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. ]


Wireless Problem (Quite off topic)

October 21, 2008 § 7 Comments

I’m posting this on my blog in hopes someone finds it and can give me an answer because I can’t find an answer anywhere else.

The quick and nasty: I have a MacBook Pro. (I love it, no Apple slandering, please.) What happens is my actual wireless signal—not the reception on my laptop—but the actual wireless signal coming from the DSL modem disconnects and resets constantly. It doesn’t seem to matter what I’m doing or working on, it just does this.

The modem itself is a combo DSL modem+Wireless Router (non-Apple product) and I’ve done the standard “Unplug and count to 10” stuff, but the signal still drops soon after. I’ve also run a virus scan on my computer, but nothing was found.

Really, I have no obvious reason to believe that my computer is causing the problem, nor are other computers in the house, but this problem only cropped up only after I began using the wireless network with my Mac, all of which makes me suspicious (although the wireless signal at the local library is never any problem).

Is there anyone out there who has any suggestions at all or has ever dealt with ths?

PC vs Mac

August 15, 2008 § 3 Comments

Two years ago, my grad school department loaned me a Mac laptop for use during my time at school (a very nice perk, indeed). However, as a dedicated Windows PC user, I was hesitant to make the switch–dreading it a bit, really. I was dreading it because I didn’t like how controlled the Mac environment is, how a user can’t easily dig in to the hardware, make upgrades, or build their own. There were a lot of other little things, too, seemingly inconsequential things, but I didn’t like how the x-out for a window is in the upper-lefthand corner. It just felt all wrong.

At the beginning of this foray into the world of Mac, I voiced these concerns to an Industrial Design professor when I said, “I don’t like how I can’t really work on a Mac, tear them apart, build my own, things like that.”

He quickly replied, “The bigger question is, ‘Why should you have to?'”

And a very dim lightbulb flicked on in my head. “Interesting.”

During my next two years in design school, I thought about this quite a bit. Had discussions about it with fellow designers and other computer folks. And what became clear was that Apple works under a different business model metaphor than a company like Microsoft does.

Think: GM 1985 vs Honda 1995

Which one do you think is GM? Which one do you think is Honda? Why?

The reason people will likely point to first is aesthetic. But really, this isn’t as true as it once was, not with Sony and others making good-looking computers. (And while we’re at it, this metaphor has nothing to do with speed or power or anything like that.)

The deeper reason is in the consumer experience. Apple manages their entire product and service from head to toe, completely vertically integrated. They do this because they want the consumer to have a certain experience when they buy the computer, when they use the computer, and when they need to fix the computer. For Apple, the only thing a user should ever really worry about is using the computer. Just like owning a new Honda.

On the other hand, PCs (and Microsoft) are like GM. There are many different makers, sellers, and suppliers, you can modify it, you can work on it, you can have anyone else work on it, and if you’re really good, you can even build it from the ground up (not that you can build a GM car from the ground up, but you get the idea). Sometimes, you can even use GM parts on non-GM cars. Pretty remarkable, really.

And you can follow this metaphor all the way through, from the different Mac models and specs, warrantees, Mac’s outsourcing of production all the way to typical resale values and on and on.

But people love to argue about the merits and costs of Macs vs PCs without considering this difference and its deeper implications. Some of the more common refrains are that people who own Macs are snobby morons who don’t know anything about computers and end up overpaying for them. And the Mac people complain that PC users don’t know what they’re missing and that the user experience of a Mac far exceeds that of a PC, something PC users underestimate the value of.

While both of these arguments may have merit, what always seems to be missing in these arguments is this question: If you are a general consumer of computers, which 75% of us are, why should you have to know anything technical about your computer to make it work? Shouldn’t it just work? And if it doesn’t, shouldn’t there be a place for you to take it to get it fixed? Just like if you bought a brand new car?

Yes, Apple asks a premium to be paid for this. Not just in dollars, but in total freedom of computer choice. For Apple, though, these are deliberate decisions, part of reducing consumer stress, streamlining the process, designing the experience, and getting you in the seat of a brand new car. What you get in return is a high-quality computer that needs little maintenance, a long shelf life, a generally high resale value, and if you ask most Apple users, a better user experience—something that’s hard to put an exact value on.

So ask yourself this: Are people who drive Hondas smart or dumb?

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