Oh wow, small world eh? I only live about a mile and a half from Great Yarns. Wonder if we've ever bumped into each other there and didn't know it. Wendy and I were just there last weekend... Saturday? No, Sunday... What day did it snow? Wendy works out of that store and Yarns, Etc. in Chapel Hill (owned by the same person) so I know most of the staff at least by sight, if not by name. If you're ever in Chapel Hill, you oughta check out Mary's other store on Elliot Rd. It's bigger and has a slightly bigger selection, including some "locally grown" yarns from Three Waters Farm. And if you get a chance to get out to Chatham County, check out Belleau Wood Alpaca Farm. They sell direct, Three Waters does too, but only at the Carrboro Farmer's Market on weekends.
I know exactly what you mean about the free-wheeling needle tips, and I'm kind of ambivalent about them. In some ways it's nice (especially in Magic Loop) and in other ways... meh. It's not something I'd call a deal breaker or maker for me. YMMV.