Newest Review: ... play on the Mac's, use the FREE wifi service which in itself is pretty amazing, and browse the latest software and hardware. I go in the... more
Retail - Excellent. Support - So-So
Apple Retail Store
Member Name: northernlovely
Apple Retail Store
Advantages: Genius Bar - a true stroke of Genius!
Disadvantages: The floor staff give differing information
I first visited the Apple store in the Trafford Centre, Manchester, in September 2010 with my four year old (and therefore out of warranty) Macbook, which had cracked on the white outer casing around the magnetic catches which hold the lid closed. I had Googled the issue and found it to be a design flaw, so I called up the store (there was around a 10 minute wait, but they are a very very busy store, and you do get to speak to the staff direct rather than an automated message) who advised me to bring it in and it could be fixed free of charge. Brilliant, I thought. And then like the great big klutz I am, went right ahead and dropped the laptop causing my 'f' key to fall off. Whoops. So I was fully prepared to pay up for that to be repaired (every one needs an f in their life).
The Apple store has as part of it's design a service called the Genius Bar which is a by-appointment helpdesk for all matters Apple, both hardware and software. I duly made an appointment on the Apple website, which was easy to do, and there were plenty of slots right up to 8pm weekdays. On entering the store and approaching the Genius Bar, you have to register with one of the blue-t-shirted staff, who mark you down as arrived on an iPad (all the staff have iPads or iPhones, and rather than there being a till to pay at, every member of staff carries a card machine. It's pretty nifty). I was seen almost instantly and a very friendly techie examined my Macbook, took some basic details and said he'd have my Mac back within the hour. I was chuffed! I had originally been told it might take 6 weeks depending on parts, but they had exactly the right parts in the store. Bonus! He also said that as the casing was one unit, I'd be getting a new keyboard as standard, complete with f, so there would be no charge whatsoever - I even got a new mouse trackpad and button (my old one had gone a bit yellowy, so I was happy about that). He was very very helpful and polite and brought me a seat when he saw how pregnant I was, and then rang me when he'd fixed my laptop (he was less than an hour). Absolutely brilliant service.
But...I went into the Apple Store today expecting a similarly good service, but was let down badly. See, as my Macbook is now almost five years old, and still runs an old operating system (10.4 Tiger, for those interested!) I wished to upgrade to 10.6 Snow Leopard, two operating systems 'up'. I'd Googled the ins and outs, and it turned out I just needed the Snow Leopard CD priced at £26. I'd checked that my Mac was Intel based and had the right amount of RAM, and I thought it'd be a pretty painless purchase.
But when I picked up the CD in-store, I checked with a young female member of staff by saying 'I can upgrade from Tiger with this, right?' and was told 'oh no, you need to upgrade using the family pack priced £120 - it's on the top shelf'. '£120?!' I thought. Flipping nora. I'm not paying that (well, I am from Yorkshire..) - but seriously, my laptop's only worth £300 tops, and I only wanted the upgrade as Apple themselves no longer support Tiger for new browsers and programs. I checked the family pack, and found it was simply the same Snow Leopard CD bundled with iWork and iLife (neither of which I needed or wanted). My husband was sure that as the CD was the same then I could simply buy it standalone (saving almost £100). So whilst standing confused at the shelf, another member of staff asked if they could help (I can't fault them there, they are enthusiastic). I asked again, can I upgrade from Tiger, and again was told, oh no, you need the (whatever-it's-called) edition, priced £77. Arrgh. I checked this edition, and the only difference was that I could use it on five Macs. I only have one Mac.
I was so utterly confused at the differing information, I left without purchase. On checking with Mac via phone, I have been informed that the original £26 CD would have worked absolutely fine and the only differences in the versions are the licence agreements for different types of users. I'm annoyed I took the time to go to the store to be given such differing information, which was incorrect, and could have potentially cost me a serious amount of unnecessary money. It was my opinion that as much as the staff have clearly been trained, they're not actually Mac users day to day, and therefore, trotting out the sales pitch parrot fashion without any technical understanding really isn't serving their customer well. I've used Macs for years and I'd expect better.
So...a mixed bag for me. I've had some outstanding service from Apple, and I can't fault them on their hardware support. Their staff are extremely polite, approachable, and enthusiastic, and the stores are clean, bright, white and welcoming with all the latest technology ready to be played with (and purchased!). But their support for long-time users isn't great at all and their confusing advice in terms of differing prices is frustrating. If you go in the store with a broken Macbook, wish to purchase an iPhone, or fancy a new iPad, chances are you'll love the service you get at the Apple store, even when it is bustling with customers. But if your question is even slightly off the regular track, concerns legacy software, or is a bit more technical, it is unlikely the floor staff will be able to give you a reliable answer to your question. I cannot, however, fault the Genius Bar which is a fabulous service.
I'll give the store overall a 4/5 despite the problems I had today as generally the store is very high in terms of service. I've learnt my lesson however and will stick to calling customer support or making a booking with a techie on the Genius Bar should I have any problems with my 'ancient' 2007 edition Macbook!
Summary: Overall still a good store, but has it's flaws