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ATPM 6.06
June 2000



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Segments: Slices From the Macintosh Life

by The ATPM Staff,


Ever since Apple’s famous “store within a store” concept was introduced, much attention has been paid to the Macintosh shopping experience. You undoubtedly have heard many reports about how bad the experience is, how unknowledgeable the sales staff are, and how they push prospective customers into the PC parts of the stores. So ATPM decided to conduct its own, very limited, shopping survey in different parts of the world. The, to us partially surprising, impressions can be found below. Feel free to contribute your own experiences.

Hobart, Australia

ATPM Staffer: Raena Armitage (Girl with a Mission)

It’s a sunny autumn day in Hobart, Australia. Agents E and R are preparing for espionage on the capitalist scum that are computer stores. Agent R is a typo biter for the Mac e-zine ATPM, and this is her first field mission. Agent E is the control specimen, especially selected by Agent R because she’s relatively untouched by the hand of geek—and, of course, because chicks don’t shop alone. After a few preliminary cappuccinos, followed by a quick overview of the mission, they venture out.

Their first stop is a franchise of Australian chain IC Technologies. IC is an AppleCentre and has its own ISP. The store is in a fine old building on busy Elizabeth Street. Mac software and Apple marketing gear are prominently displayed in the store along with a fairly packed section of pre-loved Macs. It takes only a couple of minutes before a friendly saleswoman approaches the undercover agents and asks if they could use some help.

Agent R uses her pre-prepared phrase. “I need a computer for uni, and I’d like it to be ready to use the Internet.”

She asks which platform. “Er, I’m not sure yet.” After a quick demo of a Pentium III and a graphite iMac, she then asks which one Agent R prefers. “The Mac? That’s great. Let me show you the range of...”

The outcome leaves both agents smiling, and they are pleased to report that IC Technologies receives an Excellent rating for the “it’s totally up to you” approach, as well as its positive Mac marketing. She even lets Agent R play with each computer for a while (“Oooooh, iMovie!”), which is pretty darn neat.

Next on the agenda is Active Computers, which co-habits with a tiny, third-floor music store. Its Macintosh sales are not so high-profile, with a little Mac OS logo bumping corners with Fender and Gibson by the door. The two agents ascend a few flights of stairs to find a sole iMac DV sitting opposite a Pentium III, both hidden amongst about fifty drums.

When the exceedingly helpful salesman hears Agent R’s platform preference, he immediately tells them all they need to hear about the iMac and refers them to Campus Computers, since a student can get her stuff there at a discount. There’s a lot of Mac merchandise, but the desk drawer it lives in probably wouldn’t be an attention grabber. Agent E is struck by the nice sales technique, and Agent R makes a mental note of a Good rating for the healthy condition of the Mac and the generally positive, friendly, and helpful atmosphere.

Last stop, and where else, but the campus store? Having had Mac-related chats with some of the sales staff over a cancer stick, Agent R must hand it over to Agent E for this one in case she is identified by the opposition.

Situated in the student union building at the crucial spot beside the Uni Bar, Campus Computers is perfectly placed for maximum exposure to the students. Though tiny, the retail area is jammed with spunky new computers and is a fully fledged AppleCentre. The salesman bats not an eyelid about the platform preference and demos the Mac she thinks would best suit Agent E’s needs. Agent R is pretty impressed by the range of payment and loan options (so impressed, in fact, that by the time ATPM’s readers see her full report she will have found out if her loan was approved—wahey!). Agent E, as an uninitiated, is exceptionally pleased with the non-techie approach of the staff.

All in all, it’s a glowing report from this neck of the woods. Incidentally, now’s the time to buy from any of these fine establishments since the Australian dollar is worth about 60¢ US, and you won’t have any of those pesky export-of-munitions laws...

CompUSA, Oklahoma City, OK

ATPM Staffer: David Spencer

Being a Macintosh user in Oklahoma is a very solitary life. There are few Mac loyalists around, and when other computer users find out that you use a Macintosh, the ridiculing begins (and never ends). That’s why my expectations were so low going into the CompUSA store in Oklahoma City. What I found was a very pleasant surprise.

Tucked in the corner of CompUSA was the Apple store within a store. I walked over and noticed several people clustered around an iMac. A family of four was looking over the iMac and was talking to three store employees about the computer. The family had general questions like “Can I get on the Internet with this,” “Does Microsoft Word work on Macs,” “Will my games work on this machine,” etc. My favorite question was, “Is Windows 98 included?” This family knew little about computers and even less about Macintoshes. The whole reason they visited the Apple store was because the teenage daughter used iMacs at her school. She liked the machine and coaxed her family to take a look at what Apple had to offer.

The family spent 45 minutes in front of that iMac asking question after question. The employees very capably answered all of their questions and explained how Macs differ from PC’s. I found that all three employees really knew their stuff—they were on top of the latest news coming out of Cupertino. One of them had even been to the last WWDC.

The funniest thing happened after the family left the Apple store. They were walking past a bank of PC’s when another salesman approached them. He said, “Why don’t you take a look at some real computers now.” The teenage girl stepped up to the PC and it crashed moments later. Very shortly thereafter, the family walked out of the store.

The family didn’t take home a new iMac, but left knowing a lot more about Macs. When they do decide to purchase a machine, an iMac will probably be high on their list.

Dixons (largest high-tech high street store), U.K. (by phone)

ATPM Staffer: Grant Osborne

Grant Osborne: Hello, I was wondering if you stock Tomb Raider II?
Salesperson: Yes, we do.

G.O.: How much does it cost?
S.P.: Was it the PC or the PlayStation version you wanted?

G.O.: Erm, I was after the Mac version.
S.P.: [slight laugh] Mac version? There isn’t a Mac version.

G.O.: Oh, it’s just that I saw it advertised in MacFormat.
S.P.: Oh, well we don’t have it.

G.O.: What Mac games do you have?
S.P.: We don’t do any for the Mac.

G.O.: But I bought my iMac from you less than a year ago! Do you not sell Macs anymore?
S.P.: Erm, I’ll just check. [Goes away for a bit]...No not anymore, they didn’t sell very well.

G.O.: Okay then...goodbye.

Footote: They possibly didn’t sell as this shop just had one Mac on display, tucked away in a corner. The iMac (Blueberry) was always switched off, while the Windows boxes had all these flashy demos on them.

At Press Time: Dixons seems to have reversed their policy on Macs. They now have two iMacs and one iBook on display with demos!

John Lewis (department store), Cambridge, U.K. (in person)

ATPM Staffer: Grant Osborne

Salesperson: Do you need any help?
Grant Osborne: Yeah, well, it’s a bit of a long story, but I’m going to be left a couple of grand, and I’m looking to buy a computer. I’m just about to start a night class on Photoshop as I’m interested in going into graphic design. What do you think I should get?

S.P.: Okay, do you know what sort of computer they will be using on your course?
G.O.: No, I’m not too hot with computers.

S.P.: You’ll find that most people in the graphics industry will use a Mac, as they are pretty much standard for that sort of thing.
G.O.: Oh, can’t PC’s run Photoshop then?

S.P.: Yes, they have the same version of Photoshop as the Macs, but as I said, nine times out of ten you’ll be using a Mac so it’s probably best to get used to that system.
G.O.: Ok, which one do you recommend? I like the red one...

S.P.: As you’re doing graphics, you’ll probably need a powerful machine, as graphics take up a lot of memory. I’d recommend this one here (points to G4). It’s the most powerful model and is easily upgradeable. Why not take these leaflets here and look through them, as it’s a lot of money to spend.
G.O.: OK. Cheers.

Footnote: If I had the money, I’d have bought the G4 then. :-)

Sears, Peabody, MA

ATPM Staffer: Eric Blair

I went into the Sears computer department posing as a college student looking to buy my first computer. There was one person working in the department, and he was with a customer, so I wandered over to the iMac display. There was an iMac shell connected to an Epson 740i and a scanner. Once the salesman was done with his customer, I got his attention and told him that I would be entering college in the fall and I was looking for a computer. I told him there were three things I wanted—the ability to write papers, the ability to access the Internet, and something that was easy to use. I also told him that my school allowed both Macs and PCs.

The first thing he told me was that Macs apparently had fewer problems than Windows PCs, but he had never had any trouble running Windows. Then he walked me over to a Compaq. He proceeded to tell me that the Compaq could do everything I wanted. I noticed that he was basing his choice of computers on a sheet that contained the specs of every computer in the department, so I mentioned that I also wanted a DVD player so I could watch movies—I figured I would give him one more chance to show me the iMac. Instead, he took me to a more expensive Compaq.

In the end, the salesman recommended a Compaq computer with Compaq monitor and Compaq printer. By purchasing the three together, there was a small rebate, but it was still more expensive than buying an iMac and Epson printer together. All in all, I was disappointed with the service I received. As a company, Sears put together a nice display for the iMac, but this employee never gave it a more than a passing thought when trying to make a sale.

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Reader Comments (2)

Chris · June 15, 2000 - 01:01 EST #1
That's a very intresting column, reminds me of a time I went to CompUSA and was walking around the Mac area they had when a salesmen walked up to me and asked if I'd like to see some "more powerful" computers. When I asked what he meant he said that he was an avid PC user and that they could "blow away" any Mac, although this discraced me I walked to the PC area with him and just showed him little attention until he finallt shut up. There's a story from Indianpolis, IN (=.

-Dema http://www.h

Joe Zenitsky · June 16, 2000 - 01:01 EST #2
I am a loyalto my 233MHZ Rev. B original blue iMac purchased 11/98 at CompUSA. Although CompUSA's " Store Within a Store " Mac concept is a welcome addition I now find MicroCenter's Mac department far superior.

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