Like many people living in the UK, I often gaze enviously at the low cost of consumer electronics in the USA. iPads, laptops, TVs – all are available at a substantially lower cost in America. And like many, when visiting the USA I consider making my tech purchases there to save money. But what about compatible chargers, software and international support? A Microsoft store in San Francisco recently surprised me with a very good deal to take home to Blighty.
I wanted to buy a Surface 2 as a gift. In the UK, the Surface 2 costs £359 including VAT. In the San Francisco, where I was visiting, the Surface 2 costs about $485 including local sales taxes. Convert the American price into pounds sterling, and you get about £267. That’s a saving of £62 over the British price. A tempting buy.
I told a sales rep in the Microsoft store that I was thinking of buying a Surface 2 and taking it back to the UK. I asked about international support and they told me that would be included. But then came the kicker. I asked whether they could exchange the US plug adaptor for a UK plug adaptor. They said they could not, but they would deduct $35 from the cost of the Surface 2, which I could put towards buying a UK plug adaptor when I returned home.
This was an exceptional piece of customer service. I bought the Surface 2 there and then as a result. The final price was $450, or just £275.
After this experience, I wanted to see how Apple would compare. I went to the local Apple Store and asked the same questions about buying an iPad Air and returning it to the UK. The sales rep in store would not offer me a replacement plug adaptor or any other concession comparable to what Microsoft offered me.
Today’s tip for roving international tech buyers: if you intend to buy American and come home to Britain, consider Microsoft. Hopefully they will be as friendly to you as they were to me.