Saturday, June 12, 2010

On buying an iPad...

Those outside the UK will probably never have heard the term 'Dixons' to describe a chain of electronics retailers - and sadly, never will, because the Dixons we all know and love has been rebranded to Whatever.

The important part is that the Dixons name lives on in airports up and down the country. The last time I was in one it was called Dixons Tax Free. As the name implied many of the goods were on offer sans the Value Added Tax we in Britain pay for mostly all goods. Sadly, it too has succumbed to rebranding and has now become Dixons Travel. I fear it has something to do with not quite offering the same VAT free prices.

Anyway, there was a slight saving to be made by purchasing an iPad in the airport, so I waited, oohhh, at least a week after the UK launch before making use of a handy business trip to facilitate said saving.

As soon as I got though security, I proceeded straight to the tech store, narrowly avoiding the bar.

There were at least four staff, all seemingly preoccupied with their own duties.

I hesitate. Unlike the Dixons at, say, Luton airport, the purpleshirted staff here were positively sanguine towards the new, easy prey that had just walked in.

They have an iPad on display. It is being probed by some bearded traveller with a backpack. (Readers please note: By this time, I have already spent some quality time with an iPad at Apple's Regent St store. With 500 other people.)

I've been the shop for quite a number of seconds with nary a glance from a member of staff, except from a bloke I initially think is security and therefore ignore. Later, I realise he's a blackshirt from another tech store located deeper within the bowels of the terminal's retail space.

To my right are the laptops, to my left the cameras. Ignoring both I head manfully to the back of the store hoping, on the way, to be accosted by an eager staffer. I reach my destination unmolested.

Here, there appears to be about 10 feet of rack space devoted entirely to iPod cases. I bloody hate iPod cases. Nevertheless I casually pretend to be interested in the hope of an approach of a member of staff. Imagine their surprise, I chortle to myself, when instead of a cheap(ish) iPod accessory, I ask if they have any iPads in stock!

The staff ignore me. They seem to be preoccupied by replenishing the already full shelves.

Slightly annoyed at the staffs' lack of attentiveness, I wander out of the store to check the departure board. I have 45 minutes.

I hesitate, still not utterly convinced of the financial realities of actually purchasing an iPad. It's a lot of wonga, my brain tells my heart.

The moment of doubt passes and I once again amble into the store.

You'd think that sales floor staff in electronics stores, especially ones located in airports, would be trained to look out for yo-yo doubters like myself and be ready to pounce at this obvious sign of weakness.

I begin to wonder if my loitering hasn't triggered some semi-sentient security system somewhere, and that an armed Tactical Response Team is on its way to take me down. I wait. Nothing happens. Now I start handling 'the goods', a tactic that never fails to draw purpleshirt attention.

Well, I say 'handling', but down to fear of setting off the hypersensitive alarms, it's more a stroking of expensive kit. For some reason, I'm looking at a Canon EOS 5DMkII with a serious looking lens. The lens too, has a little alarm umbilical that means I'm twice as likely to set the ruddy alarm off..

I put the camera down, gently, and reassuringly see an older member of staff near the iPod docks. I stroll over, confident that his obvious seniority will enable him to process my request with utmost efficiency. On my way, I'm momentarily distracted by an Alienware laptop, it's neon lit keyboard beckoning to be touched. Strong of will, I ignore these glittering temptations and proceed past the Toshibas.

To my bewilderment the senior sales chap has disappeared!

Unnerved by this development, I now pretend to be interested in iPod docks. Apart from that oversized rugby ball of tech, the B&W Zeppelin, they're all rubbish. Still no interest from the staff, whose numbers have dwindled to three. Surely, I think, there are rules governing the number of staff present in the store at any one time. I mean, what if a huddle of wealthy Japanese tourists were to shuffle in? They [the store] would be swamped, unable to cope... I dismiss the idea quickly - Japanese tourists are unlikely to bring back Japanese goods from Britain, to Japan. That'd be like me flying to Tokyo to buy a bottle of Glenfiddich.

Having worryingly lost track of time, I head back to the departure board. 35 minutes to go. Phew. I decide to ponder the purchase over lunch, and head to Pret for a Super Club and a cappuccino.

The coffee is hot. I mean really hot. 20 minutes later I'm quaffing back the last of the foamy goodness, and having possibly quite definitely made my mind up over the iPad, make my way back to the store.

There are 15 minutes until my flight is due to be called. As I double check the departure board to make sure I'm looking at the right flight, the banner changes to green. Goto Gate 88.

Sod it. I march into the store, right up to a sales assistant who is checking, on the computer, that the shelves are indeed full.

He is startled by my sudden appearance. I do not mince my words. "iPads," I say, "Got any in stock?"
"Uhh, yes." he replies, moving swiftly to where the demo unit is perched. He unlocks the undercounter storage. His cupboard of iPad boxes is full, save for the one he'd extracted for me. It looked a lot like a game of Tetris that was about to end.

At the till, I have a frisson of fear that my credit card will be rejected. It is not and I leave the store much poorer than when I entered.

I rush to the aforementioned Gate. Come my precious, I think to myself, bag in hand, let us board the winged stallion and travel to the Northern territories, for the ceremony known as the "Unboxing".

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