Steve Jobs

My iPhone slid out of my shirt pocket a few months ago and fell straight onto concrete. I was luckier than some: the only damage was a shattered back panel. I slapped a strip of black gaffers tape over it to keep it intact. I knew that I could take it to any Apple Store and have the back replaced for just $29, but I carried it around like that anyway.

I figured it was my punishment for not taking care of my toys.

I finally went into a Store today to get it fixed.

I went to Apple.com and reserved a time for my visit. When I arrived, I was greeted at the entrance. The place was packed, even though it was the middle of a random Wednesday afternoon. People were playing with every demo unit on display.

For all of the crowding, this mall Apple Store was still a pleasant place to be. It was clean and well-lit, and the staff were all clean, kind, and patient.

I made my way to the Genius Bar at the back. I was greeted a second time by an employee whose job was simply to act as a welcomer, concierge, and facilitator. He invited me to take a seat while I waited for my appointment. I was early.

I sat in a large area reserved for one-on-one training. A dozen or more people were learning how to use their Apple hardware. Some, I reckoned, were doing things with computers that they’ve never done before.

Me, I took out my iPad. I was on the store’s open WiFi in an instant. I wrote a few emails.

Five minutes before my scheduled time, a Genius walked up to where I was sitting. The broken glass was a simple problem and he explained that they could fix it up in just ten or fifteen minutes. He tapped away at an iPhone that had been equipped as a logging system for work orders and then he walked away with my phone.

I looked around. I saw a man carrying in an iMac wrapped in a towel, the way you’d carry a sick and beloved dog into the vet.

I saw a child who couldn’t have been more than four years old playing with an iMac that had been set up at a table low enough for four-year-old children to sit at. She was playing a word game of some sort. Presently, a parent came by and handed the girl what I presumed to be the child’s own white iPad 2, fresh from servicing. I sure didn’t think that this 30-ish woman had put Dora stickers on her own iPad.

The child stopped just short of hugging the iPad like a doll, but she was clearly very pleased to have it back again. She held it and woke it up and tapped through to her favorite apps. Satisfied — and at the urging of her mother — she then tucked it under her arm in a maternal way and held her mother’s hand as they walked out.

I spied another store employee with a full-sleeve tattoo in progress. Her forearm was complete but a koi that splashed down from her elbow had only been outlined. The traditional staff uniform is a tee shirt (in the color du jour). Staffers are welcome to throw something on underneath it. She obviously felt comfortable enough in this environment to show off her tattoos.

Another Apple employee approached me, with my repaired phone. I hadn’t budged from that table since I walked in and sat down. $29 plus tax for the repair. His iPhone card scanner didn’t work for some reason but he didn’t let his annoyance show. After two swipes, he apologized sheepishly and led me to the store’s POS terminal. Zip, tap, a few pleasantries, and it was all taken care of.

Let me extract elements from that story:

1) Staff acknowledging people as human beings, and with courtesy.

2) A pleasant, beautiful space to be in, even if the store wasn’t a “landmark” property.

3) People learning things.

4) People who don’t simply own and tolerate their computers, but who feel a real emotional connection to them.

5) People who live lives that are a bit out of the mainstream, in a space where they feel comfortable being who they are.

6) Kids who see the most advanced technology in the world as just another window through which they perceive the world.

7) The worst thing that can happen in a relationship between a manufacturer and a customer — a broken product — being handled quickly, courteously, efficiently…and affordably.

Steve Jobs was correctly known as the most productively hands-on CEO in technology or maybe even any other industry. The Apple Stores were a particular obsession. If you walked in and discovered that the table of hard drives had become a table of headphones and the hard drives were now on the third shelf of the first bank of product shelves, it was probably because of something Steve decided earlier in the week.

Steve is dead. But you walk into an Apple Store and you see all the reasons why he was such a phenomenal CEO, and why so many people feel the way I do tonight.

113 thoughts on “Steve Jobs

  1. T Culligan

    Nice story Andy and a great way of showing how Steve helped to change things on so many levels and in such a way that so many of us now take for granted. To say he will be missed is an understatement.

  2. Tommy Horton

    This may be one of the best eulogies I’ve ever read. Here’s to the ultimate “different thinker”! Good bye Steve… you will be missed and never forgotten.

  3. Brandon

    Absolutely perfectly said, Andy. My 18 month old daughter is absolutely thrilled every time I pull out the iPad to play… err, I mean learn. I, and she, has at her disposal a touch based interactive computer with more learning and/or games than I could imagine. Who would of though this possible, 10 years ago… 5 years ago… 2 years ago?!? I am in awe of this man’s vision and mourn the loss of a man I never met. Think Different.

  4. Scott Hawk

    My family and I have been to an apple store 3 times this year for repairs to iPods and iPhones. My 3 visits to 2 different stores exactly mimics your experience. Twice, we got the highly valued free replacement, out of warranty. Because of Steve, Apple gets it right.

  5. Matt

    Andy, A touching tribute to Steve. Your imagery paints a picture we can all relate to. Our feelings our mutual tonight.

  6. Neal Salan

    Thank you Andy. It will take us many years to see the true impact of Steve Jobs, a truly great man in so many ways.

  7. Ashley S.

    Thanks for sharing this Andy. It is a nice perspective on the attention to detail that has brought Apple much success. I can only think of three people that have had such an impact in business and personified their company; Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. I work in IT, so I am probably biased. Today is a sad day.

  8. Bill

    I considered leaving IT at one time because the monotony of working on a PC was just wearing me down…I work on Oracle databases for a living…I switched to a Mac and got a second wind that has carried me through the years. I always considered Steve to be the reason for my second wind, and your essay epitomizes the way I feel about how Steve and Apple changed my life for the better.

  9. Richard Spector

    Andy I am not sure if that was the Natick MA store or not. Honestly it doesn’t matter because what you describe is repeated at each and every one of their 387 retails stores. People caring about people who are all inspired by a collection of logic boards and batteries which result in beautiful music, movies, artwork, novels, business plans etc. Long live Steve Jobs and man who dared to think different and didn’t care what others thought. All Steve cared about was doing it right!!!!!!

  10. Mark Gardner

    Thank you, Andy. No less than I’d expect from a writer of your tremendous caliber. Having just spent a day similar to yours in the Apple store in Hingham, I agree 100%. Each and every facet of the Apple experience has been so well thought out, and almost all of that is down to Steve Jobs. Steve will be greatly missed, but what an enduring legacy he leaves behind, eh?!

  11. Stephen

    Andy,

    Thank you for this, the Sun Times column, and for being on TWIT tonight. This is a difficult evening, and hearing your thoughts really, really helps.

  12. Scott Dobie

    As I sit here, a professional, with my iPad in my hand watching the TWIT network on my 26″ iMac; I have tears in my eyes. I have never shed a tear for a CEO or any business leader for that matter in my life and yet here I am. I could have never imagined it. I believe passion breeds passion and I celebrate Steve’s passion tonight. Thank you for your article.

  13. Darren

    Andy the Wordsmith again accurately summed up the thoughts and emotions of the community with a story. I think Steve would have loved it! Thanks Andy……

  14. Michael Kimble

    I have been in the Apple business since 1983. I have seen Macs give voice to people who could not speak, let people read and communicate for those who could barely see. I have seen the joy of someone for the first time realizing using a computer didn’t have to be “that way.” I have seen those who have been immobilized by brain injuries, confined to wheel chairs, barely able to speak, go on to get college degrees because a Mac had made it easier for them. And as an artist myself, my iPad gives me another tool with which to design and plan, another palette from which to create and paint my world.

    The spirit of Steven Jobs lives on at Apple and in all of us who use these “insanely great” products. And for every future Apple Event and product announcement there will be those of us who will hold our breath, strain our ears as we listen for that echoing voice from somewhere off stage to say “Oh, and one more thing.”

  15. Andy Abernathy

    Thank you, Andy. I have the urge to jump in my car and drive to my nearest Store – an hour away from Santa Fe – with Bob Dylan playing on my iPhone.

  16. Dave

    Nice work Andy! Upon seeing the sad news on the Apple site I immediately hopped on TWIT.TV hoping you, Leo and company would be there to help us Apple fans grieve on this sad day and I wasn’t disappointed. Thanks.

  17. Wayne

    Thank you Andy – for TWiT tonight and your posts as well. So many of didn’t and would never meet him, yet feel the loss more than we would’ve believed it told last week that we would.

    Thanks for lending us your voice…yet again.

  18. Scott

    Thanks, Andy. Your essay is simple, elegant, to the point. Oh, and one more thing: inspiring. Hmmm, sounds like an Apple product…

  19. Tom Garshol

    thanks for this beautiful article. Steve would have loved it. This article will be saved for later days. And never forgotten. Like Steve.

  20. Morgan

    I have a short tale to tell about the Apple Store going “above-and-beyond”. And it’s not the only one, actually. But here goes.

    One of my Macintoshes is an early PowerMac G5, circa 2002, which I still use to this day. A couple of years ago after the Mac’s warranty expired, I replaced the stock video card with one more able but it died just before its warranty expired leaving me with a blackened display and no way to finish my work. The manufacturer of the card was less than helpful. They insisted that I do a number of troubleshooting tasks to rule out the possibility that my Mac may have some other damaged components, before they’d consider helping me. Catch 22… many of these tasks required having a monitor, and their card was keeping that from happening. I have the relatively good fortune of living about two miles away from it, so I called the Apple Store and explained my situation. I needed to troubleshoot my computer, run the Hardware Diagnostic among other things, and quickly because my work had a deadline. I wasn’t sure the person I spoke to fully understood but he said, “Bring it down”, so I did.

    I lugged my Mac through the mall to get it to the Apple Store and within twenty minutes, they pulled out a monitor from the back and had my Mac going through all of the listed steps I needed to take. They said, “It’ll be a while, give us some time and check back”. So I did and I did. It took two hours of having my computer sitting at the Genius Bar with their monitor attached, and with a person troubleshooting my Mac, kindly going down the provided list of steps to take. When they were done I came back to claim my Mac. “Everything on the Mac checks out. Has to be the video card.” I was relieved and thanked them profusely. I couldn’t believe the level of assistance I was receiving for my computer that was some years out of warranty. However, at the end of it all, the last question floored me…

    “Can we help you take it to your car?”

    “No thanks, I’ve got it. Thank you, though!”

  21. Martyn

    I was at our monthly IOS developers meetup in Toronto when I heard the news. If it had to happen, I can’t think of anywhere I would have rather been than with a bunch of friends who are trying to change their lives thanks to a device invented by Apple.

    Thanks Steve.

  22. Ed T.

    I was reflecting on the loss of Steve who saw what others could not.. I was too young to remember what it must have been like when Walt Disney died, but I can only imagine it was similar. Steve was the visionary for our time who was able to take ideas and transform them into something magical. Much like Walt Disney, Steve pushed the envelope of his industry and took risks where others didn’t dare.. Thanks Steve..RIP

  23. Brandon Moser

    Andy,

    I’m glad you enjoyed your experience at the Apple Store today.

    I feel that from the moment that I started my training, being an Apple employee would make me “think differently.” Your story lays out what Steve wanted you to experience, and it shows.

    Tonight had a pretty somber mood during closing, something that isn’t usual. Steve meant a lot to each and everyone of us that love and use our Apple products. We are all changed due to his vision and passion, whether you’re a user, competitor, friend, or family member.

    Thank you for sharing you’re experience. We hope to see you back soon.

    Brandon

  24. Dave W.

    Andy, you’ve so eloquently told the story that so may have in an Apple store–I know that I have more than once. I often wonder to myself as I’m walking out of the Apple store, “why can’t all manufacturers and/or retailers do it like that.” Like the hardware, they simply get the retail experience so right. Steve’s dedication to excellence shines through in so many easy.

  25. sscutchen

    Andy, your story is a metaphor for what Steve taught.

    Design matters. Beauty matters.

    That’s what I learned.

    Good enough?
    Close enough for government work?
    Beat to fit, paint to match?
    Murphy got us again?
    Those are all bullshit.

    There is performance to be gained when you do a superior thing.

    There is pride that comes with that performance, and that drives one to perform again.

    Thank you Steve. For the inspiration.
    Thank you Andy, for exemplifying it.

    I DO give a damn.
    I AM following my passion.
    And I WILL remember.

  26. Cathleen McKeown

    Thank you Andy,
    I kept checking your site this afternoon waiting to hear what you would say. You did not disappoint.
    It was perfect.

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