I've used Apple stores a couple of times, when I've been caught short and had to go for an islash.
Fancier toilets than McDonalds.
A study of traffic and productivity in Apple’s retail arm makes worrying reading for Cupertino, according to a new analysis by Asymco. In an age when traditional retailers are complaining about online traders stealing their customers, Apple has a different set of problems – too many people. While Apple has some of the most …
Yes it does appear you need training to use them as a customer. Every person who goes in for the first time must have to ask how to pay. I wouldn't mind but I had to get someone to go and get my item from the back as there weren't any on the shelves - he still didn't indicate I could pay him, he just handed it over and stood in silence. Truly bizarre. Maybe there's a code word or something?
Annoying thing is that some other shops seem to be copying them now. I went in a T mobile shop to get a phone fixed under warranty and there was simply nowhere to queue. It was just a free form mess of shop assistants and mood lighting. Your choices are basically give up or linger around a member of staff you need to choose at random to try and get served next.
Why is anyone surprised that it makes them money hand over fist.
My encounters with the Apple sales droids have been some of the most civilised shopping experiences I have had.
Treat customers nicely and they come back.
Its not rocket science why have so many retailers forgotten this?
Despite my fanboi status, I find the UX of Apple Stores horrible. Unless you are familiar with how things work. Want to pay for something? Where do you do that? Have an appointment at the Genius bar - what do I do when I get there? go straight to the bar? Hover in the queue of people who seem to be queuing for the bar? Do I have to tell someone that I've arrived?
Other than the ability to play with kit I fund them confusing and disorientating.
I live in Norway... no Apple Store here... but I've been to several Apple stores in the States, in London and in the Louvre. I can safely say... I have never bought anything in the store because their system infuriates me.
I wanted to buy an Apple TV last time I was there. Picked one up and started walking around looking for somewhere to pay. For some reason I couldn't discern, there was a single cash register with about 12 people in line and the guy at the register was answering questions for everyone. He was averaging one customer every 10 minutes. I was not waiting 2 hours to buy a cheapish item like that.
I asked guy in a blue shirt if I could buy the Apple TV anywhere else in the store. He sent me to get an appointment with the Apple TV "Genius" and I waited 10 minutes before he came to me. I asked him if I could check out and he was blatantly rude to me for trying to get around the system like this even though the other guy told me to do it this way.
I put it down, walked out of the store, ordered it on Amazon and it was waiting at the door 10am the next morning and because I dodged state sales tax and got it for less than MSRP, I saved $5.
I suspect that was my last visit to the Apple store and I'll be suggesting others to research online and order elsewhere as well.
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it's not just the fact that they are nice to customers that keeps us returning, It's the fact they they are "Apple". The brand has become a global status symbol. Shopping in an Apple store an experience. being seen in the high street with an apple branded paper bag is cool. Having the latest new iPhone is uber cool! But let me tell you, from a technical POV, with the exception of Siri, the iPhone 4S has nothing on some of the high end android devices such as the galaxy s2. The reason it sells better is simply because its and Apple. Apple are so strict about their branding guidelines that they wont allow any other mobile phone to sit beside it in a mobile operator store. the iPhone must have its own stand. On-line they insist that operators all use approved apple copy and that they have their own iPhone web page. here is an example on vodafone: <a href="http://www.vodafone.co.uk/brands/iphone/index.htm">Apple iPhone</a> Notice the interactive graphic at the top? It is standard apple branding. All networks are required to have it and are banned from speaking about the phones features. ironic, considering that apple feed the rumour mill by dropping breadcrumbs of "leaked" information to generate most of their pre launch promotions.http://www.channelregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/pirate_32.png
I missed the bit where he claimed lack of interest. In fact, I see nothing in his post that precludes his being some sort of Apple shop fanatic compiling a book about how f*cking awesome Apple shops are; He could be walking past rather than going in on the first however-many occasions to observe the staff without significantly interacting with them.
Of course, you're probably right; He's probably just one of those people you hear about on the news who runs about claiming that the various retailers are doing a bit less trade than somebody else previously claimed.
I often pop into the Salisbury reseller (Stormfront) and usually find customers in there. I had to wait to be served, dreadful! I find the staff well informed and a pleasure to do business with. I am currently waiting for them to fix my cracked MacBook case, free of charge, despite being over four years old. Nice. I thought the nearby Southampton Apple shop was too crowded and small.
In a similar vein, in Germany in every street there are numerous sex shops and chemists (apothekes) in almost every street and there are never more than one or two customers in there and often none. One wonders how they pay the rents, especially in places like Munich.
I'm not very surprised... how many costumers would one expect to find in an Apple store? Surely "makers of costumes" is a very specific demographic?
How did you know that they were costumers anyway? Were they wearing their wares? Back end of a pantomime horse buying an iDevice perhaps?
My claim to fame, I once had a yelling match with the staff in the Glasgow Apple Store!
I bought a iPod Touch in HMV, called Apple support 24 hours later when it packed up. Apple Support UK said take it to any Apple Store and they will replace it. I questioned this but they insisted that the store would replace it. I drove 130 miles to Glasgow ( I was on holiday in Northumberland ) and when I got there Apple staff refused to see me without an appointment and refused to handle something I have been promised would be dealt with. I then shouted and argued in a very loud voice in that rather large granite edifice!
Now to give them credit the Apple store manager did call HMV UK and the HMV in Glasgow centre to demand HMV replace it for me, which HMV had no issues with. So it got it sorted but don't trust the support muppets at Apple's UK call centre as they obviously have no idea how the retail biz works!
(No offence to residents of the granite city.)
I guess the implication is that we should be delighted by the hike through to Glasgow. That said, there's a reseller in Edinburgh (can't remember who it is), and on the couple of occasions I've been in there the staff have been excellently friendly, courteous and knowledgeable (and I think they outnumbered the customers).
There used to be an Apple store in Edinburgh, on Hollyrood Road. That's going back to the mid-90s though (from my recollection) while Apple were busy trying to flush themselves down the toilet. Maybe it was a particularly poor site and they don't reckon there's a market. That said, they weren't very good. I remember being demoed the top of the range Mac Quadra and the top of the range Laserwriter GX(?), and it took 10 minutes to put out a page. Embarrassing for us all...
They're planning on putting one in the new St James Centre, so I'm told. Anyone's guess when that will be seeing as the redevelopment project is a year behind schedule and the main shopping area is still open as usual with no work having been done.
Back to the discussion - I haven't actually visited an Apple Store. To be honest, I don't see why I would when Apple products are available for demonstration in other high street retailers and I can buy online anyway. I think these people are just visting the stores because they can and not because there's no alternative.
"makes worrying reading for Cupertino"? Really? sounds like the kind of problem most companies would kill to have right now.
whatever you think of Apple in general, I'm all in favour of paying people a decent salary to do a job of work, not paying them peanuts and requiring them to make up the balance in commissions.
of course, it's easy to treat your sales droids well when you can't stop your products flying off the shelves. it's much more interesting what companies choose to do when things aren't going so well.
"Perhaps, but then none of the other manufacturers seem able to undercut them with their me-too products.
I wonder what that says?"
That people who buy Apple products have no comprehension of cost benefit analysis, lack a fundamental understanding of technology and generally are gullible hacks.
That's like saying "I wonder why ghetto people take short term loans with such high interest rates?" The answer is simple, they are too stupid to know otherwise.
"Perhaps, but then none of the other manufacturers seem able to undercut them with their me-too products."
"that people who buy Apple products have no comprehension of cost benefit analysis"
So Samsung, RIM, HP, Sony all sell tablets _at_the_same_price_ as the ipad but it is apple buyers who are unable to do a cost benefit analysis?
What you are suggesting is that people should compare the ipad to other tablets and choose the other tablets because they are cheaper and/or better than the ipad.
An excellent plan sir with only two drawbacks. The other tablets are neither better nor cheaper than the ipad"
"whatever you think of Apple in general, I'm all in favour of paying people a decent salary to do a job of work, not paying them peanuts and requiring them to make up the balance in commissions."
The translation, for those of us who do not speak communist, is that the poster fears an achievement based system. Probably one of the bottom 10% employees at his place of employment.
Obvious troll is obvious, but by all means, let me expand.
Performance based pay is great, *in theory*.
The problem with it is that it is almost never implemented well. In order to implement it well, obviously, you have to evaluate performance properly. This is hard, however, and most companies don't bother.
The problem with paying salespeople on commission is that you are effectively paying them based entirely on their sales. This seems fine at first glance, but it really isn't.
If you work on a retail floor, and you're paid basic rate plus commission, then assuming you're a rational actor, your goal is to spend as much of your time as possible selling the most expensive things you possibly can.
You have absolutely no immediate incentive to *help* anyone in any way if it does not immediately lead to a high value purchase. There's zero mileage for you in helping a customer find something they're looking for if some other salesperson will get the sale. There's zero mileage for you in helping a previous customer get the thing you sold them working. Why would you do that? You're not getting paid for it.
I know people who work retail (I don't. I work for Red Hat. No, I'm not in the bottom 10% of anything.), and I've heard them express _exactly_ these sentiments.
Of course, in the long run, having all your customer interaction done by people who have zero motivation to help those customers in any way at all besides to sell them expensive stuff is not good for your company. But figuring out a more sophisticated system of performance measurement - or even, shock, not using something that's based purely on number crunching but *actually having real people evaluate each other's performance* - is much more complicated, so lots of companies don't bother. And then they wonder why people hate shopping at their stores, and rank them so low on customer satisfaction surveys.
To take another example, I *have* worked in tech support, and the company I worked at - and many others - evaluated the 'performance' of phone monkeys based almost entirely on the number of calls they were able to handle in a given unit of time.
This is an even more egregiously dumb method of 'performance' evaluation. Any phone monkey with a quarter of a brain figures out in short order that their goal is to get the customer off the phone in the shortest amount of time possible. If your problem seems remotely complicated or difficult it is in my best interests to either fob you off on some other department, fake up a reason to get you to hang up to try out some bogus fix which is unlikely to work, or simply hang up on you. Not surprisingly, this means the actual *experience* of people who call into places which evaluate performance based on call time is...highly unlikely to be optimal, let's say.
But figuring out a system which actually 'measures' how well any given person provides customer satisfaction is a hell of a lot more difficult than feeding raw call time statistics into an Excel macro to produce a pretty bar chart on the desk of some middle-management pencil pusher who can then fire the bottom 5% of people on the chart, so hey, that's what middle management is going to do.
Summary: in theory, performance related pay is not a bad idea in many cases. But, especially in large companies, it's all too rarely implemented in a way which actually measures performance in a way which is a) actually meaningful and b) actually beneficial to the company over the long term. It's far more often implemented in an overly simplistic way which results in those whose 'performance' is being measured gaming the system in ways which is clearly, objectively detrimental to the actual experience of the company's customers.
Went to get an iPad, and the girl I was served by actually openly admitted she didn't get commission, and that the iPad WiFi 16GB could be tethered to my phone for a small extra monthly charge, so no need for the 3G.
I also overheard a chap *UNDERSELLING* someone a Macbook instead of a Macbook air after actually listening to what the old guy wanted to use it for...
I'm not fanboy, and I sold the iPad last week for £50 less than I bought it 3 months ago, but this is in stark contrast to the time I popped into Currys a while ago to grab an Advent Vega tablet for my work colleague's daughter. He tried convincing me I would be much better off with an iPad 3G 64GB, even though I told him it's far superior to what I was after.
currys/PC-World/comet = clueless annoying sales droid idiots, which are almost certainly paid peanuts and make their money on commission / upselling. All in all, the store was pleasant and I'd go back if I had a random windfall of money :-P
I'm the sort of guy who want the best he can afford, and will spend a bit more to get it. So I researched a digital camera and went to PC-World, and talked to a sales-droid. I started out asking to see the model I had selected, but he cut me down every time I asked what my other options were. It seemed he knew he was getting his commission for the one I was looking at and couldn't be bothered to increase it by a few quid.
"Apple approach make sure customer is treated in friendly manner"
A friend from abroad asked me to him 2 iPhone 4Ss. On the first day they refused to sell me them (despite my having reserved them the night before) because I came in 10 minutes after the midday deadline, even though they still had them in stock behind the counter. But apparently they can't sell them after midday (that's what the helpful Apple employee told me).
The next day I came right on time for my appointment, had to stand in line for over an hour (!), and they still didn't let me buy them because I didn't have government ID with the name of the person who reserved them. This was despite me having 2 student IDs, an international student ID, and a debit card all with my name on them. After that I just gave up.
A few weeks back I was in an Apple store in Minneapolis - could I get served? Nope. After 20 mins or so one the oh so friendly staff came over to me and said some one will be with me in 10 mins, 20 minutes later I walked out having given up.
Whilst I waited I observed that the staff were demoing the kit, talking and being friendly etc etc but that the actual customer turnaround was pretty low. I knew what I wanted as it was a present for my wife, didn't need the sales talk and actually wanted to hand over my card and get an iPad in return.
On my way out of the store I was asked by another Apple crowd control person whether I managed to make the purchase I wanted, when I said no and that service was actually completely rubbish for people who want to make a purchase rather than play around with the goods first - he didn't have a clue what to say.
So I went to Target around 5 minutes away and bought what I wanted from a very helpful member of staff in around 5 minutes.
I like Apple stores, they are shiny and they do show off the kit well, but from my pov they are not actually geared up to taking money off customers and then getting the customer out of the store. The staff may be happy and paid well and good on them, but put in a reasonable number of customers and it all seems to go to pieces.
I suspect, the customer service is also down to the type of person employed in an Apple Store - they are clearly recruited for team-fit, and for individuality rather than being a black-trousers-shirt-and-tie sales drone.
Slight edgy looks are clearly encouraged. This is just simple psychology - when the staff in the store appear to have the same kind of lifestyle and values as their many of the customer-base, it's no surprise that they seem approachable and relaxed.
If you want another example of this effect on the British high-street - pop into a branch of Waitrose to spot staff who really enjoy their jobs and want to be there, rather than just collecting their salary and sales bonus at the end of the month.
It is interesting that Apple have adopted the non-commission policy. This policy is used by John Lewis - it is the main reason that so many people find shopping there so pleasant. In most other retailers, there is a hideous push to sell. Yes, Dixons/Currys, I am looking at you.
Talking to sales staff at John Lewis, many of the older ones have moved there from other retailers. Their happiness to have escaped the pressure sales thing is one thing. They also uniformly comment that they sell more, simply because they are free to connect the customer to the things they actually want, rather than the managers-push-of-the-week.
Odd indeed, considering the next 'civilisation' down south; Geordieland, has two. One in Newcastle and one in the Metrocentre.
Is it Apple thinks the famous thrifty Scots are sensible and won't part with their cash for what they know is overpriced? Or are the Geordies too easy to fleece?
take away the spin, and look at the more likely reality
the stores are busy because...the store are also service centers.
it doesn't just work, any goon in it knows this, it will never just work, because - users.
the revenue/staff is simply a nice way to hide the fact.
likely the revenue per staff discounts the service center aspect and so their model looks better.
is seems obvious to point out, but, apple pride themselves on appearance over quality.
i have zero doubt that this attitude extends to their accounting, etc.
Many Apple stores are now too small. I frequent Brent Cross shopping centre regularly and often pop into the store there. Since Christmas last year the store has generally been jammed solid. The only time there appears to be any space is just after opening time.
It's the same in the Birmingham store and to a slightly lesser degree in Westfield (east & west) and Covent Garden.
As for Regent Street - it's the internet cafe of the world.
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Having briefly worked for a PC retail chain, for once Apple aren't actually being sinister and evil (at least on the face of it). The people there also know their stuff.
At least the Apple stores employees don't pressurise the customer and don't try to upsell to more powerful/expensive computers in order to force the customer over their budget so they have to use HP like I know happens at certain retailers (certainly in my experience, getting people onto HP resulted in extra commission).
Although the staff do appear like they've been brainwashed by some sort of cult. Rather than than the awful types I worked with who would have sold their own grandmother for a few quid extra commission.
Got a problem with Foxconn, the blame the management of Foxconn. If Chinese CEMs, ODMs and OEMs didn't pay their staff ludicrously low wages, the cost of living in China might go up and other countries might gain a foothold and be able to compete and provide jobs for their own people.
If you really want to blame somebody, blame yourself, the consumer, who wants to buy the cheapest shite out there. At least Apple is HQ'd in CA, USA, and provides jobs at home and in all the countries in which it has presence.
The staff are happy to work hard for Apple, the customers are happy to buy their overpriced shiny objects... all because it's some kind of modern religion.
What happens though in 5 years time when Apple products aren't as fashionable as they are now, when margins are slimmer, when people don't want to work for Apple on purely ideological reasons?
The reason the shops are so crowded, is because most people want an iPhone, IPod or IPad, along with the inevitable accessories that go with the devices.
A secondary re-action, that happens to many people who buy one of the portable devices, is the consideration of buying a macbook or imac.
I've seen this happen to several 'PC users' in the office - they get an iPad and a few months down the line, they replace the family PC with an iMac. (assuming they've got the readies, that is)
Only a close-minded PC fanboi would deny that Apple products are made well and look cool.
Yes, yes, the old argument, you can get more processing power for less if you buy a PC, or build your own, is bandied about - but that's only viable for those that a.) Give a damn and b.) have the skills to build.
Most people want a cool looking bit of hardware that works for them, with the added (albiet paid for) bonus of an Apple Care plan for the first 3 years. It goes wrong, just take it to the Apple Store - easy.
El Reg is read by geeks, myself included, but we have to remember very few people share our enthusiasm for computers.
I've never bought anything from an Apple Store, I built my own machine capable of running MacOSx for a fraction of the retail price of a new Mac, did the same with my DVR, creating a Mythtv/BOXEE combo that wipes the floor with any commercial DVR - but I'm a geek - I have an android phone running Cyanogen.
Apple is desirable, hence the stores are crowded. Many punters will be just going to browse and will then buy online - whichever way, Apple has a winning formula that seems recession proof.
> "Apple approach make sure customer is treated in friendly manner"
Not my experience; like some trendy bars, I find I am ignored while everyone else gets served. On more than one occasion I have waited for several minutes hoping to get someone's attention, and then given up and gone home.
Er, no, not in Sydney!
The main Apple store in the CBD is woefully overcorwded at all hours, and staff are nearly impossible to attract.
This may be because I usually don't look anywhere near cool enough to be in an Apple store, nor do I wear lots of bling to show how ca$hed-up I am, not that I am anyway. I'm not a hipster, so that may also be a problem.
Apple's big problem in Sydney is that word has got around the back-packers, slouchers and general rag-tag-scruffies that the internet connected Macs make for perfect free internet access to upload your pictures to the rellies back home, or do your homework, write your thesis or just browse for pr0n - all of which I have seen being performed in the store.
Personally, I find my shopping experience to be somewhat degraded by the smell of the itinerant crusties that infest the ground floor.
Disney are abusing their brand by sourcing their unimaginative toys from Chinese lowest bidder manufacturers. The resulting subpar toys are then sold at stratospheric prices that people seem to accept because it is "Disney" (well and Mickey Mouse copyright legislation ensuring nobody else can sell a better mouse nearly 83 years on).
I'd venture that if Disney conducted some market research they would find that most customers at their stores do not equate the Disney store with quality. One day that will bite them.
tl;dr Disney needs to improve its subpar merchandise offerings before attempting to improve its delivery.
At Disney, you grab your item and go. There's not too many questions to ask about a mouse-ears hat, plus all their items can be comfortably put on a shelf by the hundreds. If it's not on a shelf, they don't have it. Also, you never have problems with your hat not connecting thru wi-fi to your Donald Duck plushie, nor do you need it activated or configured.
At Apple, not only does the customer need a lot more help & attention, but good customer service is one of the things they're noted for, unlike Disney.
Apple are geniuses at using artificial scarcity as a marketing tool. What better way of hyping a new shiny thing than have idiots queuing up for days to be the first to get it "just in case it runs out". The same is true of the stores, make them look full & make the staff look busy. I seriously doubt that the stores are as busy as they make out.
The other day I had to get quite grumpy in the store when they refused to honour the appointment I had made citing that they were too busy. When I complained to the manager another appointment magically opened up, I was "Very Lucky" according to the staff - my arse, they had contingency appointments that they didn't want to give out so they could look busy.
Really, you shouldn't have to shout at people in a shop to let them have £120 for doing a 2 minute job.
I picked up an iPad2 from Reston whilst I was in the US a few weeks back.
I went into the store and was met by a 'greeter' who then directed me to an iPad on a desk, which I then had to fiddle with for an employee to come over. The store wasn't busy, and after a few mins salesbod toddles over. So I ask for a 16GB iPad2 WiFi in black (as that as what I wanted). He then asked if he could ask me a few questions to see which iPad is best for me. I told him he could try. He did, and (in the style of Brian Clough) in the end decided I was right and knew what I wanted.
That small issue out the way, he then had to order the item via the iPhone round his neck, for someone round the back to bring it out. At this point there was lots of waiting around, and salesbod even had call someone up to see WTF was happening. Eventually iPad2 showed up. As I had a UK plastic and was paying in US I had to have a chat with a HSBC bod over a crap line to reassure them it was all legit.
After that the salesbod offered to initialise (or whatever) the iPad2, as it was iOS4 back then and you had to do that sort of thing. In the end what should have been a quick (well 15 mins tops) in/out purchase ended up taking about an hour!
Maybe the reason Edinburgh doesn't have an Apple Store is that we as a nation have generally embraced on-line retail more so than other places.
I mean its either blowing a gale, freezing, pelting with rain or snowing so why venture outdoors? The only time we potentially get any sun is July when half the nation is off to Magaluf to get some guaranteed sun.
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