The excitement of Dick Smith Electronic's game sale yesterday was, in many ways, off-set by the anger from customers who felt that they'd lined up for nothing. The Dick Smith sale was characterised by miscommunication: from when the sale was meant to begin, to what was actually available and in stock, to how much people could buy. A Dick Smith employee who worked during the sale has offered to answer a few questions for us.
The employee has asked to remain anonymous because he still works for the retailer.
Kotaku: Last week three price lists were leaked and everyone interpreted this to be a store-wide sale. Was everything actually meant to go on sale? Dick Smith Employee (DSE): I feel the main generation of hype for this sale was in the way the document was leaked. To us staff, we can translate that document immediately to see what's in stock and what isn't, whereas anyone else would have looked at it and thought 'EVERYTHING IS ON SALE!'
For example, there were codes on the initial document (everything in the store has a product look-up code and customers are given these codes on their receipts and when they want to call and ask for stock) that tell us what items are in stock and what items aren't in any particular store. If customers had these codes they could also put them into the Dick Smith website and see what stores have stock and what counts online distribution has.
The moment that list came out I went through it and discovered that we had next to none of the hardware and that most stores around us didn't, either. Those codes also tell us whether items are no longer sold (discontinued) or still being stocked (active). As this was a nationally-distributed letter to all stores, if one store in the entire country stocked that item, it was on the list.
Kotaku: Initially we were informed that the sale would start on April 2, then we were told it was April 12, then the sale started April 2. When was the sale meant to take place? DSE: This itself is a little confusing even to us staff. Some items have been held back from going on sale until April 12th due to them either being advertised in the next catalogue and needing to meet stock requirements or to keep a little stock from being sold just yet, however, at the ground level we haven't been given anything concrete. We were meant to be given a week to price all the games and have it ready for sale come April 12th but due to the leak the entire thing was bumped up, giving us staff very little time to prepare for it.
Kotaku: We've heard rumours that Dick Smith held this sale because they're looking to move out of selling games. Is this true? DSE: The reason as far as I can see is just to clear out old gaming stock. Dick Smith has had gaming clearances before but nothing to this magnitude. A few games that were extremely old (as in years) weren't even put up for sale, they were simply destroyed. Dick Smith is certainly continuing to sell games because no new games were put on sale and our system is still being actively stocked. I'd wager they're trying to liquidate old stock as Woolworths do want to sell the business off.
[UPDATE: In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, a spokesperson for Woolworths said that Dick Smith will be moving out of the gaming market.
“We did a full business review and we decided to accelerate [our consolidation of gaming],” a Woolworths spokesperson said. “This isn’t about clearing out to restock again.
“There are games stores and online gaming specialists, so we’ll leave that market largely to them and just have a very core range of titles and much tighter purchasing strategies.”]
Kotaku: What was it like being behind the counter on the day of the sale? DSE: I rocked up to work about half an hour before open to help prepare for the sale and there was already about thirty people at the front of the store. By the time we opened it was more about fifty. To put that into perspective we normally have one, maybe two people at the front of the store. The moment those doors opened the counter itself was flooded with people asking for DSis (of which there were only a few).
That said people were generally pretty understanding. One guy threaten to call the ACCC and complain and a couple of people got a little angry when we told them they couldn't buy as much as they wanted, but that was about it, everyone else seemed fairly happy and picked up a game or two. Some customers were unhappy to see other customers snap up all the hardware or software in one purchase before anyone else could. There certainly wasn't enough staff on, though. I don't think Dick Smith Head Office were really prepared for what was going to happen in terms of size.
Kotaku: There have been reports that Dick Smith staff bought up all the hardware before the sale opened to the public. Were there any rules in place as far as what staff could and couldn't buy? DSE: We were advised by Head Office not to have any kind of staff holds and that Loss Prevention would be keeping a tight eye on things just in case it did happen. There weren't any other solid rules in place for the sale, but I know a few stores (such as my own) limited the amount of stock one person could buy so that it was shared around a little and more people could enjoy the benefits of the pricing.