Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Apple - I Love You...I Hate You!!

"How do I love thee? - Let me count the ways..." Thy ways in CY2009 alone include: iMac G5 24", iPhone 3GS 16gb, iPhone 3GS 32gb, iTouch 16gb, iTouch 32gb, and a MacBook Pro 13" 250gb. I won't tell you the damage, but you can do the math. This is in addition to our existing iMacs, and iPods of virtually all vintage since inception. And I consider myself a Luddite (of sorts)! My ardour was enhanced with the discovery that I can tether my iPhones to any machine (via bluetooth no less!) to share its 3G connection to the web, which wihile not helping me conjure posts during the past month, did enable the family to overcome the abominable work (or lack thereof) of the terrassier on our external connections to the world.

But no relationship is perfect (at least in my experiences). And so I discovered when, upon arrival, I plugged in my c2004 iMac G5 20" PowerPC, depressed the on-button, which was immediately followed by a thunderous BANG! as if rapper Dolla was capped in my new home office. This was followed by the pungence of melting electronics or burnishing solder, an undesirable aroma in the vicinity of any computer - especially one's own. WTFFFF??!?!? Pirsig would term this a "gumption trap", and it took some deep breaths to keep my demeanor centered upon puzzlement rather than its more visceral outlet: rage.

Back into its box. Into the car. And a same-day drop-off (it weas Friday) to the regional authorized Apple Service center where my machine had received a scheduled appointment, Monday at 200pm, which was a welcome change from the flunky banana republicanism prevailing in my old locale. At precisely 2:05pm on Monday, iPhone rings, and service center confirms it's the Power Supply ("alimentation" en francais) ...yes, please order one...Wed?...yes that's fine....Merci, Au revoir. Wow, these guys have their act together. Wed arrives. Service center phones. Ummm Houston we've a problem. Power supply installed but it won't boot? The logic board is fried too?? About Euro700 for new power supply, logic board, and labour? Thanks, leave it for now.

But it was what the technician said next that fascinated me. He said my machine strangely had a 110v-only power supply inside. I said that was impossible - everyone knows everything Apple is dual-voltage. He confirmed yes, everything Apple is dual voltage, however the fact remained my iMac G5 was sporting a 110v-only power supply. No wonder it got smoked when 220v of juice coursed into it. But how did it get in there?? Then I vaguely recalled the repair of a known-fault involving random-shutdowns we'd experienced in 2007. After many calls to the Apple helpline, and numerous futile attempted fixes, I reckoned it was hardware. Ah yesss....the local authorized Apple service center had (in typical banana republic fashion taking one month) replaced the power supply with a non-standard replacement. The buggers!!

I phoned Apple, and after three attempts with underlings and a month's worth of mobile credit, finally tracked down a Senior Customer service rep. I pointed out that Apple had responsibility since their authorized service center replaced my power supply with a non-OEM non-standard part. I said I would like some justice, and someone is culpable, and it's not me. What I got was that " service centers are independent". "We don't know why they put in a 110v only power supply". "You have to take it up directly with the service center". "How can we even know the logic board was fried as a result of the power supply explosion?!? Infuriating first line of defense stuff more suited to an HMO or health insurer trying to deny a claim. I said I would pursue directly with the service center, but in any event Apple should take this seriously since their authorized service center is probably arbing them by collecting high rates for reimbursement of warranty repairs and using shitty low-rent 110-only replacements.

I phoned the offending service center and asked the secretary to email me the service report which she promptly did. Excellent! No mention of 110-only. I got past the gatekeeper and phoned the CEO, apologizing in advance for bothering him with such petty matters. Explained my case: machine in for repair -> diagnosis=power supply ->power supply replaced -> non-standard part -> plug into 220v -> BANG! He commiserates, says he will investigate. Says it will be interesting to see whether Apple themselves dispatched the part. A week passes. It seems, he says, we followed normal protocol. We entered the serial number into Apple's system per protocol; it recommended the precise replacement part, and dispatched it to us. No unauthorized parts. All parts to Apple spec. "Sorry we can't help you...but we did everything correctly".

Back to Apple Customer Service. Email them the copy of the service report and the explanation of offending service center and further details demanding an explanation. Few days later I receive a telephone call from Mr Apple. They have investigated my case #567893456443/XF2. Yes, Apple dispatched the offending part. Yes, the part was a 110v-only power supply. But, Apple, he says also followed standard operating procedures and dispatched the offending part because the machine was operating in the North American region in a 110v environment. This is their standard protocol. Sorry, you are fucked, and if you wish to pursue this you'll have to take it up with "Legal".

I listen to his explanation. I am shocked that I am shocked, but shocked I am. My serenity and placidness dissipate. I tell him I understand that they followed their standard operating procedure. German officers used the same lame defense at Nuremburg and it didn't fly. Their SOP I tell him is flawed - well-and-truly-fucked. You recommended, and shipped a replacement part with one that was NOT an OEM part, and not only was it no an OEM part, but it substantively changed the critical functionality of the machine WITHOUT INFORMING THE CUSTOMER or creating an avenue that would in some way allow the customer to know or discover the functionality has critically changed. No red-sticker on the rear of the machine suggesting "Warning 110v-Only". No blurb to the repair center asking them (as Apple's agents) to inform the customer. In fact, the repair center was unlikely to have even known the part was a deviant from the OEM power-supply. What sayeth you Mr Apple....??

More back and forth and chipping away at their position. "The procedure is NOT flawed". "IF you were going abroad with the machine, you should have told them the service center that you had special considerations". I replied, IF this were the issue, then why does Apple, as a global enterprise in a globalized world, use duall-voltage power supplies as their OEM spec? Wy not use 110-only as an OEM part?" More silence. More Customer Service waffling in return, the kind that is learned after many hours of intensive training to teach empathy followed by denial tactics. But I could see I was making progress in my case. He was hesitating longer in his counterarguments. His tone was softening. He could see the absurdity of his claims that the procedure was not flawed, despite repeating it. Personally, he was already on my side, though seemingly prevented from relenting and shipping me my power supply and logic board out of SOP. I continued to chip away, and managed to get so far as him admitting he can do nothing, and that if I wanted justice, I would need to prove my resolve by putting in writing to and sending to Customer Service Central in Cupertino.

There is no shortage of love-hate with Apple. Their products are lovely in almost all respects. But their customer service, stranglehold on iPhone Apps and music via iTunes, gouging on replacement parts (bought a brick or MacBook battery recently!) are maddening at the best of times. Yes, my pursuit of justice is probably less-than economic for me. But they have truly pissed-off a good customer, and I will see this one through, out of principal. So wish me luck as we see whether my pen and the compelling logic of my claim is mightier than their errrr ummm customer service brick-wall...


Anonymous said...

UFB - must be where the rage/energy for 42kms came from...good luck!


Anonymous said...

It's obvious that you are deeply deeply unhappy about this otherwise I think you would have said ".. they have truly pissed-off a good customer, and I will see this one through, out of principle."

I hope you'll report back on what happens. I wonder if they'll want you to sign an NDA if they give in. Hmm, good luck anyway, looks like their fault.


Anonymous said...

I thought I was reading Fake Steve Jobs till the final paragraph or two.

yes, often it seems the Macs are designed to blow up after three years of use.

Good luck with your dragonquest.

Durf said...

That's kind of outrageous. I've heard of people getting impressive results by sending email to (after jumping through all the other hoops) and detailing the problems in the system, rather than the problems with their specific machines. Might be something to keep in mind as a last resort.

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Anonymous said...

You might find this person's experience with Amazon helpful:

Anonymous said...

You are obviously not a European, because you complain about service.
You are obviously not a woman, because you try to reason with call centers. The fact that you pontificate indicates you are not Canadian. You must be an American Male. You have liberal tendencies but are free market, so you came from the east coast, somewhere between Baltimore and Hartford.
You write like someone between 45 and 50. Too much sarcasm to be religious.
So I'm thinking secular...
At this rate I should have a name and address very soon.....

"Cassandra" said...

And when you do will you, like Michael Fagan, you climb over my wall and into my chambers for a chat... ?!?!

"Cassandra" said...


After posting a succint and pithy letter to Euro Cust Service (with CC: to Cupertino and Mr Jobs), Apple telephoned me expressing their desire to settle this matter to my satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

If you have a wall, then you are likely in France. Brits have hedges.
and yes provided you press coffee.

Anonymous said...

Great story - good read.