“Started at Dixons. Only sold a pair of headphones all day”
Dixons’ Southampton store was located at the (relatively) unfashionable end of the town’s High Street. But, despite being in competition with the likes of Comet or Rumbelows (not to mention the plethora of independent electronics retailers), it handled a lot of foot traffic and was very busy indeed.
The hi-fi department was at the rear of the store on a raised platform. I was put under the training and supervision of Dave H., an experienced Dixons’ employee and somewhat archetypal old school salesman who ‘hustled’ customers wherever he could.
I think that’s probably why I only sold a pair of headphones all day. Dave would either beat me to any customer who expressed even the vaguest interest in things or would happily steer my customers in his own direction whenever I didn’t have a clue (which was often) and had to ask him a question.
Also, unlike him, I was perhaps a little to ‘honest’ with my answers to customer enquiries. If they asked me if a particular amplifier or tuner was any good I would refer to my memory bank of ‘magazine reviews’ and tell them what I had read. Not always with a positive spin. That would often send potential buyers away to think again.
For all his public persona, Dave was actually an OK guy. Very friendly and very approachable when he was off the shop floor. We shared lots of long chats about the hi-fi industry whilst we had our tea breaks or lunches together, and he confided in me that he was hoping to get out of Dixons “very soon”.
He and a pal of his had started up a loudspeaker company and they had just started manufacturing top quality speakers which they planned to sell via ads in the specialist hi-fi magazines. I showed immediate interest in his plans and he promised that he would loan me a pair of the bookshelf models they built for my appraisal, a promise he kept just a week or so later.
So, anyway, my ‘career’ in the hi-fi industry had commenced. I’ll be honest and say whilst Dave was a decent enough supervisor and the pay was OK, the job was horrible. Apart from the short breaks I was on my feet all day long, and I felt very out of my depth in dealing ‘cold’ with customers and trying to talk knowledgeably about things I (admit I) had scant knowledge about. Plus I was forced (rather than out of personal choice) to wear a ‘shirt & tie’ outfit which made me feel uncomfortable, not least because the heat in that low-ceiled claustrophobic hi-fi department was often unbearable.
How long will Dixons hold my attention? You will have to wait and see where fate takes me next… to be honest it was something of an unexpected twist.