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The physical Apple Store is still annoying as ever

I popped into the Covent Garden Apple Store this evening to buy a new MacBook Pro laptop.

I decided to buy there-and-then because I needed the utility. I wanted the machine immediately rather than waiting.

It turns out that this is perhaps the wrong approach for me because I really don’t enjoy the standard experience.

If the Apple Store you’re visiting is empty, you’ll typically have a brilliant time. Store staff will descend upon you, answer every question, show you something ‘unique and fun’ about the Mac (or whatever product you’re interested in) and then process your purchase as necessary. Job done.

If your Apple Store is filled with non-customers with nothing better to do than to arse about on Facebook, then there’s trouble ahead for you and I.

You and I want to get things done, right?

I want to walk in, browse if appropriate and then buy. Sadly the rather wicked Apple Store mobile app doesn’t work with computers. It only works with small ticket items that you can pick up and scan yourself.

If your purchase depends on a human, then get ready to question your sanity.

Back in February I had a rubbish experience in the Regent Street Apple Store where I had to resort to doing star jumps in the centre of the store to get the attention of store staff busy trying to delight people who weren’t buying:

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.

I didn’t have to resort to star jumps but I did have to stand about like a flipping lemon for a good 10 minutes before I could catch the eye of a ‘red shirt’. (They’re all in Red for Christmas it seems).

I had to loiter buy the temporary iPad/iPod Touch/iPhone bench at the back of the store because that way, you can’t easily be ignored. It’s a security risk.

I had to avoid questioning what the hell I was doing, waiting. Waiting. Waiting. It’s a huge premium you pay for Apple. I wasn’t that far away from thinking, ‘stuff this’, and deciding to completely swap away from the company.

Their technology is a real delight.

The stores are a ball ache.

Every where I looked there was a red shirt deep in discussion with an also-ran — somebody who won’t be purchasing for a long time. Someone who isn’t using the store for it’s primary (or perhaps, original) function: Buying.

Most folk were browsing. I missed grabbing one red shirt because someone else stepped in front of me and asked a question about Mac Minis. Just a question, mind. He had no intention of buying — he said so up front. I had to mentally roll my eyes.

There’s nothing at all wrong with this basic service model. It’s one of the reasons I am happy to recommend the Apple Store to all and sundry. They aim to take care of you.

Apart, that is, from the serious buyer.

I suppose I could have made a business appointment. I suppose.

I didn’t want to make the time to do that.

I could have booked in advance.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I can see that I’m in the wrong. It’s my expectations that are entirely wrong.

Ever since they took the sales desks — the centre, the heart — out of the store, I’ve found the experience dire.

But then aren’t Apple Stores meant to be the most (or at least, one of the most) profitable per square foot? They must be doing something right.

I’m in the very small minority.

I’d love to see them bring back a very, very small sales desk.

Just a tiny one. A central point where I and the others like me can go to when we’re ready to buy. This evening I just stood about trying to make eye contact with red shirts. This is a significantly disheartening experience — every brush with the possibility of being served by a red shirt is an opportunity for me to question why I didn’t just walk up the road to PC World and get served immediately.

Still, I’m enjoying the Retina screen once again. It’s been a few months since I’ve used a MacBook Pro.

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