My Problem With Ted’s Cameras, And The Retail Market In General
This was supposed to be a post about how to buy camera gear in Australia with a little anecdote about what happened last time I went into a camera store, but that anecdote turned into a HUGE rant (how does that keep happening?) so now it’s a post about how I hate stores. I will do that post about how to buy camera gear eventually, I promise! In the mean time, here’s this:
For those of you how don’t live in Australia, Ted’s is one of the biggest camera store chains in the country. Their logo looks like a cartoon version of Jason Lee from My Name Is Earl and that’s pretty much the only thing I like about them.
I went in the other day and told their sales assistant that I was tossing up between the Nikon D7000 and the Canon 7D and asked if I could hold them to see which felt better in my hand. Her reply? “Are you buying today? Because If you’re not buying today I can only let you hold one of them.” ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!?!? Not “only one at a time”, she really was only going to let me touch one of them and look at the other one behind glass. At what point do they stop being “sales assistants” and start just being “the person who takes my money”.
It’s not like I could have taken them and ran, there was at least 6 other staff members between me and the door which was a good 10 meters away. We were at the very back! The stores are always complaining about the internet stealing their business while one of the only advantages they are supposed to have (customer service) has gone right out the window.
I tried to ask them if this was their policy or just hers on their website using the “live chat” system they brag about on their “Why buy from Ted’s” list. It’s only three points long and they are weak points at best:
- “Helpful and expert staff” I don’t think so.
- “Phone, e-mail and live chat” I can get this from most other stores.
- “Support Mon-Fri, 8-6pm” again, I can get this from any other store.
I signed on at 5:54, was told I was number 1 in the que and it’ll be about 5 minutes…10 minutes later I was told all their operators had gone home. I understand that it was just about closing time, but if you’re not going to talk not me, don’t keep my hopes up, besides I thought the whole point of the live chat feature is so that you can get in touch after store hours. If they are only going to work 8-6 then why wouldn’t I just call them? If you want to read the whole one-sided conversation you can click the picture to the left. Many haven’t realized this but often when you click the images on my blog posts, they get bigger.
While I was having a blast reading all the ways they could think of to tell me I was still on hold I took their “what camera is right for me” quiz. “Your needs, your budget, our recommendation” Here’s what I found wrong with it:
- They asked me 4 questions, not one of them was about my budget.
- The first question was “what kind of camera do you want?”, I said DSLR, of the 11 cameras they recommended, only 2 of them were DSLR’s.
- The price range of the 11 cameras ranged from $109 to $3,200
Sadly service like this isn’t uncommon here. More than once have I gone into camera stores and been asked immediately if I’m going to be buying something. I assume that this is so they know what level of customer service to give me. It’s not just the big retailers either, gotten the same deal from the hole-in-the-wall little alleyway store as well!
At Myers I was given the “This is a great price and I’m the only one who can give it to you because I was granted special permission from the head of Myers.” Routine. No, really, he actually said that. Then he had to borrow a co-workers business card and wrote his name on it and told me the deal was only good for another 3 hours. True story. At Michael’s I was looking at the 50mm 1.4G lens, he “marked it down just for me” from $850 to $750 which is the average retail price in Australia and told me that was the best price I’d be able to find, I bought the lens a week later for $468 brand new. JB Hi-Fi isn’t that bad but good luck finding an employee who will be able to tell you anything about a camera other than what’s on the little display card. I went to a The Good Guys “special invitation only after-hours” sale and the prices were more expensive on sale than what they were before the sale. They weren’t even clever about it either, they still had the original price there, just under a piece of paper they had written the new price and drawn a whole bunch of exclamation points on. Apparently this is enough to blind some people. Then there is Dick Smith’s who’s slogan is “Talk to the techsperts” but I haven’t been into one since I went looking for a capacitor for the guitar I was building and nobody in the store knew what a capacitor did. Techsperts my ass.
All in all I have to say, yes times are tough, but there will always be people who want to buy things. When times are tough you need to make those people feel special and like they are getting a real deal. My dad owns a golf store and regularly throws free BBQ’s at the store and once even sold stock to a customer below cost. This might seem crazy but he’s the only golf store in the area that hasn’t gone under. A staff member at the All Phones in Carindale spent 30 minutes with my girlfriend and I answering a literal list of question we had, told us why we didn’t need to buy the more expensive plan we went there to buy and then didn’t even pressure us into buying despite working on commission. I took a stack of his business cards and told everyone I knew to buy from him.
My point is, OFFER US SOME GOD DAMN CUSTOMER SERVICE AUSTRALIAN CAMERA STORES!!!! Not just camera stores, it’s stores in general over here. Whenever we go into china town to shop it’s like a breath of fresh air. They say hello when we walk in, they compliment us, leave us alone unless it looks like we need some help and say goodbye when we leave. I know it’s fake and they probably don’t mean the compliments, but it’s nice that they care enough to fake it! I can still get American prices on camera gear here in Australia and so can you, I’ll tell you how in my next big post! Sorry for ranting all over your faces, but if you’ve had some terrible customer service before, let me know in the comments!