Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Apple Store Grand Opening

The new Apple Store in West Towne Mall isn't as big as the one at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, but it's LOTS closer and considerably more sparkly, having opened only on July 7.

The grand opening was set for 10 AM, and I arrived shortly before that and found the end of the long, snaking line that wound PAST the Food Court before doubling back on itself. As I stood there in my Mac OS X (aqua) T-shirt, chatting with the folx around me, a little kid came by, enthusiastically counting off people. I was #381. I'm sure the kid was worried he wouldn't be getting a T-shirt. Turned out not to be a problem, as they were giving them out to the 1st 1000 customers. Black beauties, they were, with discreet white type featuring the Apple logo and the words "West Towne".

All of the T-shirts, incidentally, were size XL. As I learned when working for the Wisconsin Alumni Association, people who need an XXL will settle for XXXL, but the reverse is not true. I suspect that a lot of those XLs were gonna be too small for Macaholics like me, who grew up savoring Wisconsin dairy products and needed all the insulation we could pack on to make it thru Wisconsin winters.

Half an hour later, as the line slowly worked its way forward, I spied Dave Weston (late of Mac Medics, now of The Mac Shop) emerging from the Apple Store looking like a kid at Xmas. HE'D shown up at 3:30 in the morning (despite the fact that the mall as a whole didn't open until 7) and was still only #4 in line. I expressed my hopes that the new Apple Store wouldn't cut into The Mac Shop's business very much, but Dave didn't seem concerned. I think he's expecting that Apple will sell a lot of computers, but that people will take them to The Mac Shop whenever they need upgrades, repairs, accessories, etc. so if anything it should be GOOD for business.

I finally made it past the gatekeepers shortly after 11 AM. The store itself was bright and very well organized. Apple-brand products were, of course, the most prominently featured items. Clear acrylic stands held product information and price options for each item. It was almost impossible to work thru the crush of people at the iPhone table, each wanting a chance to play with the latest whizzy tech toy. But there was a plethora of 3rd-party stuff as well, certainly including the software selection.

Apple Store staff people were everywhere, uniformly young, smiley, and enthusiastic, and all clad in black T-shirts with different labels (like "Genius" or "Software Guru") to indicate their specialty. (A couple of them oohed and aahed at my anachronistic hexachrome Apple cap, so they obviously had a feel for Mac culture.) In the 20-25 minutes I spent in the store, I got asked half a dozen times if I needed help.

My favorite part of the store was the last table before getting to the Genius Bar at the back wall. This table was only 2 feet tall, and instead of chairs it had big black spheres — looking for all the world like hydrogen-atom escapees from a large molecular model — that were occupied by little kids (and I mean LITTLE kids, about 4-5 years old) playing with very definitely NON-sissy, powerful, big-screen iMacs. If Apple ever needed visual evidence for its hallmark ease-of-use claim to fame, this was it in spades!

I actually needed to buy something -- a new Bluetooth mouse -- and it was readily available for a reasonable price. While I was scoping out the accessory rack, some LCD screen cleaner also caught my eye, so I got that too.

You do your checkout at the Genius Bar, where I was apparently one of the first people to actually buy something, because my genius had to get a little on-the-job training from a supervisor about how to process the transaction. You have the option of getting a printed receipt or having one e-mailed to you. I chose the latter option, which meant, of course, that they needed (and got) my eddress. Not so dumb from their standpoint!

The goodies were placed in an Apple-logoed white plastic bag that has more drawstrings than a parachute and could probably substitute for one in a pinch.

I strolled out of the store around 11:30, and there were still people waiting in line. I did a little more shopping, and by 12:30 the line apparatus had been disassembled. The store was still full.

All in all, a nice kick-off for Madison's very own Apple Store.


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