Sunday, February 23, 2014

Good apple, bad apple

I had an interesting experience last week which shows the good and the bad of customer service.

I didn't get a computer until 1991 when I finally could afford one and when I needed one for billing.  At that point I had to make a choice between PC and Apple.  I had had to make a similar choice between Beta and VHS a few years earlier, fortunately choosing correctly.  I asked a few computer savvy docs and it really appeared that Apple was going the way of Beta and so I chose a PC.

Probably thousands of MBA thesi have been written explaining why Apple got their butt kicked by PC in the 1990s and I am not going to enter into that discussion.

This has lead to a succession of PCs including the laptop I am typing this on.  I have over the years spoken with people who use Apple and they are enthusiastic almost evangelical about their computers.  I even briefly considered getting one after getting fed up with Dell but I am a creature of habit.

I even resisted getting an i Pod when they came out.  I got a Creative Zen instead which while not as compact as the i Pod is in my opinion a much more versatile MP3 player.  I did finally get an i Pod about 6 or 7 years.  This iPod has lasted up until now, I keep on waiting for it to die but it won't.  4 years ago I got an i Phone 3 and when it died an i Phone 4 which I currently still have.  Both these interface quite nicely with my PC although I had a little trouble getting my iPod to sync with my current laptop.

I had a little Dell netbook which I used for traveling and to take to work until it became so unreliable that I stopped using it.  I wanted something smaller than a laptop for work and travel so I started looking for a tablet.

A couple of Xmases ago after my wife told me she didn't want an i Pad, I gave her one anyway and fortunately she loved it.  My kids on the other hand tell me that iPads are over-priced and that there are cheaper better tablets available.  This left in a bit of a quandary as to what to get so I asked the Chinese guys in my department and they told me with impeccable logic, that since I already had an iPod, iPhone and my wife had an iPad, it made sense for me to also get an iPad.  Besides I thought, I will be able to share charging cables.  With that in might I proceeded to the Apple Store, bought an iPad air, gave it to my wife who presented it to me for Xmas.

And very nice it was.  Within half an hour of getting it on Xmas day, I had my email set up and my schedule and contact list was synced with my iPhone.  I was able to download versions of all the apps I had on my iPhone.  And I soon loved my iPad as much as one can love an inanimate object.  No love is perfect.  It used a different power cord than my iPhone and my wife's i Pad and as we found out when we visited South America, only an Apple charger will work which meant the travel USB charger I bought didn't work and it was just fortunate that for some reason I threw one of the Apple chargers in my bag.   Also the word processing soft wear is not as good as Word or Open Office and an iPad is more or less useless without Wifi and our hospital is about the only site in the developed world without Wifi.

I started using it all the time, I watched Netflix on it, during the Olympics I streamed the CBC feed onto it.  Next to the iPad my laptop seemed like something from the Stone Age (not far off as it runs Windows 8).

Then one day as I was multitasking while watching TV, I absent mindedly pressed on the screen and I felt a tactile sensation like the sensation one gets on breaking a thin film of ice.  And when I looked down this is what I saw.

No problem.

The iPad is less than 2 months old, it is still under warranty and I have the receipt because the Apple Store emails the receipt to you.  Off to the Apple Store in the mega mall I go.  Arriving at the Apple store I was able to flag down an employee, not always an easy thing, and I explained my situation.  He directed me to a table when 4 other people were sitting or standing and waiting my turn, I explained my situation again.  The employee pushed a laptop in front of me, told me to log in using my Apple ID and when I logged on, told me to make an appointment.  "You mean I came down here just to make an appointment?," I asked.  Grumpily I made an appointment.

The next afternoon I was back at the Apple Store in the mega mall at the appointed time.   I flagged down an employee and was directed to the "Genius Bar" where about 5 other people were sitting.  20 minutes after my appointment time (not complaining I am a doctor after all), a technician came out and looked at my iPad.  The following conversation ensued:

Technician :  "Interesting, I have never seen a crack pattern like this."
Me:  "Must have been a flaw, "
Technician: "Tell you what, since you didn't buy the extended warranty (for $200), I can give you a new one for replacement cost of $300."
Me: "Surely after 2 months it is still under warranty"
Technician:  "The warranty doesn't cover damage from impact"
Me: "From my thumb?"
Technician: "Sorry".
Me: "Can I speak to the manager?"

After 10 minutes somebody about the same age as the technician comes out with a badge saying manager.  I always suspect that when somebody asks to see the manager, somebody just goes into the back room and changes their name tag.

Manager:  "If you had bought the extended warranty, we would have replaced it for free, less a deductible"
Me:  " You mean if I had been stupid (or prescient) enough to spend one third of the price of the iPad on a warranty, I still would have had to pay more money?"
Manager:  "That is correct.  Do you want us to get you a new iPad for $300 plus taxes".
Me:  "I can get a tablet from another company for $300 so why should I pay you for another tablet when I paid you $600 two months ago and now the screen is cracked?"
Manager (almost speechless at my logic):   "That is up to you sir."
Me:  "Well, I also have an iPhone and an iPod and when they die, I will be dealing with a different manufacturer."
Manager:  "That is too bad."

I slunk home thru the mega mall with my damaged iPad.  I was really pissed and at the same time a little sheepish about how I had spoken with the Apple employees.   I doubt they get paid very much and probably a lot of them are over qualified for what they do plus they are only following company policy.  I make a good living, paying $300 for a new iPad is not going to bankrupt me especially as a member of the 1%, my corporation actually owns it and can write it off.

Getting home I went to the Apple site and lo and behold there was a toll free phone number to call, it was one of those annoying voice response phones but after about 2 minutes I actually got to talk to a human with a North American accent who when I explained what had happened, called his manager who asked my to email him the picture I had taken, which I did using my iPhone and he actually phoned me back about 10 minutes later and told me I could have a new iPad.  I suspect this had more to do with my demographic than  any sense of fairness and justice.   "What do I do now, " I said.  "There is a note on your file, " he said, "just go back to any Apple store and they will give you new iPad".  I actually made an appointment online for the next day.

I was a little nervous about this because the only assurance I had was the verbal assurance from someone who said he was a manager but when I arrived at the Apple Store at 1600, next day, I was quickly directed to the back of store where a nice Apple employee gave me a new iPad, helped me set it up and made sure I didn't lose any of the data on my old one before we erased my old one and I walked out of the store happy and relieved. 

1 comment:

ZMD said...

Remind me not to get into a thumb wrestling match with you.