Apple Inc: McMedia Multinational and Failed Customer Service

"Would you like fries with that app?"

“Would you like fries with that app?” Image borrowed from

Remember back when Apple Inc. really rocked in the customer service department?  When it was more than a faceless corporation trying to slam out apps and media titles like they were cheap, fast food burgers?

I do.  But, yes, it has become a memory.

In the past 3 or so years, I’ve bought 2 MacBooks, Apple TV, an iPod, and 2 iPhones — one through my business and one personal.  I’ve bought my wife, Krista, both an iPod and an iPad as gifts.  And, I should add, I’m a also a semi-frequent shopper at both iTunes and the App store — through a couple of accounts.

So, what does thousands of dollars of loyal shopping get me?

Well, if I have as simple a problem as an invalid server issue on my mail program — a 30 second fix — it gets me an invitation to pay $60 to get my question answered.  Or it gets an invitation to purchase extended Apple Care.  A mere $279.

In the past few years I’ve paid something like $900 in Apple Care for our various Apple products — and used it, I don’t know, maybe a couple of times.  And of those couple of times, the advice from the “Apple Genius'” didn’t work nearly as well as the fixes I eventually found by surfing online or going with my own half-baked trial and error.  Heck, I’ve had difficulties trying to even purchase items from the fine folks on their customer service teams.  Imagine getting into an argument while trying to give someone a thousand bucks.

That’s how special they’ve become.

Let me get this out of the way.  Full disclosure: I have yet to get Apple Care on my most recent MacBook Pro.

Quite frankly, I never got around to it.  And, also, judging from prior experience, it just hasn’t been worth it.  That said, with almost the full line of Apple products in my home — some of them duplicated — you would think that I’ve paid for my right to the odd quick call for advice.

Think again.

I called them today with a very minor hiccup — the aforementioned invalid server issue with my mail — and got shot down.  Denied.  Turned away.  Well, after they asked me for money, of course.

Jeez, thanks, Apple.  Thanks for helping out a loyal customer.

During workshops and in blogs and print articles, I’ve often talked up Apple hardware and software.  While I wouldn’t call myself a fan-boy, I would say that, historically, I’ve been impressed with the smoothness, durability, and responsiveness of Apple products.  And I haven’t been shy to spread the word when they’ve worked well.  I’ve been pretty good at shooting business their way.

I’m losing faith in my ability to continue to do so with clear conscience, though. I refuse to recommend a company that fails at customer service — or one that shows a blatant disregard for their customers.

You see, from where I sit and write, Apple appears to have become a sprawling company that is more interested in selling media than they are at selling their line of computers with care and attention to detail.  Where there used to be a difference between “Mc” and “Mac,” Apple has become just another McMedia company, quickly serving as many customers as they can per day.

Listen, I get the fact that extended warranties are only meant to cover one object.  But I also get the fact that extended warranties are more and more like insurance policies — usually worthwhile for low-probability, catastrophic crashes, but not so great for high-probability, small situations.  Sure, Apple will replace your hard-drive if it bursts into flames, but they sure won’t be excited when you have a problem with your email.  Now, how often do you think a hard drive bursts into flames?

There is, however, a different concept that I also get:  If someone has spent a a considerable sum of money on your products and services, you go out of your way to reward and value them.  They are, after all, handy to keep around.  They represent further sales and the powerful advantage of positive word-of-mouth — meaning, well, even more sales.  Forget about the altruism of treating people as you would like to be treated and you are still left with sound business strategy.

The only types of companies that don’t follow this last bit of of common sense are companies that know that you need their services in order to live your day-to day-life (cable, cell, and internet providers, insurance providers… hm…  that seems familiar…) or ones that work at such a high volume level that they really won’t notice if you disappear (fast food companies, cheap electronics manufacturers, er…  smartphone manufacturers? hey! wait a second here…).

Apple seems to be fitting themselves into both categories.  Notorious for creating machines that are difficult for DIY people to fix or hack, Apple wants to be sure that you are paying for their extended care services. By attempting to make the jailbreaking of their phones illegal, they are trying to guarantee that you will have to buy from iTunes and the App Store.  They want you to need them.  They don’t, however, want to need you.

As for sheer volume, Apple used to have a ticker on their website that counted the number of apps sold — eerily similar to the “billions and billions served” under the “golden arches.”  They recently had a promotion where the purchaser of the 50 billionth app would win U.S. $10, 000 — really, a paltry sum when you think about the billions of dollars those apps generated.  And, finally, there is the sale of the iPhone — a ridiculously successful product, with an estimated 100 million units produced as of early last year.

Now that is volume.

Want a good indication of how interested a company is of actually hearing from their customer base?  Count the number of mouse-clicks you need to complete on their website before you actually find a phone number.  The higher the number of clicks, the more they hope that you just give up and ask a question online — or, really, that you just go away.

With my latest issue, I lost count at around 15.  I believe I was at 13 different pages before I was given the option of paying more money or paying more money.

These folks really didn’t want to talk to me.  And they also really don’t want to talk to you.

And that is a shame.  It is a several thousand dollar shame for me.  And a $600 billion shame for a company that once ran itself with a sense of pride, rather than entitlement.

I guess I was supposed to supersize my order yet again.

But it’s tough to do when you are already suffering from indigestion.


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We’re listening.  And, unlike Apple, we care.




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