Friday, 18 February 2011

The Saga of the 12V laptop charger, and why no-one should shop at Maplin!

In my previous post I mentioned that I'd bought a laptop charger for my Sony Vaio. What I didn't mention, as I'd not had a chance to test it was that it didn't work. It outputted a fluctuating voltage, and so the screen flickered and the laptop made worrying clicking noises. It did charge the laptop when it was off, but was pretty useless, so I contacted Smart Parts, and asked for a refund. They agreed.

On the recommendation of someone who commented on my problem, I decided to buy a charger from Maplin (Cambridge Beehive Centre)to replace the 12 V charger from Smart Parts which didn't work. When I went into the shop, armed with the output voltage I needed and the size of the pin to plug into the laptop, I stood in front of their display of 12V laptop chargers for a while, checking the details of each. No-one approached me to ask if I needed any help, despite the shop being quiet. So I picked up the one I thought would work, based on the info I had. At the counter, I expressed concern that I had bought a similar charger previously which hadn't worked. No advice was offered, I was simply told that if it was faulty, I could bring it back.

I took it home, and set it to the right output voltage, but it didn't work. Wiggling the connector seemed to get it to charge when held in by hand - the charging symbol came one, but it was pretty useless. Assuming that this was because it was faulty, I took it back with the receipt. They tested it, and then the bombshell: Rudely, they said. This isn't faulty, there's nothing we can do. I asked if the assistant would speak to his manager to double check. He reluctantly agreed, and came back, almost smirking, saying 'He's not prepared to offer you a refund, he'd not even prepared to offer an exchange. You bought a 78W charger for a 120W laptop!' I felt like he was implying that I'd been an idiot. Nowhere on my laptop or charger does it say what wattage it requires. How was I to know? I am not a computer expert! Despite the fact that I expressed concern that I wasn't sure if this one would work when I bought it, they didn't ask if I had checked the wattage of the charger. So they decided it was my fault. I am frankly appalled by the poor customer service I received from Maplin - they were rude and unhelpful, and I will be making sure that they see this. I will certainly never give them my custom again.


  1. Maplin is largely staffed by arrogant little sh*ts with the dangerous thing of a little knowledge, but more dangerously assuming they know more than anyone else. They've deliberately placed themselves as a high st shop (rather than the geek backwater they were twenty years ago), and therefore should have a somewhat friendlier approach. I have the advantage of being able to put most of them in their place very quickly; I also know the more experienced staff in the local shop (albeit only one of him), who are likely to be helpful.

    They should have accepted it back with no arguments. If the 'manager' of the shop (probably nothing of the kind) has refused to help, then give the head office a call, point out that you had no offers of help whn buying it, and how you were treated when you returned it. The least you should get is a credit note, but they should just give you your money back, full stop. Alternatively if you can get to a different shop, they may actually employ a human being who will take a different approach - that's worked for me in the past.

    Give me a shout if I can be of further help finding what you need...

    Simon, Tortoise

  2. We refuse to shop in Maplins as their staff are almost always rude and unhelpful.

    We paid slightly more for our laptop 12v supply and bought the one that Dell produced for their laptops. That way we knew it was the right one and wouldnt damage the computer. It was on offer at £40 when we bought it so not too bad.

  3. Unfortunately Sony don't make their own 12v chargers.

  4. The secret phrase is "Fit for purpose".

    Sale of Goods Act 1979. Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994. The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002.

    Key Facts: Wherever goods are bought they must "conform to contract". This means they must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality.

    Aspects of quality include fitness for purpose, freedom from minor defects, appearance and finish, durability and safety.

    Is the item safe to use. As they have pointed out - it is underpowered for the purpose it was purchased for.

    Its not safe so take it back and ask for your money back.

  5. Hi there,

    I'm sorry to hear for your problems. In my experience of Maplins in Derby they have always been excellent at service, assistance and refunds, well that's what I've found. Perhaps you should have bought one here, there are nice moorings at Swarkestone Lock on the T&M and just a 3 mile bus ride into town....

    Seriously though I hop you get everything sorted soon :)


  6. found this:

    (look half way down the page)

    No idea who the company are (give them a ring to discuss, make sure it's suitable, they'll take it back otherwise etc?), I suspect it's a fairly generic PSU you can set to the right settings, plug etc. It may be as flaky as the first one you tried, or it may just actually work...

    [btw, for just watching films, a portable DVD player (especially for a few quid from a car boot sale) is just the job...]


  7. Having read this post and the Maplin returns and refund policy, I fail to see what the issue is.

    It falls squarely under the following section of their Returns T&C:

    "6.10 The responsibility for ensuring that Goods are sufficient and suitable for the Customer’s requirements rests with the Customer save insofar as Maplin have specifically advised the Customer that the Goods are sufficient and suitable for the Customer’s purposes."

    It does not fall under the "Fit for Purpose" rules, it is fit for the purpose it was designed for: a 78w laptop, which presumably it clearly states on the packaging.

    You admit you didn't ask for advice (the shop is not required to offer advice unasked), had you done so you would have been covered under their refund policy. However you did receive accurate advice on the refund policy at the till, "if faulty you can bring it back".

    Contrary to popular belief, consumers do not have the right to return/refund items unless they are faulty, and even then an exchange or repair may be offered first.

    All companies, by law, have to be able to inform you of their refunds & returns policy, which if you don't understand they can explain further. If you disagree with a companies policy, then by all means don't shop there, but it is hardly grounds for a malicious online campaign against them.

  8. Totally agree with the above comment, its down to the consumer, if you brought the wrong item its your fault not Maplins, its a pity some people then try and post negative comments on this company. I don't use Maplins, but they are correct in their response, Perhaps Amy next time you will take slightly more care when shopping in future or ask someone for advice if you don't understand. Admittedly the education system these days doesn't help you much either, as you state you are a recent graduate? Says it all really!

  9. To the two anonymous posters, at this stage it is less about the actual product than about the rude, humiliating customer service I received.

  10. she still doesn't get it! Bless Her!

  11. Did you go into the shop, admit you had made a mistake then politely ask if they could exchange the item? or did you go in all combative claiming the item was faulty, demanding a refund and blaming the staff for your mistake? Often the level of customer service reflects the attitude of the customer...

  12. What don't I get, sorry?

    And no, I was perfectly polite and non-combative, actually. Having worked as a sales assistant in the past, I know that being aggressive is not helpful.

  13. Amy, do ignore the people who have seen fit to make rude comments on your blog - if I were a cynical person I would find their knowledge of maplin's terms a little suspicious.

    It is correct to say that uk consumer law gives no automatic right to a refund if you simply change your mind. However in your case the charger was not fit for the purpose for which you bought it. You made clear to the sales staff that you were unsure whether it would work with your laptop, and were simply told that if it didn't work you could bring it back. That sounds a lot like asking for advice to me so I think you have a solid argument to get a refund under sale of goods act or indeed their own terms. As you say you are not a computer expert and they did nothing to help you find the right item.

    In fairness my experience of maplin the couple of times I have needed to return goods has been very helpful so I would try again making sure you actually speak to the store manager and explain the situation.

    Good luck!

  14. Why people feel the need to insult you Amy I don't know. Bad customer service is just that bad service and it Doesn't matter if they're within the law or not.

    PS as someone who hopes to own a boat one day I follow your blog with interest.

    Charlie from Derby.

  15. That's very poor service from Maplin, both at the point of sale and at the return. Admittedly, the Maplin manager is correct in the letter of the law - he does not have to accept a return or an exchange because it isn't faulty. Of course, good customer service would have been to accept back the incorrectly-purchased product and given you a credit note as a gesture of goodwill.

    For future reference for readers of this blog, most laptop chargers show the output voltage (usually somewhere between 14 and 21 volts) and also the output current (in Amps, symbol A). Multiplying these two together gives the peak power output in watts (e.g. 15V x 5A = 75W). You need a 12v supply unit capable of supplying the right voltage and with a power output greater than or equal to the power output of the mains charger.

    Hope this helps,

    nb Innocenti

  16. I've spent over 20 years working retail over here in the US. We remember the saying, "Win the argument, Loose the customer, and be ready to stand in the unemployment line."

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  18. I was a customer of Maplins from the catalogue days and placed a lot of orders with them. But the shops don't reflect the original status that Maplin gained in the electronic community. They are trying too hard to cater for the "mass market" rather than specialising in electronic parts (whether for hobby or professional use). Last time I visited one of their shops I was amazed at how expensive a tniy pack of screws can be!

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