I recently replaced our home phones because the old ones weren’t charging well, even with new batteries. I bought them online, had them delivered, set them up, and didn’t like them. The ring is strident, and the keypad has an aggravating quarter-second delay between pushing the button and making the tone. The phones are just not a pleasure to use.
I kicked myself for buying online where all I could tell was how the phone looked, and quantitative facts like battery type and price. I should have gone to a store. So the next time I was in a Best Buy, I went to look at the phones. And then I remembered: you can’t tell anything about the phones there either. First, none of them do anything, they are all non-working display models. Second, you can’t even pick some of them up: they are glued into the base, or have a cable awkwardly attached to their back. I had gotten into a car, driven to a real brick-and-mortar store that Best Buy had expensively built and staffed, and I had pretty much the same experience as I had online.
I understand that Best Buy needs to prevent theft, but don’t they also need to encourage purchases? I’m told that especially for laptops, trying the product physically is an important part of the purchasing process. Among many other reasons, Apple stores are part of the success of Apple laptops: customers are encouraging to touch and try the real thing.
For at least one of my complaints about the new phones, the online site could help me out: give me a usable emulation of the on-screen menu, and let me hear the noises the phone can make. For the keypad delay, there’s not much they can do.
Phones (I almost said “cordless phones”, but that would have dated me!) are a commodity these days, and price and appearance are probably the two most important considerations, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. But I would expect physical retailers to take whatever advantages they could.