Advantages Website easy to Navigate, some prices heavily discounted from store price
Disadvantages Didnt deliver as promised, little weekend back up support for complaints
What a palava. You cannot believe how difficult it has been for me to buy a new Vacuum Cleaner. My old one, which has been faithful until now has decided it no longer wants to pick up the muck and I dutifully did the electrical store rounds two weekends ago and decided on a Dyson DC07 Animal…Grrrrr! We were almost ready to buy it from Currys when we enquired about web prices and the store manager advised it was nearly £50 cheaper via the web, a fact that he was not too happy about, as he just lost a sale to the same organisation. Fifty pounds off a £280 cleaner is not to be sniffed at, so we headed home and decided to order on line. Fantastic.Firstly I found the cleaner on 24-7 electrical.co.uk, at £219 plus postage. I placed an order, they swiped my debit card, and acknowledged everything then emailed me six hours later to say because of credit card theft in postcodes beginning with KA the Senior Management team said they could not meet my order! They had my piggin' money! Amazing - KA covers half the West of Scotland... I live beyond the back of bourke and getting an internet connection is hard enough, never mind one long enough to commit fraud on!!! Five days later they refunded the money to my bank account, and I was free to try again with someone else. Wonderful.
So looking at the banners on Ciao, I went for Co-op electrical.co.uk. Again an attractive price, but their website went down three times when I tried to confirm the order and I gave up in frustration. Meanwhile the crumbs on my carpet are getting deeper by the second. Stuff it, I will go to Comet. (Thank god, she's got to the point, they say).www.comet.co.uk
There are four categories of goods which can be purchased on line. These are Kitchen and Home, Entertainment, Phones and Faxes and PC Zone. Underneath each category, the major appliances are listed, and a sub menu appears as you roll over the items, so it is very quick and easy to find what you want.When you select an appliance and sub category (e.g. Vacuum Cleaners - Upright) you will then be presented with a new page of items. Typically at the top you will find some more bargains and then half way down the page you will be presented with a search facility. Much to my delight my Animal was for sale at the £230 (same as Currys of course) but it did have a free delivery option, so it went straight into my basket.
The product specific page will tell you how many items in total are available to view, and you can view them all. Alternatively, you may want to filter out some of the options be adding in information like budget restrictions, desired brand names etc.The list of products that you are presented with can be sorted by make and model, or by price for easier browsing. You may also select up to four models at a time, and then compare the features of each. Although I had already made my decision in the store this is a neat feature of the website, particularly with these Dyson's as they are a complicated thing let me tell you, with all their gadgets and gizmos.
In the interests of research, I tried this search facility on Washing Machines. Initially there were nearly 100 washing machines, and as I restricted my choices by detailing things like budget, spin speed, colour and so on, the list went down to a total of 1 machine. This was a Bosch A Grade wash and one I would have definitely considered. I also tried a Fridge search, and the filtering and comparison tables do make decision making easier, although one missing filter I would have expected would be a fridge's energy efficiency rating.The website also has a Store Location finder. You can search by your postcode, by a London Street or by a town or city. You will be presented with the nearest store and the distance from your home (if applicable) and a street map showing the exact location. Regretably none of the store's telephone numbers are listed, however if you call the customer services number (and can get through) they will put you through to the store, if you still manage to get lost en route.
I never realised this before today, but the website has a kind of EBAYesq auction side to it. If you click on Auction at the top, you will be taken to a new site, very kindly in a new window. You may enter your postcode, and you will be presented with a list of product categories where there are current auctions. I clicked through a few of these and found that many items highest bid was about half the retail price. Some were ex-demo, some were returns, and some were refurbished returns. There was a PC base unit (HP) with a current highest bid of £1 which was worth nearer £500 for example. All auction items have a deadline date and time.
Other sections of note include a detailed "Contact Us" page, where you will find telephone numbers, fax numbers, snail mail addresses and on line forms which can be used to contact the organisation. You will also find a Services Page, which sets out their values and strategies with regards to Price competitiveness, after sales service, delivery, and product range.Placing an Order
There are three options for delivery. "Free" delivery for my product was available if I took delivery on a weekday. Delivery could be any time between 7am and 6pm. Additionally, you could upgrade to a guaranteed morning delivery, week-day for £6.95, or a Saturday delivery, any time for £9.95. You are able to see at a glance what dates for delivery are available, and I must say I was impressed that I ordered on Thursday and was able to secure a Saturday slot, for which I was willing to pay the additional tenner.There are conflicting time differences between what the website and the contact centre computer voice say are delivery times however. The contact centre says a morning delivery is between 8am and 1pm, whereas the website states 7am to 12pm. This anomaly might not sound like much, but it is when you have plans.
Payment can be made by all the usual suspects - American Express, Delta, Switch, Visa, Mastercard and Comet Timecard. I don't know much about the latter, but my guess it is one of these extortionate store cards which charge 29% per annum and is probably best avoided. Why is this rip off still happening when the smarter borrowers among us have figured out you can get credit for between 0% and 5% quite easily I will never know.Sounds easy so far, so what happens next?
Well it would appear that although you have placed the order, some final checks have to be done by the Web Support team. You will get an immediate standard email telling you they will confirm for certainty your order within the next 24 hours. I guess this is the caveat for goods being out of stock and delivery drivers coming down with the lurgy. In reality, it took 6 hrs and 5 minutes for Comet to confirm my order would be going ahead as planned, and they sent me the following pleasant note.
Dear Mrs Helen Bradshaw,
We have successfully processed your order and would like to confirm that the product will be delivered on: Saturday 02/08/2003, 7am - 6pm.You will receive a copy of your purchase receipt in the post over the next few days.
Yours sincerelyComet Direct
Comet had an opportunity to save me as a customer. I bet they don't, do you? I think I will send them a link to this op...
After Sales Service
Unfortunately, on this occasion Comet has not lived up to my expectations. My postman delivered the aforementioned Sales Receipt this morning, and it struck me that (a) I had not been billed for the £9.95 Saturday delivery charge, and (b) in very small print at the bottom there was a note that seemed to suggest that all was not well in the stock control department and they did not have an ANIMAL for me after all. This is after I have been up since 7am sitting around waiting and wasting the day. So at 1pm I contacted the call centre, and I was advised my order had been put through for Tuesday 5th, i.e. three days late, no notification, mid week, and totally inconvenient for me. What's more despite spending 20 minutes on the phone I am no nearer a resolution other than they will make sure I get a morning delivery and will not charge me £6.95 for the privelige. I should hope not. There was no-one in authority at the Customer Service Centre to listen to my dissatisfaction, and nothing annoys me more as a customer when they appear to have a management team that doesn't appear to care. I also tried to call the local store manager to see if they would do the reasonable thing and provide me with my cleaner today from their stock at the same price, but no joy there either. It seems comet front line staff are not empowered to help customers, the process dictates to the customer not the other way around. So I have sent off an email, and I have requested that the manager calls me on Monday. She said she could log a complaint, but actually suggested I would have to call in on Monday if I want a guarantee of speaking to the Manager. Is the tail wagging the dog here or what?
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