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.