I had my first experience with the Apple really-nice-and-helpful-people bar last week, and while this is probably old news to those who have been through this before, I found a few things notable…<div><ol>
The web component of the experience couldn't have been easier. As I remember it, registration was optional, just pick a store, a desired time window and they return the options avaiable. And after I was through the post-experience satisfaction survey was under five questions long and took maybe 90 seconds to complete from email click to final submit.
Telling them what your problem was ahead of time was completely optional. No questions about what product or what year you bought it or what your problem was or whether you had tried the obvious things (like power cycling or resetting or restoring or whatever.) In addition to the obvious customer-friendliness, this means that they're not relying on their customers for any data capture about the problems that require trips to the bar. They must be capturing this data, though, which mean they're pushing that to the people who can best characterize and report the problems -- the bartenders themselves. (I still refuse to call them Geniuses. I mean, c'mon.)
They swapped my phone with a "replacement part" they had in stock. The touchscreen on my iPhone had fritzed (not completely dead, but still completely useless). After a knowing "yeah, seen this a bunch," they replaced it with a new device -- not one in an original box, mind you, but one in a "phone only" box with a replacement part SKU number on it. Given the recent stories about iPhone inventory levels dropping to the point where a bunch of Apple stores don't have them in stock, it very well could be a reconditioned phone. But it looks new (shiny!) and it works, so whatever.
Look out line-waiters; your warranty expires soon. The iPhones have a year warranty on them, right? It'll be interesting to see what happens in similar circumstances in a few months when the folks who paid the early adopter tax have to take their devices in for service after the warranty's up? Those'll be some interesting white whine blog posts, esp. if they've gone 3G by then.
Oh, and for future reference, the guys behind the counter at the Apple store in Naples, FL are super nice. And yeah, I had a great vacation, even though it did include a trip to the really-nice-and-helpful-people bar. Thanks for asking!