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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

Apple And Her Retailers, The Saga Continues
June 15th, 1999

Recently, I wrote a piece about how some (rude) Mac fans treat the salespersons who work for chain stores that sell Macs. In pointing fingers at the above radicals, I failed to mention a problem and that is the incompetence and blatant lies told by some of the staff in such stores. I also have some thoughts on the kinds of retail outlets that Apple used to authorize and I am afraid that phenomenon could come back to the Mac platform.

First, I received several reports from Observers who had negative experiences in chain stores, and here are a few quotes:

"I still get a fair amount of anti-Mac bias from those folks. They either try to nudge me towards the Wintel offerings, or downplay the iMac while I'm working there. They are not REACTING to me, but ARE predisposed to criticize my choice of platforms."

"What was truly upsetting, however, was the eventual appearance of two salespersons each of whom launched immediately into anti-Mac routines that are so stale that I wonder about the persistence of nonsense. One was commenting to a couple looking at the B&W G3 that 'it's OK as a computer, but it's really slower than a PC, and that PC's were more stable and easier to use'."

"At a Best Buy in Philadelphia, I encountered a salesman who actually tried to fan the flames of discord when a would-be-Mac buyer expressed concern. He immediately went into his "Windows is superior schpiel - which I found offensive - and felt the need to butt in."

"I have encountered lines such as... 'No one writes for the Macintosh/There are no programs available,' 'They're pieces of sh-t,''Is Apple Still in Business?' Again, I have heard lines like this directly." Such comments say much. So far, I see two ways to explain what goes on.

The first one is a something Apple dealt with after Steve Jobs took over. I could call this "parasite stores". They become Apple Authorized Dealers to attract customers and try to redirect them toward a Wintel PC. This is something we saw in the past. It is why Apple dumped a whole lot of authorized dealers.

Is it happening again today? Possibly. If you mention "Macintosh" at Best Buy, CompUSA - and perhaps Sears if they have the same difficulties - you may face a salesperson who will show you a PC instead of a Mac. How come they do that? Whether they sell a PC or a Mac, they make profits. If they do not carry enough Macs for you to make a decent choice but still keep their authorization to sell them, maybe it is to attract people who are curious about it and then sell them a PC. The salesperson's job would be to do the appropriate advocacy. While I cannot prove the existence of such twisted intentions, I think it is a possible explanation for what goes on in retail stores.

The second way is quite simple. Maybe salespersons just ignore the fact that a Mac is a good computer while sticking to their anti-Mac diatribes. Never mind the fact that their store does sell both Macs and PC's. After all, isn't this in their interest? I mean, they know very little about the computer and their training was done with PC's. They might lose their jobs or have to learn about the Macintosh if it becomes a bigger thing.

No matter which scenario is the right explanation, I am happy that Apple decided to send some of its employees to test the knowledge and attitude of their retail partners' staff.

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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