Getting The Most From The Apple Store
Odds are you will, at some time or another, visit an Apple Store. Whether it’s for a new store opening, getting your Mac fixed or buying a new iPod, it’s certainly a unique retail experience. But what if I told you there was so much more that you can do at an Apple Store? In this tutorial, I’ll be detailing not only the everyday services that each Apple Store offers, but also the special and seasonal events that happen too.
A Little History
Before the retail stores opened, Apple had been adopting a “store within a store” concept within CompUSA stores. Think of it as a tiny Apple Store within a department store. While this meant Apple had a good retail presence, they were still reliant on department store sales staff and ultimately it would be CompUSA who would make sales and marketing decisions. Steve Jobs decided that Apple needed more control and the idea came about to establish Apple’s own retail stores.
Apple began hiring retail talent from companies like Gap and among the new hires, Ron Johnson (attributed with turning around Target) was brought in and he undertook the mammoth task of establishing the Apple Store. After setting up a fully functional mock store in a warehouse in California and working continuously on changes and tweaks, in 2001 Apple opened their first retail stores in Tysons Corner, Virginia and Glendale, California.
Tip: For a full history of the Apple Store journey, check out this great article by Low End Mac.
What Makes an Apple Store?
I worked at various Apple Stores as a Genius for over 6 years and even until my last day, the majority of people walking through the doors only knew a small fraction of what the services stores offer.
Apple Stores are divided into two main areas: Sales and Aftersales. However, in traditional Apple style, these are termed differently. Apple Retail describe their main areas as “The Red Zone” and “The Family Room” respectively. These terms are adopted worldwide and differentiate what happens in each area.
Apple has worked for years fine-tuning the retail experience to the point that they have found the best formula is to separate the two areas, to the point that newer stores such as Covent Garden, London and the newly-opened Amsterdam store have their Family Room services on a different floor, away from any kind of sales area.
The Red Zone
This is effectively the sales floor. In this area of the store, you’ll find all the current Apple products available to use as well as being able to speak to a salesperson, also known a "Specialist." There are no pushy sales tactics, Apple Store staff members do not work on commission. You won’t find up-selling and they’ll take the time to discuss what would be the best product for you. There’s even times when customers walk in with a computer in mind, only to discuss it further and find that Mac they were thinking off was overkill and left with a less expensive option.
These aren’t the usual demo devices you find in department stores, which are usually screen-locked or with a dreadful screensaver - these Macs, iPhones and iPads are fully functional. They’ll have a lot of additional content such as photos in iPhoto, movies for editing in iMovie and music in iTunes. Their products are designed to be used. At the end of the day, buying something like an iMac or an iPad without ever using it is like buying a car without giving it a test drive. The people at Apple really understand this and work hard to make sure you can use their products and do almost anything you want with them.
Buying something like an iMac or an iPad without ever using it is like buying a car without giving it a test drive…
The Apple Store App + EasyPay
Introduced earlier this year, The Apple Store iPhone app allows you to make purchases in-store without needing to queue up. This is currently available for select accessories and you simply use the app and scan the product’s barcode. Your purchase is done using your Apple ID (the same account you’d use for buying apps or music from the iTunes Store) and voila! You’ll get an email receipt straight away and if you need a bag, simply ask a Specialist.
In addition, you can view workshops that will be starting soon and notify a Specialist when you’re here for your Genius Bar appointment.
The Apple Store App with EasyPay uses your Apple ID to instantly purchase select accessories
Personal Pickup (U.S. Only)
For U.S. customers, you can make a purchase either with the Apple Online Store or using the Apple Store iOS app and instead of having it delivered to your home or place of work, you can arrange to collect it in-store. What’s more, if your product is in-stock at your local Apple Store, you can collect it the same day.
Once you’ve purchased a new Apple product in-store, you can arrange to spend up to an hour getting to know the absolute basics. In addition, a Specialist will be with you and set up your email as well as install any software you purchased with it.
If you purchased an iOS device, they can even help transfer your contacts from your old phone and register your iCloud account so features like iCloud backup and Find My iPhone are available before you even leave the store.
The Family Room
This is where the Apple Stores truly shine. While a large portion of the floor space in an Apple Store is dedicated to sales, a large proportion of their focus is on after-sales.
The Genius Bar
Mac not booting? Dropped your iPhone? iPad battery isn’t working? No matter what age the product is or the warranty status, you can book a free appointment at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar. Appointments are usually 10–15 minutes and are available all day every day during opening hours. You can talk with a Genius if it’s a Mac (or a Family Room Specialist if it’s an iPod / iPad / iPhone) and get your product diagnosed to determine what the problem is. The appointment isn’t just for technical problems, if you want to get some technical advice, that 15 minute appointment is yours to ask whatever Apple-related queries you have.
Tip: Make sure you’re backing up! Whether it’s your iPhone or your Mac, the Genius Bar makes no guarantees for the safety of your data!
Should your product be under warranty and found to be at fault, Apple Stores will repair them for you in-store. This can take anywhere between the same day and 2 weeks - it depends on how busy the store is. If the product is out of warranty, you can still get the product repaired at a fee which the Genius will tell you about before going ahead.
Apple has been improving the Genius Bar formula so much that diagnosing most issues is simply a case of plugging your device into a diagnostic tool and it will report if there are any problems.
Every day, Apple Stores around the world offer a whole range of hour-long workshops that are completely free to attend. They range from subjects such as getting started with your new iPad to creating music on your Mac. Booking is required (just like the Genius Bar) but they’re completely free and very educational.
Tip:: You can view a schedule of workshops that your local store offers by downloading The Apple Store iPhone app.
Youth Workshops and Programs
Apple Stores offer various workshops and programs just for kids! Similar to the workshops that Apple Stores run daily, these youth workshops are aimed at a much younger audience. Kids can make their own movies and music as well as take pictures and use them with their projects. The most popular workshops are the Field Trips and Apple Camp.
Field Trips can be arranged by your school and entire classes can arrange with their local Apple Store to schedule a workshop for kids (or teachers) to go in and really get to grips with some of the Apple technology and create something they can take away!
Apple Camp is hugely popular and often books out almost as quickly as it’s made available. It runs over three days and is for kids aged 8–12 to learn how to make their own movie, from shooting video to adding music.
Apple Stores offer a whole range of workshops for kids - and they’re free!
Tip: You can register your interest and learn as soon as registration is open at the Apple Retail Store Youth page.
At select stores, Apple will offer Pro Labs. These are free four-week classes that will focus on a core subject, usually apps such as Final Cut Pro or Aperture. These are rare and popular so make sure to check your local store often to avoid any disappointment!
Pro Labs are usually found in larger stores such as 5th Avenue and Regent Street
One to One
Cost: $99 Per Year
One to One membership provides you with all sorts of training and tuition
In addition to all the free learning services the Apple Stores offer, a product that’s been around since the early days is One to One. While it’s a paid service, it’s an entirely unique learning experience. Until recently, anyone could purchase it. It’s proven so popular that Apple has had to restrict membership so it’s now only available if you purchase a new Mac from an Apple Store or the Apple Online Store.
Should you purchase One to One with a Mac, you can arrange to bring in your old computer - Mac or Windows - and have your content transferred to your new Mac. This is similar to Personal Setup but lets your bring in your old computer.
Apple Stores will migrate your data from your old computer, Mac or Windows
Subject to availability, you can book a one-hour slot with a Trainer. It’ll just be you and them so you can really get to grips with a subject such as iMovie or Aperture. In addition, you can often work with the same Trainer and can track your progress through the One to One member page you’ll have access to. Here you can write notes and get further information when you’re not in the Apple Store.
Group Training is similar to workshops but you’ll be able to choose from a much wider range of topics and a Trainer will be providing hand-on assistance.
Once you’ve spent a few sessions with a Trainer, you’ll want to spend more time working through a project on your own but with the knowledge that if you get stuck, help will always be on hand. Open Training availability runs all day every day and is open to up to about 8–10 people. Get to know fellow Mac users as well as share new ideas.
You can only book one session at a time, but book as often as you’d like.
Apple has really been pushing their business services within Apple Stores. Each store will have a dedicated business team that will provide advice and consultations on everything from employee iPhones to Macs in the workplace.
Apple has really been pushing their business services within Apple Stores...
Joint Venture is effectively One to One for businesses. As well as getting Personal Setup, businesses who purchase Joint Venture can schedule up to three two-hour sessions of training for employees to visit. If you need to have your employees know how to use a Mac or create presentations in iWork, contact your local Apple Store to discuss.
For technical support, Joint Venture offers the unique service that allows customers to speak to Geniuses over the phone. If it’s something that can be fixed relatively easily, it could save you a trip to a store. If your Mac requires repairing, Joint Venture will even provide you with a loaner Mac until your computer is ready.
In certain high-profile stores such as 5th Avenue, Covent Garden and Regent Street, Apple will often schedule special events. These events will often run during opening hours so are free to attend. The subject matter will range from talks from celebrities and business figures to a popular topic called “Meet the Director”. In addition, Apple hosts a range of music events in stores, notably with their "iTunes Live" and "iTunes Live from London".
iTunes Live has been a special event in larger stores for some time
There are a lot of services and features available in an Apple Store beyond technical support and sales. Because Apple Stores are drastically different from any other retail chain, their extra services are very much overlooked and are an absolute goldmine for knowledge. You don’t need to buy countless books, training guides and evening classes just to learn about your Mac. If you’re local to an Apple Store, it’s all available there and mostly for free.
Apple Stores are ever-changing so keep checking the Apple Retail Store site for new services, features and events.