Unlike a Costco where you place a product from the warehouse in your shopping cart and check-out with very little human interaction, the Apple in-store retail experience is very much based on interacting with an Apple Associate. There is no such thing as doing some last minute Christmas "grab and go" shopping at the Apple Store since one associate must be assigned to you to help you choose the product, get the product from the backroom, and process your purchase. While this approach provides a lot of personal touch compared to the Costco high volume purchase processing, the Apple Store experience depends on having enough associates to process each customer. Having enough associates for all the shoppers can be a problem in the Apple Store in general but is especially so during the busy holiday shopping season.
On my way to the Apple Store a couple days before Christmas at the Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton, California, it was nice to see the mall's holiday decorations and all the kids lined up to take pictures sitting on Santa Claus. The nice holiday vibe becomes less so at the Apple Store where there seems to be more bored or stressed shoppers waiting around.
The Apple Store had removed all the previous clutter on the tables which advertised product features and prices. Instead, shoppers now need to go onto the Mac itself in order to see prices and do side-by-side comparison shopping.
If you are not using the Mac, great looking videos of Taylor Swift and other musicians promoting Apple Music come up automatically to show off the awesome looking 4K screens on the iMac.
After waiting around for 15 minutes trying to find an associate to buy an iMac 21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K display, I decided that what I should have done is to check-in with the Apple Associate at the front of the store. The Apple Associate was nice and asked me to wait in the Mac area and someone would call my name.
I went back to the Mac area but was skeptical of anyone finding me given how many people there are in the store. After waiting around for another 15 minutes, I went back to the Apple Associate in the front who said they probably just couldn't find me. This time I just waited near the Apple Associate at the front so that the right Associate could find and help me.
So next time you are at the Apple Store and you find it's packed inside, it might be better to ask to stay in the front after you are checked in. For those that have gone to the Apple Store for technical support or shopping, you know how crazy it can be so be smart and have a game plan or make reservations ahead of time. If you just walk in during a busy time period expecting to be helped, you may find yourself disappointed.