I’ve just been jilted at the start of a new love affair. No, not that
type of affair, silly: I’m talking about a new-found assignation with
the computer. Until now, I’ve enjoyed an uncomplicated life, where the
electric kettle has represented the summit of my technological prowess.
No longer. The odd tantrum apart, I’ve just about mastered even e-mail
on my laptop. And so, I ventured to unload some dosh on buying a
What a disaster! Why is the PC industry so useless at marketing?
Wouldn’t you think a dollars 30bn Euro market, barely profitable, would
hone such skills? Not so, it seems. Here’s a tale that demonstrates how
rigid marketing structures imprison staff, strangle common sense - and
In short, here’s how my crush on computers ended in acrimony at the
portals of PC World superstore, by whose advertising I’d been seduced.
Price with service was the proposition, with availability implied. Like
hell. Here’s the story:
QB: ‘I’d like that sexy Acer P120 at pounds 1899 please.’
Them: ‘No stocks. I can order it, but I’ll need the money in advance’
QB: ‘Advance? You don’t trust your customers?’
I let it pass. But there’s more. Preferring to pay on Ringneck - a
private firm I’d just formed as a vehicle for my broadcast and speaking
work - proved my mistake. I was now segmented into a ‘business’, not
‘personal’ prospect. There was to be no escape from a journey through
the system from hell.
I made a second boob. Not having anticipated ‘advance’ payment, I didn’t
have the Ringneck chequebook upon my person, so I elected to pay
But when tomorrow came, they’d ‘lost my order’. My salesman was ‘not on
shift today’. No central records existed to retrieve it. So, at great
inconvenience, I travelled again to Guildford.
Here’s where I rediscovered my affinity with the Anglo-Saxon language.
Because when I came to pay, having explained I’d collect the machine on
my return from Tuscany in two weeks’ time, their systems decreed that
they were unable to ‘underwrite’ my cheque. Why? Because Ringneck ‘has
no trading record’; hardly surprising for a new company.
‘What?’ I exploded,’ You mean you won’t take my cheque, even though
you’ve got two weeks to clear it, long before I collect the goods after
It’s true. Their systems simply wouldn’t allow it. Would a corner shop,
staffed by humans, countenance such folly? No way. But big, systems-led
PC World has proved that even today production-oriented marketing is
alive and well, at the expense of consumer flexibility and people focus.
They succeeded in four things. They lost my temper. They lost my
respect. They lost their reputation. And they lost a sale. Similar
nightmares? Write to me via Marketing. A bottle of champagne for the
best of the worst.
Quentin Bell is chairman of The Quentin Bell Organisation