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Victor Lewis-Smith's Column: FLAMING COMET..

I'VE just got back from my pre-Easter holiday break, a relaxing weekend of chicken debeaking on the former anthrax island of Gruinard (well, what more fitting location could there be for a miserable, whining hack like me?).

Driving back, I stopped off at Comet in Workington - I live life in the fast lane - in hopes of indulging my fondness for consumer gadgets by buying a new video, or perhaps a desktop shredder (I know that shredding desktops is a rather odd thing to do, but everyone has to have a hobby).

Some years ago, I told you about problems I'd encountered with this firm's staff. Judging from the flood of letters that followed, many of you felt the same, so I thought I'd check to see if things had got better.

As proof that name-and-shame journalism does nothing to improve service in this country, I give you sales manager Simon Ronson, a graduate of the Mike Tyson Charm School who spoke fluent surly and practised a relentless hard-sell technique.

He assured me that the video I was looking at was built like a tank and would never go wrong. But, once I'd agreed to purchase it, he changed his tune and began insisting that I should buy ludicrously expensive five-year insurance cover (which even Which? magazine says is a rip-off) because "they go wrong all the time".

He tried to sell me this costly insurance five times, but I somehow don't think it was my well-being he was concerned about, but his. All he wanted was the lucrative commission he'd get for flogging it to me.

Being a hard-nosed hack, I knew how to resist his high-pressure attempts, but someone frailer would definitely have been intimidated into splashing out on an unnecessary policy. The other staff seemed perfectly pleasant and reasonable, but Mr Ronson's confrontational manner turned whatshould have been an enjoyable bit of consumerism into a deeply-unfunny version of the Monty Python argument sketch.

As if that wasn't enough, he then insisted on having my home address, although I didn't want to give it to him. "You have to ... it's to send the guarantee," he said, but the receipt was the only guarantee I needed, and he clearly just wanted to get me on the store's mailing list, presumably to have another go at selling me the unwanted insurance.

Had I given my address, he would have doubtless read it back to me in a voice louder than a foghorn (it's happened before), thus ensuring that any potential burglars on the premises would know the exact house where they'd soon be able to find a brand- new video recorder.

I phoned him yesterday to ask for his comments, and to see if he'd tell me how much commission he gets on the insurance policies he's so keen to sell. Apparently, it wasn't his policy to tell me.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Lewis-Smith, Victor
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 20, 1999
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Next Article:Victor Lewis-Smith's Column: Brummie? It could be a lot verse; NOT TO BE READ WHILE OPERATING HEAVY MACHINERY - MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS A ND VOMITING.

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