TV-PGSeptember 13, 2001: One of Apple's retail stores lends a helping hand to travelers stranded in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, several companies announce their intent to donate some or all of their proceeds to the Red Cross and the families of the crash victims, while litigation marches ever onward-- Apple proposes a settlement in a DVD class action lawsuit that we somehow missed entirely...
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Not Just About The Sales (9/13/01)

If you're enough of a Mac fan to be tuning into a 'net-based soap opera about Apple Computer, it's not unlikely that you're familiar with the company's recent foray into the wild and woolly world of retail sales. Indeed, the odds aren't half-bad that at some point over the past several months, you've gotten up at a ridiculously early hour just to wait in line at a grand opening at one of these things, perhaps causing others some mild concern over the state of your mental health. What those people don't understand, of course, is that to a Mac enthusiast, a visit to Apple's new stores is tantamount to a trip to Disney World, only without people walking around in giant mouse and duck suits wondering just where their lives went so desperately wrong.

On the other hand, what we Mac mavens may fail to realize is that not everyone thinks that Apple opening its own retail stores is a good idea. Really, it's true! While people like us rejoice over finally seeing Macs displayed and sold in a manner befitting their elegance and grace, some naysayers point to the inherent risk in blowing hundreds of millions of dollars to enter the retail space at a time when consumer confidence and buying patterns are at a frightening low.

We hear you: "But don't they understand? At these stores, the Macs are actually on display, and the shopping experience is refreshingly dissimilar from being poked in the eye!" We know, we know... yet somehow these simple facts don't seem to sway the people questioning Apple's retail plans. Nevertheless, if there was ever any doubt in our minds that Apple-owned and -operated retail stores was a brilliant idea whose time has come (there wasn't), faithful viewer Joseph Piazza points out still another reason to admire Apple's headlong plunge into MallWorld, and it's got nothing to do with the almighty bottom line.

According to a Mr. Dave Swanson who wrote in to MacInTouch, at least one Apple store made a difference in the lives of dozens of travelers stranded due to the FAA-mandated flight cancellations. See, the Mall of America in Minnesota is very close to the Minneapolis airport, and yesterday the Apple store there got a lot of traffic-- not from actual customers, but from would-be air travelers stopping in for Internet access. Despite the fact that none of these travelers was particularly likely to buy an iMac or two while waiting to catch a flight back to Los Angeles, reportedly the Apple store staff spent the day "helping travelers send email to family, check on flight information, rent cars, etc."

That's not exactly on par with digging for survivors in the rubble, of course, but the way we see it, any act of positivity and helping a fellow human being in this crisis counts as heroism, and our hats are off to the Apple staff at the Mall of America Apple store, as well as to Apple for hiring them. If you have to take the crass commercial interpretation of this turn of events, then sure, it's not unlikely that some of those stranded travelers will remember the kindness they experienced at the Apple store the next time they're in the market for a personal computer. Most of us, however, will prefer to recall this as a simple instance of assistance offered unselfishly in a time of need. Help different.

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Buy Something, Help Others (9/13/01)

Speaking of spontaneous outpourings of help, the one thing that kept many of us from completely losing our faith in humanity during this ordeal was seeing the throngs of people who lined up, unasked, to give blood in the streets of Manhattan. That's probably an image that will endure as an example of humanity at its best. And while companies offering to donate half their proceeds from all sales for the next week doesn't have quite the same sort of iconic power, their hearts are in the right place-- so we'd be remiss not to point out their contributions.

There are a slew of them, actually, and MacNN has conveniently listed many of them in one handy place. For example, Elite Computers (the folks who just started reopening ComputerWare stores) has announced that for every Mac it sells through the end of the month, it'll kick $25 to charities helping those suffering after Tuesday's attack. Thursby, the company that makes DAVE (the Windows network connectivity software for Macs), is donating all sales from its online store to the Red Cross from now until the end of next week. Other companies donating some or all of their proceeds for a time include Koingo Software, PagePlanet Software, RadGad, and Intelli Innovations.

It's easy to be cynical (perhaps these days more so than ever) and look at this sort of thing as a sales pitch or a shrewd business move, but heck, we're more cynical than most, and even we choose to see it as a group of concerned businesses lending a helping hand. Again, it's not the stuff of legend, but these are real companies making real contributions to help put things right again, and we thank them for it. For those of you looking to make a donation without actually buying anything, don't forget that you can give money to the Red Cross with just a few clicks of the mouse via PayPal or Amazon. Every little bit helps.

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Great, So It's Settled, Then (9/13/01)

What better proof that life goes on than to find that, even in the midst of a tragedy of epic proportions, the surreal and the absurd still exist? Faithful viewer Dave Flanagan pointed out that Apple has apparently proposed a settlement for its DVD class action lawsuit. "What DVD class action lawsuit," you ask? Good question. Somehow we totally missed this one ourselves, and we pride ourselves on keeping so abreast of Apple-related minutiae that we even know what Steve Jobs had for breakfast last Thursday. (The man's really big on toaster waffles and melon. Who knew?)

As far as we can make out, at some point shortly after the first iMac DVs and Power Mac G4s first surfaced, somebody decided that the problematic DVD playback quality (which we seem to recall consisted of occasional stutters, occasional freezes, and a lack of sound synchronization) wasn't merely annoying, but actually constituted such a heinous product flaw that it warranted taking Apple to court. Now, granted, if a company sells a product and that product doesn't work as advertised, said company obviously has a responsibility to fix the problem-- but we're having a tough time getting into the head of anyone who got upset enough to file a lawsuit because he couldn't watch Booty Call on an iMac DV without the drifting sound synchronization distracting him from the subtle nuances of the film's dialogue. Better still, he filed a class action lawsuit, so all those similarly Booty Call nuance-deprived iMac owners across the nation could share in the delivery of justice.

Anyway, presumably this suit was filed before Apple fixed the problem via several firmware and system software updates, which eventually had DVD playback working pretty much as it should. So the proposed settlement is that affected customers may request to have those firmware and system software updates shipped to them on a CD-ROM; of course, most of them who actually noticed the problem probably already downloaded and applied those updates over a year ago, but hey, free drink coaster. Affected customers also get 90 days of free technical support regarding installing those software updates, as well as (and here's the payoff, people) fabulous discounts on certain Apple products. Well, okay, some of those discounts are more fabulous than others; scoring a Pro Mouse for $44 or a download copy of iMovie 2 for $19 would be pretty sweet, but anyone who chooses the 64 MB of RAM for $80 really needs to stop watching those DVDs long enough to pick up a current RAM price list from someone other than Apple.

So there it is; if you bought an iMac DV or DV Special Edition (or a Power Mac G4 running Mac OS 9.0.3 or earlier and DVD Player 2.1 or earlier) before May of last year, go exercise those legal rights. But whatever you decide to do, get your DVD playback working properly-- rumors are flying of a secret Booty Call director's cut disc shipping any week now, complete with the deleted scene of Jamie Foxx's haunting performance of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" and the fabled lost ending in which Darth Vader turns out to be Luke's father. Don't miss it!

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