Elizabeth Street: What the punters think

April 7, 2010: Online consumer IT forum Whirlpool (www.whirlpool.net.au) has been hosting a robust online critique of customer service along the Elizabeth St, Melbourne photo retailing precinct over the past two weeks.

The Whirlpool website started life years ago to scrutinise Telstra Big Pond and other ISPs, and has expanded into a collection of technology forums for consumers. It has an active photography area.

Forum contributors typically compare notes, seek and offer advice, and share experiences as consumers of technology products and services.

The Elizabeth St forum started with a complaint about salepeople behaving badly at the JB Discount Camera Centre, and rapidly mushroomed into a debate about the merits and culture of the competing retailers on the Elizabeth St strip.

In the process, JBs came in for a bit of a mauling – with the occasional favourable comment – and other retailers in the precinct area were also mentioned in despatches – both warmly and sometimes with hostility.

The thread of around 100 messages contains some invaluable insights into what tech-savvy younger consumers think about the current state of digital imaging retailing from both specialist and general CE retailers.

Here’s a selection of some of the more interesting observations:

– ‘I go to Teds. They will match any price from JB with better service.’

– ‘I only shop at specialist stores. They’re in a position to offer valuable and often expert advice, they value me more as a customer and, at the particular one I shop, they’re ALWAYS cheaper than the JBs and HNs. I’d still consciously choose to shop at the specialist store even if it was the same or slightly more expensive because the experience is so much more pleasant.’

– ‘I went into JB and told them I can buy lenses from Ebay or internet stores much cheaper. I told them the price I can get and they offered me a price close to. I saved at least $300 off 2 lenses. I reckon they only made $20 off each sale – if even.’

– ‘If the staff member is being rude just ask out aloud if there are any staff members in the store who would like to make a commission.’

– ‘When I was buying the Nikon kit, I got more hostile response from Camera House, than anyone else. The point was that I was haggling to the death (I was putting a lot of $$ down, I wanted to save as much as I could) with all of them…The best behaved out of the lot was that corner place across from Camera House, run by some Asian folks. They’ll offer killer price with a smile. When I haggled even more, the guy happily got online with me to the store I had in mind, and then called them, to confirm that they were indeed grey importers, and that’s why he wouldn’t do it.’

– ‘…I am like you, I do my research prior to going into a shop and don’t like wasting their time. But if they are rude, I walk out. There are a couple of guys that have called me a time waster in the TV part of JB’s. The thing is, I probably know more about their stock than they do…’

– ‘Michael’s Camera House (sic!) can be OK, too, most of the time- but sometimes they can be a bit snooty if you look like you’re not buying anything.’

– ‘In the end, however, you should also note that all these stores, I believe, make the bulk of their profit out of P&S cameras, with DSLR stock there more to project validation. So if you walk up to someone with DSLR questions, they know it’s far more likely that it’s a waste of their time than not.’

To access the forum, click here. And while you are there, you might also find the forum on grey marketing equally illuminating!


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