Having phoned the local branch of Halfords in Basingstoke on Monday to see if they had something in stock they told me that they didn’t but suggested one or two stores in Reading. (Reading is only about 14miles from here so it is not that further).

I then phoned the first of the Reading stores but they too didn’t have it in stock. Success on the second phone call though as the store in Winnersh, Reading had 3 in stock plus the display item which they could sell if need be. He also said that they don’t sell too many of them so it would be no problem. Hmmm… Bad omen…

This morning at 8.30am Tiarnan and myself drove up to Winnersh getting stuck in a 2 mile traffic jam waiting to join the M4 at junction 11. We then had no problems find the place and arrived at around 9.15am. (What I have left out is that we had actually gone to the store on Tuesday but couldn’t find the place…So much for Mapquest.com. This time I used viamichelin.com and it was much easier to find. I was only one turn of a roundabout out last time).
So anyway, we walked into the store and some spotty geeky greased up Buddy Holly lookalike was gabbing away to another member of staff. The other guy tried his best to stop the conversation to talk to me but Buddy wouldn’t stop. Eventually he turned around and gave me a “Yeah ??”. I told him the product I was after and he said “Nope..” and turned his back on me and started talking away again. The other guy was even blushing it was that obvious. I just started talking to the back of his head telling him the about the conversation I had on the phone the other day saying that there were some out back, to which he replied that they had sold it the previous day. When I told him that there were meant to be four out back he said, “Nope !!” and began to walk away. Now I was getting a tadge miffed so I suggested he actually go look and check as I had travelled up from Basingstoke as a result of a call confirming that they had the item in stock.

Begrudgingly he trundled off to the store room which happened to coincide with the sudden freshening of the surrounding air? And there was me thinking it was the store that had an odour problem. To be honest there wasn’t much going for him.

I already knew what his answer would be regardless of whether they had any in the storeroom. And I was right. So off he turned and walked away just leaving me there. This was the point at which I said “Oy…”, and he lounged his way back rolling his eyes at me.

I told him I was not happy with him and asked him to phone round some other stores and see if they had any in stock. He just stood there, so I pointed out the phone to him and reminded him it was probably a 9 for an outside line. One of the other staff came over and said why don’t we just sell the display item as some new ones were on the way. It was at this point I realised he might have been the manager because he quite rudely told the guy to go away and said the woman who had suggested it that should know better!! So it wasn’t just customers that he could be rude to.

This time I stood next to him while he phoned, (which under the circumstances was quite hard to do) and eventually he said, “Ok, good, you have 4 on the floor plus a display one you could sell”. He then put the phone down, simply said “Bracknell” and walked off. This time I shouted after him, “Go on then, give me a clue. Where the heck is the store in Bracknell!!”.

His reply was predictably unhelpful so at this point I asked another of the store guys.

So after driving the 40mins to Bracknell, spending another 45 minutes looking for the store (which also included a 15 minute stop for both of us to munch our way through a monster bacon role each. It also happened to be the guy cooking the bacon that gave us the directions we needed to find the place).

We eventually reached the store and you could not believe the difference in attitude from the staff. No sooner had I walked through the door than an assistant was there asking if I needed help. I explained that Winnersh had phoned through and told them what I was after. It was the manager who I then dealt with at the checkout and he arranged for a guy to go collect all the parts I needed, and arranged for another guy to go outside and fit it.

During the fitting, the manager came out to help and was the most pleasent guy. Very proffesional and extremely courteous. He even offered Tiarnan a can of drink while we were waiting. He asked where I had come up from and I said mid way between Basingstoke and Reading when he told me that he had been looking at a house in Bramley. When I told him that was where I lived it then turned out the house he was looking at was over the road from were I live. Small world. We got chatting some more and I also found out he moved to the Bracknell store as a manager having been born, schooled and working in Sittingbourne which was about 20/30mins from where I grew up in the Medway towns. Indeed a small world.

He was most apologetic for the time it was taking to fit it and for me having to come to Bracknell to get it. He couldn’t understand why Basingstoke sent me here, as Winnersh had 4 of them in stock according to the computer!! I didn’t tell him the whole story but just explained that I just come from there.

I’ve written a letter to Halfords head office because the guy in Winnersh needs to be kicked out on his rear, or at least sent to work in Bracknell for a period to see how a real manager should manage and to learn what customer support is all about.

A big thunbs up to the manager and staff in Bracknell, but Buddy “Phill” Holly in Winnersh and go take a running jump. (Preferrably into a bath or shower too!). He wasn’t the only thing stinking, his customer service did too, and just as bad. Both left me with a bad taste in my mouth.