Monday, October 31, 2011

Good product, bad pitch

Today I called in to Dick Smith Electronics because my wife, who now has a brain injury, wanted to take a look at the Kindle ebook reader.

She particularly wanted to evaluate the Kindle because it offers a text to speech function that has the potential to significantly restore much of the enjoyment she used to get from reading.

Unfortunately, since her injury, reading is now very difficult and she finds it much easier to follow the words while they're read out-loud -- hence, the Kindle sounded like the perfect answer to her problem.

We entered the Dick Smith store and asked an assistant where we could find the Kindles. The woman, obviously more interested in doing something else rather than serving nuisance customers, gestured towards the back of the shop and continued with what she was doing.

Off we strolled in the general direction of her pointing and eventually found a pile of empty Kindle boxes labeled "Take this empty box to the checkout to purchase your Kindle". Atop this pile of empties was a working unit operating in "demo mode".

I showed the wife how the buttons worked and we marveled at the high contrast and resolution of the e-ink display.

However, the real reason for the visit was to experience the quality and practicality of the text to speech function so I called over another young shop assistant in the hopes he'd be able to produce such a demo.

He fiddled with the unit for a few minutes before deciding that perhaps the demo model had that functionality disabled.

Another customer came up to us at this stage and began to expound the wonders of the Kindle, saying that he couldn't live without his -- but still no demo of the text to speech.

While we were talking to this customer, the youthfull Dick Smith salesperson finally managed to get the speech system working -- but we couldn't hear it over the extraordinarily loud music that had been screaming from one of the stereo systems throughout our entire time in the shop.

No matter how hard we listened, the Kindle's sound was obliterated by the thumping base and crashing treble of this stereo -- which was right across the other side of the shop.

We said "we can't really hear it over the music" -- to which the sales assistant simply looked blankly at us. Perhaps he couldn't hear us over the noise either.

By holding my ear really close to the Kindle I was able to hear a typical monotone computer synthesized voice which may have been okay -- except that it was reading very fast, far too quickly for my wife to keep up with.

"Can you slow it down?" I inquired.

"Dunno" I was told -- and no attempt was made to find out.

What should have been a very easy sale for DSE was totally ruined by the seeming disinterest of the staff and some strange need to fill the showroom with the emanations of the local radio station to such an extent that a demo was virtually useless.

I'll probably just import one now by purchasing online. After all, if this is the level of service one gets before you lay down your money, how bad would it be afterwards if something went wrong?

DSE -- epic fail!

Now I'll use the Net to find the answers to my questions. Thank goodness for technology.

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