This past weekend, I spent an hour or so at an Apple Store.
The visit involved a friend's new iPod that wouldn't work. The wait for our turn at the Genius Bar gave me plenty of time to look around. I had just read the Steve Jobs book, and, sure enough, there was the the imported sandstone floor and minimalist store layout.
What slowly dawned on me was what wasn't there...cash registers.
Everyone is armed with an iPhone and a mag stripe reader and all transactions are done on the spot, all over the store...no checkout lines, no staff chained to a cash register, no cash registers.
The staff uses the same Apple stuff the store sells. The entire checkout process is decentralized, happening all over the store with no lines, no waiting.
The kids working there seemed genuinely happy about their work and all are geek-level knowledgeable. The lady who helped set up the Genius Bar appointment had bright blue hair. None of them seemed to have a set routine and none looked bored. And there were a lot of them, unlike most places where there is rarely anyone to answer questions or help.
I think I witnessed something big when it comes to retail. The place was jammed with people, staff was freed up to interact, help and sell.
They gave my friend a new iPod after a cursory look at her defective one. She also bought an iPhone while we waited.
We went to another store right after that. It struck me as something out of Soviet Union-era Eastern Europe in comparison.
I've been thinking about it ever since, especially given my career in the theme park industry where people are herded into queue lines for tickets, rides, food and merchandise.
I wonder how Steve Jobs would have envisioned a theme park.
Too bad he passed away before he had a chance to take a shot at it.