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Apple customer service fail

Image from Sinchen.Lin’s Flickr. When you buy from a luxury brand, you’re not just buying the product. You’re buying the experience and the customer service, too. As Apple products are priced at the top end of the electronics market, you would be forgiven for thinking that they fell into this category. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

When my brother spent hundreds of pounds on a Mulberry bag a couple of years ago and the strap frayed within a few weeks, he took it into a Mulberry store (a different one to the one he bought it from). He showed it to the assistant. She looked at it for all of about five seconds, took it off him, gave him a brand new Mulberry bag. That’s a luxury brand and one that you would buy from again.

When I got an iPhone 5 for Christmas, which is worth similar, if not more, money and I took it out the box I was immediately disappointed. The screen had a flashing line that intermittently appeared about two thirds of the way down and, also intermittently, everything below it shook violently. Think about an iPhone screen – that area is where the keyboard is. Later, I discovered that I also couldn’t receive SMS or iMessages.

Hoping, mistakenly, that Apple would happily sort this problem out of the box. I took my expensive, useless piece of Apple kit to my local Apple store.

The Apple Store

As a family, we have not had good Apple store experiences. When my brother turned on an iPhone 4S he’d bought from the Apple UK website, it displayed a message on the screen that it needed to be taken to a store. He took it to the local store (that’s an hour away) to be told there was nothing they could do because it was bought online. He was advised to call Apple Care when he got home. Apple Care told him there was nothing they could do, except organise for a phone to be ready for him to swap to at the Apple store he’d just left. Dubious and fuming, my brother returned to the store the day after. They had no idea what he was talking about. After many days without a phone, Apple Care finally agreed to swap the phone by courier. Brother is so furious by this point he says he’d have rather have his money back. Apparently that wasn’t an option.

My Macbook Pro started playing up when it was being charged. The trackpad worked erratically making it impossible to use when it was charging. The Apple store took it for repairs and charged me for them. It still wasn’t fixed, so I took it back in. They called to tell me they’d changed the same parts again and were charging me for it. I explained that those parts hadn’t resolved the problem, and asked them to keep it and fix it. They agreed. A few days later I received a phone call asking me to bring it in. I informed them that I hoped they already had it, otherwise we’d have a problem. They found it and replaced every part they thought could be connected to the problem. It was still broken and I’d had several weeks without my laptop. I gave up and bought a new MacBook as I need it for work.

My brother cracked his iMac screen – it was still useable, just annoying. Took it in to the Apple store. They said no problem, they could replace it while he waited. Took it out the back, shattered the screen taking it out and then discovered they had no replacement iMac screens in stock. The iMac was now unusable until their glass shipment came in.

So then came my iPhone 5. “Sure, we can just swap it for a new one,” said the assistant. Five minutes later… actually no they can’t because it’s an American iPhone 5. WTF? I calmly explained that as a multi-national company I would not expect this to be a problem. He stonewalled me and told me Apple Care would sort it if I called them. I’m sure you can imagine how well I took that.

Apple Care

After explaining my problem to Apple Care I was put on hold for a long time, then was put through to a supervisor. The supervisor then also put me on hold. When he came back, he explained that the only option the computer was giving him was repair in America. Did I have someone I could send it to in America who could take it into a store? No? I explained it was bought for me as a present in Dubai. He told me to take it back to the store, after telling me that there are no official Apple stores in Dubai. I reminded him I was in the UK and the cost of the flights would render this journey pointless. He then said that judging from my name I probably had relatives out there anyway. Yes, he actually said that to me. I, slightly less calmly, told him I was actually British but thanks for that. (Besides anything else I’m getting a bit annoyed that Apple’s faulty product is now my problem to fix.) Apparently every other product in the Apple range has a worldwide warranty except the iPhone 5. He advised me to write to the Customer Services department.

Letter to Apple Customer Services

So, in an age where electronics is king and I’m trying to contact one of the most respected technology companies in the world, I have to write a letter and put it in the snail mail. I explain that I now don’t have a working phone and I don’t understand why I am responsible for sorting the replacement for their faulty product. I figure it’ll take them five minutes to order an American iPhone replacement since this is apparently the replacement problem.

This morning, over a week later, I receive a letter that says that I have to get it repaired in the country of purchase. This, apart from being completely financially idiotic (I may as well buy a new iPhone [maybe that’s their plan]) is also impossible because apparently there are no Apple stores in Dubai. It also was clearly a cut and paste job – I’m glad that as an Apple customer I’m so valued. How do I know this? Well check out this…

So now I’m left wondering if I should just buy an Android or Windows phone and use that extra money to get myself a Mulberry bag.

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