No surprise at all, really
I was in PC World looking for a laptop a few weeks ago.
For starters, every single one comes with Vista. So if you don't want Vista, that's too bad - you have to buy elsewhere.
Worse, though, is that half the machines were running a password-protected video (advertising Blu-ray or something), so you can't even see the desktop. So, you can't even type something into Notepad to see if the keyboard feels comfortable, or access Device Manager to see what hardware you're actually getting. How I'm supposed to compare and contrast different models to actually choose one is anyone's guess. (And no, I'm not going to spend hundreds of pounds based on advice from PC World staff).
So instead, I left, spent a while with a glass of wine and Google, and ordered one online. It arrived the next day, pre-installed with XP, and I know the hardware is compatible with Ubuntu.
I'll admit to buying the odd hard drive or network card from them, using the collect-in-store feature of their web site, but how they stay in business at all is a mystery to me.