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UPDATE:  Check out THIS article that says what I liked about the store is really not all that good.  Hmm.

Apple is an awesome experience in my book.

Since recently converting to exclusively using Macs in my work and personal worlds, I have continually been amazed at the ease, simplicity – well, the enjoyment of working with them. I haven’ had a downside yet (I would like a little more RAM in my iMac – but that will be soon, and I’ll write about the experience).

One experience, yesterday, had me wowed with Apple. It was a first for me and I left enjoying the Apple experience all over again.  It is simple, not particularly important; but it did leave an impression on me.

While waiting for my wife and kids to arrive from a train ride, I was contemplating how to use the extra time. Find an Apple store, of course. So, while driving, I opened up Google search on my iPhone and said (I love the voice capability of that app) “Apple Store Oceanside, California.” It found it “presto,” and with one click I had it pull up a map to the store from my current location. Great, 8 miles from where I would meet up with the family.

When I walked into the store I was immediately greeted by one of the “blue shirted” dudes who welcomed me to “Apple.” I really wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just wanted to look around, which they encouraged me to do. As I was considering the plethora of car kits and carrying cases for my iPhone, I came across exactly what I needed. Don’t laugh, but while I own an iPhone, I don’t own a CD player in my car and no connection exists to hook up my iPhone. I do however have a cassette player. I am forever complaining to Kelly about the drivel on the radio and that I wished I could hook up my phone to the car speakers. I know, I know, I could have long ago solved this issue online in a jiffy, or simply dropped by Wal-Mart – I just never took the time to do it.

Anyhoo, there it was; I found a cassette to iPhone kit. It was much cheaper than the other car kits and did not demand a radio signal (I did that with previous iPods and hated it). So, I picked it up and began looking for the check-out counter.

Problem. Apple stores don’t have a check-out counter. They have a very busy desk at the back for people having their technical problems solved, but as I scanned around the store, I couldn’t find any registers. I’d been to an Apple store before, but have never purchased anything. It has never crossed my mind to look for a check-out register. The stores are so focused on the product, the sale simply isn’t obvious.

Just then, I saw a store associate swiping a guy’s credit card on a little hand-held machine and it dawned on me that the associates were not only there to help you learn about the product but could make the transaction right where you stood. When he was available I indicated I wanted to buy the car kit. He scanned the bar code, swiped my card and then asked me if I wanted my receipt printed or e-mailed. I chose e-mail. He said, “Let’s see if we have your e-mail listed.” Nope. I suppose, had I used the card tied to my iTunes store account it would have found it and been a seamless transaction. So, I took the 30 seconds to give my e-mail. He said, “O.K., you’re all set – do you need a bag.” Declining it, I was done. Less than 2 minutes. Looking around the store, I saw several associates with the handheld devices. Great. How simple, effective, quick, and enjoyable was that purchase. It made me want to come back to an Apple store.

Now, I’m sure that’s how every Apple store has been for a long time. I’m still new to the Apple experience. But I like it. I would have been more impressed if he had whipped out his iPhone to make the transaction – I bet it’s coming (my guess is that his handheld was prolly some Microsoft-based product).

It remains to be seen if they can keep up their effectiveness once their corporate genius is gone, but shopping and using a Mac has been a brilliant experience thus far.

Using incredibly powerful technology yet in a simple, seamless, straight forward, and enjoyable way; focusing on what is important and not the accompanying background details is no doubt a lesson we should consider when using technology in our churches, pastoral ministry, and a few other areas of life itself.

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