creative Fatality headphones, priced at £39.99. “They are great for giving voice commands to games and good to use in the night, so you don’t wake anyone up. These are designed for comfort as they are lightweight and have cushioned padding for long term use; they also have a noise cancelling microphone and are fantastic for sound.”
His customer service was excellent and there was a wide choice of products.

Maplin

AS SOON AS I walked in l was greeted by a salesman with a smile. He walked me towards the speakers and recommended the Creative Inspire 2.1 T3130 priced at £49.99. He said: “These are big sellers and it is better to have 2.1 rather than 5.1 system as it has too many wires.” He added: “These are ideal for listening to firearms and snipers in games.”

We walked over to some more PC accessories and he pointed to a Logic 3 game pad priced at £24.99. He said: “This is good for motion sensing and vibration feedback when playing games and these sell very well amongst gamers”. He also suggested that l look into buy a joystick especially for flying games and recommended the Logic 3 PC Pro light 2 joystick, priced at £19.99.

He then suggested l should buy headphones for times when l don’t want the speakers on because of the noise. He suggested Plantonics Gamecon 367 priced at £19.99 from £29.99: “These are ideal for games where you would want to do voice command like Call of Duty”.
This was the best visit; the assistant explained things clearly and knew what to recommend to me; he listened to my needs and wants. I would recommend this store to visit for any PC accessories.

Currys

An assistant quickly made it clear that he thought Currys didn’t have much for PC gaming and he didn’t seem to know what to recommend.

He walked towards the speaker section and told me that l would probably need these, suggesting the JBL Creature 3 priced at £99.99. He added: “These are good for music as well as for gaming I have these speakers at home.”

He also recommended headphones for voice command games, suggesting the Creative Fatality headphones priced at £39.99 or the Logitech Attach 3 with a microphone priced at £34.99.

I asked why the store didn’t have much in terms of accessories for the PC and he told me there wasn’t a demand for it. He made it clear to me that l was in the wrong store for accessories and recommended that I go to PC World.

He called over his colleague to confirm his selection to me and she repeated the suggestion of the JBL speakers or going to PC World, where there would probably be a greater selection of products.

I had to ask the assistant a lot of questions, as he was not very forthcoming. l felt like he wanted me to choose for myself without any help. I would have liked more advice, as they did sell PCs and a lot of games.

Summary

It would seem that most PC and gaming stores don’t stock a wide range of PC gaming peripherals, which was very disappointing to discover. Nevertheless, all but one of the shops I visited had a good selection of PC games.

The prices varied from store to store for the Thrustmaster Ferrari GT Experience wheel with pedals, with Game having the best deal, so it’s clearly worth consumers shopping around when they have a particular product in mind.

Overall, Maplins had the best range which I found to be quite strange because it didn’t sell PC games. The shop assistant’s knowledge was excellent and his customer service skills were very good.

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