It is a seriously annoying experience trying to transact business in an Apple Store nowadays, especially when you’re in there at peak time.
At 8pm today I tried to buy an iPad Mini, Mophie juice charger and another iPad Mini or full-size iPad. I hadn’t made my decision. I’d decided on the Mini and the Mophie but I was going to buy the other iPad “real time”. That is, see what I felt like and see what the stock levels were like.
When I came to actually want to buy, I was stumped.
I arrived into the store just before 8 and saw a whole load of iPads and iPhones arranged at the back of the store on a big desk. Excellent. That is a useful focal point. It also makes it easy for you to see what they’ve got in stock. And since they’re boxed product, they can’t be left alone. So there’s always a staffer — a “blue shirt” — around to at least smile at you.
After I’d done some browsing I went downstairs and found that the desk was empty, in readiness for the store closure at 9.
I wandered around looking “open”. I hung around the iPad desks twiddling my thumbs trying to look ready to buy. I’m not quite sure what to do in these situations.
Eventually after a few minutes of staring and flashing my eyebrows at passing blue shirts, I resolved to walk over to the ‘greeter’ lady. The young lady was focusing on welcoming people. I asked if I could buy from her. I felt a bit silly asking but, you know, that’s fine. At least I had introduced myself into the Apple bosom, right?
“Oh I can sell you that,” she said, pointing at the Mophie and getting out her whizzy iPhone/POS unit.
“I’d like a Mini, too?” I asked.
“Oh, you’ll need to speak to Guy,” she explained, pointing over to the iPad table area.
Guy had magically arrived.
“Right, thank you,” I said, feeling slightly bemused.
I walked over to the chap and said, “Guy? Can you help?”
“I’m Matt,” the chap said, “That’s Guy!” he continued, pointing at another chap fiddling with an iPad, “How can I help?”
“I’d like to buy an iPad Mini,” I said.
“Oh, you’ll need to speak to Guy,” replied Matt, smiling nodding and turning away.
I turned toward Guy and waited patiently for a moment before he headed off somewhere else.
I wasn’t sure what to do.
What is the protocol for this sort of situation?
I am unaccustomed to having to think. I was previously in a bit of a haze of Apple Store excitement whereby I could have spent about £1,000ish. That had been fractured and was beginning to break into tiny pieces.
I am unaccustomed at having to work to buy from Apple. I really don’t think I should have to put in what I deem considerable effort (i.e. chasing someone around the store) to give them money. Not at 30-40% margin.
I hung around the iPad desk.
A blue shirt at the other iPad table became free. Excellent. I turned toward her. She almost caught my eye before her attention was drawn by somebody asking a question about a device. She embraced the question and delivered a brilliantly enthusiastic series of explanations to the customer.
Excellent. That is fantastic. This is what the Apple store is all about. Friendly happy folk helping you out.
It’s the prioritisation that’s all wrong. I’d done my selection. I just wanted to complete the transaction. Arguably I should have come before the questionner. But there’s a dilemma. Should the blue shirt lady be focusing on making sure anyone ready to buy is being helped; or focus on dealing with the enquiry which should/could be converted into an eventual sale?
I hung about some more.
I mentally calculated a 40% margin of the £269 product. I wondered how much margin the company was taking on the £79.95 Mophie juice pack. That I could have bought cheaper (I’m sure) from somewhere like Amazon.
I wondered why I was engaging in the whole transaction.
I didn’t get super frustrated. I should point that out. I didn’t start screaming or stamping my feet.
I walked over to the greeter lady and explained that my Apple experience had been substantially degraded.
“Oh, did you not get Guy?” she said, frowning.
She surveyed the room.
“Tom!” she cried, as another blue shirter ran past. He looked up briefly and shook his head, walking up the stairs.
“Can I give you my money please?” I called after him.
I thought it was time for some serious innovation.
“What do we need to do to get some attention?” I asked the blue shirt lady.
I tried a few star jumps.
This, I’m sure, looked a bit silly. It caught the attention of one guy helping out at the iPhone desk. He smiled wildly. I think he interpreted by star jumps as the unbridled joy. I think he might have given me a thumbs-up. I can’t quite recall.
If memory serves, I did a few more star jumps. Not big ones you understand. But certainly discernible. My 2x iPhones would have fallen out of my pocket if I’d jumped forcefully. The £2,500 Apple MacBook Pro could have been dislodged from my bag. The other iPhone inside the bag could have fallen out. But they’re all backed up on my 50GB Apple iCloud subscription. I write this paragraph to highlight that I’m not an Apple lightweight spender.
Eventually as the nerves of the blue shirt greeter lady began to fray around the edges — I’m not sure she gets many people standing next to her doing the occasional array of star jumps — another blue shirt chap appeared at the top of the stairs.
The greeter called out to him in relief.
“Mini, 16GB WiFi, White,” I barked out at him when he asked how he could help. I did my best to remain polite.
As I waited for him to fetch it another blue shirter spotted me lingering and asked if he could help.
I explained that my Apple experience had been severely degraded by the inability to purchase for approximately 10 minutes.
He kindly listened, offering me a cathartic release.
“Would you like me to help you set it up?” the other chap asked as he arrived with the Mini.
“No I think it’s my 8th iPad so I’m good,” I said, handing him my card.
The rest of the experience was perfectly fine. I completed the transaction, got my bag, got the receipt emailed and then thanked the greeter lady on my way out.
I daresay that the whole end-to-end purchase process would have been better if I’d arrived earlier whilst that huge big wooden desk was still setup with all those iPads and iPhones. I think it would have been easier to attract attention.
For anyone from the Apple Store reading, let’s be clear: Your team were impeccable. The fact I couldn’t actually get Guy’s attention shouldn’t, I don’t think, be an issue. The chap looked particularly focused on a task, no doubt in pursuit of an answer for another customer.
The issue is priority and orderliness, particularly when there is zero focal point. Perhaps after 8pm, you could have a little sign that says “Stand here if you’d like to order/pay”?
Or is this simply an isolated issue that only occurs after 8pm?
I know it’s still hugely annoying during the day in many Apple Stores that don’t have a focal point desk setup bristling with product so I’m not so sure.
The silent customer getting frustrated is the one to try and identify swiftly. I think I’d have spent at least £600 more tonight (at least another iPad) if my experience had been smoother. I couldn’t help but snap into reality.
I was moved to consider whether the Apple ecosystem is entirely for me.
I’m disappointed to say I’m teetering. I’m not quite sure it is for me. I don’t mind the premium but in return, I don’t want any friction whatsoever. AT ALL.
I’m wondering if it is worth it.
Currently, I think on balance, it is.