Why You Should Rather Buy On The Interblags

So you want to buy something – for the sake of this argument let’s say you want to buy an adaptor for your phone so that you can plug in any earphones you want. You know the product you’re looking for exists, you may have even seen it physically or on the Interblag somewhere, and you decided on not buying it on the Interblag for whatever reason (lack of credit card, delivery time, shipping costs – whatever, I don’t care). The obvious next step is to either phone a bunch of unhelpful people or to go to your local mall and look for it in the myriad of shops littering the place. Here are some reasons why it would have been a better idea to just buy it online.

Crowds. I hate crowds, even in virtual environments. When I go somewhere, I want to get there as fast as possible so that I can enjoy that somewhere for the full time that I have available for it, and crowds inevitably slow you down to a point where it would be faster to get there via glacier. People in crowds talk too loudly about things that no one else cares about, but have to hear about anyway, and they always stand too close to you, invading that personal bubble to such an extent that you want to get out your emergency zombie-apocalypse spade and beat them away from you. A hint for those loud-mouthed, slow-moving, space-invading cretins: Pretend that it is the zombie apocalypse and get out of my way in a prompt “I-don’t-want-to-have-my-brains-eaten” manner. Thanks.

Shop assistants. Now that you have navigated the mire, you get inside a shop that potentially has the product you are looking for and are almost instantly jumped on by two or more “assistants” – people that are supposed to know their industry and the products it produces to some degree and should be able to help you find what you are looking for. Except most of them can’t. You ask them for the product you’re looking for (earphone adaptor), even showing them what you want (show input port and required output port) and then they come back and try to sell you something that you aren’t looking for, like a data cable. I can’t put my 3.5mm earphones in a USB data cable, can I? It doesn’t seem like these “assistants” really care about the products they’re peddling or, in fact, their jobs as a whole. If you don’t like what you’re doing, why not rather find something you do like doing?

Availability. You’re through the swamp and you’ve managed to explain to the assistant what it is you’re looking for (an activity that probably took longer than just looking for it yourself), now comes the part where (a) they tell you the product doesn’t exist (I’ve had this before and I actually found what I was looking for ten minutes later – by myself) or (b) they tell you that they don’t have what you’re looking for. (a) The product does exist, they just don’t know what you’re talking about and (b) they probably do have it, they just don’t know what you’re talking about. In either case, if you don’t want to help me find what I’m looking for then I’m not going to help pay for your salary.

Now, it’s at this point that you want to cry bloody murder and run home to your precious computer and just do what you know can be done. BidOrBuy, Kalahari, hell Gumtree would be fine at this point. I went to three (3) shops at very different parts in the mall and in each case I had to navigate crowds and shop assistants and hear about the availability crises. It was after the third attempt that I shook my head and silently walked past the clustering zombie-food to my computer. Ten minutes later I had ordered what I was looking for and played a good game of Alien Swarm.

If this is the best that our retail industry has to offer then I’m going to try my best to avoid it at all costs. I can get books and CD’s from Amazon and Kalahari for comparable, if not cheaper, prices. Tech-related stuff is generally available from some or other vendor on BidOrBuy and if I felt the need I’m pretty sure I could get my groceries delivered from Woolworths.

I realise that I alone won’t get much done. A sharply worded comment on Hellopeter might effect a short-term change, but the only way for a long-term solution is to hit them where it hurts – their wallets. I’ve cast my vote.

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About HawkiesZA

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4 Responses to Why You Should Rather Buy On The Interblags

  1. Cleric says:

    Well I agree. The knowledge the assistants have in the shop itself scares me. Why would anyone hire someone and not train them to be helpful in the shop? An assistant that can’t assist you, is not an assistant at all. That person then just serves as a person to be there when a customer walks in, then he/she calls the manager or someone else that knows more than the assistant… FAIL.

    But then again, that’s not always the case with me. I am surprised by some shops that greets me with a smile and asks me how they can assist me. And then also when they can’t, they notify me where I can go to get what I’m looking for, or they tell me about a good deal somewhere else… Funny actually, because why would someone loose their client and point them somewhere else? If it was me, the best business deal would be to tell the client that you don’t have it right now, but you would get it for him/her (the client) and impress them with your service at least.

    What I’ve done mostly when it comes to finding what I’m looking for on the net, is to then phone the closest branch, and ask them if they have what I’m looking for that I saw on their site, and if they do, ask them to keep it for me. Then it’s less hassle when I get there. But avoiding to drive there and dodge all the “zombies” (as HawkiesZA put it 😛 ) then using and online ordering site that delivers, are your best bet 😉

    • HawkiesZA says:

      I am surprised by some shops that greets me with a smile and asks me how they can assist me. And then also when they can’t, they notify me where I can go to get what I’m looking for, or they tell me about a good deal somewhere else…

      Surprise is the word. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had friendly and helpful service from an assistant. Either of the two would be quite refreshing at this point.

      What I’ve done mostly when it comes to finding what I’m looking for on the net, is to then phone the closest branch, and ask them if they have what I’m looking for that I saw on their site, and if they do, ask them to keep it for me.

      First off, I don’t know of many shops that actually have decent websites. They give you all sorts of meaningless adds and eye-melting popups, but actually finding what you’re looking for is a mission. As for calling shops to try and find out…I’ve had some truly tragic experiences there, ranging from no one ever getting back to me to me having to phone multiple times just to settle one order because of sales-people that “forget”. It’s really sad that I’ve received better and faster service from overseas companies (CardKingdom and Amazon jump to mind) than from any local retail store where I get to talk to a real person.

  2. I’m a fan of buying online. I too believe the South African retail channels fall short in terms of availability and price.

    Unfortunately online retailers are still part of the South African retail channel.

    Some of them are pretty good, such as Prophecy (the only one I can really vouch for). Every other online retailer I’ve used have either let me down in some way (Take2, eXpansys), or I pre-emptively called to do a stock check to make 100% sure I wouldn’t be waiting 2 months (or more) for an item (EasyGIS).

    In general, however, my experiences with Take2 and EasyGIS have been positive. I’ve only had books delayed from Take2 and received one that had been severely damaged before being shipped to me, which was replaced. I have heard about people having more time-sensitive stuff (like tech) delayed due to incorrect stock reporting from Take2.

    Prophecy’s policy is that the stock levels and price shown on the site are authoritative, but if some mistake has crept in they will refund you.

    Availability through online channels in South Africa when it comes to PC components also isn’t that great. Even Prophecy which has a huge selection of PC components often doesn’t have stock of certain components and then can’t say when the suppliers will get new stock (obviously).

    So on top of certain retailers failing, the suppliers supplying both the brick-and-mortar retailers as well as the “e-tailers” also suck.

    eXpansys pulled out all stops to ruin my shopping experience today, however. eXpansys sells some of their own rebranded gear. In my case, I wanted an eXpansys car cradle for my HTC Desire. The site said they had 1-5 units remaining, so I ordered, provided my credit card info, and checked that I received a confirmation mail.

    Four or so hours later they send a canned mail letting me know that the thing will take 4-6 weeks to get here because it’s on back order from Hong Kong. I even went back to their site after that to check if they’ve updated their stock levels and the cradle was still listed as “10 days availability, 1-5 units.”

    At least when you walk into a shop you can be sure they’ll have stock of whatever you see for sale.

    • HawkiesZA says:

      Unfortunately online retailers are still part of the South African retail channel.

      Maybe a little, but what I like is that word-of-mouth advertising is the bread and butter for these guys. They don’t have a store-front for someone to quickly pop in and have a look around and come back later. There’s no place to go for the desperate Joe Soap looking for something in his regular mall. Yes, they have a website, but I am willing to admit that even with almost-affordable Interblags many people are still unfamiliar with and not at all acquainted with the wonders thereof.

      Sad story there about eXpansys. I have an order with them as well, so we’ll see how that goes.

      At least when you walk into a shop you can be sure they’ll have stock of whatever you see for sale.

      But what you see might not be what you actually want.

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