Down But Not Out

Here's to Small Apple Dealers Who Make a Difference

Dirk Pilat - 2002.12.05

This article finds me writing in one of Germany's high speed trains hurtling towards Berlin at the amazing speed of three hundred kilometers per hour. I completely forgot how nice train journeys can be: You don't have to check in hours before you leave, you can buy your ticket on the train, and there is no need for a transfer bus from an airport towards the city-centre (as all of Germanys train stations are bang in the middle of the urban conglomerate).

But sorry, I digress as usual. The real reason for this column is the infrastructure that Apple has build up in Germany. Although still lacking any Apple Shops as glamorous and attractive as the new stores in the US (you guys have it good), this country has an surprising dense and good supply of Mac retailers and service centres. Apart from one giant chain, most of the shops are being run by small companies, offering retail, consulting, and service in one.

The large majority is being run by enthusiastic individuals who sold their soul to Apple way back in the eighties and do what they enjoy most: Spend all their time advising and consulting their clients on how to fully enjoy their computers. And although they would probably be able to increase their clientele and improve their balance sheet, most of them refuse to store Wintel/AMD compatible stuff. At all. Okay, maybe apart from Virtual PC and USB hardware.

A little example: My mother's 9600 recently suffered a fatal hard drive problem that I was not able to diagnose or repair appropriately from 18,600 km away, so I contacted her nearest Apple store and prepared them for her arrival, making sure they would report any problems back to me - and reassuring my not very hardware literate mom.

After recovering all of her old data, exchanging the struck hard drive, and updating all of her software (!), they charged her 100 Euro (100 US$). The machine has worked flawlessly since then, and that little shop has now become the source for all her hardware and software needs, as the 9600 will get a radical overhaul with a big new hard drive, a G4 card, and OS X 10.2.2 (after seeing the eye candy on my machine).

So what's my point? My point is that, contrary to popular belief, a properly run small shop full of enthusiastic Apple evangelists can have the same impact on a community as a full blown, hyper-chic branded store.

So on this gloomy December evening, here's to all the small Apple retailers who improve their clients lives with sensible advice and a sales force not consisting of spotty nerds.

Cheers. LEM

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