Sandton retailers that irk me

What’s the story with retailers that think the consumer must be honoured to be their customer? This weekend it really got to me, both times at Sandton City.

On Saturday night I tried to take two of my ex-pat friends to my favourite Thai restaurant, namely Wang Thai above the Nelson Mandela Square. We got there just after 9pm only to be chased away as their kitchen was closed for stock take. You gotta be kidding me! A stock take on a Saturday evening at the end of the month? That’s what Sunday morning is for damnit. Anyway Pappas on the Square next door was more than happy to feed us and the live entertainment was great too.

Now Sunday I found myself back at Sandton Shitty to watch Inception with friends – a great movie by the way – and found myself amidst the Sandton Winter Sale. Ok I’m not such a fan of the crowds but I love to shop, especially for tech. First stop, the Apple iStore for a wireless keyboard. Not a single salesperson offered assistance nor did they seemingly have any wireless keyboards on display or in stock. Useless!

Next stop, Incredible Connection – a trusted tech haven. Oh wait, it appears the store has moved from one side of the mall to the complete opposite side. No fear, brisk walk and lo and behold what do I find? A pathetic excuse for a tech store and not even the Incredible Connection store name to be seen – more HP and Vodacom signage than anything. A complete waste of my time!

My conclusion is to steer clear of the excuse that is Sandton Shitty.

Buying an Apple the hard way

Apple logo No I’m not talking about the fruit although I do find similarities between the fruit and the people who represent Apple in South Africa. The first thing to note is that Apple products have one authorised distributor in South Africa and they are the Core Group. The same company that distributes the Nintendo products at such a ridiculous mark-up.

However it seems that there are plenty of non-authorised resellers in South Africa, but the Core Group can’t seem to decide who is who. They have a local site addressing the grey product issues and they even provide a form for validating your product serial number, albeit a non-automated process. If you compare the following two pages (page 1 and page 2) you will notice that they don’t agree on who the non-authorised resellers are. I think this is ridiculous, how is the consumer supposed to know which list is correct?

Regardless, I decided I wanted a new 15” MacBook Pro 2.8 Ghz,4GB of RAM and 320GB 7200 RPM drive. Yeah I wanted the fastest processor and hard drive that the Apple store in the US offers. I proceeded to call a few of the local resellers seeing as the local online store called the Za Store provided zero customisation options.

Authorised reseller #1: Questek Broadcast Technology

I started by calling local authorised reseller Questek Broadcast Technology for a quotation on the custom configuration I wanted. After numerous unreturned calls on Wednesday and Thursday, I finally managed to speak to the one person that seems to do quotes. She promised me a quotation on email before the end of Friday. To her credit she did call me later in the day and inform me that her email was down and she’d send it when it was up again. On Tuesday I got an email stating:

I do apologise for the inconvenience, however our systems have not been working.

Please be advised that you will be getting your quote today, I just need to finalise a few prices for you once that has been done you will be getting your quote.

So much for Friday’s excuse about the email being down, she doesn’t even have the pricing on Tuesday. Mind you, I never got the quotation on Tuesday either.

Authorised reseller #2: iStore in Clearwater Mall

I called the iStore in Cresta on Wednesday and was told to email Dimitri and he’d get me a quotation by the end of the day. I’m still waiting.

Authorised reseller #3: Digicape store in The Wedge

A few friends recommended dealing with the company DigiCape. So I called their Johannesburg store on Saturday late afternoon and my details were taken for a quotation on Monday. Once again, no quotation was received.

Non-authorised reseller #1: CAB Platinum Store in Sandton City

On Saturday I visited the slick looking CAB Platinum Store in Sandton City after being advised by friends that they are useless. The first thing I noticed was that all of the standard configurations were priced around R4000 more for the exact same box product. Ridiculous. I approached the so-called Knowledge Bar to find out about a custom configuration and was delegated to a back office woman who proceeded to quote me on a standard configuration machine with an additional 320GB 5400 RPM drive. Hmmm, useful, NOT! After I reiterated my requirements my details were taken down and a quotation was promised on Monday. To date, no quotation has been received.

After much frustration and irritation I realised that in South Africa, if you wish to buy and Apple product, you need to simply accept that the distributor, Core Group, knows what you want and its one of the standard configurations. However a few friends did suggest that I go to the USA and buy one there. My problem with this would be the warranty although I’ve heard that local warranty support has much to be desired.

Determined to get myself a Mac in time for Christmas, I called up Incredible Connection in Sandton City on Sunday afternoon and purchased a new 15” MacBook Pro with 2.53GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and 320GB 5400 RPM hard drive.

My advice to anyone considering buying a Mac, go for it, and hopefully the Core Group sorts their reseller channel out so you have a better experience that I did.