Rotten Apple

Steve Jobs needs to spend some time reading Seth Godin between his visits to the altar of Jonathan Ive. If only Apple placed as much emphasis on customer service and support as they do on the design and marketing of their products…

I am a lifelong fan of Apple — I taught myself to program on an Apple ][, own every flavor of iPod available, use a 17″ PowerBook G4 for work (and suffer the inconveniences associated with being a Mac guy in an office full of PCs), have three Macintoshes at home, buy a new one every year and upgrade to the latest and greatest versions of Mac OSX and iLife as soon as they become available. I can only assume that I must be the kind of loyal customer that Apple should care about keeping happy and in the fold.

I have a dual-processor PowerMac G5 in my recording studio, which I had not yet upgraded to Tiger because I was waiting to be sure that the latest and greatest version of ProTools was working smoothly with the new OS. Last weekend I decided to upgrade the Mac in my studio. Well, it turns out I was unable to do so because the Tiger install DVD failed verification and then crapped out midway through the install. The installer instructed me to call Apple Support to resolve this issue, leaving my studio out of commission in the meantime.

Since I was heading down to Palo Alto to run some errands, I decided to stop by the Apple Store and bring my Tiger install DVD with me, along with the box it came in, so I would have sufficient proof of purchase. The friendly (yet ultimately unhelpful) guy at the Apple Store told me he wasn’t able to replace my DVD for me and that I would have to call Apple Support, a task I was trying to avoid given the long wait times and the fact that the voicemail maze seems to me to be an immune system designed to prevent customers from actually speaking to real people.

So on Monday, I called Apple Support and spent twenty minutes on hold waiting to talk to a real person. Once I got through to a human, this friendly (yet ultimately unhelpful) person explained to me that since I bought the new OS more than 90 days ago, she couldn’t help me and that I’d have to buy a new copy. When I protested, she told me that since I had installed it successfully on two of my computers already, I must have scratched the DVD so I’d have to buy a new one. Given that I put the DVD back in its envelope and back into its box and it sat on my shelf for several months, I think it is unlikely I scratched it, and more likely that the slot-loading drive on my PowerBook or my iMac was the culprit. But in any event, when I buy software from Apple, aren’t I buying a license to the software and not the physical disc itself?

But I digress. I told the friendly (yet ultimately unhelpful) person that I didn’t find this to be an acceptable solution. She told me she would be happy to connect me with a “specialist” who I could explain my situation to in more detail. So then I had to wait another ten minutes and listen to Apple’s hold Muzak until this specialist became available (there’s that customer-support immune system again, trying to outlast my persistence and make me go away). After recounting my story again to the specialist, he grudgingly told me they would send me another copy of the DVD, though he took pains to point out that they were making an exception for me and wouldn’t normally do this.

Sadly, Apple squandered multiple opportunities to be “insanely great” to me. I know the main goal of the Apple Store is to showcase their products and win new converts, yet they are missing a chance to keep existing customers happy. The guy at the Apple Store should have given me a new copy of the Tiger DVD, no questions asked. Instead, he ended not only making me frustrated, but told me that I had to go waste more of my time by calling Apple Support. Then, Apple Support missed yet another opportunity to make me happy. Once they had my name and number, they should have been able to see how many thousands of dollars I’ve spent with Apple over the last several years, and should have done their best to please me. Instead, they treated me like a guy who was trying to shake them down for a free copy of software, which forced me to be an a**hole on the phone before I could get my problem solved. Unbelievable.

OK, now I feel better. Rant finished.

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