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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

Macs And The Retail Problem, Who Is Guilty
May 18th, 1999

Ever since CompUSA and Best Buy announced their agreements with Apple to sell Mac computers, the good old diatribes against big retail stores came back stronger than ever. Especially against Best Buy. Of course, the situation could be much better, and Apple's computers could sell more at Best Buy. Who is the guilty party? Why do CompUSA and Best Buy have problems with their Mac departments these days? Why do salespersons refuse to help Mac customers? Why does Best Buy tell its customers that it cannot sell iMacs? why did some CompUSA staffers complain about the Macintosh?

What many Mac users do not want to face is that it is YOUR fault. The Mac fan's fault. Have you ever really looked at how you behave in those stores? You go in there, find a salesperson, and then test him on his knowledge. You find out he does not know about the Macintosh, although he seems fascinated. You put him down and make him feel like an incompetent fool who should be flipping burgers at McDonald's because he does not know how the Mac works.

Do you think that this is the best way to help your platform to prosper? No! Such a bad attitude will only alienate people against the Macintosh. Those salesmen who do not know the platform but want to learn about it might try the Macintosh one day and switch to it. They might want to get to know what is the big deal with this type of computer and then fall for it. They might decide to recommend Macs instead of PC's when they feel it is more appropriate for a customer's need.

When we Mac fans go and label the Macintosh and its users in this way, we are making people think we are a bunch of arrogant techno-nerds. Someone who was once fascinated about the Mac may now say "gee, I am not doing anything for the Mac anymore". Thus, one less person who might have jumped in the bandwagon.

This is not new. Mac users are known for their arrogance. Those radical fans usually forget that their PC opponents might be friendlier to the Mac than they think. They fight their holy war with such wrath. Their only goal is annihilation of the PC platform. Well, I have news for such folks. The smartest thing they could do is to remain quiet and let others do the talking.

My way to convince someone to look at Macs (or buy one) is having a proactive attitude. If I find the Mac so great, I have good reasons for it. I can transmit such reasons to someone who is not close-minded about computers. I talked to many salespersons in stores about the Macintosh. I did not go there and test their knowledge. I introduced the topic politely. I wanted to see what they knew about it, or if they liked the Macintosh. Once, I found out that one thought about switching to the Mac, and maybe sell Macs. I talked about how good the Macintosh is and so on. When I want to convince a potential buyer to choose the Mac platform, do I say "PC's suck"? Of course not! I take them to a Mac store and show them what a Mac is. I show them the Mac OS look and feel. I open Virtual PC and tell them that they can use two platforms on one machine. I take a Word 97 file, copy it on the desktop, and open it in Word 98. I show them how the computer itself works, and how compatible it is with PC's. I use the proactive attitude.

Radical Mac fans are quite reactive when they face a PC user or salesman. The radicals should learn that they do not help us to make the Macintosh more popular. On the contrary, they make our lives more difficult. We always have to clean up the mess and advocate our platform in a positive way to make sure that the bad attitude does not destroy the Mac's chances with a PC fan.

There are many Mac users who are complaining about the way Best Buy is behaving. They want Best Buy to follow Apple's policies and do what they are told. They do not care about Best Buy's concerns over carrying only the popular colors. Just as Apple is allowed to require its retailers to carry all five colors, Best Buy is free to stop being a retailer. This is a free market after all. Let Best Buy make its decisions, and don't hassle the sales people. No one likes being called stupid, and few people enjoy outsiders telling them how to run their business. A positive face and a good attitufe will always sell more Macs than being arrogant and pushy. Remember that the next time you ready yourself to pounce on the PC-Centric sales person.

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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