Tuesday: The meejah tart returns

Tuesday 24/06/2006Aunty's on the blower, wondering if I'd do an interview with Radio 5 Live about Dixons. Actually, what they want is for me to go into a shop, act dumb and see what sort of service transpires when I ask about buying a computer.

Tuesday 24/06/2006
Aunty's on the blower, wondering if I'd do an interview with Radio 5 Live about Dixons. Actually, what they want is for me to go into a shop, act dumb and see what sort of service transpires when I ask about buying a computer. Well, OK. I'm not a very good journalist like that -- I don't like being devious, even if it's perfectly possible to pull the trick off without actually telling porkies. But the feeling in the office before I pop off to Holborn is that the BBC is a bit anti-Dixons, and that it may be something of a set-up. I know what they mean, and it makes me even more uncomfortable. Not that Dixons doesn't deserve critical scrutiny: I feel its approach to extended guarantees borders on the fraudulent, and my experience talking to ex-Dixonites makes me suspect it's not the most enlightened of employers. It's also commercially very aggressive: whether you're a supplier, a customer or a competitor -- I've been involved with all three groups -- you will be regarded as rightful prey first and foremost. As for its near-monopoly on high street electrical retailing... But. Dixons is not alone. I've had far worse service in Maplins, the electronic mail order business that's now expanding into the high street retail gap left by the departing Tandy's, and you get hit on for five-year extended warranties almost everywhere. There are good independents, and one good chain -- Richer Sounds, whom I warmly recommend at every chance -- but Dixons is the norm, just more so. You might not know that when you listen to the BBC with its consumerist hat on. In this case, I think it went OK. I wandered into Dixons on High Holborn, looked at computers as if I'd never seen one before, and up popped Tom. He was a more mature employee, shall we say, and someone who had clearly spent many years in the trade. He knew what he was talking about, and only occasionally erred on the side of enthusiasm over fact. Still gave me the heavy sell on a stupendously over-priced extended warranty, so I was able to give the reporter from the Beeb a balanced account of things.

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