WHSmith Promo fail

It’s the weekend, so I thought you might be interested in some RETAIL FAIL. More specifically: WHSmith FAIL.

If you don’t live in the UK. WHSmiths are a retail phenomenon. ‘Smiths are able to charge astronomical amounts for bars of chocolate and boring stationary, and yet people still shop there. When a videogame has hit the bargain bins in Gamestation, chances are you can find a cellophane-wrapped copy in WHSmiths at full launch day price. The only redeeming thing the store has going for it, is that it stocks just about every magazine imaginable.


I’ve been after a new USB flash-drive for a while. I had to send a large file to Italy a month ago, and I sent it on one of my personal thumb-drives — so I can buy one and charge it to work.

I was in town today and decided to pop into WHSmiths and pick one up. They’ve always got a sale on thumb-drives and webcams for some inexplicable reason.

As expected there was a large gondola-end display of reduced drives, including a very sexy HP drive — the v210w.

The drive was reduced from £49.99, to £19.99. It’s tiny, with a chromed metal finish. A great deal, or so I thought.

Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch! Click here to embiggen.

When I took the display card to the till, it came up at £49.99! The young sales-assistant went away for a bit, and came back to tell me that she couldn’t sell me the device at the advertised price because it was on the system at £50.

She went on to say that promotional materials are dictated by head-office, and that they’d emailed already to complain about discrepancies on the till system. Bastards.

So, rather than kicking off in store on a Saturday morning (the store assistant, to be fair, had been very pleasant), I decided I’d take the matter up with the glue-sniffing morons at head-office.

Below, my email.

from: Aaron Murin-Heath

subject: in store promotion: 8GB HP memory stick

to: customer.relations@whsmith.co.uk

Good morning,

This morning I visited your Newark on Trent store. I have been looking for a new USB memory stick for a while, so imagine my delight when I saw a very nice 8GB “Premium” HP v210w flash-drive in your 60% sale.

I have attached a photo of the promotional display.

When I took the item card to the till, rather than charging the advertised £19.99, it rang up £49.99 – the non-sale price. The store assistant went to seek some advice, and returned to say that the store had emailed head-office about such issues, and she was afraid she couldn’t sell me the item for the advertised price.

Apparently the WH Smith head-office instructs stores on its promotional displays, yet can’t get it together to ensure that the promotional items are priced as advertised on the system. A rather shoddy state of affairs, no?

Needless to say I was more than a little annoyed. But, not wanting to cause the nice young assistant any trouble, I decided to take this up with the people at fault… the plonkers at head office!!

So no, I don’t have my nice HP memory stick. I had to make do with an awful bog-standard Sony one.

I am aware that I don’t have a god-given right to a discount, but I do expect to enjoy an offer, when a store as established as WHSmiths, advertises one!

As you may have gathered, I’m more than a little disgruntled.

Aaron Murin-Heath

Geek, writer and all-round good guy

As you can probably gather, I’m more than a bit pissed off. I really liked that thumb-drive. But no way could I stick a receipt past the hawks at work for £50.

Finally, if you have a twitter account and wouldn’t mind helping me stick it to WHSmiths, please retweet this. Thanks.