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. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Olympic reflections

The Olympics are almost over for another 4 years, time to reflect.

1.  Isn't hockey better with no fighting?  True, these are elite players and the stakes are high but just the same, no interruptions for fights, scrums etc.  Many of the players playing in the Olympics occasionally drop the gloves so it is not a matter of non fighters being chosen.  Further the general managers who chose these players are the same GMs who argue that it is necessary to have a least one spot on the roster for a player whose only role is to fight.

2.  Bigger ice doesn't necessarily make for a more exciting game or more goals.  Not that it wouldn't be nice to see a bigger rink in the NHL.

3.  These athletes actually compete in the 3 years between Olympics but nobody watches them.  We have 2 all sports networks in Canada.  Half the time when I turn them on, they are showing Poker.  And lets not forget that many of these athletes we fall in love with and take for ours every four years struggle to support themselves and train for the four years in between Olympics.

4.  Olympic medal standings.  Note how these get manipulated.  If you are leading in gold medals you rank the countries in order of golds.  If you are leading in total medals you rank in order of total medals.  Logically it would be 3 points for gold, 2 for silver and one for bronze.  Or why not include top ten performances.  There are no actual official medal standings so why even post them?  This article has an interesting slant on medal counts.

5.  Are all medals equal?  Some sports like downhill skiing and long track speed skating are a single run against the clock.  Some are multiple heats leading to a final.  Some have back door routes.  Some are tournaments with playoffs.  (In hockey you could lose your first 3 preliminary games, still make the the playoffs and almost upset Canada as Latvia almost did)  Some are invidual, some are team.  Some are in sports that only a few countries excel in or even participate in.  Some are in sports that most countries participate in.

6.  Men (and women) in blazers.  Its about the athletes!

7.  Already talked about judged sports.  They have to go even if it costs Canada medals.  On the other hand by diverting the resources expended on "sports" like ice dancing into real winter sports which Canada being a cold snowy country should excel at we actually might start picking up medals.

8.  Really like seeing the Americans lose in hockey.  It just never gets old.  And we are going to hold you to that:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Scored of the Rings

The Olympic Slogan is supposed to be higher, faster, stronger.  How about higher, faster, stronger, better judged.

There are a lot of things that bug me about the Olympics but judging has to be the thing that bugs me the most.  There is the politics, the unfairness, and the fact that most of us don't understand how events are judged.

At the top of this blog is a photo of Nadia Comaneci and one of her perfect 10s.  No doubt she was the best gymnast at the 1976 Olympics.  It turns out however her perfect 10s were engineered by the Soviet Union who figured that awarding her 10s would raise everybody else's scores enabling  the Soviets to win the team medal in gymnastics.   

It is hard to not notice that many of the events Canada now wins medals are in judged sports.  Does this mean that Canada's athletes are better or do we just play the international judging politics better than we used to.  

True non judged events like hockey do have referees and there is some judgment involved but most high level sports have tried to make that professional level referees are now doing the games.  

The bottom line:  Any sport that does not involve getting somewhere sooner, going longer, going higher, lifting more or scoring more points doesn't belong in the Olympics.  This by the way includes boxing.  Remember the Seoul Olympic boxing?  Other fighting sports have actually developed objective scoring so maybe some of them can stay.  

Eliminate the judged events and more room is open for other events that aren't in or extending existing events.  Ski mountaineering, telemark skiing, and snowshoeing would be easy candidates for addition. Some of the judged sports might be able to modify their sports to make them more objective.

Figure skaters, halfpipers and aerialists are are skilled athletes no doubt.  So are skateboarders, ballroom dancers and stock car racers none of whom I really want to see in the Olympics. Figure skating and ice dancing don't do anything for me but some people find them beautiful to watch.  I enjoy my local symphony but I don't expect see it at the Olympics.

But just because many people and I personally don't enjoy watching sports like figure skating or gymnastics doesn't mean they still can't be in the Olympics.  Just not as a competitive sport.  Sort of an Olympic Ice Capades or Olympic circus.