Mystery Shopper – Oxford



This was the first store I came across and the biggest and most impressive outlet in Oxford, very pleasing on the eye. The handsets and accessories were neatly arranged, and it was a clean shop with plenty of staff milling about  but not a single customer.

I walked in and found the car kits and Bluetooth headsets easily enough. As I browsed through Vodafones decent range of kit, a voice from behind said, Good morning and welcome to Vodafone. How can I help you?

I turned around to see a man in a standard-issue red Vodafone fleece, which covered his name badge. His greeting was polite and well-timed.

I explained I was looking for a car kit and he duly went through the updated law with me. He told me they had an extensive range of car kits and Bluetooth headsets that would be compatible with my handset, pointing me towards Vodafones branded car kit for £12 and a Plantronics Bluetooth headset for £40.

I turned my back to grab two of the kits off the rack in order for him to explain each ones benefits, turned around with them, and to my astonishment, Mr Nobody had done a vanishing act and was laughing away with his mates at the till.

As I tried to approach him, he paid no attention to me, making me feel very uncomfortable and unwanted.

I swiftly left the shop, dreading what the other shops might have in store for me.

Mobile News Rating 6th

Product range 2
Product knowledge 1
Airtime knowledge 4
Questioning ability 0
Sales ability 0
Shop appearance 3
Total 10


This was an old-fashioned looking Orange outlet tucked between a few other shops on the high street. The doors looked knackered and rusty but no matter, its what goes on inside that really counts.

As I stepped into the store, I saw a selection of car kits tucked away in the right-hand corner. It was a good range of products, suitable for a good range of handsets, but I couldnt see Bluetooth headsets anywhere.

I wandered through the store to investigate further, and eventually found them at the back of the store, a fair distance from the car kits. You would think they should be racked together.

I browsed the Bluetooth headsets on the wall. Still nobody approached me. I glanced over to the small till to my left, where three sales consultants were packed into the tiny space behind. It didnt look particularly comfortable, and it sure wasnt very helpful. Surely at least one of them shouldve been stalking the shop floor?

A sales girl, dressed in black with a trainee badge on, eventually stepped out to assist me. She explained that all the Bluetooth headsets were universal and that my handset would have no problem with any of them.

But she slipped up on the new driving regulations. Its three points and a £70 fine or something, she said nervously. She didnt draw a total blank, but the fact the new laws have been all over the national press and concern her trade directly doesnt say much for her interest in her job or the customers she is required to serve.

It also perplexed and frustrated me that she insisted Orange had no car kits in store, which contradicted the wall displays I had just looked over with my own eyes.

She also claimed I would be alright, so long as I didnt hold my handset at the wheel  which is not strictly true, as the phone has to be fixed securely to the dashboard.

She was only a trainee, so could perhaps be excused. But her information was wrong and her recommendations were misguided, and possibly dangerous. Surely one of her peers should have stepped in to help, especially as they were busy doing a lot of nothing behind the till.

Mobile News Rating 5th

Product range 3
Product knowledge 1
Airtime knowledge 4
Questioning ability 0
Sales ability 1
Shop appearance 2
Total 11


I knew this shop was in the Clarendon Shopping Centre somewhere, but the structures maze-like layout meant I struggled to find it. Once found, however, it was a pleasing, modern store, like most O2 outlets I have struck upon recently.

It was spacious and tidy inside, and I walked in to find the Bluetooth headsets and car kits pretty close to the entrance. Helpfully, two piles of leaflets nearby detailed what the new law involved  the dos and donts of driving and gas-bagging on your mobile. A very simple, very useful touch from O2.

On the front in bold text it said, Check out our range of car kits in-store. Strange that, because there was only one Nokia kit, and even that I couldnt get off the rack because something held it in.

A female sales assistant, whose long hair covered her name badge, approached me. She looked confused when I explained the situation, and when I asked her to explain the new driving regulations, she ran off to check a leaflet behind the till.

It seemed a little desperate on account of the fact the new regulations were pretty well publicised and for the fact that, anyway, a pile of explanatory leaflets were just beside us. But at least she wasnt fobbing me off with guesswork.

As she returned, her mobile started to ring. She made no attempt to reject the call and didnt apologise for interrupting.

I asked what Bluetooth headsets were compatible with my Nokia phone, and she said I could pick and choose from all the range. She showed me a car kit, away from the rest of the pack, but added it might not work with my phone.

Well, a fat lot of good that is. Whatever happened to the Nokia car kit on the wall?

I left completely deflated and underwhelmed.

Mobile News Rating 4th

Product range 2
Product knowledge 2
Airtime knowledge 4
Questioning ability 1
Sales ability 1
Shop appearance 2
Total 12

Carphone Warehouse

Like the Orange outlet up the road, this Carphone branch looked old, small and rather narrow. At least its lack of space meant that, inside, everything was easily at hand.

Once inside I heard a commotion at the till. Two customers  a man and woman  were there, the woman crying uncontrollably. She explained, to everyone in the store, that she was being threatened with a court action.

She had caught the attention of two sales consultants and a third stood back and listened in.

As I looked through Carphones decent range of Bluetooth headsets and car kits, Amrit approached me  the salesman on the periphery of the wrangle at the till. He was very smartly dressed in a black suit and open-topped shirt.

I explained my situation to Amrit and he said all Bluetooth headsets were compatible with my handset. When I asked about the new law, he just said there was a three-point penalty. What about the fine? When I prompted him, he hurriedly pointed to the print-out on the wall, which explained it in full.

I pressed on with my need for a car kit and he said they had a good range in-store, swiftly heading behind the till to show me some. He pulled out a Jabra SP500 speakerphone, opened it up for me and informed me of its price (£49.99).

But he failed to explain its features in any detail, like what set it apart and the reasons why I should buy it. In essence, he was good at guiding me through the devices on the wall, but failed to sell me any of them.

He looked disinterested and began to look around for other distractions.

Mobile News Rating 3rd

Product range 3
Product knowledge 2
Airtime knowledge 4
Questioning ability 1
Sales ability 2
Shop appearance 3
Total 15

Phones 4U

This Phones 4U branch was on the same side of the street as the tired looking Carphone and Orange outlets, but was a smarter, more modern affair.

I had taken just a few steps inside when an un-badged salesman in a smart suit, who appeared to be a senior member of the sales team, greeted me. He asked me confidently what I was looking for, and duly explained the new driving law in full. When I asked if a Bluetooth headset was the right way to go, he said not all would be compatible with my handset, demonstrating a real understanding.

On Bluetooth, he added I could go for the unbranded headsets at £30 and above, or the poncey branded headsets for between £40 and £60  adding he wouldnt go for the more expensive option.

I appreciated his honesty and he seemed interested in my needs, not just the sale. Even if hed been interested in the sale alone, it would still have been a major improvement on what had gone before.

We moved on to the topic of car kits and he recommended the Iqua Mini UFO Bluetooth Speaker for £49.99, adding he had bought one a couple of weeks earlier and the sound quality was crystal clear. I asked to see one and he sent a female colleague to bring one out.

A couple of minutes later she returned with one, opened up the box and placed it on the table. It was a good effort. She could have shown more interest in talking me through its specific highlights, but overall it was a good sales treatment from beginning to, almost, the end.

Mobile News Rating 2nd

Product range 3
Product knowledge 4
Airtime knowledge 4
Questioning ability 4
Sales ability 3
Shop appearance 3
Total 21


This was just inside the main entrance of the Clarendon Shopping Centre and, unlike the O2 store, ideally positioned for shoppers to notice it.

It was vibrant and smart-looking and, as I walked in, I noticed there were two sales consultants  one on the shopfloor and one behind the till. They were well spread, and looked set to deal with whatever customer rush came at them.

I could see the car kits and Bluetooth headsets towards the back of the store, but I hadnt even reached them when Monty intercepted me, asking if he could help. Monty was bubbly and enthusiastic, and never once lost eye contact with me.

I explained my situation and he led me to the Bluetooth headsets, set in plastic casing at the side of the till. He said the headsets went from the Nokia-branded ones at £19.99 to the universal Plantronics ones at £59.99.

I moved onto the topic of car kits and Monty soon rushed out the back to find me one. He quickly returned with an all-in-one Nokia kit, and explained all its features and dashboard fixings.

We then walked to the till where he put his glasses on and studied the compatibility guide.

After careful consideration, he suggested it might not be compatible with my old Nokia handset after all, apologised, and said he would look for a better option.

I appreciated his straight-talking and effort in helping to find the right match.

After returning from the stockroom for a second time, he swiftly brought out a Uni-Talk car kit, which he said would be compatible with my handset.

What made this sale even more impressive was that Monty said he would check T-Mobiles web site to search for alternatives for me and could order anything to be delivered to my home. It was a really decent sales pitch, and Monty was an instantly likeable character.

Mobile News Rating 1st

Product range 4
Product knowledge 4
Airtime knowledge 4
Questioning ability 5
Sales ability 5
Shop appearance 4
Total 26


Vodafones welcome was probably the nicest Ive ever had, but the rest was disastrous. The Vodafone salesman vanished without any warning, while the Orange trainee was a beginner, and it showed.

The legal info at O2 was impressive, but its product range and staff let it down. Amrit at Carphone was too easily distracted.

Phones 4U was impressive, though it lacked interactivity later on. But Monty from T-Mobile was outstanding  a helpful and bubbly straight-talker.

Winner profile

Name: Monty Bhurjee
Age: 22
Job title: Sales consultant
Tenure:Four months
Best tariff: The Flext 35 tariff is the best tariff that has been introduced for ages
Best handset: Thats a tough one, but the Sony Ericsson W880i
is a highly impressive device because of its high quality camera and look
Sales ethos: Always approach the customer with the notion to help them. I use a soft approach, rather than just diving straight in for the sale
Hobbies:Going to the gym, playing pool and clubbing