At the Apple store yesterday


I made an appointment at the local Apple store yesterday. I have an iPod that I use when I exercise, but the battery is failing. So it turns out I can get a new battery (really a new iPod because battery replacement is basically a factory/depot repair) for $79, which is far less than buying a new one.

So the technology is interesting; the Apple employee has quite a bit of typing to do on her iPad to get everything set up (she was amazingly fast at typing on the glass screen). But the basic process is that they bring out a replacement, and you move your data onto the new device. Then you erase the old one. The longest part of the process is waiting for a system update on the new hardware, and then the multiple reboots to get the iCloud copy onto the new device. So, yeah, it takes a while but when I left the store I had a clone of the iPod I brought in. I had a store credit, which showed up on my Apple watch when I entered the store; it displayed a QR code on the watch, and that’s how I paid for the upgrade.

Not perfect; it would be nice if it worked faster. But it just works (which is what you hope happens with an Apple device). And they had my iPod (which is basically obsolete) in stock and were able to do the update in situ. My job (before I retired) was a Professor of Supply Chain Management. That means I studied process design, among other things. The Apple process was just about as good as it could be.

The Apple store was as busy as it always is, which is very, very busy. When I was done, I walked down the mall corridor to take a quick look at the Microsoft store. They had 8 to 10 employees, and one customer. I don’t think the MSFT store concept is working out. Maybe MSFT stuff needs less attention, or maybe there is just less demand. I don’t know which.

Comments (42)

42 responses to “At the Apple store yesterday”

  1. justme

    Its a tough call. If you go just by the stores, Apple is taking over the world. As somebody who does go into Microsoft stores just to see what kit is on offer and ask questions because I am curious, I am always amazed that you might see a handful (as in 2-3) people gaming on one device or another, roughly 10 staff, and thats it. At Apple stores, its wall-to-wall customers, iPads and iPhones as far as the eye can see, with a few iMacs and Mac minis on the sides. Doesnt matter which Apple store you go in, they almost always seem to be full. The only Microsoft store I have been in that I have seen anywhere near (and it still wasnt the same) that kind of buzz was the store on Oxford Street in London. Credit where credit is due - the Oxford street Microsoft store is fantastic. That said, *my general perception* overall is that Apple employees tend to believe in the kit they sell, while Microsoft store employees see their jobs as working in electronics retail. That may not be true, but that is certainly my impression. People are *excited* (for whatever the reason) about Apple and their products. That buzz simply doesnt seem to exist for the average Microsoft customer.

  2. evox81

    One thing I've always noted about my experiences at the Apple store is just how many people are their for a device problem. That's not a dig at Apple quality or anything, it's just that they offer repair/replacement services and people use it. The Apple store wouldn't be nearly as busy if there weren't a bunch of people there getting their iPhones replaced.

    Edit: Although it would still be busier than the Microsoft Store.

    • red.radar

      In reply to evox81:

      But I think that is the genius of the Apple store. People come in to have an issue resolved and it creates an engagement opportunity. I would be curious to know how many times that issue turns into "oh well" lets get the new model and a sale results.

  3. minke

    I've never seen a Microsoft Store, but have had good experiences at the Apple Store with relatives who use Apple products. To them it is one of the huge appeals of Apple products--actually helpful real people they can talk to. So much tech support today is only available online via forums or chats, and in many cases is obviously designed to ignore your problem and get rid of you. Have a problem with a consumer product and you have nothing by online help documentation and forums staffed by volunteers who may or may not know anything.

  4. johnh3

    Microsoft have pulled out with many segments over the years. Windows Phone/Mobile, Cortana speakers and so on. I am not sure they realy need own stores anymore? Not in the same way as Apple does anyway.

    Sony had own stores in the past to. But being in the retail business is expensive. For Apple I think Angela Arhendts ”makeover” for the Apple stores got in the wrong direction. I agree that you should be able to go in to just buy a device and walk out again without a difficult process.

    • Vladimir Carli

      In reply to johnh3:

      im not sure if this is a us thing? In the Apple stores here in Europe you can absolutely go in and buy without an appointment. You need to book only for service

      • johnh3

        In reply to Vladimir:

        I guess so. Here in Sweden we got "Apple Premium resellers" a lot. A few real Apple stores.

        I am not sure the ordinary customer known the difference? The Premium resellers looks like the official stores in the layout, furniture and so on. But are not own by Apple themselves.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to Vladimir:

        It's not a thing in the US either. I've never had to make an appointment or wait to purchase anything. Whether it was a $1000 Mac mini or a $12 wire. The places are busy, but they're very good at crowd triage. I'm always greeted at the door and asked what I'm there for. If I'm there to browse, they welcome me and send me on my way. If I'm there for service, they get me in touch with someone. If I'm there to buy, they get me the very first available person.

  5. wright_is

    I guess the point is moot for me. The nearest Microsoft Store is about a 6 hours, by air, away. Apple have opened up a couple of stores "in country", but I still have to drive for probably 4 hours to get to the nearest one.

    We have to make to with online support.

    When my iPhone broke (1 day after purchase), I returned it to the T-Mobile shop, they sent it back to Apple's repair centre for 2 weeks. I could then pick it up in store again, no fault found. A day later, it had stopped working, returned to the store, sent back to Apple for 2 weeks, returned no fault found, stopped working whilst I was still in the store, I got very loud with the salesperson, phone goes back to Apple for a further 2 weeks, fault found, replacement phone sent to the store.

    My Samsung Galaxy stopped working, T-Mobile shipped a replacement phone out the next day and picked up the defective one, no charge.

    My Surface Pro 3 stopped working after 18 months (dead battery), Microsoft shipped a replacement device next day express and the courier collected the old one as he delivered the replacement, no charge.

    I was also "fleet manager" for the smartphones at a previous employer, the scenario with the phone going back to Apple for 2 weeks at a time, no replacement or loaner, was standard practice over the 5 years, I went through it over a dozen times, several times with the CEO's phones, so I learnt to keep a spare iPhone hanging around, for when devices had to go back for repair. All Android devices, on the other hand, were automatically replaced next-day, no questions asked.

    It is one of the reasons why I switched to Android. Apple customer service is lousy, if you don't have a store near you.

    Edit: Just seen JustMe's post, I didn't realise there was a Microsoft Store in the UK now, that brings the travel time down to around 6 hours, if I fly to the UK, instead of having to fly across the Atlantic to New York.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to wright_is:

      The nearest Microsoft Store is about a 6 hours, by air

      You're in Germany, right? There's a MSFT Store in London. 6 hours flight time? You only fly in helicopters and biplanes?

      • wright_is

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        1- 1.5 hours to the airport, 2 hours wait, 1 hour flight to Stanstead, train to London and tube down to Oxford Street.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to wright_is:

          Travel to-from airports can add up. 2 hours at the departure airport? Security lines that long, or in Europe anyone not through security 1.5 hours before flight time gets treated like a no-show and has their seat resold to someone on stand-by? Anyway, fairness would require netting that against the travel time to the nearest store at which you could buy a Mac Mini.

          • wright_is

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            When you buy the ticket, it says you should turn up 2 hours before the flight to ensure you get through security on time, usually an hour would be fine, but if there is a high alert etc. it can take longer.

    • justme

      In reply to wright_is:

      The store is relatively new - if I recall correctly, it opened in July. Smack dab in the middle of shopping madness at the junction of Oxford St and Regent St. Its been very busy when compared to US stores I've been in, but nowhere near as mad as the Apple shop on Regent St, which might be 200 yards away - THAT store is an absolute zoo.

  6. jules_wombat

    Microsoft is Not a consumer brand. There is really little to no point in Microsoft retail stores, or in brick and mortar retail anyway.

  7. hrlngrv

    MSFT brick & mortar stores were a bad idea of Ballmer's which Nadella and the board are unwilling to scrap. Impossible not to believe they lose money for MSFT, but maybe there's a useful tax angle, or maybe OEM agreements make MSFT responsible for some marketing costs which the stores satisfy.

  8. txag

    ADDED LATER: I have yet to enter the Microsoft store in that mall. I own Windows computers and probably always will. I am interested in what Microsoft is up to, and I like to look at new Windows stuff.

    But there are always way more employees than customers/lookers. I would like to browse or try out a couple of computers that I might find useful, but I fear that it would be like a car dealer lot, where you get jumped by the next sales person in the queue.

    I'm sure it's not really like a car dealer, but I'm a bit shy and an introvert, so it would be hard work for me to tell somebody who needs a customer to go away so that I can just browse.

  9. eric_rasmussen

    Apple is almost exclusively a consumer-driven brand. Microsoft is almost exclusively an enterprise business-driven brand. It makes sense for Apple to have stores and local consumer support. If the Microsoft stores focused on Xbox and PC gaming, I could maybe see the point of retail. However, none of the Microsoft stores I've been in have offered anything other than business-class portable devices. Maybe I'm weird, but when I go to the mall I'm usually there for stuff for my home - a Microsoft store dedicated to gaming with my kids would be awesome.

    • gregorylbrannon

      In reply to Eric_Rasmussen:

      It's the opposite at the Microsoft Store in Frisco, TX. I was in there last Monday because the base on my Gen 1 Surface Book stop working. The store that day was mostly filled will kids playing Xbox and PC games. Mostly Minecraft and Fortnight. Along one side of the store were at least 4 PC gaming set up with kids playing Fortnight and Minecraft. Then closer to the back near the Community area they had FIFA projecting on 2 panels of their video wall then Madden playing on a big screen TV in the back. The community area had a girls scout group.

      However a lot of this activity was mostly due to last Monday being MLK Day Holiday for the schools here in the area. But this is the typical crowd at this store on Saturdays. As for people like myself there were 3 other people getting their PC serviced at the Answer Desk and maybe 1 or 2 customers looking or shopping in the store. But most of the time I don't see customers browsing the PCs or playing with them like you would at an Apple Store.

      But this store does seems to be frequented by kids that play the Xbox and PC games. Another factor that may have impacted in what appears to be a hang out for youth is that the Apple Store in this mall closed last April due to this North Texas area court that is know for it's frivolous tech lawsuits which Apple won't admit caused it to closed this very popular Apple store in this mall as well as another newly redesigned Apple store at a nearby mall 5 miles away. This caused Apple to open a store at the Dallas Galleria 10 miles south of this area to service the Apple customers. One more note; the space that use to be the Apple Store in this mall turned into an Amazon 5 Star Store that opened over the holidays. They do sell their top selling laptops on the Amazon website in this 5 Star store.

  10. lwetzel

    Timing is everything....

  11. will

    I have seen this in the several Microsoft/Apple stores I have been in. The Apple stores are full of people, and even in that mass of people they still get your helped and take care of. Yes, I know there are exceptions and some people have had a bad time for a range of reasons, but generally it is super smooth.

    A big part of that is brand, the Apple brand is something that brings with it a level of excitement. Even though I have an iPad and iPhone I still will be the Apple store and just messing around with the devices or looking at something else. When I go into the Microsoft store, I might look at a laptop but it does not do the same effect.

    Another part is Apple has the complete ecosystem. Starting with services and going through all of the devices to mobile. Microsoft does not have mobile, they are an add on to others. While it is good they are an add on. Apple does more and more to keep you wanting to stay in the Apple ecosystem, it happens with the halo effect of devices. Microsoft does not really have this at all. If you have a Windows PC or laptop that is pretty much where it stops.

  12. Chris_Kez

    Apple draws millions of people every day to get repairs on their personal devices. Maybe Microsoft should start having their core customers-- enterprise IT people, for example-- come into the store for repairs and services, lol. Imagine a bunch of grumpy old white dudes standing around the store, each with a stack of Dell Latitudes or Lenovo Thinkpads.

    • jchampeau

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      Thanks for the great visual. I'm now imagining those same grumpy old white dudes sitting in front of a huge screen watching a hipster Microsoft Store employee with pink hair walk them through creating and linking group policy objects.

    • txag

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      While I was getting my old IPod replaced, a guy sat down beside me and dropped a stack of about 10 locked-up corporate iPads on the table. He was in the process of getting help resurrecting them when I left.

  13. anoldamigauser

    The only issue that I have with the Apple Store, and I imagine it is a result of their success, is that you have to have an appointment, whether pre-planned, or by checking in when you arrive, simply to buy something. Depending on how busy the store is, this might end up being half an hour or more. It is sort of frustrating. I am trying to give them my money, and they are taking my time. Online purchases on the other hand are trouble free and usually delivered the next day. Sometimes, though, you just need it that day.

    I understand having an appointment for a repair, but for a purchase? Perhaps they could install a vending machine...put in a model, color and capacity, and out comes a device.

    • pecosbob04

      In reply to AnOldAmigaUser: You are aware you can order online and pick up the same day if the item is available in stock aren't you? Also though I have had to wait for a repair never for a .purchase. If you go in and express interest in a product, Watch for instance I have always been sent to a table and might have to wait until a previous customer is picked up by an employee assigned to that product but I have never had to wait more than three or four minutes at most. Very effective triage. Now it can take longer if you come in with a product problem or issue.

      • anoldamigauser

        In reply to pecosbob04:

        Yes, I suppose I could pick it up, but again, that would require that I make an appointment, which doesn't change the situation. As I said, usually next day is fine, and online ordering has always been painless.

        Since the nearest store, by far, is in a different State, with higher sales tax, I use that, and my desire to avoid having to check in and wait for an employee, to justify next day delivery.

        I still find it odd that they do not have a desk where you can just walk up and purchase or pick up things.

    • rbgaynor

      In reply to AnOldAmigaUser:

      For things that don't have a serial number (checkout requires an employee in that case) I just do self checkout on my phone. Couldn't be easier.

  14. wright_is

    That is the problem though, they can't just swap out the battery. That would be a lot cheaper and a lot less wasteful.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to wright_is:

      No, not on the spot, but they can swap it. It goes in for that service at another location, then is either sold a a refurb or used as a replacement just like happened here.

      • wright_is

        In reply to jimchamplin:

        But it is still very expensive for a new battery, which probably costs $10. If there was actually a battery compartment that could be opened, it would take seconds to replace and it wouldn't need to be shipped back-and-forth.

        This is a general problem, not specific to Apple, these days, although it seems to be, where Apple leads, the herd follows.

    • txag

      In reply to wright_is:

      Yes, it is too much money. But it would cost about the same to get the battery replaced (micro-soldering is involved). So it’s either this or buy a new one.

      I guess I’d like a replaceable battery, but then the device would be bigger and weigh more.

      It seems clear to me that the replaceable battery ship has sailed.

  15. jimchamplin

    There is also a difference in the people. While I’ve never had what I’d call a bad experience at the Microsoft Store, this is a telling story.

    Its early 2014 and it’s time for my girlfriend and I to get new machines. I walk into Apple and am scoping out the Mac mini. The one I want isn’t in that location, but it is at the one across town. Darn. Well, it just so happens that the store manager is right beside us. He’s on the phone with the DM who is at the Apple facility in town - Austin has a large Apple campus with manufacturing and distribution and it’s maybe 10 minutes from that store - The DM says he will bring several of that model over. The salesman takes me over and we start the transaction, after waiting for some cold bottled water and with a little chit chat, the transaction is almost complete and as if on cue, the DM arrives and the salesman can scan the serial number on the box to finish up.

    Then we go down the way to the MS Store. Again, the precise configuration we’re looking for isn’t in the store. So they can have one brought in right? No. We’re told that they have no ability to do that, and we have to order online. They were very apologetic, but completely powerless to help make a thousand dollar sale. They weren’t even able to waive the shipping cost.

    We probably would have had better luck at Best Buy or Fry’s but... ya know. You live, you learn.

    • Paul Thurrott

      This story is purely anecdotal, but it says more about the scope of the respective retail operations than it does about people.
      • jimchamplin

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        That’s fair, and as someone who works in retail, I shouldn’t stick it to the people.

        Middle management people maybe, but again, I’ve never had a truly bad experience there, and I think that does speak to the employees’ benefit. Always professional, knowledgeable, and polite.

        • minke

          In reply to jimchamplin:

          I do think that Apple stores have a good "vibe" about them, which is hugely beneficial for the brand. Company culture does make a difference. Compare the experience in an Apple store to the experience in Walmart, which may be selling the exact same products in many cases. You could tell one store from the other if blindfolded.