THIS WEEK: A love byte that caused a severe pain in the neck

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.

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

desktop.



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

lose business.



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

tomorrow.



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

holiday?’.



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