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February 1st, 2000

[Editorial] Apple Canada: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
by Oliver Dueck

In December, I wrote an editorial about the current situation of Apple Canada. At that time, the story of Computer Buyer Warehouse Direct suing Apple Canada had just broke, which resulted in many discussions on the internet about the situation. After that editorial was published, I got a lot of feedback from fellow Canadians, giving me a broad view of what is going on.

Many were relatively content with their local Apple retailers. And what did these satisfied folks have in common? They lived in large cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Additionally, the only reason they were satisfied was because their cities had one or two good dealers, with the other half dozen being incompetent bungling fools. Those that lived in less populated areas were generally not satisfied with their Apple dealer, if they even had one.

Some Apple dealers tried to justify their higher-than-MacWarehouse pricing, presumably because I had mentioned that my local dealer was charging 15% more than that ubiquitous catalog reseller. I want to make it clear that I don't have a problem with an Apple dealer charging a few percent more than mail order; they are justified in doing so, because they can offer a level of service and support not possible with a mail order company. Unfortunately, some of these dealers charge premium prices and don't offer an acceptable level of service.

Additionally, some resellers told me that we didn't need additional mail order companies; one was more than enough. It is understandable that they would say that, because a mail order company only hurts them, but from the perspective of people who live in rural areas or whose one Apple dealer is practically worthless, additional mail order companies are definitely needed.

In my editorial, I had suggested that Future Shop should sell Apple hardware through their web site. Almost everyone I heard from told me their Future Shop horror stories (salesmen trying to sell them PCs, little or no Mac software, etc.). I realize that; my point was that with online sales, that wouldn't matter as long as they could ship Macs out by mail. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that will happen.

One other thing Canadians have to deal with that Americans don't: French. I got reports from several readers claiming that getting a French product can sometimes be very difficult; for example, French keyboards for iMacs and G4s were substantially delayed. Whether you like it or not, Canada is a bilingual country and Apple has to get on the ball and offer both languages simultaneously - it is only logical.

But perhaps the most damning complaint against an Apple dealer came from a reader in Moncton. After this reader finally convinced his PC-using brother to get Macs for his business, the owner of the local Apple dealer told him he would be better off using DOS for his accounting needs. This person had walked into the store expecting to buy ten computers and a lot of related hardware, and he is told to stick with DOS? No wonder people don't buy Macs in such areas!

Clearly, the biggest problem with Apple Canada is in distribution. There are certainly some excellent Apple dealers, but they are in the minority. These incompetent dealers are hurting Apple badly. Apple Canada has to get on the ball and straighten out its dealers, and make it easier for those of us in rural areas to purchase and service our computers. Until that happens, Apple will never experience the growth it deserves in this country.

Oliver is a computer science student a the University of New Brunswick, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. He has been using Macs since 1986 when his father would bring home a Mac Plus on the weekends. He was one of the original writers for Webintosh, and before that was a contributor to the now-defunct MacSense CD magazine.

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