POSTS FOR 2004

My Apple Store Experience

Tech Life1301 words7 minutes to read

After buying my PowerBook G4 last month, I’ve been wanting to add another 512 MB stick of RAM to it to bring the total up to 1 GB. I compared Apple’s prices to other manufacturer’s and found that the best deal was from Crucial.com. I’ve ordered memory from Crucial several times and have always found their prices, shipping speed, and customer service to be simply phenominal. I give them my business whenever they can.

After two days, my memory chip came in and I went to install it. I opened up my PowerBook manual, and read that I’d need a Philips screwdriver, size double-zero. Essentially, the smallest screwdriver ever created in the history of the world. Reading through the page in the manual, I came across the following warning:

Warning: Apple recommends having a specialized Apple technician install new memory into your PowerBook G4 laptop computer.

…or something to that effect. Digging through my toolbox, I pulled out the smallest screwdriver I had. It was still too big. My internet wasn’t working at that particular moment, so I couldn’t go online to look up screwdrivers of that size.

I opened up the phone book and started looking up computer places that might have screwdrivers that small for laptops. Of the big computer stores, CompUSA doesn’t answer their phones and the people at Fry’s Electronics are dumber than a box of bricks. I called a few of the smaller local stores to no avail.

I thought about calling up hardware stores that specialize in screwdrivers. Home Depot couldn’t figure out what I was talking about, but Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) did. Luckily they were right around the corner from me, so I took the minute-and-a-half trek over there to see what they had. After about 20 minutes of digging, I found a Philips screwdriver, size double-zero. I bought it, took it home, and sat down again with my laptop. Still too big.

I called up the Apple Store at Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, CA. They said that they could install the memory for a $30 fee, and that they were open until 9:30pm. Reluctantly, I got into my car and drove the 25+ minutes to the mall, parked, and walked into the Apple Store which was clear across the mall from where I’d parked.

Walking up to the “Genius Bar”, I saw one person in line ahead of me, so I sat down in a chair and waited. After the guy ahead was finished, he left, and I walked up to the bar. “I’m sorry sir,” the Genius told me, “but have you checked in?”

“Checked in?” I replied.

“Yes. You can go to any of the computers along the wall, double-click the Genius Bar icon, and fill in your information.”

“Okay,” I said. I walked over to a computer by the wall, double-clicked the Genius Bar icon, and filled out the webpage form. The webpage told me that the next available appointment was at 8:45pm. This was at 8:31pm. I walked back over to the Genius Bar, and the Genius told me it would be a few minutes. Nobody was in line, but apparently since my “appointment” was at 8:45, then by golly I was going to wait until 8:45. At 8:45, the Genius asked what he could do for me. I told him that the information in the PowerBook manual was incorrect. The double-zero screwdriver was too small. And although I’m perfectly capable of installing my own RAM chip, I can’t find the appropriate tools anywhere, so I’m stuck coughing up $30 to have them do it. He looked at my PowerBook, then at my Crucial.com RAM box, then at me. “I’m sorry sir, but we can’t install that RAM.”

“Why not?!” I asked, clearly fuming from irritation.

“We can only install memory that you buy here, and we can’t allow anyone to use our tools. That’s our policy.”

“Wait a sec,” I began. “I’ve been using Macs for 12 years. I’ve spent much of the last 12 years evangelizing for Apple. I’ve successfully convinced 22 people to buy Mac over PC in the last, oh, 7 years. At around $2000 per computer, we’re looking at $44,000 that I have put into Apple’s hand… not including people that might have bought Apple later on that I don’t know about. In the last four months, I have personally given Apple $3400 of my hard-earned cash — not credit — cash that I spent several months saving up, I’m trying to pay you money for a task that I am perfectly capable of doing myself, and you won’t let me borrow a microscopic screwdriver for five freaking minutes because I decided to pay $120 for a RAM chip that costs $400 from the Apple Store — because of some stupid policy?!”

“Yessir. That’s right.”

Even as a Christian, I found it difficult to not reach across the Genius Bar and rip his larynx out of his throat while swearing like a sailor who just smashed his finger with a hammer.

“Then do you know of anyone, anyone, who has a screwdriver that is the right size?”

“Well, you’ll want to check out some of the jewelry stores here in the mall. They should have something of that size.”

For the next 45 minutes, I walked from jewelry store to jewelry store, asking the rich women at the counter for a screwdriver and getting nothing but strange looks or blank stares. Apparently, jewelers only have flathead screwdrivers, and not Philips.

Finally, I came across a Lens Crafters eyeglass store. I went through the process of explaining how small the mythical screwdriver is that I need, and was wondering of they either sold them or would let me borrow one for five minutes. Nope, and nope. However, one of the technicians just happened to walk by and over hear me talking to the clerk at the counter. “Will this help?” he asked.

I sat down with it, and in 5 minutes I was looking at the “About this Mac” dialog that listed 1 GB DDR SDRAM. “Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!” I said. He said he was glad to help. I asked him where I could find a screwdriver like that. He suggested hobby shops and a company called Sadler whio apparently makes them. I haven’t checked out the website yet, but hopefully they sell them there.

I went back into the Genius Bar an hour after I’d left, walked right up to the Genius and told him where to direct people in the future. He nodded and said okay, but I doubt he’ll tell anyone about it. As I walked out, and older woman told me that she thought it was very nice of me to have come back to tell them what I did about the Lens Crafters store. I told her that it was just because I didn’t want anyone to ever have to go through the same kind of frustration that I had that evening.

I talked to a friend of mine a couple of days the next day, and he said that he had a horrible experience at that same Apple Store while trying to purchase a new iMac. He ended up leaving and going to the Apple Store in Palo Alto, and had a significantly better experience. He thinks it’s because Steve Jobs is said to visit that store frequently… which I’d heard before too. I just didn’t want to drive that far.

If you happened to be inside Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, CA on Friday evening (July 2nd) and saw a guy frantically walking around the mall with a 17” PowerBook in-hand, that was me. If you ever need to visit an Apple Store for any reason, stay away from the one at Valley Fair.

Ryan Parman

Ryan Parman is an experienced software engineer, open source evangelist, and passionate user advocate currently living in Seattle. He is the creator of and , and worked on DevOps and Security at . He is now bringing learning into the digital age as an Engineering Lead and Site Reliability Engineer at . Ryan's aptly-named blog, , is where he writes about ideas longer than .