Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Back at the Apple Store: My first return visit since the pandemic began

July 1st, 2021 at 9:59 PM
Apple Store locations

For the first time in more than a year, since the start of you-know-what, I walked into the Apple Store location near my apartment Thursday afternoon. And I have to say: The shopping experience I encountered was impressive. And frankly, because of the normalcy, a little surprising.

Before diving into some of the details of what you’ll encounter at US Apple Store locations now, a little backstory is in order. Since the COVID-19 situation wasn’t uniform and hit parts of the country differently, here’s a little about the pandemic experience where I live. I’m in the city of Memphis, and my county at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic has recorded a little more than 99,000 COVID cases. More than 97,000 of those have been classified as inactive or recovered. More importantly, my county’s current 7-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases stands at just 26. We’re back to normal life, in other words. Or as normal as things can be right now.

Today's Top Deal Amazon just kicked off a massive new sale — see all the best deals right here! Price:See Today's Deals! Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Available from Amazon BGR may receive a commission

Apple Store locations, back to normal (sort of)

We locked down here last year, same as everywhere else. But things came in waves and stages. The one Apple Store here in my county opened and closed a few times in 2020. At one point, it was operating according to Apple’s pilot “Express” store concept.

That Express model turns an Apple Store into something that kind of looks like one of those Western movie town storefront facades. A giant partition in the entryway of the store completely blocked anyone from being able to go deeper inside. The partition had shelf-like spaces where Apple products could be displayed. Sort of condensing the store onto one wall, temporarily, that was then scooted toward the front door.

My local store has since scrapped that and gone back to the traditional, wide-open normal shopping experience.

All US Apple Store locations have actually been open for a few months now. But not all of them had returned at that point to their pre-pandemic status quo. Meaning, some still operated with limited hours, for example.

apple store
An view from outside the Apple Store, near Memphis, Tennessee. Image source: Andy Meek

Masks optional

The store here near me, however, looks like it did circa Winter 2019. Multiple customers were hovering over every table inside, studying the iPads, iPhones and more displayed on them. Masked, tablet-wielding employees were roaming throughout, some engaged in helping customers.

I’m here, at this Apple Store location, because I need (okay, want) a new iPad. When you first walk up, there’s a sign outside letting you know that masks are optional. A hand sanitizer station stands near the front door.

As soon as I walked in, a masked security guard assessed me. What did I need? A new iPad, okay. Stand over there, and wait for this employee to finish, so she can come help you. After a few minutes, the masked Apple employee hits me with more questions. Did I need to know specs and what my choices are? Did I already have an idea what I wanted? You can go browse those tablets there. Or you can stand in line over here and tell someone which model you want. And check out from there.

But for the masks visible throughout — mostly on employees — you’d be forgiven for not realizing there’s still a pandemic on the rampage outside. One that doesn’t care whether you need a new iPad, nor about whatever other piece of normalcy you want to reclaim. Still, though, it’s nice to do mundane things like this again.

I’m not the biggest fan of being told where to stand and answering tons of questions when I’m trying to by something. But, hey, at least I can give Apple gobs of money again in-person, right?

Today's Top Deal Amazon just kicked off a massive new sale — see all the best deals right here! Price:See Today's Deals! Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Available from Amazon BGR may receive a commission

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.




Popular News