Originally Posted by Relic
Things I Learned At The Apple Store
I stopped by the mall the other day, mainly to pick up a pair of sneakers my wife had ordered. (That's another story, shopping -- even picking up things -- for the wife. It rarely ends well.) Anyway in the mall, I passed an Apple Store. It had recently been renovated, and I had never been there. (In fact, I'd never been in an Apple Store anywhere.)
I went in. First, I'm not a techie or a remotely skilled computer user. I have no strong feelings about Apple. I went in without preconceptions. I went in really to avoid leaving the mall -- it was freezing out & snowing & I was hoping (dreaming) that a few minutes later it would be a lot warmer and not snowing.
Here's what I think I learned or observed or concluded on my first trip to the Apple Store...
1. Michael Dell & Other Consumer PC-Makers: It's Over. Apple Has Won
It may not show up in the numbers, but it will. And the stock price? (Apple's lower than before but way higher than most.) How do I know it's won? I don't. But in my own twisted version of Buffet's maxim -- you learn most about a company through first-hand experience -- a few quick observations....
* It was bitter cold, snowing. The mall was quiet. You could actually hear the water streaming from the marble fountain a floor away. But the Apple Store was packed with people--folks laughing, banging keyboards, sampling the rows of gleaming computers and gadgets, like they were in a high tech Disney World fun park. And there were no give-aways, no store discounts; just another (frigidly cold) day at the mall.
* These people were not like me--i.e., lazy, biding their time before facing the cold. The lines at the cashier were 10-15 people deep the whole time. People were buying.
* For God sakes, people were lining up -- waiting time, 22 minutes -- to get a seat in the Apple "lounge" at the back of the store. What was special there? Nothing. A chance to sit, read some magazines, drink coffee and sample some computer stuff.
* At least 4 people told Apple Geniuses (i.e., sales people) they've used Dells over the years, hadn't considered Macs, but now wanted Macs. These were the 4 I heard, in a few minutes; how many more were there?
* Three people -- moms -- approached Apple store managers to ask how their kids could become Geniuses. The managers laughed. Their answer: Get in line, there's an application list the size of Montana. The moms did get in line, and signed up their sons.
* Think the store's only for teen geeks? (I did.) The people playing were of all ages. Some looked barely 14; others not younger than 70. You have a product or place that teens & geezers both want...you've got a f***ing business!
2. Apple "Geniuses" Are Chick Magnets
Nearly half of them were surrounded by babes almost out of central casting. Local high school or college girls (indie film arty, casual-chic, cool, smart) who couldn't seem to get close enough to them. And the Geniuses, many shy on the surface, were soaking it up. Favoring the girls-women, laughing charmingly and forcing the less hot women (and the guys) clamoring for help to wait.
3. Apple Geniuses Are In Fact Geniuses
Tech geniuses? I have no idea. Sales geniuses? Absolutely. Maybe that's 1 of Jobs' secrets. Get some geeky guys (most Geniuses are guys) who kind of look like the wind might blow them down (but who are in fact "animals"); set them in a store of largely ignorant but open & "monied" tech shoppers & let them "go." I saw a couple Geniuses sell hard core pro-level computers to a couple marks -- guys in rich leather jackets -- who came in looking for low budget notebooks. Another guy who came in just to look around, within minutes was reduced to a quivering near-desperate state-of-the-art desktop buyer. I don't know how they do it exactly -- they are selling stylish, hip-looking and extremely appealing products! -- but they're masters.
4. Bridging The Generation Gap May Be Possible, After All
Gen X, Y, Z, O, whatever. Middle aged geezers were yukking it up with their Geniuses. Hitting keyboards like Herbie Hancock, discovering with joyful amazement invisible cameras embedded in the monitors--slapping backs, laughing. Even the too cool Geniuses seemed to be having some fun. A few cross-generational pairs were fathers and sons. Teens actually showing their dads how to use stuff, acting impatient, sometimes in disbelief at their fathers' stupidity; but also getting a kick out of it all, actually communicating. Apple as a long-needed parenting tool? Probably not. But showing the "art" of the possible in communication? Maybe...
5. Starbucks, Don't Get Too Cocky
Starbucks is retrenching, closing stores in the U.S. (Dell, of course, is closing all its stores.) But that line in the back of the Apple store, for a seat and coffee and magazines? It reminded me of Starbucks a decade or 2 ago. I went back there. I confess: I waited in line. The coffee was great. The chairs were comfortable. The people were relaxed, having fun. Add some muffins and a few other items and, who knows, Apple could sell coffee and style too. (What does Starbucks know about music and books? Nothing, a few years ago. Now they're selling merchandise like the neighborhood Barnes & Noble.)
6. New Best Place To Furnish Your Home
It sounds ridiculous (OK, I'm only 1/4-serious). But, step aside Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Ikea. The chairs in the back of the Apple Store were among the most comfortable I've sat in. No wonder no one wanted to leave, and the wait when I left had grown to 45 minutes. Want a new living room? Go to Apple, check out the sofa manufacturers and you're done. If you buy a new Mac, who knows, maybe Apple will throw in its corporate furniture discount.
7.Black (In fashion) Is Back
Actually, not entirely. Black as cool went out in the 90s. But thanks to Steve Jobs' evident unwavering commitment to black -- there was a photo of him in the store, wearing the black turtle-neck thing you often see him in -- it may make a more formal fashion comeback. All the store managers were in black and some of the Geniuses. They looked silly - the Jobs uniforms; like, what the f***, anyone tell you the 90s are over, you can dress in colors, even white? But by the time I left I was thinking, you know what, I liked my black turtlenecks back then, I'd probably like them now. They were simple, they went with everything; and, most important, when they got dirty, no one could tell.
8. I'm A Lot Less Savvy And Smart Than I Thought
OK, I'm an idiot, a near retard with no self-control. You know that guy I mentioned above, who went in with no intent to buy anything but just to chill? I was that guy too. But after relaxing in the lounge, I approached one of the Geniuses, just to ask a few questions. I told him I'd been buying Dells for the past 12 years. He laughed. (Not a cheerful laugh, a disdainful laugh.) He showed me this "basic" desktop system with a 24-inch monitor whose images looked more vivid than my new Sony HDTV flat screen TV. I told him I just bought a new desk top 6 months ago and it did everything I needed it to do. He said, what do you need it to do? I said, basically, Word, Excel, surf the net, etc. He said, you have no idea how much you could be doing. (He said this with a straight face and, while part of me wanted to smash that face for its pretentiousness, another part was intrigued, eager...Of course I wanted to do more, who doesn't?)
He said, "this" system--iMac 2.8GHz--was the least I should be using &, unlike my current system, it would last at least 2-3 years (a lifetime today). And it only cost $2300, he said.
I had gone to the mall to pick up my wife's sneakers. I had no need for a new computer -- I thought. It would be crazy to buy this thing. But the Genius, seemingly already abandoning me, was playing with some images and videos on the screen, simultaneously interweaving them, then dragging stuff from one section to another...and it was so...cool, beautiful. It looked so...fun.
When I got home, and I hauled the boxes into the den, my wife simply shook her head. Then she made a few critical comments -- of course, she didn't understand. Then she asked where I put her sneakers, I probably left them in the car.
I said no, I didn't; I reacted indignantly. I hadn't left them in the car. I hadn't picked them up at all. Sneakers? Who gives a crap about sneakers when you can get a computer system that has everything built into a massive -- yet light -- monitor that displays images more brilliant than I'd ever seen and which, I was almost certain, my friend Jack's son (14, going on 25) would be in awe over. And, I thought, if I play my cards right, I could probably get the brat to come over and actually download some of those games he and his friends are obsessed with and, you know what, are going to look damn good on my new computer.
I went back to the mall a few hours later; I got the sneakers. And, definitely Jack's kid was psyched to come over. The challenge, Jack said, was going to be to get him to leave. As for my next trip to the Apple Store? I'll give it some time. Although now that I think about it, my notebook is pretty heavy, and the ones at the store looked awfully light and easy to carry. And I know there's been a lot of criticism of the new feather-weight MacBook Air, but it is really light and it's unbelievably thin and it looks pretty cool, and...did I say that it looks really light?...