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MacBytes
Feb 7, 2006, 08:32 AM
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Category: 3rd Party Hardware
Link: The iPod Customer Service Story and Other Fairy Tales (http://www.macbytes.com/link.php?sid=20060207093245)
Description:: There is a gap between what customers expect from companies that sell them complicated digital machines, and what companies feel they need to do in order to insure that those machines are profitable. With the iPod, however, Apple has taken this gap and turned it into a chasm. (free reprint of paid-only New York Times article)

Posted on MacBytes.com (http://www.macbytes.com)
Approved by Mudbug

sillycybin
Feb 7, 2006, 09:17 AM
i guess he should have bought the extended warranty. if he hasnt figured that out after the 5 macs and 6 iPods, among other elecronic devices that he has bought over the years, well, he isnt too bright. Why would apple fix his iPod for free after over 1.5 years of use and no extended warranty? What company in the world would do this for him? when the warranty is up, its up and you are SOL. thats how life is. accept it.

Passante
Feb 7, 2006, 09:18 AM
Just try to get a home appliance repaired. Service calls start at $150 just to have a repair guy show up.

I'd be a little upset if my first gen iPod died. Then I just have to buy an iPod video (sob);)

aranhamo
Feb 7, 2006, 09:19 AM
I've never owned an iPod, but as soon as I saw the quote by Rob Enderle, the article lost all credibility with me. Rob Enderle is a supreme idiot, and so I assume anybody associated with him is just as clueless.

iMeowbot
Feb 7, 2006, 09:32 AM
The point isn't that Apple won't fix iPods for free after the warranty expires, but that they won't fix them at all. All they'll offer for "service" is to sell you a refurb for more than they sell them in the refurb store. Even the exorbitant repair charges Sony used to exact for their high end Walkman recorders were no match for this.

Macmaniac
Feb 7, 2006, 10:27 AM
I wished Apple offered a three year warranty like they do with their computers. (standard+2 years) I have seen so many people mad about Apple not offering a longer warranty, and the fact that there are few affordable alternatives sucks. These devices get moved a lot, and that means greater chance for failure. Apple should be more supportive of their Marquee product!

jofallon
Feb 7, 2006, 10:29 AM
Apple had ought to have responded somehow. Without any rebuttal, the analysts tell the story. Enderle isn't even being hostile here; it's the others.

Of course, Apple not responding does reinforce the point of the story. Might be a small part of the story in the stock price decline.

Danzsupreme
Feb 7, 2006, 11:11 AM
Does anyone expect their ipods to last forever. Walkman's can realisticlly last forever

shrimpdesign
Feb 7, 2006, 12:54 PM
I don't think Apple is terrible at service. I've had two iPods, the first one was a 2G and the headphone port came off, the second one was a 4G and I sold it. The person I sold it to had problems and took it in for warrenty.

Just because this idiot had a bad expirience doesn't mean everyone's expirience is bad.

Timepass
Feb 7, 2006, 01:17 PM
I don't think Apple is terrible at service. I've had two iPods, the first one was a 2G and the headphone port came off, the second one was a 4G and I sold it. The person I sold it to had problems and took it in for warrenty.

Just because this idiot had a bad expirience doesn't mean everyone's expirience is bad.

it not the warrenty part the guy is complaining about.
He is complaining because apple will not service the iPods after there warrentity is up. He was willing to pay to have it fixed but apple will not do that.

philbeeney
Feb 7, 2006, 02:07 PM
it not the warrenty part the guy is complaining about.
He is complaining because apple will not service the iPods after there warrentity is up. He was willing to pay to have it fixed but apple will not do that.

Apple will fix it for him. He just doesn't want to pay the $250 + tax that Apple are charging, which funnily enough is around the same price of a new iPod....go figure.

Gasu E.
Feb 7, 2006, 02:44 PM
I don't get it. $250 is a perfectly reasonable price. In terms of cost to manufacture, the disk drive essentially IS the iPod. $250 is the fair retail price of the materials and labor. Does he expect Apple to fix an out-of-warranty product at a loss? This is not a matter of Apple not caring; it is simply a matter of Apple adding up their costs like any other company and putting on a standard mark-up.

Jetson
Feb 7, 2006, 02:47 PM
Predictably the fanboys come out flaming. Several called the author, Rob Enderle an idiot.

What I read was a well written article with fairly accurate analysis which tells the truth.

I've made several posts in here over the last few years decrying Apple's extremely poor customer service policies. The first iPod I purchased (2nd generation iPod) failed during the first week because the hard drive went belly up. I called Apple and after negotiating a frustrating phone tree I reached a live person and needless to say she was absolutely no help.

I took my lifeless iPod to the "genius bar" at a local Apple store. After waiting for about 20 minutes the one young man providing service to several people finally came over to help me. I gave him my name and address which he entered into his terminal. I was shocked that he found my customer record seeing that I hadn't purchased any Apple equipment directly from Apple in 20 years, I had moved across the country and I bought this iPod from Amazon. Apple had every residence I ever lived at for over 20 years, the time I bought my first Mac directly from Apple. I didn't feel that they were entitled to my entire personal history.

But back to the story. The technician examined my iPod, determined that the hard drive failed and offered to replace it. This is an important point because it's at Apple's discretion whether they repair, replace with a new iPod or replace with a refurbished one. The technician went to a stock room, brought out what I thought was a new iPod, tested it, took away my broken one and gave me the "new" one. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that he had given me a refurbished iPod. After playing with it a while I noticed that the scroll wheel did not have a polished shiny finish, but had a rough dull finish. It felt wrong and looked cheap. I paid $300 for a new iPod that failed within 1 week and was given a refurbished iPod. This sucks big time.

Considering how much revenue and profit Apple is raking in I would think that Apple would be willing to be more generous towards its customers. Apple has never realized that top-notch customer service is what sets apart the great companies from the not-so-great.

hulugu
Feb 7, 2006, 03:33 PM
Predictably the fanboys come out flaming. Several called the author, Rob Enderle an idiot.

Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group (!?) has been known to say stupid things, and his quote about the iPod "one shot and it's done" doesn't really say much about the reliability of hard-drive based Mp3 players. Thus, the quote is essentially worthless.

What I read was a well written article with fairly accurate analysis which tells the truth.

Yes, and no. Apple has a one-year warranty and offers an extended warranty and does allow one to have the iPod repaired, it's just expensive. Now this is partially, I'm sure, because Apple doesn't want to fix the iPods because they're difficult to dismantle and because they'd rather you just buy a new one. This is an industry-wide problem, but as gadgets get smaller and increasingly complicated it becomes harder and harder to service them without completely destroying it.

[QUOTE=Jetson]I was shocked that he found my customer record seeing that I hadn't purchased any Apple equipment directly from Apple in 20 years, I had moved across the country and I bought this iPod from Amazon. Apple had every residence I ever lived at for over 20 years, the time I bought my first Mac directly from Apple.

This is weird, but have you been registering your Macs? Or otherwise sending information to Apple? They had no idea who I was and I've been buying Macs since 1997, but I never send in the cards.

I've made several posts in here over the last few years decrying Apple's extremely poor customer service policies. The first iPod I purchased (2nd generation iPod) failed during the first week because the hard drive went belly up. I called Apple and after negotiating a frustrating phone tree I reached a live person and needless to say she was absolutely no help... I took my lifeless iPod to the "genius bar" at a local Apple store. After waiting for about 20 minutes the one young man providing service to several people finally came over to help me. I gave him my name and address which he entered into his terminal....The technician examined my iPod, determined that the hard drive failed and offered to replace it. This is an important point because it's at Apple's discretion whether they repair, replace with a new iPod or replace with a refurbished one. The technician went to a stock room, brought out what I thought was a new iPod, tested it, took away my broken one and gave me the "new" one. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that he had given me a refurbished iPod. After playing with it a while I noticed that the scroll wheel did not have a polished shiny finish, but had a rough dull finish. It felt wrong and looked cheap. I paid $300 for a new iPod that failed within 1 week and was given a refurbished iPod. This sucks big time....
Considering how much revenue and profit Apple is raking in I would think that Apple would be willing to be more generous towards its customers. Apple has never realized that top-notch customer service is what sets apart the great companies from the not-so-great.

Apple should engage people and try to solve problems, I agree. But, what I find is that Apple has a wild swing in customer service records. Personally, after my wife's iPod Mini croaked I took it in and got a new one, without argument. I've also had no problems with their phone system, although I always have to be switched to the education section, which takes a few minutes. I've had to wait, but I've always been helped by nice people who try to understand my problem and then fix it.

Of course, it might just be my winning (or scary) personality.

Fender2112
Feb 7, 2006, 03:33 PM
But back to the story. The technician examined my iPod, determined that the hard drive failed and offered to replace it. This is an important point because it's at Apple's discretion whether they repair, replace with a new iPod or replace with a refurbished one. The technician went to a stock room, brought out what I thought was a new iPod, tested it, took away my broken one and gave me the "new" one. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that he had given me a refurbished iPod. After playing with it a while I noticed that the scroll wheel did not have a polished shiny finish, but had a rough dull finish. It felt wrong and looked cheap. I paid $300 for a new iPod that failed within 1 week and was given a refurbished iPod. This sucks big time.

I have a similar story that happened quite a few years ago when I purchased a video camera from Circuit City. It was an expensive investment so I got the warranty. After about a month or so the camera developed a problem of recording only in black and white. I took it in for service, which was handled with no resistance. I got the camera back and it was fine for about a month when the problem came back, just before going on vacation. I told my wife that the video camera would not be fixed in time. She told me to ask for a new one. I explained that that is what the warranty was for, to have it fixed. She agreed but also pointed out that I paid for a new camera, not a defective one that keeps breaking. I took the video camera back to Circuit City and made the same point. After a little resistance I made my case and left with a new video camera that I still use today and have had no problem with.

The point being that We consumers buy warranties to protect our investments, not to have them replaced with second hand refurbished items.

solvs
Feb 7, 2006, 03:37 PM
Predictably the fanboys come out flaming. Several called the author, Rob Enderle an idiot.
Not saying your experience didn't suck, but calling us "fanboys" for defending a stupid article won't help you any.

And yes, it is a stupid article. If you've ever read anything by him, he bashes Apple every chance he gets. He even said once that you shouldn't buy an iMac because they look like they could tip and the glass could break. Except they don't tip and there's no glass. Now he's complaining because his iPod that's out of warranty is too expensive to fix. They are reluctant to fix it rather than just sell you a new or refurbished one (and for some reason refurbs sometimes cost more at the stores than online) because it's the same price. If he looked around, there are other services that will fix it for a little cheaper. Just like with any other electronic device.

Buy a TV and it dies out of warranty, you will go through the same thing. It'll cost as much to fix sometimes as a new one would. Printers are even worse. That's why I always buy the extended warranty on expensive stuff. You can get a Mack 3 year extended warranty for iPods for really cheap. They sell them at B&H PhotoVideo. You don't have to use Apple's stuff.

I didn't feel that they were entitled to my entire personal history.

I do wish they had more geniuses to help people, especially in busy stores, but you give this info with your purchase, sometimes whether you realize it or not. Everybody does this. It's in your CC info too. This is not a valid complaint of Apple, especially if they were shipping stuff to you. ;) And as said above, if you register it. Scary, but there it is. You can usually request that they get rid of the old stuff if you're not comfortable with it, but they're going to know where you live.

I paid $300 for a new iPod that failed within 1 week and was given a refurbished iPod. This sucks big time.
You could have taken it back. They would have offered you a replacement. I know, you shouldn't have to, and some people suck sometimes at customer service. But Apple is just a company like any other. You buy their product, and if it doesn't work during the period they say it will, they'll replace it or fix it. You don't like the replacment, take it back. Sucks sometimes when you get one that doesn't work, but there it is. They don't owe anybody anything other than a working product, and neither does any other company. They're just another greedy corporation that wants to make money, albeit with some cool stuff.

markalk
Feb 7, 2006, 04:04 PM
Okay call me a fanboy but I have nothing but praise for apple customer service. In aug of 2004 I bought my wife a pre-inscribed (peace) 15gig Ipod. I took it home loaded and registered it.
After 8 months it had a HD failure and I went online and requested service. They sent me a prepaid box and I sent the ipod to cupertino. after about 2 weeks I recieved a replacement Ipod, it took a little longer because it had to be inscribed. I registered the replacement and went on with life.
In sept of 2005 the replacement had an HD failure. I figured what the hell and went online to request service. Again I was sent a box and informed it would be replaced or repaired at no cost. after about three weeks I had not heard anything from apple and thought well maybe they were shafting me since it was over a year since I had bought the original Ipod. Called them and raised about 4 seconds of stink. Seriously it was only 4 seconds I'm a new yorker. 2 days later I recieved an engraved replacement from singapore via DHL. Relaod, re-register.
So now we are on the third Ipod. Well not two weeks after getting this one My wife makes the mistake of leaving on a plane in Richmond VA. She is heart broken. I buy her a new photo ipod for her birthday and we go on with life.
Dec 15th I come home to a message on my voice mail from one of the guys who works the genius bar at the apple store in Richmond. He has My wife's ipod. Someone had brought it in for repair and when they checked the warrenty he called me from my number being in apple's records. He said it was broken, It had been damaged by who ever had it but he would replace it and send me one that night if I didn't care about the engraving. So now I have the 4th Ipod. Now this does not say alot about the survivability of the 15 gig hd but I sure have no complaints about how I have been treated in all of this.

shrimpdesign
Feb 7, 2006, 05:27 PM
it not the warrenty part the guy is complaining about.
He is complaining because apple will not service the iPods after there warrentity is up. He was willing to pay to have it fixed but apple will not do that.
AS others have said, they did offer to fix it. But iPod hard drives are expensive, and the author is whiney. Until flash memory gets small enough to make a 30GB flash iPod, people are just going to have to deal with hard drive failure.

Sure we hear about the bad expiriences, but what about the good ones? People take good service for granted.

ibilly
Feb 7, 2006, 07:37 PM
I'm pretty reliably a mac-advocate, but I have to say that the customer service @ apple is pretty terrible. I have a ti book that has a hinge problem, and I found the process in the article to be fairly representative. I belive that Apple wanted a flat-rate of $349 to disassemble the display, replace the hinge, and put it all back together again (a new sheet of titanium for the back of display might have also been replaced due to a bit of bending @ the broken hinge). That amount seems exorbinant to me for installing 1-2 purely mechanical parts.
Also, if they found anything else amiss, they would replace it (at my cost, depending) without contacting me.

I have to say that I'm thoroughly displeased with apple's customer service options (though the online help section is great for basic software stuff and things like reseting a device).

Has anybody else noticed the increasingly anti-consumer, corporationistic actions of apple? I think that customer support's swing from terrific to terrible is a good example.

hulugu
Feb 7, 2006, 07:40 PM
Okay call me a fanboy but I have nothing but praise for apple customer service. ...Now this does not say alot about the survivability of the 15 gig hd but I sure have no complaints about how I have been treated in all of this.

This is what I'll never understand, some people have such great experiences with Apple and other people have nothing but grief. In some cases I think it has a lot to do with approach, some people go into attack mode and rip into the first person they talk to and then act surprised when they can't get anywhere.

thegreatluke
Feb 7, 2006, 08:37 PM
In my experience,
Apple phone help = sucks
Apple Genius help = awesome.

But the thing about this article is that many electronics manufacturers are exactly the same as Apple.
Warranties = good thing.

SeanMcg
Feb 7, 2006, 09:14 PM
I'm pretty reliably a mac-advocate, but I have to say that the customer service @ apple is pretty terrible. I have a ti book that has a hinge problem, and I found the process in the article to be fairly representative. I belive that Apple wanted a flat-rate of $349 to disassemble the display, replace the hinge, and put it all back together again (a new sheet of titanium for the back of display might have also been replaced due to a bit of bending @ the broken hinge). That amount seems exorbinant to me for installing 1-2 purely mechanical parts.
Also, if they found anything else amiss, they would replace it (at my cost, depending) without contacting me.
...


Having tried recently to repair the same problem with a TiBook, $350 does not seem like a lot to me, and it is the same price that the Apple Care would have cost. I have disassembled and reassembled my TiBook several times, with the exception of the display, so I was confident about fixing this part. Boy was I wrong.

The hinge assembly may be mechanically simple, but it is unfortunately weak, which is why they changed the design in the AlBooks. The big problem is the fact that the bezel is held on by an adhesive, and in order to remove the broken hinge, you have to separate the bezel, most likely bending it in the process. What they probably would have done is simply replace the entire display instead of trying to replace the hinge.

So in this case, at least, $350 is a bargain.

xy14
Feb 7, 2006, 09:42 PM
Every iPod I ever had except my new one have had some kind of problem eventually.

iPod (15): battery life went down to like 1 hr, they replaced it.
iPod Shuffle: Kept freezing, they replaced it (next day shipping).

When it comes to my old power adapter, when it started sparking, they wouldn't replace it because it was like 1.5yrs old, but I just emailed Steve Jobs, and then I kinda threatened some BBB action, they called and said, "Sorry, there's nothing we can do." Five minutes later, "We had a talk and decided we can make one exception." Next day shipping.

I'm not sure as to whether I should send in my video iPod yet, it has a 3-hour battery life even when using their biased 'tests'. Anyone have a suggestion on what I should do??

shrimpdesign
Feb 8, 2006, 12:13 AM
When it comes to my old power adapter, when it started sparking, they wouldn't replace it because it was like 1.5yrs old, but I just emailed Steve Jobs, and then I kinda threatened some BBB action, they called and said, "Sorry, there's nothing we can do." Five minutes later, "We had a talk and decided we can make one exception." Next day shipping.

I love how you very casually say "I just emailed Steve Jobs" like he's one of your buddies.

Silencio
Feb 8, 2006, 01:10 AM
I'm pretty reliably a mac-advocate, but I have to say that the customer service @ apple is pretty terrible. I have a ti book that has a hinge problem, and I found the process in the article to be fairly representative. I belive that Apple wanted a flat-rate of $349 to disassemble the display, replace the hinge, and put it all back together again (a new sheet of titanium for the back of display might have also been replaced due to a bit of bending @ the broken hinge). That amount seems exorbinant to me for installing 1-2 purely mechanical parts.

To buy the hinge repair kit on its own from various third party parts vendors will easily set you back $200+, and you have to install it yourself -- no easy task by any means. For Apple to do it for $350 flat rate is not a bad deal at all...

With either Macintosh systems or iPods, Apple's practices are definitely no worse than their competitors, plus you actually get the ability to talk to a Genius/Support Rep face-to-face if you're close enough to an Apple Store, which is something Sony or Dell don't offer anything close to.

My only complaint about Apple's warranties/support policies relates to some of their peripherals: the Cinema Displays absolutely must have >1 year warranties! Same with stuff like the Xserve RAID -- it's insane that a supposedly enterprise-class piece of gear like that only comes with a one year warranty.

AlmostThere
Feb 8, 2006, 02:28 AM
To buy the hinge repair kit on its own from various third party parts vendors will easily set you back $200+, and you have to install it yourself -- no easy task by any means. For Apple to do it for $350 flat rate is not a bad deal at all...

With either Macintosh systems or iPods, Apple's practices are definitely no worse than their competitors, plus you actually get the ability to talk to a Genius/Support Rep face-to-face if you're close enough to an Apple Store, which is something Sony or Dell don't offer anything close to.

My only complaint about Apple's warranties/support policies relates to some of their peripherals: the Cinema Displays absolutely must have >1 year warranties! Same with stuff like the Xserve RAID -- it's insane that a supposedly enterprise-class piece of gear like that only comes with a one year warranty.

I agree about the last support point. I would add that not offering an on-site warranty for pro laptops is a joke. Say what you like about a Dell computer but their standard (UK, at least) configurations now include 3 year next business day, on-site support and 3 years accidental insurance - at roughly half the price of Applecare, to boot.

I think the point about the cost of the part is questioning why a mechanical part should cost quite so much. Compare it with the latch mechanism on the Al PB. You have to replace the entire lower or upper case to replace a simple, non-electronic part. A friend had a problem with the lock mechanism on their car - the manufacturer simply couldn't replace the lock, they had to replace the entire door! Things like this are just bad design and compounded with no on-site support leads to an often expensive and frustrating experience for the customer.

Problems are hopefully rare enough for Apple and they do offer a top knotch level of phone support but I know quite a few people, specifically with laptops and iPods, who have been left with a bitter aftertaste from Apple when it comes to replacement and repairs.

Gasu E.
Feb 8, 2006, 12:49 PM
I agree about the last support point. I would add that not offering an on-site warranty for pro laptops is a joke. Say what you like about a Dell computer but their standard (UK, at least) configurations now include 3 year next business day, on-site support and 3 years accidental insurance - at roughly half the price of Applecare, to boot.

No doubt Dell beats Apple on overall support prices and policies. That's Dell's distinctive competence, and is the primary reason why they dominate the commodity PC market segment. Otherwise they would be an undistinguished vendor of moderately cheap crappy computers.

Dell offers on-site in the USA as well, as an option; it is a premium service but probably worth it if you need it. I don't know if Dell provides this service directly or through a third-party. In Apple's case, it would obviously have to be through a third-party, so you would expect to pay a hefty price for it.

I think the point about the cost of the part is questioning why a mechanical part should cost quite so much. Compare it with the latch mechanism on the Al PB. You have to replace the entire lower or upper case to replace a simple, non-electronic part. A friend had a problem with the lock mechanism on their car - the manufacturer simply couldn't replace the lock, they had to replace the entire door! Things like this are just bad design and compounded with no on-site support leads to an often expensive and frustrating experience for the customer.


Right, Apple is famous for their bad design. :p

It's probably true that if Apple reverted to beige boxes for their entire product line, the products would be easier to service. But Apple packaging is custom designed; parts are non-standard and part designs have short lifecycles. That's the price you pay for innovative package design.

ibilly
Feb 9, 2006, 06:47 PM
I agree about the last support point. I would add that not offering an on-site warranty for pro laptops is a joke. Say what you like about a Dell computer but their standard (UK, at least) configurations now include 3 year next business day, on-site support and 3 years accidental insurance - at roughly half the price of Applecare, to boot.

I think the point about the cost of the part is questioning why a mechanical part should cost quite so much. Compare it with the latch mechanism on the Al PB. You have to replace the entire lower or upper case to replace a simple, non-electronic part. A friend had a problem with the lock mechanism on their car - the manufacturer simply couldn't replace the lock, they had to replace the entire door! Things like this are just bad design and compounded with no on-site support leads to an often expensive and frustrating experience for the customer.

Problems are hopefully rare enough for Apple and they do offer a top knotch level of phone support but I know quite a few people, specifically with laptops and iPods, who have been left with a bitter aftertaste from Apple when it comes to replacement and repairs.



Right, Apple is famous for their bad design. :p

It's probably true that if Apple reverted to beige boxes for their entire product line, the products would be easier to service. But Apple packaging is custom designed; parts are non-standard and part designs have short lifecycles. That's the price you pay for innovative package design.


It is bad design when seperate components are so connected that the user/servicer has to replace or remove a majority of the product in order to replace the single part. I promise you, the latch and case are not forged from a solid hunk of aluminum. The lock on the car door is a good example of bad design in this specific context. Imagine having to re-shingle and re-gutter your entire roof to replace a TV antenna or satelite dish. Regardless of its function and appearance, a product that is meant to last must be serviceable. Effectively ignoring this in porduct design=bad design.

hulugu
Feb 11, 2006, 12:29 AM
It is bad design when seperate components are so connected that the user/servicer has to replace or remove a majority of the product in order to replace the single part. I promise you, the latch and case are not forged from a solid hunk of aluminum. The lock on the car door is a good example of bad design in this specific context. Imagine having to re-shingle and re-gutter your entire roof to replace a TV antenna or satelite dish. Regardless of its function and appearance, a product that is meant to last must be serviceable. Effectively ignoring this in porduct design=bad design.

A roof is a very large object, an iPod relatively small. I understand your point, but the tolerances are very slim and this makes the design that much harder. Also, with regard to houses, what about broken pipes? I've had to tear an entire wall out to get at that pipe, is this bad design? Or is this an understanding that people don't want to live in a home that looks like a submarine cabin.