It's not just Apple, retail is horrible for most products and brands!

Posted on August 10, 2005

This is a rant. I’m in a foul mood about what I’m going to expose next and I have to vent somewhere. So this is the place to do it. You may want to skip this post if you are having a nice day and want to keep it up.

Me and a few other people have already talked about the frightening experience people have while trying to buy Apple products in Portugal. Well, after my bout with the iMac and it’s hardware problems I tried to go down the Mac road once again and here I am again deep in the muddy path.

I’m not going to expound all the problems I’ve had while trying to get me a Mac mini, suffice it to say that I wanted it with just a memory upgrade and after 5 months of waiting and several interactions with the store I was trying to buy it from I still don’t have it. Now the new models came out with the amount of RAM I was looking for so I ditched my old order (which would even become more expensive!) and got a new order in another store. After putting the order in I sent an email asking for delivery estimates. Then another mail. And nothing came back as a reply. This was a week ago.

But then, this is only something that affects Apple and it’s retailers, right? And Apple is a very bad example and things like that don’t usually happen, right?

Well, wrong!

FNAC, a large international retail store chain is practically the reference store for consumer electronics in Portugal. It sells lots and lots, it even sells Apple products (and suffers from the same problems all other retailers do around here). But it also sells products from lots of other brands. Like Canon. A big brand, right?

Yes, Canon is a big, important brand, of which FNAC sells a lot of. So I went in there one day, as I was passed by and ordered (because they didn’t have it available on that particular store) two items, both from Canon: a battery pack for my camcorder and a cable release for my digital SLR camera. No problem, they said, we have it in some other store and we will get it here for you. So they took my data, took a note of my order and told me it would take, at most, 4 to 5 business days. OK, great, they’ll just call me when they have the stuff and I’ll come by and get it.

Yeah, right… As if!

Two weeks later I was passing by the same store and decided to check out what had happened to my order. So I explained the situation to a very helpful person who proceeded to take some 30 minutes looking in all the binders, trying to find my order (yes, FNAC keeps all it’s customer’s order in paper sheets in binders, with no tracking number of any kind. Welcome to the 21st century). He couldn’t find it. So he went to check out the items that were awaiting collection from the customers who has ordered them to see if my items where there. They weren’t.

There had obviously been some problem with my order; They had essentially lost it. So I made a new order for the same products, right there and then and the helpful and, by now, apologetic person told me he would definitely call me in two days (at most) with news about the order, even if only to say it wasn’t there yet.

It’s been another two weeks. No phone call.

Today I happened to have lunch with the usual suspects and, as luck would have it, we decided to have lunch near one of Canon’s importers which also happens to sell retail.

So I got my battery pack and I am now waiting for the cable release to arrive as they are out of stock. As for the Mac mini, who knows what I’ll have to go through to get one and which version I’ll end up getting…

Retail stores have a huge problem. I don’t know if they can’t cope with the tough economy or just don’t care about their customers or what the problem might actually be, but either way trying to get some decent service, let alone decent products, is a very frustrating exercise all around. Don’t these people want our money? I mean, come on, even a phone call or a simple email saying “we don’t have anything yet, please hold on” is better than nothing! Oh and getting repeated emails asking for information about delayed orders and not even deigning to reply really doesn’t go down well you know? It’s not even pampering your customers or trying to keep them happy, it’s basic human decency!

It’s just sad…