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Our mystery shopper visited retailers to look for a VoIP phone, testing store staff knowledge on features, benefits, wired and wireless availability, compatibility with ISPs, product range and retailer perception.

Mystery Shopper: Watford Pt2

Currys

This store was busy in comparison with the others I went to, and I could see that it was going to take a while to get some help.

To try and kill time I wandered around the shop in the search for my VoIP handset. This was one of the Currys ‘Winning New Revenues’ stores, with lots of manufacturer branding, plenty products on display – just not the ones I wanted – and demo-ready products. The fixtures were low enough to allow the whole store to be scanned in one go, but yet no VOIP handsets were visible.

I grabbed the attention of a passing salesman who stopped and told me that the store didn’t stock any VOIP handsets. He suggested it might be worth trying the PC World store a few doors down instead. I left without getting any further information.
Score: 5/10

Maplin

After a thorough browse around this store there didn’t seem to be any VOIP phones. I asked a passing salesman who walked me back to the front of the store where the stock was hidden on a shelf behind the till. There were three brands: a small Nikkai A72FF (£14.99), an unbranded handset (£8.99), and the CyberPhone W (£29.99).

I was told the differences between them were size, the lack of a keypad on the unbranded handset and styling – something only the CyberPhone seemed to have. I was recommended the CyberPhone due to "its traditional feel." Compatibility didn’t seem to be an issue – I was told that they would work on all VOIP services.

The salesman quoted the most commonlyused applications as examples – Skype and MSN. He explained that cost savings could be gained if ringing from Skype to Skype, as it’s free. They also offer discounted call rates to other telephony providers, he added.

The range was fairly small, but the information informative and succinct. Just before leaving the assistant told me he used a headset for Skype which could be another option. However, he didn’t offer any more detail beyond this.
Score: 8/10

Staples

Prior to visiting stores I had looked at a number of websites, Staples being one of them. There were three VoIP handsets shown on the site, but in-store there was no sign of these models anywhere. I asked at the print desk for help, only to be told they were no longer stocked in-store.

Having spotted the same 3 Skypephone I had been so impressed with in the 3 store, I asked the salesman to give me some information on this version. I got a blank look and was passed onto another sales assistant, who again was unaware of the product, leaving me to show him where it was.

Stood in front of the 3 Skypephone, priced £59.99 on Prepay, he was still unsure about the product. In fairness, he admitted this to me rather than bluffing it and took me through the features from the information on the shelf and those listed on the box. Skype on the move, free Skype-to-Skype calls and cheap internationals calls were the key features highlighted.

When asked to explain Skype, his confidence grew, using personal experience to get his points across. He told me his girlfriend uses it to speak to her parents in Poland.
Score: 6/10

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