This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Apple retail store. Back then, I was a happy, faithful Windows user, hardware modded, and systems builder. In 2005, I was exposed to the hype of the iPod as Apple announced the new iPod mini. I simply had to have one as it represented the best value for portable digital music players at the time. Aside from a visit into the Apple Store at the International Mall in Tampa, FL, this would be the first time I would enter as a buyer.
I remember walking into the cramped and crowded Apple Store at Bellevue Square Mall in Bellevue, WA and promptly purchased 2 iPod minis, one for myself and the other for my girlfriend. I spent a few moments admiring the computers I had spent very little time with in my past, and aside from the Mac Pros, I pretty much scoffed at their offerings. “These are for people who hate computers; power users like myself use Windows,” is what i remember saying to myself. However, when I got home, instead of promptly ripping apart the package to fondle my new bauble, I found myself marveling at the 5″ cube. I opened it slowly and carefully unpacked everything from this fantastically designed box. I then tried to repackage everything and unwrapped it all over again. I was simply amazed at the level of detail in the packaging alone. Never in my life had i purchased anything that was so meticulously packaged; the unboxing was a true delight and actually took my focus away from the iPod itself.
That’s how Apple hooked me.
For years I scoffed at Macs for being too expensive and not giving me the options i craved, especially since I enjoyed building my own computers. The day I got that iPod is when I realized just where all the money was going in the additional retail price: attention to detail. A couple of years passed as I began to grow frustrated with my computers, especially my laptops. At that time, I was saddled with, at that time, one of the most powerful thin and light laptops of the day, but even from the first day it had problems. After 6 months, I could no longer deal with it’s issues and began the warranty process through Dell. Eventually the warranty expired before they fixed it, therefore leaving me with a broken computer that could only be fixed at great cost and the complete dissatisfaction of going through 6 months of yelling at their Indian support staff who did everything they could, to include feigning an inability to understand English, to avoid agreeing that my computer had a problem that needs to be repaired under warranty. To this day, it’s still the single worst customer service experience I have ever had in my life and ensures I will still never buy another product from Dell ever again.
So in 2008, all of the stars aligned when Apple introduced the new unibody MacBook pros. the design, materials, and knowing the Apple Store will be there to support me if anything should go wrong, I bought my first Mac. When it arrived, I again was charmed by the packaging. Once I had made it to the MacBook itself, I immediately pulled the battery cover and salivated over the machine marks that were evidence of the machining process used to create this laptop from forged aluminum. I was simply awestruck at the use of forged and machined aluminum, a materials process I was familiar with in parts used in aircraft I’ve worked on and motorcycles I’ve ridden. To own a laptop built in this fashion simply revved my design passions into the red.
Of course, nothing’s perfect, so I went to my local Apple Store to buy accessories to help protect and expand the utility of my new MacBook. Upon learning that i was new to the platform, the salesperson immediately informed me of their free courses to help familiarize new owners with their purchase and help get them running, even including free data transfer from an old computer. I even exclaimed to her that I couldn’t believe that those kinds of services are free, but she insisted and I signed up for the first of the 3 classes I would eventually take. Again, a testament to the value that you just don’t get anywhere else.
I eventually upgraded to another MacBook pro and this time I finally encountered a problem that required tech support. The iSight camera would flicker intermittently, dropping connections during iChat sessions with my girlfriend. I made an appointment at the Apple Store and was met by one of their geniuses. He was able to quickly replicate the problem, informed me that it would be covered by my warranty, and told me it would take a few days for the parts to come in, so i was sent home with my MacBook and told to wait for a call. Three days later, i got that call and I promptly dropped off my MacBook. Surprisingly, I got the call to come pick it up the very next day. When I showed up, the genius explained to me that they replaced the whole upper assembly, including the display, and the logic board… basically they gutted the machine and gave me a brand new one, and his excuse was that the problem could be in either part, but they changed both to reduce the risk of me having to come back with the same issue, unfixed.
It is with these kinds of experiences that made me realize why I’m willing to pay more for an Apple computer over the equivalent product from any other manufacturer. The products are top notch, no doubt about it, but so is the whole ownership experience. I have never felt abused, raped, or otherwise mistreated by Apple, and their retail stores make solutions a breeze. There are no long phone calls trying to convince an Indian of obvious problems and being denied the service I purchased. For all other retailers, the purchase marks the end of the sales experience; for Apple, the sale simply marks the beginning of a relationship.
Congratulations on your tenth anniversary, Apple Store. If it weren’t for their retail concept, I probably never would have discovered for myself what’s so great about them. Because of the Apple Store, instead of a disgruntled Windows curmudgeon, I’m a satisfied Apple computer user.