After two weeks of looking and searching I finally broke down and replaced my aging iBook 500. Being a serious cheap skate. I was looking at all of my options. I rarely buy anything of substance new. My entire Harmon Kardon stereo system from the mid 80’s was a demo model I picked up at half price. My Celestion speakers (hint: the best speakers are either American or British) were bought used in 1990. My cars have all been lease returns or former rentals. Every computer I’ve owned starting with a Commodore 64 has been a demo model.
So, with that background in mind I was focused on my new laptop being reconditioned. In the beginning of my search I was focused on the Apple Store online, however, I needed to sell my current iBook, so that option fell by the wayside. Luckily for me, I have three Apple retailers within five minutes of each other: The Apple Store, Mac Store NW, and CompUSA. The Apple Store doesn’t accept trade-ins so scratch Steve’s shop. Mac Store NW has been serving the area for decades and they have a nice selection of reconditioned iBooks and PowerBooks, plus they accept trade-ins. Since my father was an independent pharmacist, they were my first choice.
Then, two bombshells happened; first, my principal agreed to let me trade-in two other old laptops along with the iBook. Secondly, by chance I looked at the CompUSA web site and noticed they had a trade-in program with prices based upon MHz. My iBook was worth a whopping $575 if all was ok. The two older Windows laptops added another potential $450. The Mac Store could only give me a realistic $340 on the iBook, and of course wouldn’t even touch the other two notebooks. The down side to CompUSA was that they only sold new equipment. I consider my demo/refurbished/used purchases to be a personal badge of frugal honor.
For the better part of three days I debated my choices. Finally deciding that I would stop by the Mac Store first. If they had an absolute bargain I would jump and try to sell the Windows laptops myself. Well, they did have a few possibilities, but no true bargains. So, with trepidation I drove the two minutes to CompUSA. I waited my turn in line at the service department. The employee was a little shocked to find out the online trade-in form was not up and running. After a few minutes of scurrying about he located the proper forms and proceeded to record the pertinent information. Then I was told that the evaluation should take approximately 30 minutes. Knowing the retail world, I knew to double the time and set about inspecting every nook and cranny.
First, I must say the Tigard, Oregon CompUSA is clean and organized. Every piece of technology that I saw worked perfectly. No dust on anything. All the boxes, books, and signage were in neat, straight rows. The “Mac Shop” section was impeccably setup. All the computers worked with the volume set at the appropriate levels. It was obvious that at least one Mac fanatic worked in the store. My only trivial complaint was that someone had selected some silly color scheme on several of the laptops that took away much of the color folder buttons.
I was pretty well set on another iBook 12”, but the sexy sleekness of the PowerBook 12” was temping. I decided to run a couple of speed comparison tests. I counted “Mississippi’s” during the startup of both iMovie and iPhoto. The difference was less than a second. Next, I compared keyboards and cases. The PowerBook’s keyboard is an absolute joy, the best I’ve felt since the IBM 770X. The iBook felt stiffer than my old model, something that I never complained about but on occasion did notice. The difference in cases is dramatic. The aluminum PowerBook screams cool, contemporary, however, being a teacher the iBook’s polycarbonate case has proven its durability and toughness on many occasions. The all white palm rest does disappoint me, as it shows dirt easily, plus on the side you can feel where the plastic seam is fused. I wondered how quickly the Maine iBook’s turned a dingy grey? After some final debating, I just couldn’t justify the price difference and settled on the iBook.
Next, I wandered over to the 17” PowerBook. What a monster in comparison! As I looked it over I came up with the second question I would ask Jonathon Ivy if I every met him (the first being why the processor is set under the palm doing the slow roast). With all the extra space why didn’t it come with a true number keypad on the right? The speakers could have been moved. Talk about unique design on top of the lighted keyboard. I’ would guess that most 17” PowerBooks actually sit on a desk full-time.
My next stop was the iPod, I had never played with one before and I must admit it is cool. I also agree with audiophiles that even with quality earphones the sound quality is degraded compared to a CD Walkman. The key though is that the iPod is music on the go; it is not a replacement for a quality home stereo system.
After killing more time in the Windows laptops, (only the Sony’s were a match size-wise). I went back up to the counter and after a few more minutes of waiting received trade in values. Just as advertised and even a bit, a total of $1040. The iBook was virtually paid for. After receiving my gift card, I marched back to the Apple section and grabbed the first sales person I could find. Steve was obviously a Mac fanatic and quickly set about to get my iBook. Since I’m a teacher I was planning on buying Apple Care from a friend at the nearby Apple Store with my education discount. When I told Steve this, he was more than happy to match it (with a few extra $$, total savings of $75), plus pointing out that CompUSA does free battery replacement. That sold me, so I bought it as well. He did try to sell me an Airport Card but I already had one.
Once I got home, I immediately set out to install my Airport Card, which is when I discovered that the new iBook only took Apple Extreme cards. Damn, That was an unexpected expense. For the first night in months I didn’t check my email that night. The next morning it dawned on me, if CompUSA can match my Educator’s discount on Apple Care, it should be able to match the $999 price on the iBook itself, and the $69 price on the Airport card. The entire drive in I was consumed by thinking up all sorts of debating points in case they refused to honor the price. Instead, the manager and customer service person bent over backwards apologizing and quickly took care to set up my reimbursement.
So, for the first time I actually own a new, out of the box, main piece of electronics. Many thanks to whomever decided at CompUSA to give such a generous trade-in allowance on my iBook 500. You made my purchasing decision very easy. All in all, kudos to everyone involved at the Tigard, Oregon CompUSA, for taking the time to care about your job. It was service equal to that of any small business.