As I have said many times, I am not a fan of shopping unless it is for antiques in remote corners of the world, Duane Reade in New York, European hardware shops, farmers markets or clothes shopping in Marni.
I am fully aware of how pretenious that sentence made me sound – but you get my gist.
My absolute least favourite kind of shopping involves buying anything electrical or technical. Phone shops enrage me and buying any kind of domestic appliance has me groaning like a teenager and banging my head on hard surfaces when they start to explain the appliances capabilities and different options available.
Does it wash my clothes at 40 degrees, cook food on gas, make soup smooth or keep things cold are pretty much all I care about when choosing an appliance. Obviously it shouldn’t break or look completely hideous, but I really don’t want anything overly complicated that will make it difficult to use or require a detailed examination of an instruction manual – cos that is never going to happen. I also don’t want to take out an extended warranty thank you very much – if I have just spend hundreds of pounds on an appliance, I want the manufacturer to fix it or get me a new one if it breaks – I don’t see why I should be required to spend even more money to make it work.
Call me old fashioned but I don’t think I am asking for too much, am I? Uncomplicated products that work, at a reasonable price, along with excellent customer service are simple basic requirements for a pleasant and efficient shopping experience, whether you are buying shoes or a computer.
But here lies the difference. If you were spending over £1000 on a pair of shoes, you would be guaranteed a luxury shopping experience, whereas buying a new computer more akin to shopping in a supermarket – and I’m not talking Waitrose!
Buying from a luxury clothing brand makes one feel special at every stage of the experience. On arriving in the shop you are politely greeted by a shop assistant and asked if you need any help – they will then tend to your every need until you leave the shop with a pair of beautifully wrapped shoes/dress/handbag feeling like Madonna/Joan Collins. They create a luxury experience which makes you feel good about your purchase – this might be followed up with an email, a call to let you know about an up and coming sale, or an invite to a special customer evening – even if you have only ever bought one thing.
Contrast this with shopping in an electrical shop. Enter a large anonymous retail park, wander aimlessly around looking for the relevant section, only to be faced with fifteen different products that all look virtually the same. Search for an assistant and spot one helping a customer and three in a huddle chatting and completely ignoring every customer in the shop. When you do finally attract their attention they fall into two categories. The geek who bombards you with technical gobbledegook (even although you have told him you don’t want anything complicated) and the ‘cant’t be arsed/dont know anything would rather be at home with a KFC and Cash in the Attic.
When you do finally settle on the product you would like, nine times out of ten, guess what – it isn’t in stock. Here’s a thought PC World/Currys – don’t put it on display if you can’t actually sell it!!
Having had my computer stolen recently, I was given a voucher to buy a new computer in PC World/Currys (who knew they were the same thing – I do now!) I was required to make a trip to my least favourite local shopping destination Tottenham retail park. The name alone suggests a grim almost eastern european retail experience and while I am a fan of a US mall experience (you can’t beat a large out of town Walmart) TRP leaves a lot to be desired as a shopping destination.
I knew exactly what I wanted (an iMac) and how much I had to spend and despite there being one on display in both shops, there were none in stock anywhere in London. I had to get stroppy to get any kind of service whatsoever and ended up having to order online and will have to return to the shop at a later date to pick the computer up – customer service, I don’t think so!
The whole hideous experience got me thinking. Why is buying technology not seen as a luxury experience in the way that purchasing other high price items is? Why do I feel special when I buy an expensive pair of shoes, but annoyed when I try to buy a washing machine or laptop?
Which is precisely why Apple and John Lewis have got it completely right. They offer excellent customer service in a pleasant store environment and make customers feel good about shopping there. The products may be just the same but the experience is completely different. Which is why I will never ever be shopping at Tottenham Retail Park ever again.