Recently I was on the hunt for a new television, well, in fact, it was for my father who isn't very tech savvy and doesn't really know what to look for when it comes to specs and features.
Rather than scour the Internet, I thought it was best to visit an electronics store locally and see the products in the flesh. Plus, I would also be able to take the product home straightaway rather than wait for delivery from an Internet store.
Since there isn't a great selection of out-of-town stores in my region of the UK, Currys/PC World was the best option. So next step was to take a trip to to my local Currys/PC World, which in fact is a very nice modern store with a good number of staff on hand to help (or bug) you.
Currys/PC World don't have the widest selection of TVs for sale, as they usually deal with stock which they buy in bulk and get special deals from the manufacturer. Despite that, there was a good number of TVs in various different formats and screen sizes. However, my father was after a full HDTV, preferably between 45 and 48 inches in size, and on that particular day Currys/PC World didn't have a single TV in that size range in stock.
There was, however, a Panasonic HDTV in the right size range with a big "Clearance" sign on it. The TV fitted all the criteria when it came to the size, specification and price. If I remember right, the TV had been reduced from around £600 to £450 which sounded great. I'm always a bit sceptical when big companies slap a sale or clearance sign on their stock, claiming its hundreds of pounds cheaper, but most electronic products such as TVs usually do have a very high retail price when 1st released, and then drastically come down in price when it becomes an outgoing model about to be replaced by a new model, as in this case.
So it was time to ask a Currys/PC World staff member if that model was in stock. After a quick check in the stockroom, he came back and said no, unfortunately it's gone and no more models will be coming in. However, you can buy this display model for the same price.
I thought hmmm, I'm not keen on a display model as I have no idea how long it's been on the store floor or whether it had any damage. I quickly asked him whether there was any negotiations when it came to the price as technically the TV was second-hand. He quickly and bluntly said no. There was no indication he was going to ask his manager, or any other member of staff, whether a slightly reduced deal could be done.
So I told him I'd have a quick think about it and come back to him. After a quick inspection of the TV, I noticed a scratch on the frame of the TV. It was nothing major, but I thought I'm not paying full price for a television that clearly has damage. I pointed out this damage to him, and he contacted his manager/supervisor, but rather than offer me a deal there and then they attempted to remove the scratch was some wipes, but it didn't budge as it was clearly a scratch engraved into the metal frame.
The female manager/supervisor practically said nothing and as far as she was concerned the TV still had to go for that so-called "clearance price" despite it obviously being damaged. In fact, this is when the BS started flying as the salesman I was dealing with suddenly claimed that the "clearance" price was a super special offer that apply to this TV because it was the only one left in the store, despite him less than 10 minutes ago checking whether any others were in stock.
The "clearance" sign in no way indicates that they only have one ex-display model left. In fact, there was a 4K 55 inch LG TV that Currys/PC World were actively promoting as "clearance" stock of which they had at least 10 at the front entrance, at the present time. If they were selling off a single ex-display model, then it should have clearly been labelled as so, but it wasn't. The clearance sign simply indicates that they have a limited amount of units and it probably won't be back in stock, as it's been replaced by a newer model.
Anyway, I wasn't going to buy a damaged display model for the full asking price, so I asked him to check whether any local stores had them in stock. He disappeared for a very short period and returned and told me that they only had a display model that had previously been returned by a customer with some minor damage (i.e. scrapes). Personally, I don't think he contacted the next local store and he was clearly indicating to me, don't go there and please by this TV and let me have my commission.
Since the next local Currys/PC World is only 15 or 20 minutes away, I decided to pay it a visit. This Currys/PC World, I must say was very dark and dingy and had a complete lack of staff, which was a surprise as they usually circle around you like piranhas as soon as you start looking at their products.
After a quick browse, I found the same TV, which also had the "clearance" sign on it. After a 5 minute wait, since there was literally no staff, I finally found a salesman and asked him whether this product was in stock. He had a quick look in the stockroom and said no. Okay, no surprises there. He then said, just like the other store you can buy this model for the listed price.
Just as I did before, I asked him whether the price could be negotiated since it was a display model. Unsurprisingly, he said no. I hadn't told him that I had been to a previous Currys/PC World store and that they had allegedly contacted this one, so I asked a few simple questions such as how long had the TV been there. He basically said, no more than 6 or 8 weeks and it was in excellent condition.
I then told him that the store I had just visited 30 minutes earlier had contacted this one and was told this particular TV had previously been returned by a customer and had minor damage. Let's just say he had no adequate response and literally didn't know whether the TV had been returned or not.
I then asked him about the warranty and accessories, et cetera. He told me that it would still be covered by a 12 month manufacturers warranty, but it was my responsibility to get out my magnifying glass and check for any physical damage before the product left the store. If I found any obvious damage once I got it home, then it was basically my problem, not theirs.
He then also told me that there was no box or instructions for the product, though he tried to play down the lack of instructions by claiming they could be found through the TV's menu system. When it came to the accessories, such as the 3-D glasses, he told me that these had probably been discarded with the packaging and they would have to find some adequate replacements.
Let's just say, by now, the idea of buying an ex-display model had truly gone down the drain, especially when they wouldn't even knock off a measly 50 quid off a TV that clearly had physical damage and lacked its original accessories and box.
As you can probably guess I didn't buy that TV from Currys/PC World, and after several days of reflecting the service and conflicting information I got from Currys/PC World salespeople, I'm really glad I didn't.
The problem with ex-display models is you just don't know how long they've been there. They could have been there literally one-week or 12 months. And a lot of products like TVs are not behind glass screens, which means that people can touch and poke them with their greasy hands. Things like TVs are also turned on, 1st thing in the morning and turned off late in the evening, which means wear and tear on their components. Oh yeah, and there's also the TV remote, which will probably be dropped a few times by both customers and Currys/PC World staff.
If Currys/PC World ex-display models are being sold off at unbeatable (not clearance) prices, then I would definitely consider buying one, providing it was in excellent condition. When it comes to things like TVs or laptops, or basically anything that's spends most of the day turned on, and can be poked and prodded by customers, then it just isn't worth it in my opinion. Not to mention it would be difficult and potentially dangerous to transport a TV in the back of your car without its original box and packaging.
To sum things up staff at Currys/PC World clearly have no power to offer you any reduced price deal on ex-display models, even those that have slight damage or have spent their life turned on for many, many months. They are clearly instructed by head office to sell them off at the listed price only. Those ex-display models that high street Currys/PC World stores can't shift will probably end up either in a special ex-display clearance lot or on their eBay store.