Apple Store OS X (Over-Service Experience)

November 14, 2008 § 3 Comments

Two days ago, I went to the Apple Store to get a replacement cord for my iPod. I also hadn’t seen the new MacBook/MacBook Pro with the unibody design, so I was excited to go check it out. (Also, since I’m a design dork, I like going in there just to see what’s new, poke around, maybe play with an iPhone, look at some apps or games I didn’t know about and just, ya know… browse.)

When I arrived I was greeted by a good-looking female Apple employee at the door. She was standing with another Apple employee, a male. She would be the last female I would see for the duration of my visit. I started to glance around at the products, as I hadn’t been in this particular Apple Store before. The guy from the door sees me look around and immediately jumps on me. “Is there anything I can help you find today?”

“No, I came in for a new iPod cord, but also wanted to look at the new MacBooks.” I said, noticing one immediately to my left.

The guy came in close to me and pointed out the MacBook Pros while we bantered quickly about the new design. I humored him, but could only think: Why are you helping me and not the girl? He said something else before I was able to shoo him off so I could play around. I really don’t like being bothered at stores (beyond one quick customer “check-in”, anyway), but I was prepared for some amount of overkill, this being the Apple Store and all. “Let me know if you need anything.” He said.

“Thanks man.”

As I was just getting settled in on the MacBook Pro, ogling the new touch pad, looking at the overall shape and design, another sales associate approached me. He was a big guy, fair skin, red hair, light freckles. “Anything I can help you with?”

“Nope, I’m good.” I said, smiling, shaking my head.

He laughed lightly. “Cool. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

“Thanks man.”

I began to feel a touch of anxiousness, self-conscious even. This was the Apple Store, right? I can play around for free for a few minutes, right? No one was behind me waiting. Heck, no one was even on any of the other computers at the MacBook Pro station. Or any of the other stations. But it felt so crowded, still. Weird. So I decided to use my best “subway vision”—never look anyone in the eye, ever. Just look like you belong and that everything is as it should be.

Tucking my anxiousness in my pants, I walked closer to the back. I noticed three sales associates on my left. I ignored them and found the accessories. Please leave me alone, please leave me alone, please leave me alone.

I picked up my iPod cord, looked at the other swag and headed further towards the back to the Apps and Games. As I was looking at the Apps/Games, another guy walked up to me. “You finding everything alright?”

“Yes I am. Thanks.”

“Let me know if you need anything.”

How ’bout all ya’ll leave me alone? “Alright.” I said.

I settled in to the apps and games and after a few moments, I noticed they had a game that I always wanted. I also noticed a similar game, both similarly priced, but only one was going home with me. Now I needed to talk to someone. I decided to stick it out a couple minutes, someone would be around shortly, I’m sure. I looked over my shoulder and right then, there was a guy I asked about the games. He honestly gave me very helpful information that didn’t sway my preliminary decision in the slightest. But I felt informed in my choice, which was nice.

I thanked him.

“Let me know if you need anything else.”

“Thanks man.”

I put the game back that I wasn’t buying and tucked the other under my arm. I decided I wanted to look at the iPhones and iPod touches, which caused me to have to walk back to the front of the store. Ugh.

I kept my eyes forward, and after 10 feet, another sales associate dude jumped out. “You ready to check out, sir?”

“No.” I said. “I’m going to check out the iPhones and iPods real quickly.”

“Great. Let me know if you need any help.”

I kept walking. I fingered through the iContraptions, but I was feeling uneasy because of all the attention. And I realized how disorienting it is to have someone constantly breaking your enjoyment and focus with questions of how you are and if you need help. It was a total Over-Service experience. Like the meal where the server asks you every two minutes if “everything is OK.” Most times, everything would be OK if they would just leave you alone to enjoy your meal and company. But you can’t enjoy your meal because you’re constantly being bugged while you enjoy it. And just as that experience makes you not want to go back to the restaurant, this was making me never want to step inside an Apple Store again.

This sucks. I’m going to the register.

I went to what typically goes for a register in any other store: A counter. Instead, it turns out to be the “Genius Bar”. (What a pompous name. Sorry Mr. Jobs, but that’s such a stupid name.)

But in my looking for the register, I realized: There are maybe 5 customers in here. And there are probably 13 sales associates on the floor. That’s why it feels busy, even though it’s not. That’s why I’m being OS’d. Did I mention that it was 6:30 PM on a Wednesday night? Why are there 13 people working here?

Within two seconds the same guy who asked me if I was ready to check out got up in my shit again. “You ready to check out, sir?”

“Yep.” I said.

He raised a hand-held “register” to his side. “That’s cool.” I said and then warned him, “I have to pay for these two things on separate credit cards.”

“Oh. Then you need to do that over here.” He turned me back around to the Genius Bar.

There was a lone register at the end of the “bar”. I had a good check-out experience, all in all. But all I wanted was to leave. On my way out, I saw the girl who greeted me initially. Still attractive. I made eye contact and smiled as I walked by, the only thought bouncing in my head:

Why wasn’t it you that helped me?

[ Note: This is a true story. ]


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§ 3 Responses to Apple Store OS X (Over-Service Experience)

  • Dan Waldron says:

    Thanks for posting the article, was certainly a great read!

  • Paul Robare says:

    I’m not quite sure how you took such an otherwise mundane vignette and turned it into such an entertaining story, but it certainly worked. Bravo! (I’ve had similar experiences myself – the only difference being that the door-woman was pushing 60 but dressed for 25).

  • Kip says:

    Sorry to hear about your experience. You know that’s how I feel at every store when I go to Korea. Maybe you wouldn’t mind b/c most of the time, they’re really attractive girls who should be in college as opposed to being that employee at the store. But they bombard you for every angle.

    AND, when certain stores open for the first time (like a grand opening), they have really attractive girls dance in front of the store with a loud boombox. Oh, and when you go to places like Walmart & Costco, they have similar girls with skimpy outfits who direct the cars towards the parking lot.

    I remember thinking about these experiences in Korea when we were reading Goffman & the whole facial engagement/proxemics stuff.

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