Swedish chain El-Giganten tricks their customers

The heading would read something like this in Swedish:

Svenska teknik-kedjan El-Giganten lurar sina kunder

Today my mother went to one of the large chains in Sweden that sell all kinds of home electronics to finally get herself a DVD player. She’s not interested in technology and doesn’t do any research before buying, but instead trust the sales staff in the store. Most likely, just as the majority of any people buying anything from these large chains.

Apparently that was a big mistake; let me explain why:

When mom got home she called and said that she had gotten a DVD player. I thought it was great, and asked her if it was region free, i.e. able to play DVD records in any of the different formats available for the different parts of the world.

She said no, that she didn’t know what region free was. I explained it to her and went online to see if her just-bought player was. I found that it wasn’t region free by default, but to my knowledge it’s a very easy task to enable that option on most DVD players.

Therefore I decided to call the store where she had bought it, El-Giganten (translated: The Electric Giant, and no, I won’t link to them since they don’t deserve it) in a suburb named Täby, to just ask them about how to make it region free.

I got to talk to a “sales man” of theirs’, and the conversation went like this:

– Hi! My mother just bought a LG DVD player from you today, but since she didn’t know anything about making it region free, I just wanted to ask you how to achieve that functionality.
– Yes, we can do it for you. It will cost you about 300 – 500 SEK (around 37 – 62 US$).
– Well, when it comes to most DVD players, it’s normally only about pressing a certain key combination on the remote control.
– Ah, if that’s the case, it will only cost around 100 SEK (≈ 12 US$).
– Oh, come on. We can definitely do it ourselves, I just want to know the key combination.
– Hmmm. Hang on, I need to talk to a technician here.


Yes, I can imagine this was way over your head…
I waited for quite some time listening to some horrible music, and finally he got back:

-Yes, it will cost you 295 SEK (≈ 36 US $).
– Are you kidding me? I’m sure all I need is a keyboard sequence. Every other store helps their customers right away with this with no cost whatsoever, what’s your problem?!
– The technician said it will cost 295 SEK (≈ 36 US $). A mantra he just kept on repeating no matter what I said.
– I will check this out, and if I can’t solve it, we will return the DVD player and buy it from someone who’s actually interested in helping their customers! Good-bye!

Angry as hell and just as determined to fix this, I went online to find out how to make the DVD player region free. After about 5 minutes, I had found what I would most likely need, and got into the car and drove to mom’s. After unpacking the DVD player I plugged it in and tested. Eureka! After one minute it was region free!

Let me tell you what it took:

  1. Open the disc tray
  2. Press the 0 key seven times

This is something they demanded me to drive to their store for, pay 295 SEK (≈ 36 US $) and then be eternally grateful. Horrendous!

My take is that, since more and more people buy technology products online, these gargantuan chains with their huge stores and endless number of employees have to do things like this just to get a bigger cut, since their margin for revenue on the products are probably so little to begin with.

What sincerely annoys me about this is that their customers go to them because they trust them! Most people don’t know that much, or anything, about technology, but just want it to work. They’re certainly not expecting the store’s sales staff to trick them into pay them a ridicilous amount for doing a fairly non-existant job.

But hey, my congratulations to El-Giganten! Don’t mind the fact that I’m writing this post which will show up in search engines showing off their true face, and that I will tell this story to anyone I know and recommend them to shy away from them as much as possible. I mean, they almost managed to pull of making an extra 295 SEK (≈ 36 US $)…

Have you had any similar experience?

29 Comments

  • Stijn says:

    A good rule of thumb seems to be that the larger the chain is, the less their employees know about the products they're selling. I think the difference is that shops that are not part of a large chain tend to have shopkeepers that actually have heart for what they are doing, as opposed to employees of large superstores (El-Giganten seems to be a very well-chosen name ;)) who mainly seem to work there for the money.

    People these days… 😉

  • Jules says:

    I used to work for Black's Photography as a salesperson and later a photolab technician. Although it was a small store of about 10 employees, only myself and two other senior employees passed the photography knowledge test. Later, when trained for the photolab duties, I worked with two other partially colour-blind lab technicians.

    Customers come back to retail sales outlets because of good service. There were many times when I told a potential customer that what they were looking for couldn't be bought from us but from one of the other photo stores in town. I had many satisfied visitors to the store who ended up coming back to us sometimes because one of the other stores provided poor service but better products (store name withheld).

  • Robert de Mildt says:

    your story reminded me of a problem I had about 10 years ago with my car. Upon driving it, the headlights would fail regularly. (very unpleasant when driving in the dark). My local cardealer told me I had big problems with the wiring of the car and all the wiring needed to be replaced. I got an estimate of around 650 euro's ( about a 1000 us dollars) to fix the wiring. So I decided to check the problem myself and found the wiring to be in perfect condition. It turned out all I had to do was clean the switch on my dashboard to get rid of the problem.

    Since then I keep reminding myself to check things myself before calling in the help of an "expert",whether it's about cars, computers or anything else. The sollution is often far less complicated than it appears to be.

  • Kalle says:

    Haha, such idiots (El-Giganten). It's a "smart" strategy but not good customer service at all.

  • Veracon says:

    I'm from Denmark where we also have El-Gigantent; I haven't ever had problems with them, though. I bought an hp printer there and they've been extremely helpful all the way through.

    I did however a while back have a problem with another chain, Computer City. I don't remember what I bought (think it was a camera), but it never showed up resulting in hours of (expensive) support with them; in the end, I received it but it was broken, so I had to basically go through it all again.

    Bah.

  • M says:

    Wow, 295 kr is a hefty price for seven keypresses.

    I only have good experience from shopping at Elgiganten though. A good thing with many of the bigger "offline" chains (here in Sweden at least) is that they tend to have rather liberal return policies. So you can buy, (carefully) try and then return it if you don't like it. Or return it even if you like it and then buy it way cheaper online 😉

  • Johan says:

    > Press the 0 key seven times

    I am 007, my name is Robert, Robert Nyman.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    People,

    Thanks for sharing!

    I mean, business practices like this apply to any different kind of business, there's a lot of people out there trying to make an easy buck and not care about their customers.

    I think that in the web development world this phenomenon is seen more in the way of crappy inaccessible web sites than billing a lot of extra money (although both takes place from time to time).

  • KayDenmark says:

    I had a similar experience with the Fona electronics chain in Denmark a couple of years ago – they told me it would cost DK1300 to buy a device that would make my DVD player code-free.

    I ended up buying a cheap-o DVD player at Fotex, the Danish equivlent to KMart, for at total price of DK450, and the Fotex staff gave me a lovely Xeroxed piece of paper that told me how I could make it code free. It worked, and I have used the DVD player without incident ever since.

  • Johanna says:

    Hi, i've used El-Giganten aswell.

    When i bought a new computer the graphic card lasted for about 1 and a half month/2 months. The screen were completly black when i turned on the computer. I went back with it, and 3 weeks later my aunt drove over to them, becuse we had heard NOTHING from them about it, and changing a graphic card is something i can do in 3 minuts, being a computer-geek. However i dident want to becuse if i would have to buy a new one i thought it would be better if they changed it for free. When my aunt came to the store the staff were unpleasent and said "We've had it here for 3 days" and they hadent called anyone of us. When i finally hooked my computer up and were over-joyd that it were finally back where its supose to be. To make my day even better i decied to listen to some music. What happends? NO MUSIC! Finally when the graphic card works, they have broken the sound card. This time, being so angry at the idiots i paid a 500 swedish kr. to a local computer store. They fixed the sound card in a day. They found out two things; they El-Giganten idiots had turn of the switch to the sound card and on top of that they knew the sound card were broken so instead of fixing it they just turned it off. Talk about idiots!! Now it finally all works. I'll never buy any computers or anything from them again. Maybe some computer games, becuse they cant mess with that right?

  • Robert Nyman says:

    KayDenmark,

    Exactly, that's how good customer should work! 🙂

    Johanna,

    Thanks for sharing! I'm gald that it all worked out in the end for you, but sorry to hear all the proelbems you had to go through.

    Not sure about not being able to mess with the computer games; one never knows… 😉

  • Kico says:

    Well, if you are asking them to find out a area free code offcourse

    you have to pay. thats not information that comes in manual so

    a technic would had to find the info from the maker "lg" and then put the code in your dvd player.

    this cant be free of charge? its alot of work thats isnt really theys to do. you can do it your selfe..

    another thing would have been maybe if y would have needed maybe to know wich batteryes goes to the remote control.. thats free.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Kico,

    Most manufacturers deliver that information with their products to their resellers, and most stores in Sweden naturally then offer it for free as good service to their customers.

  • K.A. says:

    1) Had somewhat similar experience with Elkjøp (which I believe is part of the El-Giganten chain). I had to return a digicam (bought online for about NOK 1400) for a warranty service after literally only two or three shots taken. I got a reply from their service shop to the effect that the camera has been damaged (a tiny dent near viewfinder visible on a photo they kindly took for me when zoomed in to about 300%) and that I need to pay NOK 2500 for repair, OR NOK 389 for return without repair, OR NOK 188 for a "qualified technician" to scrap the damn thing. I tried to argue, but to no avail. I suggested that I could drive to their repair shop, pick up the camera and scrap it myself, but was told that I am not good enough for that. When I said, OK, I will keep it then as a memory of good experience with Elkjop, but that didn't do the trick either. THe lady on the phone said that "the repair technician spent time looking into the problem". What could I say in reply to that…

    2) I recently bought a DVD burner from the same shop. It needed a gentle kick to open the tray. And you know what, I didn't even bother calling Elkjøp. I fixed it myself.

    In conclusion, I agree entirely with M (posted March 27th, 2006 at 22:56) – buy things in the shop, try and then return if you don't like it or return and buy online 10-20% cheaper.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    K.A.,

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Peter M says:

    Haha, sometimes you gotta love elgiganten for their "pris-garanti" Or price-guarantee. I once went to the store and decided to play around with them. I came up with some story that this washing machine costed 3000kr in another shop and in el-giganten it costed 4000kr. The guy went away for a while, perhaps did some research at the back, and came back to me saying that, "oh you're right, we'll sell it to you for 2500kr" So i said yes, and bought it. Pretty neat isnt it? And i bought a mobile phone for 25øre! Which is about 0.03 Euros or 0.04 US dollars.

  • Adrian Cook says:

    I have not personally shopped at El Giganten, but their "over the counter" sales procedure for large items is very slow. My step-daughter bought her new TV from the Karlskrona branch and we had to go outside and wait by a side door for something like a quarter of an hour before it was brought out. Compare that to On- Off (practically next door), who produced my new TV on a trolley at the desk while the salesman was still writing the receipt and offered to wheel it to my car. Less than 5 minutes! I have always found their salesman to be knowledgeable, extremely helpful and honest in their recommendations – I have never had the most expensive item pushed at me.

  • damian says:

    i'm about to write something about el giganten on my personal site as i've just had enough of trying to deal with them

    i spent just over Kr20,000 on a new plasma tv with them last year and when the guy came round to deliver and put the stand in he used the wrong screws in the back (the big ones instead of the small ones) and damaged the speakers … it took me about 6 months to get a new tv and after a serious amount of hassle

    for the past 3 weeks i've been trying to contact this store about problems i'm having with the tv – no answer from my emails or even an acknowledgement that they've got it!

    so i phone last week and get told someone will call me in 48 hours. do you think anyone called? hell no. so i chase again today and i'm feeling more an more let down

    i told the lady i spoke to that if my tv doesn't get fixed this week i'll be taking the tv back to the store and demanding a full refund

    will i shop at el giganten again? would you put your hand on a burning stove again?

    service = very poor

  • Frida says:

    Hmmm… it saddens me to read these horror-stories of bad service from El-Giganten.

    I myself am a cashier at El-Giganten on Kungsgatan in Stockholm and our motto has always been Kindness, Helpfulness and Effectivity.

    To offer the best possible service is our nr one priority, we gladly compensate customers who have been forced to wait for a late delivery of a product and we never flinch to lower our price if we find another store with better prices than us.

    For example, when MediaMarkt opened a store the other day in Jönköping, we had a Nokia mobile phone for 20sek (ca 2 euros at current rates) and a 32" Philips HD-ready TV for 2990sek (ca 323 euros) among other things just to show our customers that we will allways keep the best prices, no matter what.

    My wishes right now are that some of you who have been treated poorly by El-Giganten in the past will give us a second chanse and visit us again.

    If you would, perhaps we'll meet and I can even give you a special discount if you say that you read this comment! Just look for Frida at El-Giganten Kungsgatan, I am usually behind the cashiersdesk… Hope to see you soon! 😉

  • damian says:

    my elgiganten story is coming to an end now …

    they were supposed to have my tv for 2 weeks to fix a purple snake issue and when they told me this i demanded a tv while they did this; simply because it is elgiganten and i just new it wouldn't be two weeks …

    anyway, it's over a month now and i demanded to know when i'd have my tv. the guy emailed me and said december 1st or i can have my money back – (over Kr20,000 when i bought the TV over a year ago) … anyway; i go on holiday tomorrow and dont come back until december 9th …

    they never phoned me or informed me that my tv wasn't coming so i'm not informing them … although i have put it up on my site, i'm leaving at 6am tomorrow 😉

    i'm looking forward to getting the money and upgrading to a 50" from another shop!

    dont use elgiganten! they are easy to sell you something .. as demonstrated above, but as soon as it goes wrong, they dont want to know …

  • Super Knight says:

    I have been to several countries. And am now in Sweden. There is a lot of business potential in the country, but a lot has to be done to give customers a special touch. One in fact told me that to be a customer in Sweden one has to persevere a lot. Am also told that you can still get good service from selected few other shops in the country.

    Right now I am very bitter with Nodea bank. It keeps sending me communication in Swedish despite my written indication to them that I do not understand the language. Their website too has no option for other languages. Yet it claims to be an international bank!

    Electronic shops, banks and others (especially in Sweden), pliz put your customers at heart, before you lose out!

  • Fyaniko says:

    El-Giganten or banks or whatever aside, if you are in Sweden, pray to the Almighty that you don't ever become ill! I wish I told you my story, but I think it is outside the subject matter under discussion.

  • bensam says:

    You are right El Giganten is the worst electronic store ever they do not help you after you buy something.

  • damo says:

    just adding to the elgiganten story .. i've just had my TV it back after a second time away and its still not fixed. the store say they tested it when they got it back and couldn't see anything wrong ..

    i've told them before that its not on every channle or every external device. the delviery guy who actually brought it back also left the invoice for elgiganten – on the invoice it says THEY DID NOTHING …

    elgiganten are now saying i should call panasonic and its panasonic that say i should call the store!

    you should only use elgiganten if you are after something specific and elgiganten are the only store that have it and you're willing to accept poor service.

    or, of you want to buy something and want the thrill of it breaking down and then you haveing to dela with possibly the worst company in sweden in terms of customer service – then by all means buy it at elgiganten

    i'll not be buying at elgiganten anymore and i'll be telling people not to buy from them .. poor service, poor support and no respect for customers

  • Patrick says:

    You guys are a bunch of goddamn crybabys!

    I am a employee at Elgiganten in Denmark.

    – Think about how many costumers who come in and out every single day of a store, and the reason why it goes wrong isnt that the personel doesnt burn for their jobs it's simply because of such people like you!

    1: Exploit the "price-guarantuee"

    2: Calls our Service Center for stupid questions like "Do you have that in stock?"! The service Center emails the floor personel in the shops, and ask us to call the them and tell them if we have in stock, MOVE YOUR ASSES AND CHECK FOR YOURSELFS!

    3: All the salespersonel is responsibel for all their sales, if I sell 10 tv's a day, it's my job to keep track of them, and that can sometimes be hard if I want to have a normal life after job, so have a little patience with us! We are people to!

    4: To the guy at the top with the DVD Player! Get your finger out of your a**hole and do it yourself! It's the same as going down to your car repairman and ask him to check the oil and then expect he is doing it for free!

    5: QUIT complaining and send in ideas on how we can make it better for YOU! All you're doing with this site is making people not trusting Elgiganten and it's PERSONEL! Help us, help you!

  • RG says:

    And you Patrick ara a goddamn bigot who can't admit that maybe — just maybe — some of your co-workers have a fucked up 9 to 5 attitude.

    I am (correction: was) a customer at El-Giganten in Denmark.

    – Think about why so many people are complaining about El-Giganten's "service". The number of complaints about your store appears to be much higher than complains about other stores you know. Half the people I know who bought electronics at El-Giganten bloody hates your company and most of them aren't buying shit there anymore. Simply because of people like you!

    1. Yes, exploiting the price guarantuee is actually a good idea. But we are not discussing that, are we? We're discussing about El-Giganten's shitty service/feedback and that they pay no attention whatsoever to what people say. By the way, you demonstrate that pretty well actually.

    2. Dude, WTF?! Since when is it an unacceptable thing to ask wether some company has a certain product in stock or not? Personally I check stuff like that myself on the applicable company's website, but hey, guess what: not everyone uses the internet! People like my 66 year old mother for instance prefer telephones. Well, since El-Giganten has telephones as well and labeled it as a "Service Center", don't be all offended that potential customers actually call and ask questions like that. Else El-Giganten should rename it into something like the "That's not my fucking problem-Center".

    3. Oh please, it's not like you're taking your work home with you. You sell Playstations 'n stuff, you're not searching for the ultimate cure for cancer, now do you? Your argument is therefor not only non relevant, it is also invalid. So here is a picture of a cat pushing a watermelon out of a lake. This is Sparta!

    4. <code>"Get your finger out of your a**hole and do it yourself!"</code> Oh, that one is beautiful. What's that, company motto? Then you must be the employee of the month. Yeah, I really don't understand why customers have problems with you. You're right. Everyone else is wrong, clearly.

    5. Believe me when I say that it's not this website that's making El-Giganten look bad. I think that customers will send in idea's as soon as they're being taken seriously, for starters. Try to be a bit more like Frida, your Swedish colleague. Sure, she's full of shit, but at least she doesn't chase people away. Have a look in the mirror every now and then…. Consider that as an idea to make El-Giganten better. Helping me by helping you…

  • BuyAbroad-Let them G says:

    Ah…..

    Shoppers of Scandinavia WAKE UP!!! RISE UP!!! You have nothing to lose but your blinkers!!

    The attitude of the El Giganten DK employee above is a perfect example of why you should NOT shop with them!!

    Patrik!!! Dude!! Yes I am talking about you!!!

    I am talking TO YOU!! Perhaps its about time you DID start to take your work home with you!!! If you take your job fucking seriously!!!

    Charging for information freely available on the internet? Sure the customer COULD have researched that themselves and not bothered you in the first place….but this is part of the sickness that I see…

    Your complete distain for your customers is shockingly obvious…and that product knowledge like this should not be imparted for free in the hope of engendering some sort of customer loyalty, just because thats what a good sales person does makes it evident that you see consumers as nothing more than sheep that can be fleeced again and again and again…

    For fucks sake dude….it is YOU and your colleagues and indeed the whole of the scandinavian retail industry that needs to pull their fucking finger out of their fucking arses!!!

    I am kind of sick of Scandinavia being the dumping ground for last years product at last years premium price, I am sick of the fact that the same Dell model sold in the UK has a better spec than the one sold with the same name in Sweden simply because they can get away with charging more for much much less, I am tired of researching the internet only to find I could buy abroad and ship to Sweden for less than my local market will sell to me locally. Do they think I am stupid? Do they think I am internet illiterate? Do they think that they and only they have the right to take my money and butt fuck me over a barrel when it breaks? No!!! I can pay much less to a German company for the same product and the same pleasure….and in fact….they may even answer my emails and send me a replacement without much argument. (as indeed has happened to me with etailers from Germany, the UK and Ireland….item replaced for no cost without argument….extra shipping sometimes required…sometimes paid by them. There are good and bad out there too…I am sure there is a butt fucking pirate out there waiting for me and my cash but so far I have as much trouble from Swedish stores that actually HAVE stores you can walk into and be lied to in the face!!!)

    Anyway…I will stop ranting now….

    and continue to shop online and abroad….eventually they will either catch on that they must either provide EXCEPTIONAL customer service, COMPETITIVE prices in an international market place or roll over…

    As a coda….Komplett….they opened an outlet in the UK….and tried to maintain a price parity with their scandinavian stores….They have closed in the UK now….they are still selling over priced pc's over here in Scandinavia.

    Sorry for sliding slightly off topic….but I think it IS kind of relevant.

    shoppers unite and take over!!!

  • BuyAbroad-Let them G says:

    El Giganten February 2010

    Pure AV HDMI 3m – 899 Swedish Krona
    http://www.elgiganten.se/product/ljud-bild/tillbe

    €80 for a 3m HDMI cable? THAT has got to rock right? So….where are the international HiFi magazine reviews? I mean….at €80 for 3m….this stuff has just got to be tha shit right?

    So forgive me for being just a little bit sceptical here when the only international mention I can find for this brand is £14.99 on Amazon.co.uk……

    No review….TestFreaks…What HiFi…AVForum…..hmmmmmm

    So…nobody outside of Sweden has heard of this revolutionary hyper expensive HDMI cable?

    Wow!!! Are we the luckiest AV consumers in the world or WHAT???

    We have exclusive rights to the most expensive Belkin HDMI cable that the world has ever seen? The clarity of our audio and visual signals must be many times better than those of everybody else in the world….

    Wait….wait…WHAT?

    Surely….a digital signal can not be that much degraded over 3m that €80 of cable can make so much difference in qualitative terms? surely that defies the laws of physics….

    …and yet….if it really DID….surely I would find some mention of it online….somewhere in the world….Perhaps on the New Scientist web pages….or the bulletin board of CERN.

    Something more perhaps at least than a simple product for sale with the same name and picture on Amazon.co.uk….for £14.99

  • ImdaPrincesse says:

    Hmmm..Maybe it’s just me that gets EXCELLENT service from El Giganten in Horsens, Denmark. I have ADHD and I am forever losing and misplacing receipts. If you go to El Giganten, not only is your sale registered in their computer system, but you can also get it sent to you via email. I’ve never had anything but great service there. They take a product return often without even blinking an eye. For example, I had a 2TB Seagate plug n play type external hard drive that the USB connector came loose. The product was almost 2 years old but they happily gave me a new one. I expected to be paying for a new part at the very minimum so this was a FANTASTIC result.

    Just today, I had to return a Plantronics BackBeat Go head set that I bought in October. (the left channel had gone out). As usual, I couldn’t find my receipt and this ONE TIME I bought a product without putting it onto my account. Stupid me. They young guy at the service counter looked high & low for it but was just unable to find it but said if I came back with my bank statement he could help me then. I remembered I made 2 SEPARATE transactions that day and I found the receipt for the second on my fridge. I called customer service with the date & time stamp and they found it in their central system. She gave me the faktura # and away I went. They didn’t have that one in stock so I traded up to the Plantronics BackBeat Go w/ charger. That was ca. 400DKK/$65 more but I like the product and actually already own that one. Yes, I own several headsets.

    Sooo…I came home and looked to see if they’re cheaper elsewhere and I found them for 999DKK. I called customer service again (oddly enough I talked to the same representative…how often does that happen?) She was happy to take the information, I made a screenshot & emailed it to her.

    AAAAAaaannnddd??? I got refunded the difference. I have always had excellent service there and I will NOT buy electronics elsewhere. We Americans tend to expect good/great service and for as long as I’ve been a customer at El Giganten, I’ve gotten it. You can even return/exchange an item bought in Sweden, Norway or Denmark. I’ve never heard of that before but El Giganten does this.

    I’m sorry to all the people here who’ve have bad luck. Maybe you should shop with me next time!

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