For reasons that are complicated, I’ve recently changed my work computer to a shiny new Macbook Pro. It’s very nice (8GB of memory makes everything easier), but comes with a mini DisplayPort connector that’s ideal for connecting to displays that do not exist in real life. Adding VGA (still the standard for generic meeting-room projectors) requires a £21 adapter, so today I popped out of the office to buy one.
Fortunately the Regent Street Apple Store is a few minutes away from my office, so what could be simpler than going to grab one from there?
Well, as it turns out: just about anything.
The Apple Store is, of course, lovely. It’s huge, light, airy and full of shiny things. The staff are pleasant and helpful and neatly, alarmingly colour co-ordinated in smurf-blue shirts so you can spot them easily. If you want to play with an iPad, or an iPhone, or – who knows – even a Mac of some type, because they do still exist, you can. You can surf the web. You can check your email. You can leave your AOL webmail account logged in for others to muck about with, if you really want. This is all marvellous. Can you buy anything? Well, yeah. But only if you try really, really hard.
The normal process of buying in a shop is this: go in, find object, take to till, pay, leave. In some shops you may have to go in, ask for something, pay, then leave. My visit to the store today – 11.30am on a weekday, with the store not particularly busy – went like this:
- Go in. Admire shiny things in a vague way. Look around for where the stuff to buy is.
- Fail to find it. Ascend glorious glass staircase. Look around some more.
- See area with stuff on shelves. Go to stuff.
- Find it is all bloody iPhone cases. Give up. Look for member of staff.
- See member of staff not helping customer. Walk towards them.
- Member of staff is accosted by other, better, customer. Repeat steps 5 and 6 a couple of times.
- Eventually accost staff member. Ask for item. He is very helpful, produces item, then disappears in a puff of smiley Cupertinosity into the morass of tourists.
- Walk to till.
- There is no fucking till.
- Walk downstairs. Perform victory loop of shop. No, there really is no till. Argh.
- Consider just giving up
- Vaguely ponder walking towards exit with item in order to attract attention of someone, anyone
- Find another member of staff. She can help!
- Walk to card terminal hidden in corner. She fiddles with iPhone thing. Buy item. Success!
- No, not yet. Staff member must fetch receipt from somewhere
- Watch people gawk at iPhones
- Consider building house of cards using display iPads
- Idly paw at iPad
- Idly paw at desk iPad is sitting on
- Member of staff returns with receipt.
So, not much fun, but at the end of the day I did eventually manage to hand over twenty one pounds of not my own money for a dongle. Capitalism, ho!
And, as I stood waiting around for a receipt that could have easily been printed in seconds if there were some kind of fixed location for transactions to be carried out, I realised two things. For one, I’m never going back. Never. Can’t stand it. But more to the point: the Apple Store experience was evidently designed to work in so many ways, and all are handled brilliantly – it’s just a shame that “sell products to customers” wasn’t one of them.
Apple Store photo by Rodrigo Galindez, used under CC license