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The End of the Affair

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24th Aug 2005
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It's a sad day - Stuart Lauchlan, fervent and devoted MAC user, ends his long love affair with Apple...

Dear Steve Jobs

I write this more in pain than pleasure. It's never easy when a long term relationship hits the rocks. You and me and Apple, we've been together a hell of a long time. I mourned your ousting by that interloper from Pepsi. I came with you when you spent the wilderness years Microsoft-bashing at various object management events in the 1990s. I even managed to keep a straight face during that odd period with those hideous black NeXT computers (what was that all about anyway?)

But it's over Steve, thanks to your call centre staff. How did it come to this? Only a few weeks ago I was singing the praises of Apple for being efficient in its handling of customer service enquiries and problems. But after this week's example of the worst 'customer dis-service' I've ever encountered from an IT vendor, there's no going back.

And it's all a follow on from the earlier good help that was given out. But then last time I got lucky with the nice Irish chap. The French fellow this week was less endearing - and as for his German line manager...!! Perhaps that's the lesson to be learned: if you get an Irish accent answering your call, stick with it - anything else, put the phone down and save your blood pressure.

I'd bought an iBook earlier in the year. Last month, three months after I bought it, the hard disk collapsed. I called for help. The original Irish customer service operator, when told the serial number, was able to tell me at once to take it to a repair shop, adding "We've had some bother with some of that batch."

I took it to my local Apple dealer who installed a new hard disk, but when I got it home I found that my Airport wirless card could no longer pick up signals from a base station only a few feet away. My Apple desktop was getting a full signal from the same base station, while the laptop was also able to pick up a signal from the wireless network in Starbucks.

So I called the Apple support desk again and asked them how I put back the settings that had been in place before the hard disk collapsed. In other words, how to return my computer to the state it had been in before Apple's defective equipment had failed after three months.

I was told they could do this, but that free telephone support was not available after three months. I pointed out that the only thing I was asking was how to put my computer back to the condition it was in before the collapse and that Apple had itself admitted that it was likely that this machine came from a defective batch.

Oh no, we don't give out technical support for free under any circumstances, I was told. If I was prepared to hand over my credit card number then I'd be told how to restore my settings. I pointed out again that the only reason I was having to make this request was because Apple had sold me a machine that collapsed on itself after three months and that I had been without a laptop for three weeks as a result which was a considerable inconvenience that had nothing to do with me. Did he not feel that Apple perhaps might feel some responsibility under the circumstances? Apparently not. Rules is rules. More than his job was worth.

You see this is what puzzles me Steve... In all the time I've known you, you've been interesting, spikey, quotable, flamboyant, undoubtedly mercurial, probably both inspiring and horrendous to work for at the same time, but through it all I've thought you were a decent bloke that had some regard for the customers that stood by you and Apple. I always thought of Apple as a reflection of that, a human company in an often unhuman industry.

But according to your customer service people last week, the reality is somewhat different. Someone buys a laptop from you in good faith. That laptop proves to have dodgy components in it and fails fatally after only three months. It gets repaired but is out of action for three weeks while parts are sourced. Once back up and running its settings need to be restored. Your call centre staff can help do this, but won't do so unless the customer greases their palms.

Well, I suppose it's a nice money spinner - ship out dodgy kit then charge to put it back the way it was even while it's still under warranty. It's a winner, but you've had your last penny piece off me. Every bit of faith I've had in Apple has gone in one unfortunate, totally unnecessary incident. When my current Apple kit reaches the end of its life then it's back to the world of Windows.

It's been fun, but your staff have let you down. All good things must come to an end I suppose; I just didn't think it would end this way. And you know something Steve, it's not me - it's you!

More in sorrow than anger - goodbye...

Stuart
[email protected]

We know there are a lot of other Apple devotees out there. Tell us what you think about Stuart's latest customer experience at the hands of Apple. Click the 'Add your own comment' below to share your thoughts and opinions.

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Replies (12)

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By AnonymousUser
24th Aug 2005 16:55

Don't allow some peon drive you away from a machine and operating system that is second to none. I would recommend you do two things. First try calling again and see if you have better luck with the next tech person. If that doesn't work ask for their manager and insist that they help you for free. I personally have had these issues with Apple in the past and sometimes if you are insistent enough they will give in. If that doesn't work call the repair center that worked on your MAC and see if they will help you out. After all they did not leave the settings in your machine the way they were before you brought it to them.

If all that doesn't work you can go to Macnn forums and post your problem there and somebody will probably help you out for free.

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By johnbosnitch
24th Aug 2005 23:38

It might be useful to note that in a just-completed poll of 14,000 PC Magazine readers Apple finished on top. Your "grass is greener on the other side" presumption appears to be unfounded. Here is a quote from PC Mag:

"18th Annual Reader Satisfaction Survey
The Particulars

Who's doing it right? As usual, Apple receives the highest ratings for overall satisfaction with both desktops and notebooks, and it is a Readers' Choice award recipient."

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By johnbosnitch
24th Aug 2005 23:20

Your first letter to Steve Jobs should have been a request for assistance, rather than the announcement of your nonnegotiable boycott of all Apple products due to a failed interchange between you and an unnamed tech person. Loud pronouncements, overarching generalizations and assertions of collective Apple guilt by association do not make for good starting points in the search for a mutually satisfactory resolution of this issue. Having had an excellent personal experience in requesting the free repair of an out-of-warranty iBook directly from Steve Jobs, I might suggest that you try the same thing and take down your rant unless you find due grounds to re-post it. Write to: [email protected]

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By c.readsmith
24th Aug 2005 21:53

Speaking as a former Tech for an Apple Repair Facility, it is true that "software" configuration and settings are not included in "hardware" warranty repairs and are considered the customer's responsibility. Any re-configuring or software related issues would be considered billable.

I would recommend either using the Airport Setup Assistant which should be installed on your iBook or try looking at the Apple Support website for Airport - or posting in the discussions. I sympathize with your experience and think it's a bit hasty to throw Apple away when the fix might be rather quick.

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By iainh1
26th Aug 2005 09:27

I had a very similar experience with Apple about 6 months back, but am hanging on as a devotee by the skin of my teeth - mainly because experience suggests that others are not much better.

To cut a long story short, my Powerbook was deemed to be terminally faulty by one of the 'geniuses' at the Regent St Store - but that counted for nothing with the call centre folks (including the Irish ones). It took me about 4 months and a vast amount of time and effort to get a replacement.

The reason I stick with them, can be summed up by an all time classic quote that I had from a Sony call centre after I my Vaio went back for its 3rd new hard disk in 6 months. I called to see what had happened to my associated complaint only to be told....'oh, we don't feel obliged to respond to customer complaints'. Enough said - in my coming lifetime of spending a fortune on gadgets and computers, none will be from Sony.

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By BMNBMN
25th Aug 2005 09:11

We don’t need you if you are not prepared to hand over our money. Give it to Micheal Dell and enjoy the ride.

Steve

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By reregister
25th Aug 2005 02:16

You knew how long your telephone support period lasted when you bought the computer. You knew that if you wanted telephone support longer than that, you needed to buy AppleCare or pay per incident. I guess the rules don't apply to you, though, since you've got a bully pulpit and a propensity to complain.

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By markjeffrey
25th Aug 2005 18:55

Stuart,

I think you are wrong when you say that the relationship has failed because the customer service staff have let Steve/Apple down. If the staff have not been trained adequately nor been given sufficient discretion to act in cases like yours then that is clearly a management or policy issue. The after sales service policy needs to be designed in as part of the product specification and costed as well. You are therefore completely correct to lay the blame at Steves door.

However, I think it unlikely that you will find significantly better service levels from PC vendors.

Mark

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By Stuart Lauchlan
25th Aug 2005 17:40

My first editor told me all those years ago: "Never take a pop at Apple - the Macintosh Fundamentalists will come after you." She was right judging by some of the intemperant comments we've received. Fascinating how so many of the outraged hide behind spurious false names on a mac.com account rather than having the courage of Steve Jobs convictions though...

To 'Steve' - I'd be more inclined to take your advice if you'd managed to complete your abusive comment with the correct spelling :-) It's 'off' not 'Not'.

As to John Dooee - yeah I knew how long telephone support lasted on a working machine. This machine was defective and crashed fatally within the three month period. When it was returned it was not in the condition that it was in when its defective components failed. As such I think I'm more than entitled to expect it to be put back in the condition that it was in. INdeed the Apple repair outlet told me it was Apple policy to return it "like for like" (ie no operating system upgrades etc). That works both ways, surely? Oh and "bully pulpit"? It's nice to know I have a regular reader, but perhaps you might find a new phrase to attack me with next time you disagree with me (which by my reckoning is every Thursday).

John B - why do you assume I haven't contacted Steve?

Frances - Apple has indeed been in touch. We're now talking. I'll let you know how it proceeds next week.

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By franceslee
25th Aug 2005 16:20

Is anyone from Apple a member of this site? If they work on the CRM side it would be interesting to get a first hand response on what they think about Stuart's comments.

Thanks

FL

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By willcheverton
25th Aug 2005 09:32

Stuart

I have no particular strong thoughts about Apple, although I think the iPod is a work of genius as is the hype they've whipped up around their iPod products. I certainly wouldn't swap my iPod for a competitor's MP3 player, even if it had better features, memory etc (yes, I'm a typical sucker for the hype!)

However, I did find your article a very enjoyable read and I hope that other members take it in the spirit in which it is meant and not too personally.

And do let us know if you convert back to being an Apple user. I know you mention them a lot in your writing and I think it will actually take more than this to tear you away from your iBook!

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By lanceman
25th Aug 2005 21:21

While I do agree that Stuart's experience was frustrating, perhaps (1) a good practice would be to do a backup of your system periodically to avoid this nonsense, and as well (2) try going back to the store that sold you the computer, asking them for help.

Chances are, they'd go the extra mile, whereas a minimum-wage call center flunky who sits insulated, at the end of the telephone line, won't.

There's something about looking into the white's of their eyes, that seems to break-through bureaucratic nonsense at times.

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