Dads are notoriously difficult to buy for over the Christmas period, so we couldn’t resist tasking our Mystery Shopper with a special online stocking filler challenge for finding a dad-friendly tech gift for under £20. Here’s how they got on.
Surprisingly, Amazon’s homepage didn’t appear to have an obvious gifts section or banner for me to click on. Instead it was mainly full of recommendations for me based on previous things I’ve purchased.
After selecting the ‘electronics and photos’ section and typing in ‘gifts for dads’ I had to scroll through a few mugs, coaster sets and bottles of wine before I got to anything that I would call particularly electronic.
Eventually, something caught my eye. It was the Caseflex 2.4GHz Handheld Mini Wireless Keyboard/ Mouse/Remote Control for £11.95 – reduced from £19.99.
Other products that fitted what I was looking for were the Audience A2 Headphones for £10.95 (reduced from £29.99), and the Caseflex GoPro Accessories Carry Case for £12.88.
All three products were in stock, well within my budget and were available for next day delivery.
While I found something worthwhile, I was surprised Amazon didn’t make it easy.
It was much easier to find my way to the gift section on the Argos website. The ‘gift’ button on the navigation bar took me to a section that not only had dedicated areas for different members of the family, but also different types of products. One category – ‘gadgets and novelty gifts’ – was exactly what I was after.
This section was jam- packed with techy gifts. It started off a little pricey with its £80+ drones, but I soon found a host of products within my budget.
There were quite a few products by the brand RED5 that were of interest, including a Desktop LED Clock Fan for £19.99, Water Dancing Droplet speakers also priced at £19.99, and a Clip To Go Bluetooth speaker for £14.99. There was also a Star Wars R2D2 Desk Vacuum for just £9.99.
I went for the LED clock fan and I was given the option to buy or reserve for collection, or get it delivered.
I could also select the same day delivery option for an extra £3.95.
After working my way along the navigation bar at the top of the Ebuyer homepage, I found the ‘gadgets and gifts’ section under the ‘TV and Entertainment’ heading.
There was a lot of appropriate gifts for me to sift through, and this site was the first where I found a Quadcopter for under £20.
The Hubsan X4 Micro Quadcopter was originally priced at £29.98, but luckily it had £10 off. There was an abundance of specs, product description and images to check out. The product looked great, but as I added it to my basket, I realised that the cheapest delivery option for orders under £49.99 was £4.18, putting me over my budget.
I decided to go back and have another look for other gifts, and to my surprise, I found a Nano version of the same Quadcopter for £14.99, meaning I could buy this one for just under my budget.
I could also choose to pay via card or PayPal, and get the free ‘Super Saver’ delivery within five working days.
MAPLIN 10/10 - STAR SITE
Of all the sites I visited during this mystery shop, Maplin was the one that made the biggest deal of Christmas gifts.
The colourful top banner flicked between ‘toys and gadgets’ and ‘retro gifts’. I decided to check out the gadgets first.
All the drones were way over my budget, but there were a few robots that came in at under £20. The Connex Space Cleaning Robot Kit for £9.99 was available for home delivery and Click & Collect. There were lots of delivery options ranging from £2.99 for three to five working days and £16.99 for an early Saturday delivery.
Realising that I hadn’t even checked out the retro gifts yet, I went back to the homepage to check out some more products.
There were a few more cool gifts including a Rubik’s Cube Light, an ION USB Vinyl/Tape Forever Audio Converter and a Belkin In Car Mobile Cassette Adapter – all in stock and all within my budget.
I was impressed by the range of goods on offer.
JOHN LEWIS 8/10
My next destination was John Lewis’ online store, which had a large ‘Christmas Shop’ banner on the homepage.
Clicking on this banner led me to a page containing a long list of gift types for every kind of recipient you could imagine. The site highlighted its ‘novelty and gadget gifts’ which looked quite inviting, so I decided to check that page out.
It was easy to choose my price bracket, and once I entered ‘£0 to £20’, I found a few ideas.
One was the Yamazaki RIN Tablet Stand for £15, but the Luckies Smartphone Projector for £19.95 really stood out, as it was quite an unusual gadget with a decent price. Both products were in stock and had lots of pictures.
There were many options for getting my gift, including UK delivery, Click & Collect, and Collect+ (picking it up from a local shop).
However, it was a shame that all of these options cost extra, so I was unable to purchase the projector with my £20 budget.
I couldn’t find any ‘gift’ or ‘gadget’ section on the homepage of the Currys website, which was mainly advertising sales on TVs, washing machines and notebook computers.
I typed ‘gadgets’ into the search box and was presented with a lot of products way over my budget. After setting the max price to £20 I was presented mostly with kids toys and small kitchen appliances.
I was about to give up my search at this point, until I noticed something in a column at the bottom of the whole page, titled ‘People Who Searched “gadgets” Also Browsed’. It was a Misfit Flash Fitness Activity Tracker for only £19.99. “What a bargain!” I thought.
I hastily clicked through to the product’s main page only to find the actual price was £39.99 – much more in line with what I thought those devices cost, but way over my budget. It had a ‘sale’ sign next to it, so I added it to my basket anyway and hoped the final price might come down. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
This was a surprisingly challenging mystery shop. Despite the fact that we are well into the Christmas shopping season, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to find techy stocking fillers. And for half of the ones I did find, I was unable to actually buy them due to the delivery prices.
However, I did manage to find some gems, including a Quadcopter, a mini Bluetooth speaker and a cleaning robot kit – all great ‘dad’ gifts in my eyes.
I was stunned to see that the likes of Amazon and Currys were not making that big of a deal of Christmas stocking fillers during early November, instead focusing on more expensive items.
Maplin and Argos were both standout sites for me on this shop. They made a point of having banners and easy-to-find sections for gifts and gadgets, but I awarded Maplin the ‘star site’ this month as it had the biggest selection of appropriate gifts within my budget, and the most options for delivery times.