The Evolving Life and Culture of the Apple Retail Stores

Thereis a lot of commotion in the Apple stores nowadays, and life is changing there for both employees and customers, according to the Washington Post on Sunday. [Subscription may be required.] One hundred million customer visits and US$4B in revenue each year has created a place where a complete culture is evolving with different textures for different observers.

For some, the sense of exclusivity is gone. For others, the Apple store is a destination for seekers. Believers and the new converts have engaged and embraced those 200 or so stores.

In a sweeping essay that tried to capture the feelings and tempo of the ever-filled Apple stores, Hank Stuever looked life in those stores as a microcosm. Thereis music, there are puzzled novices seeking to understand or repair their MacBooks, and there are fans, all co-existing in controlled chaos.

The stores are more than just a place now, and they draw an even deeper level of effort and prose. "Alex Frankel, a 37-year-old writer from San Francisco, spent the last few years applying for and working at a variety of retail jobs to report what itis really like on that side of the register," Mr. Steuver wrote. It was in the Apple stores where Mr. Frankel felt most at ease and most in touch with the customers.

The narrative concludes with a micro-story of life in the Apple world, as Mr. Stuever wrote:

The titanium Powerbook G4 has died. It was purchased in the Santa Monica Apple Store on a lavender August evening of breezes and palm trees, way back in 2003, just as people were wandering in and wanting to know more about the ancient click-wheel version of the iPod. There was wheezing from its fan, and horrid, osteoporotic clicking from the hard drive.

"Itis time," nods a Mac Specialist.

Donit even bother with an exam at the Genius Bar. Your ProCare agreement expired many moons ago. Here is the new MacBook. The Apple Store is always willing to help you cope with a death, and $2,000 later, it didnit feel like death at all.

One leaves the store feeling both shamed and thrilled.

Life goes on in the realm.