The Other Big Apple

Why is Apple so horrible to its customers?  This is not a “Steve is gone and everything sucks” lament – being horrible to your post-sale customers was always part of Apple’s corporate culture. You can almost hear them thinking “we’ve allowed you to purchase an astounding object. What else could you want from us?”

What I want is better customer service. After all, Apple changed the world! They gave us the iPad, which we love. Can’t live without it. Why, then, does their customer service level come in slightly above United Airline’s on a full flight? Apple hasn’t had me dragged by the police out of their store yet, but it could happen. I’m not talking about one incident, either, I’m talking about every point of contact.

Way back in the day, Al wanted to buy a Mac. He placed the order. Weeks went by. No mac. Day after day – same answer: “It’ll ship this week, sir!” Finally, there came an answer we could live with: “It shipped yesterday!”  Yay!  But it never arrived. Al asked me to call (‘cuz I’m the secret weapon). After some initial chitchat, I learned that it had never shipped. It hadn’t even been built yet. They had production problems, and “whoever you talked to said it shipped just so you’d stop bothering us.” That put Al off Apple forever, which is a shame.

The Mac that Al never got.

When I got a new iPad, I passed along my very first iPad to a friend. We set up an apple ID for her and everything. It only took 2 hours, but voila! She got an old but functional iPad with “bookworm” installed, and I get a few beers at the local alehouse. Two years passed without incident. But then, unexpectedly, in the midst of an iOS update, Original iPad stalled. Can’t proceed. Needs authentication – but it wants MY apple id, and not hers.

This is a problem. I have three different Apple IDs, and the very first one is locked, disabled, and backed by an email address that is out of commission. After a few loops through the call tree, I actually reach an Apple support person (hint: call the sales number because they always answer, then get them to pass you over to customer service) “No problem! We’ll send you a link to reset your password.”

“That email address doesn’t work any more. Can you send it to my current email?” No, they can’t. That is a security violation, which means a trip to the Genius Bar.

All that glass, and no account overrides.

For those of you who have never entered the Lincoln Center Apple store to request facetime with a Genius, I suggest you try it. The blinding whiteness of the décor….the spiral staircase made of glass that seems to float on air…the sleek display tables that go on for miles, each offering up a myriad of desirable technology, discretely chained down so no one walks out without paying. The confusion during the purchase, as you realize there is no checkout counter. The relegation to the basement for those seeking help from a Genius. The lack of a predicate or verb in your prose as your stunned senses take it all in.

We got our names onto the queue. Only a 90 minute wait, which meant I could do some much-needed houseware shopping at Zabars. Back at Apple, a brief 30 minute wait until the Genius called my name. I won’t task your patience by describing the interactions with Genius, Supervisor, and Manager, but I will tell you that the futuristic purity of the surroundings did nothing to take the edge off my ire. I don’t enjoy yelling at managers or supervisors, and they don’t enjoy it either, but it does focus the attention.

Bad customer service can turn even a mild mannered blogger into a Wall Street douchebag like this.

After a string of profanity worthy of Scaramucci, I ended with a plea to common sense:
“No one in New York City keeps receipts for 9 years unless they are hoarders. You’re APPLE for God’s sake! Don’t YOU have the proof I bought this? You’ve got an iPad in your hand right now – just look it up! I know there are 3 different ids for me, but I’m a real human being. I can prove my identity. All YOU have to do is look up the purchase history for this particular serial number. Do you think you could do that?”

No, he couldn’t. They don’t give customer service folks access to sales information. He did, however, send an email.

Here’s the reply.

Dear Apple Customer,

Thank you for contacting the Apple Online Store.

After researching your request for an invoice, we have determined that your IPAD WI-FI 4G 16GB WHITE – VERIZON-USA with serial number DLXHC0ZGDVGC was purchased through a reseller. We are only able to provide invoices for products sold to end users directly from the Apple Online Store. Please contact the company that your IPAD WI-FI 4G was purchased from to obtain a sales receipt.

We appreciate your business, and we apologize for any inconvenience.


My reply:

Dear Regina.
My IPAD WI-FI 4G 16GB WHITE – VERIZON-USA with serial number DLXHC0ZGDVGC was not purchased through a reseller.  I know this because I got the optional engraving on the back, which resellers do not offer. Only Apple offers the engraving service.

Please take care of this matter immediately. It is shameful that Apple does not keep data history for customers. If I were a scam artist trying to pull a fast one, would I be spending all this time and pain to LEGALLY prove I own a 9 year old device?  Wouldn’t I just pay some guy on Craigslist to jailbreak this slab of ancient technology?

And, here is the irony: I went through a lengthy setup to give it my friend, and it was due to an automatic iOS update that it reverted to the old apple id and can’t get past authentication.

This is burning me up. I know that Apple is a large, faceless and unsympathetic corporation. I also know your customer data is just as horrid as everyone else’s customer data (I know this, because I am a data analyst).

Can’t you find someone in your vast empire who can help? I’ve already been in person to speak with a Genius, and they can do nothing for me. I must seek out the mystical “account override”, and that is what I’m trying to do.

This produced the desired result. Eureka!  I can finally prove I own a 9 year old iPad, and Apple will fix the problem caused by their own update.  My time was well spent.

At least Bookworm was still there.

However, my experience has made me love Apple even more.  I understand now that the many hours lost to me was for my own protection, and that sometimes a little stress for an individual is necessary to ensure the entire Apple ecosystem continues to thrive for many years to come.  I know that Apple truly cares for each and every customer, and that somewhere, Saint Steve is smiling down on us all.  I’m also confident that no one from Apple would ever hack into a small, innocent blog just because it was automatically flagged by our webcrawlers for mentioning the word “Apple” 25 times in 1224 words.

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