Mystery shopper: Romford

Currys was this month's star store for our mystery shopper
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This month our Mystery Shopper heads out to Romford in Essex with a budget of £200 in search of a digital camera. Historically known as a market town, Romford now has a bustling High Street and various shopping centres filled with a range of stores. Here’s how our shopper got on...

Argos - 5/10

I started my search for a budget-friendly digital camera in Argos, but much to my disappointment there were no cameras on show for me to try out.

I decided to have a glance through one of the catalogues instead, in the hope that someone would approach me to see if I needed any help. However, after looking around and seeing no assistants I had to ask for some help from one of the cashiers.

Although she was very helpful and listened to my needs, the cashier didn’t express a lot of knowledge, but after flicking through the catalogue she suggested that the Canon IXUS 265HS might be suitable, as it featured an optical zoom and was priced at £149.99.

However, while the cashier took into account my budget, she did not offer me any information on the camera’s specs, other than that it was available in a range of colours. She also suggested that the Canon SX510 may be a suitable option, since it was available for £139.99.

T & B PHOTOGRAPHIC SERVICES - 8/10

I was approached almost the second I put my foot through the door in this independent shop. The assistant asked what I was looking for and what my budget was straight away, before suggesting the Canon SX600 for £159.99 or the Panasonic Lumix TZ-55 for £199.99.

Rows upon rows of cameras were visible in the glass cabinets. After discussing what I wanted the camera for, the member of staff highly recommended the Panasonic, as she revealed that she uses it herself. She then showed me the camera’s range of features including its night setting.

I was particularly impressed by the range of cameras available, and the speed in which the assistant approached me.

There was also absolutely no pressure to buy and she even suggested that I should save up a little more money for a couple of weeks to purchase the Panasonic, or look around a few more stores, as it was a little pricey and did not include an SD card, cable or case.

Sainsbury's - 7/10

There was a good selection of cameras on display in Sainsbury’s, with the majority available in my price range.

However, there was no assistant to be seen. I had to stand gazing at the assortment until an assistant passed round the corner and hurried into the clothes section. After chasing after her and asking for help, the assistant said she would send someone over. In a matter of minutes another assistant came to help me.

After listening to what I needed, my new helper suggested that perhaps the Sony DSC W800 for £79.99 or the Nikon S3600 for £89.99 might be suitable products for me. She also pointed out that the Sony had a 20.1MP camera and that neither an SD card, cable or case would be included in the price.

The assistant also stated that the Sony had a high zoom and that it would be beneficial if I was travelling.

She then checked that the store had these two models in stock and left me to ponder my decision, with absolutely no pressure to buy.

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Maplin - 3/10

Walking into Maplin I expected to see a wide range of digital cameras, similar to the offering the store had online and as I entered I was greeted by a friendly assistant straight away who welcomed me into the store.

I wandered around in the hope of finding a camera display, but to my despair there were none to be seen.

As I approached the front desk, a young lady asked if I needed any help. I asked whether they had any digital cameras in stock, to which I was promptly told they currently didn’t have any available.

I asked whether they only sold cameras online and whether that would be the best place to purchase one. The assistant stated that she could help me order a camera online and then have it delivered to the store or my home, whichever was more convenient for me.

Although there were no cameras in store, there was a variety of cables on show, and the helpfulness of the shop assistant definitely helped matters.

Currys - 9/10

After looking at the range of cameras behind the counter for a few minutes, an assistant soon approached to see if I needed any help.

The young man asked what I was looking for and what budget I had, and suggested that the Sony H400 would be a good choice. The assistant then turned on the camera to demonstrate its optical zoom and even let me have a go.

However, he did suggest that perhaps something with such a high zoom wouldn’t be suitable if I wasn’t going to use it regularly. He then recommended the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ8EB-K for £119.99. He described some of its specs, including its 16MP camera, and told me that I could download the Panasonic app to sync the camera with my smartphone.

Unfortunately, Curry’s didn’t have that camera in store; however, he told me that I could purchase it online. After discussing my options, he suggested that I should have a shop around and think about my decision, as I may find a better camera with more value somewhere else.

PC World - 6/10

PC World had a large variety of cameras on display, and after looking around the range for a few minutes, I still hadn’t been approached by anyone. After searching for an assistant at the front of the store, I found a young man and asked him for some help.

I told the assistant that my budget was £200 and that I was looking for a camera for everyday use, to which he suggested a Canon SX600 or Canon IXUS 265, both priced at £129.99 each.

He also told me that Sony cameras have been popular lately, and that one featured a 30x optical zoom. Other than that, he did not go into much detail and didn’t seem particularly interested in what I was looking for; however, he did mention that the Canon models featured Wi-Fi connectivity so I could print my images via my smartphone, and would take clear pictures in the dark thanks to its range of settings.

After spending all but five minutes with me, he then asked me if i needed anything else and left me to decide which camera would be best.

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SUMMARY

After spending the day at Romford, I found it difficult to choose between Curry’s and the independent store T & B Photographic Services.

Both of the assistants here showed a great deal of interest and expressed their knowledge of each camera they showed me. They also both ended up recommending me a camera they use themselves and this personal approach even swayed me into wanting to purchase one of the models.The speed in which both assistants approached me was also impressive.

Argos had no cameras on display, which was a shame; however although the cashier tried to accommodate me as much as possible, it was clear she didn’t know enough about the wide range of cameras on offer, and was only able to offer me limited information. Equally, Maplin didn’t have a single camera in-store, so I wasn’t able to even try out a camera.

Sainsbury’s and PC World demonstrated the same amount of knowledge between them. However, Sainsbury’s assistant’s attention to detail, and the fact she checked the stock levels and did not pressure me to buy, made me feel much more comfortable in the store.

Overall, Curry’s was the most suitable store in which to buy a camera for the first time, since the assistant was incredibly informative about the range of cameras on offer and didn’t pressure me into buying anything. In fact, he suggested I should look around as I may find better value for my money elsewhere. The assistant also allowed me to try out the camera, which no other assistant had suggested. Top customer service.

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