This weekend in my little computer world has been driven by the birth and death of two stores. The CompUSA store near Interstate 45 in Webster is in its final days while the Apple Store in Friendswood’s Baybrook Mall is in its firsts. Connie and I participated in both of them.
We went out to dinner at the Red Lobster on Friday night which happens to be across the street from the strip mall where the CompUSA store is. There’s a Barnes and Nobles there, too, and I wanted to pick up Slaughterhouse Five by one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut. I had read some of this later works but hadn’t read one of his first. In honor of the man, I had decided to rectify that oversight.
Frankly, I had thought the CompUSA store had already closed but men carrying street signs told me otherwise. The signs were saying that most things were 60% to 80% off. Having been in the store weeks before, I didn’t thin there would be anything of interest and frankly doubted if the deals really were that good. But Connie felt we needed to take a look, and so I went along with her to do just that.
The store was fairly empty, but there were still some items up on the shelves. iPod accessories, networking equipment, some phones, cables and adapters, one 23 inch Apple Cinema Display, a few printers, and some video games were mostly what was left. E found our pot of gold, though, in a locked glass cabinet of Apple hardware and software marked 70% off.
When we first saw the case, there were two ADC to DVI Adapters, a small box that said it was a Bluetooth upgrade for a Mac Pro, a stack of iLife 06 boxes, several .Mac family packs, a couple of iWork 06 packages, one package of Virtual PC, two packages of Microsoft Word, a couple of power adapters, and about five Apple Remotes.
I picked up the Bluetooth upgrade for a Mac Pro for a little over eleven bucks. Connie picked up a .Mac family pack, normally costing $179.99, for a little under $54. We saw the manager and asked him if he had anything else, and he said he did in a back room. He led us back there where he showed us a copy of Photoshop CS2 upgrade, several small boxes that had been marked by hand that they were a combined Airport Extreme and Bluetooth upgrades for a Mac Pro, and a couple of Filemaker Pro 8.5 upgrade packages. The manager told us he wanted to sell everything he could. I picked up one of the combo Airport and Bluetooth upgrades and returned the solo Bluetooth upgrade to the cabinet. Connie and I talked about picking up the 23 inch Apple Display because it was priced at only $500, but that was still too big a risk to take without any way to drive the thing to check it out.
At home that evening, we talked about what was left as I sent out an e-mail to the rest of the Mac-totin’ family about what deals might still be available.
That night I discovered that the combined Airport Extreme and Bluetooth upgrade that was supposed to be for a Mac Pro was really for a Mac mini. Well, while the prices at the closeout sale are great, all sales are final. After Connie and I talked about it, we decided the best thing to do was just to sell the package on eBay later.
On Saturday morning, our attention shifted to the opening of the Apple Store in Baybrook Mall a couple of miles from our house. To celebrate the grand opening, Apple was giving away a prize pack that included a MacBook and a 4 GB iPod Shuffle. We hoped to win the MacBook for my stepson Tim and also wanted to make sure we both got one of the black T-shirts they were giving away to the first 1000 customers who entered the store. We arrived at the mall about a half hour before the store’s opening to find at least a hundred people in front of us, some of them wearing t-shirts from other Apple Store Openings in the area.
About fifteen minutes after we got there, some of the store’s sales crew ran alongside the crowd, screaming a joyous “welcome” and “high-fiving” every one who would. And as they continued to try to induce the reserved crowd to start clapping, the line continued to grow until it had almost wrapped its way into Macy’s at the southern end of the mall.
When the doors opened, people began streaming in to a store lined with Apple salespeople in black t-shirts. They held their hands-out for the customers to “high-five” them as they entered. Few seemed committed, but I figured “what the hell” and hit everyone of them on my side of the store.
The size of the store surprised us a bit. It is at least a third bigger than the store at the Galleria with a larger selection of machines to go “hands-on” with, including iPods and one Apple TV. Software is more logically organized right together near the back of the store as are external storage devices, backpacks and cases, and the Genius Bar is at the very rear of the store, facing forward. We’re happy it’s here; our need to drive to the Galleria to visit an Apple Store is now all but gone. It’s bit late in our buying cycle, though; we’ve pretty well bought all the machines except for Apple TV we’re likely to for several if not many years.
The music in the store was really up, and that and the rest of the general commotion in the store made me want to leave after only a few minutes. (A friend of mine who is considering buying a Mac for the first time tried to talk to a salesman a little later in the day couldn’t hear very well. I think the “noise level” was up a bit too much.)
But, in general, it all was pretty neat and it attracted a lot more people than I thought it would. I was surprised to see another friend of mine who is considering buying a MacBook in the line to get in the store.
Connie and I both got our black t-shirts.
The real test comes now when we see how many Macs the store can actually sell. The crowd at NASA is fairly PC-centric, even though the Space Center itself has a Mac User Group and there are Macs on site.
Later that afternoon, I returned to CompUSA and, after talking on my cell with my stepson to see if he needed anything, I picked up a spare power adapter for my MacBook Pro for $34 and one for my wife about the same amount of money and picked up separate Airport Extreme and Bluetooth upgrades for my Mac Pro for $12 for the Bluetooth and about $20 for the Airport. (While I could mount these in the Mac Pro myself, I’m going to talk to a nearby Apple Service Center about putting them in for me to preserve the warranty.)
By the time I get this posted, the CompUSA store here will be on its last day. There are still a few CompUSA stores in Houston, but they are so far away that the odds of me buying anything from them are not very good. That’s especially true now with a Fry’s and an Apple Store just down the road.
I’ve got a couple of pictures of the Friendswood store’s opening I took with my wife’s camera. I’ll post them here as soon as I can get her to get rid of the other 167 pictures she’s got on her camera.