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iWeekend: A Funny Thing Happened to Me at CompUSA

Rodney O. Lain - 2000.01.16

This article was originally published on The, a site which no longer exists. It is copyright 2000 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.

Tell the truth and shame the devil!
 - Folk saying

You can tell when someone's attitude toward you has changed. I noticed one person's change some time yesterday (Saturday).

For those who don't know, I'm the "Mac guy" at a local CompUSA on some weekends. It's not always the most ideal situation for me, since it is a thankless job, but it is a good way for me to pay for my "toys." I also get to talk with Mac users and get a constant, first-hand view of the state of the Macintosh in the retail sphere.

One thing I've noticed over the last year is the changing perception of Apple's resurgence. Many have said that Apple is back, but that news is only recently sinking into the minds of the general populace. There were always major pockets of disbelief in Apple's coming back from the corporate dead.

Case in point: many of my CompUSA coworkers never took seriously my Mac boosterism, seeing me as a little odd, since I was one of the few people unabashedly supporting a "dying" computer platform. There were the usual jokes and sly, knowing grins that other sales people gave one another whenever they heard me talking up the Mac to customers. Sure, it felt like a constant, uphill battle to deal with the insults, the indifference and the open antagonism towards my unPC affinity, but it does seem to be paying off.

I won't say that Apple and the Mac now has respect in the retail chains, but I can say that everyone at the very least tolerates its (and my) presence.

Yesterday, we had a very steady flow of customers in the Apple section. I've been away for a while with Macworld and all, so it was kind of chaotic as many customers discovered that there was a "Mac guy" present. It's embarrassing how little I know about Macs, yet many are just grateful that there is a sales person around who is willing to talk excitedly about the platform. Among the things that happened:

  • I let a few people touch me after I told them I'd met Steve Wozniak ;)
  • We had two refurbed iMac DVs on sales; we sold three (yep, three were sold, even though two were on display - more were in back).
  • I had a long talk with a elderly couple trying to decide between an iBook and a PowerBook.
  • Ditto for a father of two who was weighing the respective pros and cons of the Power Mac G4 and the B/W Power Mac G3 that we still had in stock.
  • I sold a few iMacs with CompUSA's extended-service warranty (and gave my home phone number and e-mail address for future questions and support).

But the most gratifying experience was the following:

I've related in times past that the Intel rep isn't Apple's greatest fan. Today, however, I found him actually standing in the Mac section, talking with a customer that was interested in the iMac DV Special Edition. He asked me if I could give a comparison between the iMac and a comparable PC. He normally spins even such requests for help into a pitch for the PC, but this time he just asked me to help.

He even stayed around while I talked to them for the first few minutes.

The first thing that I did was quickly assess what he said (and didn't say), and saw that as a good opportunity to extend a nonverbal olive branch to him while I talked to the customers. Here's what I did'

I asked the customers what they were looking for in a computer. They said e-mail, Internet and word processing. I replied that the PC and the Mac are both good platforms. I added that there are some things that I'd never recommend the Mac for and ditto for the PC. They asked what was the Mac good for. I deflected that question, saying that they both are good for the basic tasks, but that Apple computers are favorites who perform complex functions like multimedia; I hastened to add that the iMac is now a favorite for people who want an easy-to-use setup.

I also added that Apple and Microsoft have been cross-licensing many features, resulting in the Mac OS and Windows becoming more compatible and even starting to look alike (I showed them the alias on the Mac and the shortcut on the PC). I talked up Mac OS X, the G3, USB, etc.

They revealed that their computer needs to be compatible with the Macs at the school where the lady worked. I mentioned PC compatibility, in case she needed to coexist with Windows machines.

At this point the Intel rep allowed me to finish talking to them alone. Mind you, that usually, he'd pick at me and at Apple, but this time, he just let me talk. It didn't hurt that I avoided Wintel bashing'

My point is this: the age of OS wars should be declared over. I've said this over and over again, but it needs to be repeated for the next few years. I'm all for quiet Mac arrogance, but the days of in-your-face evangelism can not cut it the way it once did.

That is the lesson that I've been learning at CompUSA. I think many of the most Mac-bigoted people I know need to take up working the retail stores for a while until they learn this lesson first hand.


- Rodney O'Neal Lain

Rodney O. Lain is The iMac's Associate Editor. A former professor, he lives in St. Paul, MN, where he is a freelance writer and a supervisor at a major US corporation. He enjoys comic books and pencil drawing. He adores Mike Royko, Zora Hurston, Lewis Grizzard, Maya Angelou, John Byrne, bell hooks, Frank Miller and Henry Louis Gates. He also writes for Low End Mac, Applelinks and My Mac Magazine. When no one's looking, he rants and raves on his home page Free Your Mind & Your Behind Will Follow.

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