Apple at Best Buy

Stopped at the Eden Prairie, MN Best Buy store yesterday and was pleased to see several Macintoshes mixed in with the PCs. I’ve known for some time that there was a rollout occurring, but the reality of seeing it was disappointing.

The MacBooks were already dirty with body oil. Like a car dealer that has people whose job it is to clean the cars and keep fingerprints off of them, why doesn’t Best Buy do the same thing with ALL their computers? The sales staff was surprisingly clueless about the Macs (an off day perhaps?) and had only heard vague rumblings that the Macs could run both Mac OS X, Windows and Linux using Parallels or Boot Camp and thought my description of multi-OS use was pretty cool (hmmm….shouldn’t that be a major selling feature?).

The visual merchandising of Macintoshes wasn’t even close to the “Apple mini store” as shown and discussed in this post. The Macs were scattered all over.

This new store in Eden Prairie is apparently a showcase store just down the road from Best Buy’s headquarters and they use it for VIP tours and the like. It’s a fine location, well merchandised, but I find that — like most Best Buy stores I go in to — I know more than the floor people about most of the products they carry.

While cluelessness about Macs may be understandable since this rollout is so new (though preparing in advance would’ve been prudent), it shouldn’t extend to products they’ve carried for some time. Also, Best Buy needs a “Geek Stand” like Apple’s “Genius Bar” with a twist…

Case in point: while in yesterday I inquired about a Panasonic Web cam with a built in web server (my buddy Eric wants one for his cabin and I was curious). The guy looked it up, couldn’t find it, was clueless about these sorts of cameras, we looked around and finally he walked off. I figured it might be near the routers and other networking gear, and lo-and-behold I found two models of this exact camera on the shelf. If this was an isolated incident I’d let it go, but nearly always this is my experience at the stores.

I know that PC complexity works toward Best Buy’s incentives so major efforts to sell Macs works at cross purposes. They own the Geek Squad and I’ll wager the overwhelming majority of that entities revenues come from befuddled PC users. As I explained in this post about switching my Dad from a PC to a Macintosh, I could see how easily Geek Squad revenues would downtrend if more people purchased and used the less complex Macs.

Getting competent help must be a huge challenge and my rant still cuts them some slack. Stocking anything but middle-of-the-road products that turn fast must be more of a challenge too. But power users and technically savvy people DO NOT get our needs met at Best Buy and thus buy all the hot, new stuff online. I find Apple themselves don’t cater to power users in the Apple Stores and thus I buy peripherals and software elsewhere.

In a day when virtually every company is trying to figure out how to reach influencers in order to build buzz and drive adoption — and Best Buy is working hard on new strategies (see, “Best Buy: How To Break Out Of Commodity Hell“), I’m puzzled why they’re not empowering their floor people with base knowledge and figuring out how to cater to influencers and power users in their current strategy: the Best Buy consumer electronic store.

I’d suggest they install “Geek Stands” in the Best Buy stores. These people would be empowered to answer all questions and, most importantly, know how to seek online and leverage the Internet to answer damn near anything a power user or influencer could throw at them. They could also be places where manufacturers would roll out new gadgets early in order to build buzz and drive people into the Best Buy stores. Forget relying on Engadget or Gizmodo and trying to get favorable buzz built….use the bricks-n-mortar stores to let people touch and feel new stuff.

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10 Comments

  1. Earl Thirling on May 11, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    When oh when will Apple learn. Stay out of those damn big box stores. They always end up getting hosed over. It’s happened over and over again. You’d think they would have learned their lesson with Sears.



  2. grammar nazi on May 11, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    Thanks for the review (and warning), but for the love of all that is holy:

    The plural for Mac is “Macs.” There is no apostrophe. Same for MacBook (“MacBooks”).



  3. Steve Borsch on May 11, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    grammar nazi:

    Appreciate you pointing that out. I’m married to an English major and have yet to achieve grammar perfection (as she points out often) so if you would, please point me to your blog or writings so I can be awed by your unrivaled mastery of the language.



  4. grammar nazi sympathizer on May 12, 2007 at 12:40 am

    Steve Borsch:

    Instead of posting a sarcastic response to grammar nazi, it would be better to graciously accept the editorial advice and fix the problem.



  5. Steve Borsch on May 12, 2007 at 7:38 am

    “it would be better to graciously accept the editorial advice and fix the problem.”

    Let me clue you in on how to “graciously” point out misspellings, flaws in grammar and so forth:

    1) Send someone an email. Don’t do it publically. I often send email on glaring errors on a site but I send it to the webmaster directly.

    2) Don’t hide behind anonymity. It invites sarcastic responses and people not taking the criticism well.



  6. grammar nazi sympathizer sympathizer on May 12, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Steve Borsch:

    How about you just quit while you’re behind. What difference would it make if grammar nazi used his real name or not? Why does his comment entitle you to be a sarcastic jerk?



  7. Steve Borsch on May 12, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Chrisxcr: I’m entitled since it’s my blog. I also have these cardinal rules: stand by your words; don’t say anything online that I wouldn’t have the balls to say to someone’s face; use my real name.

    I also see that I broke a blogger cardinal rule: Don’t Feed the Trolls. I’m going to stop now.



  8. DBL on May 13, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Yeah it’s not a great idea to engage with commenters adversarially over trivialities. Besides the fact that it doesn’t make a great impression, it’s a massive waste of time.

    A non-trivial point: I’m afraid from your description of what’s happening at Best Buy is a sign that this retail expansion is mishandled and that we are in danger of slipping into the bad old days of Mac retail, in which not only were Macs neglected alongside PCs, shoved in corners, not well-represented, etc., but there were *numerous* reports of people being steered *away* from the Mac by clueless salespeople. “Oh that one? That’s a Mac. They’re incompatible. You don’t want that.” This is the kind of retail partner Apple most certainly does *not* need.

    IMO, if Apple could not have arranged a contract whereby the Mac would get its own separate display area and at least one salesperson trained in dealing with it, then they should not have done this deal at all.

    That was the whole genius of the Apple stores in the first place. I fail to see the benefit of going back to putting the Mac in front of salespeople who ‘don’t get it’ merely providing them with an opportunity to point at it and say, ‘Bad.’



  9. DBL on May 13, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    Oh yeah, there is one silver lining on this cloud. The Macs were dirty. This means that there has already been plenty of interest in trying them out.



  10. PXLated on May 13, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    There have been other web reports that actual Apple employees are manning the Macs in BBY stores, kind of like the old CompUSA stores within a store.
    That’s the only way it will work. BBY has blown it every time they’ve been allowed to carry Apple products in the past without exception.
    I remember BBY trying to get Macs on their website, their argument to Apple was the website would be product agnostic and there weren’t any BBY employees (clerks) to hose it up or provide bad support/advice. Apple still refused.



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