A cautionary gadget retail tale

A sky full of lightning

On the weekend I bought myself a new computer. I knew exactly what I wanted. The computer I wanted was one I’ve had for review, and one that I have used in my past two day jobs.

So I marched in, told them what I wanted, and haggled over getting a slightly more highly-specced machine, i.e. more RAM. Deal done, good price, great machine. You’d think that all that would happen is the completion of the transaction, and the content customer heading home to set-up the machine and load some long-saved software.

But no. There was another step. First there was the seemingly innocent question about the usage of the computer. The retail salesperson then began a gently escalating lecture about the need for a surge protection power board. Now I have three or four of just such a powerboard, courtesy of having received them for review over the past few years. I simply said that I was OK, and didn’t need one.

Then retail salesperson number two, having been nearby for a little while, stepped in. He mentioned how many computers they’ve had returned over the years that had been damaged by a power surge. He asked me if I had a surge protection board. I replied, “Yes”, after which he enquired if the one I had was one that offered an insurance policy. What I should have done, was played along with all of this, to see what expensive chunk of accessory they were going to try and pad the sale with. But I had other things on my mind and simply wanted to buy my computer and leave.

Now a surge protection board is a handy thing to have. Things can go wrong, and they can help protect devices. In some areas of the country power surges are indeed an issue. Having said that, in my use of computers in work situations over the last 16 years, none have had surge protection, and I’ve never had a power-related problem.

My problem isn’t what the salespeople were pushing, but how they pushed it. One salesperson upselling something unnecessary, or something too expensive for the situation, is bad enough, but being subjected to double-team scare tactics – that made me angry. In a similar situation last year a relative of mine was bullied into buying a $125 HDMI cable for what was an entry-level Blu-ray player. Really expensive, and really unnecessary.

So if you are venturing into the world of retail consumer tech, I advise you:

  • Research, research, research. Search reputable tech websites, read reviews, find forums and ask questions. Ideally walk into a store knowing what you want, and why. Identify the myths, know the facts.
  • If having done your research, and a new “fact” is used in the sales pitch, one that you didn’t uncover in your research, walk away. Don’t be pressured. The item, or something similar, will still be there later, and bargains, deals and haggles will always be there.
  • Remember, for the most part, retail salespeople are not tech experts. If they are expert anything, it is being expert salespeople.
There ends the rant. Have you found yourself in a similar pressured situation? How did you handle it? Comments welcome below.
Image via Flickr. Photographer: Raymond Shobe, 2010.