Kitchens Sync

Apple's Retail Stores Think Different about Retailing

- 2008.07.29 - Tip Jar

In my last article, High Schoolers Are Students Too, I complained about Apple's lack of an educational discount for students who, like me, are in high school. Despite this, last Sunday I took the plunge and visited my local Apple Store, ready to make a purchase.

Having never actually bought something locally, I was surprised and pleased with Apple's innovative break from the traditional retail store model.

Could you help me decide on a printer?

At 12:45 p.m. on Sunday, July 20, I entered the Apple Store at La Cantera. I was certain of two of the three items I was planning on purchasing: an iMac and an iPod touch.

I still needed to decide on a printer. After spending fifteen minutes looking at the selection of printers, I had narrowed my options to two models in my price range: an HP and a Canon. I set out to find a sales person to help me decide. All of the salespeople were wearing bright colored Apple T-shirts, making them easy to identify in the large crowd. After speaking with one of them about my needs and price range, I decided on the Canon model.

What happened next is probably what made the whole experience so enjoyable.

You mean we don't have to go to the front?

I told the salesman which iMac and iPod I wanted, and he told me to just relax and wait where I was - at the back of the store. He zipped into the stockroom and three minutes later returned with my three items and a handheld device of some sort.

"Here, let me help you carry that stuff up to the front," I offered.

"Oh, we don't have to go to the front," he replied.

He immediately started scanning the barcodes on the products with his handheld and proceeded to request a credit card from my father. What was going to happen next? Was this guy going to pull a cash register out of his back pocket? Was he simply going to zip up to the front to use the credit card machine?

Neither. Instead, he simply slotted the card into his device and asked my dad to hand him his driver's license. He punched the number in, and after about ten seconds, he offered the device to my father to sign. Then he walked over to a cleverly placed receipt printer and returned with the receipt, a bag for the iPod, and a card explaining the steps required to claim my rebate

I was amazed! I had never before seen a mobile, handheld Point-of-Sale system before.

Why, it's all here!

As my dad and I walked to the car, I pulled out the receipt and perused it. Under each product listing was the support contact information, the warranty expiration date, the latest date I could return the items, and a restocking fee for each one. The receipt answered several standard questions in a few seconds. It was like holding an FAQ tailored to my individual purchase.

There's no way it's this easy, or this fast!

When I got home, I began the long process of downloading updates for my iMac. While I waited for the Mac OS X10.5.4 Combo Update to download, I pulled out the rebate card and decided to start on the paperwork.

To my shock, there was no paperwork. I simply went online and entered my mailing address, receipt number, date of purchase, and total cost. The system processed my input and told me exactly which rebates I would be receiving. I never had to hack a single Proof of Purchase out of a single box. Yesterday (Saturday, July 27), I received the check in the mail. I had owned the qualifying items for almost a week. Every other rebate I have ever filed has taken at least a month to arrive, if it ever came at all.

Unconventional, but absolutely exceptional

I always knew Apple's retail stores featured fantastic design and atmosphere, but I definitely think it's the unusual sales process that truly makes the Apple retail experience out of this world. In fact, I would even go so far as to say I had fun. LEM

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