Friday, March 30, 2007

Stale Choices and Lousy Service

They don't do no good
They never be workin'
When they oughta should
They waste your time
They're wastin' mine
California's got the most of them
Boy, they got a host of them
--- Frank Zappa (Flakes from Sheik Yerbouti, 1979)
Shopping isn't easy. I'm looking for a new computer and am having trouble deciding. Last time, I opted for portability with a 4 pound notebook with a 12" screen. This time, I'm looking for a desktop replacement. That means a larger screen and a powerful video card. There's only so much you can research online. So I visited retailers.

Office Depot
There were several choices. I quickly saw that HP has notebooks that look sleek and slim in black. I couldn't figure out the prices, though. The tags above and below didn't match the machines. Also, the equipment was months old and relatively slow. There was no one there to answer questions, which was fine because I didn't have any.

Dell Kiosk
This is where I got my last notebook. While waiting for one of the two sales reps to become free, I looked at the machines. I was surprised. The 17" unit looked bulky and had been discontinued months ago. Only one notebook had the new Windows Vista, which Dell recommends. I got tired of waiting and left.

Best Buy
There were so many choices here. Maybe two dozen. Two reps were standing around but couldn't be bothered to help. So I went to one and said I was interested in a 15"-17" notebook with a discrete video card. He said there were only two, showed me --- both were off --- and left! Just as well. He was clueless. Most notebooks costing $1,500 or more have the video performance I wanted. I saw several computers there that fit my criteria. Again, these machines were relatively expensive for what they offered. I left.

Future Shop
There weren't many choices, which made looking easier. No one was available to help either. The white Sony notebook looked cheap and had a soft scratch prone cover. Toshiba was decent, but they took shortcuts by making their keyboards bilingual. Having red French lettering added clutter. Manufacturers usually make language-specific computers. So does Toshiba with their pricey Qosimo and business lines.

Onward to the last stop.

Staples
The reps at Staples are usually responsive but the three I saw were more interested in talking to one another than helping customers. It didn't matter. The selection was limited and stale.

Conclusions
I've had good service at most of these stores before. But not this time. There are challenges in providing a consistent high quality experience

As far as a notebook, HP looks nicest and Dell offer the most performance. I couldn't decide on style vs substance. Intel is launching the new Centrino Pro, possibly in early May. Maybe that's why most of the computers on display look old. I guess I'll wait and make another round of visits :(

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