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September 23, 2004

Excerpts: The Cult of Mac - Part V

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:43 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

SOME OF THE GUYS IN AISLE SIX
A lot of men get dragged to the mall on weekends to go shopping with their wives. But for Eddie Clipper, the opposite was true. Hed drag his wife to the mall, but not to go shoppingto voluntarily help sell Macs. Many weekends Clipper would go to the mall or a local computer superstore to fix up the Macs on display and persuade customers to buy them. My wife knows that if we stop in the computer department, I will be talking to people for a while, he said. She usually goes elsewhere in the store and drags me away later.
K. Jerry Smith was the same. Every month or so, hed take his son to a local Sears or Circuit City, and theyd spend the day fixing up the Macs. My son and I, like so many other Macheads, have always cleaned up the Macs on display at stores that could care less whether they were properly displayedusually major retailers, he said. To this day, one can almost always find Macs with frozen systems after the kids of busy shoppers have banged on the keyboards. We restart and repair whatever damage has been done. We want them to look and operate at their best.
Jeff Sepeta is another who acted as a voluntary salesperson. Although youre not supposed to solicit business inside CompUSA, I have often caught sales reps saying bad things about the Mac to people who are clearly interested in buying one, he said. I generally step in, explain why the Mac is better than the sales rep would admit, and generally make the sales guy look like cow pie.
Clipper, Smith, and Sepeta, and dozens of others like them, perhaps hundreds, were doing their bit to help Apple in its darkest days. In the late 1990s, Apples showing at retail stores was below par: indifferent staff at computer stores often relegated Macs to the quietest aisle. Machines were left turned off or were badly neglected, and stocks of Mac software were often out.
Without the resources to tackle every store, Apples chief evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, urged Mac fans to rectify the miasma through his popular Mac EvangeList mailing list. Kawasaki suggested subscribers tidy up displays, buttonhole salespeople, and counter pro-Windows sales patter. It worked pretty well. For a while, many of the thousands of stores selling Macs were visited by well-intentioned Mac enthusiasts. Collectively, the volunteers came to be known as the guy in aisle six.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.