The iStore retail tease

Shopping in an iStore is great. The stores have open spaces, white counters, beautiful products everywhere and hordes of staff standing by to help out. While the staff having varying degrees of proficiency and knowledge about Apple products (I’ve heard some terrible advice to unsuspecting shoppers), you have to work fairly hard to avoid the staff offering to help you out. Unfortunately its all a big tease. While its pretty easy picking your new Cool Thing, actually paying for it isn’t so easy. In fact, its such a hassle that its often not worth the wait.

I went to the iStore in Sandton City yesterday morning to look for an iPhone case for my wife. Her iPhone case is breaking and she said she wanted a new one so I thought I’d surprise her with one. I went to a couple shops before the iStore but none of them had a nice selection. I found a case that I thought she would like at the iStore and stood in what seemed to be a queue. It looked like a queue because there were about 4 or 5 people ahead of me at the pay point looking expectantly at the one person manning something looking like a till.

Ok, “manning” is a strong term (yes, and very sexist for anyone monitoring such language). He was standing there looking intently at the screen, occasionally typing stuff, one finger at a time, while occasionally saying something witty to the woman he was serving. There was another pay point there too but although a few iStore staff were behind the counter, they didn’t seem too interested in the pay point or the increasingly frustrated customers waiting to be served.

So I stood and waited, hoping that the sales process wasn’t too difficult and that the salesperson would finish two-finger typing, take money and send the customer into the centre clutching her new Cool Thing. It didn’t really happen and I found myself longing for Pick ‘n Pay cashiers. At least you can see they’re sort of doing something a sale results sooner rather than later (probably because customers offend them and they want to get the customers out of their queues as fast as their passive aggressiveness can muster). In the meantime two customers who were ahead of me in the expectant queue decided they had better things to do than wait (like avoiding starvation and losing the rest of the day) and left the queue and the store – sales and loyalty lost.

I stood in that queue clutching the iPhone case for about 10 to 15 minutes and, in that time, examined the case a little more closely and between a doubt or two that my wife would like it and the long wait, I decided to abandon ship. I replaced the case on the rack and left the store. When I left the salesperson was still “assisting” the woman he was “assisting” when I first got into the queue but by then I didn’t really case. As teases go, that was a huge #fail and not at all fun. I wasn’t the only person who felt that way that morning and I can only imagine how many people give up and leave.

I am just a humble customer who doesn’t spend enough time in iStores buying stuff to be an expert in this but here are a couple ideas anyway:

  • Make sure you have more than 1 competent sales person ringing up the sales the floor staff facilitate (at the very least, keep a close eye on the pay point area and if queues start developing, send in reinforcements);
  • As fast as the sales process on the shop floor is, make the payment process faster (if other shoppers are anything like me, they want to get back home as fast as they can, safely and observing the rules of the road, to rip open the packaging and use their Cool Thing for the very first time);
  • Strongly suggest to your other staff standing around idle that they assist the sales person at the pay point if he or she seems to be experiencing difficulty with the pay points themselves, customer queries or the literacy required to process a sale really quickly; and
  • Come up with a better way to get customer’s details or call them up when you invoice (we have iPhones, there must be an app for that).

Update: I received a call from Core Communications Manager, Taryn Hyam, to let me know the Sandton Store has been experiencing problems with its pay points (new platform going in soon). Floor staff should have been letting customers know about the issues they are dealing with and she is taking it up with the store’s manager.

Update 2: I just received a call from Nicola, the Sandton City store manager, who called to find out a bit more about my experience and apologise for it. She is looking into it and will address it. She assured me that good service is very important to her and these sorts of reports concern her. As an aside, this post has clearly touched a nerve for people. It has received far more traffic than my posts usually attract. At the same time, I am accustomed to a Core that doesn’t give feedback to ordinary consumers like me and the feedback I have received from Taryn and Nicola has been great.





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