An Unobtrusive Information Seeking Scenario: Buying Apple’s Laptop Product

How to cite this article: Ofoleta, K., C. (2015). An unobtrusive information seeking scenario: buying apple’s laptop product. ResearchGate


About The Author:

Kelechi C. Ofoleta holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc), in Computer Science/Information Systems from Victoria University of Wellington (VUW), New Zealand. He is a Master’s scholar, completing a master of Information Management (MIM) under the same institution.,

An Unobtrusive Information Seeking Scenario: Buying Apple’s Laptop Product


Kelechi C. Ofoleta


“Information-seeking is a special case problem. It includes recognizing and interpreting the information problem, establishing a plan of search, conducting the search, evaluating the results, and if needed, iterating through the process again” (Marchionini, 1989). Numerous clarifications of the information seeking process, anticipate a collaboration cycle comprising of distinguishing an information need, followed by the activities of query specification, examination of retrieval results, and if necessary, reformulation of the question, rehashing the cycle until a palatable result set is discovered (Salton, 1989). There are different concepts of information, each useful for distinct purposes (Lombardi, 2004), likewise, information seeking means dissimilar things in distinctive contexts (Kingrey, 2002). The idea behind this study is to seek information through observation, a fundamental way of finding out about the world around us, which is more than looking or listening method of data collection for research purposes. The interaction between me and the supplier(s) of the information sought will be captured and noted soon after the information search ends. The importance of the study will be the knowledge gained from the information seeking, the strategies and the outcome of the interaction.

In this case, help with information to decide on purchasing a powerful Apple brand laptop computer with essential features to improve my software development capabilities will be narrated. This will include step by step details of how I sought for the information, particularly questions that I asked or answered; the responses I received or gave and the outcomes. Then my experience will be discussed against the information seeking behaviour or model from some past studies. In addition, I will conclude by summarizing how I felt overall regarding the help that I received.


I needed to know how to acquire a custom-made MacBook Air that has 16 Gigabytes of Random-Access Memory (RAM), 1 Terabyte hard-disk space and battery life of up to 12 hours or more. Based on my prior knowledge as a Computer Scientist and understanding through research, I knew that a laptop with the above features, has the capability of resolving my current problem of computer freezing and applications crashing at runtime while writing and executing software codes and rendering graphics. I am particularly pedantic about getting the above three features because they will allow the laptop to provide sufficient revolutions per minute (RPM) for faster computing. So this need prompted my information seeking as narrated in this report.


The issue is that all my current computers are not as powerful and effective as needed for me to be productive with writing software codes and designing the accompanying graphics. This was despite that I recently bought a Window-based computer which at the time of purchase got its Random-Access Memory (RAM) otherwise known as main memory upgraded from four gigabytes (GB) to 8GB to ensure that it runs the software application used in coding faster. Research shows that increasing the RAM of a computer allows temporarily stored data to be accessed quickly from random locations rather than sequentially from the hard drive. In other words, a RAM disk offers speedier reading and writing than ordinary magnetic disks (Falk, 1992), making programs to run faster. Unfortunately, the software-development application I use, like graphics rendering applications, (e.g. 3d max), Independent development environments (IDEs) applications (e.g. Netbeans, Android Studio) and Emulators made my current laptop computer inadequate. Hence, the need that I must acquire a more powerful computer to solve the problem of application freezing in between operations or crashing unexpectedly, which I attributed to the insufficient, read/write access to the RAM.

In pursuit, I started searching for what to buy. Apple’s most-recent laptop; MacBook Air caught my attention on Television, which reminded me of my friend who brought one to University lectures that we attended. So I inquired of my friend how much he bought it and its features. He told me that it cost him NZ$1,499.00, in particular, that it has 8GB of RAM. This meant that it was as useful as the window based computer that I was trying to replace. That said, I learned from him that the MacBook Air has a titanium body and has a battery life of 12 hours. Apart from the fact that the RAM was as good as what I had already, I developed a genuine interest in the product, but not to the extent that I was willing to sacrifice speed for the aesthetics, so I set out to seek more information regarding customising this particular product to meet my needs.


It was around 12:40 pm on a Wednesday when I travelled to an electronics shop in Wellington City of New Zealand to purchase Apple’s MacBook Air laptop. The streets were very busy, and it was sunny and windy as usual. It took me almost half an hour to locate a nearby parking for my car. In fact, it was by luck that I got the lone unoccupied spot to park my car. As I was not sure how long it will take for me to find the information that I was seeking, I paid for the maximum two-hour parking ticket at the cost of NZ$4 per hour; I displayed my ticket on the dashboard before embarking on my information seeking quest. I worked about two poles from where I parked my car outside the store. In the store, I stood at the entrance, glanced at my watch to remind myself the approximate time that it will take for my parking ticket to expire. It was 12:50 pm; I saw a little queue of about six customers near the main reception desk which appeared unoccupied. This was my first-time shopping at this store, as it was recommended by my friend, so I joined the queue. Soon after, a young female staff in her late 20s wearing the store’s insignia rose from behind the reception desk; she lifted an item onto the desk and handed it over to the first customer who collected it and left.


The queue advanced steadily until it was my turn. I stood in front of the desk and placed my hands on the reception desk, then greeted the female staff, “Hi.” The staff replied, “Hello! How can I help you?” She made an eye contact with me; I reciprocated and smiled briefly. “I am looking forward to buying a MacBook Air laptop” I said. “Do you have it and how much are you selling it?” She replied, “We do; it depends which one you want “she said. “How much is the 15-inch size laptop?” I asked her. The response that I got from the staff made my search for this computer more difficult. “MacBook Air only comes in 11-inch and 13-inch, and that’s what we have” said the staff.

I was lost for words, and she could see it. In fact, her response made me immediately lost interest in pursuing this model of Apple’s laptop despite the initial profound interest that I had to own one. I eventually recovered and managed to say, “Is that right!” As if she was reassuring me, the staff said, “we have 15 inches but in other models. I am sure we have a MacBook Pro in that size.” I requested to see the other models since I gave up on the MacBook Air.

15-inch laptops provide plenty of desktop real estates, which is handy for writing and debugging codes compared to using laptops with lower size. Therefore, this feature is equally important to me in addition to getting enough RAM and storage disk space. Meanwhile, the queue of customers behind me was fast stretching. The staff then said, “Please wait so that I can call one of our computer salespersons to help you decide while I help other customers.” She reached over the intercom telephone hung to the left side of the reception, picked the receiver up and started speaking. It was not clear what she was saying as the telephone was far from where I stood. The call was quick, and the staff returned and informed me that someone was coming down to help me. I thanked her and stood aside from the queue and peeked at my watch again.

The line of customers in the queue continued to grow and contract while I waited to meet with the salesperson. I engaged myself with window shopping in the store to see items on display. Within where I stood were household electronics like Batteries, Cameras, accessories, etc. I checked the time, it was ten minutes since the salesperson was called, but he was nowhere to be seen. To avoid being perceived as an inpatient customer, I continued to wait. A minute and half later, a dark skinned more matured man wearing a Turban in addition to wearing similar insignia as the young lady staff, but held a bunch of keys in his left hand walked up to the reception. While I did not hear exactly what they discussed, I sensed that he was the salesperson that I was waiting to meet. I looked in their direction, and the female staff made a hand gesture that signalled me to come. I started walking back to the reception desk to meet them, but the salesperson walked up to me. We greeted, and he introduced himself as the salesperson which confirmed he was the right person that I was waiting to speak to. “Apple laptop, come with me, ” he said. He led the way deep into the store. The salesperson was working too fast that I had to increase my pace to catch up with him. To all appearances, he was looking very busy. Eventually, we got to the computer section the salesperson showed me the MacBook Air models they have and also showed me other Apple laptops ranging from 11 inches to 18 inches.

To avoid information overload, that could distract me from my main purpose of seeking to buy this computer, I focused on the laptops with 15-inch size. The salesperson noticed I had no interest in the other Apple laptops, so he allowed me to choose rather than pressing on with his initial act of overloading me with information by introducing laptops that I did not ask for. Based on my earliest conversation with the younger Staff, I narrowed my choice down to MacBook Pro. The initial issue with the MacBook Pro on display was that it had Aluminium body, unlike the MacBook Air with titanium body. So I asked the salesperson, “Do you have the MacBook Pro with titanium body?” This confirms my interest to him. He started walking towards me and said, “MacBook Pro version in New Zealand only comes in Aluminium, though that MacBook Pro with titanium-carbon-fibre body wrap does exist.” This gave me no real concern as the body was of secondary interest to me. Then I asked, “What other features does it have?” The salesperson seemed a little in a haste. Instead of answering my question, he asked me a question which suggested, I better make my choice fast, or he may not stick around longer to help me. “What type of work did you want to do with the laptop?” He asked me. I played along as he is likely the best person to provide me with the information I desired based on his experience. So I told him that I was a software developer, and needed a faster laptop with at least 16 GB of RAM; reliable with up to 12-hour battery life which was one of the features of the MacBook Air which I liked. “


The salesperson said, “Then, you don’t want to buy a MacBook Air. It is not as powerful as you described. It is more for light on the go works.” “What type of application did you use when programming?” he asked. I told him that use IDEs like eclipse, Netbeans, Android Studio, etc., and in case of game programming I sometimes used Autodesk 3d max, and so on, which are all heavy applications. I further explained to him that my current window-based laptop struggled with the applications despite that I upgraded the RAM at the time of purchase from 4GB to 8GB. The salesperson confirmed MacBook Pro to be ideal for the sort of work that I wanted to do with the laptop, but he added that the features I wanted would totally depend on how much I was willing to spend. He further said that the price ranges of MacBook Pro they had were $1,999.00 to $2,499.00, (NZ dollars).

For the $1,999.00 price range, he said the features were a 15-inch: 2.2GHz MacBook Pro with Retina display, (starts reading from a catalogue), 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz, 16GB 1600MHz memory, 256GB PCIe-based flash storage, Intel Iris Pro Graphics, Built-in battery (8 hours) and Multi-Touch trackpad. I immediately ruled out the first option given that it only had 256GB of storage space. So I asked him, “What was the hard drive size of the top price range?” He said, “The higher one had 512GB hard drive size and costs $2,499.00 but with more powerful upgrade features and extras.” He handed over the catalogue with the specifications for me to read the details. I skimmed through it and found that it has more features than the earlier one the staff read out to me such as: Intel Iris Pro Graphics; NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M with 2GB GDDR5 memory. It also has a higher upgrade specification of 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.7GHz. I further realised that the hard drive of 512GB was PCIe-based flash storage, which was impressive.

Everything about the new MacBook Pro is cutting edge, but one place where really shines is in the storage department. Rather than old-school hard drives (HDDs), or even faster solid-state drives (SSDs), Apple has chosen the next-generation PCI Express flash storage. This storage is up to 2.5 times quicker than the fastest SATA-based SSD, and a whopping 10 times speedier than a 7200 revolutions per minute (RPM) SATA hard drive. In technical terms, SATA hard drive offers about 110MBs, while a SATA flash drive can top 550MB/s. Compare this to PCI Express flash, which can manage 1,250MB/s (Kingsley-Hughes, 2013). This meant I found the answer to my problem as it will provide an incredible level of data throughput, enough to end my application freezes.

Based on the fundamental components that I initially wanted my new laptop to have, it was only battery life of 8 hours instead of 12 hours and Hard Drive storage space of 512GB instead of 1 terabyte (TB) that the MacBook Pro lacked. So I asked the salesperson, “Can I get the battery life upgraded to at least 12 hours?” Disappointedly, he told me that battery of 8 hours life was the highest for the MacBook Pro 2014 model. “Can the Hard Drive be upgrading to 1 TB?” I asked the salesperson. “Of course, but that will cost you an additional $500 as it is a flash storage” he responded.

So I asked the salesperson, “How much will be the total?” He told me that the total excluding 15% G.S.T. was $2,999.00. Then he picked up the calculator and punched in the G.S.T which came up about $449.85. “So you are looking at spending $3,448.85,” the salesperson said. “Wow! That’s twice my original budget, which was what MacBook Air was advertised for. So you can’t give me a discount?” I protested. “Can you give me a discount?” I asked him. “I am afraid that’s the price,” he said. However, he later checked on his computer and stated; “only student’s discounts are applicable to this product at the moment.” “Then I should be entitled,” I replied. The salesperson doubtful of my claim asked me what I was studying and where I was studying. I told him that I was studying masters of information management at Victoria University of Wellington. Clearly, he did not believe me; I gave him my ID to confirm that I was not joking. He espied my ID and revised his calculations and said, “Then the total will be $3,148.85.”

Confident that the deal was assured, he informed me that customised MacBook Pro takes a bit longer to be built. “How long will it take?” I asked him. The salesperson told me that it would take about three to five working days to be ready for pick up or be delivered to my doorstep. The once, busy looking salesperson appeared relaxed because I was serious with the transaction. He asked me if I wanted it. I said yes and added that I wanted the item delivered to my house instead of pick up. He sat down and prepared the details of the transaction on the computer. Following this he moved me on to the cashier at the front counter beside the reception to pay for the item. At the cashier counter, we met another mature lady who the salesperson introduce me to and handed over the details of my purchase. She processed the payment invoice, requested for the payment. I made payment for the item using my visa-debit card. She gave me a receipt for the payment; thanked me and reconfirmed that my item will be delivered within 3-5 working days before I left the store.

On my way out, I glinted at my watch; luckily, I still had about 40 minutes before my parking ticket expired. Exhausted after I had talked and stood up for a little over an hour, I walked fast to my car and drove home.


From the consumer’s perspective, it is the expensive, infrequently purchased items that tend to garner the most thought (Case, 2012). This is applicable to the scenario of buying a laptop that I narrated above. A good laptop computer on average lasts for over a period of three to five years, i.e. based on what is known as ‘planned obsolescence’ or the lifespan of a desktop computer (Siegle, 2013). According to Marchionini, (1989) information seeking includes recognizing and interpreting the information problem, establishing a plan of search, conducting the search, evaluating the results, and if necessary, iterating through the process again. This turned out to be exactly what I experienced in this case. The crashing and freezing of the applications in my recently acquired window-based computer despite the upgrades before the purchase made me to recognise and interpret that there was an information problem. This led me to establish a plan of search that is to look for a laptop that will resolve my problems and conducted the search through my friend as described above that eventually led me to seek for a customized version of Apple’s laptop. Initially, I wanted MacBook Air but the further information I gathered the more I could understand my search, which was why I ended up acquiring MacBook Pro instead. Of course, that is the evaluation and iteration process as per Marchionini.

According to (Newman & Staelin, 1972) purchase decision process has been regarded as a learning experience which suggests that information search varies directly with education because the latter represents ability and interest in seeking and evaluating information. My experience supported the importance of education, but showed that the relationship is not as simple as I initially thought. There is no difference between highly educated people (University degree holders) and less-educated people (high school students) in terms of the amount of information search when buying household appliances (Newman & Staelin, 1972). This was one of the things that I realised through this study. As a computer scientist, I was shocked to learn I could not get the MacBook Air in 15-inch size I wanted, despite that I had the money, among other things. However, buying experience, which suggests knowledge of retailers, products, and the purchase process, had a substantial influence on search once a buyer had bought at least two products within the last ten years, especially for appliances (Newman & Staelin, 1972). Again, this was true given my experience in this scenario as I mentioned buying windows based laptop recently. My previous knowledge influenced my information search for a lot and was why I resisted the distraction of going beyond 15-inch laptop knowing full well the size that I wanted.


The essence of this study is to evaluate unobstructive information seeking, in particular, using the scenario of buying an Apple’s Laptop. My information search succeeded, but involved a series of revelations. I set out to buy Apple’s MacBook Air, but ended up buying a MacBook Pro, which apparently turned out to meet my information need at time of purchase and even in practice.

Based on my experience, I can generalize that for one to get the accurate information when buying an item, especially a laptop, they will first of all, decide on why they want to buy the item plan on how to search for the item conduct the search, evaluate the results, and if necessary, iterate through the process again. It is very likely that once they get the precise information and have enough money that they will be able to buy the right product to satisfy their needs. One should not be in haste when searching for information otherwise incomplete information will lead to wrong decisions.

When I initially met with the younger staff, she demonstrated knowledge about the information; I was seeking but realised it will take time for me to reach a decision given the type of questions that I asked her. I revealed there were gaps in my knowledge pertaining to the product. This made the staff to refer me to the salesperson, which was less engaged at that point in time and could dwell with me until I reached a decision on which laptop to buy. This was helpful as it prevented me from being rushed into making a hasty decision that might have negatively affected the outcome of my search.

Information overload (intentional or not) is definitely not good for a client. When I was presented with too many Laptops by the salesperson, I nearly got confused deciding on what to buy. It was my previous experience in buying items that helped me to resist the distraction. It will be preferable for the staff to show the information seeker only the information that will help him or her to make a better decision than introducing distraction. This will help reduce information overload and help the buyer make timely decisions.

Overall, I considered my Apple’s Laptop Buying experience successful. Though what I initially wanted was not what I got, I believe what I got was better despite my initial budget was exceeded twice. It took time to find the correct information that led to my purchasing the right laptop and the time worth it in the end. Lastly, as promised, my item was delivered to my house exactly five working days later. I no longer encounter the problem of my application freezing or crashing while executing code.


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