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Stephen Hackett's weblog about Apple, Apple history, technology, journalism and design.

The Nailed Nano

When I was promoted to the Lead Genius position at my local Apple Store, I was promptly sent three hours away, to the Green Hills Apple Store in Nashville, TN for training.

Then, the Green Hills wasn’t the shining example of an interior mall store that you see on Apple’s website. When I was there, it was half that width, with a tiny Genius Room in the back. Like we did at Saddle Creek, the staff there referred to it simply as the “GR.”

The Lead Genius there had been with the company for years, and had trained numerous other Leads across the Southeast. While he didn’t have my back in some of the events that led up to my leaving Apple, he was a great teacher.

Upon arriving at the Green Hills store for my first day of training, I noticed a red iPod nano that was mounted on the bulletin board in the GR.

Well, most of an iPod nano, as you can see.

Turns out that the nano had belonged to a kid who lived in the area. One day, on his way home from school, this kid got jumped by some dudes who beat the shit out of him. They took his belongings — including the iPod — and trashed them. The music player ended up getting nailed to a tree.

When the kid’s parents came in to the store, the staff was overwhelmed, and gave the kid a new iPod out of store stock, free of charge. Since it wasn’t a true repair/swap, the staff kept the iPod nano, putting it on display in the Genius Room.

I have kept these photos for several reasons, but the big one is this: Apple — most of the time — is on the same team as its customers. I’m sure that kid’s parents came to Green Hills ready to drop $150 on a new music player for their son, but the staff there wanted to surprise and delight them. Did a new iPod nano make up for the fact that the kid had some serious injuries as a result of this incident? Did it bring justice down on those who beat him up? Of course not. But it was the decent thing to do, and in that moment, Apple wasn’t a beaming white wall of a corporation, but a friend, and a helper.

That’s why I went to work for Apple. I wanted to be able to help people when their stuff was broken or acting up. I got to connect with lots of customers in meaningful ways.

I miss that.

I’m sure the Apple of today would still take care of this kid. While Apple is a lot bigger than it was when I was a Genius, being decent to its customers has remained a core component to its success.