What in the end amazed me was the quality of the shopping experience at the Palo Alto Apple store. I am not talking about the 6 hours spent standing in line: this was partly due to the activation process, already expected to be extremely slow, and which took a turn for the worse due to Apple and AT&T servers being down. But even that was kind of expected and part of the game.
The first thing was the quality and professionalism of the Apple store staff:
- On that busy day, the two Apple stores I called actually had somebody available to pick up the phone and kindly answer my questions about stock and expected wait time.
- Employees regularly walked up and down the line, offering water and answering questions.
- At the end of the line, every buyer was greeted and personally managed. The usual wireless device used at Apple stores allowed for just picking a convenient spot in the store to talk and handle the registration process.
- The (tired) employees remained amicable and helpful without being obsequious, providing regular updates, although obviously they couldn't do much about the failing servers.
- When the possibility arose that the iPhones could not be activated before the following day and that instead we would get a voucher for the following morning, the store manager individually talked to all the customers affected and shook hands with them.
The second amazing thing is the aura that was put around the iPhone:
- The iPhone was fetched and brought back to you as if it was a unique jewel, in a nice "iPhone 3G" bag containing the quite beautiful iPhone 3G box.
- You were given the opportunity to open the sealed box yourself before proceeding to activation (see the instructions for the retail employees as reported by MacRumors).
- Finally, after all was said and done, the bag was handed back to you like a trophy (and it actually was one in a way given the effort it took to get it).