Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Apple retail is unfriendly, almost hostile now

I saw this article on MacRumors: http://www.macrumors.com/2012/08/28/apple-retails-emphasis-on-profits-continues-tied-to-operational-perspective-of-cook-and-browett/

The last time I visited an Apple store in a mall, it felt uncomfortable.  It was tremendously crowded and the employees seemed to force smiles.  Software availability was at a minimum, and there were so many iDevices that there wasn't much room for traditional computers.

The first time I visited an Apple store was just after September 11, 2001.  Apple opened a retail store in Tampa's International Plaza near the airport.  A couple of friends lived northwest of there and I drove from the Orlando area to get them and go to the store together.  When we started to walk toward the mall, we stopped for a moment and realized the silence.  It was eerie.  There wasn't much activity other than people going to the new mall but all air travel had been suspended, and next to an airport, you'd expect to hear planes occasionally.

Finding the Apple store, there was a queue/line to enter.  I felt like one of the fanatics being there early enough to see the store open for the first time.  (I have a love-hate relationship with Apple, so it was strange.  I love their hardware designs, especially internally, but I'm always frustrated with their operating systems and lack of fixes.)  Being with friends, one of whom sold Apple equipment, I was interested to see how they would react.

As the store opened, the staff were cheering, and handing out t-shirts in tubes.  I was immediately reminded of The Gap clothing store, where I never shopped.  (Mind you, I've shopped at Old Navy and Banana Republic.)  The equipment was out on (fake) wood tables lining the walls, while there were two huge rows of software centrally located.  Given that Mac-related software was almost impossible to find at the time, this was as close to heaven as it came for a Mac user.  Of course, everything was at full retail pricing, even though you could occasionally find software elsewhere at a discount.

The store was pleasant and Apple made sure that employees kept you comfortable.  I remember mentioning that they should serve cappuccino and biscuits.  It had that kind of a feel.

I'll jump forward to 2006, to a store in the Los Angeles/Orange County area.  The previous year, I bought a PowerBook, and the company was making the transition to Intel processors when I was there at the store.  I was looking at a MacBook and its unusual keyboard.  (If you ever saw an iBook with most of its keys missing, you'll understand why they changed the keyboard.) A staffer started talking to me, and asked how I was, and if I was interested, and as soon as I got through the name "PowerBook", he turned and walked away.  How rude!  Considering the article, this was far earlier than 2009, when they were revising the store and its policies.

In 2007, as the iPhone became the holy grail and fandom, I became less and less settled with the fanatics.  I noticed that Apple were feeling similarly, banning some Mac-related website authors from their media events.  Having been at the Genius Bar in one of the Orlando area stores, I was practically assaulted by an iPhone owner who put the phone within 6 inches of my face, telling me how beautiful it was.  He could hardly catch his breath, he was so excited.

it seems with every new iDevice release, Apple has become a distant relative, even though I had a second generation iPod touch and now have an iPhone 4S to replace it.  My current computer is a mid-2009 MacBook on 10.6.8.  I'd like to update it, but they'll put that !@#$ Mountain Lion on it and it's not what I want.

In any case, I don't look forward to visits to the Apple store, especially if I have problems with the iPhone.  I did this once already.  (Seriously, Apple, if the phone's operating system can't clean up after itself, why should I do it manually?  This stinks like Multi-Finder and setting memory allocations.)  The probably is finding Apple equipment otherwise, although some Best Buy and fewer Target stores have Apple equipment available.  However, you don't have to deal with the fanatics and in Best Buy, you'll probably find more software available, since Apple has pushed everything (but Adobe software) to their online store.

It's just not fun or interesting now, and maybe Tim Cook and Peter Oppenheimer will see that and realize that profit > customer is not the correct relationship.

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