Underwhelmed at the Apple store

So I was browsing for information about wireless routers, with one Firefox tab here and another here, and I was having a hard time understanding exactly why Apple’s Airport Extreme base station — a 54 Mbps 802.11g router — was being offered at over three times the price of the Linksys 802.11g router. The moment that question popped into my mind, a little box came up on the Apple store that said, “Need advice? Chat with an expert.” So I said, “OK”.

Twenty seconds later, I was in a one-on-one chat with Rick, an Apple expert. Here’s what, er, transpired. (Editorial comments are embedded.)

* You are chatting with Rick, an Apple Expert

Hi, my name is Rick. How may I help you today?

You: Hi Rick. I could use some advice regarding wireless routers.

Rick: Ok

You: My family has two Macs and an aging WinXP box. We’re about to move from an apartment into a 2800 sq ft house and we want to set up a wireless network that will reach all corners of the house, two stories and a basement.

Rick: Give me one moment..

You: I’m trying to compare the Airport Extreme to a standard-issue linksys router and I’m having a hard time figuring out the differences.

Rick: Ok

[Ed.: About 20 seconds transpires. I think Rick’s forgotten what I’m here for.]

You: So, what exactly is the advantage of going with an Airport Extreme versus a Linksys or Belkin 802.11g router? The Airport Extreme is a bit more expensive than those two. [Ed.: Combined.]

Rick: The max distance Airport Extreme can be from the router is 150 feet.

Rick: They should already be installed in your Macs.

You: Does that 150 foot range account for things like walls and floors?

Rick: Yes it does.

Rick: To extend the range, you would need a second Airport Extreme basestation.

You: Or I could use one of those Airport Express devices as well, right?

Rick: Correct.

[Ed.: Another 20 seconds goes by. Perhaps I haven’t been clear enough.]

You: I guess my main question is, why choose an Airport Extreme over somethng less expensive like Linksys.

Rick: Which Macs do you currently own?

You: We have a Mac mini (not the core duo, but the older model) and a Macbook Pro.

Rick: i believe both of those products have Airport Extreme pre-installed.

[Ed.: Yeah. I got that the first time you said it. Fifty freaking seconds ago.]

You: Yes, that’s right. But we do not have the wireless router as yet. We just have a cable box with the Mac mini wired into it. We’re looking to get a wireless router.

[Ed.: Ah — I get it: Rick thinks I was talking about the Airport software instead of the hardware.]

You: Perhaps I should be more specific — I’m asking about the Airport Extreme *base station*.

[Ed.: That’ll clear it up, right?]

Rick: I’m not quite sure what Linksys has to offer. You would need to compare the specs and make that call.

[Ed.: Wow, there’s something I would have never thought to do. Compare specs. Ahem, Mr. Genius, wouldn’t you like to, you know, SELL me an Airport Extreme? You know, convince me that I should spend $180 instead of $50 on what, to me, appears to be exactly the same product? Do you really think I’d be here if I could get what I needed by a comparison of specs? Come to think of it, why AM I here?]

You: OK, well thanks for your help. [= Thanks for nothing.]

Rick: You’re welcome.

Rick: Thank you for visiting the Apple Store. We appreciate your business.

I think that (a) I’ll be going with the Linksys and (b) I won’t bother with the Apple experts any more. At least I didn’t drive an hour to the Indianapolis retail store to get advice like that.

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One response to “Underwhelmed at the Apple store

  1. Mathias

    Well, this chat didn’t end as good as it could have been, which is caused by the agent and you. The question you ask at the beginnging is not that easy. At least not to answer with one line. It also turns out that you are “a bit” impatient and put the agent under pressure with new input every second.
    Gaps of 20-50 seconds are not long when you consider a technical answer and setup. This is where you are not judging fair about the Apple agent.
    However, leaving you misunderstandings and impatience beside, the agent could have reacted and explained in a better way. He should have asked you some questions first to ensure talking about the same thing and then give you advice step by step.
    The airport base station with the feature to connect a hard drive or an apple tv is pretty cool, but the agent didn’t mention the features unfortunately.