When I first walked into this store, situated in a square courtyard between two separate shopping centres, I was impressed. It was large, and seemed to be set out very well. However, on closer inspection, I noticed that there were a lot of dummies missing and it was quite dirty.
When I was finally approached by a young man in a suit, I explained that I was looking for a sporty phone. He took a moment to think, and then he sighed. He grabbed a brochure and pointed to the Nokia 5500. That was it – no explanation, just silence. He had to be prompted about what price plans were available to speak at all.
Then, when I asked if I could see the handset, he disappeared into the back, and then popped his head around the stockroom door and simply said: Sorry we havent got it in, we have a delivery tomorrow, come back then.
I was quite shocked that, first, he shouted this across the shop and that, second, he didnt even bother to find out whether something else might have interested me. Needless to say, I walked out.
Phones 4U enjoyed the most prominent place on the high street of all the stores that we mystery shopped in Wigan. However, its location wasnt taken best advantage of. The windows were plain, each with a single banner advertising the stores sale and offers.
Inside there wasnt a very good atmosphere. I waited a long time to be approached and had time to notice that there were a lot of dummy handsets missing.
When I was finally served and seated, it became apparent that Phones 4U staff were only interested in selling me the most popular phone (Sony Ericsson K800i) on a Vodafone tariff (probably because of its exclusive deal with Vodafone), whatever my protestations.
When the assistant thought he wasnt going to get a sale there and then, he suddenly acted like he couldnt be bothered. When I asked if I could see the handsets that he thought might be appropriate for my sporty fella, he just waved his arm at a couple of dummies on the wall.
He lacked enthusiasm, was pretty miserable and didnt try to establish a rapport with me at all. So I left, vowing never to return.
5th Phones 4U
This Vodafone store was really tucked away from the high street and passing trade, and, in light of its performance, it was probably the best place for it.
A couple were at the counter when I entered the store – and not a sales assistant in sight. A couple of minutes later, a grumpy-looking sales assistant appeared and stood behind the counter talking to the couple about handset availability. Apparently, the store didnt have the one they were looking for.
Minutes later, quite a queue had formed. Mr Grumpy hollered for his helper, who had been in the back room looking at page three of The Sun, according to Mr Grumpy. This was not the most professional excuse I have ever heard, but could quite possibly be true.
When I told him I was looking for a phone for my sporty fella, he immediately drew my attention to the Sony Ericsson K800i. He said it would be good as its a boys phone. It was also the one he had in his pocket and he duly got it out to show me how it worked. He had a photo of his hamster as his screensaver, which was nice. Nevertheless, it was clear he knew how the phone worked and he provided a fair demo.
When it came to tariff options, I was unimpressed. The chart on the wall had a lot of correction fluid on it and was quite confusing. From it, I had to pick a tariff and bundled extras – anything from minutes, text messages, mobile TV or Vodafones Stop the Clock offer. I chose the basic £30 tariff, which consisted of 200 voice minutes and 100 texts, and then selected the bundled extras.
The theory behind Vodafones tariff strategy is fine – to get a package that is tailored to your usage patterns. But, if you are not phone-savvy and your sales assistant is slow and unhelpful, it is a method that can potentially end in tears. Perhaps Vodafone should simplify its tariffs. They certainly confused me.
Quite apart from that, it was hardly a fantastic performance from Mr Grumpy and his colleagues.
The staff were unprofessional, lacked lustre and, quite apart from my money, did not deserve another minute of my time.
This Carphone Warehouse store was on the corner of a Tudor-style shopping arcade. Inside, it was a really attractive shop – a clean and crisp-looking space, quite in contrast to the usual sparkly set up in Carphone stores at this time of year. I liked it.
There were two members of staff, and I was approached as soon as one was free. The sales assistant who served me seemed excitable and enthusiastic. His outgoing personality seemed perfect for sales. If he was, at times, a little pushy, he was also persuasive.
I told him I was after a durable and sporty phone for my boyfriend. We browsed some of the dummy handsets at the display and he talked through the features of a couple of different models. He encouraged me to touch them even though they werent turned on, by taking them off the stand and thrusting them into my hand. It was a technique I found a little curious, but I assume it worked for him.
Then he sat me down and talked me through a couple of tariffs that he thought be appropriate, highlighting the pros and cons of each. T-Mobiles Flext 35 package would be best suited to me, he suggested. He outlined the different ways I could use the £180 worth of credit that my beau would have at his disposal each month. On each of the different tariffs he showed me, I would get £60 cash back in my bank straight away too.
He pointed out that the cashback aspect made the offers more tempting because I would get cash in my hand to spend on whatever I wanted – so phone for fella, shoes for me.
My assistant also got some live handsets out for me so I could see them in working order. He asked what I thought about the deal and I said I would think about it.
He really didnt want me to leave, however. He wanted to do a credit check for me before I walked out – a good salesman.
However, when he got the phones out to show me he seemed to have completely forgotten what I was looking for. He got out the Samsung D900, which has got to be one of the least sporty looking phones on the market.
I could have hung around this particular Superdrug concession all day. It was busy, but had a fun atmosphere.
What I noticed was that the staff were not the usual phone retailer breed of young lads in their 20s with acne. The two staff that I spoke to were in their 40s, mature and down to earth.
The guy who approached me listened intently to what I was saying, and then took me to the phones. Although none was distinctly linked to sports, he completely sold me on the N73.
This store was at a distinct advantage over the other stores I had visited in Wigan because all the phones on display were working and switched on. They were accessible too – you could easily browse the interface and connect to the Internet.
The assistant who served me talked through all the menu options, and he was also really well-briefed on the networks X-Series add-ons. I liked the fact that he showed me how I could download programs that dont come as standard, such as the TomTom satnav systems.
After he had completely captured my attention and talked through all the aspects of the handsets, including 3G video calling (I mention this because a lot of sales advisers actually forget to mention the advantages of 3G) he passed me on to Monica, who asked some questions about handset usage. From this she suggested the most suitable tariff for my boyfriends needs.
She then wrote it down on a pre-prepared sheet, which I thought was a professional touch, and also threw in some added extras that werent offered to me anywhere else. She said that if my text usage was high I would be better going on a new tariff called the Direct Texter 1400. Costing £35 a month, it offered eight months half-price line rental plus 50 picture messages and 50 video calling minutes.
To cap it all, she threw in a 512MB memory card, a phone case and a Bluetooth headset.
Any other time I would have signed up there and then, which is a little worrying as I was looking for a sporty handset for my bloke. But very good selling you guys.
This small shop was quite busy when I walked in. As I stood browsing the handsets on display, I noticed some pretty cool music was playing in the background that added to the chilled atmosphere in the store.
Daniel approached me, smiled and asked if he could help. I told him my mission to find a sporty blokes phone. He asked me a couple more questions to make sure he knew exactly what I was looking for and then pointed me towards the Nokia 5500.
He explained the features on the phone and talked me through the tariff options available and their advantages. He advised that I should go on the Dolphin 35 tariff, as I would get 500 minutes and unlimited texts plus access to the networks Magic Number service.
He also told me that if I brought in an old phone before the new year, I would get £100 credit on my account.
I was impressed at the speed with which he produced a working version of the phone. He was also really patient with me while I played with it. Then he demonstrated some of its features.
Daniel also said that my boyfriend could easily keep his existing number – all he had to do was ring up Orange customer services, obtain a PAC code and the rest would take care of itself.
Of course, as anyone who has really attempted to keep their existing telephone number knows, that can be easier said than done.
Daniel is also one of the very few Orange sales assistants I have encountered who attempted to explain Oranges animal tariffs. Well done, that man. There was one problem with Daniels efforts, though. While he clearly knew his stuff, he never once pushed me to hand over my hard-earned cash. And thats the point of sales, right?
It was very clear from this excursion that by far the most popular handset on the market is the Sony Ericsson K800i. It is also clear that there isnt a huge array of sporty handsets on the market, so sales staff tend to advise customers to go for the most popular models.
Still, well done to 3 for attempting, at least, to explain the unique selling points of 3G technology. Well done, too, to Orange for its patience and chilled-out approach. It was appreciated amid the hustle and bustle of the January sales.