Mac UK

Just Try Buying a Mac

Dirk Pilat - 2001.04.24

A very good day to all of you, whether you are an unfortunate person sitting in front of one of the gazillion different models of office Wintel machines that unloving employers thrust upon their helpless staff, a merry housewife (or to be politically correct: houseperson) happily browsing away on your new Flower Power iMac ("it's soooo cute"), an inventive (or nerdy - please underline most appropriate attribute) low-end The MacintoshMac user trying to read this on a clock chipped 128k Macintosh with MacWWW, or the only network administrator on the whole wide web actually running OS X server.

Today I want to focus on one of the most excruciatingly difficult tasks you will ever have to perform in the United Kingdom. No, I don't mean breaking into Buckingham Palace and have a late night chat with the Queen (supposed to pretty easy, anyway) or getting vegetables which aren't soggy and colourless in an English pub. I mean going into the urban jungles that British towns and cities are and actually buying an Apple Computer.

Trust me: it's easier than finding a open footpath in the countryside than actually laying your hands on an iMac and say "I'll have that one, please".

The first mistake that innocent wannabe first time Mac users often make, is going into a British Shopping Mall or down the local high street and enter a large computer retailer (choose any). Looking around helplessly, tortured by loud Nu-Metal from one side and a Spice Girls video from the other side, they will probably try to approach an acne ridden 14 year old sales person who, after establishing the reason for the unwanted intrusion of his six hour lunch break, will guide them to a large shelf full of beige or bluish Wintel machines (insert brand here). A conversation not unlikely to the following will start to unfold:

"Ahem, excuse me, but didn't I ask you kindly to show me the Macs you have in stock?"

"Whoa?"

"You know, iMacs, iBooks, Power Macs?"

"Whoa?"

"Apple Computer, you know?"

"You don't want them, mate. You want a real computer, mate."

"Excuse me?"

"You want a real computer with a 1.4 GHz Intel Pentium 4 and a proper graphic card. Real computers, you know, mate?"

"WHAT??"

"Mate, these bonbon coloured girlie toys don't have any software to work with, are excruciatingly slow at 400 MHz, and you can't run any Microsoft programs on them and will never be able to take your work home with you because they can't recognise PC-files. And they don't have a floppy. You see mate?"

"Ah. I see. I'll have the PC then, thank you."

Similar conversations can be recorded all over the UK in those few high-street outlets that actually stock Apple Hardware. The ignorance is amazing, and numerous tales have been told on the Mac UK mailing list about whatever happened to Auntie, Uncle, Brother, Girlfriend (insert close relative/partner here) when one of them dared to venture into one of these sad places.

The few dedicated Apple retailers unfortunately don't have the money to pay prime location rents because they only earn 10 dollars with every Mac they sell, so you'll be more likely to find them in dark alleys where you wouldn't expect an honourable computer shop. The average shopper who wants one these nice machines Jeff Goldblum advertised last night on Channel 4 will, due to the lack of inside knowledge and pure argumentative power, walk home with a machine that in one year is already unusable due to the fact that the newest Windows upgrade needs a configuration that's not achievable on his 1.4 GHz motherboard.

What's the solution to the conundrum? A chain of Apple-owned retail centers, maybe, where these beautiful machines are displayed in sophisticated, well designed surroundings? Or maybe a better sales margins for all these sad independent retailers, so they could actually afford to move into an area of town with better chances of picking up a customer?

As usual I don't know, but I am quite sure that mail order only will not help the Apple brand to survive in the UK. LEM

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