Baffled by the Apple Store

Bad news? What bad news? There's cool stuff to buy!

“Most printers are junk,” the upbeat and unflinching saleswoman at the brilliantly lit and shiny Apple Store on Walnut Street says when I ask about buying one of the printers they carry to go with the MacBook Pro I’ve just purchased.

Wait, what?


Is this a new brand of candor, or sales by reverse psychology? [SIGNUP]

I’m confused.

There’s so much to be confused about inside the Apple Store. You immediately feel you’re living inside the holiday seasons of Mad Men past, back when people tumbled out of office buildings with mistletoe and generous holiday bonuses burning holes in their pockets, all aglow from just having had a few pops in the boss’s office.

Let’s go buy something!

Look around. There are people everywhere—families of four, business types, hipsters, six-foot-eight hoopsters—and they’re all fiddling with really cool Apple stuff: iMacs, iPods, iPads, iPhones!

Forget all the bad news outside the door, like the recent cessation of benefits for the long-term unemployed that’s causing crushing heartache for people residing mere blocks from here in all directions. Please, is it really necessary to bring all that up?

Forget all that, come in from the cold and experience the prosperity of the Apple Store instead!

As for printers, and we were talking about printers, it should be noted that the Apple Store saleswoman is talking specifically about the printers she has in stock, which are few, and cheap.

“After a few months,” she says of the crummy printers, “you’ll need to look for something better.”

As she tells me this, I notice the Beatles playing on steady rotation on the store’s sound system. It might just be because their whole musical catalogue was just released on iTunes.

Overtly commercial, sure, but the Beatles songs do nicely enhance the warm trippy feeling of consumption that is so much a part of the Apple Store experience.

So many things to see and wonder about!

Like that iPad over there, be so cool to have one. Maybe I should get one.

But is that really a good idea? Or do I really want a Kindle, so that all I can do is read books?

But if I get the iPad maybe I could learn things and someday become an editor of an iPad magazine!

But back to the issue at hand—whether to buy the cheap printer—why would anyone consider purchasing a crummy product?

“You’ll get a hundred dollar rebate if you buy the printer,” says the Apple Store saleswoman. “So you’re pretty much getting it for free.”


No one says no to free.

I didn’t.

Still, questions remain.

Was the saleswoman’s candor an Apple-approved sales strategy, a carefully crafted changeup from the usual retail tenet to close hard and sell up?

Or was it a simple case of an honest saleswoman simply shooting straight?

Is life inside the Apple Store a case of nothing is quite what it seems, or a case of everything is exactly as it seems?

The Apple Store ethos is an enigma, a puzzle you can’t sort out, and that’s not going to change anytime soon, whether you go for that iPad this season or not.

Tim Whitaker (, a writer and editor, is the executive director of Mighty Writers, a nonprofit program that inspires city kids to write.