Another working road trip. My colleague needs a piece of equipment from the Apple store, which is in a mall. The Apple store is swarming with people, but in less than 30 seconds, a salesman comes alongside to take us to what we need. In the Apple store, if you have their app on your phone, you can scan the bar code of the item you want, and it gets billed to your iTunes account. You can literally pick something up, point your phone at it, click a button, and leave.
If you don’t care for that option, the salespeople have devices that allow them to swipe your credit card anywhere in the store. As opposed to 99.9% of other retail establishments, which direct customer traffic according to their needs. Oh, you want to buy that item? Lovely. Schlep it over to this line, stand there until we’re ready to take your money, and wait for the privilege of paying us.
As we leave the mall we pass a Time Warner Cable store just thirty yards away. The store’s cage-like gate is closed. Customers are clustered outside, staring in at Time Warner employees who don’t seem to be doing much of anything. I ask one of the onlookers what the trouble is. “Power went down,” he says.
I look around. Macy’s is open. The jewelry store across the thoroughfare is open. Every store, in fact, but Time Warner is open. “The power went out in just this store?”
“No, it went out a while ago in this whole section of the mall. They just can’t get their systems running again.”
The company, in other words, that claims to sell connectivity and information access is the only one in the mall unable to restore its cash registers, its linkage with headquarters, etc.
The thing I want to know is how to help my children become Apples rather than Time Warners. How to instill in them the creativity, and drive, and other-orientation that characterizes so much of what Apple does, rather than the dullness, the satisfaction with the status quo, the just plain slovenly approach to customer satisfaction that characterizes — it seems to me, at least — an increasing swath of American businesses?
Because I think a child who emerges as an Apple can move the world, if only because so many others are content to sit and watch it slow to a halt.