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December 12, 2006

What do the geniuses behind the Apple store counter really think of you?


Chris Williams (above) takes you behind the scenes, where they talk about idiots like me and don't know whether to laugh or cry.

He interviewed an anonymous genius for a confessional piece which appeared on popsyndicate.com last Friday, December 8, 2006, and follows here.

    Confessions of a Mac Genius

    Busted machines, broken iPods, and crabby customers are just part of the job. Making it look easy is the other part.

    Any service industry/retail position is bound to have its share of abusive customers. For Mac Genii, the tech support arm of every Apple Store, their customer relationship always starts off on the wrong foot. One part customer service rep, one part tech support, and another part baby sitter, the folks behind the "Genius Bar" help customers with their computer or iPod, be it software of hardware. Hopefully, whatever the issue may be, MG's can resolve it or at least offer a repair solution. But again, the process of technical triage begins with unhappy customers and bad news.

    Most people aren't aware of how integral technology is in their lives until an issue arises. Photos, music, email all play a role in how we communicate and keep our memories. How would anyone feel if all those memories became interrupted by a crashed hard drive? Nobody (and I mean nobody) makes an appointment just to wait thirty minutes during their lunch break at a crowded Apple Store and say, "Hi, I just wanted to let you know that my computer is running great! I haven't lost any data, my iMac never freezes up or overheats, Apple is not responsible for any problems that may occur, everything runs perfectly." Although, any customer who says that will most likely be hugged by a crying Mac Genius.

    It's not everyday an MG gets to talk about how they really feel to the public. I had an email conversation with one such Mac Genius about his job and his experiences. When I asked him about doing the interview, he thought is was a great idea, but the interview had to be anonymous to the point of not even his store or city could be revealed.

    From our conversation, I got the sense that there seems to be a kind of mythology surrounding MG's. Customers needing help with their Apple products have the unreal expectation that MG's can fix anything... for free. Customers seem to expect MG's to be knowledgeable in everything. Mac Genius is more of a marketing term than actual Mensa status. Some former Mac Genii have websites dedicated to debunking unrealistic expectations and perceived attitudes surrounding this largely underpaid job.

    The access to information afforded to MG's can be tricky. Working within a layer of inside knowledge (at a company whose culture of secrecy is epic) can put an MG in an awkward position. On one hand, it's the job of an MG to help the customer and make them happy, on the other, they still have to be the face of Apple which means sometimes pleading ignorance about a known issue to a customer. For instance, a while back Apple settled on a class-action lawsuit over some iPods of a specific model that used defective batteries. What are the odds that MG's noticed a trend of poor battery performance? Chances are, they did but couldn't say anything about it.

    But the job isn't entirely thankless. Quickly fixing a computer for a customer can make their day and that can be its own reward. Being appreciated goes a long way as it turns out.

    My Interview With A Mac Genius

    Q. What should people realistically expect when they need to see a Mac Genius?
    A. They should expect a long wait. Just because your appointment is scheduled for 5:00 doesn't mean you can stroll right up to the Genius Bar and get help. Name one friggin' place that will see you exactly at your scheduled appointment time without any wait. Now you may ask yourself why you would have to wait if your appointment is at 5:00 and that's when you showed up; because we're dealing with other people that are just as arrogant as you!

    Sarcasm. Yeah, they should expect sarcasm. But in two different forms: There's the nice sarcasm, where we like you, think you're a cool customer, and we're just trying to lighten the mood of a potential bad situation (meaning something like a major hardware failure). And there's the other sarcasm, the one where you've proven yourself to be a complete prick, self-centered, and completely clueless. This is a more condescending sarcasm that all Mac Geniuses are thoroughly trained in, we are able to deliver this and then be thanked for it by the customer.

    Q. What would be your advice to them?
    A. Get a clue. Make your Genius Bar appointment in advance so that you're at least guaranteed a seat, even if it is an hour past your appointment time. Don't freak out and act like an entitled prick because you came into a busy store with no appointment and there're no available openings left two hours before closing. We don't care. We have to spend 8 hours a day in there, you may only have to spend a few minutes. The Genius Bar at the Apple Store is no place to be in a hurry, be prepared to spend several hours there.

    Another piece of advice, don't treat us like shit. That's like treating your waiter at a restaurant like shit, you'll end up with spit (or worse) in your food. Mac Geniuses have complete power to determine how quickly and efficiently your problem is taken care of, or not. Come in here acting like an idiot and you can guarantee we'll stick hard to our policies and cut you no slack.

    I also wouldn't recommend coming to the bar and stating you don't know anything about computers but then proceed to tell us how to do our jobs. If you're so friggin' smart, stay home and fix it yourself.

    Oh, and don't come in here bragging about how long you've been using Macs, or that you're a Mac tech at your company, or anything like that. It doesn't impress us and it makes you look stupid when you don't know how to do something simple, like reset your PRAM. We're only going to make fun of you, behind your back.

    Q. When you say sarcasm, give me an example? Is there a line you and your team find yourselves overusing?
    A. I wouldn't say we overuse any one particular line, it's more like situation comedy than anything else. I'll give you a couple of examples, let's start first with the good kind of sarcasm, the kind where we're trying to lighten the mood of a bad situation. The one that immediately leaps to mind is a situation where a customer's HD is failing and there's a high likelihood they will lose all their data. I would say something like "Well, at least you can start over with a clean slate. How many people get that kind of opportunity in their lives?" Naturally, it is purely a case by case basis as there have literally been times we've had to break out a box of Kleenex at the bar.

    The more sinister example is when the customer is a total prick and thinks they're entitled to something more than any other customer, something completely outside what Apple would do for anyone. We'll take an example of a customer who has cracked their display on their portable computer. As we all know, a display can't just crack on its own, it requires a force of some sort, and there's always a point of impact that can be easily identified. As usual, the customer claims they did nothing and that it just happened on its own. I might say something like "Oh yeah, it's a common thing for LCD screens to just break themselves. Sort of like a form of suicide, like it's unhappy with its life."

    There's also one of the most common forms of sarcasm used pretty much at Genius Bars worldwide. Every single day it's a guarantee you will have at least one (more than likely multiple) customer(s) that has a problem and says: "Have you ever seen this before?" Seriously. We work in a service industry, I see nothing but problems all day, you're not unique. My response is usually something like this: "No, no! I've never seen this before. Ever. This is highly unusual."

    Another form of sarcasm I like to use is a little more mean spirited as I use it on people who aren't very computer literate and are getting on my nerves by asking asinine questions. And it's usually questions that have already been answered within the time they've been there. I simply start using the most technical jargon I can think of, a kind of technical double-talk. After a few lines of that the novice customer is usually mind blown and completely overwhelmed so that they have to leave.

    Q. OK. So Mac Genii are people too. I take it then that the holiday season must be really hectic for you. Just to balance it out, what is your worst customer experience?
    A. Where do I begin? There was the lawyer who's daughter cracked her display, so we wouldn't cover it under warranty. He started yelling and causing a scene and boasting that he's a lawyer and he knows warranties and he's going to sue us if we don't cover it. Which reminds me of a piece of advice I didn't mention earlier. If you're a customer and you really want help, don't threaten legal action, or any other kind of action. The conversation is over immediately at the first threat. That shit isn't taken lightly.

    There's also the customer who threw a fit because her HD died in her 5-year-old PowerBook and couldn't understand why it would die and why we wouldn't cover the repair. She actually demanded to speak to a manager and she bitched about how she has owned Macs for more than 10 years and never had a problem and that she shouldn't be having one now. Naturally, we didn't cover her repair.

    There's so many more. I could go on forever. I've heard of stories like Geniuses getting iPods thrown at them, I've heard of customers spitting on floors, I've seen customer stand up on the bar stools and yell at Geniuses, I've quite literally seen or heard everything.

    Q. And your best?
    A. Same here, where do I begin? I have had many great customer experiences, I've made several really good friends through working at the Genius Bar. And it's the really good customers that make this job worthwhile. The good ones can completely make up for all the bad ones you have to deal with. And there's no shining example, the best customers are simply the ones who have good attitudes, listen to what you're saying, and treat you like a human being. You may not realize this, but there are quite a number of people out there who treat retail employees (and not just Mac Geniuses, and not just Apple Store employees either — all retail) like we're juveniles or second-rate citizens. A lot of people condescend to us because we haven't got a 9-to-5 job, we get paid a low wage, and usually work holidays. So it's really nice when people treat us like humans.

    Q. If someone has to set up an appointment to see you, obviously there is something wrong. What should people do to their computers to prevent that from happening? Like, what are the some of the mistakes people make with their computers?
    A. Well, not all people make appointments because there's something wrong. Some people think that the Genius Bar is there for training, and that's not the case. We are there for technical support, we troubleshoot problems that you are experiencing. Some people have set up appointments to buy things, or to learn how to use iPhoto, or help installing an application. We don't do these things. Many stores have a Creative Bar, or Studio, that is there to help you learn how to use your computer and the stuff on it, but the Genius Bar is for people having problems.

    If you're having a hardware failure on your computer, there's nothing you can really do to prevent that. If the HD is dying, then the HD is dying. That's all there is to it. But we see a lot of software problems at the bar too. The best thing you can do to prevent software problems is to make sure you're installing applications from a trusted source, like the original CD. If you're installing a driver for some peripheral, make sure the driver is up to date and compatible with the OS you're running. 99% of all software problems are due to people installing random crap, illegal software, out of date, or incompatible software on their computers.

    A common misconception is "Macs don't break." Well, that's just rubbish. Although Macs are reliable, and certainly more reliable than their PC counterparts, they are still a manufactured electronic device running software. That means there is a potential for having problems. However, I always hear "I thought Macs weren't supposed to break" from so many customers. STOP IT! Don't be an idiot. Just because Macs are known for reliability doesn't mean you can just start loading them up with a bunch of crap that you used to run on your machine 10 years ago. Fuck, get over it, get a clue. That's like a Christian thinking God won't let anything bad happen to him so he jumps off a building to prove it. Then he dies. God may protect you, but he's not going to change the laws of nature for you — especially when you're acting like an idiot.

    Q. And which Mac do the MG's own?
    A. Haha. MG's own everything conceivable. I know MG's who have XServes, iMac's, G5's, Mac Pros, Macbooks, Classics, Lisa, you name it. I even know MG's who don't even own a Mac at all. Weird. There's MG's with just 1 Mac, or maybe even 1 Mac and 1 PC, and there's MG's that have 5, 6, 7, or even more computers. In general though, all the MG's always want the latest and newest product, and we're constantly blown away at the new stuff that comes out, but just because we work here doesn't mean we can always afford to buy it.

    It's time for the flash round! Where I ask a question and you give me a one-line response.

    Worst broken computer: One we received back from our depot; it was a PowerBook damaged in shipping, literally folded in half at a 90 degree angle.

    Best MG comeback line: Customer: You don't look like you're interested in helping me.
    MG: Well, ma'am, you did begin our conversation by stating none of us know what we're doing here.

    Most memorable celebrity: Cher

    Number of iPhone questions you've gotten: Too many to count.

    Procare or Don't care, this round is where if you are for it, you ProCare it. If you don't like, you Don't Care it.

    iPod Shuffle: Procare or Don't care: Don't Care

    External Hard Drives: Procare or Don't care: ProCare

    Babies in an Apple Store: Procare or Don't care: Don't Care

    World of Warcraft players: Procare or Don't care: Don't Care


That was refreshing!

December 12, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: Thomas Pynchon into... Thomas Pynchon?


We know the younger Pynchon from his 1955 high school graduation photo, one of the last known pictures ever taken of him.

New York forensic artist Stephen Mancusi was asked recently by Entertainment Weekly to project that photo into what the famously reclusive writer might look like today, at 69.

The result appears above.

Pynchon's long-awaited new novel, "Against The Day," has just appeared.

December 12, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hussein Chalayan — Extreme Clothing


He "pushes clothes to the point where they become sculpture, furniture or even architecture," wrote Marcus Fairs in an interview which appeared in icon magazine.


"It was his Living Room Collection in spring 2000 that sealed his reputation. A range of tables and chairs transformed into clothing: slipcovers became dresses, chairs were folded into an attaché case and a round table became a skirt. The models serenely picked up the furniture, put it on and walked off."


More on this sui generis designer, already a legend at 36, here.

December 12, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

What's up in Turkey?


My crack research team, poring over the statistics back in the bookofjoe skunk works, just now buzzed me on the intercom with the news that at this very moment 1.57% of my visitors are Turkish (above, purple).

Whazzup wit dat?

Any Turkish joehead who cares to fill me in will become famous instanter once I "start spreading the news...."


Since there's not a whole lot going on around here — not that that's anything out of the ordinary, alas — I had the team explore a bit more deeply.

They came up with this:


As any fool can plainly see (I mean, I speak for myself but come on...) a Turkish link is #6 on my current hit parade of referring sites.

Clicking on it takes you here, to my posts of February 10, 2005.

But beyond that, I'm flummoxed.



December 12, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flurry Fury — 'Just in time for the holidays... the most addicting web game ever!'


So wrote Rob Kamphausen in an email enclosing a link to the latest, greatest production to come out of his skunk works at 4kids.tv.

With friends like Rob, who needs a job?

Because if you start playing all his cool games you won't have one for very long.


You will observe (top) that I was able to collect one (1) flurry before I went to court for a cease-and-desist order so I could stop playing.

But as they say, even a blind (and anosmic) pig finds an acorn every now and then.

December 12, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

CrimeScene.com — 'We sell forensic detective supplies to the public'



100 feet of "Crime Scene Do Not Cross" tape (above) is $10.

December 12, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Say what?

That's exactly what I said when I first espied the word "pertainyms" while wandering around the web.

What the heck is a pertainym?

I mean, it's a cool word and I can sort of figure it out but I can't be certain on my own.

So I had the crack research team drop everything to investigate — I get like that sometimes when a new word drops in.

Anyhow, it turns out that the website I stumbled across was the WordNet 1.7 Vocabulary Helper.

Plenty more there where pertainym — which, by the way, means "meaning related to or pertaining to" — comes from.

Like "hypernym" — there's one to conjure with.

December 12, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wind-Up Walking Robot Pencil Sharpener


From the website:

A pair of wind-up walking robots that also sharpen pencils!

Each comes with key.


Wind them up with key or by sharpening a pencil.

Plastic construction, each standing 4" tall.


Heads open to empty shavings.

One red Robby the Robot and one black Blockhead Robot.


Two for $24.

December 12, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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