Friday, May 18, 2001

Shop Different

Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

Apple announced its line of retail stores this week with the slogan "Shop Different." I, for one, WANT to Shop Different. I'm tired of going into a super-mega, warehouse-style concrete behemoth and TRY to find anything I'm actually looking for. "Use the Web", you say. I do. A lot. However, there are time when I just need (or want!) something RIGHT NOW.

What did we ever do before the web? Maybe I'm showing my age here, but there was a time that one would actually (gasp!) drive to a store, walk down the aisles, pick out a piece of merchandise, pay for it and leave. If one had a question - there was (usually) an informed, knowledgeable person waiting (and willing) to answer questions (or even find out the answer if they didn't know) and, sometimes, help one to make a more informed buying decision by comparing the pros and cons of competing products. The salesperson (there were no "associates" back then) was usually a person who knew from personal experience what worked and what didn't. The good ones could (and would) offer tips, advice and helpful information based on their knowledge and past experience. In general, they actually wanted to help, and cared whether or not you, the customer, would be satisfied with your purchase. They valued your business, and really wanted you to come back in the future and buy more stuff.

In direct contrast, I went to 3 "brink and mortar" stores looking for a keyboard extension cable for one of my Macs. I was a man on a mission. It seems every time I mentioned "Mac" in one of these very well-established, well-known, national, we-have-everything stores - all I received in return was a blank stare. "We don't have Mac stuff." "A keyboard what?" "All of our cables are on aisle 426B." You get the idea. About 2 hours into my quest, I realized that I had unrealistic expectations about finding the cable, without, perhaps, driving to Fry's (a computer specialty retailer about a half hour away). In the end, I just logged on to Mac Warehouse and ordered the thing – and received it the next day.

On the other hand, I went to Home Depot (a massive warehouse chain with everything you need for home improvement) to try to find a replacement for the 15 year old kitchen faucet that had finally given up the ghost. I talked to an associate named Dave, an older gentleman (and ex-plumber) who went WAY above and beyond the call of duty to help me select an affordable, reliable faucet from the 50 models hanging on the display rack. He advised against purchasing the model that I was initially going to purchase because he said the manufacturer has historically had a problem with the plastic sealing washer, and suggested 2 other models (from different manufacturers) that were more reliable. I wound up buying the more expensive model, and went away totally confident that I made a good purchase.

On the eve of the Grand Opening of the Apple Store in Glendale, CA (about 45 minutes from my house) – I hope that Apple will provide a retail experience as great as its technology. I WANT to Shop Different. I'll let you know what I find out.

Update May 20, 2001: I went to the store in at the Glendale Galleria and there was a LINE. Yep, I'm serious. There was a line that was at least 100 yards long! People waiting to get into a store! Who knew? The store (from the outside looking in) is beautiful, and was fully staffed with Apple folks and TONS of security people. There was also a whole lot of purchasing going on... Wow.

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