This week I made my first visit to the Genius Bar at my neighborhood Apple Store. Like the previous ones I’d hung out at in Minneapolis and Las Vegas, this one is staffed with folks who are smart and eager to help.
Even though my appointment was at 10 AM, their opening time, the place was buzzing by the time I arrived. About a dozen kids were clustered around a table dressed in the same t-shirts with the Apple logo that the store employees wear. They were participants in one of the summer programs Apple runs in their stores.
I still recall my first experience back when I owned a heavy iMac. I had fretted about how I was going to carry it all the way to the store inside Southdale Mall. Of course, those Apple folks had anticipated this problem.
“Pull up to the curb across from the upper level entrance,” I was told, “and give us a call when you’ve arrived. We’ll send someone up to carry your computer.” Whew!
On that first visit, I spent about an hour waiting for my repair. As I sat perched on the stool, people stopped by the Genius Bar, got their problems solved and went on their way. I also noticed that most of them were smiling as they left.
“So you just spend all day making people happy?” I asked my Genius.
“Pretty much,” he laughed.
Coincidentally, I happened to be rereading The Big Moo a couple of evenings before my latest visit. In an essay entitled Ron Johnson is Not a Genius…But He Hires Them Everyday, I learned a bit about the origin of this brilliant service.
Then the author says, “What if Apple had charged a bit for the service, the way Best Buy does? Or what if they deliberately understaffed it, using it as a gimmick instead of a helpful service?
“What if they hired the cheapest people they could find (Hey, it’s free, what do you expect?) and didn’t train them very well? It’s pretty easy to see that the concept would have seemed mediocre. And a failure.”
I don’t remember many experiences I’ve had as a consumer, but I can recall all of my encounters at the Apple Store. There was the time I was browsing and a young man approached me.
“So how long have you been in the cult of Mac?” I asked.
He laughed and said, “It really is a cult, I guess. My girlfriend’s mother owns a Mac and she also drives a Saturn. That’s a cult, too.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m a member of that one also.”
This week’s visit began with a challenge. William, my local Genius, discovered that my computer was not compatible with what I wanted done. Undaunted, he began exploring options and eventually came up with a solution to my problem. It will require a return visit, but I’m fine with that.
Of all my encounters with the folks at the Apple Stores, one ranks as most unforgettable. It happened in Las Vegas and the news wasn’t good. My Mac could be fixed, but the repair was so expensive (and the Mac so elderly) that it didn’t make senses.
I reluctantly looked over the new models and selected one that looked like a piece of art. When I went to pay for it, the woman asked how she could help me and I sighed and said, “This wasn’t what I was planning to do today.” I handed her my credit card.
She looked directly at me and quietly said, “The Universe will provide.” I could not recall ever having a sales transaction that included those words.
I walked out of the store silently repeating what she had said.
Within days, an unexpected project dropped into my lap and when it was over the money I earned was almost exactly what my new computer cost. It arrived just in time for me to pay my credit card.
Even though I own an iPad and iPhone besides my computer, I’m not close to being one of Apple’s big customers. I am, however, treated as if I were every time I step into their store.
I’m pretty sure they’re stuck with me for life. After all, their products aren’t the only genius idea that they have.