PS Consultants - ideas & solutions

Black and Deckered
July 2000

The commercialisation of the web has been going through some growing pains lately, but one aspect that started well, but has been overlooked lately, is the ability of the little guys to tag the big guys. I suspect that this is because after an initial spate of small operators making big noises, the big money moved in and everyone got distracted by it. There has been a period when folks have believed that big money and global brands will subsume the web, and that has resulted in the "shopping on the web" becoming little more than the analogue of a regular high street, with all the familiar terms of reference to suit the global brands and advertising agencies.

The current spate of enthusiasm for "set top boxes that do email and shopping" (Open and Sky Digital is the current hot number) is an excellent reminder that we have a long way to get before the majority of the public get the plot, and that means a transient opportunity exists for some of the previously flawed and failed concepts of set top boxes like the fated N-Channel system, to enjoy a brief flourish.

The result is that there are currently a lot of folks in the serious marketing world who reckon that they have got the plot nailed, and that they are going to conveniently corral the public into walled environments like Sky and Open. Bzzzt!

As if we needed reminding that the present old economy built on bricks and mortar, huge rents and outrageous rates was in danger, here's a take of a business that thinks it has the plot, but doesn't.

I bought a Dustbuster from the local Texas store recently. I got it home and it was not "as advertised". So I thought I would look up the manufacturer's web site and have a gripe. Here's the story thus far...

Dear Black and Decker:

Product Code V7210-gb BATCH 9940-7 – bought at Chelmsford Homebase

I just bought a 7.2v dust buster from the Chelmsford Homebase for Ł49.99. It was in a "strap sealed" package, but when I got it back, it was obviously not a new product. The accessories were loose in the box, and the mains power charger/adapter had a broken earth pin.

Further, the unit had been packed with the power switch on, and if my knowledge of NiCad rechargeable batteries serves me, running a Nicad flat and keeping it flat is not the best way to make it last. And it was clear that the box had originally had some form of adhesive seal that was broken.

Going shopping at the store on a Sunday is a bad experience at the best of times, and I was not inclined to go back and exchange it and possibly find the next one was in the same state, so I would like a replacement battery charger and will reserve judgement on the state of the batteries in case they turn out to be knackered.

Your web presence is "OK" buy the way - even though the web address is obscure - ?? Why not use something that B&D “obviously” own and control - like or ..?

But apparently, B&D don't even control the support brand, some outfit called...

Registrant: Information & Imagination Inc. (2HELPU2-DOM)   1599 Post Road East   Westport, CT 06880   US

  Domain Name: 2HELPU.COM

...owns that.

- at least I got this email address - albeit the instructions for the V7210 is not at and you have not used the domain names or very intelligently. (If leads me to the Global website, I would assume goes to the UK presence..)

And although the info leaflet supplied implies spares are available, I cannot readily see how one would set about buying them. In my experience, trying to buy something like the filters from a brain-dead chain of retail sheds is likely to be a waste of effort.

And why not invite the purchaser to register their purchase via the web, and when doing so, prompt them to maybe buy supplies like spare filters directly from the spares warehouse - or ask if they would like a reminder in 6 months..? Anyway, getting the customer demographic details should be valuable enough to you to offer to send a free spare filter, surely..? I guess you get maybe 10% max registration through the paper process..?

The company also tries to hide its direct email contact points rather too effectively. Yours is one of only about 3 addresses on the entire site and subsites. Even the Chairman's Statement at hides the ID of the writer until you get to the end of the whole thing.

Significantly, no email address on the letter suggests that Nolan doesn't care for doing his own email - or even has a policy on how it gets handled when people want to write in - and as a stockholder, I'd be bothered about that.

Even if these people at ...

...are totally e-illiterate, give them email addresses and work out how to handle the interface to your customers and stockholders. At least it then looks like business intends to be doing ebusiness one day.

Plus there are so many confused domain names in use - also including I see.

You have some OK stuff on the web site, but B&D badly need to have someone get s proper grip on its internet strategy and opportunity and redirect energy from being quite such a "designer corporate brochureware" site, and taking responsibility for your core business - customer satisfaction and care - yourselves; not just outsourcing it all.

I can get a Korean plant to make drills and dustbusteralikes and outsource support as easily as you can. Then all I need to do is buy my advertising more efficiently, pull off a couple of PR coups (place a product in the next James Bond movie - some villain with a cordless drill would probably do to establish my brand) and you folks have a problem.

I took a flyer on guessing a couple of email addresses just in case I get lucky and hit the right desks. Sadly, they all bounced. But then again, I’m not surprised that the web dept. wants to keep the reactions of B&D customers from the board – it might spoil their day.

William Poel


I duly called the number and was told that "we're not stocking the 7110.." with no intelligent life present at the other end to deal with my follow up question < 
"Then why is BT advertising the things, and why am I being SMSed by genie with offers (dated March 1st)"

The response of the next persons was equally feeble. Much rambling about special retail promotions, and the admission that loyal long suffering customers don't have any sort of upgrade option. Do you actively want existing users to cancel their present contracts and start again..?

Although I am speechless, I am not surprised. I have come to expect this level of incompetence from most "regional call centre" services for any national brand.

And I am in awe of your ability to bid billions for a license for the next generation of cell frequencies, when you plainly don't have the intelligence to coordinate the marketplace for the present one.