Saturday, December 15, 2007

Idiot's Delight

J C Dumbass wrote another asinine column over on CBS Marketwatch.

CompUSA is going out of business. JC Dumbass thinks this is a reason for Apple shareholders to be wary. And he might be right except for one, minor, point. CompUSA is as different from the Apple store as the Apple store is from a grocery store. The only similarity is that both have things for sale.

CompUSA is a discounter that happens to sell computer stuff. Their attraction was the prices.

Apple stores are specialty shops that sell service and a product. Their attraction is the product and service.

Dumbass goes on a tear talking about all the things that suck about big box stores. He's right on all counts. It doesn't matter which one you're talking about, none of them is particularly compelling. Then he screws up by grouping Apple stores in with them instead of contrasting Apple stores to them.

When I travel to a city I haven't been to for a while, I check to see if they have an Apple store so I can include a visit to it while I'm there. I'm probably not the only one. Does anybody do that for Staples or Circuit City? Anybody?

Then he compares Apple stores to Radio Shack. He says of Radio Shack "These are examples of well-run stores, run by knowledgeable staff selling an incredibly broad line of products, within a very small footprint." Knowledgeable staff? Yeah. Okay. Have you been in a Radio Shack lately John? If they know more than you, your columns suddenly make a lot more sense.

He goes on to say that Apple is starting to look like a big-box store. Except the only characteristic he notes is that the stores are getting bigger. The size and selection isn't what makes a big-box store what it is. Discount based on volume makes a big-box store. It's the Walmartization of commerce. Profit is in volume, and in paying the employees shit. If you shop purely for price and you don't give a damn about quality, service, or an enjoyable shopping experience, go big-box.

If you want service, good products, and help getting the right thing based on your needs - good luck. Service everywhere is big-box lowest common denominator these days. There are exceptions, but they're rare. The Apple store is an exception. I would drive to Seattle (300 miles) just to visit the Apple store, even if I didn't need anything. Okay, I'm weird. I can live with that.

So anyway, Dumbass goes all Siskel and Ebert on the big-box stores then says Apple is getting to be a lot like the big-box stores and then goes on to say that based on this entirely contrived and specious comparison Apple may be getting in trouble and pretty soon the stores will be just so much useless real estate and oh my God sell all your Apple shares before it is too late.

Because he's writing for Marketwatch, and he needs to put a stock market spin on it, JC ends his column "It's something investors need to monitor." Yo. I'm with that. I'm going to monitor it the same way I have been monitoring Apple for 8 years: as a shareholder.

And now the part that really stuns me is, how does somebody with even less to say than I do (a considerable statement, that) end up with a gig writing for CBS?

Time for breakfast.