Thursday, October 16, 2008

The secret sauce is anger...

I want to like Apple. I really, really do. Much like Agent Mulder and his "I want to believe." Or was that Scully? I think Mulder believed anyway. Whatever. Apple makes nice shiny products. I wanted to like them. Really.

So. Been looking for a phone for quite some time. Mostly I was waiting until I had my new apartment so I could make sure to get one that had good reception there. Discovered my Rogers phone, which roams on the AT&T network, had good signal, so after much deliberation, today I went and bought an iPhone (for you Canadians in the audience, Apple and AT&T have an exclusive contract in the USA, therefore no other carriers have the iPhone available). Alas, the story does not end there, and I won't be giving anyone a new phone number to call just yet.

Here's about how my night went:

1740h. Downtown, Seattle. [Isn't it ominous when you see the city on the first entry? It's like you're watching a spy thriller!]
Entered the AT&T store at 6th & Pine. Spent a pleasant while talking to the sales guy, ending up with:

1811h. Downtown, Seattle.
My receipt is printed. I am happy. I spend a bit more time as the sales guy shows me some features of the phone, then I leave the store and start walking to my new apt, intending to get some more boxes unpacked before walking home to sleep.

1846h. First Hill, Seattle.
I'm in my apt. I carefully apply the screen protector to my new phone (it's so shiny!). I place the first call to my friend Ken:
Ken: Hello?
Me: Hi Ken, it's Logan.
ominous silence
Me: I just got that new phone! and you're the lucky recipient of the first call!
Ken: Hello?
Me: Hello..? Hello.. is this thing on?
Ken: Hello..? Hello?
Me: crap, this isn't working at all [messes with volume buttons]. Hello? Hello? Arg. [Hangs up]

I spend a bit more time calling my Canadian cell phone with it, and end up discovering that the microphone is actually broken, although if I plug in the headphones+mic that came with it, I can at least get crackly bad sound. So no setting of the voice mail greeting yet, at least. Oh and the protective rubber case shredded itself when I took it off to apply the screen protector. Woo.

1917h. Downtown, Seattle.
I've walked back to the AT&T store. The guy who sold me the phone is no longer there, but I talk to another guy who is very friendly and helpful. By about 1930h, he's given me a free replacement of the rubber case, verified the broken microphone on the phone, and been thwarted on replacing my phone by the corporate agreement with Apple: AT&T is apparently not allowed to handle any customer service issues, Apple wants them all.

So he looks up the nearest Apple store, which is in the U-district. It's a few miles away and I'm on foot, but it doesn't even matter because it is closed for renovations. The next nearest one is in Bellevue Square, twelve miles away. He checks their website and lets me know that they're open till 2130h. By this time it's past 1930h, but hey, I figure it's worth it to drive over there just to get this resolved tonight. I still haven't eaten and my blood sugar level is aggravating me but I am determined. Oh, and the guy added a free +100 minutes a month to my phone plan just for enduring the hassle. So AT&T has done okay by my books, at this point.

2000h, Belltown, Seattle.
I've arrived back at my corporate housing. Up to the 21st floor to fetch the car keys, down to the parking garage, and I'm on my way to Bellevue. I'm formulating the best way to politely relate the story to the Apple store customer service chaps, and ask them to put a happy ending on three hours of crushing disappointment.

2020h, Bel Square Mall, Bellevue.
I arrive in the store. It is jam packed. Seriously there must have been 20-25 customers in there. Wow. Still, within 10 seconds of entering, an employee asks me "How's it going?". I say "Not so good, but I'm hoping you can help with that". So far, so good. I bring out the iPhone box.

She says "oh, iPhone problem? You need to deal with Tech Support".

I say "You are not going to tell me that I have to mail this in to get it fixed...".

She says "No, but I don't think we have any tech support appointments left today so I can't help you."

I briefly relate the agonies of the night. She goes back and checks with the mystical "They" who live behind the closed doors of every store in the universe. She comes back and says nope, sorry, nothing they can do, she can't replace my phone, the tech support guys have to analyze it and find out what's wrong, and they can't do that until tomorrow.

Ok, major frakking aside here: WHAT THE FRELL IS WRONG WITH THESE COMPANIES? It's a BRAND NEW GORRAM PHONE. If you had found the defective microphone a second before I swiped my credit card, you would have just gone and grabbed another box from the back. WHAT IS SO SMEGGING HARD ABOUT SWAPPING IT? This isn't something I bought months ago and then developed a problem with. But no, sorry, once you've paid your money, now you have to go through "channels" to get any kind of smurfing customer service whatsoever.

Did I cover all the tv pseudo-curses? No? Good.

So my options are 0810h, and deal with rush hour traffic, or tomorrow evening (or later), which would mean stewing in all this anger even longer. I opt for the 0810h deal, and I don't think they realize what a huge favour I am doing them by giving them the opportunity to fix this problem before I have a full 24 hours to build up a nice head of rage at Apple and their so-far-so-shitty customer service. Seriously, why stipulate in their contract with AT&T that AT&T is not allowed to replace defective phones? This is bordering on retarded.

2035h, Bellevue.
I use my iPhone to browse to Apple's website (hey, at least the 3G network and the web browser work) and find the phone number for the Lynnwood store. I figure I can call them on my other cell, see if they have appointments left tonight, and still have a shot at letting Apple fix their mess before I sleep. 5 minutes of recorded messages later, I finally find the option on their menu that lets me talk to a real person, the recording says "transferring call...." and then I listen to it ring for about 2 minutes straight.

Then I give up.

I have a burger and a shake (first time I've eaten since lunch).

I drive home.

2130h, Belltown, Seattle.
I need to vent. Rather than relate this story verbally to everyone, I'm writing this down and will just let people read it. If everyone in the world was to read my blog, today would be the day, because frankly I think it should cost Apple dearly to have such absolutely terrible customer service policies.

Nonetheless, tomorrow when I get there I am going to still be very calm and just ask them to please resolve the situation in such a way that lets me know that Apple might actually care about their customers.

Here's a tip: simply swapping my phone won't do it. Swapping the phone only gets them up to "barely acceptable" customer service. At this point, by the time this is over, I'll have driven two round trips to Bellevue, once through rush hour traffic, in a car that gets 22 mpg. Combined with a good 5+ hours of my time taken on this above and beyond the initial purchase, I figure the invoice should look something like this:

Gas: $10
Time: $200
Mental Anguish: $100

That should basically mean the phone should be free :p No, I don't seriously expect them to see it that way. But if they don't at least try to come up with something beyond a basic fix I am going to be very disappointed. Even a measly $20 gift cert to the Apple store would be something. Hell, they'd make a profit, since that'd mean I'd probably end up buying some accessories and spending $50-60 there, not to mention that they might actually come out of this with a repaired reputation in the eyes of me and my little world (which basically amounts to just me, so they probably don't care) if they at least try to show some good customer service.

Will they? I doubt it. But I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

I will, of course, post an update if/when this is resolved. Meanwhile now that I've vented, I think I need to fire up a violent video game and shoot something ;)


Ken said...

omg! and I thought my stupid Windows mobile phone (samsung blackjack) was defective since I can't hear anything! You tricked me! Apple tricked us both!

richies said...

What amazing customer disservice!

Logan said...

So, drove over there this morning. Traffic wasn't too bad, got there early and had a coffee.

Then, somehow they were backlogged within 10 minutes of opening their store, despite the fact that there were only 2 customers in the whole store, so it took them till 8:45 to actually swap my phone. Also, they offered no sort of anything beyond simply swapping my phone for another one.

Still, they were at least cheerful about it. And now I have a cool phone that actually works for things like placing phone calls. So, bonus points there.

Laurel said...

Perhaps a comment to the CEO of Apple might be apropo!!