Monday, August 17, 2009

Harvey Norman - Baiting & Switching?

I've talked about Harvey Norman before on this blog for committing lesser, apostrophe-related crimes, but my most recent visit to the local electrical superstore warrants another rebuking.

In what passes in my family as a rite-of-passage, I accompanied my younger brother to purchase a decent TV for his house in college, making sure to wear my hagglin' pants. After explaining the merits of HDTV standards, (Plasma vs LCD, Full HD vs HD Ready), we agreed on a specification of a 720P, 32", LCD TV, and he was willing to spend up to €500.

We started at Finucane's Electrical in Eastway Business Park, and identified a decent Samsung model for €600 that the pleasant salesman offered for €550. We said we'd look elsewhere before committing to it.

The next stop was Harvey Norman - they had all the 32" LCDs arranged in a row, making the job of picking out the best one a doddle - we instantly singled out the Philips 32PFL5404H as being the best on display, but the €600 asking price seemed a bit much.

The salesman who approached us was an older gentleman, who seemed to begrudge every comment I made. He tried to usher us towards the Full HD TVs, but I told my brother that the difference was barely distinguishable when using a 32" screen.

He spluttered and wheezed as he admonished my foolishness - "there's a world of difference between Full HD and HD Ready - over 2 megapixels..."[bullshit alarm went off here] he trailed off, possibly looking for more technical words to scare me off with.

I told him that I meant that the difference between 1080P and 720P would be scarcely discernible when dealing with smaller TVs - again he flared up to reproach this upstart who dares question the authority of The Television Salesman.

"No, no, no, no, no. It's 2 megapixels of difference!" He pointed deliberately at 2 TVs. "Look at the colours! Compare the brightness!"

Both TVs were 720P. He succeeded in convincing me that he knew less than I did about the technical stuff, but I wanted to see how useful he'd be about the price-tag.

"How good can you do on that Philips TV?"


"C'mon - that's what the price tag says - you can do a hell of a lot better than that"


"If you give it to us for €500 we'll take it home right now."

"No way - the best I can do is €570"

"€570? I saw it for much cheaper online"

"We don't compete with online."

"That's fine - if you won't compete with them I'll just get it online."

"Don't get it online. They won't look after you. What happens if it arrives broken in the box, then what?"

"You're telling me that you can't do any better than €570?"

He was visibly vexed, I thought I was getting somewhere.

"You're telling me that if I get a better price for this anywhere else, there's no point in coming back to you, because €570 is the absolute best you can do?"

The words hung in the air for a second, then the cogs started turning again:

"Nobody will compete with online. They don't pay taxes. They won't look after you."

"I'm not talking about online - I just want to know if I should come back to you if - say, Clancy's offer me a better deal."

"€570 is the best deal you're going to get in a real shop."

I thanked him for his time, and said we'd be back for it if we couldn't do any better.

I wrote down the model number and called Clancy's Electrical while still standing in Harvey Norman.

"Do you have a Philips 32PFL5404H in stock?"

"Yeah - it's going for €499"

"Could you make it €450?"

"Ummm... Sure."

It took one phonecall to knock €150 off the Harvey Norman price - we went and picked it up, and after we had the transaction completed, I told the (awfully nice) bloke that got it for us that Harvey Norman were looking for €150 more.

"Don't get me started on them - we dropped the price to €499 because we saw they advertised that TV for €449 - it's not the first time I've heard about something like this"

I took his comment with a grain of salt - but once I got home and opened the Limerick Leader, I couldn't help but notice the Harvey Norman ad pushing their big Sale event:

That TV for €449 looks familiar...

The model number listed underneath that TV? 32PFL5404H. The one that had a €600 price tag, and which was guarded by a surly internet-phobe who blatantly misleads customers with his non-expertise, while telling them that €120 more than the advertised price is the best deal they'll get in 'a real shop'.

Let's just consult the criteria by which Harvey Norman reckon they're top dogs:

Price: Beaten. Trounced, even.
Range: Matched.
Service: Beaten. Beaten to a bloody, surly pulp.


Jason said...

Nicely done.

Sean said...

Funny.... Harveys still here. Clancy's now closed. One Nil Harvey Norman. I guess you can go back to Harveys for your warranty!

Sully said...

Sean, thanks for the comment.

Just because something is more popular doesn't mean that it's better.

I have friends who have assisted in production of newspaper ads for Harvey Norman who have gone in to the store to avail of the prices they promoted, but found no semblance of the amazing deal they helped broadcast.

Harvey Norman is a business, and their goal is to make as much money as possible. My objections stem from how underhand they are in achieving this goal.

You can consider it a victory to Harvey Norman that the competition offering better prices and service (with less pomposity) went out of business, but the only loser here is the consumer.