04 November 2004
Posted in Reports
It's fairly easy to spot someone completely new to an Apple Store as they walk in. You see them take their first small steps into the shop, their mouth starts to open slightly. Next, their eyes start flitting from area to area, eyes getting bigger and bigger as a smile gradually spreads across their face.
And then finally (I'm sure staff wait for this moment with an obvious newbie) you see them silently mouth the words "Oh....my...God".
OK, maybe that is an exaggeration, but I can also admit, that's exactly how I reacted.
Greetings from a wet San Francisco and from the Apple Store in the central city. I'm sitting here in the store, using the first laptop that I've ever owned and that I bought here two days ago. It's a 1.33 Ghz iBook, complete with superdrive. What's even more cool is that I have activated the Airport card in the laptop and am surfing the web courtesy of the free wireless network here in the store that Apple offer.
So my first laptop, in my first Apple store and my first wireless networking via my own system.....and I'm loving it!
I'm here in SF on my way to a conference next week in Santa Clara thanks to government funding I received recently (more about that later as I'm contractually obliged to acknowledge it) but I need to point out that all aspects of this time in SF is at my own expense.
As I sit here, I'm in one of the rows of seats in the small theatre on the second floor, listening to a great presentation on iPhoto, just after a superb one hour presentation on iLife. These presentations are free to sit in on and very well done indeed, considering that they have just under an hour to show you everything about one of Apple's products.
The Apple shop itself is hard to describe, but it just looks so superb. Imagine, the best ever roadshow event that you have ever attended in New Zealand and the best display areas you ever saw. Next, imagine that virtually every product that you could possibly use with you Mac are also present. Next, imagine that the roadshow never ends...and that it's available to you from 9am until 9pm every single day of the year, and that you are welcome to look at, touch, play and use anything that is on display. Add into that more staff than you would expect in any shop (although a lot of staff does seem to be an American thing), and you have Apple heaven....in fact, my first email from the US to family and friends was from this store and was (I am embarrassed to admit) entitled "Greetings from Heaven".
What amazes me more is the number of people in the store (I'm sure the free net access helps) and the number of Macs you see being carried out the door on a regular basis by happy customers.
In fact, I've just realised what amazes me so much.....visibility!!
This is a store that oozes Apple. It is smack bang in the middle of the city and at the hub of a busy shopping area, and no-one can deny how cool the experience is. The staff working in the store are incredibly helpful and very skilled in helping answering all questions. Of course, if you think you have a very technical question, just book an appointment at the free 'Genius Bar' and (I guess) speak to a genius!
The experience of buying a Mac is an interesting one though, made harder for me by the store not accepting my ASB credit card. Once you've decided what you want to buy and spoken to someone in the store, you are taken to the counter (lined with iMacs and looking so great people think the counter is part of the shop displays and often inappropriately walk behind it) and place your order. They then tell you how much it will all be (at this point America still shocks me, as state tax is added in after you've decided on everything you want) and then they phone downstairs to the basement.
You're asked to stand aside and then your Mac turns up. You pay and if you need nothing else done, you can take your Mac away (in short, I can see it is all about security). In my case, this is where the trouble started. The system would not accept my credit card, despite having transferred funds to cover the purchase into my visa account before leaving. There was nothing to be done, so they suggested I phone the ASB.
So I rushed back to the hotel (only 5 minutes away) to a very confused ASB. They couldn't find anything wrong and suggested that I ask Apple to key in the security number (I later discovered that international calls from a hotel cost an arm and a leg!). Apple couldn't do that...and also had a policy of not swiping a declined card again the same day. No bank cheque would be accepted, but a personal one would be (say what?) which I couldn't understand or get (not being a person with a US account). My only option, traveller's cheques.
It took me 3 banks to find one that would let me get traveller's cheques with my visa, costing me US $30 in the process (I kept telling myself how much I was saving). So, back to the Apple store and a repeat of the process. But here's where it gets interesting...I wanted extra memory. So, they then had to take my Mac back downstairs and put the memory in. It was odd to see my laptop appear and disappear, and then reappear again.
Problem was, I would have loved to have had the iBook with the 80 Gb build-to-order option. But no can do in the store. OK, that seemed reasonable, but how about putting in the bluetooth card for me? Again, no can do in the store...only build to order. It kinda felt odd that none of this could be done, but that memory could be installed as you waited.
Still, I'm thoroughly pleased with my iBook, the service and friendliness of the staff. Many staff have had to put up with me handing them NZMac.com stickers and I have some Macguide issues to hand them later. John, the chap that sold me my iBook, actually told me the day after I introduced myself, some Kiwis came into the store and he put them onto this site and to the magazine after I chatted to him. Small world after all!
My only (and major) disappointment? The stores don't sell Apple paraphernalia. No hats, keyrings, pens, t-shirts etc...which is a shame. I'd hoped to buy loads of goodies to give away on the site, but I'll keep trying. Santa Clara may hold more hope on that front.
I'm going to stop at this point as there is a GarageBand presentation coming up. It's silly to be typing away on this instead of soaking up the Apple ambience and experience.
To Apple, and to Apple San Francisco in particular....thanks for creating such a superb shopping experience...for Mac enthusiasts and those curious onlookers that now know what a cool experience the Mac is.
A selection of images of my visit to the Apple store in San Francisco can be found here
My visit to the States is to attend the Streaming Media West Conference as a Flexible Learning Leader. FLLinNZ is an e-Learning Collaborative Development Fund project from the University of Waikato and is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) Te Amorangi Matauranga Matua.