Sunday, May 16, 2010

I got my iPad on Friday: My Apple Store Experience

I first used an Apple product back in 1983. I remember playing Fahrenheit 451 prior to 1985 (because I graduated in May of 1985) on the Apple computer although the wiki entry indicates that it was released in 1986. This is either an error by that writer or I was on the bleeding edge of bootleg technology. Either way, I used and enjoyed learning and playing on the Apple II, Apple IIc and even the Macintosh computer. I worked in the computer lab in high school with my computer teacher who opening smoked a pipe in class like it was everybody's business.

When I went away to college, all we had were UNIX based computers with terminals.  Then IBM and Microsoft based machine ruled the scene once I got into the corporate scene in 1989. Dell Computers started direct sales of their computer to our company, saving us tons of cash for the same computers Compaq was selling to us. The rest, as they say, is history. I had often though fondly back on those days with the Apple computers. I was my second exposure to the world of computers. The first had been a Commodore PET which I had used first in elementary school and again in middle school. After years and years of being a PC user, I have been looking at getting the Mac Mini computer. I may still do it, but until then I have yet to personally own an Apple computer.

Since the iPad was announced, I have been one of its biggest fans. People kept saying, "it is just a big iPod Touch", I thought, "wow, its a BIG iPod Touch". But should I buy now? I have pondered waiting until the 2nd generation product is released. I pondered the various models and storage options. I could keep on thinking or I could get in on the action. Should I buy or continue to wait?

Thursday night I decided I should get an iPad before my trip on Monday. I called Best Buy, which is closer to my home, and I asked if they had any in stock (of course I have heard of the shortages) and was told that they did not have any in stock. I immediately called the closest Apple store which is only 9 miles away and was told they had plenty of 16GB devices in stock. The woman replied, "Yes, but only the 16GB with WiFi!". "Great, that's all I need. Do I have to reserve one or can you put one aside?", I asked. "No, it's first come, first served", she replied. I hung up, but had to call back to confirm that the cash, that was burning a whole in my pocket, would not be accepted. "You are correct, credit or debit cards only", the new girl explained.

Friday morning I put the cash in my bank and then I went to the Apple store to claim my reward. I had been to the Apple store plenty of times before but I had never purchased anything from one of them before. My prior purchases of iPods had been bought online at Sam's club. Instead of rushing pass the expert at the door, like I normally do, I stopped at this guy and waited until he finished talking with the guy ahead of me. Glancing over his shoulders, I noticed that the store was a buzzed with the normal near capacity crowd. There are always two groups of people in the store, those being helped by the experts and those simply helping themselves to the demo units throughout the store. The BrookStone store, which used to my main stopping point in any mall for years, had not seen me nor has it enjoyed this type of constant stream of customers and patrons. The Apple Specialist asked what was it that had brought me in today? "The iPad!", I said proudly, "I've come to buy one.". He smiled, glancing down at his iPad which he was using as a concierge's device of some sort.

"Pat here can help you with that, Carl", he said as he walked me a few feet inside the door to the display table full of iPads and their clinging reviewers. Pat, who was assigned to the iPads section inquired concerning my visit and I again explained my desire to purchase an iPad today. She explained that there were no iPads in stock of any model and that I would have to make a reservation and I would get a device by Wednesday or so. I explained that I spoke with someone on the phone who indicated that there were plenty of WiFi only devices of which I could obtain on a first come first served system. She indicated that she doesn't know why they would say that because they have none. I was floored. Are you kidding me? I explained that I was told clearly that I could come get one. She said she would check with the staff in the back and she hurried back to the mysterious section reserved for Apple genius and specialists only.

As I stood there, the specialist manning the doorway stepped up and showed dismay for my perdicament. He asked my name once more and began to talk into his earpiece. Pat returned and verified that I was S.O.L. and proceeded to take my contact information for a reservation. Just as she was pressing the send button on her iPod Touch, the specialist from the door returned and announced that he was checking once more with the back staff. Pat threw him a glance that clearly asked, "What are you doing?, I just checked with them!" A few seconds later he indicated that they had indeed located one and that I should proceed to the back counter,  "Step up to the left side and Paul will take care of you", he said as I hurried to the rear. "Thanks!", I yelled back as I abandoned a bewildered Pat.

When I arrived at the desk, there were three people ahead of me; another man immediately fell in line behind me. I couldn't believe my luck. While waiting I began to pay more attention to the busy little bees (specialists) buzzing to and fro. One emerged from an aluminum door just behind the counter; it looked as if it was designed to appear as a wall and not as an entrance. I couldn't help but think that this was just as intentional as the design of the Apple products were. These Geniuses and Specialists really did appear to love their jobs.

A Specialist sped up and placed an iPad near the Specialist working with the couple at the counter and zipped off. Clearly it was not for them as neither the Specialist nor the couple acknowledged the package. Suddenly an Specialist appeared out of nowhere and asked the man ahead me what had brought him in today. He pointed to the iPad on the counter and said he came to get one of those. My heart sank for a second, but Paul revived me quickly, "We do not have any iPads in stock, what we need to do is get you reserved...", he said as he led him out of line and somewhere between me and the door. Paul returned as the couple and the expect at the counter were celebrating the successful conclusion of the purchase.

Paul asked how I was paying for the iPad. I wanted to say "cash" because I am a smartypants like that. I decided not to test the already murky and unfamiliar waters of the Apple store. Clearly they were in control of who received and who went without a shiny iPad. I said, "Credit!" and moved to a free terminal of some sort in the middle of the counter. I asked if I could get it activated before I left. He directed me to yet another expect who opened my iPad box and connected it to a Mac to satisfy the request.

So that is how my first Apple store was accomplished even though it looked as if it was not going to happen. I typed this on my new magical revolutionary Apple iPad using the virtual keyboard.

Carl W. Brooks

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