Mac shopper’s paradise

Dylan Copeland
12 May, 2010
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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to check out Apple’s Cupertino campus? Guest blogger Dylan Copeland found a small window of opportunity during a trip to America to make the trek for some souvenirs from the Apple Company Store. If you’re ever planning to see Apple HQ yourself, you might want to make sure you’ve got some time up your sleeves:

Shrouded in Apple mystique, clouded by exclusivity, the Apple Company Store graciously invites anyone in the San Francisco Bay Area to visit. Upon first inspection this seems like standard Apple product control — albeit with a refreshingly transparent approval process. However, the Bay Area covers nearly 1.8 million hectares of land, so even the geographically fortunate need to be determined.

The deceptively close-sounding city of San Francisco is actually a 70km drive from Cupertino, which can easily take up to an hour each way with traffic. Even though my airport hotel gave me a 25km head-start, I still baulked at that sort of cab fare.

Despite my reluctance to leave the first bed I had seen in twenty-four hours, I chose to walk the two kilometres to the Millbrae train station (the fifth stop out of San Francisco). The triumvirate of obstacles was completed by the inevitable first-time difficulties purchasing the US$6 ticket from the self-service ticket machine. All of this meant that it was just after 3:30PM when I caught the Caltrain service to Sunnyvale (the Store’s nearest station).

Disembarking the train with every frugal intention of catching the bus (US$2), I found the line of taxis (~US$20) between myself and the bus stop more an imperative than a temptation. In what I took to be a sign of the economic times, the driver of the first taxi was watching a film on a portable DVD player. Further strengthening my suspicions that business was slow, he was happy to wait for me free-of-charge while I browsed the Store — but only for about twenty minutes.

While the Apple Company Store is open to the public, it began as an employee store and it retains that sense of unobtrusiveness. Located on the ground floor of a multi-storey building, even the giant Apple logo on the outside is demure by Apple Retail Store standards. Or maybe it’s just that giant Apple logos don’t stand out that much on Infinite Loop.

The proliferation of Apple logos continued unabated inside, appearing on a standard range of merchandise. The range is made special by just one fact: it is only available through the Apple Company Store. That means no online shopping, no catalogues to peruse, not even an e-mail newsletter.

Without any ability to research the range in the way that I would, say, research show-bags before going to the Royal Show, and given my reality-television challenge style time-limit, I eschewed the large chunks of the store that were filled with software titles and those ubiquitous iPhone/iPod accessories. Instead I focused upon the range of Apple-branded caps, mugs, and clothing that are exclusive to the Store; only cursorily examining the winter clothing range on the grounds that the Australian summer waiting for me was neither the time nor place for fleecy jumpers.

At check-out, the staff were friendly and accommodating. Seeing that I had a large assortment of items (some of which were not even for me!) the cashier offered some gift bags and stickers, an offer which was gleefully accepted. And the quantities were generous — I’m pretty sure I ended up with more bags than items.

The twenty minutes I spent at the Apple Company Store was only just long enough to stock up on the bare necessities, not enough to fully explore the store. And a leisurely stroll around Infinite Loop was as much out of the question as it was desirable. As it was, though, it was still nearly 8:00pm before I made it back to my hotel room. Which was quite late enough following a thirty-one hour day.

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