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Summary:

Over the past few weeks I’ve had to make multiple trips to my local Apple store to pick up this, that, and the other. I’m the typical guy in that I when I go shopping I don’t actually “shop.” I go in, get what I need, […]

Over the past few weeks I’ve had to make multiple trips to my local Apple store to pick up this, that, and the other. I’m the typical guy in that I when I go shopping I don’t actually “shop.” I go in, get what I need, and get out as fast as possible.

At most stores this is easy to do…except for Apple stores.

I’ve yet to actually need any help from an employee in the Apple stores. I know exactly what I want and I just want to purchase it and get back to my office to use it. But it would seem Apple doesn’t care to actually have a set checkout spot. No place to to get in line and buy stuff. Nothing. You just have to aimlessly wander around the store and hope to A) get approached by a free employee or B) randomly pick an employee that’s helping someone and follow them around until they’re done.

I honestly don’t understand how this entire setup is a good idea. Sure I get that they want you to interact with the employees so they can hopefully sell you more stuff…but what about the people like me who just need to go in and buy something? I spent almost 15 minutes the other day in fairly uncrowded Apple store just waiting for an employee to free up so I guy by an adapter.

Yes, I’m ranting a bit here. But I really am curious what benefit Apple sees in setting up the store like this. Are all Apple stores like this? Or did I just luck out with the one closest to me?

  1. My “local” Apple store (two hours away…hey, I live rurally) is pretty much like the one you describe, except there’s almost always an associate somewhere near the cash register counter at the front of the store. I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait more than a couple of minutes for help, even last week when I went in to buy an iPhone and the place as mobbed.

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  2. My Apple store (I lucked out, there’s one about 15 minutes away) is a bit more traditional. We have the roamers, but there’s always at least a pair of associates manning the front register.

    Yours has no register?

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  3. I’ve been to all 4 of the Apple Stores in the Twin Cities and the Chicago Michigan Ave Apple Store. All have had a set checkout location. A couple computers setup with scanners and at least one person behind waiting for customers. In all these places it’s pretty easy to see to go in, pick up what I’ve needed and checkout and go very quickly if needed. The Chicago Apple store has the largest checkout counter, with about 6 or 8 computers and usually several people behind the counter ready to check you out. They even usually have small items like the iPod Minis or Shuffles behind the counter and you just ask for one if you want it. At holidays and big product launches, usually they even set up smaller checkout locations elsewhere in the store to handle the larger crowds. So I don’t think your experience is the overall setup for most of their stores.

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  4. I’ve been to a half-dozen different Apple stores around the country and they all had a counter with someone hanging out there for the purpose of checking people out and grabbing accessories, etc for people who needed something quickly. Is it possible you’re just visiting the store when it’s busy and they don’t have enough employees? You say it was “fairly uncrowded”, but if it takes 15 minutes for an employee to get free obviously there are enough customers there to saturate the sales staff.

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  5. last week i went to the apple store at the stanford shopping center in palo alto. walked to the ipod accessories, picked up a package of earbud covers, found an employee who checked me out on the spot. took my email address so he could email my receipt. when we were done, he said, “that was fast!”

    and it was. of course, we completed the process next to the iphone display, so i had the opportunity to play with one. for thirty seconds. enough to know i want to get one when my current cell contract runs out.

    anyway, the current setup works for me, at least when the stores aren’t packed.

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  6. My Apple store absolutely has NO register. It used to, but they shut down the store for a week earlier this year and moved the Genius Bar to where the cash registers used to be. Now all employees walk around the store with hand-held checkout stations. I, too, have many issues walking in and just picking up what I want. Does anyone else know why Apple is moving to this setup? Or are Josh and my stores the abnormals? And if so, why?

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  7. Most Apple stores I’ve been to, you can always grab an employee and check out right there and then in under a minute.

    It takes less time to buy a MacBook at my Apple Store than to buy a pound of cheese from the deli at my local grocery store.

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  8. Is it possible Apple is running an experiment in social phobia? I just find it amazing that it’s easy to approach someone at a counter, but if you take away the counter all of a sudden people start to panic and not know how to say “Excuse me, I want to buy this”. Is there some sort of approach anxiety taking place?

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  9. There are two types of Apple store out there. The first is a full “Apple Store” that has a checkout area, a genius bar, and often an Apple experience bar. (I forget what Apple actually calls the experience bar, but this is where you can go and get advice on how to use Pages, Keynote, Photoshop and so on to achieve your goals.)

    The second type of store is the “Apple Store” express. This type of store is much smaller than a full store, usually consisting only of benches down the side walls and stocks a very limited range of software and accessories. In the express stores, there is usually (but not always) a small counter at the rear for checkouts but the checkout computers are hidden behind the counter. Also, the express stores often have check out shelves that pop out of the walls when needed.

    The express stores rely heavily on Apple’s hand-held checkout devices. These devices are also carried by many of the associates at full sized stores. The hand-held checkout device is about the size of a Palm Pilot and allow you to complete purchases that do not involve applying any discounts (edu or corporate) to the sale.

    For example, the Palo Alto Apple Store is a full sized store, whereas the Stanford Shopping Center Apple Store (also in Palo Alto) is an express store.

    (Note, these comments are based solely on my shopping experiences at various Apple stores.)

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  10. I’ve had the same experience. There is no register. There may be 4 or 5 apple employees helping various people scattered throughout the store.

    There is a moment of awkwardly holding the credit card visibly and trying to make eye contact with someone.

    There is a moment of trying to figure out which employee will be done helping another customer.

    There is a moment of picking the wrong employee who has an individual asking them multiple questions as they walk through the store. Damn…picked the wrong employee…but should I go wait next to another employee.

    Walk up to the genius bar and they are helping someone intently.

    I just want to buy this Dora the Explorer game.

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