Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Deceitful Salespeople

I recently bought a TV from Courts, and I was originally going to write about how much I must have disappointed the salesperson. I had declined to buy anything else despite how hard he tried to peddle them. However, on hindsight, I think this is more about how I refused to be deceived by their salespeople.

The sales tactics of some of these salespeople can, at times, be at least deceitful, if not bordering on cheating. It’s one thing to be clever about pushing more sales, but quite another to misinform the customer and misrepresent the facts.

While preparing to write this post, I noted that I had previously written about a poor experience at Courts. I don’t know if this is a pattern of behaviour that is also prevalent in other large retail chains. I expected more professionalism from larger retail chains, and I did have better experiences with Harvey Norman, but perhaps I am misguided about Courts.

I don’t want to get into the incessant stalking and overly zealous selling (just to put it gently), I was more annoyed about what happened after I decided on the TV to get. The sale was pretty much done, but the pushy selling would not stop.

The salesperson asked about the devices I connected to it. I thought he was just trying to make friendly banter. Then it emerged that he wanted to sell me HDMI cables. Without knowing what cables I already have, he declared that I have to buy new cables. Without knowing what cables I already have, he suggested that my existing cable would not work. He warned me that the installer that delivers the TV to my house cannot be held liable for a non-working setup if I refuse to buy his cables.

I don’t mind buying new cables if they are reasonably priced. However, he was trying to sell me S$59 HDMI cables, supposedly a tremendously great value because it had been heavily discounted from S$99!

I politely declined and explained to him that I already have HDMI cables. But no, he insisted with a new 4K TV, I needed superior quality HDMI cables. I pointed out that my existing cables are already working, my devices are only Full HD, so while I understood there are different types of HDMI cables, I did not need his new cables, and surely my existing ones must work with the new TV.

We probably went back and forth about the cables for at least a good 10 whole minutes. He extolled the capabilities of his cable. It was necessary for sharper, clearer, and better picture quality. That’s so untrue.

You should know that HDMI is a digital signalling protocol. Unlike analog signals, whatever signal encoded and transmitted at source will be decoded correctly to the original data stream, as long as you use proper, compliant, cables according to specified conditions.

There are a lot of lies you’ll hear about HDMI cables. I last wrote about HDMI cables over four years ago. You should read about it. There are newer HDMI standards since then, i.e. HDMI v2.0 specifications, which are required for 4K resolution at 60 fps. It’s true that your old cables may not be up-to-spec to support 4K @ 60 fps. Older HDMI v1.4 cables, however, are still good for Full HD (and 4K @ 30 fps) video sources even when output to a 4K TV. There is nothing a new HDMI v2.0 cable can do better than an old HDMI v1.4 cable if your video source is just Full HD.

My Courts salesperson also asked if I needed a Digital TV antenna. Without knowing where I lived, and just based on the fact that my apartment was on a certain floor, he declared I needed a certain active Digital TV antenna that cost S$49. This antenna has a range of 40 km, he stressed, suggesting that the range was somehow necessary for me, even though, again, he didn’t even have a clue as to where I lived! I declined.

For the record, I eventually bought a HDMI v2.0 cable for S$7, and an active Digital TV antenna for S$25, both from Lazada. They work fine. I could have gotten a far cheaper Digital TV antenna, but for various reasons I chose this more expensive one. I found that even a passive Digital TV antenna worked just fine for me!

I also declined a sound bar that was suggested to me. What Courts was selling at about S$280, I bought for S$178 from the brand’s official store.

This was not over. I was handed over to another Courts salesperson to finish up the purchasing details. I’m not sure why the first salesperson couldn’t do it, but perhaps he failed to get me to buy anything else, so he passed me on to another colleague to have another go. That’s right, because the second person also tried to sell me a HDMI cable. This time, I was offered a S$19 cable. It’s so cheap! It was the last piece! Why would I decline a S$19 cable? This fella looked at me as if I was crazy to not want this deal. Again, I was warned that my old cable would not work as good as their new cable.

Well, I know for a fact that S$19 is just simply too much to pay for a HDMI cable.

Can you see how easily less savvy customers might have been deceived by these salespeople? The lies about HDMI cables are just too much.

It’s Courts’ prerogative to use a strategy to attract customers with discounts on big ticket items, then earn from higher profits on related accessories. However, they ought to be honest with customers, particularly when customers look to them for advice and recommendations. I personally wouldn’t mind slightly higher prices on accessories just for the convenience of having everything bundled together.

We may disagree on how much a premium is reasonable. $59 for a $7 cable is certainly too much for me, but if there’s a willing buyer, maybe you could say it’s the seller’s gain. Not nice of them for sure, but not something manifestly wrong.

Outright lying to customers, however, is very clearly wrong. Yet, I highly doubt my experience is not representative of what’s happening in the stores. While I don’t think Courts would condone such behaviour, I do wonder if they are simply unaware of the problem, or are they choosing to ignore the problem?

One thing that physical brick and mortar stores have over online shopping is that human touch, to develop relationships and provide personable services. Where they can’t compete in price and convenience, they can make up with trust, credibility, and loyalty.

If I cannot walk into a physical retail store and expect to receive credible advice that considers my best interest, I don’t know why I should bother to buy anything from them instead of an online store. The physical retail stores remain good only for me to see (and maybe demo) big ticket items before I purchase them online.

At end of the day, for customers, I think you owe it to yourself to do your homework before/when you shop. Alternatively, rely on a trusted friend to help you out.

1 thought on “Deceitful Salespeople

  1. You are lucky that the salesperson did not try to palm off a $149 Monster HDMI cable to you.
    Trusted friend? I know of a friend who went with one (passed himself off as a audiophile) who wax lyrical about the $149 HDMI cable and convinced him to buy it even though I had told him a $12 one is good enough.
    Sorry to hear that you have had bad experience at Courts. I bought mine 4K TV last year from GainCity and was served by a good and attentive salesperson. When I have issue with the digital channels tuning, I badgered him to specifically recommend a particular brand with which he declined. He replied that those on the market is good enough.

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