So, the time had come. I was at the stage in my watch career that had seen me dabble in the cheaper end of the watch buying spectrum. I had owned some fashion watches, some cheap, but often remarkable value for money russian mechanical watches, i.e, Vostok/Poljot and the like. A few Seikos had come and gone, I had even had the privilege of buying a brand spanking new Seiko from the laminated book of dreams that is the Argos catalogue!
I was ready, I had a small amount of disposable income burning a hole and wanted to blow it all on my first expensive watch. Now at this point expensive to me meant more than the £100 or so the Seiko from Argos had cost me, but certainly less than £1000.
In my nearest shopping centre there are only really 3 places you can go to buy a watch. I am not going to mention any company names here but if I was to compare these stores to something like tyres, one of the stores is your budget brand, the other very much a mid range sort of outfit and then there’s the premium tyre place. The Michelin, Pirelli or Bridgestone fitted on a high performance Porsche or BMW type of out fit. From here on in, i will refer to this store as ‘the one’.
The budget store wasnt really going to cut it for me, sure they have one or two pieces in there that may have suited, but I wanted my first ‘expensive’ watch purchase to be a bit special,maybe a coffee thrown in whilst i tried on some watches sort of thing.
I headed towards ‘the one’, as I peered through the window, as I have done thousands of times before, something stopped me from going in. This wasnt the sort of place that someone like me spends their hard earned. The assistants I could see through the window, looking past all the lovely shinyness of the watches and jewelery on display, were all wearing expensive suits, and all had Rolex on the wrist, whilst little old me, who grew up on a council estate, was stood outside wearing my Argos special watch, and whilst sometimes my work calls for a shirt and tie, when I head to the shops my usual attire is trainers, scruffy jeans and a hoody. Not the sort of dress code people who buy from ‘the one’ adhere to.
Feeling suitably scruffy and inadequate I strolled around the corner to the mid range place. I didn’t even need to go in-store. I saw the watch I wanted sat right there in the window. It was a Hamilton of some variety, the exact model eludes me now, lots, and i mean lots of watches have come and gone since, but there it was, and I wanted it.
I walked through the doors and proceeded to have a look at some of the other watches on display whilst waiting to be acknowledged by an assistant. The shop wasnt overly busy but everyone seemed to be already dealing with a customer, but no problem, I’ll make eye contact with someone and they will be right with me. Eye contact was made with one of the girls in the store, but the “Hello Sir, be right with you” that I was expecting wasnt forthcoming. Ok, fair enough, maybe she’s had a bad day, plus it was around lunchtime so maybe I thought, she was due a break and didn’t want to commit to dealing with another customer. As I headed out of the shop, planning to go and get myself something to eat and have a think about what I was doing (at this time i had never spent this much money on myself before, certainly not on something that would be considered as a luxury item, and not a car etc), on the way out another assistant brushed past me to take whatever it was her customer had requested to look at, again even though we made physical contact, not just eye contact, I didnt get acknowledged.
Now having fed and watered myself, I headed back to the shop, determined to walk out wearing my newly acquired timepiece. I walked through the door again to find a sales assistant, not only that, I found a sales assistant completey free of customers, not on the phone and ready to sell me a watch. I made the usual eye contact with her and she stood up, walked towards me and said something like “hello madam, how can i help you today”, now I’m confused, I might have been in my scruffies but at no point did i head into town dressed as a member of the opposite sex! Whilst I am still processing this in my head, the assistant headed straight towards me, made a side step and continued to greet the lady that had walked just after i did. By this point I am mad, not just normal mad but spitting nails and foaming at the mouth mad. It was quite obvious to me that the assistant had clocked myself and the older, better dressed lady that had also walked in and made up her mind that said well dressed lady was likely to have more disposable income than me and therefore more likely to give her a decent sale. What i wanted to do at this point was to start screaming and shouting and demanding to see the manager to convey my level of anger, but i didn’t, I’m far too British and polite for that, so i simply turned around, and walked out.
Still a little bit shocked about what had just happened, and still determined to leave town wearing a new watch i walked straight back to ‘the one’, I didn’t care that my trainers were 5 years old, or that the torn bottoms of my jeans were slightly darker than the rest of them due to having soaked up the contents of the puddles I had been traipsing through all day. I was going to walk in, grab a sales assistant, force them to sell me a watch and then go back to where i had made my previous attempt at spending some money and maybe dance a little jig outside whilst flashing my new watch at them with the receipt shouting something like “look what you’ve missed out on, this’ll teach you not to serve me”!
I hadn’t even stepped fully through the door of ‘the one’ when the assistant was already up from behind his desk and making a bee line for me with his hand out ready to shake mine. After the hand shake and ascertaining that I was here to buy a watch I was quickly sat down and offered a coffee.This is exactly how i wanted my first purchase to go. The store in question didn’t stock Hamilton watches but no matter, I had spotted a couple of pieces that were in my price range on the countless times I had walked past and gawked at them through the window. The difference between how i was treated at ‘the one’ and how I was treated around the corner was literally worlds apart. I reckon I could have walked in wearing nothing more than a leotard and maybe a fig leave covering my manhood and I would have been treated the same way. No assumptions were made about how much disposable income I had but this place made me feel like I was there to spend a good few thousand pounds, not just a few hundred, they were really that good.
Coffee drank and a few watches tried on and discussed with the assistant, who turned out to be the manager, I had made my choice, it was a few hundred pounds more than the Hamilton i was expecting to buy, and a bit more than i really wanted to spend, but I was still angry about what had happened around the corner and the experience I was having here was so good that this didn’t matter one bit. I was so wrapped up in the experiance that i didn’t even once think about haggling on the price, the watch was now sized and on my wrist and that was where it was staying!
The watch I ended up buying is probably a brand that most people end up buying as their first ‘expensive’ watch and their first foray into the world of higher end timepieces, it was a Tag Heuer Formula 1.
Thats right, i paid full retail price for a Tag F1, a quartz Tag F1 at that!
But more than that, what i also ended up with that day was the start of a relationship with ‘the one’,now I am quite a loyal guy and if I had received even slightly above average customer service around the corner they would have a customer for life. But by not judging a book by its cover, and looking past my scruffy choice of clothes for the day ‘the one’ has since seen my business many more times. When I was ready to make the next step up into proper watch territory, guess who got my business? When the wife wanted a decent watch, guess where I bought it for her? Gifts of jewelery at christmas and birthdays, all came from the one. Ever since my wife and I first got together, I always said that when she turned 30, and if I could afford it, I would buy her a big ass diamond ring. Well when she hit the big 30 as it happened, i could afford it and she got her diamond ring. I know I am not this stores biggest spending customer, far from it in fact, but the difference is that every time I go in there they make me feel like am, and that for me is customer service at its very best.
So after purchasing the Tag did I go back and dance that little Jig outside the mid range place like I wanted too? No, I didn’t, as much as I wanted to I simply voted with my feet and vowed never to go back there again.
*Disclaimer: A short while ago the opportunity presented itself to me to buy something from the mid range place that i really wanted at quite a substantial discount. Such was my angst about how I was treated their last time I almost didn’t go through with it but I eventually decided that the discount was so big it was like sticking two fingers up at them so I went through with it and can report that whilst the customer service seems to have improved, they have still got some way to go to be ‘the one’ for me.
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