Stupid IT vendor tricks

Published by rudy Date posted on May 17, 2011

VISITING computer stores in this city reminds me a bit of David Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks—only the animals on the show are smarter than the sales clerks.

Over the weekend, I wanted to buy an adapter for my MacBook Air so that I could connect it to a large flatscreen TV using an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) cable. The technical specifications were fairly straightforward: I needed an adapter that would plug into the Mini DisplayPort on my MacBook on one end and give me an HDMI port on the other. This way, I could use a standard HDMI cable to connect my computer to the LCD TV and play movies saved on my hard disk to a much larger screen. There was one caveat: the adapter had to be able to send both audio and video signals through the HDMI cable because I didn’t want to mess with a separate connection for audio.

The logical first stop in my search was the Power Mac Center in Trinoma, where a friendly but clueless sales clerk offered me a Mini DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter instead. When I explained that this wasn’t what I wanted and told him exactly what I needed the device for, his face brightened and for a split second, I thought I was in business.

That’s when he pulled the old “out-of-stock” trick, one of the most common and irritating stupid vendor tricks in the book.

The out-of-stock trick is often accompanied by a faux look of sympathy, and sometimes followed by a comment on how fast-moving the item you want is. Don’t believe any of it.

This trick gives you the false impression that the sales clerk knows what he is talking about, and that it is just your bad luck they don’t have the item in stock. It disposes of you, the customer, quickly but gives you the false notion that someday, the item might be in stock.

Sometimes, the sales person seems eager to help and may point you to another store that might carry a similar product. You should view this as a blessing as most of them will simply brush you away with a dismissive “Wala na [We’re out]—out of stock” and move on to more important things like texting or chatting with another colleague in the store.

Another stupid vendor trick is to ask someone else in the store, presumably more knowledgable than the person you asked, if they know what you’re talking about. The person is invariably called “Ate (older sister)” or “Kuya (older brother),” which gives them a veneer of authority. This trick, also called passing the buck, rarely helps the customer, though. Usually, the person summoned appears to be busy with something else—or he will simply tell you the item you want is out of stock.

My search for the elusive adapter took me next to the cluster of computer stores in Trinoma. Some sales clerks just gave me quizzical looks and two more gave me the out-of-stock crock.

At the second store, Digital Walker, a woman seemed to know exactly what I was talking about but said with an air of certainty that they were all out. This disheartened me, because the store specializes not only in gadgets, but in gadgets for gadgets. If anyone might have the adapter, I thought, it would be them.

Fortunately, I did not take her word for it and nosed around the store myself. Sure enough, tucked away in one corner of the store were a bunch of Mac attachments, including the one I needed, a Kanex Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter with audio and video, which sold for P1,650. (Another one from Belkin handled only video, so it’s always important to read the fine print.) By not bothering to check before telling me the item was out of stock, the saleswoman almost deprived her employer of a sale and the customer the satisfaction of finding the item he needed. Why would she do that?

Another stupid vendor trick is to justify expensive products by stating their place of origin. The Anson’s store in Trinoma offered me an HDMI cable for a whopping P7,000. When I asked the sales clerk why it was so expensive, all he could say was that it was made in the United States. I later found a much cheaper cable, probably made in China, for P250.

The worst stupid vendor trick I stumbled upon, however, came from some of the smaller computer stores in the mall. Here, the sales clerks simply ignored me.

I’ve seen this happen time and again in computer shops everywhere in the city. A customer walks into a store and the sales personnel, who are usually in animated conversation with each other, all ignore him. Nobody asks if they can help; they don’t even deign to look at the customer squarely in the eye.

What kind of training do these people get? And what kind of supervision do they get from their employers? Is it really too much to ask for sales personnel who understand the products they sell, and who value customers rather than try to get them out of the store as fast as they can? Chin Wong, Manila Standard Today

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