An Apple a day keeps impatience at bay

11 Feb

So often, I complain about inefficiency in the world. It seems only fair, then, to recognize the most awesome customer experience I’ve had in the past week.

I needed a new hands-free headset for my iPhone. (And yes, I realize it’s bullshit to spend $30 on what is, essentially, a set of earbuds with a mike. But let me emphasize: it’s all about the microphone, people!)

I ran to the Apple Store on Tuesday, hoping that DC’s blizzard would mean that Pentagon City Mall would be empty and I’d have a fast transaction. Alas, instead of tumbleweed blowing through the food court, the place was jumpin’. Apparently, anyone who had underground Metro access (or could scrape and slide a car) had found their way to the mall. Good for commerce, bad for my quick errand.

When I went in the Apple Store, it was even worse. Blizzards must inspire people to get new laptops, because it was a sea of people crowding the hardware tables and I was the lone salmon swimming upstream to the accessory section. Ten seconds later, I located what I needed and started wildly searching for a checkout counter.

Just as I remembered that Apple had abolished checkout counters, a guy in a blue shirt approached me.

“Need anything else?” he asked.

I shook my head and extended the headset. He held what looked like a iPhone (but was clearly some other groovy point-of-sale technology) at the box, scanned the bar code and told me my total. I handed him a credit card and he swiped it.

“Would you like the receipt emailed to you or printed?” he asked.

“Emailed,” I told him. “But I can’t remember my account name or password, so I guess you’ll have to print it.”

He shook his head, cited my email address (which apparently is linked to my credit card) and let me walk out the store with my purchase. The whole transaction – including the time it took me to walk from the parking garage and validate my parking – was four minutes. And before I got to my car, my iPhone dinged, signaling that my receipt was now in my inbox.

I know. Reading back through this, it doesn’t sound that special. But trust me, it was. It wasn’t simply about an efficient transaction (although I’m ALL about speed) or an emailed receipt. It was about the experience.

I felt like I was buying something in the future.

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