Copiapo, Chile — Sensing opportunity, Microsoft has moved up plans to open its fifth retail store. Location: the bottom of the Chilean mine where 33 men were recently rescued.
“Apple only went 30 feet down at their Fifth Avenue store in NY,” explained Microsoft spokesperson Kerry Sprig. “We’re going 2,000 feet down in Chile.”
Visitors gain access to the new Microsoft Store by taking a 32-minute capsule ride down a narrow shaft to the now-renovated chamber. Milking every branding opportunity, Microsoft provides each visitor with a music-filled Zune to enjoy as they pass through layer after layer of picturesque rock.
When customers hit bottom, it’s all Microsoft, all the time. The store offers hands-on demos with a range of Microsoft-inflicted products — at least those that can fit through a 2.5-foot wide hole.
Microsoft’s touch can be seen everywhere. The access shaft was widened and the capsule refitted with heavy-duty cabling to accommodate Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who descended for the ribbon-cutting on opening day.
So far sales are encouraging. While the computers frequently short out due to the 104-degree, humid conditions in the mine, the hellish environment also spurs customers to purchase quickly.
A surprise hit in the store has been the Microsoft Answer Bar. Over 60% of the visitors have been lining up to ask the same question: “How the hell do I get out of here?”