The Apple Store Decoded
How to find the biggest savings and best service at tech's hottest retailer
(MONEY Magazine) – With its throngs of shoppers, an Apple Store may look chaotic, but there's a method to the madness. Below, why you should go to the back of the store first, skip any gear not made by Apple and make sure not to copy the staircase design. BY WILSON ROTHMAN
Meet a genius--free! Ever deal with Apple support over the phone? It takes forever, and it can cost you. Every store has a Genius Bar, where you can get face time with a live Apple tech. Go to apple.com to make a same-day appointment at your retailer.
Get special treatment. Apple's ProCare program, which will run you $99 a year, lets you make Genius Bar appointments seven days in advance. And even if you don't call ahead, you can still show up and cut in line.
Look but don't buy. Apple Stores sell things such as Canon cameras and Epson printers. Play all you want with them, but go elsewhere to make a purchase. Apple Store prices for third-party merchandise can be 10% to 20% higher than at amazon.com.
Know how they hook you. The allure of Apple Stores is their simplicity, says retail expert Paco Underhill. "They aren't showcasing 40,000 products," he says. "Walk into a CompUSA and there are 40 different laptops. Walk into Apple and there are four."
Mind the stairs. If you happen to find yourself in one of the handful of Apple Stores that are on two levels, take a good look at the glass staircase. It's so unusual that it was patented in 2002. The top name on the list of inventors? Steve Jobs.
Get it for less. Discounted products are occasionally displayed on an unmarked table in the back of the store. Be extra-nice to salespeople, and they may even tell you about bargains lurking in storage.
Talk all you want. Apple employees don't work on commission. Also, staff members are more knowledgeable than those at multibrand retailers, and about half are devoted to "post-transaction business" (service and support).
Know your gear. In many stores, what used to be the "theater" is now called the "studio." You can get hands-on (and free) instruction in everything from e-mail to video editing. Go to apple.com for a list of classes and schedules.