Mystery Shopper – Southampton



This was a brand new store, but there was something strange about it. After a second or two the penny dropped  it was the blue twinkling lights.

Im guessing these were Christmas lights, but were well past Christmas, so shouldnt someone have bothered to take these down?

Nonetheless, it added some colour to a front window that was pretty bare and that didnt carry much in the way of advertisements.

I was in the store for a while browsing the selection of dummy handsets before Hav, a trainee, approached me. Hav was dressed in black trousers and an open top shirt with his white T-shirt visible underneath, which made him look a bit scruffy.

Despite this, he asked the relevant questions and pointed me in the direction of the Sony Ericsson K800i, saying it was one of the best phones for memory. He didnt offer me any particular talk plan, but instead offered me deals on various tariffs.

We then sat down as Hav produced examples of the handset in black and silver. However, it took him ages to fire them up, as he didnt have a SIM card. He asked a colleague for one, but she didnt have one either. Failing all else, he took the SIM from his personal handset, taking ages trying to remove the battery cover and then get the battery out of his phone.

But though I did eventually get round to playing with the handset, I heard Hav sighing, huffing and puffing, as if he wanted to get it all over and done with as soon as possible. When I eventually finished with the handset, he tried to force me into a credit check, making me feel pressurised into signing up.

In short, Hav acted like a typical trainee; short on preparation and low on patience. His approach was a real turn-off.

Mobile News rating 6th

Product range 3
Product knowledge 2
Airtime knowledge 2
Questioning ability 1
Sales ability 0
Shop appearance2
Total 10


This T-Mobile store was an extremely small outlet tucked right into the back corner of the middle level of West Quay Shopping Centre.

It was a bit hard to spot as it was so out of sight. However, large ranges of dummy handsets in thick protective casings (necessary, as they were at the front of the store) were on view.

As I approached the till, a male sales consultant offered to help me. He was rather scruffily dressed in an open-neck shirt and was unshaven. As he spoke to me he was cutting open what looked like a black bag, which was slightly off-putting and distracting as I felt he wasnt giving his full attention to me.

Despite this early setback, he was reasonably knowledgeable and pointed me towards the talk-plans laid out on the counter.

He advised that Flext 35 was the best tariff for me and explained why. Then I asked him about handsets and he took me over to the Sony Ericsson phones, claiming that they lead the pack when it comes to memory storage.

As we closed the conversation, he told me about a handset that he bought on eBay, which I found a little puzzling, considering he was trying to sell me one of his phones.

Considering its size, the store was well laid-out, but T-mobile could put a little more effort into the customer service side of things.

Mobile News rating 5th

Product range 3
Product knowledge 3
Airtime knowledge 2
Questioning ability 2
Sales ability 1
Shop appearance 2
Total 13


This was a fairly small shop from the outside, but the advertising was pretty decent: 50 per cent off  come in for even more choice. It was also offering 1,000 minutes and 500 minutes unlimited calls between four users on Vodafone Family, with a free Sony Ericsson W850i for £40 a month.

But while the shop was very smart, the dummy handsets were distributed a little strangely. They were split into four groups, located between the consultation desks and the display of accessories. I found this offputting, as the display wasnt that easy on the eye and they were difficult to get close to.

What added to my frustration was that I waited about 15 minutes to be served, despite catching the eye of various employees a couple of times. I also noticed that customers were leaving the shop because they were sick and tired of waiting.

A lady wearing a Vodafone jacket, who had previously been speaking to four smartly dressed men who didnt look like paying customers, eventually served me.

In spite of everything, she was very chirpy and enthusiastic and got out a brochure straight away, pointing to the Anytime 500 tariff with three free extras (1,000 additional texts) at £35 a month.

She then pointed me in the direction of the Sony Ericsson handsets, advising that they were the best for storage, especially the W950i. But when I asked to see one in action, she said that she didnt have one spare and that Id have to queue up at the upgrades and information desk for a demo.

I wasnt prepared to do this, however, as service at the counter was very slow  I had earlier seen two people leave the store because they were frustrated at the waiting time.

All in all, and despite the assistants initial enthusiasm, this visit was a real disappointment.

Mobile News rating 4th

Product range 3
Product knowledge 3
Airtime knowledge 3
Questioning ability 3
Sales ability 2
Shop appearance 2
Total 16


This shop was certainly bright and appealing. There were two large sales posters in the shop window, which offered pre-pay handsets from £29.99, with four dummy handsets on view in protective casing near the front of the shop, visible from the outside.

Inside, the store was small, but smart and simple  making it easy to distinguish between contract and pay-as-you-go deals.

Andy, who was young and smartly dressed all in black with an open-neck shirt, approached me as I stepped inside.

He seemed deeply knowledgeable as I talked to him. He pointed me in the direction of Oranges Dolphin talk-plan and talked me through its features.

He then advised me that the Sony Ericsson W850i was good for storage and also showed me the W950i, stating that, despite its size, it couldnt be beaten for memory.

Better still, he quickly got one out for me. It was slightly worn, but he explained that it was because it was the stores usual demo handset.
It took a while to start up, but again Andy had an explanation, pointing out that it was because it was a high-powered phone. He then went though all the features, even demonstrating a short music clip.
All in all, Andy was approachable, knowledgeable and did an excellent job in trying to sell me the product  an enjoyable visit.

Mobile News rating =2nd

Product range 3
Product knowledge 4
Airtime knowledge 3
Questioning ability 4
Sales ability 4
Shop appearance 4
Total 22

Phones 4U

The shop window was colourful and decorated with the latest deals  £5 million sales bonanza, Big pay as you go sale. A good start so far  and a real draw for me.

As soon as I walked into the store, a smartly dressed assistant came up and offered to help. He immediately asked me all the relevant questions: pre-pay or contract; what features was I after; did it matter if it was a flip or slide handset; what network was I looking to go on?

Small desks with a seat either side of them dominated the shop floor and I was taken to one for a consultation with Laura. She was bubbly, though polite, and started to take down all the relevant details (what handset I was after, what I was looking for in my talk plan and so on).

Consumers often complain about Phones 4Us interrogation techniques an hard-sell approach, but this one-on-one made me feel important and gave me the impression that the store cared about my choice. It was also an opportunity for Laura to get to know what I was really after.

She took all the details back to the storeroom and was away for a minute or so. On her return, she presented me with a Sony Ericsson W850i and immediately got it working. While I was going through its features, she recommended Anytime 500 on Vodafone with Stop The Clock, including 500 additional texts. She also said Phones 4U would pay the remaining month of my existing contract, which I found to be particularly appealing.

It was a good sales pitch and I was impressed with the rapport she built up. As I left, she wrote down all the details and asked me to call her if I decided to proceed.

Mobile News rating =2nd

Product range 3
Product knowledge 3
Airtime knowledge 3
Questioning ability 5
Sales ability 4
Shop appearance4
Total 22

Carphone Warehouse

The gold lighting in the shop window immediately caught my eye.

It did occur to me that here was another store that had forgotten to take down its Christmas lights, but again they made it look attractive.

The advertisements in the window were large and quite impressive too  one window was promoting the Cath Kidston designer phone, while the other offered £60 instant cashback on the O2 Nokia N73 and Orange Sony Ericsson K800i.

After about 20 seconds browsing the good selection of dummy handsets, Joe, who had just finished dealing with a query at the till, rushed over to serve me.

My first impressions of Joe were that he was a bubbly and smart guy, the kind of person who made me feel welcome and at ease, and who asked all the relevant questions.

In an instant, he pointed me in the direction of the Sony Ericsson K800i without any hesitation at all. No messing around and jabbering here.

As we walked back towards the till to have a chat, he handed me a handset he had handy in his pocket so I could play around with its features without waiting for one to be collected and started up.

At the till he went through the talk plans he thought were best for me. He first offered me Dolphin on Orange (£35 a month, giving unlimited texts, 550 anytime minutes and half-price line rental for the first five months). However, he conducted some more extensive research, hoping to find me a better deal and offered me Flext 35 on T-Mobile, saying that it was a staggering deal and one that no other store would be able to match.

All in all this was a great visit. Joe seemed to be a genuinely nice guy who made me feel welcome and cared for and his sole intention was always to find me the deal that was totally right for me. His extensive research into the right talk-plan was ample demonstration of this.

Mobile News rating 1st

Product range 4
Product knowledge 4
Airtime knowledge 4
Questioning ability 5
Sales ability 5
Shop appearance3
Total 25

Havs performance was pretty poor, and he acted just as his trainee badge predicted. T-Mobile was a bit better, but the assistants attention seemed focused elsewhere.

Despite a well laid-out store and very knowledgeable staff, the long wait made my visit to Vodafone a bit excruciating.

Andy from Orange and Laura at Phones 4U each demonstrated excellent customer service skills, but Joe at Carphone just topped the pile with his easygoing determination to find the best deal.

Winner profile

Name: Joseph Edwards
Age: 21
Job title: Sales consultant
Tenure: Three months
Best tariff: Any Flext tariff on T-Mobile. Theyre the best out there and offer great deals
Best handset: Samsung D900, its a very slim phone, easy to use and has an excellent camera
Sales ethos: To approach the customer as soon as they enter the shop and ask them all the questions they would expect of me
Hobbies: Football and socialising with friends