Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

John Risby’s Apple Support Experience

John Risby was not treated as well as he should have been while trying to get his 15-inch MacBook Pro replaced over a known manufacturing defect:

They used to — or at least I seem to remember they used to — act like a a prestige car company. Stupidly expensive, yes, but in return the dealer knows you by name and they treat you as more than just another faceless customer.

Sadly Apple seem to have stopped trying to be the Porsche or Ferrari of computers, while keeping the same prices — or, in the case of this Macbook range, actually putting the prices up — but decided to adopt the customer services policies of a dodgy used car lot.

As Michael Tsai wrote, I’m not sure that it’s fair to treat this admittedly terrible experience as the new norm. However, the Apple Store is increasingly feeling, to me, like a more typical retail experience set inside gorgeous architecture.

There’s the little stuff: the up-selling that I had to repeatedly turn down when buying my 2017 iPad — no, I don’t want to buy an iPad Pro; no, I don’t need a larger-capacity device; no, I don’t need AppleCare, thank you — and the time that I went in for an iPhone 6S battery replacement and they didn’t have the battery in stock, despite me making the appointment explicitly about that issue.

And then there’s the more egregious stuff, like how they don’t offer a loaner unit while a machine is being serviced:

Apple, in their unquestionable wisdom, refuse to lend replacement computers when a machine has to go in for repair. I can understand this as a general policy, but sometimes — like maybe when you’ve had two laptops costing around 3k each in the space of 3 months, both faulty from the factory, countless trips to various stores, travel costs, petrol, toll roads, days off work, been called a liar etc — sometimes, you think they’d find a laptop to lend.

But no, they simply refuse.

Amazingly, a number of staff over the months suggested the solution I eventually used — to buy a new Macbook with the express intention of using it while mine was repaired and then return it under their 14 day returns policy. At one point I even considering buying everything I could afford just to mess with them. But I decided that was a tad childish.

Several years ago, about ten months after buying my top-of-the-line MacBook Air, I noticed a cluster of dead pixels on the display. As I was within the warranty period and I also had AppleCare, it should be a piece of cake to get that fixed.

Unfortunately, instead of being able to order the part in and having them swap the display in a matter of a few hours, I would have had to leave my computer with them for a week. I was in the middle of a project at the time, so I had to come back to the store a second time when it was least-inconvenient for me to be without my primary — and, realistically, only — computer. I didn’t have the cash sitting around to be able to just buy another computer, either. I get that there may have been several people in front of me, but why couldn’t they simply give me a call when they were ready to service my machine?

After I got it back, I noticed that the display had another defect. It is a minor one, and I wasn’t able to be without my Mac for yet another week at the time, so I have lived with it.

I get that one of the reasons Apple has been able to build a mountain of cash to be able to reinvest in the company is by effectively balancing their rapidly-rising income with reasonable expenditures. Building a new and exciting headquarters for employees is totally great, as is buying up renewable energy and investing in R&D.

But it disappoints me that the Apple Store seems to have been forgotten a little bit, at least on the inside. I’m not expecting Rolls Royce-level service but, as a long-time customer, I remember it being better.

See Also: Apple’s support gap, which I wrote last year. Since then, the Support app has become available in more countries, including Canada.

Update: Some additional support-related tidbits from the last year or so by me, Joel Spolsky, and Dr. Drang.