Friday, 20 April 2012

Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen

I have never subscribed to the adage 'treat them mean, keep them keen.' The suggestion that this is a good way to deal with a member of the opposite sex, presumably because they will take you for granted otherwise, has always seemed to me to be fine if you are effortlessly attractive, but not necessarily helpful for ordinary mortals. I am fascinated to discover, though, that this approach extends beyond humans, and indeed living creatures, to companies.

The example that has brought it to mind is Apple. There is no doubt that Apple is a marmite company - one that you either love or hate. If you hate them they are the kings of style over substance, peddling overpriced technology that doesn't do anything more than the cheaper stuff, but that has a strange hold over the media, and that is particularly good at product placement (just take a look at an episode of Neighbours and you'd be convinced there is no other make of computer). If you love them, they are the ultimate innovators, the champion of the individual over the corporate machine (that was so much easier when the enemy was IBM), the people who realize that technology should be beautiful and functional.

It has been quite entertaining watching Apple, with their recent success, go from being the underdogs to the hated corporate on the opposite side to the plucky Android (from that tiny startup, Google).

I have to be honest - I love Apple products. But something I've found out recently doesn't help my image of the company - because they are the ones I was thinking of when I opened with 'treat them mean, keep them keen.' (Yes, I hadn't forgotten that bit.) According to someone in the know, a source I can't reveal in case they send round the heavies, Apple takes exactly this approach to its resellers. Apparently if you go into a shop that sells Apple products and buy a replacement power supply for you Macbook, the shop will make exactly £0 on it. They have no markup at all. Even more bizarrely, buy a Macbook battery and in theory the shop will make a loss, because the wholesale price is actually higher than the retail. (I say 'in theory', because I presume the shop doesn't source from Apple wholesale, but perhaps they are made to.)

It seems that Apple's attitude is exactly that of the highly attractive lover. They know that their resellers adore them, so they treat them mean to keep them keen. And that's fine in the good times. But Apple ought to be careful. There's nothing worse than a spurned lover. Maybe it's time to go back to your roots a little, Apple. Remember this:

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