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Circuit City – Just SETTLE DOWN NOW!

As a field rep for the new Apple rollout for Circuit City, I have read with increasing disgust the quick-to-judge Mac community pouncing all over the newest member of the iMac/iBook retail family, Circuit City. If you want the short version of this article, here it is: PATIENCE, PEOPLE! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the task before us is almost as Herculean. Transforming low-paid home-electronics wonks into decent Mac salesmen is no easy task, but if you start condemning CC too early, I can guarantee a repeat of the “Worst Buy” disaster.

There are THREE partners that are crucial to Apple’s success at Circuit City:

  1. Apple, who needs to keep inventory hopping and market the hell out of these machines
  2. Circuit City, who need to train their people and ensure a secure & pleasant buying experience
  3. YOU, the Mac community, who need to be positive and remember the big picture rather than talking trash with no facts to back you up and focusing on tiny bumps rather than big successes.

There are a number of factors these so-called “critics” conveniently forget when jumping the gun on Circuit City. We’ll go over them, and then you (and they) will be able to appreciate the situation far better, and will understand why Apple Power Reps like myself and others sincerely believe that (for the most part) the partnership with Circuit City will be far more fruitful than most of you seem to think.

First off, people have to remember that as I write this, the iMacs and iBooks have been in CC a little over two weeks. The special displays that Apple is creating (which will really showcase both the iMacs and iMovie, complete with digital camcorders) are NOT THERE YET. Thus, the Apple display you are seeing today is “temporary” at best. Certain vocal webmasters (and we know who we are, don’t we Mr. Jump-to-Conclusions in Texas?) have really gone all-out to be unfair, visiting precisely one store and based on that pronouncing the whole program a “disaster” before it even officially launches (official launch: Sept. 10th Demo Day).

We sometimes forget because we use our Macs in ways similar to the ways most people use their PCs (ie word processing, internet stuff etc), but to non-Apple fans the iMacs literally ARE “computers from another planet.” They do not look, act or respond in the ways PC people are used to. They are strange and new, which in America is synonymous with “weird.” Many if not most of CC’s customers — to say nothing of the sales people — have only seen these beasts in pictures. As any Mac fanatic can tell you, the reality is sometimes VERY different. We have GOT to give the Circuit City people time to get used to the concept of the iMacs/iBooks; they represent a VERY different philosophy than they are used to.

Apple’s PR company Marketsource, along with CC themselves, have produced some frankly FABULOUS training materials for the Sales Counselors. There’s a video for each store, a full-colour illustrated booklet for each employee detailing what each model can and cannot do, and a toll-free phone number for them to call. In addition, people like myself will stop by stores each and every week, checking to make sure the demos are running, to answer questions that the salespeople have run across and don’t know the answers to, and to teach them (in small increments, over many weeks — this stuff takes time!) things about the MacOS and Apple that they never knew, like the fact that the G3 more than holds its own against even top-rated PIIIs; that games can and do run great on the Mac; that the Windows operating system is largely “ripped off” from the MacOS; that iMovie is hands-down the greatest basic video editing application ever; that iMacs represent great value for money compared to similarly-priced PCs, and that the iMac and iBook represent not only superior technology (no fan, smaller chip), but a whole new way of working with computers that is actually FUN.

Another thing to remember is that some CC employees, particularly managers and other old-timers, remember the “bad old days” of the Performas (the last models CC sold). It’s not that these were bad machines, but they were overpriced compared to PC models, and underperformed in many ways. The model numbers and spec differences were confusing, and they were sold almost entirely to Mac people who knew more about the machines than the salespeople could ever hope to, so there was little incentive for them to learn about the machines they sold. CC was glad to see the back of Apple back then, and it is up to US — the Mac community — to make sure that CC understands that this is not the “old” Apple, but an Apple that can kick butt in the PC community and will practically sell themselves with a little help from the community.

What are The Benefits for Mac Users

Here’s what we Mac fans can do to make sure that Circuit City sells a lot more Macs, and makes the experience a pleasant one for everybody:

  1. Quit yer bellyachin’!
  2. Make a point of stopping by the CC store nearest you for five minutes every week or so. Relaunch the demo if it’s not on. Repair the hard drive name and aliases if they are broken.
  3. If you know some Cool Mac Tricks, stand around for a while and perform some for either the sales guys or the customers. Show the sales guys how to do it themselves.
  4. Don’t give CC sales people some sort of third-degree Mac quiz. I’m sure they’ll fail, just as the average non-geek Mac user would. Instead, when a sales guy approaches you, tell him you are an Apple fan who absolutely loves his machine and would like to know if there is anything you could tell him/her that would help THEM sell iMacs/iBooks. These guys are NEVER going to know more than the basics of the Mac unless they are Mac fans themselves, but that’s more than enough to close a sale. If you are a member of a MUG, for pete’s sake leave him a biz card with your contact number and tell them to call you when problems come up.
  5. If you see real problems, ask the manager of the department for the business card of the Apple Rep (who should have left one). Call the Apple Rep up and report what you’ve seen. If your store doesn’t have an Apple Rep, visit and sign up, or refer someone you think would be good for the job.

The Apple Reps can do a lot to help train and get the CC people into the spirit of Macintosh, but we can’t be there every day. If the Mac community makes it their responsibility to “keep an eye on” the Sears/Circuit City/CompUSA stores that sell Apple stuff, make it their task to POLITELY correct misinformation and myths from salespeople, and make it their job to actively HELP the salespeople do their jobs instead of berating them when they goof, Apple will continue this phenomenal 35% annual growth rate they’ve achieved of late, will make more money, make Macs more commonplace, and ultimately accomplish what EVERY Mac fan desires: a significant increase in the marketshare!!

We can do this. Apple CFO Fred Anderson recently told the papers that Apple expects to DOUBLE it’s global marketshare in just two years. That is a HUGE job, far beyond the capabilities of all the Power Reps and advertising agencies and free publicity