There is much in the news about how the High Street will struggle to recover from the pandemic and that shopping will switch to online. That may or may not be true and much will depend on location. Oxford street for example will likely continue to flourish.
I have had two recent examples that suggest that neither model is beyond reproach and some high street experiences have nothing to do with the pandemic and more to do owners taking the public for granted.
I have long been less than enamoured with WH Smith but had a recent experience that surpassed all others in terms of how bad it was. Their branch in Lichfield is quite a large one. I went in their 3 weeks ago to get the latest edition of Record Collector magazine. As is usual with this store there was no-none on the counter and the gentleman in front of me had to use the only one of three electronic checkout tills that was working. It asked him to wait for assistance but there was no-one to be seen. He remarked to me that ‘he could just walk out with this stuff” I called out ‘hello, anyone here?’. This middle aged shop assistant from the back of the store replied that she was coming. She quickly resolved his issue and sorted him out and then went to serve me. I remarked that she was under pressure and that should be more than one person in the shop. She told me she was at her wits end and was visibly shaking and close to tears. If it wasnt for social distancing I would have hugged her. I left the shop angry with WH Smith that they can treat their staff so shabbily and no doubt for minimum wage.
Then I ordered a washer dryer from Curry’s. The delivery day came and the driver after not turning up said he had called at our house and there was no-one in. Not true as we were in all day. Itried to re-arrange online but you have to speak to a robot who only understands basic questions. I then managed to speak to a real human who it would appear only understood the same number of questions as the robot. I asked to speak to a manager and she said she would put me through. This next part is unbelievable but I swear is true: after waiting 5 minutes or more the assistant came back on the line and said the manager didn’t want to speak to me. I abruptly cancelled the order and went to AO who were superb. They got the same washer dryer delivered and fitted within 48 hours. There was a fault with it and within 2 days the had sent a repair man out ot fix it and credit the installation cost even though the fault was a blockage in the waste pipe caused by a button.
So it is clear whether online or high street retailers have a responsibility to deliver a product a consumer wants and to make the experience pleasurable. Curry’s and WH Smith didn’t do that. AO got it right in spade loads.