Are You a Genius or Smart?

Chip traded in his Motorola flip phone and Blackberry for a brand spanking new iPhone at his neighborhood AT&T store.  Warren Burgess was the perfect sales person.  But, within a week Chip’s happy scale had dropped from delight to disappointment––the iPhone speaker would not advance past the whisper level.  A keynote speech in midtown New York put him a few blocks from the giant Apple store on 5 th Avenue.

“I need a genius!” thought Chip.  Visions of rapture from the reputation of the Apple Genius bar were dancing in his head as he approached the Genius.  Chip bounced his description of the no-sound challenge off the “I’ve heard this a million times before” expression of the Genius.  There were no questions and little eye contact.  The Genius seemed impatient to begin his diagnostic wizardry.  After, ten minutes of checks and tests the Genius announced his verdict:  “You have a defective iPhone. You’ll have to take it back to the AT&T store where you bought it for a replacement.” As Chip backed away from the Genius, he could hear, “Next in line,” echoing in the background.

Fast forward to the neighborhood AT&T store the next day.  As soon as Warren saw Chip in the waiting area, he beckoned him back to the really smart side of the store.  “How’s our new iPhone behaving?” he asked, obviously recalling in complete detail the previous week’s sale.  Warren patiently listened as Chip outlined the problem and his trip to the Genius bar in the giant New York Apple store.

“Before we take a look at how we need to reprimand our misbehaving iPhone, Chip, let me ask you a few questions.”  Warren laid the iPhone on the counter as if it were getting in the way of his quest for understanding.

“Did you make any changes in the settings after you left the store last week?” asked Warren.  His focus was clearly on his customer, not on the product.  Three questions later, Chip’s answer to “Did you make any changes to the iPhone itself? brought a smile to Warren’s face.  “Now, now, Chip!  A Blackberry screen protector will not fit on an iPhone.  It covers up the speaker!”  Peeling off the interloping screen protector, Warren brought perfect sound into the room.  As Chip left the AT&T store, he thought, “Apple may have a Genius bar but AT&T stores have Smart bars.”  And, customer-smart will trump product genius every time!

© Chip Bell Group, 2023.  Courtesy of John R. Patterson (  Permission is given to download and distribute this article as long as it contains this copyright notice.