Visiting the Apple Store

According to my girlfriend, Apple have great pride in the physical layout and design of their stores. Before I say any more, I’d like to praise them for diagnosing and replacing my MacBook Pro’s faulty power supply quickly and efficiently, therefore reducing the amount of time I had to spend in their store.

I’m not convinced about the sparsity of the design. It’s as if Ikea had some spare tables they needed to shift – though no chairs. The whole look appears to me as somewhere between a transport cafe and wagamummas. The more I think about it, perhaps it’s that whole concept of tables – big, heavy tables at that – without chairs that makes the place feel oppressive.

I prebooked an “appointment” via the AppleCare helpline. I suppose there’s an element of “appointment mentality” at work here which instantly puts you in mind of the Doctor’s waiting room, with – you guessed it – chairs to sit on while you wait. It’s a bit weird, I thought, as I already knew what the apple store looks like, and it’s not really set up that way. Perhaps, I figured, they have a separate area for appointments. At the back, maybe.

Apple’s masterpiece of store design? As taken on my iPhone.

On arrival, I was ushered to the middle of the shop, where I was invited to set up my mac on a long wooden counter. I did this, then stood waiting. This was the point where I started thinking that it really wasn’t geared up for great customer service. “Take a seat and someone will be with you soon,” they didn’t say. Fortunately, I didn’t have to stand around for long.

I cannot fault the technical quality of the service. The member of staff who looked at my mac quickly diagnosed the cause of the problem, which was with the part of the power supply that plugs into the mac. She replaced the power supply, and gave me a tip for taking better care of the new one (wrap the cable round the strange clips that pop out – I’d wondered what they were for!). And off I went, much happier, though feeling a little robbed of a perfect experience.

Photograph of the Pizza Express at Brent Cross shopping centre.
Pizza Express – sheer bliss after the Apple Store… yes, another iPhone photo. I used the HDR feature on the iPhone 4 for this. I quite like the way it lifts some of the shadows.

Shortly after my visit, we headed off to Pizza Express (Ros, her children and me, as opposed to me and the Apple Store member of staff!). The decor and atmosphere could not have been more different. Spacious, stylish, and (of course) lots of seating. Could you imagine if they made people stand around and eat? The service was efficient, the food was pleasant enough, and they provided colouring pencils for the children, who also discovered the delights of playing with flour. I’m not a huge fan of Pizza Express normally, but I really enjoyed this visit. And it had nothing to do with my first Toffee Fudge Glory in a very very long time.

Photograph of the Pizza Express at Brent Cross, chefs at work.
Another photo of the Pizza Express at Brent Cross, courtesy of my iPhone again. Here we see the chefs’ area. To the right (out of shot) is the area where the children played with the flour.

I’m left wondering, how much are we prepared to overlook the limitations of the environment if the rest of the experience is satisfactory? For myself, I guess I am, more or less, but I still feel inclined to write about it! If I wasn’t blogging though, I’d probably just put it down as “one of those things”. But somewhere in my mind there’s the nagging thought that Apple are fooling themselves if they think their stores are a masterpiece of design.

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