Never Make Assumptions

Thursday, December 01 2005

For at least a month now I’ve been drooling to get my hands on Aperture, Apple’s workflow centric RAW image “darkroom” geared at professional level photographers. Last night, Carrie and I went down to the Apple store to see if we could at least get our hands on it and play with it, and were essentially totally snubbed by the employees there. It’s sort of astonishing to me still, but essentially here’s how it went down.

Right as we walked in I could see they were conducting a demo of the software to a few people in an otherwise completely empty store. I headed over to the demo, and Carrie went to look at other stuff. After watching the employee spend 5 minutes talking about how neat the white balance adjustments were (which is nothing special, at all, whatsoever) I grew antsy, and left the demo to go see if Aperture was installed on other machines. I wanted to use it, not watch a live version of the online demos.

This is where it gets sort of sour. I asked an employee if I could actually use Aperture on a machine, and he wasn’t sure, and got his manager. The manager came over to me and said “Aperture is pro level software and requires the right machine configuration, so you can’t use it. We have to demo it to you.” Snub. I was pissed, and thinking back on it, I still am. This guy was obviously suggesting, through his tone of voice, body language, and the words he said, that the software wasn’t for me, without even knowing anything about me or what I do.

And it’s these kinds of rash assumptions about me that have always grinded me. On first impression, I have never fully conformed to a sales person’s ideals. I either look too young, too shabby, wear cheap clothes, and I’m often humble when fishing for information (I usually know more about a product I’m interested in than the sales person, but I often play dumb to encourage a sales person to possibly tell me something I didn’t already know). I’ve fought against this kind of thing my entire adult life. While it’s nothing compared to racial or gender prejudice, it’s still prejudice of some sort, and it’s revolting.

When I was an officer for the corporation I cofounded, I was often involved in situations where people were a bit surprised to see a young twenty something who skateboarded to work, not in suit and tie, involved. I sat on a government board that channeled government funds into technology training centers, and at my first meeting the guy next to me asked “Are you taking notes for your father?”

But it’s most aggravating when I have cash money in my pocket ready to buy a product I know everything about and get snubbed because the sales person has made an assumption about me or whether I’m “worthy” of the product I seek.

Never, not ever, make an assumption about the people you’re selling to. Assume every person who walks through the door is ready to buy, and it’s your job to make that as easy for them as possible.