I now dread going to the Apple Store, and that’s a problem for Apple

David Gewirtz for ZDNet:

I have never, not once, been able to have an Apple Store round trip take less than four hours. And that’s on a good day. When my wife and I went to buy our iPhone 6s Pluses a few years ago, the trip took three hours on the road plus four hours in the store due to the wait and fussing time at the store… When we went to get replacement batteries for our phones, it took one round trip of five hours to replace the batteries, and then another round trip of about five hours to replace the phone they broke when they tried to replace the battery…

This goes to Jason Perlow’s Apple Select plan, for all-you-can-geek Apple products. Last week, he advocated that Apple adopt a monthly charge that incorporates all their services, along with a regularly refreshed phone. In a sense, this is the Apple Upgrade program with movies, news, and storage tacked onto it. Having a Prime-like service for Apple services does make sense. But expecting customers to make a regular pilgrimage to the Apple Store to swap phones is not realistic because it is not necessarily something everyone is going to want to (or be able to) do.

Apple has to make the iPhone upgrade process painless. They need to make it work entirely online, and they need to make sure that you’re never, ever without your phone… Failure to do that will result in some number of customers avoiding the Apple Store, and more finding themselves in Apple Store hell. It’s not an enjoyable experience.

MacDailyNews Take: Generally, if the Apple Store is close by, you’re in a populated area, meaning traffic to and from the store can be an issue. Apple doesn’t place stores in low-traffic areas. The reasoning is obvious, but it doesn’t help the customer any. Plus, once you get into the Apple Store, it’s usually crowded. If it’s a mall store, you’ve got a three-ring circus of people trying to do iPhone screen repairs, purchase products, Today at Apple classes, diagnose issues, trying on Watches, etc. It’s nothing like what it once was (and will never be again), a mecca for Apple, mostly Mac, fans with some iPods around for fun. Those days are over.

If Apple were to somehow make the iPhone upgrade process easy and painless with customers always having a working iPhone, removing the Apple Store pain point, they’d likely sell more iPhones, more often (hello, shorter replacement cycle), and iPhone customers would be even happier than they already are!

13 Comments

  1. Apple stores are always busy at certain times, you just need to figure out the best time to go. Perhaps some stores are always busy. Is it Apple’s problem, sure.. they could open more stores,

    Maybe they should open places that just manage the Genius Bar close to existing Apple Stores where possible. Let the stores be sales, and Apple Today and Genius be repairs

  2. One, of the reasons I buy from Apple is their Apple Store. If it takes me a little longer, no problem as it sure beats having to box up an item and sending back for warranty repair. Bring the item with you, talk to a Genius to try and solve a problem or determine that an item needs repair. That is an awesome system.

  3. I have three distinct reasons to be in an Apple store:
    1) I’m there for a repair — usually a screen crack or something like that
    2) I’m there to buy something — and I generally know exactly what I want and the config. before I get there
    3) I want to play around — this is what I’ll do with the Mac Pro I’ll never need to buy but still want to experience.

    1) One thing Apple could do is make the “repair” area a bit more distinct and segregated. Often there’s enough action going on that it would be nice if I just one place to go that was labeled “Appointments”. . . in this particular case, I’d rather just wait in a proper line than have that feeling like I’m just floating around and waiting to be approached amid the chaos. It’s a bit awkward, especially if it goes on awhile.

    2) I also wish there was a proper place to go, even if it involved a line, where I could go to just buy what I want without waiting for someone to finally see me or even try to “help” me. Put a sign up that says, “Buy it now” and I can stand there and wait for my turn to tell them what I’m there for.

    3) Do the first two on this list, and watch how it opens up the store for the people who want to play around or who NEED help in deciding what might be the best device/configuration/software for them. Apple Store dude walks up and I say, “I’m just playing today…” and he moves on. Or they walk up and I say, “Yeah, I don’t really know…can you tell me about this…” and she does so.

    Right now, it’s kind of just this wild wild west in there. I don’t mind being treated like cattle in certain circumstances if it means that other times I have an enjoyable experience. And if anyone wants to make the argument that the current setup allows for product exploration while people wait, I see the point. Functionally, though, I think it’s more trouble than it is helpful. Even standing in line you’ll see something cool you’ll want to touch on the way out.

    1. Do what I do: open the Apple Store app on your phone, scan the item you want, pay for it, and walk out! Easy peasy, you dont even have to speak to anyone!

  4. How is it “Apple’s Problem” that you live 3-4 hours round trip from an Apple Store. I’ve been in our local Apple Store many times and never took more than an hour. And yes It’s always packed… but within 10 minutes or less someone as asking me if I need some help. When I had Appt. for repairs or Genius Bar I waited 20-30 minutes tops. Stop the whining and be grateful you don’t have an Android Phone like me (I’m poor). I get Zero help with mine.

    1. I now live in north Texas, only Apple just closed the two Apple Stores in my county in order to physically stay out of the Federal Eastern District of Texas court jurisdiction.

  5. I think it comes down to the store itself and the time you go obviously.
    I’ve visited my Apple store near Montreal a few times over last couple of months, to play with the iPads and try to figure out which one to buy (I’d buy three if it was in my budget!). I always am able to play with the Pro 11 and 12.9 side by side without interfering with anyone. I usually go around lunch hour.
    I also was there on New Years eve day to drop my iPhone off for battery replacement, on the last day possible before prices went up again. It was a zoo, and I was still served promptly and courteously as they were able to send me a text to tell me my same-day appointment was coming up next.
    I will say I was more knowledgeable about the iPad’s tech and features than most of the employees in this store that I’ve dealt with, but maybe that’s normal for a regular MDN reader 🙂

  6. I guess I have been lucky. Since 2007 my nearest Apple store is in the nearest mall. And I have moved to a different state relatively recently. Good reminder for me.

    I know there is a world of difference in service levels but there are other stores that sell iPhones – Verizon, Sprint, Best Buy, Target, etc. I have had generally good luck at these stores except when buying a just released new iPhone which then they have a shortage of.

    I am not saying people going to other stores is not a problem for Apple. Rather it may be a less frustrating experience – location, drive, crowd etc. for some. Apple still gets the sale and people still get their iPhones.

  7. Whenever I read complaints like these, I’m reminded of the old quote, usually attributed to Yankee great Yogi Berra: “No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.”

  8. The issue Apple needs to address are Porch Pirates that kills the benefit of internet shopping and the fact that traditional Apple Stores (especially in malls) will be a real challenge for most folks to get to. That opens the door to ways of making it easy for folks to buy from Apple, Porch Pirates? Work out a deal with the UPS stores. so you can go in with your ID and a copy of your order and pick up your purchase – safe and sound.

    Apple needs to look at the problems customers have buying from Apple (or get help choosing the product they need) and find realistic alternatives. Especially in Training and Education.

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