NEW YORK (
) -- Most shoppers know better than to bring a goat into a retail store, but not Mark Malkoff.
Malkoff, a comedian and filmmaker, had heard rumors that
essentially gives customers free rein to do what they please in their retail stores and decided to put the company's tolerance to the test with a few unusual stunts at Apple stores in and around New York City, which he filmed.
He had a pizza delivered to one Apple store and proceeded to eat it while browsing laptops, took his wife on a date in another store accompanied by a personal chef and trumpet player and yes, he walked into one store with a goat on a leash, all in plain sight of employees.
Not one tried to kick Malkoff out of the store or even reprimanded him for his behavior. One worker even thought the pizza delivery was "awesome."
"I'm amazed by what the Apple Store will allow,"
said after the experience. "There are hundreds of videos online of customers singing and dancing in the middle of their stores. It's hard to imagine any other big chain greeting my antics with laughs and hugs."
So why would a major business such as Apple allow its customers to run wild? Some retail experts argue it's all part of the company's effort to build a more customer-friendly store experience.
"Apple is trying to create an unfettered, totally free store experience," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group. "Sure, one customer may take that to an extreme, but more than anything, Apple wants their store experience to be different and unique from other stores."
Unlike many other retailers,
is known for putting all of its products out in the open for customers to play with. Shoppers can spend as much time as they please hanging out in the store and trying out gadgets with little interference from customer service representatives, a policy Beemer describes as very "pro-consumer." In essence, Apple's tolerance of unusual customer behavior is just an extension of that.
In another sense, that Apple let Malkoff have his fun isn't quite as surprising as it might seem.
According to Daniel Butler, vice president of retail operations at the National Retail Federation, Malkoff's stunts never really violated the three basic tenets of retail behavior: Don't steal or damage products, don't create a safety hazard and don't harass customers or employees. One might argue that some of Malkoff's actions came close to breaking the last rule, but watching the video, the shoppers seem to get a kick out of his antics and the employees seem completely unfazed, as though it's just another ordinary day at the Apple Store.
"There are plenty of things customers do that might be considered rude or disruptive, but retailers generally accept it," Butler said. "What are you going to do when you see someone order a pizza? Fight with him? He might just buy his next computer there."
In truth, Butler says most retailers are just concerned about creating a comfortable environment that encourages the customer to
spend more time in the store
. Of course, not all shopping areas are quite as tolerant as Apple.
, for example, have policies against bringing pets unless they are service animals and would likely stop customers from making too much noise and playing loud music, according to Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers. That means Malkoff would probably have had a much harder time bringing a goat and a trumpeter if it were outside an Apple store in a mall.
In the short term, Apple's tolerance could backfire. Since Malkoff posted his video, it has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, a fact some of our experts say could lead to copycat antics, but ultimately, even this could prove to be good publicity for the company in the long run as it offers further evidence that Apple's stores are a place to hang out.
Indeed, there are far worse things for a company's brand than being labeled as "way too nice," as Malkoff concludes at the end of his video.
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