The Tice's Corner Apple Store, in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey (photo: Apple Inc.)
Sometimes you have days that never seem to go right. This last Saturday was one of them.
Earlier this week, my Apple AV Digital Connector for my iPad 2 came in. I gleefully opened the package, hoping I would soon be playing Angry Birds HD and X-Plane 9 on my big screen TV.
As I wrote in an earlier piece, this particular iPad 2 accessory was one of the main reasons I wanted to upgrade to the new tablet, since it allows the new model to "Video Mirror" the display of whatever applications you are running.
I connected it to my iPad 2, hooked up a HDMI cable to my HD set in my bedroom, and anxiously waited for the signal to appear. Nothing. Nada. Bupkis. Zilch. Black Screen.
After researching the matter a bit further, it appears that a number of users have had defective AV Adapters shipped to them. The cable electronics apparently are sensitive and in some cases, you need to hold the iPad a certain way to get a good signal.
There are also some reports which indicate that if you have restored your iPad 2 from an iPad 1 backup, some users have not been able to use the connector accessory correctly, and have had to restore to factory defaults to make it work.
Naturally, I was livid. I spent 40 bucks on an accessory that was utterly worthless.
Now, some of you are aware I live in Bergen County, New Jersey. One of the most populous in the United States, which makes it generally a traffic and congestion nightmare during prime shopping hours.
Things are especially bad on Saturday, since we are one of the few remaining counties in the entire country where we have Blue Laws which require that certain types of stores close on Sundays, as to limit the amount of traffic through residential communities.
It's one of the laws that I truly wish would be abolished, as I believe it is detrimental to our local economy and it makes the shopping situation that much more stressful over the weekend.
So I packed my iPad up and headed over to the hell-hole that is called Garden State Plaza, where the flagship Apple Store for Bergen County is located. After sitting in about 30 minutes of traffic just to get over there -- I arrived to find out that nary a single parking spot was left anywhere in the mall.
What the hell, was this Christmas shopping season? It's the end of March! What were all these people doing here? Who were these people that thought they actually have the money to shop here? Isn't this supposed to be a freaking recession? How dare they prevent me from going to the Apple Store and returning my stinking AV connector!
It was as if the entire county showed up to spend money they didn't have. It took me almost 30 minutes to creep my way out of the jam-packed parking lot of that awful, horrible mall, let alone find my way into it. To quote Sir Alec Guinness,
"There has never been a more wretched hive of scum and villainy".
Note to Mall property management companies and state and local governments: I suggest that if a shopper's credit score or bank balance is below a certain level, that those people should be prohibited from going to the mall, on penalty of imprisonment or working in a salt mine. That way, those of us who have been WORKING OUR ASSES OFF living within our means and paying our bills and keeping ourselves out of debt can inject money into the economy, and get a freaking parking space on Saturday afternoon in Bergen County! Agggggggggggggggggggggggh!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope.
Well at this point my blood pressure was well within explosive levels. I had just spent an hour in the car sitting in traffic and in and out of a mall parking lot with absolutely nothing accomplished other than a very long release of obscenities from the confines of my vehicle and thinking about creative ways to murder Apple employees.
I pulled over to the side of the road and called my wife from the car.
"What the hell are all these people doing here? Is Justin Beiber making an appearance or something? Call the Apple store and find out what the hell is going on."
"Okay, I'll call, but you should know better not to go over to the mall on a Saturday."
"Well what the hell am I supposed to do to get this stupid piece of junk diagnosed? There's only one Apple Store, and it's in the damn mall."
A few minutes later, my wife calls me back.
"So I spoke to the girl at the Apple Store, and I asked her if the store was really busy or if there was some event going on. She said the store was a zoo, and it's a typical Saturday for Garden State Plaza. You'll probably spend well over an hour in the store trying to get a Genius appointment provided you can even get into the Mall."
After another long stream of obscenities, and after my wife's insistence that I calm down, she told me that apparently, there was another Apple store nearby. It's at an upscale strip mall called Tice's Corner out in Woodcliff Lake, a fairly quiet town where bucholic farmland has given way to a few office parks and homes of upper middle class bridge and tunnel types.
Most people don't know about it, and apparently it was the first Apple Store to open in New Jersey.
"I called the Tice's Corner Apple store, and apparently, they do get busy, but nowhere near as bad as Garden State Plaza. The Tice's store is rated very highly on Yelp and the Plaza store is a nightmare. You should totally drive over to the other one."
By this point, it was 6PM, my stomach was starting to make that really ominous rumbling sound, and I was thinking of just aborting the mission. But something told me to press on.
After 30 minutes more of traffic on Route 4 and hitting the parkway, I arrived at Tice's Corner. The difference between what I saw here and what I saw at the Garden State Plaza was dramatic. The parking lot was not even 20 percent full, and I literally was able to pull up to a space about 50 feet from the store.
My blood pressure had reduced quite a bit by this point, but I was still angry. And if Apple didn't fix this stupid problem, God help them.
I walked in, carrying my iPad 2 and the box with the malfunctioning adapter. A nice girl in a blue T-shirt with an iPad told me that it was late in the day and there weren't any Genius appointments left, but they would try to accommodate me.
"Well, if I can't get anyone to help me, then let's just return this, because I'll just wait until Apple can come out with one that actually works."
I'm not sure or not if I was actually "made" at that point. I'm not exactly unrecognizable, and I've been picked out at stores and restaurants many times. However, noticing the scowl on my face, the cute girl motioned over to one of the Geniuses, a tall and lanky sort of fellow, who walked over and asked me what was wrong. I told him my AV Adapter wasn't working.
Immediately, he ran back to the rear of the shop and procured an HD screen. I handed him my AV adapter and he plugged it into the store's demo iPad 2. Nothing.
"See, it's busted." I glared at the poor guy, imagining laser beams shooting out of my eyes and burning through his skull.
"Yup. Let me go grab another one, these things have been pretty tricky lately."
"Don't you need my receipt or something?"
The Genius brought another A/V adapter back. This time, it worked. He handed me the new one.
"You're all set, man. Can I help you with anything else?"
My blood pressure fell. I felt euphoric. I was no longer angry. I was in the Apple Store, surrounded by nice, helpful people. The Genius just solved my problem, I was going to make it home in time for dinner, and well... I even had extra time to spare.
I looked around at the various iPad and Mac accessories. Suddenly the urge to kill somebody was replaced by the urge to spend money.
"Hey, I need a keyboard for the new Mac I just ordered."
"That gentleman over there can help you with that."
He pointed over to another blue-shirted employee, who was standing by the Mac accessories area. This one was chunky and nerdy looking, obviously appropriate to the task. But he appeared eager and helpful.
One of the strange things about Apple Stores is they don't really feel like... stores. They're more like swanky-looking showrooms. While they do have a Genius Bar for diagnosing problems with computers and devices, they don't actually ring up your orders at a counter.
Instead, they have sales associates that hover around the various demo and product areas, armed with iPhones and iPads. And they have an uncanny ability to distinguish between the people who are there just to window shop versus the people who want to spend money. The operation is incredibly efficient. Futuristic, even.
The chunky blue-shirted guy asked me which keyboard I wanted, the larger wired one with the keypad or the smaller Bluetooth one. I told him I wanted the wired one. He reached out, grabbed a box, handed it to me and presented me with his iPhone, which had a card reader attached to it.
I pulled out my AMEX, handed it to him, and he swiped it.
He showed me his iPhone again. "That's your Apple ID and email address, right?"
"Great! Enjoy your keyboard! Let us know if you need any other help, ok?"
"Don't you need to give me a receipt?" I looked at him, quizzically.
Suddenly, I felt a buzzing vibration in my pocket, followed by the familiar sound effect I picked for event notifications on my Droid.
It was my smartphone. I had email. I looked at the clerk, who smiled back at me.
It was titled "Your Receipt from Apple Store, Tice's Corner. Thanks for Shopping!". Attached to it was a PDF copy of the keyboard I had just bought, seconds ago.
Now that is what I call service.
Do you have any memorable Apple Store experiences? Talk Back and Let Me Know.