Thursday, March 23, 2006


HDTV Salesmen

I am sure this applies to car, stereo, etc. salesmen. Too many working the floors of our consumer electronic palaces have no idea what they are talking about. From a feature called Tuning Fork at my favorite gadget blog, Gizmodo.

I began thinking about this because earlier this week, I had some time to kill and wandered into a major consumer electronics retailer. BTW, if you want to set the vultures to hovering, go into one of these places in the middle of the afternoon. There must’ve been 10 salesmen and me—not exactly a comfortable ratio. Fortunately, I have the old, “No thanks, I’m just looking” routine down pat.

Well this particular day, I walked up to a wall of CRTs to check out the prices for widescreen sets and was approached by an older gentleman. We discussed the relative merits of CRTs over other forms of HDTV and he actually seemed to know what he was talking about. But once our conversation ended, I couldn’t shake him. The guy followed me wherever I went. Every time I turned around—in the flat panel section on the other side of the showroom or in the room filled with projection sets—he was there, creepy and, it seemed, desperate for a sale.

But at least this guy knew what he was talking about. Once, when HDTV was in its infancy, I overheard a salesman at a rather large retailer telling customers they would have to buy a set-top box that would cost them several hundred dollars to actually see HDTV on their new set. He never bothered to ask who their cable provider was or whether they had the option of HD via satellite. I waited till he left and told them to make a few calls before they bought the box—or his BS.

One of the nice things about Gizmodo is that commenters must be invited so that you will get more some intelligent responses. From the comments section:

Here is my case in point. I recently had a TV shoot sparks and it was time to buy a new small one. I am a big fan of the latest and greatest but for TV I really have to go with a flat CRT. I will not get into how there are pretty much no small CRT HD or HD ready TVs out there (I mean smaller than 27-30 inches). I did a lot of online research and found the TV that fit all my criteria: price, size, picture, quality (but unfortunately no HD). I found a local big box retailer that had it in stock, shockingly, at a great I sucked it up and went to get the TV. Upon arriving I went straight to the section where the TV should have been but it was no where to be found. Then came the dreaded salesmen, he was so lame he tried to start the "sale" with a magic trick followed by the awkward introductions. I let him know that I had come for a particular TV and just needed to be pointed in the right direction. Next thing I knew another of the vultures had swooped in to split my wife and I, so they could try and sell her on some 50" plasma that was on "special" that week. The trouble is that the TV we needed was for a corner of our bedroom and our HD investment was already in our living room, no matter the up-sell began. My ham of a salesmen agreed to take me directly to the TV I wanted, but decided to take the long way through everything but what I wanted…all the while pointing out how I could do so much better for myself. After a few minutes I made it clear that I was hear for one reason and if he wasn't going to help then I would just find it myself. At that he directed me to a rather hidden corner of the store with a nice selection of quality TVs at great prices, never meant to be seen by customers. Once he saw what I was there to buy he decided to try and sell me on a smaller LCD that was sort of 720P for 5 times the price, I laughed at him and asked for a cart or dolly to get my TV of choice to the checkout…he refused and said that this POS store brand LCD was the only thing he could sell me in good conscience. I found my own dolly and loaded it up myself to track down my wife and buy this TV before I went postal. My wife is a smart cookie and knows a ton about TVs, home theater, and tech in general so she let the other sales guy think he was going to sell her a TV and theater system in the ballpark of a KIA minivan. This guy was already mentally spending the commission money that he didn't work on, to try and help the guy that had lead me all over the store was there to make it a tag team effort. When I let her know that I was ready and that I was headed to checkout she decided to drop the ruse and just walk away. I must admit this was the first time I had a salesmen follow me to the checkout begging for a sale, even telling my wife that she shouldn't let me buy a little TV when she deserved a full THX theater for the bedroom.

And they wonder why people shop online. When they advertise a knowledgeable sales staff I wonder what knowledge they have, that I want.

I know that Bill O likes tormenting car salesmen by wasting their time. Old friend Dave D first told me about this. The salesmen want to keep you at the dealership for a long time hoping that you will think you have invested too much time to leave empty handed. However, at some point the salesman has wasted so much time with you that they want to make the sale. You have taken them away from other targets. Salesmen will be unfailingly polite, you will never hear them say, "Get lost, you have wasted enough of my time."

Of course, this doesn't work with consumer electronics. Too bad. I guess I will have to wait on the Westy 42" LCD. But my birthday is coming up, hmmmm. (Available at Best Buy for $2,500.00.)


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