retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with The Content Guy.

I was fascinated to read a story on the other day about a comedian named Mark Malkoff, who apparently thought he could hoist The Apple Store with its own petard.

Malkoff apparently was fascinated with Apple’s policy of essentially allowing customers a high degree of freedom in its stores, as part of its mission of providing a customer-centric retail experience.

According to the story, Malkoff “had a pizza delivered to one Apple store and proceeded to eat it while browsing laptops, took his wife on a date in another store accompanied by a personal chef and trumpet player and yes, he walked into one store with a goat on a leash, all in plain sight of employees.” And he surreptitiously filmed all of these experiences, presumably hoping that Apple would kick him out, thus violating its own principles.

It didn’t happen. In fact, the Apple employees he encountered all seemed to think it was pretty cool.

Now, at some level I’m not really surprised by this. My experience at the Apple Store is pretty much the same, though I’ve never brought a goat with me. I have brought a cup of coffee, though, and nobody said boo.

This is an important lesson for retailers in all venues. In treating Malkoff as if “the customer is always right” actually means something, Apple ends up sending that message to a lot of people ... because almost everything is communicated virally these days. We all have to assume that everything we say and do is going to have broad distribution.

Daniel Butler of the National Retail Federation points out that Malkoff’s stunts never really violated the three basic tenets of retail behavior: Don’t steal or damage products, don’t create a safety hazard and don’t harass customers or employees.

Though I’m willing to bet that most retailers would not see such stunts with the same degree of tolerance that Apple demonstrated.

One of the things that the MainStreet.compiece notes is that the publicity Malkoff’s antics have gotten creates the possibility of copycats ... but that even this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it gives Apple a chance to even further establish its reputation as a fun and customer-friendly place to shop. The message gets out geometrically...and that’s good for Apple.

I know that food retailers have different issues than other retailers, but the message is simple. Next time you see a guy walk into your store with a goat, think twice about your response. because you're not just talking to’re talking to hundreds, thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people.

That’s what’s on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
KC's View: