The Washington Post recently ran a very interesting piece about how the Apple Stores have gone from trendy and elite hipster hangouts to ordinary mainstream stores. The author really nails it when describing the feeling of an Apple Store nowadays:
The demi-privacy of it, the clubby feeling — I know that you know that I know that we know and love Macs like nobody else does — is fading away. Too much commotion. The ethereal, tranquil, spa vibe (the bath of white light, the polished concrete floors, the glint in the happy eyes of the geniuses at the Genius Bar) has been pierced by the sheer popularity of the place. The TV commercials worked. Mac Guy, even with his non-arrogant arrogance, is your real friend, and then he gathered too many friends, and suddenly he doesn’t have time for them all.
He’s exactly right. When these stores first opened, they had a feeling of clubbiness about them. Everything was shiny and bright and clean, like a scene out of 2001: A Space Oddyssey, and it felt like a place you’d go to buy something really, really special. Apple has the best marketing and design people ever. I see a lot of silly smugness in hardcore Apple fans, but even I have been tempted to buy something in a Mac store, more than once. Nowadays, though, they’re very busy places and the shine is starting to wear off. They sort of feel…common. They feel like the ordinarly retail store they’ve always been, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but some hardcore Apple acolytes may feel their elitist edge being dulled a bit.
The author also knows what he’s talking about when describing the typical Apple Store employee.
The specialists and geniuses are in their black Apple T-shirts, wearing name tags (Adam, Matt, Luis and the endless supply of Ryans, and an occasional Jen). And talkingrillyfast. Rillyrlyfst. Allfthem. Glare-eyed, too happy with themselves, like Jesus people holding up one finger on 1970s street corners. They know you aren’t One of Them, but they forgive you. Nothing expresses both virtue and contempt like forgiveness. That’s life in church. They know what Steve Jobs wants of them, and they live to serve.
Zing! So why are the Apple Store drones always so cheerful? Is it really because they love their jobs (Jobs) so much? The article suggests as much, but sometimes I wonder if there’s something being pumped into the air in those stores that keeps them upbeat. I picture a smoky potion with JobsJuice™ on the label being poured into the air vents…