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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

Two CompUSA Locations Go Above & Beyond For Mac OS X 10.1
October 1st, 2001

My Saturday started off like a lot of other Mac users' Saturday, with anticipation for getting Mac OS X 10.1. I was pretty clever and stayed up working late on Friday night, so I promptly overslept that morning and got up at 11:30 instead of 8:30. A hurried shower and my Mac OS X Windows' Killer t-shirt later, and I was on my way to my local CompUSA. I don't have an Apple Store nearby, and both of the CompUSAs in my area are pretty well run. On Friday, CompUSA's PR department told me specifically that every store would receive 100 copies of the free version of the update, but I had no doubt that this would not be the case everywhere. While I was assuming I was too late to get a packet, even if they got their 100 copies in, I was curious to see how things were going.

I sheened down to the "South" CompUSA (in Austin there is a South store and a North store), arriving at about 12:20 PM. There weren't that many people in the store, but I noticed someone moving around in the Store-within-a-Store. Once I got back to that section, the first thing I noticed was the Mac OS X display with boxes labeled "10.1." That seemed like a good sign. I looked for the guy that was moving around and I saw a CompUSA employee going back and forth from Mac to Mac. He seemed a bit haggard, and perhaps a little tense, so I walked up to him and very nicely asked if he had any of the 10.1 updates. He was setting up something on an iMac and without looking up he said that they were all out, but that he was burning some and I could wait if I wanted. Whoa, that's kind of cool.

He told me that they had gotten in 50 copies, but that he had to keep 20 for the machines in the store, which made sense, and that the other 20 were reserved for the first 20 people on "The List." He gestured over to a clipboard when he said that, and I walked over to see what it was. It was a list of people waiting for the update, and I was about to be #68 on it. Damn. I wanted the nice packaging... Still, he said I could wait for one of the copies he was burning, and the most important thing was getting the final release of 10.1.

That's when I looked at exactly what he was doing. He had set up some 5 or 6 Macs to be CD burning stations and was making as many copies of the Mac OS X 10.1 and 9.2.1 update CDs as he could. He was going back and forth from machine to machine to keep the process rolling as smoothly as possible. When I prodded a bit deeper into the situation, I found out that the package of updates had just arrived at about 11:30 in the morning, a day late and an hour and a half after a line of people showed up looking for the darned thing. It seemed many of the people took out their frustration on this employee, caring little about the fact that it wasn't his fault. Despite or because of that, he was busting his hump to get as many CDs made as possible so that everyone could get a copy. Since he was burning and I was waiting, I did my tour through the Macs and made sure the ones that weren't burning CDs were running demos (some weren't) and were functioning (they all were). I answered a customer's question too, since I didn't want the employee interrupted. :-)

Once the young man gave me an update CD, I made a beeline up to the North CompUSA. Hey, I still wanted the nice packaging! I didn't expect there to be any at that store either, but I was still curious to see how things were going. When I arrived, I found a crowd of about 25 Mac geeks milling around in the Store-within-a-Store. There weren't any employees around, but it seemed like everyone knew the score: we wanted the update and were waiting for it. It turns out that this store still hadn't received its package of update packets at all and the FedEx person was nowhere to be seen.

I started checking out these Macs too. Most weren't doing much of anything, which was surprising considering how many hardcore Macheads were standing around doing a whole lot of nothing. Someone struck up a conversation with me after a while, and I mentioned I had a burned copy from the South store. It seems the manager had said that they could burn copies if they only had one. We went and found that manager and I gave them story of how I had one, and would he like to use it to burn some copies? This manager knew his Macs (I have no idea how he had risen to a position of authority at a CompUSA knowing something about Macs, but good for him!), was a really nice person, and was anxious to be able to take care of all these Mac-using customers in his store. He immediately went to get some blank CDs, and another customer that was present got his iBook so we could test out my CD. After all, it had gone straight from the CD_burner, into my car, and up to this other store without being used.

Let me interrupt my narrative with this: I don't think that CompUSA or any other retailer owed it to customers to go to the trouble of burning copies of a free update because they didn't get enough to satisfy demand. They, and any other retailer who also burned copies for people, would have been well within their rights to hand out what they had and say "sorry" to everyone one else. I think that 99.9% of Mac users would have understood the situation, and very few would have expected these stores to burn them a copy. For some stores, or entire chains as the case may be, to take on this largely thankless task ("You mean I don't get the package?") is simply outstanding.

Back to our street test: several attempts to boot from my copy showed that it wasn't bootable. Doh! The young man from the South store had made a mistake, and I went from hero to "here's your coaster, man" in two seconds flat. The manager of this store called the South store, but they were already on top of it, had fixed the problem, and were burning the right CDs. Here's where it got even better. The manager of this store was going to drive across town to the other store and get a copy so he could take care of the customers in his store. Remember that those "customers" were going to be getting something free too! In fact, I think that's going above and beyond the call of duty since it clearly wasn't his fault that his store hadn't received its shipment. For that, I offer him and the crew of the South CompUSA a big fat Mac Observer Salute! With the occasional exception of not being able to get someone to help Mac customers, the Austin CompUSAs actually have pretty good Mac sections, and I think that both locations showed some dedication to its Mac customers on Saturday.

To finish out my story, I left that CompUSA and went to the Fry's that was up the highway a bit. That store had received its shipment of update packets, but had handed them out hours ago. They too had a waiting list, and were expecting more CDs in the morning. To be honest, I am not sure if they were burning them somewhere or were expecting more packets to be delivered, but I put my name on the list to see what would happen. I saw about 120 names on this list (several pages of names), and was delighted to see such interest in the update. Sure enough I got a call at 11:20 AM the next day from Fry's letting me know I could pick up my CD at any time.

In the meanwhile I made the long trek back to my house. When I got there, I found that the first CompUSA (the South store) had left a message saying I could get a CD at any time from them. The CD factory that employee had set up had successfully made a bunch of copies of the update. Since I still needed it, I went and picked one up. There was a new employee on duty near the Apple section, but he knew all about the trouble with the first few CDs they had made and handed me one with a big fat check mark on it. Once I got back home, I installed it and it worked just fine.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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