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HMV says NO ENTRY; image thanks to zappowbang via FlickrIn the past two weeks I have twice been prevented from entering two different HMV stores on the high street. And not because I’m a known kleptomaniac, but because of the retailer’s lack of flexibility.

On both occasions I rocked up about five minutes before the store was due to close, so I knew I was pushing it. But I also knew exactly what I wanted, and I could see dozens of people milling about inside. 

Despite this, the security guards on the door wouldn’t let me in. Rules is rules!

Here's how it went last night, at the Oxford Street branch (I was reasonably amused since HMV Wandsworth pulled a similar trick last week):

Guard: "Sorry mate, you can't come in, we're closing."

Me: "Ok, but I know exactly what I want, and where it is. I’ll be done in less than two minutes."

Guard: "Sorry mate."

Me: "I'm about to spend £150. I’m not after a CD. £150! Two minutes!"

Guard: "Sorry, no can do."

Me: "Really? Have you not heard about the recession?"

Guard (obviously in a state of savage denial): "Ha ha! It’s really not affecting us that badly!"

Me: "Seriously? I think otherwise... ok, good luck."

I appreciate that staff like to leave on time, and maybe there are trading laws to abide by, but this still feels like punching a gift horse in the mouth. I whinnied off into the sunset.

It's certainly another argument for the always-on world of e-commerce. As such I'm officially giving up on the inflexible rules of the high street, and will spend my money online. Forward planning is all it takes. What’s the use of spontaneity and a want-it-now mindset if shops are closed (or 'closing')?

Obviously I’m not going to be shopping at HMV.com on general principles. Such is the effect of a negative multichannel brand experience - think again if you still think the perception of brands is channel-specific (it isn't).

But mainly I won’t be shopping at HMV.com because the first place I tend to look for products is Amazon. It pretty much gets the right of first refusal. I have an account there, and I trust it to deliver on time. I like the customer reviews and I like Jeff Bezos, and I'm lazy.

Crucially, Amazon is also very competitive on price. But hark! I hear the Gods of Irony calling my name! Curiosity prompted me to look at HMV.com and compare prices against the £137.88 fee Amazon charges. And at HMV.com it costs a mere £129.99!

Cue a moral / brand / price dilemma.

The difference in price is roughly the price of the travelcard and car parking tickets I spent when attempting to shop at HMV in the high street. I could make my wasted money back. But do I trust HMV to deliver on time? Or is it going to annoy me for the third time in two weeks?

Given the bad offline experience at HMV I’m not prepared to take a risk for a possible saving of £8, nor do I particularly want to give it my business. Sounds kinda stupid, but it just goes to show that price isn’t everything in a multichannel world. I'll buy via Amazon.

This is about trust and goodwill, as much as anything. And about punching horses...

Chris Lake

Published 4 February, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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