/ 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.

Damn Young says:
30 July 2011

It is hit and miss, but it is always pleasing to get good service in a shop. Low paid staff in my local small ASDA do try hard to help customers. I also saw a polish shelf stacker there practicing speed-shelfstacking. I’ve had good and bad service in all the electrical stores. You can’t rely on them being knowledgeable, so research your purchases on the web first.