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PC World's disappointing diagnosis

£30 charge provides limited feedback

Readers of the Consumerwatch pages in PC Advisor's December issue will know we were less than impressed with PC World's 50 Point Healthcheck. The retail giant presents the service as a walk-in clinic for sickly computers. Customers can use it to ensure their computers are running efficiently, are secure from hackers and free of viruses.

Posing as a common or garden member of the public we strolled down to our local Tottenham Court Road PC World outlet with a three-year-old Carrera PC in tow. The service we received was somewhat disappointing and we felt our £29.99 (now £39.99), would have been better spent on a few CDs or a computer game. In the end all we got was a virus removed and a recommendation that we invest in bit more memory.

Steve Campbell, operations director at PC World wrote to apologise for the shoddy service and offered us a complimentary Healthcheck. Thanks Steve, especially as it now costs an extra £10.

But, we still felt a little put out that Tottenham Court Road PC World couldn't spare a technician for more than five minutes with us, especially as the original press release promised us an hour with a Healthcheck expert. Was it just us? Maybe it was something we said?

According to a source who works at one of London's biggest PC World outlets, it certainly isn't just us. "On average a full Healthcheck, as per company policy and procedures, should last 45-60 minutes," says our source, who can't be named for obvious reasons. "The customer should be present when the Healthcheck is being done.

"But staff aren't following these guidelines. They tell the customer to come back in an hour or so." Apparently it's a question of capacity. On an average day there are just four to five trained staff available to do the Healthcheck and they have to get through a target of 40 checks a week, which means they could do without pesky customers asking awkward, time-consuming questions.

PC Advisor reckons that if you're going to cough up £39.99 for a Healthcheck you should demand a one-on-one consultation with a technician, especially as PC World’s press office says the length of each Healthcheck depends on how many questions the customer asks.

The press office also implies it is up to the customer whether they sit in on the Healthcheck. "The new 50 point system lasts as long as is necessary to complete it. We would like all customers to sit in on the Healthcheck. However, some choose not to," said a PC World spokesperson. "The length of the check depends on the number of questions asked by the customer. It is uncommon for it to take less than an hour."

Healthcheck is turning into a nice little earner for PC World. At the bigger, London-based stores (according to our inside source) a minimum of 40 Healthchecks is carried out every week.That's just under £1,600 per week. On average, the total revenue for Healthcheck for the larger London stores is between £2,400 and £3,000 a week or getting on for £150,000 per year — and that's before the margin PC World gets on the software and component upgrades that often accompany the outcome of a Healthcheck.

If you've been at the receiving end of a 50 Point Healthcheck, we'd like to hear from you. Were you offered the chance to sit in on your Healthcheck? Post your experiences in our Consumerwatch forum: www.pcadvisor.co.uk/consumerwatch.

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