Apple Retail Store Experience Hardly Needs Fixing

3 minute read
| Editorial

A bitter complaint about the Apple retail store notwithstanding, there’s no better place to experience Apple, its products and service.

Apple Store, Park Meadows Mall

I’m referencing the following story I read on Monday.

I have to comment on this.

I visit my local Apple retail store often for various reasons. Sometimes it’s as a customer and sometimes I just drop in to do some reconnaissance. The store is always packed with customers, and, yes, there a lot of Apple employees present. This is a Good Thing™.

In fact, I have never had a bad experience in any of the Denver Metro Apple stores. When I walk in, the concierge, with iPad in hand, asks me about the reason for my visit. After a short wait, he or she introduces me to a salesperson. The sales people are always attentive, friendly and focussed on my needs. I’ve never had a salesperson leave me alone or become engaged with another salesperson, leaving me unattended for any length of time.

Author Hartmans complained that the store seemed chaotic. There was no identifiable checkout station with a cash register. There were no signs directing the author where to stand. Oh my.

This brings me to the biggest issue I had: In Apple’s world, every employee seems charged with helping every customer and every other employee, all at once.

Of all the times I’ve ever visited an Apple retail store, I’ve never had this experience.

It was as if author Hartmans wanted to superimpose a preconceived notion of how other (failed) retain chains work. And, like many others, I can testify about that. And if that store was especially busy, one can see how, occasionally, one employee may need to briefly concur with another. That’s better than most other retail experiences I’ve had.

Contrast: Macy’s

A few weeks ago, I was in the men’s department at Macy’s. I wanted to make a purchase, but there were precious few people around who could consult with me or take my money. I started at the shoe department sales desk where there was, mercifully, a lone sales clerk. But he was constantly interrupted by the need to help people by going into the back room for shoes. So I left and wandered to another station. I waited in a long line. It was a frustrating experience.

In the Apple store, there is never a problem paying. Any salesperson with that specially modified iPhone can take my money. I just touch my Apple Watch to the device, and “doink!” I’m all paid up. Out the door.

How the author concluded that there are “larger problems with Apple’s retail presence” is a dramatic claim, guaranteed to elicit page views. But the claim is never substantiated by a research reference to a significant fraction of the customer population. A one-off experience doesn’t constitute a global condemnation of Apple’s retail business.

But it sure sounds authoritative.

A New iPhone

Another compliant from Hartmans is that the repaired iPhone 6s bricked the next day. That can happen. In-store repairs of displays can be a delicate operation. But when it was returned to Apple, a brand new iPhone 6s was provided fairly quickly—20 minutes. No bureaucracy.

Someone — still not my technician – came by my table to get more information, and finally, 20 minutes after I arrived for the second time, the technician I needed came over to look at my phone.

After all that, he tried all the things I had already tried, then gave up and handed me a new iPhone.

A question remains about that $150 for a repaired display. If the original, repaired 6s has worked perfectly, that would have justified the replacement cost based on Apple’s policy for repairing displays and the state of its coverage. Having been provided a brand new iPhone and then asking for the $150 back is a stretch.

The Apple Experience

In the end, Apple is a big company. Millions of customers come to the retail stores every quarter. But the fact is, Apple stores have lots of employees, and that’s good. I’ve never had an issue just walking up to a salesperson who wan’t engaged with a customer and chatting with them.

Author Hartmans was dismayed by the controlled chaos of a busy Apple store and wanted a different, perhaps sedate experience. Organized. Signs. Checkout desks and registers. A solemn, quiet experience. Like buying a pair of shoes. That’s just not how Apple stores operate. But it’s hard to say how Apple needs to fundamentally alter that experience in this modern era. I’m open to suggestions. So is, I presume, SVP Angela Ahrendts.

Indeed, a bricked iPhone is no fun, and that entails returning to the store. But to suggest that this single experience proves that there is something fundamentally wrong with how Apple treats its customers goes too far in my opinion and my experience.

10 Comments Add a comment

  1. Lee Dronick

    I know what you mean about Macy’s and note that they are closing stores; Sears and Penny’s are on the same course as Macy’s. Going into Nordstrom is a different experience, it like an Apple Store for clothes. That being said I have recently bought clothes at Sears and Penny’s, if you don’t need help then the price of items is worth the price of few salespeople.

  2. BlackCorvid

    Sometimes the stores are busy, you know, people buying things, asking questions, attending classes, visiting the genius bar. I even had to wait 15 minutes because there were so many people buying iPhones that I had to wait on a sales person to take care of the 5 people ahead of me. The agony of it all…

  3. quakerotis

    I hate to say it because I’m a crabby old guy.

    I have always had great luck at Apple Stores.

    Now my latest experience. I cracked the Screen on my 7 Plus. I walked in without an appointment and was taken care of quickly (within 5 minutes of entering I had a genius looking at my phone0>

    When told it would be $160 to fix the screen, that seed ok. They said it would take two hours and they apologized for the delay. After writing up the repair, the salesperson asked if anything else was wrong. I mentioned the flashlight was always intermittent.

    When hearing that, the salesperson went and got me a new phone for the price of the screen repair.

    I don’t like some of the things that Apple does. But, I sure like their retail experience.

  4. Ned

    Honestly, I’ve had better experiences at Best Buy. My experiences at the local Apple Store are poor at best. Browsing is a sure ticket to ignorance, i.e. you just want to see the latest iMac, etc. If you’re not in to buy an iPhone or MacBook that visit, as at a car dealership, you’re not worth talking to. Maybe I have a look of confidence when I come in instead of the glassy eyed look of a first visit to Disney World. Best Buy was once accused of profiling, I wonder if Apple does the same thing.

  5. Old UNIX Guy

    John – thanks for this article pointing out the many flaws in Avery Hartman’s “logic”. Anyone who whines about ending up with a brand new iPhone after something that was all originally her fault is probably someone who whines if her Facebook posts don’t get enough likes.

    Avery – grow up … it’s very clear from your article and the photo that accompanies it that you need to.

    Old UNIX Guy

  6. JoelS

    The Apple Store is the most successful retail space in history by a wide margin in terms of total volume of sales and dollars of sales per square foot of retail space. This article is right on target.

  7. cubefan

    Another whiny non-complaint by a member of the snowflake generation. Got a new phone for $150 – I call that great service, and a bargain.

    Sh*t happens, technology breaks, and if you are stupid enough to use a device costing in excess of £500 without a case and/or screen protector – expect a degree of inconvenience and oh dear, woe is me, hardship… I can’t post pictures on Instagram, tweet my lunch, what a disaster. NOT.

    I’ve walked into Apple stores in the US and Europe – always the same experience – helpful staff, willing to help you in any way that’s possible including suggesting other stores that are not Apple’s. When its busy, you might have to wait a while, get in a queue – that’s what people do. When practically all the staff can accept payment you don’t need a big sign saying ‘pay here’.

    And I’ve had the ‘shoe store’ experience in a Volvo dealership – walked out and that dealership would never know how much I was planning to spend, and one unhappy customer recounts that bad experience to anybody who’s prepared to listen.

  8. dismal grumpy

    My 2¢: I avoid the Apple Store like the plague. I hate it. I’ve gone twice in the past few years, both times because they had a phone in stock (instead of waiting for an online order).

    The latest experience was miserable: I’d made an appointment but Apple’s idea of “appointment” is like the rental car company in Seinfeld (if you don’t remember, go find it).

    There were about as many blue Apple t-shirts as customers and they were all milling around looking busy. I was handed off twice before someone actually went and got the phone (that I’d already ordered and paid for). It took over an hour and (like the BI reporter) I spent most of it standing “by the corner of that table” as directed by the first (or maybe the second) Apple person I met.

    No one asked if I wanted to look at cases, no one asked if I wanted to see the wireless chargers — they were all happy for me to just stand by the corner of “that table” for an hour, looking stupid.

    I hate the Apple Store and I avoid it whenever it is earthly possible.

    As for $150 for a new phone: If the old phone had been competently repaired she wouldn’t have had the inconvenience of having to return to the Apple Store. They should have given her the replacement phone for free, along with a big apology.

    • dismal grumpy

      Forgot to add that the acoustics in the place were AWFUL — really, really loud. IMO it isn’t that loud in any town square I’ve ever been in!

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