I went to Microsoft Store for Surface on a launch day. Compared to Apple Store, t’was a retail experience from hell

Last week, I did something I thought would never do. Being an Apple fan and all, I wouldn’t have waited in line for a Microsoft product launch if it wasn’t for helping a few friends.

This Microsoft Store is located right across an Apple Store in a mall. In the past, I have waited in line for many Apple product launches, which have all been a wonderful experience. What exactly makes Apple product launches a wonderful experience? The opportunity to hangout with the Apple community throughout the night, receiving attention by the press, and the aura around it. A Microsoft product launch? Not so much.

It was a retail experience from hell.

Waiting In Line

I wasn’t worried about a long line, but I was surprised by the number of people there. I arrived at 9 AM (an hour before launch) and I was only number 13. If this were an Apple product launch, it probably would have been hundreds long easily. In fact, the Apple Store across had over a hundred people waiting for the iPhone 5. Can you believe it? People are still lining up every morning for a month old product. Turns out, they receive shipments Monday – Saturday and are sold out within minutes in the morning. It was also disappointing to see no members of the press at the Surface launch. At this exact location, if it was related to Apple, there would be news vans and members of the press interviewing people while there.

While waiting in line, friendly Microsoft employees welcomed us, gave out water, fruit bars, and candy. By 9:30 AM, the line was 50 to 75 people long and employees started to hand out a yellow band for people that were eligible for Xbox Music. I don’t understand why a card couldn’t have been given instead because the yellow band was pretty difficult to take off after. This was all acceptable until ten minutes before “launch.” Microsoft staff tried to get the people waiting all excited by cheering, but that didn’t end so well. They were the only ones excited while the people waiting were totally clueless on how to react! You could hear the crickets chirping and the sad trombone playing. During an Apple product launch, the excitement just forms on its own and Apple staff actually interact with customers by giving out high fives. Also, throughout the time, members of the press folks waiting in line, which add even more value to the experience. I became extremely bored while waiting in line.

After that was over, Microsoft employees made customers go through a tedious process of making us fill out an “order form”. The staff would give an explanation of each item on the form and help us fill it out. The order form’s design even had a very Apple-like feeling to it.

But really now? An order form for something we already knew we were going to purchase? This process just slowed down the entire line. Not to mention it was an insane amount of waste of paper too. The launch was supposedly to be at 10 AM, but people didn’t get to go inside the store until 10 mins after. How could a company be late at launching its own product? It was truly absurd. At every Apple product launch I have been too, employees do a countdown 10 seconds before and are always on time. Just as I was about to enter the store, I was asked by a Microsoft store employee if this purchase was for personal or business use and if I wanted to do an in store setup. I said personal and didn’t choose to do an in store setup. In my mind, I felt like I was making a purchase for Windows. After being asked these useless questions, the guy went to go look for somebody that could help me out. You would think the person that asked me these questions would be the one assisting me with my purchase. But even before I made it into the store, Microsoft somehow had managed to give me a headache. I wasn’t inside the store until 11 AM (one hour after launch)! The staff was not getting the line to move, but instead we were just told to wait. It was also hilarious to see that on the other side of the store, Microsoft had created a line for people just wanting to get into the store. There was actually no explanation behind this. Why couldn’t people that wanted to enter just walk in? It was a massive fail on Microsoft’s part, but more importantly it caused a painful experience for me. Even before I was inside, I just wanted get out of there.

During an Apple product launch, customers are allowed to go into the store right on time and there is no nonsense of having to fill out any form or answer any questions beforehand. It was an absolute ludicrous experience waiting to get into the Microsoft Store. 

Inside the Microsoft store

After waiting for two hours, I finally made it inside! There was no excitement or emotions expressed while I was waiting in line among customers or employees. Instead, it was a huge sigh of relief. While I entered the store, employees were just standing around like it was just another day of work for them. No applauds, no cheering, nothing.

The store itself looks very similar to an Apple Store and Microsoft even copied Apple’s uniform. Usually, Microsoft staff wear multi-colored t-shirts, but this time around, they were wearing blue t-shirts. I wonder where they got that idea from? There were clearly more employees in the store than customers. It was made very clear who the underdog in today’s world is.

A Microsoft Store sales guy greeted me and took me to a table where I was once again explained the Surface options. Instead of asking what I wanted, I was given an actual demo. Oh, come on! The employee giving the demo seemed clueless on how to work the device. It was made obvious that the employees weren’t given enough time to learn about the Surface beforehand. Even though Apple doesn’t educate store employees about new products hours before launch, they at least have a clue on what they are talking about. I wanted to start playing with the device, but the sales pitch just wouldn’t stop.

At one point, the employee was desperately trying to sell the keyboard. It was pitched as if nobody has a cover like this. Also, during the product demo, the Surface’s WiFi stopped working, but that issue was blamed on the store’s WiFi network. I can’t remember the last time an Apple product failed in store. During the explanation process, a couple of employees popped out of nowhere and yelled “We have workshops in the back!”. They were desperately trying to get customers to use the workshops option at the store. At an Apple Store, workshops aren’t shove down your throat, but instead are an option. In my mind, I was frustrated. First of all, I already knew what I wanted to purchase. Second of all, why was I being interrupted during an explanation? It was like an ad that wouldn’t go away.

Heck, even if you walk into a Microsoft Store today, a sales rep will come up to you while using a Surface and give a sales pitch. What the heck for!? Just let me play with the product. At an Apple Store, I wouldn’t be given a demo, but instead an opportunity to play around with the product right off the bat. No sales pitch, no pressure of purchasing something.

Then I was asked to show the order form I filled out while waiting in line. You would think the Surface and keyboard would have been in my hands by now, but no! The employee had to go check if the items were in stock. I waited there for a full five minutes doing nothing. Finally, it was time to checkout. The point of sale system that was used was extremely slow in processing payments. After the payment went through, I was asked how I wanted my receipt. I chose the option to get it emailed, but little did I know a surprise was headed my way. A registration process was required where I had to give my name, address, etc. This process took another five minutes. It seemed like Microsoft employees did not care about a person’s time at all. After a full two hours of being at the Microsoft Store, the launch day experience of purchasing a Surface was complete. By the time I was out, there was no line outside and no store employees congratulated me on my new purchase. Ironically, the Apple Store across was still house full by the time I got out.

If this was an Apple product launch, I would have been in and out of the Apple Store within five minutes. When I was in line for the iPhone 5, Apple store employees were able to go through a 1,000+ people line in 20 mins. They are insanely fast at helping customers out during a product launch. Oh, and while you walk out of the store, employees are cheering and congratulating you on your new purchase making it feel special.


The Microsoft retail experience sucks. Period. There is no difference in making a purchase on launch than there is on any other day. I know this for a fact because I have purchased an Xbox 360 from here before and have gone through something similar. It was made very clear that the underdog has a lot of catching up to do in the retail space. After waiting for many product launches at an Apple Store, I came to realize that a launch day experience is completely unique and cannot be experienced on any other day. You see, Apple’s retail experience is so great because they took their time to perfect an experience and not rushed something

Author: Parth Dhebar

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  • Bob

    The author is a such a whiner. First he complains that the staff is cheering and trying to excite the customers in line, then he complains that the staff is not cheering the customers inside the store. Then he complains that their is no press there to fawn over him. Next he complains that he has to fill out an order form. Then again he complains that nobody cheers him while he walks out.
    The only reasonable complaint I heard in this entire ridiculous article is that the sales order system was slow. I’m sure that is being rectified.
    Oh the horror! You poor little boy.

  • kbfresh

    Apple can do no wrong in your eyes and Microsoft can do no right. Why don’t you learn how to be an objective writer and stop whining.

  • Mazher

    poor little boy, indeed. Immature writing.

  • Black

    “At the Apple store its that way. But here it is so different and confusing!”

    This seems to be the general approach. Parth, not everything in the world is aiming to be an Apple alternative.

    I will help you in clarifying your thoughts. In simple words, you found Microsoft’s retail process slow. You also felt that it could have been a bit more personal. Cheers!

  • barrett1134

    Parth, you are whiny jackass. Get over yourself… Oh, and have a great day.

  • Murnende

    Ah, smug self-satisfaction. It’s rather effective at covering anxiety, isn’t it?

  • ryan

    You piece of shit. The fact that anyone allows you to publish crap like this is beyond me. If you call journalism your career then that is a joke and a disgrace to all of the real journalists out there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tldraco Travis Wilson

    For those who want a summery of the petty apple fanboy complaint list, here is.

    1. No press attention for you. Boohoo.
    2. Arm bands are so hard to take off.
    3. The iPhone has longer lines. Take that M$!
    4. The Surface lines are too long.
    5. Enthusiastic staff. Oh, the horror.
    6. No high fives for you.
    7. An optional Pre-order forum to speed up checkout. Won’t someone think of the trees?
    8. We had to wait a few extra minutes.
    9. No countdown to launch.
    10. Two questions at the point of sale. When will it end?
    11. I had a headache. Why doesn’t MS stock aspirin?
    12. Microsoft follows fire code and makes people wait in line to play with the surface. What wrong with unmanaged chaos?
    13. Microsoft isn’t enough like Apple.
    14. Microsoft is copying Apple.
    15. I forgot to ask the store employee to stop showing me the surface. Why can’t he read my mind?
    16. Everything the employees do is a desperate. Because you can read their minds.
    17. They are yelling about a “workshop”. It’s hurting my ears!
    18. They didn’t let me play with the product that I didn’t want to play with.
    19. Registration!? UUUUUHHHGGG! Apple never does that!
    20. MS employees didn’t tell me they care about my time.
    21. Why do product launches take so long!?
    22. No congratulations on your purchase. But you bought 3, you should have got three times the congratulations!

    Pressure to buy? When we went to get our surface there was no pressure at all. Sales staff would check in with you and see how you’re doing and if we needed anything explained to us. They knew everything about the device we had a question for and were able to explain the limitation and features correctly.

    The iPhone 5 is subsidized by carriers down to $200 compared to the un-subsidized Surface starting at $500. A phone is also a necessary device now a days. Tablets are not. So of course a longer established product like the iPhone is going to be selling more!

    You also complain about waiting in line and then complain about having to fill out a forum. Uh, Duh? That strikes me as something smart that other stores could learn from. Instead of getting to the register and having people make the wait longer by letting them hem-and-haw about color, device combination and accessories they let them decide while waiting in line saving time at the point-of-sale and giving people something to do while they wait. How in the world can you complain about that!?

    Additionally, does your life only exist in an Apple bubble? How many experiences with other retailers compare to Microsofts first attempt at a having a nationwide retail locations? There are stores that have been in business for decades that don’t even come close. Every step of the way the Store employees were helpful and the system was efficient.

    Aggravating and hellish is standing in line at a Walmart while a cashier doesn’t know how to split the tender between a debit and check, having to wait for a manager, and then the manager not knowing how to us the system or fix the problem while you watch 5 other people in the next line get checked out.

    What I get out of this article and from my own experience is that for Microsofts first attempt at a nationwide store and new product lunch they did a pretty damn good job. That, and no matter how close to the quality Microsoft comes to doing things like Apple (or better), Apple fan boy will never been impressed because they are stuck in the Apples reality distortion field.

  • Linda

    I would hope that you can find it in yourself to be a positive writer or at least title your article in a way that shows comparison between the two companies so that you don’t come across as a negative writer. I didn’t see anywhere in your article that any one at microsoft was mean or rude but to the contrary tried to be very helpful. You have to praise the efforts made and if one has a right to be praised more then do just that, but to try to bring down a company with your opinion of the way they choose to do things doesn’t make you look very compassionate. I personally like it when a company puts their efforts into making it personal between me and them. The fact that there were more employees than customers should tell you they were trying. If you were greeted outside before you ever made it in the door and then given more attention when you could not be talked to by sales person right away should also indicate to you that you were valued by them as a customer. They didn’t want you to change your mind and leave you without the item you came for. It worked, you stayed you bought the merchandise, so give them credit they did their job. You became a paying customer. I didn’t see that you had a complaint the product you purchased. Even Apple must be missing something if you went to buy something microsoft had, since it is apparent that you like the Apple store. If everyone could read between the lines and see what you didn’t say, you were really building up their product even though you didn’t build up the sales tactics. Find a way to be positive about what you have to say so people will look forward to seeing your opinion. Thanks for the between the lines look at microsoft. Looking forward to seeing you next article, I know you can do it in a most positive way.

  • Tyler

    I can’t believe I read that whole thing. To be honest, I was expecting a bunch of comments agreeing with the guy that Microsoft sucks and Apple rules. I’m proud of all these commenters :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/adzcqe Adzcqe Mi

    nonsense article

  • DM

    LMAO! This “review” seems to be written by a 5-year-old who missed nap time. it all amounts to: “At the Microsoft store it’s like: _____, but at the Apple store it’s like: _____.” WELL THEN JUST GO TO THE APPLE STORE IF YOU LOVE IT THERE SO MUCH! By the way, I love how after such a “HORRIBLE” experience you still walked out with not one, not two, but THREE Surfaces!!! LOL

  • Nomadic

    The entire article is a piece of shit! Useless….No one understands what Partha wants to say!

  • http://Twitter.com/AbbiV AbbiV

    You’d think that being right opposite the Apple Store would teach the Microsoft Store folks a thing or 2 about launching new products :-/

  • Sankarkumar

    Horrible journalist who is quite apparently an apple fanboy. I bought a surface too and only found the entire experience quite rewarding where the employees waited and explained to me all aspects of the product. I was not rushed into buying anything. They just wanted to make sure that I would be completely satisfied with the product.

  • Abhishek

    If you ever needed a proof of Apple fan boys never making sense, here’s it.

  • david green

    Parth the reason you find an Apple launch such a rewarding event is that it’s feeding your insecurity and resulting need to feel part of a “group” and maybe even be in with the “cool” people for a few hours.

    Unfortunately you fail to understand (like everyone else in the Apple queue) that happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. A Microsoft launch was never going feed the cheap gratifiication your immature ego needs because you have chosen Apple as the subsitute for any real meaningful social interaction and actually having a life, instead of Microsoft.

    An IPhone is not love, Parth. Ditch the ranting and go speak to a professional counsellor.

  • windows

    after reading this article.. my hate apple just grew 100X .. fcukin dumb icarp fans

  • InsufferablySmugAppleFan

    Reading the comments by the many Microsoft fans here all I can say is that the company has got the fans it deserves. Clearly MicroFans have not yet adjusted to supporting the underdog. Don’t worry you will plenty of time to get used to it.

  • Don

    Uh oh… mommy just nurse him for a little more time…. he is whining again….and wet his diapers… What a useless piece of write up!

  • jamal

    The worse article from an apple fanboy.

    Make everything stereotype about apple fanboi true.

    I hate apple for turning people into a sheep like this, or maybe those low life people allow themselves to be brainwashed by apple.

  • Andrew

    The article seems totally valid to me. I don’t understand: Why all the rabidly pro-Microsoft responses, unless they are written by people related to Steve Ballmer?

  • http://twitter.com/danielfmUCI Daniel Morales

    “Apple product launches a wonderful experience? The opportunity to hangout with the Apple community throughout the night, receiving attention by the press, and the aura around it” ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? YOU ARE A TEENAGER OR A PROFESSIONAL???? Your comments are simply DUMB

  • hatfield

    wait wut??? why does anyone need to allow him??? freedom of speach is the internet. “real journalists”??? the ones who are “allowed” to publish!! soviet style is not style. real journalists aren’t real! haha

  • Kel

    What did I get out of this article? That this is exactly why I am not an Apple fan. That and, well, Microsoft consistently comes out with higher quality products. At least for me, as an engineer, I can name more than ten software programs I have to use that don’t run on Mac computers.

  • Derik Hafew

    Wait wut??!? There are alot of interesting things going on in the comments section of this post. The most interesting is how easy it is for y’all ^^ to call a 5 year old a jackass?!!! lol calm down folks. Apple spoils you, and Microsoft traps you! How about them APPLES, MICROSOFT!!

  • Parth Dhebar

    I got a letter of rec from Steve Wozniak and still got rejected from my top school Santa Clara University

  • Tyler Hsieh

    Waiting 24 hours for an Iphone ok but 2 hours for this! CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY

  • Hyun Kang

    Guys I had to go to school with this kid. =_____________= How the hell do you think I feel hearing his annoying little voice talking about why Steve Jobs is the new God and Microsoft and PCs are the devil. Think about it. Plus hes ugly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hyun.s.kang.9 Hyun Solo Kang

    I had to go to school with this little fuck. Imagine having to listen to him during Calculus whining about Steve Jobs this and Woz that. God damn, I felt like he want to blow the both of them. =_=

  • Indiana61

    Perhaps you meant 10 programs that won’t run on OSX, technically if you have Windows installed on the Mac hardware it will run the programs

  • Indiana61

    You are no better!

  • jackonemillion

    After reading the line, Being an Apple fan and all and the headline I gave up reading. Microsoft stores are not perfect but reading a biased article from Apple die hard fan is not worth it.

  • not a msft employee

    Blue Microsoft shirt is Apple’s idea? LMAOF, you are a noob. In the 80’s MSFT guys were wearing Blue Polo Microsoft logo shirts. Not to mention why Jobs didn’t like stylus? Because most of the iPhone was a colored version of the old PALM Pilot with stylus and didn’t want to make it so obvious if he included a stylus…

    And being an apple guy in a MSFT is like being a Republican at a Democratic convention anyways… Lame article…

  • Steveo

    I bet the writer hates looking at the menu at his favor place to eat while he waits for a table to open bcause that might make speed up everyones wait. Watch the Jimmy Kimmel Apple Pardo this week about “Suckers”

  • Tyler Hsieh

    He was never in calculus:P

  • geonautics

    The truth is, Apple has the upper hand on human psychology and uses it strategically to their advantage effectively. I was in banking operations years ago, working with the marketing and sales team at two different institutions, A & B. Institution A took an approach, to listen and allowed the new account holder (customer) to explore the different products and ask questions before engaging in any sale pitches. Institution B went a different route, handing the new account holder a questionnaire requesting product needs and personal information such as incomes, existing relationship with other financial institution(s), any loans, homeowner / renter, etc. The approach Institution B took is invasive. Why? Ask yourself this: Do you trust giving out personal information to a financial institution when you have YET established a trusted relationship and your intend for the visit is to test the water? Plus, if you are doing this over your lunch hour, do you think you have time? The point I want to make is that, Apple knows how to make the initial connection and maintain an ongoing relationship, which some called turning people into “sheep.” :D

  • http://twitter.com/johndavidstutts johndavidstutts

    Can’t wait for my Blackberry 10

  • Phil

    I don’t think you understand the meaning of the word “summary.”

  • Phil

    Higher quality products? Really???

    Way to lose all credibility in one sentence.

  • http://www.lazyprogrammers.com Eugene Kim

    If one side has a superior retail experience even through massive launch events and one side just launched with a horrible experience but is ok in your books because it’s the first attempt, who exactly is in the reality distortion field? It’s one thing to admit things could be better but it was a good first try. It’s another to say it doesn’t matter and you suck. Comparing it to Walmart is just scraping the bottom.

  • http://twitter.com/radioactiveukr RadioactiveUkrainian

    Gee, people get mean online in the comments section. OP: I agree the MS retail experience sucks compared to Apple’s. I make money on MS software (software developer using C#), so I was going to get a Surface so start getting into Win 8 apps. I didn’t like the device, so passed, it’s not critical to own one yet (I bet it will be half the price used within a few months, tops). But the experience – wow. Sales pitch was STRONG. Demos were pushed on me. I literally had to say “I know what I’m doing, please leave me alone” before I was left alone. Only one Type cover per store – wtf, they had to take it away from me to let another customer play with one. Sales folks didn’t know facts about Surface. One told me Surface Pro will be north of $1k despite MS not releasing any numbers yet. It wasn’t super terrible as in someone stabbing me, but it was definitely very subpar compared to Apple. But let’s be fair, retail space is new to MS, as is having it’s own tablets. So I’m not saying MS sucks b/c of this. But the fact is, they do have some catchup to do.

  • Greg Lawhorn

    1) Microsoft wants to be Apple. It’s not.
    2) Microsoft wants its customers to have an Apple-like experience. They don’t.
    3) Microsoft doesn’t comprehend what sets Apple apart, it just tries to pretend.
    4) The M$ fanboys commenting don’t get it, either, so they defend what is ultimately defenseless.
    5) As long as Ballmer has Jobs-envy Microsoft will run a distant second – M$ can’t even copy well (Zune, anyone?)

    Remember when Microsoft was the big gorilla in the computing world? Maybe not, it’s been a long time. Of course, Windows is a nice game platform, but for serious work, get a Mac.

  • Zac Caslin

    Sounds like Someone just broke your Hyun.

  • http://www.thegraphicmac.com/ JimD

    I’m an Apple fanatic, but even I have to admit that the Apple retail experience (at least here in Phoenix) the last few years is about the worst I’ve ever had. The stores are way too crowded with teenagers who have no intention on buying anything. There aren’t enough people working to get in and out fast for shoppers who know what the hell they’re doing, and the ones that are there are too busy trying to make people feel “comfortable” rather than getting them in and out quick.

    I remember buying my iPhone 4 in the local Apple retail store. The dumb bastard helping me spent 20 minutes (at least) asking me how I planned to use the phone, if I had a website, and could he see it (I made the mistake of saying yes). I finally had to say “look, I’m in a hurry. How much longer is this going to take?” before he got the message.

  • yetanothersteve

    A piece of shit is someone who speaks like this to another human being because they don’t like/respect their writing. Your mommy must be so proud.

  • yetanothersteve

    Remember the rule… once you see the word “fanboy” used, stop reading. It means “I’m too lazy to address what I read (maybe even to have read it), so I’ll just name call like I’m 6 years old. Or a political attack ad.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/tldraco Travis Wilson

    I found nothing wrong with the way Microsoft conducted their business at the store when we got our Surface. I was pretty impressed actually.

    I don’t need to justify or make excuses because there was nothing “horribly” wrong with what Microsoft did. Sure they could make improvements and they will have smoother operations once they have more experience. But just because some Apple fan boy who didn’t want to be their in the first place has a bunch of weak-ass petty complaints doesn’t make it a hellish experience. It does make for a really absurd article!

    I didn’t compare either of them to Walmart. In my book, both of Microsoft and Apple do a wonderful job. I was explaining that a hellish retail experience is what you would expect at a Walmart. It needed to be pointed out because the author clearly doesn’t know what one is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tldraco Travis Wilson

    Oh sorry Phil. I thought most readers here were smart enough that they wouldn’t need a qualifier to explain that the next section (where I respond to his criticism in more detail) was a different part from the summery of his comments.

  • http://twitter.com/MikePintler Puckman

    Warning! Does your surface really have 32GB of useable ram??