Returning to the Apple Store - the new normal

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2
For the first time since March 2020 all 270 Apple Stores in the US are now open in some capacity. AppleInsider has visited a few stores in the last few weeks, and the experience is radically different than what it was a year ago, or even when the stores reopened for the first time.

Apple Store Brandon Florida
Entrance to the Brandon, Florida Apple Store


Over the past year, my local Apple Store found in the Westfield Brandon Town Center mall has remained open save for only a few sporadic weeks. While I haven't had much need to visit in-person over the past year, two faulty MacBooks finally required me to make a Genius Bar appointment and bring them in for repair.

Users looking to make any kind of Genius Bar appointment should plan far ahead as the earliest appointments for this location were at least one week out. If you attempt to show up in-person without an appointment, don't expect support. You may be able to wait several hours for a personal shopping experience, but Genius support won't be available.

Appointment Signs
Visitors are required to make an appointment


On the day of my Genius Bar appointment, I approached the Apple Store to discover three separate lines. Those who have ordered a product for Express Pickup enjoy the fastest service, while the two longer lines are for those with a Personal Shopping appointment or Genius Bar support. An Apple security member waits at the opening of each line to confirm you have an appointment.

My appointment was scheduled for 12:05 P.M. and while I arrived close to the scheduled time, I had to wait in line over 40 minutes to finally be called into the store. It appears that a maximum of five customers were being seen at a time, all relegated to tables setup at the front of the store.

Apple Store
Customer are seen at a few tables located in the front of the store.


Each "station" enclosed an Apple store representative in plexiglass from three sides leaving only a small opening at the bottom to slide your Apple devices through. A large plexiglass divider on wheels blocked the middle of the store and made it clear that no customers would be traveling farther inside.

Apple Store Express Pickup
Express Pickup orders ready to be distributed


A table located toward the back of the store appeared to have Express Pickup orders ready to be brought out to customers. Those in line for Express Pickup never enter the store but instead have their products brought out by an Apple Store employee.

Once I was called up to a table, I explained the issues with my two MacBooks, a 2019 13-inch MacBook Air with a faulty spacebar and a 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro that refused to start up.

At first the representative explained I would need to make two appointments, one for each Mac. Ultimately, both were inspected for repair.

Genius Bar Support
Genius Support station


Each Apple employee behind glass was masked and many wore gloves as well. As they took my MacBooks, each was thoroughly wiped clean before brought back for repair. The Genius also explained that repair times may be delayed as the Texas location where keyboard issues are fixed remains closed due to impacts from inclement weather.

After signing the repair agreement for both Macs, I was told I should receive a call in the next 24 hours to communicate what repairs are needed.

The days of shoulder-to-shoulder Apple Stores are probably over

My experience was echoed by the rest of the AppleInsider staff, as it pertains to their visits to Apple Stores. Each has plexiglas walls up to isolate areas of the store, with available customer area -- and store capacities -- limited depending on floor space.

In our conversations with Apple personnel inside and outside of retail, none are expecting any loosening of restrictions or plexiglas walls any time soon. Without providing documentation to us, we've been told that precautions will remain in place until mid-2022 at the earliest -- and may never be fully pulled back.

This all said, while the experience of going to an Apple Store is significantly different compared to the pre-pandemic era, they've done an admirable job of servicing customers while taking all the precautions necessary. Those needing to schedule a Genius Bar appointment should keep in mind that the appointment may be a week or more away.

If you're in a hurry, checking often or looking at alternate locations may reveal open appointments. But in every location we checked, don't expect to get seen same-day like you could in some locations, pre-pandemic.

Express Pickup remains the fastest service one can experience at an Apple Store, usually taking just a few minutes. But if you've scheduled a Genius or Personal Shopping appointment, be sure to leave plenty of time to wait even if you arrive early.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    This will only be accepted for the short term and will never be a “new normal”. The Apple Store near wear I live is open for walk-in customers without an appointment as I had two iPhones that I needed to have the screen protectors replaced using the Belkin applicator machine to install. Only face coverings were required for the customer and there was no plexiglass barrier between me and the store employee. Soon we will be seeing each other’s smiles again face-to-face.
    lkrupp
  • Reply 2 of 10
    ibillibill Posts: 399member
    hoodjd73 said:
    This will only be accepted for the short term and will never be a “new normal”. The Apple Store near wear I live is open for walk-in customers without an appointment as I had two iPhones that I needed to have the screen protectors replaced using the Belkin applicator machine to install. Only face coverings were required for the customer and there was no plexiglass barrier between me and the store employee. Soon we will be seeing each other’s smiles again face-to-face.
    I agree with this sentiment. I have been thinking about getting the iPad Air 4, but won't until I can try it out first. There are a few items from Apple that I would buy sight unseen, but for most, I need to be able to go into a store.
  • Reply 3 of 10
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,800member
    This was the set up at Cherry Hill, NJ until a couple weeks ago. Now they are allowing a limited number of walk-ins. It’ll probably be this way until the end of the year. I can’t waste a spot to discretely charge my phone while looking at a new phone. 
  • Reply 4 of 10
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,272member
    ibill said:
    hoodjd73 said:
    This will only be accepted for the short term and will never be a “new normal”. The Apple Store near wear I live is open for walk-in customers without an appointment as I had two iPhones that I needed to have the screen protectors replaced using the Belkin applicator machine to install. Only face coverings were required for the customer and there was no plexiglass barrier between me and the store employee. Soon we will be seeing each other’s smiles again face-to-face.
    I agree with this sentiment. I have been thinking about getting the iPad Air 4, but won't until I can try it out first. There are a few items from Apple that I would buy sight unseen, but for most, I need to be able to go into a store.
    You know you can return anything for any reason to Apple within 15 days, right?
  • Reply 5 of 10
    gregalexandergregalexander Posts: 1,398member
    The Apple stores in Sydney Australia have had the 3 lines since May. Hand sanitisers, temperature check, and they supply a mask. 

    It is very different to just walking in and trying out a device - but we were able to wait in line and have someone show us the new iPhone when it came out. 

    No plexiglass dividers though. 

    We haven’t had any community infection in Sydney for 2 months, so they’re being more cautious than necessary, I assume they have global guidelines they’re following. 
    edited March 2
  • Reply 6 of 10
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,218member
    The setup of tables with the plexiglass partitions was a major improvement at the Apple Store I use.   Prior to that, service was almost entirely done out on the "sidewalk" out in the mall area by what seemed to be poorly trained staff -- it was bit like going to a grocery store:  "OK, what do you want?  Ok, stand over there and someone will bring it out".   Once the tables were set up it was much more like the old experience of dealing with cheerful, knowledgeable Apple reps who were there to help.

    But, one thing may still be missing:  in the early days they removed many of the best technicians from the store and had them doing online support.  So, if you needed service, you had to make an appointment for over a week out and was pretty much discouraged.   I don't know if that has changed.  I hope it has -- or will get back to normal soon.  Because sometimes you need a hands-on expert to discuss a problem with and determine the possible solutions.
  • Reply 7 of 10
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,991member
    hoodjd73 said:
    This will only be accepted for the short term and will never be a “new normal”. The Apple Store near wear I live is open for walk-in customers without an appointment as I had two iPhones that I needed to have the screen protectors replaced using the Belkin applicator machine to install. Only face coverings were required for the customer and there was no plexiglass barrier between me and the store employee. Soon we will be seeing each other’s smiles again face-to-face.
    I agree about the ‘new normal’ bullshit. Ain’t gonna happen. I thought scientists were supposed to be smart but how can that be when they propose changing human nature with a snap of their finger, Dr. Fauci is on the boob tube all day recommending that even after you are vaccinated you must still wear a mask, social distance, do not dine at restaurants, don’t travel, don’t attend large events in person, stay at home. Sarcastically then, why even get vaccinated (I’m not an anti-vaxxer and have received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine). Then there’s the push for vaccination ‘passports’. Want to go to the movie theatre? Papers, please.

    And if Apple decides to keep the precautions permanent for the foreseeable future then I probably made my last visit to an Apple Store a year ago. 


    edited March 3
  • Reply 8 of 10
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,218member
    lkrupp said:
    hoodjd73 said:
    This will only be accepted for the short term and will never be a “new normal”. The Apple Store near wear I live is open for walk-in customers without an appointment as I had two iPhones that I needed to have the screen protectors replaced using the Belkin applicator machine to install. Only face coverings were required for the customer and there was no plexiglass barrier between me and the store employee. Soon we will be seeing each other’s smiles again face-to-face.
    I agree about the ‘new normal’ bullshit. Ain’t gonna happen. I thought scientists were supposed to be smart but how can that be when they propose changing human nature with a snap of their finger, Dr. Fauci is on the boob tube all day recommending that even after you are vaccinated you must still wear a mask, social distance, do not dine at restaurants, don’t travel, don’t attend large events in person, stay at home. Sarcastically then, why even get vaccinated (I’m not an anti-vaxxer and have received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine). Then there’s the push for vaccination ‘passports’. Want to go to the movie theatre? Papers, please.

    And if Apple decides to keep the precautions permanent for the foreseeable future then I probably made my last visit to an Apple Store a year ago. 



    Because it reduces, but does not eliminate your chances of being infected and/or infecting others -- particularly with the new strains coming to our shores from overseas.

    Fauci is right -- especially while so few have been vaccinated and the crazies are starting to get crazy again.
    (By the way, I am not FauciFan -- he is part of the reason why half million died)
  • Reply 9 of 10
    ibillibill Posts: 399member
    You know you can return anything for any reason to Apple within 15 days, right?
    I'm aware of that, but for the case of the iPad, I would be re-cycling a previous model iPad Air towards the purchase, and that would mean an erase and return to factory settings for the old iPad, and probably would prohibit (or complicate) returning that purchase.

    In general, I really like to look and try before I buy.
  • Reply 10 of 10
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,218member
    ibill said:
    You know you can return anything for any reason to Apple within 15 days, right?
    I'm aware of that, but for the case of the iPad, I would be re-cycling a previous model iPad Air towards the purchase, and that would mean an erase and return to factory settings for the old iPad, and probably would prohibit (or complicate) returning that purchase.

    In general, I really like to look and try before I buy.

    Take an iCloud backup.  Check with Apple to see if you can restore back multiple dates.  If not, do not turn iCloud backup on for the new one until you're sure you want to keep it.
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