Genius at work



My recent visit to the Apple store featured all too prominently the mocking quip “genius at work”. For those who don’t know, the term genius (which characteristically emphasizes creativity and eminent achievement) has been brazenly assumed by the technical clerks of the Apple store as their generic denomination.  It turns out the subscription is without merit. When I picked up my MacBook Pro which had been delivered a week earlier for repair I discovered within approximately 30 seconds that the device was not properly working notwithstanding the previous assurances of the “geniuses” of the Apple store that the computer had been repaired and tested. It further fed my disdain of these self-proclaimed geniuses that they were only able to discover the obvious problems associated with the computer by repeated and unforgivably protracted trial and error. By omission or ignorance they had overlooked things which should normally have formed part of any checklist such as whether the device is connected to the Internet or that the date and time are correct, not to mention the staggard and uncontrollable cursor and the complete absence of email service (surely one of the most basic functions of any household computer). I guess such trivialities are beneath the contemplation of geniuses.  What is more likely is that the 14-day intensive induction program for the geniuses is directed not to technical service requirements but rather the preservation of the sanctity of the Apple name and the perception of the superiority of its products.  The employee course clearly focuses upon a study of manipulative semantics designed to give the customer a sense of empowerment while at the same time deflecting or finessing legitimate and disparaging product complaint.

In spite of the rampant and inescapable haughtiness of the staff members of the Apple store, it is sadly apparent even to the casual observer that they have unwittingly submitted to the drudgery of modern technology when it comes to dealing with problems; namely, everything requiring intellectual capacity consists of plugging in a cord which is programmed to diagnose what is wrong.  What is noticeably removed from the genius process is the reasoning ability of the analyst to synthesize existing details.  The geniuses, like buffalo herding themselves to precipitous death, pathetically persist in magnifying their lack of acumen by trotting out what they have been programmed to say about what they do, for example blindly repeating what a delight it should be for the customer that the repair of the device is under warranty (a patent absurdity in view of the fact that the device is not working). More codswallop designed to obfuscate the elemental truth!

When after an hour and a half of fruitless fussing the geniuses (there was a graduated succession of them) at last conceded defeat and determined to reclaim the computer for a second time to investigate once again why it was not working and whether, as I suppose, they will simply replace the entire motherboard for a second time, I proposed that I buy a new computer on favorable terms to bypass what I sense is destined to be a hapless lemon situation.  This offer was received with the enthusiasm of a rebuttal of the Commandments handed down by God to Moses.  It did not sit well with either the original genius with whom I spoke nor with the subsequent, presumably more elevated, genius with whom I later spoke on the telephone after we had left the store.  This further lack of ingenuity bothers me especially because Apple spends so much time proclaiming to the world what a superlative product it has while obviously being intransigent about doing anything in the face of a contrary admission. One is left with the distinct feeling that Apple is more show than go, a common shopkeeper which like a servant in a grande home sucks it’s vicarious sense of superiority from the employer (in this case the customer). The dignity which the customer deigns to bestow upon these clerks by making on-line appointments and appearing in a timely manner is mistakenly interpreted as submission.

In the wider perspective it bothers me that these young people, by dusting themselves in the wake of such creative people as Steve Jobs, have appropriated to themselves an arrogance to which they have absolutely no entitlement. Certainly it is not a problem that a mechanical device should require repair. These clerks, however, in their fascination with perpetually unfolding and glittering technology, have lost sight of the fundamentals of running a business which for example, upon greeting a customer, include more than saying, “The name?” Such niceties could perhaps be excused and overlooked if the clerks were entirely absorbed in the avid prosecution of their technical duties but the evidence is otherwise.  It is part of the burgeoning mockery of the situation that the standard commercial vernacular has been turned on its head and the traditional sign “Customer Service” at the back of the store has been replaced with “Genius Bar”.