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The Rodney O. Lain Archive

'Vas You Dere?': Giving CompUSA Benefit of the Doubt (Part I)

Rodney O. Lain - 1999.04.01

This article was originally published on The iMac.com, a site which no longer exists. It is copyright 1999 by RAC Enterprises, which also seems to no longer exist. It is thus reprinted here without permission (which we would gladly obtain if possible.) Links have been retained when possible, but many go to the Internet Wayback Machine.

"What is Truth?"
- Pontius Pilate, from the Bible (John 18: 38)

"A true education is the personal exploration of a subject, not the dull recitation of facts."
- John Byrne, Mac user, as well as a legendary comics' creator/writer/artist (X-Men, Next Men, Alpha Flight, Fantastic Four, ad infinitum)

Several years ago, so I'm told, there was a story-time radio show starring one Baron Munchausen. Old-man Munchausen would always spin the most outlandish yarn during his broadcast, which would always prompt someone to scoff the veracity of his claims; in other words, the good Baron would be labeled a bold-faced liar, to which he would always reply, "Vas you Dere?"

That is what I often want to ask my fellow writers who are chronicling the latest thread of events in the CompUSA/Apple soap opera.

Now, I hasten to preface this column with the statement that I am not questioning the truthfulness of those claiming to know inside info on things Macintosh. What I do question, however, are the ramifications of publishing so much, um, truth.

Case in point: for the last few weeks or so, there has been a hue and cry about the state of the Apple Store Within a Store at CompUSA, culminating in David Pogue's column in last month's Macworld. I cannot deny that what he wrote is true. But I can't help but ask, in terms of what is really happening across the whole retail chain, vas he dere? Vas he everywhere?

The Grass Is Browner on the Other Side, but It's Getting Greener...

I read with interest a message on the Internet a while back that ripped the local CompUSA where I work, saying the Apple section was pathetic. In many ways, I agree. This calls attention to the Mac community that something's rotten in Denmark, as well as lets the CompUSA powers-that-be know that we care. In response to such complaints, I have some great news: where that store once had zero Mac sales people, it now has two very enthusiastic supporters of the Mac platform. We spend 90% of our time in the Mac section, and there is usually someone there, always working the SWIAS during the peak shopping hours (evenings and weekends). We keep the Macs up and running. Even on our off days, we stop by to add more stuff to them (we now have Virtual PC running, as well as Tomb Raider, PageMaker and Photoshop). All computers have Macworld QuickTime excerpts, Apple commercials (even "1984), music videos and loads of software installed on them.

I've personally moved Mac software from the PC aisles, as well as hybrid CD-ROM titles. Another Mac user (a Mac administrator for a local school) came by twice, seeking part-time work, and both times, I gave him tips on how to approach the management.

Now, where is our CompUSA critic with a follow-up article reporting this turn of events? Hello?

In the past, it would have been easy for me to join the chorus of criticism currently being leveled against the "evil," "Mac-unfriendly" chain stores like CompUSA and Best Buy. But I must say, let's write more success stories, too. It's pretty damn depressing to infer that the majority of Apple retailers are not doing their jobs. Besides, if this is true, just how did the iMac become the best-selling computer of 1998? In the midst of the gloom, there is some good news, you know.

Let me give you an example of how you can, with a certain amount of effort on your part, generate more of that dark-cloud-silver-lining good news.

You Attract Flies with Honey, Not Vinegar

Sunday night, I attended my first staff meeting at CompUSA. The sales staff got together to discuss sales goals for the next quarter. At the end of the meeting, I made an announcement; here is the gist of what I said:

"What would you guys think if I were to stand before you tonight and encourage you to sell more Packard Bell computers. Or, what would you say if I were to stand before you and ask you to sell more Cyrix-equipped computers? (At the mention of Cyrix and Packard Bell, one person snorted his disapproval, while another cracked a joke about "Packard Hell.") Oh, Packard Bell isn't that great, hunh? Well, I guess I wouldn't be going too far out on a limb if I said that Macintosh computers are a little bit better than Packard Bell, right?)

"Well, that is what I want to talk to you about in the next two minutes. Next Sunday night, after work, I will be doing a presentation on the Mac OS, the Mac platform and the iMac for any and all that are interested.

"Hey, I need help, fellas! I can't sell those things fast enough! And there's money in it for you, too. [I look towards a coworker seated next to me, since I knew he'd looked at the sales figures with me] How much in sales did I make today?"

He recites the figure, and I tell everyone that I was the second-highest sales person for the day. "And all I sold were Macs. Hey, guys, I want you to get in on some of that money. Now, I know you think that I bleed six colors when I'm cut, but I sell PeeCees, too. Actually, I've had customers who've come in times when I've convinced them to get a PC - and vice versa. I ask you to do the same. It doesn't matter which computer you sell, as long as you sell a computer.

[á la 'Jerry Maguire'] "It ain't about show-FRIENDS, it's about show-BUSINESS."

"Oh, yeah. And there will be free pizza..."

Several said they would be there, not that it had anything to do with the free food :)

Stay tuned next week to see how it turns out.

The above is what I think of when I think of the state of Macs in the retail stores. I think of savvy Mac users making a difference, not by intimidation, but by tactfully encouraging the Mac as a mainstream computer, on par with the ubiquitous PeeCee. I hope more people out there are doing more than just complaining about what's happening. Now, I know everyone doesn't have the luxury of giving up time to work at stores selling Macs. But at least encourage others to do so.

Often, painting a negative picture doesn't help an already frustrating situation. I should know: I "vas dere." Vas you?

- Rodney O. Lain

Rodney O. Lain, a former university English and journalism instructor, works full-time as a software developer and works part-time at a local CompUSA Apple Store Within A Store. A card-carrying member of the local Macintosh User Group Mini'app'les, Rodney writes this column exclusively for theimac.com. His greatest desire is to become an African-American Guy Kawasaki. A self-professed "workaholic writer," he waxes prolifically about race, religion, and the "right OS" at "Free Your Mind & Your Behind Will Follow", his unabashedly pro-Mac website. When he's not cranking out his column, he collects John Byrne comic books, jogs, and attempts to complete his first novel. He lives in Eagan, Minnesota, a southern suburb of St. Paul.

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