Fact Controlled
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Busman's Holiday
My Kid Got Married Today
by Steve Wood
October 2, 1999



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I already knew I was getting a bit long in the tooth when I started having students whose parents I'd had in school. But I avoided feeling old because all of Annie and my kids had delayed marriage for various reasons. But now I have to face facts. I've got a daughter-in-law and I'm going to be a grandfather sometime next spring. Ooh! Old! Old! OLD!

Michele & ScottThis really isn't a geriatric pity party, but a column about Sears, Macs, and Apple. When the first one of your kids gets married (Annie and I have 6 between us--yours, mine, but no ours.), you really want to give them something nice as a wedding present, but are also cognizant of setting a precedent you may or may not be able to follow in the future.

Having grown up in a working class neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana, I was used to kids getting a nice check as a wedding present from their parents that would buy them a new couch or chair. Annie and I lucked into an incredible rural home when we got married that sits in a rather affluent area. I guess we're the "poor folks down the road." Parents around here often give a brand new car for sixteenth birthdays and a house or down payment as a wedding gift!

One week before the wedding, I found myself without a real idea for what to give my eldest son and his bride-to-be as a wedding present...except for one, impossible idea. I finally gave voice to the idea to Anne, who shocked me by saying, "Let's talk about that tonight." Later that day, I called my ex and floated the idea to see if she and her husband might be duplicating it. They weren't and were thinking more in terms of a video cam or a couch-sized check.

So Annie and I sat down and talked and decided we could make the payments. Scott and Michele were going to get an iMac as a wedding present. Their only computer to date had been an upgraded Tandy that was down as much as it ran. Scott had some positive experience with iMacs from when he was at sea and sending and receiving emails at various cyber cafes when in port. I saw a real opportunity to snatch he and his lovely bride from the clutches of the evil WinTel world.

Blueberry iMacI began to despair when I tried to buy a blueberry iMac. The only Apple reseller in Terre Haute, Indiana, is a Sears store. This store seems to specialize in never having what is advertised. While they had a great deal on a bundle that included an Epson 740i printer, a UMAX 1220U scanner, and a USB Zip drive, they had NO iMacs in stock! After having read of salespersons trying to steer folks away from iMacs, I really felt sorry for the Sears computer clerk, as he'd done as good a job as possible describing the machine, considering he had none to sell. While he offered to order one, I originally passed on that idea, intending to drive to Indianapolis during the Lime iMacweek and get one. When I got home, Annie suggested I call Ryan and let him order the iMac bundle. I did and he called back within ten minutes saying he could get any color but blueberry. So, Scott and Michele would have to settle for Lime, which rumor has it, is considerably faster than the other flavors of iMacs. :-)

While Scott and Michele are thrilled with their iMac, Apple continues to fumble and stumble in the area of storefront retail sales. A good beginning was made with the CompUSA store-within-a-store agreement. The BestBuy debacle may be reversed with the release of the new Kihei model iMacs. Sears has national presence, but apparently isn't stocking the iMac at all of its stores. So many potential buyers simply won't consider the iMac because it just isn't there on the shelves to see.

I've written several columns over the past two years concerning the absence of retail outlets for Apple in many areas. While the Apple Store or any number of catalog resellers are just a toll-free phone call away, or just a few clicks of the browser away, Apple still has neither aggressively solved its lack of retail presence, nor effectively dealt with the price chasm between afordable entry level PC's and overpriced iMacs. Many, many computer buyers simply are not going to place a phone, mail, or web order without first having handled (fondled) a floor sample. Many won't even think of Apple or an iMac if there isn't one wherever they shop. I suspect many impulse shoppers aren't going to wait three or four days for an iMac on order when their local retailer has scads of Compaq's in stock. And many folks who live "out in the sticks" certainly aren't going to drive an extra 50-100 miles to pay nearly double for an iMac entry level computer over its WinTel counterpart that is available to them much closer to home in any number of stores.

Apple could almost certainly correct this situation if they applied the same amount of marketing muscle to this situation as they have legal effort in bullying various loyal Mac web sites. But...I'll leave that discussion for Monday's column. For some reason, Apple seems more intent on secrecy than they are in selling a reasonably priced, widely available product. That doesn't sound much like a recipe for long term success.

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©1999 Steven L. Wood

reposted to the new MATH DITTOS 2 site 6/10/2000