The Apple Store perhaps has leapt over the Selachimorpha

This is a rant. I was in Manhattan today and decided to stop by the Apple store on 5th Avenue, the Cube, as it is called, to pick up a 3G case. It was about 2:30pm, just after lunch. A simple plan: walk down the stairs, find the cases, buy one, leave. The place was mobbed. Every Italian tourist, every alterna-nerd, every financial Bluetooth headset guy, was milling about in the deep pit they call a store. I fought my way over to the iPhone cases, picked one, and prepared to check out. I looked over at the line for the registers and it was a mess.

Now I understand success begets chaos – just look at post-Rumsfield Iraq – but this was horrible. I also understand that going into the Apple store near Central Park for something as pedestrian as an iPhone case is like trying to pick up some condoms at a porn convention – there are other forces at work there than the standard mercantile instinct. However, Apple is now less a constellation of devices than it is a destination, both physical and metaphysical.

Now maybe I’m reading too much into this experience. I ended up not buying the case and walking out, confused and bewildered. I know this situation is hard to reproduce at other Apple stores and I know I’m not used to crowds but has the Apple halo effect completely overtaken the quality of the shopping experience? Is the Apple store a destination or a showcase? At this point does it draw in customers or turn them away? Am I just coming at this like a jilted fanboy, angry that my favorite band has sold out?

Whatever the reasoning behind my malaise I can honestly say I don’t like the Apple store experience. I usually know what I want so I can usually pick it up online. The stores themselves are crowded, the Genius Bar is usually mobbed, and the selection is part boutique and part ill-stocked Best Buy. Ultimately, I’ll buy my case online and maybe frequent the SoHo store. At least I know it will be mostly empty because the people who shop in SoHo are impossibly thin and don’t take up much floor space.

Does anyone “like” the Apple store? Do you enjoy the experience? Do you consider it better or worse than the traditional electronics experience?