It was recently announced that Apple has become the most valuable company of all time, with a market value of 623 billion US dollars. To some this is no surprise but it wasn’t until I found myself inside an Apple store last night that I truly believed it.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m an Apple fanboy. I’m a loyal iPhone user and my laptop is a 2008 unibody Macbook, but I still use Windows as my primary operating system. A few weeks ago I had an unfortunate event that consisted of my white iPhone 4 being viciously attacked by a concrete sidewalk. Of all the times I have dropped my phone, this one time it landed face down and the screen was shattered.
My first thought was to replace the screen myself, I’ve replaced numerous parts in my old 3G and 3GS phones and I was confident enough to replace the whole front panel. For those who don’t know: the LCD, touch screen and digitizer are all fused together in one unit with a glass panel glued to the top. Replacing the glass is not an option. I found a few websites that had the OEM white iPhone 4 front panel for about $130, but my roommate suggested I head down to the Apple store and find out what it would cost me there. And that’s what I did.
I booked my Genius Bar appointment at the Market Mall store in Calgary. I haven’t been inside an Apple store in a few years, and never at the genius bar. I was pleasantly surprised at how much has changed, or how much I didn’t notice before.
And there it was, front and center from the South Entrance of the Market Mall. The large aluminum side and top panels with transparent glass and the unmistakable logo that make up the entrance to the store just screams “you want to come inside”. Unlike most retail stores, the room is as wide as it is deep, and its openness allows you to see all the activity taking place. Wooden tables with barstools of different sizes scattered throughout the room showcasing all of the products and services brought to you by Apple Inc. And for every wooden table there was at least one Apple store employee wearing a blue t-shirt and equipped with a holstered interact machine and iPad in hand.
I made a beeline for the back of the room where the Genius Bar (tech support) is located, I was greeted by a young fellow and after finding my name in his iPad’s list of appointments asked me to have a seat at the bar and someone would be right with me.
While waiting, I took an opportunity to observe the activity in the store. For the most part it was people of all different ages just browsing, playing with an iPad, iMac or scanning the giant wall of accessories for their new case. There are no cashiers at Apple stores, each employee on the floor I assume is assigned to a certain area and is responsible for the transactions that occur there compliments of their handy handheld interact machine. I wonder if you can pay with cash?
Then I noticed something I didn’t see before. There were groups of people sitting around a table with an employee speaking to them. They were attending a workshop, a session on a specific Apple product or service and receiving professional instruction for free. There were large groups in some and individuals or couples of elderly people in others with signs labeled as individual instruction.
That was when I made my realization. Does Samsung, Microsoft, Google, Sony or any other consumer electronic company offer these services? And even if they do, do they do it this well? People don’t just buy Apple products because they’re beautiful, they’re hip, they’re popular and for the most part they work. They also buy them because no matter what happens to them, no matter how technologically inept you are, Apple will be there to ensure you can get the most out that product and the support you need. They truly do care about supporting their products and they love their customers.
Brendan, the Apple Genius that was assigned to me, had a chuckle when he asked what I was having a problem with and I just showed him my phone and I asked “What are my options”. He was glad to see that I didn’t already go ahead and attempt to replace the front panel on my own and void my warranty. He explained to me that even though my phone was out of warranty and I never bought Apple Care I could still purchase a refurbished replacement for $169.99, not much more than buying an OEM front panel. I happily agreed and after some paperwork he swapped the sim cards and began to restore the new phone from an iCloud backup and I was on my way.
People may stick their nose up to us and point out the unnecessary high cost when there are other “just as good” options available. Nobody else will replace my physically damaged product for a fraction of the cost, I can’t have a human to human conversation with any other technical support company and I can’t send my parents down to any other store when they forget how to check their email. Other products may be “just as good” but the customer service is clearly not.
News story – BBC – Apple becomes the most valuable company of all time
Image – iphoneincanada.ca – Market Mall Apple Store Set for Expansion