Donald MacInnes: My wasted hours in the retail deserts of Dixons-Carphone


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People assume, because my writing appears in a quality national newspaper (and its slick website), that I must be held accountable for my opinions. Even if those opinions were only ever meant to provide light relief from the news, people still take me far too seriously.

Like last week, when I had a go at Santander's ad campaign featuring a panting Jessica Ennis-Hill, I did that because I class big businesses as being fair game. If I slag off the Acme Domestic Toaster Conglomerate, I'm not having a go at anyone who works for them on the shop-floor. It's the suits I hate.

Thus warned, allow me to aim my big water pistol of scorn at Dixons-Carphone, which owns Dixons, PC World and Carphone Warehouse. The group this week announced that it had had a "roller-coaster" Christmas period. I take it by "roller-coaster" they mean that their festive trading was a bit up and down, not that people would spend five minutes screaming inside their stores, before staggering out, green-faced, to deposit some half-digested mince pies and satsumas in the rose bushes decorating the retail park.

For the sake of those people who rely on a wage from Dixons-Carphone, I certainly hope things improve in the coming year. But, if I view the situation minus the impact on its staff, I can't really say I am too surprised that the group's trading has been hit and miss. Despite the fact that selling electrical gadgets and mobile phones is as close to a licence to print money as you can get nowadays, Dixons-Carphone stores manage to screw things up. This is because they treat customers with a level of disdain not seen in this country since Margaret Thatcher had to engage in her first one-to-one conversation with a sweaty northern union leader.

Dixons, PC World and Carphone Warehouse, you see, represent three of the worst retail experiences of my life. I have written in these pages before about PC World and how inept they are at, well, selling computers. Carphone Warehouse, too, plumbs the depths of bad customer focus, having provided the location of the loss of several hours of my life that I am never getting back again, while their counter staff ummed and ahhed their way through a transaction, without A) ever actually making eye contact and B) ever actually interrupting their phone call with Dean, who they are meeting later for a proper tear-up, yeah?

Finally we come to Dixons, truly the Antarctic of customer service; with each of its stores approaching retail through the prism of genuine apathy and managing the unique feat of employing up to 14 salespeople, without ever insisting that any of them show up for work. I once stood in the middle of a Dixons' sales floor and shouted: "Excuse me! Can I please buy a sodding telly?!" Nothing. Crickets chirped.

If you see one of your customers similarly pleading for trade, don't be surprised if your sales returns are a little … roller-coastery.

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