Despite staff's efforts I bought a Mac today

Hello, I’m a Mac. Not voluntarily though. From my point of view, compared to other PC’s Mac’s are overprized and appeal mostly to design considerations. However to facilitate certain tests for one of our products in the office we needed a Mac. We have a 4-year-old iMac, which we abused to run OS X a while ago, but it turned out to be way too slow for the current task. I tried to rent a Mac for a few weeks, but for rates around 120€/day it was much cheaper to simply buy a Mac Mini for 590€. I was pretty surprised that Apple manages to keep the prices at a constant level. The lowest offer I found was for 572€, but it was from a mail order store which a) would have taken too long and b) looked not very reliable. Even used Mac Minis were not significantly cheaper, with all the risks coming from used equipment at large and eBay auctions in detail.

We have a Gravis store in our town, so I checked availability via the web and since stock was low I used Gravis’ central ordering service to reserve a machine. The telephone rep was quite helpful and when I asked when the machine could be picked up, she said that once she closes the database entry the shop gets notification, and that the machine will be reserved for 48 hours. Pleased at the speed and competence – it was a call-center after all – I prepared to go immediately and was in front of the Gravis store some 30 minutes later.

When I got there, the door was blocked by a Gravis employee in vivid conversation with what must have been a friend of his. Reluctantly, they let me pass so that I could enter the store. It was held mostly in white and light wood textures and must have had some 100/120sqm. Apart from me there was only one other customer, standing at the service counter complaining about some issues with her iPod. Since I had an order number, I went to the service counter too and waited politely. And waited. Politely. Waited. The employee did not send the slightest signal of acknowledging me being here. Meanwhile, the other employee still stood in the stores entrance and talked to his friend. I looked around, bored. I spent some time watching the funny Windows error messages which were projected to a wall. Not only was the projection pretty bad, the error messages came mostly from Windows 95 or 98, one even from Windows 3.x. I thought Apple was all about style and cool superiority? This display seemed rather childish to me. Finally – still being ignored by both employees – I spotted a third employee behind the checkout. I didn’t noticed her at first because she was dressed mostly in white, and because she stood almost still, laboriously wet-cleaning the keyboard of her PC Mac. I went to her, showed her my order number, and – I have to grant her that – she immediately went to the back of the store where she rumbled around a bit until she found employee #4 (#1 was still talking at the door and #2 still sorting out the iPod issue) to process my request.

When I was at the checkout 5 minutes later, Miss Keyboard Cleaning was still performing her task, reluctantly putting it aside to take my money. However the task seemed rather difficult to her (after all it was not only the Mac Mini but also a keyboard and a mouse), so she got Mister iPod Issues to help her. He, in turn, expressed his opinion that Mister Door Conversation could use some practice with cashing and hustled him over. Now that was a surprise, because it seemed that this guy had training in cross selling. And while he tried in a rather pushy tone to sell me a 3-year-maintenance pack, Miss Keyboard Cleaning continued to clean a keyboard. Having made my point that I didn’t needed a maintenance pack, I asked her if the store was a bit more crowded on Saturdays? She admitted that it was a bit more crowded, but that in general they were pretty much bored in here. As if that admission and everything that happened before was not enough unprofessional behavior, they started to make jokes about how bored they were. Slightly shaking my head I left the shop. The whole event took half an hour.

OK, I know that lifestyle is important for the “Apple system”. That’s probably why these employees were really young. Most likely thy were Mac enthusiast (at least the guys – I don’t know if the girl is enthusiastic about anything else than her outfit, her nails, her hairdo and the cleanliness of keyboards), and probably they thought they were working in a cutting edge bastion against mediocrity. But I know that Apple is pretty much about making money too. And if Steve Jobs would have witnessed this “performance”, I’m pretty sure that four twens, and probably their manager too, would have to pursue a career in serving or taxi driving by the end of the day. The only reason I endured all this was because I needed that Mac Mini fast.

So, I’m interested in feedback. Did I choose a bad day, when the B-crew was in? Or is this a little piece fitting into the huge mosaic? What about other countries? Does lifestyle and coolness justify bad service? Maybe I didn’t look “hip” enough, or maybe it was wrong the chose the cheapest Mac available? What are your experiences?

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