Commentary

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.

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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.

4 comments about "Apple: Sometimes Rotten At The Core".
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  1. Len Stein from Visibility Public Relations, June 17, 2011 at 8:57 a.m.

    want to have a lot more fun.... try a Dell, dude.

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, June 17, 2011 at 11:21 a.m.

    I hear you. Once I got so pissed at Dell I decided to buy a pair of HP desktops. And wouldn't you know one of them didn't work and had to have it's hard drive replaced (after I had loaded it with tons of software which was all wipped clean in the repair). Makes me miss my old Royal manual typewriter which never broke.

  3. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, June 17, 2011 at 7:09 p.m.

    I pity all electronics manufacturers. By turning the masses loose with technology that is, in reality, exceptionally sophisticated, they open the doors to specific cases (like this one) where everything goes wrong. And justifiably, that leaves an angry user behind.

    I don't think Apple is in denial about lemons. Rather, a lemon is such an odd quantity it's impossible to design a PERFECT system (store or phone) for handling the lemon.

    I have had dozens of Apple products and have never had a lemon. So I don't share the immediacy of the angst here. But my Microsoft experiences aren't good. Neither were my Gateway experiences.

    I think this is justifiable anger. But its cause seems to me to be fundamental in the mass production of extraordinarily complex technology.

  4. Melissa Pollak from none, June 18, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.

    Totally agree with the comment about technology being too sophisticated for the masses. DVD technology has been the worst, especially when it comes to creating DVDs. As far as I'm concerned, they can't become obsolete soon enough.

    But what actually caused me to add a comment was the mention of Zune. I had a Zune die after 14 months of kind treatment by me and another had to be replaced by Microsoft as soon as it was out of the box. Also, the Zune software is a mess. (It doesn't do what it's supposed to do.)

    I'm now using an iPod Touch and I love just about everything about it -- except the fact that mine now has a nasty hardware problem, one that discourages me from ever removing the earphones. However, the software is far superior to that of Zune, and the sound quality is slightly better.

    Also, no more Dell computers for me. Ever. After almost no use, the hard drive of this machine had to be replaced, and trying to install Nero caused a war to break out between Nero and Roxio. That was a mess that took hours to resolve. Plus, the audio quality is crappy.

    My next computer won't be an Apple, but it also won't be a Dell. Luckily, there are plenty of other choices.

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