Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Store Review: Apple Store

Location: IFC Mall
Type of goods: electronics
Rating: *** (3 out of 5)

I woke up one September morning and did what I do the first thing every morning: I turned on my iMac. Instead of the usual white loading screen, I got every Mac user’s biggest nightmare: a "kernel panic" error message. And just like that, my computer, the repository of my entire existence, died. I promptly made an appointment to see a “Genius” that afternoon and lugged the 27-inch machine to the Apple Store at the IFC. The store only just opened in Hong Kong the day before. It was as if my iMac knew that.

The Apple Store at the IFC

After months of suspense and anticipation, the Apple Store finally arrived in Hong Kong last September. Diehard Apple fans queued up two days in advance just to get a free t-shirt given out to the first 100 customers. A second Apple store is slated to open at Hysan Place in Causeway Bay. I suppose it is a matter of time before a third one opens at Harbour City in TST, after mall management kicks out either Page One or City Super to make room for it.

The two-story Hong Kong store follows the same glass-and-oak-wood motif as other Apple Stores around the world. It is a giant fish bowl where staff known as Geniuses (repairmen) and Creatives (software tutors) roam, and where customers browse, ask questions, take pictures or just hang out. But the Hong Kong store has one unique feature: it is packed with PRC tourists who buy the latest iPads and iPhones and sell them in China at a 50% premium. Hence, the store now has the policy of one unit per photo ID.

On any given day, you will see young, barely legal boys and girls weaving through crowds at the IFC store. Apple Store HK hired 300 fresh college grads, all wearing the same oversized blue t-shirt with their employee’s ID hung around the neck. And most of them look and act like teenagers, treating the crowded store like it was an amusement park. They push each other around, laugh at their own inside jokes and stand at the corner checking Facebook. Occasionally they remember they are on the job and answer a customer’s question before running off somewhere else again. When they take their breaks at one of the two break rooms located outside the store, they race each other up and down the mall escalators, annoying both shoppers and mall management.

Rowdy kids in Apple uniform

In the end the Genius at the Apple Store couldn’t fix my iMac. He said my only option was to replace the entire motherboard for $6,000. Unconvinced, I took my computer to a hole-in-the-wall repair shop at Golden Computer Arcade (黃金電腦商場) in Sham Shui Po for a second opinion. The guy there phoned me the next day and told me that one of the RAM cards was fried but that my computer could still run at a slower speed. He removed the faulty RAM and the computer came back to live instantly. I paid him a small fee for his troubles. Now that’s what I call a genius.

The frightful kernel panic error message

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