An open letter to Steve Jobs on his choice of Apple Store locations

Dear Steve Jobs,

I’ve been using computers since the early 90’s, and other than learning to type on a Mac II with B&W screen, I was always a Windows man. When my wife bought her first Apple computer while in school for Graphic Design 5 years ago, the seed was planted in our household. Upgrading from a desktop to a MacBook, she slowly started to convert me with the ease of use. After her second MacBook and showing family how easy it was to make photo albums, more of my family converted. And when I bought a MacBook Aluminum in January of 2009, I went all in. This MacBook is the single best computing machine I have ever used, and I am happy to be part of the Apple family. It’s so well designed, easy to use and just simply always works, much like all Apple products these days.

We love your Apple Store downtown Vancouver, and have been to the stylish store in New York. Conveniently located with the newest products, it’s such a great experience going into the stores to see what’s new. So when I lost my power adapter while traveling and found myself in Rome wanting to write on my blog, I didn’t hesitate to lookup the official Apple Store in the city.

Quickly going to Apple.com and doing a quick search, I was happy to see that there was an official store located in Rome. Called RomaEst, I didn’t recognize the address but luckily there was a Google map. Not knowing the location I plugged the information into Google and saw that I had to take a train and walk a short distance to the mall that it was at. I was so glad that you provided great directions that my wife Deidra and I went out right away to get the missing charger with our train stop in mind.

Taking the subway and then having to transfer to a train, we thought it was a bit odd but hopped on. As the train drove along through many stops, we anticipated the location shortly coming up and a little under an hour our location was called. Stepping off the train onto a platform, it almost felt like we were getting off a train in the old Wild West, with a road leading from the train station and a small store/bar at the station but nothing else around. I walked up to this store and asked them if they knew where the Apple Store was, sure that it must be close and conveniently located.

When the nice lady pointed at Apple Juice, I knew my little grasp of the Italian language wasn’t going to cut it. We’d have to figure it out ourselves, with nothing more than the memory of what the map looked like from your website. It didn’t look too far from what I remember, and we grabbed a couple quick espressos and a bottle of water. Walking out of the store past the five old Italians gambling on a game of poker, I felt confident we’d find the plug and be back downtown Rome in no time. Out on the road we came to a junction with a choice to go either left or right. Left led us into an area with signs of civilization and right led us to the entrance of a busy highway with no sidewalk. So, using our common sense we headed towards civilization with a spring in our step.

Unfortunately the spring in our step only lasted for half an hour due to the extreme heat, and finally came onto some streets with older looking homes and barking dogs. As we continued to walk through this area I couldn’t image an ultra-modern Apple store being located here. But on we went walking until it was obvious the store wouldn’t be this way – we were bound by the far curve of the highway and hills with forest and agriculture on them. We now had no other decision but to turn around and walk back the hour to the train station.

Rome, Italy
Oh Glorious Commercialized Civilization!

On our way back I decided to climb a hill that was adjacent to the road to get a better idea of where in Rome we even were. From the top of the hill I could see a giant glowing sign in the distance – down the hill I was on, across a farmers field, across what looked like a dirt-bike track, then the highway and finally, the largest building in the entire area, a supersized mall. With doubt in Deidra’s eyes I made the executive decision to cross this expanse so we could savor the sweet juicy power of Apple.

Rome, Italy

As we made our way across the fields, I wondered how much like the Wild West this area really was. We obviously weren’t anywhere near anything, and would a farmer shoot us out here for trespassing? Our questions were answered as we walked by a shantytown on the edge of the dirt-bike field, complete with burning garbage, stolen shopping carts and some scrap metal makeshift homes. Deciding to avoid this area we quickly made our way across the barbed wire covered ditch after being charged by a Ram protecting 8 other sheep. Never being so happy to set foot on the pavement of a highway before, we used our childhood Froger skills to cross the eight lanes to the urban miracle of a shopping mall. Looking back at our feat of an adventure through the Wild West we noticed the hill we climbed down was now filled with a giant herd of sheep. Wondering to ourselves while we entered the mall doors what would have happen if we were still on that hill as all those sheep arrived with the farmer and his dogs…

Rome, Italy

Getting our power adapter at your store was uneventful, and with our purchase we then ran into our next problem of this adventure. It seemed that this mall was so far out of town that to get a cab to the train station ended up costing us as much as the power adapter. Not that we were that far away from the train station – probably only 5km’s down the major highway with no sidewalk – but that they had to call the cab in from downtown Rome which took just under an hour. There were no other cabs around, and by this time we were just happy to be done with it all as it was now getting late. As the cab dropped us off at the train station, we were up for our next surprise.

Walking to the entrance there was a Police officer and four armed military personnel with him. It was around 9:00pm and there was a train going to Roma in half an hour. With an odd look and quick nod to the contingent of military at the entrance we sat down to wait for our train. Around us we were gated in with 10-foot high metal bars and the only entrance was where they stood. Looking over at the military and police sizing us up, we started to wonder what was going on. Luckily we didn’t have to wait long as the policeman walked over to us and struck up a conversation. We chatted about where we were from in Canada and he mentioned while he was in the army, positioned in the U.N., he had a commander from Ottawa and liked Canadians. A little bit more small talk and then the question came out;

“Just out of curiosity, what are you two doing here? You don’t look like you belong…”

I’m glad he asked because I was wondering why a platoon of soldiers was guarding a tiny train station, so telling him our story of the afternoons adventures gave me a perfect setting. While he was laughing at what happened, I asked him,

“Why are you and the army here?”

His face got serious and said, “For your protection. This is a very dangerous area.”

Just then a military van drove up and he excused himself, saying he’d be back in a few minutes and that he had to check in. Unfortunately a moment later our train came and I wasn’t able to continue the conversation and find out more about what was going on. Taking his words to heart we hopped on the train and were off back to Rome, feeling lucky and wondering to ourselves the many different ways our day could of ended up.

Steve, as I mentioned earlier, there are a of couple things that I’ve come to expect with Apple products and stores. These things are: Easy to use products, modern stylish stores and safety knowing that things just work. I don’t expect to need to pack for a field expedition to purchase a simple power adapter, or need an army platoon for personal security. To say that your Apple Store is in Rome is akin to saying Cupertino is in San Francisco. It may be in the bay area, but hardly in San Francisco city.

May I suggest you update your website with better directions and a warning of distance and danger? Or better yet use one of the thousands of buildings in the City of Rome and design something that better upholds the Apple style. I’m sure you can do a hell of a lot better than this.

Thank you for your time,

Scott

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