The last Mac just left town. We have become a PC desert by default. There is now no place in Topeka to try, buy or even browse for a Mac. Where will I send friends and family to whet their interest? Where will I counsel perfect strangers on the joy of Mac ownership? Where will I spend my weekends?
True, the Mac was not always well served in its various locations about town. Its corners were dusty and rapidly shrinking. Its salespeople were often confused or disinterested. Sometimes downright hostile. But, dust bunnies notwithstanding, there it was. A Mac you could touch.. Buyers had a choice.
Sears and Wards may not seem like the best place to find a Mac (or a PC for that matter), but in stores such as these plenty of satisfied customers were introduced to their first Performas. If all went well, and with a Mac it usually did, the Performa’s guarantee of lifetime support, plus a few good friends, soon turned these first time buyers into real members of the Mac family.
Oh, those halcyon days when the Performa first appeared on the scene. It was soon after Topeka, one of the last cities in the nation to build a giant, cookie cutter mall, joined the modern age. All at once you could hear local stores imploding all over the area as everyone rushed to stake a claim in or near the sprawling new mall. It wasn’t long until almost every store in town was crowded into a narrow corridor at the far edge of the city. Topeka now lists heavily toward the west. If we were a ship, we would sink.
Whether or not this was good for the city, it made for great Mac watching. Within just a few blocks, we could cruise from Best Buy to Office Max, from Sears to Montgomery Ward. Eventually Office Depot and Circuit City joined the throng, bringing their Macs along with them.
My weekends were spent searching out Macintosh specials, checking up on the latest features and evangelizing the Mac, wherever we might be. Best Buy was usually my best bet. But, suddenly, I find it is a hundred miles or so to the nearest Mac. Hardly ideal for casual cruising.
Sadly, the Mac is no longer the computer for the rest of us. Apple seems to have given CompUSA pretty much exclusive rights to sell its products on a retail level. Anyone wanting a hands-on experience had better live close to one of the 148 locations they serve. ( Sounds like a lot? Divide that by 50 states, heavily weighted toward the coasts.)
You can check out CompUSA on their Web site at http://www.compusa.com and take a look at their map. Kinda scary, isn’t it. Note the states with a lone Mac oasis stuck smack in their middles or lurking about their borders. Note those states with no stores at all. Note that huge empty spot stretching from Montana through the Dakotas to Nebraska. One hundred forty eight locations they tell us. Yeah, but most are crowded along the coasts as thick as ticks on a stray dog’s back. Not much Mac left over for the rest of us.
The bulk of the US is now a vast Mac wasteland dotted here and there with a few Mac ‘store within a store’ oases. We, the great unwashed of Mid-America, in our small towns and negligible cities, find we are no longer a ‘target population’. We have been abandoned to PCdom while Apple rediscovers its core. And all this time we thought ‘We The People’ were the core.
Consider the plight of the Mac faithful undergoing a severe and sudden drought due to a scarcity of CompUSAs in places like Hawaii, Alaska and the Northern Plain states. Maybe we should consider bundling our slightly used Macs into Care packages for these needy folks. Until then, here is a little practical advice to those looking for their nearest Mac dealer.
Hello Hawaii: Grab some goggles and a good pair of fins. You are going to need them. It’s a marathon swim to the mainland and your local CompUSA. I had always heard that Hawaii was an American paradise. But marooned on a Mac-less isle is not my idea of Heaven. Maybe next year.
Hi ya, Alaska: I’m afraid I have only one word for you now. Mush! Looks like you will need a strong sled, a sturdy team and an iron will to center in on that Mac oasis deep in the heart of snow country. Don’t forget a second team to help you haul it home.
Hi Ho Silver, awaaaay: And away. And away. From Montana to Wyoming to Nebraska to the Dakotas you can travel a thousand miles and never meet a Mac. So break out your boots and saddle up that mule. You’re going to be chasing tumbleweeds for a looong time, Pardner.
Say, let’s not forget Hillary and Bill: Sorry guys, but if you are looking for a Mac down home in Little Rock, you better gas up the limo and pick out your state. CompUSA has yet to set up camp in the presidential backwaters of Arkansas.
Hey there, Steve! Ahoy there Apple! All you Coastal Chauvinists take heed. We may seem thinly spread across the country, but taken all together, we’re a thriving bunch. We’ve got your modern indoor conveniences here, down to flush toilets and flick of the switch electricity. Better yet, we’ve got homes, schools, businesses and entrepreneurs just itching to join the computer generation. All in all, we are a darn good cash cow. And you want to hand us lock, stock and digital dreams over to Microsoft???
It’s not that we disapprove of well-displayed Macs, attended by well-trained sales personnel and displayed vigorously in well-thought out Sunday circulars. It’s a great idea. But only if we get to taste these delights in our own neighborhoods.
First time buyers are not keen to buy an unseen product from a faraway town or an unknown catalog – not even from Apple’s own Web site. When a family takes a notion to check out what’s available for them in computers, they are not likely to make a hundred mile detour on the off chance that Apple has something to suit their fancy. Nope. They’ll have to settle for an Acer, an IBM, a Compaq or even a Packard Bell. And when they become second time buyers? Well, it won’t be a Mac. They’re Microsofties now.
So Apple, if not for your sake, then for all us weekend evangelists, would you, could you, please manage to sweeten the pot and add a few more Mac havens around the country. I think what I am trying to say here, Apple, is that your help in helping the rest of us sell your computers for you would be much appreciated.
Note: In fairness to the remaining local dealers, such as the excellent Haddock Computer Center in Wichita KS, there are still some Macs to be found outside Web sites, catalogs and CompUSA. Could be one near you. Before you saddle up that mule, check it out.
Susan Howerter (firstname.lastname@example.org)