I’ve been scanning the shelves of the likes of Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and Dick Smith recently trying to find a decent, quality yet pocket friendly notebook.On the advice of several friends and technophiles I was told a Samsung would probably be my best bet.
HP and Dell were also other brands I contemplated from past user experience.
Ok, I thought that the brand(s) were pretty much clear in my head. Now, where do I buy it?
Having been searching for a Samsung notebook in-store for several weeks, it was to my surprise that some of the best deals I found were in a small, independent store in North Sydney, beating their larger rivals in the price stakes by miles.
The prices were among the most competitive I had seen, with HP’s Mini 210-1051VU starting at $269 and a Samsung N150 at a very tempting $349.
The same Samsung model was $498 in JB Hi Fi – almost $150 of a price jump. Harvey’s didn’t stock an equivalent model.
Bing Lee’s online price for the Samsung was $429, but said it was negotiable.
However, whilst browsing in any of these stores, I was never once approached by a member of staff asking if I needed help, which is hardly encouraging, especially considering that personal experience is one of the main pros of in-house shopping.
In JB Hi-Fi I had to ask the security guard where the laptops were kept and in the past have found staff, at best, indifferent to its customers.
To see what else was on offer, I turned to my PC and found, on price comparison site shopbot.com.au, the same Samsung went from $447 to $510 depending on the store – almost $100 more than the same model offered from a bricks and mortar retailer.
This also didn’t include delivery charges of about $10 on top of the sale price.
Similarly, the exact same HP Mini laptop was offered with an online starting price of $299 and $339 – $30 more than my local computer shop.
This quick test proves that in spite of the common perception that online offers better deals and choice, for my netbook purchase this definitely was far from the case.
However, stores that are lamenting the demise of their sales figures due to online competition should keep one important thing in mind – their service offering and the guarantee of after-sales care are two of their main strengths over online.
Some vendors themselves, including Sony, are already working towards providing more customer information, which could very well bridge the huge information gap between online and in-store, that so many customers now find themselves stranded in.
“In recent months several retailers have realised that there has to be a lot more education on the shop floor. We know that Harvey Norman is one retailer who is looking at better ways to service clients” says Toshiba’s Rob Wilkinson, General Manager of Australia’s Information Systems Division.
They should now be using these to the max.