I have known of this shop for years, but this week was the first time that I went in.
It was a frustrating experience. They have a good product range: lots of different seed beads, plenty of crystals and more expensive bead items, crafts supplies like pliers etc, lots of bits and pieces - and something I particularly liked: beading wire in lots of different colours, really gorgous colours! They do them in different weights which is fantastic.
Having said all that, I was rather disappointed with their customer service. Maybe I caught them on a bad day, maybe it was rather late (5.15pm) after long and tiring hours? But I think they could have done a lot better. Normally I am unable to leave a shop like this without spending at least £25, I just can't bear leaving lovely stuff behind! Well, on Monday I managed to part with only £2.75 - that must be a record for me, at other times I'm the proverbial magpie!
I happened to pick up one of the small itty-bitty bags of seed beads (no idea how many it contained or how many grams, there was no information that I could see) because I loved the wonderful colour. Fridica would know the one I mean, it was a sort of minty aqua! Just her colour. Slightly iridescent, really pretty!
But they looked just absolutely tiny! I had never seen anything as titchy as that! So I asked for the size. I have been buying seed beads as if it was going out of fashion, but I can't remember what the sizes are. I think I was told that this was a size 11. Because they were so small that I felt you'd need a magnifying glass to work with them, I was told the next size up is a size 8 (that gels with what I had seen on the Internet) - but when the sales assistant pointed to those I was really shocked that these were huge! Well, in comparison! I was so sure that I had lots of beads at home that were bigger than the tiny ones. In the course of discussing the sizes, the two assistants kept referring to them as 'delicates' - now I'm sure it must be wonderful and ever so up-on-things to know the proper names for an item, but frankly that's no help to a customer to whom that name doesn't mean a thing ('delicates' just makes me think of bloomers, undies and g-strings, snort, I know: very puerile of me). Particularly when said proper name is being pronounced in those slightly too high-pitched tones of incredulity at someone who obviously needed a huge gap in their education filled. Really rather grating to get a word called out to you several times, it made me feel a bit stupid to be honest.
It got worse. I was so silly as to say that a) I couldn't believe that there were no bigger ones than those 'delicates' and still smaller than size 8, and b) that I couldn't imagine getting a needle through them! I was informed that you could. With a beading needle. Aha. So I must have been using needles that weren't what I thought.
So I asked after beading needles. What they looked like. I had to ask point-blank to be shown them because that service was not forthcoming even after three questions about them. I would have thought that it's a given to show an interested customer a product in order to try and sell said item to said customer.
So in case you're wondering: beading needles are completely straight (without any bulge for the eye of the needle) and pretty thin. So the needle's eye is pretty tiny too. And yes, you could get that through one of those 'delicates' (snort). What I was using actually split the longish cylindrical beads I have, I will be able to work with those now!
Then I asked for the price of the 'delicates', I couldn't see that displayed anywhere - together with weight or number of beads. I really don't understand why you have to ask? I was told £2.95 (How much??) - good heavens, that's a bit eye-watering, isn't it?
I put those back in a hurry. Then it got better. I wandered around some more and found lots more seed beads on the opposite wall of the shop. And guess what?
You'll never guess. Those ones were bigger! I knew it. So I asked again. And was told that these are also size 11 (or whatever the smallest size was, I feel too traumatised to trust my memory) - but they were definitely the sort of size of the stuff I've got at home! No magnifying glass required!
So what's the difference?
Well, the ones I was holding are ..."round"... and the other ones ..."cylindrical"... For goodness sake! Couldn't someone have pointed them out to me? And guess how much these are, same size bag: £1.40. That's a - lot - better! But what kind of customer service is it that makes it necessary to play 20 questions for crying out loud? Way more difficult than pulling teeth, such hard work.
Early on I also looked at some pliers but wasn't sure if their function is to just hold stuff or cut wires. I would have liked to ask but couldn't get anyone's attention. I think they were between £7 and £15. It would have been so easy to sell me one of those.
Worst of all was that I felt laughed at, for not knowing more about the subject matter. Even though it wasn't true I said that I was new to this. That made no difference, I didn't dislodge nuggets of wisdom at a better rate than I had before.
There were a few customers in the shop, and at some point three members of staff. One appeared with a fistful of paperwork and soon left again, the older sales assistant (the one telling me about the beading needle, eventually) also busied herself with some paper work and disappeared as well. Leaving the younger member of staff who was at least a bit friendlier though also not as forthcoming as I would have liked.
What I would have liked was to buy quite a few of those "round" seed beads because I thought their price was okay and they do have some gorgeous colours. But by then I just couldn't be bothered. Seeing as I still had the royal blue wire in my hand (£1.75), plus the four beading needles (4 for £1), I paid for those, and that was it. I was never more glad to be leaving a shop again!
I didn't buy the silver beads, I include
them here to show the needle size
So if you'd like to check out what they have, great. But if you have any questions before you buy you're probably better off going to the bead shops near Covent Garden, there are at least three of them and they are much better at displaying i.e. pricing information and answering questions.
The London Bead Company is pretty much exactly opposite Kentish Town tube and overground station. Make sure to use the pedestrian crossing, traffic round there is ever flowing. If you're knackered after your visit I can recommend the Assembly House pub - just up the road a bit from the tube station, turning right.
Sorry about the major moan but I am really disappointed. You'd think that a shop would want to sell you their goods and not make it way too difficult. Am I being unreasonable in feeling so upset? It was my first visit to this shop, has anyone else been there and do you have different experiences? I would love to get more positive feedback and try them again. Maybe they'll make up for a bad first impression.