I have previously written about the deteriorating level of support at Apple Computer and the shocking treatment of customers who fell victim to a defect in the iPhone. This week, I had the third power cord for my MacBook Pro fail. Every cord has developed exposed wires due to common bending with the machine. In seeking to remedy the situation, I ran again into the same customer service wall that I experienced earlier with the defective iPhone. In order to get a new cord (under warranty), I had to see a “genius” as opposed to the dozen “specialists” standing around. But before I see a “genius” I had to have an appointment and there were no appointments available for hours. I stopped there before I was told that I also had to bring them the ruby slippers to gain entry to the “genius.”
This is all too familiar. Recently, Apple agreed to a multimillion dollar settlement over its iPhone controversy. You may recall that years ago, I posted an account of an ordeal over a relatively new iPhone that stopped functioning. When I took it into the store, they promptly informed me that I got the phone wet and refused to repair or replace it. When I told that that it was impossible that the phone had been “submerged” or saturated as they claimed, they opened the phone and confirmed that only one of two indicators showed water damage but still said that it voided any obligation of the company. Though I eventually got a new phone, my posting attracted many people around the world who said that they had the same experience. Well, Apple (without admitting guilt) is now agreeing to a settlement in a class action for people who were told they had such water damage. As suspected, it appears that the water damage indicators were defective. I read the settlement to mean that the company knew that people like me were experiencing a common defect but allowed their “geniuses” to basically tell us we were lying or stupid — and that Apple would not help us. That takes a truly horrific corporate culture among Apple executives and an equally horrific view of their customers. The settlement came with no apology or acceptance of responsibility. While a contractor (3M) took blame for a possible defect, Apple never explained why it continued to instruct “geniuses” to play dumb and blame customers.
This cord problem looks like a very similar situation. This is my third cord in a row to break at either the base of the adapter or the plug itself. It is clearly do to the normal twisting that occurs with lap tops. Three cords in a row. Each lasted less than a year. I cannot be unique. Apple clearly is using a material covering the wires that is inadequate for the use of the cords and forcing customers to buy new cords — just as it forced them to buy new iPhone under the earlier defect. In the last cord experience, it actually exposed the wires and started to produce a smoky smell.
Since I was told it was under warranty, I went into the Apple store to exchange it. I was prepping for a major hearing this week and needed a new cord right away. “Right away” however is not part of the new Apple lexicon. When I arrived at the Tysons’ Apple store (the same location that falsely told me I submerged by iPhone in water previously), I was met by three “specialists” who were standing around the door. I explained that I needed to exchange a broken cord but was told that only a “genius” could do an exchange and no appointment was available for hours. I tried to explain that I was really in a dire situation with a hearing and needed to return to work. I just needed to show the warranty and replace the defective cord. That was not possible without a visit with a genius, I was told. I would have to stand around with them for hours in the mall or come back in the evening. Of course, every other store in America has personnel who can do an exchange of this kind without being a self-proclaimed “genius.” Those undeclared geniuses at JC Penny and Sears have employees ready to do this type of exchange to help customers. Yet, Apple requires such simple tasks be performed by a “genius” who is only accessible through an appointment like a dentist (or the therapist you need after working with Apple). In the end, the school purchased a new cord for me so that I could prepare for the hearing. Of course, this only rewards the strategy of creating a barrier for customers to receive basic support. They clipped my school for another product even though it is under warranty.
What is most maddening is the design of the cord itself. As I have explained before, I like Apple products. I have had every major Mac since the first machine. We have two iPads, three iPhones, and three Macs in this family. We are not disguntled IBMers. However, Apple used to pride itself on being a different company with a special relationship to Apple users. It now has a corporate culture and a customer service system that has the very smiling Orwellian character of the company that Apple once caricatured. I expect that if a new class action focused on these cords, they will find in discovery the same pattern as the defective iPhones with widespread failures.
What is particularly unnerving is that all of this happens in the antiseptic Apple store with smiling “specialists” who immediately tell you that they lack specialization beyond selling more products. It is like Stepford Wives meets Revenge of the Nerds. Thanks again Apple.