Friday, February 01, 2008

How do you spell pretentious? I spell it A-P-P-L-E S-T-O-R-E

So I bought a MacBook today and the purchase required that I go into my local Apple store, something I typically avoid like the plague, or that one friend everyone has who listens to Cher.

Let me be very clear: I like Apple computers. I hate Apple--and Cher too for that matter. Apple's systematic assault against mankind has been fairly subtle; it often goes completely unnoticed until you actually go into an Apple store and surround yourself with the world they have created. The Apple store went from being a one-stop shop for Apple products and software to what it is today: a glorified man-purse store that also sells computers. It's like Starbucks without the coffee; just a room full of pompous college students and shiny metal objects. The Apple store has become a breeding ground for pretentious trends and annoying ideas. Don't believe me? Go buy something there and wait for the cashier to ask you if you wouldn't mind forfeiting your right to a printed (normal) receipt and instead accept a digital (e-mailed) receipt in order to help "save the environment." Never in my life have I been more proud to drive a Charger with a hemi.

I loathe this recent iJunk trend that has caught on in which any and every useless, sub-par, as-seen-on-tv piece of junk has the letter "i" before its name as if the letter "i" makes it any less a piece of junk. I realize that not everything with an i before it is an actual Apple product and is usually just a cheep knockoff. Yes, i realize Apple doesn't make the iDeoderant, iFern, iPlunger or any of the other i- products one might find at 7-Eleven. However, Apple single-handedly popularized the iJunk craze and therefore should be held responsible.

As soon as you walk in an Apple store, the first thing you might notice is the varying classes of Apple employees. Toward the front of the store, you have the "greeters," identified only by their light blue shirts and total lack of knowledge regarding any of the merchandise found in their store. Keen observers might also recognize a slight look of shame, hastily masked by a thin mustache and patchy facial hair. The responsibilities of a greeter are simple. They are:

1. say hello
2. tell the customer their name (usually Stephan in my experience) and,
3. lisp about as often as the English language will allow.

Once Stephan verifies that you are there to make a purchase and not to ask for a bathroom key, he will direct you to the second class of Apple employee: the service person. Identified by their dark blue shirts and standard issue Kabbalah bracelets, the Apple Store service person is an unsettling character indeed. Most of these guys seem to be named Troy, and they almost all have long, unwashed ponytails. First-time Apple store shoppers might make the mistake of approaching a service person on foot. This is a major Apple store no-no. In order to speak with a service person, one must first locate a display computer and generate an email to said service person, reserving an appointment to actually speak to them face to face.

Gone are the days, apparently, of walking up to a salesman and requesting they help you. No, that's too simple, too analog. These days, you send him an email from across the room and wait for him to approach you, that way the evil corporation he works for can obtain your email address and bombard you with spam for the rest of your life. Ya see? Everybody wins.

Take my word for it, this is the Apple store's protocol and they will not allow their customers or employees to deviate from procedure. It's in the books. I'll be honest, I felt a little silly entering my email address into a computer in order to get the attention of the guy who was sitting 10 yards away from me. I've actually attempted to bypass the entering-of-contact-information stage and simply approach an Apple service person with a question on foot. The service person (who was literally sitting in a chair doing nothing with absolutely no one in line) informed me that per Apple policy, he could not answer any of my questions until after I entered my information into a computer and waited to be called.

After the customer has caved in and given Apple their contact information, they are free to wait in line to eventually ask the service person anything they want. When the customer inevitably stumps the service person, it is their job to direct said customer to the third and final class of Apple store employee; the Guru.

The dress code for the guru is a bit more lax. After all, they've earned it. Their computer knowledge is slightly greater than that of a first-year foreign-exchange student, and their social skills are slightly worse. They all seem to wear fleece sweaters but somehow, the look is not uniform. Each guru has their own little touch that they've added to their overall apperance, which on the street would cause you to avoid them at all costs. However, in the Apple store setting, it gives you the assurance that they possess the nerdiness and more importantly the knowledge to help you with your query. Each guru is different in their own way, however a few characteristics are always present:

1. they all sport their own, custom designed, heavily sticker-ridden name badge that is perhaps a relic of a prior job at TGI Fridays.
2. they all choose to express their own individuality by wearing the same acid wash t-shirt featuring a dramatic portrait of a wolf howling at the moon.
3. inevitably, somewhere on their bodies, a series of intricate yet incomplete dragon tattoos can be found.

Gurus are an odd bunch. Until summoned, they wait restlessly in the back storage area, engaged--no doubt--in heated Dungeons and Dragons tournaments that often continue long after the Apple store has closed its double doors. The life of the Guru is at its best whilst inside the confines of the Apple store. Work is the only place where a guru is the guy with all the answers. Everywhere else, he's just the guy that has to wear a t-shirt in the pool.

But what really annoys me is that because Apple products are so trendy and popular, no one seems to notice that the organizational hierarchy inside the Apple store perfectly mirrors that of Jabba's palace on Tatooine. Before you make it to Jabba the Hut, you must first get past the mindless droid who's running interference at the front gate. Next comes Bib Fortuna, a man(?) of questionable skill who can't get you any real answers, but he's still the guy that decides whether or not you actually get to see Jabba. Finally there's the great Hut himself, who mostly just lays there in a pool of his own filth, mumbles unintelligible gibberish, and mocks anyone who dare question his verdict. Plus, on your way out you always wish you had your own Rancor. See what I mean, just like at the Apple store.

But hey, I still really like my Macbook.

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