Alice Jones: The positively alien world of Planet Apple

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How wonderful it would be to live on Planet Apple. Up there on your personal cloud, everything is black or white, smooth and shiny, with no jagged corners or vipers’ nests of wires to trip you up.

It’s a place where everything works at the press of a button or languid sweep of a finger. A place where nobody sells things, they “provide solutions” and where the bars are staffed by geniuses. A place, indeed, so bereft of negativity, the word “unfortunately” doesn’t exist.

This last gem came to light this week in a Wall Street Journal article about the secrets of the high street utopia that is the Apple store. It revealed that staff are given scripts to learn - taught to say “as it turns out” rather than “unfortunately” - and tutored in the art of the reassuring nod when faced with a beetroot-faced customer clutching a dead hard drive. “Your job is to understand all of your customers’ needs,” runs the training manual mantra. “Some of which they may not even realise they have.”

It’s tempting to scoff at this sell-sell-sell philosophising but perhaps the reason we find it so alien is that we’re simply not used to courteous, efficient and positive service. Of course Apple are trying to sell us stuff – and they do, making a staggering $4,406 per square foot of their stores – but they make the experience as painless and pleasing as booting up an iPad. Having revolutionised the way we interact with the world, they’re now changing the way we shop – for the better.

***

Talking of technology, here’s a status update: I love Facebook. In a week when the social network has been pilloried for abetting contempt of court, secretly scanning our faces and losing users (down 100,000 in Britain last month), I’m with my colleague Julie Burchill when it comes to the eternal joys of the blue-and-white site. I love it for the photos of friends with their new-born babies, for the surprise of a Junior School pal popping up after a decade and for how it makes far-flung loved ones feel a little closer.

And I’m not ashamed to admit it - unlike those who claim never to log on but display a suspiciously detailed knowledge of a school-friend’s wedding dress or last holiday when pressed. I’ve always thought that being on Facebook and then sneering at it is a bit like going to a party and spending the whole night standing on the doorstep, silently criticising the people inside for making a noise and having fun.

As for privacy concerns – yes, my pictures belong to Zuckerberg but nobody forces me to post them. And maybe the adverts have a sinister way of talking to me but I’m sensible enough to ignore them. My bank tracks my every transaction, my Oyster card maps my every journey, even my work pass remembers every Twix I buy. At least with Facebook I have a choice whether to reveal things about my life and who I reveal them to. It’s about sharing with friends - what’s so sinister or trivial about that?

***

Crystal meth, brain candy and environmentally unfriendly are among the latest additions to the Oxford English Dictionary. O tempora! O mores! etc. The quarterly updates are always as good for a snapshot of our degenerating lifestyles as they are for pub trivia. Did you know, for example, that “use it or lose it” has its origins not, as you might expect, in an Eighties gameshow but back in 1887? Perhaps the most surprising new entry, though, is babe, finally endorsed as a term of endearment, almost a century after its first recorded use and decades of affectionate musical outpourings from Sony and Cher and Take That. Babe has been in there before, of course, referring to an infant or to an attractive woman, but this marks its first fully gender-neutral inclusion. It’s now also officially applicable to attractive men.

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