The Apple Retail “Experience”

On Wednesday of last week I was forced into another Apple Store visit. I have never, EVER had a pleasant “experience” at an Apple Store. I buy all my stuff online. I hate “shopping”… I have both an X AND a Y chromosome, so therefore I don’t “shop”… I just buy. I don’t wait until I’m at a store to decide. By the time I arrive at a store I have already decided what I want and all I want to do is just pay, and LEAVE. I hate retail establishments. I hate dealing with salespeople. Car Dealerships are my worst nightmare (but I have my secret weapon: a wife who is a lawyer, which is most car salesman’s worst nightmare… I pick the car, she tortures the salesman) but any store in a Mall comes in a close second.

Please understand all of the above before you read this post.

Tragically Hip

We needed a new laptop at work, something of an emergency. The perfect weapon for the task at hand was an Air. The problem was, we needed it that day, which meant our ONLY option was the Apple Store down the hill from us at the mall.

I tasked one of my staff with it, since I would rather get my teeth cleaned with a Dremel wire brush than subject myself to the “Apple Retail Experience” again (after my PowerBook repair from hell) and I had a very important meeting with our CEO that was going to consume a large part of my morning. I come out of the meeting 90+ minutes later and we have no Air. He’s called and made sure they have them in stock, but balked at expensing it on his CC. I asked him if they would take a phone order, so I could run down there and just pick it up… “no phone sales” Grrrr. I was stuck… FORCED into an actual visit to the damn store. 🙁

I hopped in my car for the run to the mall, park, and walk in. I enter the Apple Store and it appears that staff outnumber customers by at least 1.5:1. I head for the desk in the back and am waylaid by a pair of Hip Chicks: Perpetually Grinning Bobblehead Asian Girl With Skunk Stripe Hair and Groovy Greener With Hip Rectangular Glasses And A Diamond In Her Nostril. The latter asks me if I need help.

“Yes,” I say, “I’d like to buy a MacBook Air and an external optical drive.”

She cocks her head diagonally (must be the weight of the rock in her nose) and says: “Do you want the one with the solid sta…”

“No, the one with the hard disk drive please.”


A creeping feeling of dread is overtaking me like a gamma ray pulse eradicating all known life on a planet.

Instead of grabbing said item for me to buy, she steps to her left and gets the attention of some other Apple Store staffer, Non-threatening Hip African-American Dude (NHAAD). Groovy Greener (GGWHRGAADIHN) flashes her sparkling schnozz-rock at NHAAD and says “This gentleman would like to buy a MacBook Air with the 80gb and an external Superdrive. Could you help him out?”

Well, at least she nailed the order, maybe this will be easy after all.

NHAAD walks over to me and says: “Hello sir, You’re interested in the MacBook Air…”

I could tell that he was accustomed to selling, that is, throwing the pitch at a reticent customer, soothing them with his knowledge of the product line, and explaining how it would enrich their lives. I didn’t need to be sold. I wanted to BUY. I wanted to BUY NOW, and LEAVE. I delivered a curt “Yes” to cut him off at that pass.

“Would that be the one with the solid stat…”

My brain is saying “JESUS H. CHRIST ON A POGOSTICK, what does it take to just buy a goddamn computer and walk out of here! Is ANYONE listening?” My impulse control is starting to slip and despite my attempts to maintain a calm demeanor I’m sure my eyes are rolling and NHAAD can tell I want to throttle every Apple Store employee within reach, which would be easy since this store is the size of a dorm room and all these hipsters like to stand so damn close to you that my 44 year old eyes can’t read their nametags but I can still divine what they’ve had for breakfast.

Needless to say, if I had eight arms 16 eyes would be bulging out of eight tragically hip skulls at that moment.

“No, the one with the hard disk drive.” I say … an absolute pinnacle of self-control.

NHADD pours a drum of gasoline on the smolding embers of my ire by replying “Well technically it is a hard drive…”

Perhaps the reflexive jerk of my hands inside my coat pockets and the sudden shrinking of my pupils lead him to swiftly turn towards the stock room and retrieve the objects that would distract me from killing him slowly while explaining the history of the Winchester Hard Disk Drive Mechanism and the fact that there is no ” hard disk” inside that solid state “drive”…

Groovy Greener Diamond Nose Chick, who had been standing within easy strangulation range throughout this exchange shouted to NHAAD’s back as he ventured towards the stock room “…and the superdrive too!” Sensing my impatience she pretends to see another customer and scurries away. I back towards the wall to put some distance between myself and the malingering hipsters all just standing around aimlessly looking for all the world like baristas who find themselves suddenly dematerialized out of a Starbucks and unexpectedly clothed in black t-shirts and surrounded by brushed metal, but without their tip jar. The smell of overpriced hair care products was overwhelming.

I longed for a Molotov cocktail.

Scratch that, I would gladly call in an airstrike with a Daisy Cutter. “Affirmative! ON MY LOCATION!” DO IT!!!!!

After what seemed like several lifetimes, but in all likelihood was about 5 minutes NHAAD emerges from the back with the little fashionable purse that doubles as a case for the Air. He’s holding it up in the air, stiff-armed at head height with his thumb and forefinger like a new husband holding his very first dirty diaper. He asks me to come over to the brushed metal wall that serves as a counter-less checkout … um… counter. It is so stylish as to be completely useless. I’m reminded of the bent metal rod “chair” in the movie “Sleeper” that Woody Allen’s character falls out of every time he tries to sit in it.

At this point, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m going to hand this guy a credit card, grab the merchandise, and exit. Escape! YESSSS!!!

Just as I’m starting to feel a sense of relief, a 36-car locomotive mows me down.

“Sir you would like AppleCare with th..”


“AppleCare is a…”

No, really, I’m fine.”

“You have…”

“No, really… we operate as a self-service Apple repair shop…”

My brain is saying “STFU and ring up the damn purchase already!” But no, the train has 36 cars, and I’m going to get rolled over by each and every one, in series. K-thunk, k-thunk, k-thunk!

“Do you work for the State?” (k-thunk!)


“The Computer Stores Northwest??” (k-thunk, k-thunk, k-thunk)

I point to my logo’ed cap “I work for digital.forest. We mostly deal in Xserves, but we’ll be fine without Applecare, really.” (was that the caboose?)

“What printer do you want with your computer today?” (k-thunk, k-thunk! No cabooses anymore pal!)


“It is free…” (k-thunk, k-thunk)

I stare at NHAAD blankly. (k-thunk, k-thunk, k-thunk)

“…well, $99 but with a rebate.” (k-thunk, k-thunk, k-thunk, k-thunk)

“No. I really. All I want is the computer.”


(k-thunk, k-thunk, k-thunk)

NHAAD kept talking. I think he was asking about other accessories or iPods or something. I didn’t hear him because my brain was smiling while it watched imaginary security cam coverage of my murderous rampage. k-thunk, k-thunk, k-thunk, k-thunk.

NHAAD breaks me from my reverie with the magic words:

“blah, blah, blah CREDIT CARD?”

In milliseconds my Visa is out. But (k-thunk, k-thunk) he needs to see my photo ID, and (k-thunk) I sign on some odd and distinctly non-Apple PDA thing, and (k-thunk, k-thunk, k-thunk, k-thunk) NHAAD asks if I want my receipt emailed to me… or (k-thunk) printed out? (k-thunk… was that the last car?)

I grab the receipt and exit as swiftly as possible. Why is this so difficult?

7 thoughts on “The Apple Retail “Experience””

  1. Just one more shared generic human gene we share, CG…:)

    I *detest* the ‘sales experience,’ and I think I might have even LESS patience than you when it comes the terminally hip, entirely-too-youthful, punched-out-with-a-groovy/hip/techno cookie cutter KIDS in most stores. And I think Sue and I *both* should go visit a car dealership, together.

    With you videoing it.

    T’would be fun to watch on YouTube…..

  2. In a way you got the experience you anticipated and, in a way, deserved. My wife and I bought her a MacBook Air at the Sacramento Apple Store in just a few minutes. We actually APPRECIATED being offered a free printer. I’m glad I would never have to interact with your arrogance in a retail setting – online shopping is DEFINITELY the place for you.

  3. Jerome, I haven’t had a chance to use the Air yet, beyond setting up a couple of users and handing it off to my staff for completion of setup. What little I saw I really liked. Nice compromise in terms of screen to overall size ratio. Very lightweight. I’ll probably make one my next laptop after the old G4 15″ gives up the ghost. I’d like a larger drive though. I might even pick an SSD if they could squeeze another 40 gig into it.

    Abridge, please realize that most of the above is an exercise in creative writing. I fully understand that I am the exception to the Apple Store rule. I know what I want, and just wanted to buy it and leave. In this case, the computer is a mere commodity. It is not a lifestyle choice, a fashion accessory, or a decision to be made. It is just a purchase. My employer needed the computer as SOON AS POSSIBLE. It had to be returned to our office, set up, configured, data moved to it, and handed to the person who was climbing on a plane in a matter of hours. Everything that put a roadblock in front of the swift acquisition of the object at hand was an annoyance. Does that really make me arrogant? Or merely frustrated.

    I’ve been an Apple Customer (and frequent stockholder) for over 20 years. I think their retail strategy is brilliant and effective for selling to customers unfamiliar with the product line. It just is sub-optimal for commodity purchase… I know this. I knew this going in. I fully expected this experience to take three times as long as it should have, and reality exceeded that expectation in spades. Does that really make me arrogant? Or merely frustrated.

    Thanks for commenting.


  4. the creative writing is good as always…. 🙂

    I like the Air also but think to be total useful as portable that could be used in any seat i’d want a slightly smaller screen… it doesn’t help with this… but I won’t be seeing a new Mac anything for a while so I’m just just dreaming… my mate with an SSD model loves it… but he tends to love all things new from Apple… a very early adopter type… 🙂


  5. “It is not a lifestyle choice, a fashion accessory, or a decision to be made.”

    Huh. Apple would *never* market their products that way, would they?


    >crickets chirping<

    Bueller? Bueller???

    (tongue stuck *sooo* far in my cheek, you’d think it was a ball bat…..)

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