No Holds Barred: From surge to splurge

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My bite out of THE APPLE!

Imagine – a mere eight months ago we were all hiding from a deadly surge and now we seem to be out and about seeking to splurge (or at least thinking about it). But on what? Where and how? Forget why. We all deserve it after the last three years.  And let’s not discuss inflation as we will all pay for it badly “on the other side.”

Mask on or off we are clearly moving on. And though the landscape has changed, some are traveling up a storm and to distant lands or locations that worked well before.  Never mind the expense, the airport hassles, the labor shortages, the lack of customer service.  It all comes down to change, diversion, and of course, spending.

Even the New York Times devoted a lengthy opinion piece recently on “What Is Fun? Can I Have It? Will We Ever Have It Again?”  It wasn’t about splurging but about finding an emotional connection or high-octane high from life again.

A rooftop party hosted by Natural Pursuits, a queer nudist community — one of the many fun things  to do according to the New York Times. Fabulous photograph by Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet.

For some of us, that consists of the same old sex, food, belly rubbing our dogs and grandchildren. For others it can only be SHOPPING.  The word “fun” is too cheap for me. It feels phony and prefabricated like a ride at Disneyland or a Bingo game at some assisted living.

“Such fun” has always been a terrible expression to me.  However, Joy is more my speed.  Fun feels staged, but joy is spontaneous and at times feels like a surprise gift.  I think splurging can be both fun and joyful, but why define it. It’s all about escaping and getting a self-fulfillment fix.  We don’t ask for it to last — just get us through the night.  So back to shopping!

Lately, all stores have lost their luster. Then again, so have I.  “I get no hit from champagne.” Nor from boutiques filled with pricey athleisure wear, deluxe fanny packs and platform sneakers.  I used to use stores as museums and of course that human connection to great sales help who actually cared even if it was a deluxe hustle.

Salespeople taught you something. Or used to. Now customer service is a lost art. A shopping trip may not be a trip to Europe, but it could be a decent field trip. That’s all I ask. A “trip” without an airport or baggage loss and flight cancellations. And (dare I say) something that feels like “an experience.” That is the hook for any splurge — it makes it all worth the cash. That in the end you will at least learn something or be transported.  Not just another “fun” colored t-shirt.

So where is that?

Side Story: A month ago I read where Jony Ive, the former chief design officer of Apple, announced his exit. Now shouldn’t this man be in MOMA for all the phones, computers, iPads, iPods, iWatches and accessories he has designed over the past 22 years?

Jony and Steve.

Apparently, it was Steve Jobs who wanted to make tech like fashion — visually fabulous — thinner, sleeker in the hand.  He even went so far as issuing “new models” seasonally, so he hired Jony Ive in 1992 and “the Apple Look” was created.  I wonder if he was in charge of the cool white Apple logo and those icy white wood “showrooms” for stores (rumor had it that Mickey Drexler of J. Crew was in on that). But what a “look” that was established for such a dull arena as computer electronics.

Remember Radio Shack?  It was Jobs, and then Ive who gave us all those handheld rounded edged chic devices.  Not to mention the covers, the keypads and eventually the watch – which for me is a medical device and still too clunky and Dick Tracy-esque … but a lifeline nevertheless.

“You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers!”

Now I haven’t been in an Apple Store in six years and hated it because it was always jammed and the sales help were young nerds who never had eye contact after “hello can I help you.”  Every one of them dumped me after five minutes of a pricey purchase and no follow-up other than a receipt sent to my phone.  The Genius Bar reminded me of a noisy airport gate lounge.

Nowadays you needn’t be humiliated by going into an Apple Store — you can buy it all online.  Besides, the stores ran out of stock and chips during Covid.  So why bother with making that personal appearance?

The Apple ”splurge cast“ — me, sales associate Jeanne, and “Mac Man” Adilson Pascui.

But last week, my dear friend and hairdresser Adilson Pascui (a true blue “MAC Man” aficionado) insisted we do an Apple Store splurge.  He used to take his clients on clothing sprees.  But now tech has moved into first place purchasing.

I thought I just needed some chargers and something other than earbuds that really stay in my ears.  Adilson was smart enough to call Apple and make an appointment with an Apple private shopper at 10 AM on a Monday.  I vaguely dreaded the idea and took my assistant Mirella Caro (she had never been to an Apple Store) for moral support.  Nothing like a shopping entourage to initiate a full-blown splurge.  

We arrived to an empty store where I met “the shopper” Jeanne, a middle aged sales associate who proceeded to change it all up for me.  She discussed my wants, needs, hates and learning curve issues.  We looked at the wall of chargers and iPads, then bypassed phones and computers.  She was the perfect sherpa guiding me up and down those cool white aisles of glass cases filled with gleaming devices.  It took 90 minutes to pick out the exact list I NEEDED.

10 a.m. on Monday at the Apple store. Empty except for the staff.

Jeanne was a perfect teacher, not just a pusher.  She kept the “store runners’ (guys who get the purchases) going and in the end she “synced” me up in more ways than one.  I am not a tech enthusiast, and she made it all seem so available and dare I say FUN.  I actually got through the endless “thumb print” process with some laughs and no agitation.

Not to mention of all my gear stacked in gorgeous white boxes on the counter looked magnificent.  Even unwrapping all the cords and cases and twisties was like an elaborate origami exercise.  You want to save all the Apple trash; it is still that well designed.

My Apple loot!
My splurge Sherpas holding my swag — Mirella Caro, Jeanne (Apple sales associate), and Apple aficionado Adilson Pascui.

I did find new earbuds for myself – Beats Fit Pro.  It kind of looks like a hearing aid but at least it stays in the ear.  Now I see that Kim Kardashian has just designed a Beats Fit Pro case line for $200.  I stopped my splurge at that moment.

Let me say that we all had “an experience.” Jeanne was older, nicer, more patient and understanding — and it was good to see that calibre on the sales associate front lines. My assistant Mirella was in awe of the look of the store and got a “luggage tag pro” as a souvenir.  Apple addict Adelson eyed a particular new watch he wanted and got the “Jeanne lowdown” on when to buy it.  We were all so engaged and got more than just a “wham bam, thank you ma’am” out  the door exchange.  This felt like more than just an Instagram picture.  Hopefully I don’t have to go back to the store for another five years. Memorable experiences should work that way.

Mirella’s souvenir, the new AirTag.
My Apple trash!
My Apple Holy Grail set up and ready to go!

Ironically, the next day I needed to contact Jeanne specifically about something she recommended.  When I called the store, they put me on a 45-minute hold and when a human voice got on (from Michigan, not my Scottsdale store) she snottily said she had contacted the manager and they had never heard that name.  Maybe Jeanne never really existed and is just a feature of their new “mixed alternative reality” line they are promoting.  A crash landing from a splurge extravaganza was about to happen.  Once more customer service takes a dive.  There was no help from “Customer Support.”

Apparently, the last item designed by Mr. Ive is the new “mixed alternative reality” face mask coming to an Apple Store near you in a year.  But forget style as I arrived home from my “tech top” experience my physical therapist sent me a warning about “tech/text head” — a bad physical malady affecting all of us from looking down at phones, tablets, and computers which causes real body, neck, and shoulder spasms.

Beware the “Text Neck”!

I just fed into that ailment in a big way, but the splurge buzz was still in effect.  Several hours later there came a giant announcement on all my Apple devices of a “serious security flaw for iPhones, iPads, and iMacs that could let hack attackers take complete control of all devices. And it may have already happened.”  I then spent the night feverishly “updating” my gadgets while setting into post splurge reality.

I did already get my Visa bill, and still insist my splurge did not go into a “morning after” dirge. Afterall, a splurge should never feel like a one night stand. It should be all about Bang for your Buck!

Or so I keep telling myself.

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