I could very easily sit here and torture you with details from
an aggravating episode in the Comeau family's recent European
So I will.
Don't say you weren't warned.
My bank, which will remain nameless, really dropped the ball on me.
I called before my trip with my travel itinerary to ensure I
wouldn't run into any security issues when using my debit card
abroad. And for most of my trip through Spain and Italy, it worked
just fine for shopping, dining, and cash withdrawals.
And then one day, my posse and I strolled into a Barcelona
). I ordered a meal and my card was rejected.
The same thing then happened in a souvenir shop, and I get a little
I then tried to withdraw a few bucks from an ATM with no luck, and
my blood starts boiling.
Part of me assumed that the bank's system had made a glitch (hey,
we all make mistakes -- even I wrote
this absurd article
), but the fact that I did take the proper pre-trip steps also had
me fearing that there was an actual problem with my account.
The more I thought about this, the more I started to lose my mind.
I needed to get the bank on the phone ASAP, but I had stupidly
failed to write down the instructions from
) for dialing outside the country without incurring crazy roaming
charges. So that's my wrongdoing in this whole mess.
So I needed Wi-Fi immediately to figure out how to make the call
without spending a fortune, as my bank has an incredibly Byzantine
phone system that ensured an extended and thus expensive phone
And then I remembered... we were just a couple of blocks from the
) store atPasseig de GrÃ cia in Barcelona.
So let me tell you why I love the Apple store.
It's because I know that if there's one nearby, I'll have fast and
reliable Wi-Fi, access to a very helpful staff that isn't trying to
sell me garbage I don't need, and perhaps most importantly on a
purely biological level, they have nice clean bathrooms!
And in this case, the store's staff didn't throw my maniacal,
sweaty butt out when I was on my iPhone yelling at my bank. Plus,
in the event I was having a problem with my iPhone, I could have
gotten it fixed on the spot.
These are simple things, but there's an important underlying theme
here: Apple is working for our money.
Now, according to the consulting firm RetailSails, on a
sales-per-square-foot basis, Apple stores are the most productive
in the US, more than doubling the pace of the second-place
Tiffany & Co.
All the evidence, including my silly anecdote, points to a simple
fact: Come hell or high water, Apple wants you in its stores, and
the company is going to do its best to make you happy.
I remember browsing in electronics stores when I was a teenager.
Computers were never connected to the Internet; you'd get funny
(and sometimes nasty) looks when playing with stuff; and if you
needed something fixed, you'd have to box it up and send it to Bora
And God forbid you actually bought something, because then you'd
have to live through the retail industry's equivalent of
waterboarding -- the high-pressure extended warranty sales pitch.
Apple is the anti-retailer retailer. Here's a properly illustrative
quote from former Apple retail head Ron Johnson, who is now running
But the most important thing we set in our design criteria is we
wanted to create very distinct experiences for customers, in what
they perceive as a public place. More like a great library, which
has natural light, and it feels like a gift to the community. In a
perfect world, that's what we want our stores to be. And we don't
want the store to be about the product, but about a series of
experiences that make it more than a store.
People like to shop at Apple stores because they're welcomed -- and
this is an environment an awful lot of companies, ranging from
. The hard sell is just plain irritating. In order to open their
wallets, people want a metaphorical hug, not a gun to the head.
Incidentally, Apple's influence, combined with the other emerging
dominant retail force --
(AMZN) -- may create a "barbell" structure of sorts for retail.
While Amazon actually does have fantastic customer service when you
choose to get in touch with them, the company's focus seems to be
on simply getting out of the way and shipping mass quantities of
goods at rock-bottom prices. It's the polar opposite of Apple's
touch-feely approach to winning over shoppers and is inherently
low-margin -- but it's incredibly scalable. I wouldn't be surprised
to see Amazon eventually hit $1 trillion in revenues.
So the future fights could be to out-feel Apple and out-scale
Amazon -- tall orders if you ask me.
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