I have never shopped at PC World, because the electronics chain is in England and I am not. But I am a gadgety guy, and I shop in a lot of similar stores, and I know what it can be like. Techie nerds who work in techie stores sometimes display a kind of contempt for those of us who do not know as much as they do about things with a lot of initials, like ADSL, DRAM, BIOS and PMU. It’s all GIGO to me.
Here’s a real conversation I had in 1995, when I decided to try out this “Internet” thing and went to the storefront operation run by the only Internet Service Provider in town.
- Me: “I’d like to get the Internet running on my computer at home.”
- Sales Dork: “Great! Blah blah blah $16.99 a month for X amount of minutes, here’s the floppy disk that’ll install it all. Just put it in your PC and away you go!”
- Me: “I’m on Mac.”
- Sales Dork: “Oooh, Mac, yeah, I’m not sure if Macs can go on the Internet …”
- Sales Dork Supervisor: “Sure they can! I’ll take over from here. We can offer you the same Internet package as our PC users, sir.”
- Me: “Great!”
- Sales Dork Supervisor: “But we don’t have the setup software available. No problem, though. All you have to do is go to our FTP site and download it.”
- Me: “Uh, how do I get to the FTP site if I don’t have Internet access?”
- Sales Dork Supervisor: “Just go to the FTP site and download it.”
- Me: “Like I said, how would I do that? How would I go to the FTP site to get the software I need to go online if I can’t get online in the first place?”
- Sales Dork Supervisor, after a long pause: “I guess … uh … go to the FTP?”
Luckily, I had a friend who had a friend who could fix me up, and I was up and running. And going online with a Mac — in the days when you couldn’t cross-platform things like floppies, CD-ROMS, peripherals and even websites, in some cases — was no easy task. I spent years dealing with small-town computer sales dorks … by the time things stabilized, I had somehow ended up as a Windows user anyway. Go figure.
I had a point here. Oh, yeah: PC World morons in England have been caught using a Facebook group to insult their customers. This seems to fit with the way PC World staffers have been described in the past. “Our chain has been repeatedly criticized for poor service, and customers are leaving, and retail in general is suffering, and electronic retailing in particular is hurting, and jobs are being lost … let’s tell the people who keep trying to give us money that they’re annoying losers.”
Until today, the only things I know about PC World came from the occasional remark made by some of my British associates, who will often mention the chain as being particularly poor when it comes to decent service. Also, I used Google to learn more. Now, though, as I read about this Facebookery gone wrong, I have to shake my head. Again and again, people land here at Today’s Moron by forgetting that what they do online can actually be read by other people. For computer-industry “professionals” to make that mistake points to a bigger problem.
Here’s my solution for PC World: Don’t just hire the first dink who shows up. Screen your candidates. Train them. Treat them well. And make sure they know that they’re there to take that money from people who want to spend it. Pissing customers off is no way to save a business. Letting your staff get away with it makes them think they can keep doing it online.
Here’s my solution for PC World workers: Some customers will be assholes. They will be rude. They will not know what they want, or have a limited understanding of what they’re asking for. You will not like this. Too bad. They’re there to give you money, and you should do whatever they want.
Here’s my solution for customers: If you get even the slightest taste of bad service, walk away. I’ve done it. It works. Just this week, I spent 15 minutes in line at the pharmacy while the one cashier on duty dawdled. I was running late, and couldn’t wait any longer, so I turned, left my purchases on a vacant checkout, and walked out. A manager chased me down, opened a till, processed my purchase and treated me like gold. That’s class.
I’ll bet you he didn’t complain about me on Facebook afterwards, either.