A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Hooptedoodle #230 - Donkey Award - John Lewis' Technology Dept

Oh no - here we go again.

Since my old Windows netbook is no longer supported, I have purchased a Samsung tablet to take on my travels, so I should be reachable (assuming I have wi-fi). I'm pleased with the tablet - only snag at the moment is that I am having some fiddly problems with email - if I send an email from the device, everything gets into the right folders on my email server, so that I can see it on my phone and on my iMac, but the actual wording in the mails sent from the tablet gets repeated for some reason I am trying to work out. 

If you get an email from me which seems to say the same thing twice, then it will be from my tablet. 

If you get an email from me which seems to say the same thing twice, then it will be from my tablet. You get the idea.

Buying the tablet was a refreshing exercise - I had a fair idea what I was looking for, so went into John Lewis' Edinburgh store early yesterday, since I was on my way to Claymore in Granton. It is very clear that old guys with white hair and tweed sports jackets are either invisible or don't fit some marketing profile which features in whatever training they give the staff these days. I was there about 9:05am, and by about 9:15 I was ready to be helped to buy something.

Bizarre. Every time I approached a member of sales staff, they would avoid eye contact and move into a conversation with a colleague. This happened a few times - I was beginning to wonder if I should try jumping up and down, or singing Old Man River while standing on top of the TV display. Eventually, after about another 10 minutes,  I got someone from another department to persuade one of the sales people to condescend to speak to me. Very young chap appeared, with skin-tight trousers and rather unusual hair. Not bloody interested. Also, to be frank, didn't know very much - probably knew little more than I did, but managed to retain his cosmic cool throughout. Eventually he was pleased to get me a Samsung tablet from stock, selected a generic hard-shell case for the device for me, then handed me off without a further word to a colleague at a check-out till. This colleague wasn't interested either, but at least he made some businesslike noises - he gave me the wrong information about guarantee details, processed the sale and - presumably - returned to chat with his mates.

I left feeling oddly depressed - this dismal experience cost me a fair amount of money, of course, though I am pleased enough with the device. My feelings about the episode are not helped by the fact that the hard case recommended and supplied is the wrong one - it is specifically for an iPad of the same screen size, but the iPad has all its orifices in different places, of course. No matter - I shall return the case to Edinburgh for a full refund - when it suits me to do so - and I shall buy the correct case from someone else. Someone a little more professional.

The technology section in JL is tricky these days - they deploy various external specialists in logo-bearing sweaters (the Apple man, the Samsung man, the Sony man etc), but they may not be in attendance until later than my visit yesterday, and the other (generic?) JL sales staff seem to have less familiarity with the kit than they used to. This is all a pity - I have always liked the shop, and I have bought a lot of stuff from them over the years, including technology (my current iMac, and the computers of my wife and my son all came from there within the last couple of years). As a matter of principle, I would like to approve of JL and be a faithful customer, but they keep demonstrating that they don't care a great deal, and I keep promising myself I shall not go back.

Disappointing, really. 



  1. I'm committed to JL in principle too. And to be fair, they lived up to expectations in the past. But last year I had the sort of hands-off approach that I'd with other retailers ('not my dept guv') response to a delivery fandango that made me question my assumptions.

    I've noticed the creeping infiltration of external specialists too. I suppose it's lucky if you know what brand of box you want before you go in but you're probably not going to get a fair appraisal of different options from them if you don't.

    Anyway, in the future I suggest you attach a big bushy beard to your chin, wear skinny jeans and lace-up boots (but keep to your sports jacket). For added credibility carry a bag sporting the logo of a 'craft ale' (whatever that is) full of male grooming products.

    1. It's a pity, really - given the choice, I would rather shop somewhere I can speak to a knowledgeable salesman, in an organisation with a reputation to protect, and I'll even pay a few extra quid for the safeguard of having a physical address I can return the goods to if I have problems. That's my position; the store's position is not clear to me - given that we are looking into the jaws of another recession, that retail sales will probably not maintain their current levels, and since Amazon etc are progressively going to put concerns like Lewis' out of business, you would think they might put themselves out a bit more to please the customer.

      Once again, since i refuse to accept that the rest of the world can all be mad, I am forced to assume it must be me.

  2. JL has always been like that. Years ago we had a bed delivered. The first time it arrived it was just the wrong bed,nthe second time right bed, no slats to suppirt the base. Three goes to deliver a bed. Another delivery about four years ago a bed did not arrive on the promised day...we had moved that day and were going to sleep on it. Arrived next day after many phone calls. Turns out that despatch should never have agreed to the original date as all the delivery people were on a training coursethat day and could not have delivered it. Time after time JL have good products and friendly , non pushy staff but they are just not keen to sell you stuff. Found the same with Volkswagen dealer...they could sell all the cars they wanted so take it or leave it. These people do not understand selling as a profession, it is about helping people to buy the products your company sells. Had the same yesterday with car dealer. Looked at two cars with different engine options, asked salesman which was the favoured engine option with each car and was told that Xyz manufacturer would not make a car unless each engine was carefully optimised blah blah.... no use to me at all, I am not stupid enough to think the 1.8 is underpowered or the three litre is too heavy to steer properly. I just wanted to be advused that one model is most popular in one version, the other in another or even the same engine choice. So its not just JL, its that we appear to have moved from a society where you went in to Milletts and would not ge allowed to emerge without guying something to one in which the salesperson exists to let you do all the choosing whilst they just point you at a till.

    1. The watershed falling-out we had with JLP was 11 years ago when we got our house extensively altered. Part of this was a complete kitchen upgrade, and we bought the furniture and all the hardware from JLP - the kit was excellent quality, the prices were attractive, the design assistance was very good, but then they insisted on providing their own kitchen fitters. Since this was included in the price, and since it helps with the guarantee if the supplier cannot blame someone else's tradesmen for damage or mistakes, we went along with this.

      Nightmare. Lewis' "own fitter" was a subcontractor - self-employed, who was assisted by a mate who couldn't manage a screwdriver without scratching things and stripping threads. Also the pair of them were smoking weed on the job - they would arrive 2 hours late, complaining of breakdowns or bad traffic, and then they would loaf around, smoking and larking about. Things went so badly and got so far behind that I threw them off the site, and paid for my own tradesmen, who were doing the rest of the house refurb, to finish off the kitchen.

      I phoned and complained, and someone from JLP's kitchen department came to see the job - he apologised profusely for bad workmanship and inconvenience, and promised he would speak to his boss to get us a fair recompense. Alas, once he had spoken to his boss it was a different story - much closing of ranks, much changing of attitude. They hadn't actually promised they would do this or that, they had no proof that the faulty installation of the hob had not been carried out by my own tradesman, etc. We fiddled about for a month or so, then I threatened to get my lawyer involved, and we settled for £200 off their bill, which about covered the extra cost of the trades I provided. I promised I would never deal with them again, but you know how it is - you find yourself back there, looking at furniture, looking at clothes, looking at a new TV...

  3. As soon as you run into obstructive behaviour ask to speak to the next person up the chain. Retailers are very hierarchcal and the bosses view a complabt getting to them as a failure by the line manager concerned. Thus asking for the escalation route almost always brings a satisfactory resolution as the person you are dealing with does not want it going further. If you had. proof of the installers smoking weed then JL would be in a very weak position as, though they are contractors, the workmen are under JLs control. You don't have to prove tgat the faulty installation was not carried out by your workman, no court is going to believe that you would remove their contractor for whom you had paid , n order to get a worse job done. Also the junior had admitted fault, just tell JZl that you will happily put him on a witness stand under oath. Thing is ZJL are basically a decent company that sell good items so it doesn't suit them to get bad publicity. Going above the manager who argued would almost always get a good result. Their problem is like M&S , they have becone complacent.

    1. Roy - you are absolutely correct. Disincentive at the time was that I was trying to get the house finished in time for Xmas, and I was working with the architect, the joiner, the fireplace man, the electrician, the plasterer, the decorator, the carpet fitter, the landscaper and Building Control all at the same time. Oh - and I was getting a new LPG tank and a second septic tank installed. In the circumstances I settled for breaking even and having a finished kitchen!

  4. It all makes work for the woeking man to do
    Flanders and Swann

  5. Ha, late as usual!
    Can this be the same JLP we have locally? Actually, if you stretch the local bit, we have two and they're both excellent. We've had stuff from them as has my daughter and a couple of friends and other rellies, though nobody's gone for the big stuff, like a kitchen. I got a new laptop from them a couple of months ago and they were bob on. I knew what I wanted and was enthusiastically cross examined by a genuine John Lewiser who spent ages showing me alternative models and discussing their strengths and weaknesses. I left with a new bit of kit and a nice feeling that I'd got just what I wanted, though, thankfully, not necessarily what I deserved. It was the same story when I bought a camera a couple of years ago. And nery a sniff of a 'foreign' logo on any item of dress.
    We might be in a local 'bubble' and they're all trained to a different ethic? I dunno, maybe it's the calibre of local management? Nevertheless, I have a strange feeling that I've just cursed it.