It Feels Like Trust—The Apple Store App And Self Checkout

by Randy Murray on December 19, 2011

The Apple Store is always busy, but this time of year it’s packed.

The other day I needed to pick up an adapter. I found it on the rack at the back of the Apple Store, then walked around looking for a red-shirted employee to help me check out. A helpful young woman told me to “stand right there and I’ll find someone to help you,” then she disappeared in the back. There was a line at the front picking up and paying for all of the Apple goodies.

And then I remembered the new Apple Store iPhone app. I pulled out my iPhone and downloaded the app right there on the spot, using the Apple Store’s wifi. I opened the app and it recognized that I was in an Apple Store. It let me scan the barcode on the product, confirm the purchase using my iTunes account, and showed me the receipt. I asked a passing Red Shirt if that was all I needed to do and he smiled and said, “Yep, you’re good.” So I put the adapter in my pocket and walked out of the store.

I stood there stunned for a moment. I’m sure in years to come this will be a common, everyday experience. But today, this time, if felt like magic. It felt like I was living in the future.

And it felt, oddly, like the staff at the Apple Store trusted me.

That’s an odd feeling. A retail store trusts its customers. It’s not worried about shoplifting and theft.

I’m sure they have all of the technology necessary to make sure that people aren’t walking out of the store without paying, but I couldn’t see any of that. There was no one checking for receipts at the door. No one eyed me suspiciously when I put the adapter in my pocket. I just scanned it and walked out. That’s not what happens at Best Buy or even Costco.

I have a feeling that other retailers will not be able to understand how powerful this is. If you treat your customers with respect, if you don’t treat them as stupid, and if you give the appearance that you trust them, they, we, will relax. And we’ll buy things without hesitation. I need this, I pick it up, I pay for it on the go, I walk out with it, it’s mine.

Even now, I’m not so much impressed with the technology as still pleasantly aglow with the feeling that Apple trusted me and everyone else in the store. And I’m feeling that old evangelical fervor, as I did years ago when I wanted to tell everyone about the Mac. Now I want to drag people into the nearest Apple Store, have them buy something, and walk out.

I’ll try and restrain myself, but it’s hard. This is what happens when you feel trusted and respected. People respond.


The It Feels Like Trust—The Apple Store App And Self Checkout by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg Dalen December 20, 2011 at 11:18 am

Now if they would just put the Macbook Airs out on the floor instead of in the back. I’m pretty sure I could be trusted?


Randy Murray December 20, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I’m pretty sure it only feels like trust. I’m betting they have the technology to avoid “shrinkage” completely worked out. It’s just not visible!


Matt December 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm

I don’t know if it’s that easy to compare an tiny Apple Store to a gigantic Best Buy store and the way you walk out of the store with a product. The way an Apple Store is configured with products literally a few feet from the entrance allows 15-20 Apple employees to basically hover to answer questions and do a quick look-see at the people leaving the store. Best Buy has a dedicated checkout ‘corral’ with registers and one attendant that checks the receipts because the store stocks big things and little things.

It might be a little bit of trust, but it’s seems like it’s a lot of difference.


Randy Murray December 20, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I’m not implying that Apple trust me or anyone else. It just FEELS like trust. I’m confident that they have the technology, completely invisible technology, that keeps track of everything.

As to Best Buy, Apple Stores move more dollars per square foot than any other retail store.


Adam December 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I’m curious what kind of technology could keep track of everything. If the item doesn’t have an anti-theft tag in its packaging, and there are no sensors at the door, then there’s no way they could detect that you’re walking out with merchandise. UPC barcodes are also too generic — they don’t uniquely identify each individual item on the shelves, just the type of item. So there would be no way for the app to know *which* specific Camera Connection Kit box (for example) you just bought, unless there were unique barcodes on every box.

I have a feeling they have just done the math and are willing to accept a certain level of risk on relatively low-priced accessories. If that’s the case, then it really is more about trust than technology.

Besides, nothing about this new EasyPay mechanism makes shoplifting from an Apple Store any easier than it was previously. (In other words, it was already pretty easy.) Ever since they did away with dedicated checkout registers and made paper receipts optional, you could have easily just walked in, pocketed something, and walked out a few minutes later without attracting attention. (Not that I’m recommending it.)


Randy Murray December 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm

You might be spot on. And if that’s the case, that Apple has simply said, “Screw it, ignore the shoplifters (or leave that to the cops) and treat the paying customers with respect,” I’m even more impressed.

Because that not only feels like trust, it IS trust.


Rob Malanowski December 27, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I think this is exactly right. People who want to steal are going to steal, regardless of what systems are in place. All Apple has done is draw a line in the sand and say “We’re going to trust our customers and treat them like customers, not thieves.”

Ever feel good about spending money at Best Buy, only to be nearly accused to theft when you try to leave? Does it make you want to go back and spend more money?


Dennis December 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I’ve done the self-checkout myself and it really is a neat and awesome experience, just as you describe. It’s the same feeling you get when you use an iPad for the first time “I get it now, this is how it should be!”

Also next time you need to buy something try the in-store pick-up option. Basically you buy something on the online Apple store website, and when you check out there’s an option to pick-up at a store of your choice. It’ll even verify local stock availability before you buy. It also goes through your Apple ID (or another payment option if you wish). Best of all they’ll have it ready for pick-up within 15 minutes or so. It requires more interaction (you have to actually talk to one of the Apple team members when you get there ) but it’s great if you’re doing some last-minute Christmas shopping and want to make sure that what you’re looking for is both in stock and reserved for you.


Greg December 23, 2011 at 11:57 pm

As an employee at Apple during the rollout of this new initiative, I can tell you that Apple actually trains its staff to trust the customers. Even before this, we never tried very hard to ‘keep people from stealing.’ We avoided theft by being attentive.

We feel now that we have built such a good report with customers that we can actually trust them. I love the company and feel personally invested in them. I wouldn’t steal from them if given the chance. Apple is betting most of its customers are the same, if not, the attention given by the Apple staff will be enough to deter most with more fiendish intentions.


Randy Murray December 24, 2011 at 10:01 am

That’s terrific to hear, Greg.

That trust is both appreciated and effective. People don’t just buy Apple product, they LOVE buying them. It’s good to see that this is known and intentional on Apple’s part.


Shawn Levasseur May 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Part of that trust is the fact that you have to use your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad to self-checkout. You already are a customer!

The other part of it is the big ticket items the iPods, iPads, iphones, and Macs are all behind closed doors. You aren’t buying a new phone or computer without dealing with a sales rep. All you can self-checkout on is just boxed software, smaller peripherals, cases and the like. And even those aren’t in the front of the store, they are further back.

A shoplifter has to put on a serious acting job in order fool the staff into thinking they have purchased online. (Followed up by the fact that I’m sure someone on site is alerted to the fact an item has been purchased)


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{ 4 trackbacks }

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