/ Shopping

Shop flaw knowledge isn’t up to standard

Woman looking at TVs in shop

We expect shop staff to know what they’re talking about when advising us on what technology to buy, but our research reveals that this isn’t always the case. Are you getting good advice before you part with your money?

I’m not a technology expert – I have my colleagues at Which? for that! Before this research, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what a Full HD TV was.

So if I was out shopping for a flash new TV I’d want to know I was getting the right information. And it’s not just me – one third of Which? members we surveyed told us they look to shop staff for advice on electrical goods.

Poor advice in Britain’s biggest shops

So our recent research into how much shop staff know about the products they’re selling is disappointing reading. Of over 150 visits we made with a simple enquiry about either buying a HD TV or a recommendation for recording digital telly, almost a third were rated as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ by our experts.

This is worrying. I’m not sure I’d spot if someone was telling me complete rubbish about technology, or even if they were getting it half wrong. Which leaves me wondering: are Britain’s shoppers naïve to put all their faith in staff?

Among our nuggets of bad knowledge were not knowing how much recorded TV a digital TV recorder could store (answer: halve the number of gigabytes and that’s roughly what you’ll get in hours). Some also confused the difference between HD Ready and Full HD (answer: only Full HD will give you the optimum quality if you’re watching Blu-ray).

And then there’s the cables. According to loads of assistants we asked, we absolutely had to have expensive HDMI cables to watch stuff on our HD TV. You do need HDMI cables if you’re watching Blu-rays, but even then, we’ve found a £10 cable will do a great job – one shop assistant looked to sell us one for five times that much. Another was claiming the ‘need’ for surge protection – highly exaggerated, and certainly not worth the £70 proposed.

Which shop is top?

It’s fair to say that across all the chains we looked at – Comet, Currys, John Lewis and Richer Sounds – plus a host of independents, visits were hit and miss. John Lewis fared the best, with Richer Sounds not far behind. On the other side of the coin, we couldn’t rate one visit to Comet or Currys as excellent. You can watch our undercover filming in the following video:

So really, shops should be looking at training their staff better. Customer service would be improved, and let’s not forget that old saying: with knowledge, comes power.

Comments
Guest
Anne says:
25 January 2011

Actually, the difference between HD-ready and full-HD is that HD-ready can be any HD spec up to 1080i (interlaced). Only 1080p (progressive scan) is ‘full HD’ but most people can’t tell the difference and most full-HD TVs are too big for the average living room. So you still didn’t know…

Guest

Hi Anne, I’ve always found the term ‘HD Ready’ to be quite jargony – but yes High Definition starts at 720p. And all 720p TVs (or as manufacturers like to call them ‘HD Ready) can do 1080i as you say.

As for Full HD, yes you’re right it’s 1080p (1920 by 1080 lines) and on a smaller TV (say 32”) you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. But as you approach the 40” mark it’s quite obvious that the quality is higher, so I’d say Sarah’s description is quite right since Blu-ray’s are optimally viewed at 1080p.

Also, a few years ago you would have been right about 1080p only being available in bigger TVs, but now you can find much smaller TVs supporting that resolution – however, I don’t particularly see the point in a 1080p 26” TV.

Guest
Anne says:
26 January 2011

Sarah’s description is right, but over-simplified, as I think you agree – though you’ve spent half your post painstakingly explaining what I already said, so I can’t quite tell!

Guest
Damn Young says:
30 July 2011

I see the point. I looked at some today. a 16″ widescreen TV claimed to consume 20Watts of power, and could be 12V battery operated.

Guest

Hmmm….

I never bother to ask shop assistants except if they have a particular model in stock – I always do the research myself.

I have never seen the point of large TVs – they get in the way – even if hung on the wall I far sooner have a decent painting instead. I have several. My main Living room TV is 19″ – my main computer screen is 22″ as I often want to open two programs at once effectively side by side – and still easily see text or graphics. I have never ever wanted a larger Main TV than the one I have,

Guest
David says:
26 January 2011

Last time I checked the companies mentioned are all PLC’s with share holders not charities with bottomless pockets.
The staff are on Minimum wage, not paid commission.
If your readers are met by umm’s and arhs maybe they should walk away or just ask for someone to else help.
I have worked in the past in one of these stores, and have a HND, RSA and A level in photography, this makes me very good with cameras, and I happen to have good knowledge of PC’s, but if your were to ask me about a washing machine I wouldn’t have a clue!
Lets see how every one reacts if the retailers stopped paying Dividends, gave staff weekends off, every bank holiday and a fortnight off for Christmas then see what state the country gets in to then! and employed university degree holding staff, your £99 PVR would soon cost £300!
If you want expert advice go to a specialist not a mass retailer.

Guest

Recently went shopping for an LCD TV with full hd. Comet were quite knowledgeable and hepful, but in Currys I was told I should buy insurance as new TV’s only last 3 or 4 years, the same as modern cars. Currys will not get my business.

I brushed up on TV’s with my Which mags and their website so was well prepared !!

Guest
Damn Young says:
30 July 2011

That’s rubbish, TVs are more reliable now than ever. Look inside one, and you just see a few large chips. They are low voltage and low current compared to antique TVs.

Guest
Anne says:
27 January 2011

I’ve watched the filming now and I have severe issues with some of the insinuations you make, especially that “a bog-standard SCART will do”. Odd statement from people who also think 1080p matters.

Guest

HI Anne – a Scart for a fiver will absolutely suffice, there’s no point paying more than that. What you should avoid are Scarts for a couple of quid – they’re more likely to lack extra screening and be prone to interference. So ‘bog standard’ probably the wrong turn of phrase to describe a five quid scart when you can actually pay less – I’ll hold my hands up to that!

As for 1080p – get a scr