I’ve been to the Apple Store at Keystone two or three times over the last few days. I’ve been contemplating products and setups for my office. In that time I’ve spoken to several different Apple store sales associates and I wanted to share some observations.
My first observation was that they are not prepared to handle people like me. I walked in and spoke to an older associate, probably one of the oldest I’ve ever seen working there. I kinda preferred that, actually. I told him I wanted a Thunderbolt cable to plug from my Air to my iMac so I could just use the iMac’s display for a while with the Air. I knew the price and capabilities of the cable, the associate did not. He thought the cable was $29, I said it was $49, he checked and it was $49. I wanted reassurance that what I wanted to do was possible and he went to check with others to verify. Everyone seemed to think plugging the cables in would work. It did not.
My second trip to the Apple Store was to return that cable and for a Cinema Display. I wanted one of the new Thunderbolt Displays. The person I spoke with, whose name I don’t remember, I recall being very speedy and jittery. He kept shuffling around and bouncing all over the place and said, “Yep yep yep” a lot. I couldn’t tell if he was just like that or was trying to hurry me the hell up.
He went to the back of the store to check for a new display and came out with a big box. I handed him my credit card and he stopped to say, “Wait a minute…let me check something.” He turned and noticed the display was the prior generation, a non-Thunderbolt enabled display. He almost sold me the wrong product from what I asked for. This, of course, was after I stood there for 8 (!) minutes waiting for someone else just to bring it out of the back of the store. As much as Apple’s tried to make their stores efficient with payment and sales help, they fumble hard on that front.
So I left without buying the old display. But I wanted to try out my Air in an Air-only setup without my iMac. So I went back the next day to buy the old display with the knowledge and proclamation to the next associate that I would bring it back in 14 days and hope to get the new one. They were cool with that, and I was cool with that, too.
However, things took a downturn when I spoke to a young female associate about the display. She didn’t even know if the displays in the store were the old or new ones. When I asked, “So, I can just plug in my thunderbolt cable to the Mini Display port and the USB ports from the monitor to enable the three ports on the back, right?” She nodded slowly.
“Yeah, and the Thunderbolt cable will deliver power to the Air, too and enable the use of the USB ports on the back of the display.” She said. “Wait, why does the display have a USB plug and a power adapter then?”
I knew what the monitor needed. The old displays had three cables: one for power, one for USB and one for MiniDisplay. The new ones just use Thunderbolt for USB and display and they have a power adapter, too.
“Yeah.” She said. “Yeah? You mean that little ol’ MiniDisplay port brings power and connectivity to everything?” (It doesn’t.)
“Yeah, I don’t know much about these displays. Let me get someone else.” She quickly turned and returned with a cute little guy. I do remember his name because he made a good impression on me. He was knowledgable about the products, even if he did somewhat talk down to me (he explained what Engadget was to me as he looked up Thunderbolt specs. I know what Engadget is dude.)
So I bought the display and I have it sitting on my desk as we speak. I will try to upgrade it in the next week or so to the Thunderbolt display, hopefully as they get them in.
My last trip to the Apple Store was Friday night. I sold my 11” Air on eBay for a good price and went back to buy a 13” with better specs. I spoke to a guy who also made a good impression on me and I remember his name, too. He was my favorite of all the reps I’ve spoken to, as he was smart, pleasant, conversational and seemed like the kind of guy you’d want to share a beer with. He wasn’t overly hipster or punk or emo or whatever the kids are these days.
We talked shop a bit as I debated between a high powered 11” Air, a mid-powered 13” Air or a 13” MacBook Pro. Talking through it as I debated (trying to balance price and speed), he wasn’t afraid to talk specs with me and gathered pretty quickly I knew what I was doing. After I decided on buying a 13” Air, he told me, “I’m supposed to ask, but do you want Apple Care?” I said, “No. I don’t keep them long enough to warrant the expense.” He agreed and added, “Yeah, I don’t know why we sell it with the Airs, personally. They’re no moving parts in them besides the fans.” That was the first refreshingly honest thing I’ve ever heard any Apple associate say. Kudos to him. If someone from Apple is reading this and you’re feeling like your associate didn’t do this job: yes, he did. He understood his customer perfectly and still did his job like you asked. His remark may not fit the Apple PR guidelines, but I know better and he knew it.
I still love Apple products and much prefer the experience at an Apple store vs. other retailers. God forbid you ask questions at a Wal-Mart. I bought an iPod there once and the clerk made no hesitation at telling me “they are junk” and his no-name piece of crap Sony thing was “far superior”. That the “Apple fanboys are stupid,” this AS I’M BUYING AN iPOD!. This was two months ago.
Apple’s retail experience is good, but they’re clearly designed and trained to deal with the masses. If you know what you want or know anything about RAM or processor speeds, you’re beyond anything they’ve reasonably trained for. Luckily, I guess, most people aren’t like me.