Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Apres MacWorld, an Al MacBook

I'm writing this on my newly purchased Aluminum 13" Macbook---and what a beautiful machine it is. The decision to buy it was made for me by the spontaneous death of my 12" Sony VAIO V505EXP, which has been my trusty mobile workhorse since 2004. I prefer a smaller screen, especially on flights and for working in front of the TV---like this. And now that Macs run Windoze as well, it's a no brainer. I'll move all my Sony VAIO files onto this Macbook (eventually).

Since the demise of my Sony occurred so close to the sans-Steve Keynote at MacWorld, I decided to wait until today to actually plunk down the bucks. Given the sometimes quixotic nature of Apple decisions, you just never know. There was an analyst rumor that Apple might introduce another Macbook (non Pro), which would shift the price points (like they did with the plastic case Macbook last year). Turned out to be bogus, but you'd be putrid if you'd just bought a now outdated model. Apple did introduce a new 17" Macbook Pro today, but no change in the other prices. In the meantime, I had checked out Apple's online store but noticed that delivery would take a few days at best and longer if it ran across a weekend. Discretion being the better part of valour, I thought I'd pay a visit to my local Apple Store in Pleasanton; fully expecting they wouldn't have the config I wanted. I was in for a big surprise. Here's how it went down.

  • It's 2pm on a Tues afternoon.
  • The Apple Store is stuffed to the gills with people. Was that because of MacWorld? I should've asked.
  • Ages ranged from teens to ... eh hem, more mature individuals. That's always been true in every Apple Store I've visited and every Mac User Group that I've attended.
  • A 20-something guy spots me and starts in. I know what I want.
  • And I want a VGA connector and 4GB of RAM. "You got those?" I was expecting a "No", in which case I would leave to do it on the web.
  • Answer: "Yes, but we have to install the extra RAM, so it could take 1 hr." Me: "OK. Let's do it, big guy!"
  • We review. Me: "Do I really need an ExpressCard?" He: "Nah!" Me:"Good, that's what I thought."
  • I also declined the "free printer" offer. I would have to pay sales tax and also send in a rebate coupon (I hate that). And I really don't need another printer.
  • I get written up and pay. In addition to the usual printed receipt, they also send a copy to my email---which I collect when I get home and save into my 2009 tax info. Sweet.
  • The store boss says it will only take a 1/2 hr to install the extra RAM. Me thinks: Sure. You know when they tell you 30 mins it will take 90 mins, if you're lucky.
  • I leave the mall and before I could get to my other destination, my cellphone rings. It's the Apple Store boss. She tells me the RAM installation is complete. I look at my watch. Less than 15 mins!
Wow! That means so-called "bricks and mortar" beat the web hands down (in this case), and constituted a fulfilling shopping experience for me. The guy who put these Apple Stores together is ex-Kmart.

What was a great shopping experience for me, however, is probably not so great for other Apple retailers. Here's the side-effect. I happened to be in a combined Mac/PC store in Hayward yesterday, just to see what my options were for reviving my Sony. That store is run by a couple of very nice fellows who also do repairs. After talking to them, I decided just to retrieve the disk into a 10 dollar USB case and junk the laptop, rather than pay them 70 dollar to diagnose it and then tell me how much more money would be needed to revive it. While there, I also asked about a Macbook purchase. Since they didn't have my config in their store, the best they could have done was place an order with Apple; same thing I could do over the web and ... have it delivered to my door, rather than driving back down to Hayward to pick it up. From a 'green' and recession-proofing point of view, that doesn't make any sense. I did drive to Pleasanton, but I was going there anyway.

The bottom line is tri-fold. These poor guys in Hayward lost a 1600+ dollar Macbook sale through no fault of their own. Neither did they sell me repair time for my Sony XP nor did they sell me a new Windoze laptop. (So much for the "MacTax" argument. Ballmer, are you paying attention?) They've been in business since 1985 but the nature of the game has changed dramatically since then; especially due to Apple. They can't keep playing the old game and losing sales at that rate for very much longer. I guess the word is "anachronism." Nonetheless, and contrary to popular opinion, the web is not always the best alternative either.


Jack Chance said...

I think you mean 4GB of ram, not 4MB.
and i agree that visiting the apple retail stores is one of the few brick and mortar experiences that beats the web.

Neil Gunther said...

Fixed. Thank you.