When Big Media Aren’t the Biggest

I’ve railed against bullying tactics of big companies before and over the last few months I’ve had cause to consider how companies ought to behave if they want to keep customers happy.

Positive responses from customers can lead to long-term payoffs, even if there is no short term gain. This seems like an obvious statement, but it doesn’t stay at the forefront of thought for many companies.

In July, my partner and I purchased a long-desired PVR/DVR device from The Good Guys Campbelltown. The unit we chose was the Bush Freeview 500gb HD BVR501FV. We had a gift voucher that covered part of the cost, and the total price of the unit was $270. It had all the features we wanted at a reasonable price. The salesperson at The Good Guys was ill-informed and just wanted to push the product out the door as quickly as possible. This should have been a warning.

Soon after purchase, problems with the unit became apparent. It froze, became unresponsive, lost connectivity to the electronic program guide, and either lost or failed recordings. As instructed on the box, we contacted Bush’s hotline and reported these issues, whereupon the operator suggested a few fixes – none of which resolved the issues in the long term. At one stage, he suggested that the Bush unit might have some trouble communicating with our Samsung television, which is laughable given Samsung is such a well-known brand.

After some months, Bush agreed to refund the unit and sent a shipping note to have it picked up by courier. I included a letter with the unit outlining all problems to that point and giving Bush 60 days (which I thought was generous) to give their response. They wrote a week later with a refund authorisation to take to The Good Guys, which, as the retailer, have responsibility for satisfying the customer in NSW.

My partner took the refund authorisation to The Good Guys, who would only offer a voucher, not a cash refund that must be available to the consumer at their discretion. I contacted Fair Trading NSW, who contacted The Good Guys on my behalf and had them agree to provide a refund. A few days later, for the fourth time, we visited The Good Guys to collect the refund, which was reluctantly provided, and was only forthcoming when Fair Trading was mentioned.

A little while later, we decided to look for a new DVR, starting with Dick Smith Bowral. The young salesperson there was upfront about the limitations of some fo the products and very knowledgeable on the features of all the units in the store, despite admitting it wasn’t his regular store. We were very pleased with the service, and to top it off, the salesperson offered a fact sheet on the product we liked best (a Panasonic DMR-PWT520GL). This product includes a twin-tuner with a lot of memory and a Blu-ray player. At Dick Smith, the price was quoted as $496.

We went around the corner to Bing Lee to compare products and prices, despite settling on the Panasonic. There, we came across an older salesman who was similarly knowledgable and upfront. I said that the features in the Panasonic were our starting point. He looked up that unit, asked what Dick Smith’s price was, and promptly beat it by $60. We purchased the unit and left the store very pleased with both Dick Smith (even though they didn’t get our cash) and Bing Lee.

The behaviour, knowledge and attitude of the staff at Bush and The Good Guys can’t possibly compare to the approach taken by the staff at Dick Smith and Bing Lee. I even gave the Good Guys an opportunity to address the issue through their national customer service centre after I had gone to Fair Trading but before Fair Trading had responded. If they had the decency to deal with it even then, they would have salvaged my opinion of their business. As it stands, I felt pushed around and bullied by everyone from the franchisee (who was there when the refund was finally processed) to the salesperson at the Good Guys and at Bush. They tried to buck pass several times, despite NSW consumer laws being very clear on the type of response needed in this situation. In contrast, the staff at Bing Lee and Dick Smith were both courteous, forthright and helpful.