Apple: Sometimes Rotten At The Core
In a WSJ story headlined "Secrets From Apple's Genius Bar," I expected some sort of expose of Apple customer service failings, but instead was bored to tears by sections from a 2007 employee training manual (that is still in use!!!) with dictums like "Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome," "Probe politely to understand all the customer's needs," "Present a solution for the customer to take home today," "Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns," and "End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return."
Technology, especially devices that you carry around with you all day, tends to get smacked around and so can be expected to have a problem here and there. So it makes perfect sense to have a Genius Bar where folks who dropped their i-anything on the floor -- or failed to read the owners' manual correctly in the first place -- have a place to go for help. The problem comes when you haven't dropped your iSomething on the floor and have followed every set-up step to the letter -- and the Genius Bar blows you off. I think there is a significant amount of denial at Apple that among the millions of products they ship each year, some are lemons.
Since the spread between Apple's prices and the actual cost of these products are well-documented, you would think they would take the path of least resistance and simply replace stuff that doesn't work properly. But in my case they replaced an iPod nano twice with other nanos that ALSO didn't work.
Here's the deal. I bought a nano at an "authorized dealer" of Apple products. Huge mistake. When I brought back the nonfunctioning nano, they said: "Not our problem, Sparky, take it to Apple." This may sound pretty easy, until you try it. For me the nearest Apple store is a 25-minute drive. Plus the half an hour to get someone in authority to decide that no, they would not in fact replace this item (that costs Apple about $19 to make, and for which they charge $150) with a new one off the shelf. They would give me a remanufactured nano, but I would have to return in a few days when it came in. When you repeat this process twice, you have wasted about four hours -- unless you attempt to enter an Apple store on the weekends, when it will easily eat up twice that amount of time.
So four hours of my time and two nonfunctioning replacements later, I still have a broken nano. There was dark talk at the Genius Bar that "this almost never happens, and perhaps you or your computer are causing the problem." I decided I had spent enough of my time trucking back and forth to see those folks who call themselves geniuses (but really aren't, since they have lost my business).
It finally dawned on me that I should try a non-Apple product, so I got a Zune from Microsoft (far more memory, for far less $$ than Apple iPods, and a smaller footprint). You know what -- it doesn't have the snappy display of an iPod, but it works great, is easy to use and doesn't run out of power nearly as fast as even the smaller nano. I am freed from having to be slavishly dependent on iTunes to manage my music. And nobody at the gym gives a crap that it isn't an iPod. In fact, I have probably sold half a dozen Zunes with my cheerfully shared product reviews.
There are lots of Apple products in my house -- and over time nearly all of them have developed serious problems, including just dropping dead one day. Small wonder Apple needs repair folks in every store; they have lots of work to do.