believes you get better service online - do you?

4 March 2009

There are plenty of reasons for preferring online retailers over traditional high street stores, but customer service tends to vary from brand to brand, company to company. Not according to the CEO of though, who out-and-out believes that the service offered by online retail outfits beats bricks-and-mortar every time.

Bitterwallet reader Matthew submitted this article, saying:

Here's a lovely piece on's aim for more world domination from this weeks copy of MCV, the video games retailer mag - which is sent to ALL video games stores in the UK. How's this for a kick in the teeth from Play!

Stuart Rowe, CEO of is quoted as saying:

Online retailers are producing a much higher customer service level than that which you get in traditional retail.

We're certain plenty of Bitterwallet readers would disagree with Rowe, in particular when it comes to packaging goods correctly, but that particular point aside; online retailers can certainly beat high street stores on price, but how do they fare on customer service? Do you only buy online these days, or do you like to get hands-on with goods? Have you found any distinct difference between a company's in-store and online service? Let us know, why don't you.


  • The B.
    To be fair, I only buy food, clothes and diy products (the non pornographic variety) in "real" shops, everything else I can buy cheaper on-line.
  • Fayshun
    Bob- cheaper doesn't mean better customer services though does it?
  • jon w.
    That's only true if you can actually find an email address for the customer services before one throws the computer on the floor, or ends up being arrested for kicking the cat (don't threat no computers have been harmed as of yet) by the time you find it. There is then the obligatory 4/5 day day wait to be answered, only for the process to start again. I know there are phones but I hate them. So apart from that, he might be correct but I don't think so.
  • Mike
    Price is a factor in customer service. I rarely buy much but if I do its online, apart from what others have said, just guessing but returns are probably lower and I dont want to pay for someone else returning something.
  • Noghar
    Customer service has nothing to do with whether a shop is online or not. I've had problems with Amazon that they sorted in less than 12 hours. But have you ever tried returning anything to PCWorld?
  • MikeBeaver
    It's MCV not MVC :)
  • Callum
    I find customer service is as good as real shops - the only problem being the delays while you post something (the far cheaper price makes up for this though!).
  • Paul S.
    @MikeBeaver Ah, well spotted - I suspect Matthew mixed MCV up with these folks, as did I.
  • The B.
    Nope, I find customer services generally better on the web than in most shops, B&Q for example are as useful as a chocolate teapot both on and offline, supermarkets are good offline but then amazon, play, HMV and most electrical/DVD/music retailers are good on-line but rubbish offline, it's hit and miss and I don't think being online has anything to do with it, some retailers just don't give a crap. Saying that, I'm dealing with at the moment, what an absolute shower, they've outsourced to India and haven't bothered actually training the staff or explaining how seating allocation works, I'm currently trying to get them to change the 3 tickets I booked so that they're in the same row (not an unreasonable request), you'd think I'd asked them to re-nationalise the railways.
  • Steve L.
    Thats a laugh from Play! If you buy anything electrical that develops a fault I have found they refer you to the producer and are reluctant to deal themselves, point you at the T&C's as an excuse. They are not alone (Dixons for instance - shocking) but thankfully I have had little problems with many online purchases, especially relating to media, books etc where price is the main driver for me. If I need something quick I have to go to a shop, if not online is fine. Although....on reflection delivery can be a problem for someone who lives alone now postmen walk up in the afternoon!
  • Amanda H.
    People complain about plays packaging, but I ordered a new mobile phone from them last week, and it was packaged neatly & securely in a pack of Walkers Cheese & Onion.
  • Jacob B.
    I have nothing but contempt for They try to hide behind dodgy terms in their T&Cs which would never stand up in court. Their section is even worse and attempts to con their sellers into thinking that certain laws apply when they are not applicable. I once rang up and asked for their postal address to send a complaint to and was told "we don't have an address". "of course you have an address" I replied. "If your sat in a building right now then it has an address. Are you a UK registered company?" "yes we are sir" "then what is the companies registered address" "we don't have one" In which case, if true, it would appear that there are certain other laws that ignore
  • phil m.
    I don't have any particular preference, but you do get 'better' customer service by ordering online due to Distance Selling Regulations whereby you can return an item within 7 days if you're not happy with it for ANY reason.
  • Dave
    I prefer to buy from the likes of even when the price is more or less the same as a retail store. Why? Because the quality of service is great. Buying is easy. I needn't even leave my chair. I know the price is going to be good, and I can spend a couple of minutes checking out alternative prices first if I wish. I like waiting for things to come. It excites me. Like a mini-christmas. If something goes wrong, Play will send a courier round to pick it up from my house. No fuss whatsoever. They're an exceptionally good company. I trust them with large wads of my cash. Trust them, certainly moreso than my local PC World.
  • Steve
    CEO of appears to be sad joker!! After 28 days you have to sort your own repairs. Jersey trading law apply too!
  • Rubisco
    I buy online even when the price is the same as offline, precisely to avoid bizarre interpretations of 'customer service', intended to get me to buy crap I don't want.
  • MikeBeaver
    @ Paul Smith: No worries mate, I always spot sillt mistakes like that in stuff, should maybe call up the tabloids and ask for a job, lol. Had completely forgotten about MVC, I am sure there was one in Ipswich many moons ago, not that I ever went in there of course.
  • Damon
    Quite amusing considering I still can't find a contact email for on the whole of their website
  • Alex W.
    We ordered a telly from last year. The courier broke it (and then bustled in and placed it up against a wall so my wife couldn't see what he'd done- he'd cracked the 37inch screen). Play were awesome, one phonecall later they'd arranged the collection and despatch of a replacement.
  • Joff
    Ignoring as I refuse to use the site, but generally online retailers are full of shit and I'm including you here you pretend "ebay" retailers. Get a full time job and declare your second income. Twice this week I've been let down by online retailers. First I ordered a laptop bag on Sunday from a retailer whose site was all bells and whistles. When it still hadn't arrived after 4 days I enquired to be told "oh it's not left yet". WTF? Ok so this particular retailer is in Jersey too so they probably sound a bit French but apparently that's not an excuse in today's European Community. Then I ordered a laptop battery yesterday from an eBay seller. I specifically chose a UK only retailer as I don't want to wait for it to come from Hong Kong, only to be told to expect delivery in 7-20 working days. WTF x 2. UK mail order and online retailers need to wake up, move out of their bedrooms and stop relying on drop-shipping as a business model. If you're a retailer and you have your own stock then please please please shout it from the fucking rooftops as you'll get my custom. Best thing is, I chose to pay for both the above orders with Paypal so no doubt when I file a claim for a refund that will be met on deaf ears too.
  • Steaming!!!! sent me someone else's order. I have tried 4 times to arrange a return, which they say they will normally respond to within 24 hrs. Nearly a week later I can't get a peep out of them. I am beginning to worry that they are not still in business and I will be stuck with a lower value item. I have ordered off the internet a lot and all is fine until something goes wrong and as sites become busier they seem to get less reliable. Unless I am saving a fortune, I think I will pay a bit extra and make future purchases from someone who will actually talk to me and I can walk out the door knowing I have what I paid for with me. They just don't seem to care once they have your money!
  • Sean M.
    I've just spent over 30 minutes of my life to customer services in the Phillipines!!! Clearly english is not there first language and had to speak to them like a four year old child for them to eventually pronounce my name correctly. Mr just isn't right you know!!! They sent the item to the wrong address despite receiving an email from them several days ago confirming the delivery address as my sons in Kent. I was put on hold for thirteen minutes (yes I timed it) before I could speak to a supervisor but I got no where. your customer services suck!!!! By the way their helpdesk customer services is [email protected]'
  • Ziggy T.
    The e-mail of the Chief Operating Officer is Stuart Rowe [email protected] You are right most of there T&Cs contravene Trading Standards
  • Souped U.
    I think you'll find like most outlets customer service is not high on the agenda. Ask the 80 Belfast based employees they just made redundant in favour of a Phillipine call centre. It's not about the experience, it;s about profits...and the Belfast office were responsible for cleaning up the messes made by the Phillipines. Good luck. I suggest Amazon from here on in,

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