minutia press.
My evolving disdain for Apple

It's clear to me now that Apple is investing money in opening classy looking storefronts in expensive places, such as high-rent malls, while at the same time not spending enough money so that people can get reasonable service over the phone or at their classy looking high-rent stores.

You may recall from an earlier post the problems I had getting Apple to repair a defective display on a two-month-old iBook.

My latest round of fun with Apple came with an iPod that would consistently get stuck with "Error -32" or "Error -36" when trying ot sync with its mother ship iBook. I looked at the Apple web site and found nothing there, looked in Google, found nothing, so I called the Apple help line. The iPod is still under its one-year warrantee. I waited for a half-hour to get to somebody (it was much worse last time), and that person told me I needed to send the iPod in to Apple, which I could do at my own expense and they would repair or replace it. I pointed out to the person on the phone that we have Apple stores here in far-flung St Louis. She was surprised at this, but told me I could just take it in there for repair; in fact, I needn't have bothered her at all with a phone call.

So I show up at the Apple store and am "greeted" and told that I need to sign up to see a Genius. If you haven't been in an Apple store, the deal there is that they have this "Genius Bar" at which somebody allegedly much smarter than I am would help me resolve my situation.

Since the number of people who need help grealty outnumber the people trying to help them, I suggest they should call this the "Loser Bar" in honor of all of us waiting to see the Geniuses. Frankly I found the appellation of Genius misplaced and insulting. However, among those who work at an Apple store, the Geniuses do seem to know more and are kinder to customers than all the others, as you'll see when the story unfolds below.

So the Genius did see me after a 30-minute wait. There were plenty of other Apple employees there, standing around, greeting people, and a few of them were actually selling some things. We're talking 15 employees on the floor and 1 genius helping about 10 of us who need service. The Genius tested our iPod and decided to swap us a new one. He said that the cord might be a problem -- we didn't bring it along -- and if it is just bring it in and they'd swap that too. Sounded great to us.

Well the new iPod didn't work so well either, so we took the cord back in for a swap. They didn't have one on hand so they ordered one and told us to pick it up afer Tuesday. On Wednesday, which is after Tuesday on my calendars, I showed up to pick up the cord. I had to enqueue again for a Genius, who told me that the cord should have been there, but it wasn't, and that it might arrive by noon with their DHL shipment. So I went downstairs to have lunch. I called again after noon, was told the DHL shipment had come but with no cord for us. I asked to speak to the manager. This guy Eric came on the phone who claimed to be the manager (but later admitted he was only the "manager on duty" and the real manager was nowhere to be found. It turns out anybody, maybe you, could be the manager on duty at an Apple store, but you can't help people unless you're a Genius).

He went back and rechecked, and lo and behold, our precious cord had arrived, probably on Tuesday (but they wouldn't admit that), and it was in a multibox box and that's why they overlooked it.

Would you believe he made me requeue in line to get the cord from a Genius? So another 1/2 hour goes by and I get my cord, sign two pieces of paper that only a Genius could print, and went on my way.

How can a company like this stay in business? I am not so proud to think that they only pick on me. OK, they make things that should be nice, and seem to be, but like all things they can break. And when they break, they don't stand behind their product, they make you grovel to get things fixed. They are the only Apple in town, and they seem to know this. When my Dell laptop broke, somebody came to Wash U to fix it. There was no long wait on the phone, and no Genius I had to wait to see. They exude the "we make great stuff, how dare you claim something we made is broken" attitude. This customer has had enough of that.


Haha, I love reading negative press about Apple. As to why they continue to stay in business despite inferior service, it's all about image. Some people don't care if their stuff works or is upgradable as long as it looks trendy. Apple will find that once their style is no longer popular, they will have a hard time retaining customers. When you target the trendy, you must always stay ahead of the curve.

Posted by: Chris Hill Festival at November 25, 2004 10:30 PM

One thing worth pointing out is that you have to pay extra for onsite service from Dell. In addition, have you ever tried to deal with the support from Dell Home? It's absolutely horrendous. Comparing your experiences with mine, I’d say they’re worse than Apple. Now, Dell Business/Employee Purchases/etc. is absolutely wonderful.

Posted by: Ro at November 27, 2004 12:41 PM

Can I ask if the new cord fixed the Error 36 problem? I have that on my iPod/mothership and out here in Thailand there are no 'geniuses' in the Apple dealers and certainly I have not found anyone yet who has any clue about this error message and thus how to solve it. If the new cord solution worked I can go and get a new one from them and hopefully solve the problem myself.


Eric (not the one on duty in the St; Louis apple shop!)

Posted by: Eric Hudson at January 16, 2005 5:27 AM

Yes the cord did the trick.

Posted by: rkc at January 20, 2005 6:51 PM