Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Best Buying Experience at the Apple Store

I’ve bought a lot of stuff in my life, from bubble gum to cars. From $1 items to $100,000 items and over the years I’ve found that customer service matters. I do prefer to buy things in person, and I like to support local businesses, but I’ve also found the customer service and support from Amazon to be top notch and worth a day’s delay in many cases.

It’s also convenient, which is something I appreciate in my very busy life. Here’s my experience at the Apple Store at Park Meadows in Colorado.

I walk in on Saturday afternoon, with my daughter in tow. She immediately walks to the iPads to play and I walk to the Macbook Airs. There are easily 5 people for every Apple employee, and while I’m waiting for an employee to finish talking to a customer, I check out the prices and models. Surprisingly they have the high end, 1.8GHz Air available, which is tempting, but I decide against it.

The employee near me is still talking to a customer when another employee walks up and finishes a conversation with a gentleman next to me about some issue he’s come in about. They talk for a minute and then he leaves and she turns to look at the middle of the store. Perhaps I didn’t look like I needed help, but I was in a bit of a hurry and decided to tap her on the shoulder.

I explain I’d like to get an Air and she says she’s busy with one more thing, but she waves to another employee on the other side of the displays and he comes over. I explain I want an Air and he walks me over to the display, pulls up the model list on the iPad mounted there and tells me which ones they have in stock. I go for the $1599 one with the 256GB drive.

At this point my daughter walks up and sees him pick the model on his phone, select it, ask me about Applecare (I get it) and adds that and then adds my VGA cable for presentations. He says it will be a minute.

We chat briefly and it’s literally about a minute or minute and a half when someone walks up with my three items and sets them on the counter. I haven’t moved from where I’m standing at the front of the store. The employee scans the three items with his phone, gives me the total, then takes my credit card and swipes it through the side of his phone case. Again, I haven’t moved. He then presents his screen to my sideways to sign with my finger.

After declining a bag, we shake hands and I leave. Apart from the 3 or 4 minutes it takes me to get an employee, my whole purchase was done in about 4 minutes. I never walked more than 10 feet into the Apple store and didn’t wait in a line or have to gather my purchases. I bought a higher end product, but I got much higher end customer service.

Compare that with another experience.

I decided to buy a Macbook Air recently to replace my rather temperamental Lenovo. In making that decision, I ended up with three different experiences that surprised me. One day last week the laptop failed to sleep and annoyed me to no end. After a karate class, I dragged the kids to Best Buy at 7:30 one night to get a new machine. I’d looked at them a week earlier, compared the weights, sizes and decided an Air was a better fit than a Pro. They had all the models on display, and I assumed I’d get one.

Normally I’m accosted by a Best Buy employee about once every 4 minutes in the store, but this time my daughter and I stood at the Apple display for a good 6-8 minutes. I passed the time showing her the models and some of the new Lion features that let you move windows around, scroll like the iPad, etc. Finally I found an employee in the PC section and told her what I wanted. She said she would be there in a minute.

Five minutes later she comes over and I explain what I want, and she goes to check the computer. She’s gone for at least ten minutes, but it could have been 15. I’m annoyed now and she comes back to say they don’t have any Airs. At least not any new ones with the i5 CPU and Lion on them.  She says she’ll check another place and after another four or five minute delay says that Best Buy in CO doesn’t have any Airs. They only got Airs for display and she doesn’t know when Best Buy USA will even be shipping them.

I’m very annoyed. I feel like I wasted 30 minutes on something I saw in the store, knew exactly what I wanted and would have compromised on models, and would have even taken the display model.

That night I checked on Amazon, which apparently doesn’t have any themselves. There were a few places that were selling on Amazon (local stores supplying the merchandise), but doing so at $150 premiums, no Prime shipping, and no shipping inside a week.

I didn’t need one ASAP, but I didn’t want to wait on some unknown amount of time from a non-local store. I called the Apple Store, they told me in 30sec what they had, and I went there.

Apple isn’t perfect, but the experience at their retail store was excellent.

No comments: