About a year ago I got laid off from my gig at IBM. As I knew I was again going to be a college student, and I had to return my work laptop to my former employer, I decided to give the iPad a try. Later, when I needed to replace my desktop machine, I elected to purchase a mac mini as it was relatively cheap and I wanted to see what the Apple peeps had been raving about all these years.
The iPad allows me to take handwritten notes, read (and mark up) journal articles, watch netflix, and play games with friends. The mac mini is small and powerful enough to let me do light video editing, do my school work, and play games. Yes I hate iTunes (the interface is atrocious, and forcing me to use it to manage data on my iPad is stupid in the extreme), yes I truly hate the fact that I can’t turn off auto-correct without also turning off spell check, and yes including an unpowered mic jack on the mac mini was an asinine design decision (this means that if you want to skype with a pal, a standard computer mic won’t work, you need one that supplies its own power source), but all in all, I can see why so many people dig apple products. The Apple engineers got a lot right, and their products are not only useful, they’re a lot of fun.
My problem lies not with the products, but with the company itself. Nobody told me that Apple Computer was such a mother. When I purchased the mac mini, I was on a deadline for a major term paper and needed to be in and out of there ASAP. I’d done my research and knew what I wanted and despite making myself quite clear to the store staff, the guy persisted in engaging me in high-pressure sales tactics first to purchase way more computer than I needed, then in buying accessories that I had no use for. This continued despite my telling him firmly I wasn’t interested and didn’t stop until I got angry and threatened to leave the store.
Not cool, Apple, but okay. Maybe you hired one jerkus. Every family has at least one, so alright. I’ll let it pass. That was until today, when I called Apple and spoke to Karen, arguably the most unhelpful customer service rep ever. It turns out that the iPad2 has some kind of defect where it reboots randomly. Mine has been doing this like crazy, and as this thing has all my class notes, journal articles, a few text books, etc, it is a mission critical device. In fact, that’s why I originally wanted an apple product – I didn’t want to dick around with something that was going to give me trouble. I need something that will just work.
Now it turns out that Apple wants you to pay about $80 to talk to someone on the phone about your apple product. This in and of itself is a terrible practice, but I can let it go in the case of someone calling because they don’t understand how to use their product, set something up, whatever. But in the case where the product is failing AND is still under warranty, a customer shouldn’t have to pay $80 just for the privilege to talk to someone on the phone to resolve the issue.
That was strike two.
As Karen is merely a cog in the great machine that is Apple Computer, getting into a debate with her regarding the merits of her employer’s policies is a non-productive enterprise. So I tried to change tack and ask her a question about the iPad2 in general. Specifically, if what people on various apple forums was true, that there is a known hardware issue with the product that is only correctable by replacing the device. As this isn’t a question about my specific product, but about a potential ongoing issue with the product line, she should’ve had no problem answering. Sadly this wasn’t the case. According to Karen, if I wanted Apple Computer to confirm the existence of a known issue with the iPad2, I was going to have to give them $80.
And that’s strike three. The thing that my Apple enthusiast pals never told me when they lauded the iPhone or their Macs was that dealing with Apple Computer is akin to buying a used car from a sleazy creep who keeps trying to upsell the rust-proofing package. Whenever you buy something you intend on using for a long period of time, you aren’t just shopping for a product, you’re also shopping for a company. Things break, need service, and behave unexpectedly. When that happens you want to be able call the people who made the product, get the issue resolved, and get back to life. In the case of Apple, it turns out that isn’t in the cards.
I therefore give you, dear reader, the warning that was never offered to me. If you buy Apple, you’re getting into bed with Apple Computer, inc. Make sure you won’t regret the encounter in the morning.