Honoring the Customer: EasyPay and Retail Innovation
Apple has been known to be ruthless when it comes to current technology past its prime. The latest victim: lines. In doing so, They have launched one of the largest studies on human behavior since Paul Feldman started selling bagels. Or since Radiohead gave a less polite version of "up yours" to the record labels. Garrett Murray walked into an Apple Store. He walked out with some Jawbone Up fitness bands. His only interaction with an Apple employee was for parking validation. He asked said employee what they planned to do about theft. His answer was simple. "Basically, it's just the honor system right now."
As much as people equate Apple to the Big Brother portrayed in Ridley Scott's classic commercial for the original Macintosh, the company's actions regarding consumer information has consistently been on the side of consumers. Sure, their mobile devices are locked down with no root access and pentalobe screws or copious amounts of glue make even changing the battery a chore requiring special tools and great risk, but they have gone to bat with the big media companies that have demanded Apple turn over subscriber information. They haven't sold to the highest bidder. Apple also doesn't bother with activation codes for many of their software products like iWork and OS X because they are considered more of a hassle to customers than theft would be for the company. In fact, the whole idea behind the Apple Store was to make the experience insanely great for consumers so that they would see the Apple difference and buy macs.
This new innovation in retail is very different from a few dozen bagels with a locked dropbox or a pay-what-you-like system to download music. These are not 99 cent spoilable products that can't be sold the next day or products that have virtually no cost to duplicate. The Jawbone Up is $99.99. There is a real cost to Apple if one of them gets stolen and a real incentive for the morally lax to do it. (And one wonders what their insurance thinks of this move, assuming they aren't self-insured.) Apple is making the bet that the answer to "Are people honest?" is yes. In Paul Feldman's experience, that answer for untended bagels is yes, 89 percent of the time. With the presence blue polo clad employees, my guess is Apple is shooting for something closer to 99 percent. Whether they choose to share that information is another story.
There is still the possibility that Apple is only making us think it's honoring the customers' integrity. They do, after all, track every place anyone with an iPhone has ever gone and might use that to identify (with a high probability) the ones who specialize in the five finger discount. Beware, would be shoplifters. Apple will hunt you down. Apple is always watching.