So, there I am… standin’ in line at the bank…
I get into work this morning and unpack my bag as usual. First thing I do is plug in my Apple PowerBook 65W AC adapter. Unlike usual, I plugged it in and heard a pop and saw a flash. Uh oh. Its dead. So I unpack the rest of my bag and take the dead power brick back to the local Apple Store.
I get to there just before opening time (10:00AM, an hour after the rest of the mall) and there’s already 10 people standing outside waiting to get in. Right as I was walking up, they opened the door, and I just followed my momentum into the opening metal gate, past everyone standing about. I make a bee-line for the second bank of computers, knowing that to see a “genius” at the Genius Bar, I would have to sign in first.
Hit the second machine, and oh, what’s this? They’ve changed the sign-in application. It used to be a simple web application. Now its this Flash-based hunk of shit. And, true to form, on the computer I tried, it hangs and then crashes. So I use the one next to me once the person signing in ahead of me is finished. At this point, it tells me that the queue is already too long to get in and I should make an appointment. I tell it that I don’t want to and it appears to put me in the queue anyway. Now, how the queue could have already been too long at 2 minutes past opening time is totally beyond me. And what is too long, anyway? How many people is too long? Apparently, 3 is their limit.
So, I’m standing there waiting to be helped and there are two “geniuses” waiting on folks. Meanwhile, there are 5 other useless employees walking around doing nothing. After about 10 minutes, another “genius” graces us with his presence after coming out of the backroom.
While I’m waiting, I look around for one of those tube socks they sell to cover the Nano. Mine’s only about two months old and already scratched to shit and I’ve been pretty careful with it. Fabric scratches this thing. I find them buried in a corner. They only come in a pack of 5 for $30. WTF? Look for the plastic tubes instead, and guess what? They only come in a pack of 5 for $30, too. So I grab a red-T-shirted drone and ask him:
“Why can’t I just buy one of those tube socks for the Nano?”
“We like to give our customers choices. This way you can have different colors to fit your mood.”
I couldn’t not laugh in his face, so I did. If you’re reading this buddy, listen up: I’m from the East Coast. We don’t have moods.
At this point, I’ve been waiting a half an hour and they’ve called no less than 12 names ahead of me. One of the “geniuses” spent 15 minutes figuring out that this woman’s “broken” iPod was due to the hold button being on. Finally, a woman walks in with her chaffeur carrying a comatose iMac G5, steps up to the Genius Bar and puts it down, only to have her name called not 30 seconds later. Now, I’m pissed. I step up:
“Wait a minute, she just walked in. I’ve been here a half an hour.”
“What’s your name, sir?”
“I don’t see you on this list.”
“Regardless of whether or not I’m on the list, you know I’ve been here since opening and all I need you to do is replace this power brick. It died this morning and I only bought it three months ago.”
A little backstory: three months ago, I left my PowerBook on the couch to go get something to drink from the kitchen. During the 2 minutes I was in the kitchen, my daughter managed to pull the laptop off the couch and mangle the plug end of the power brick. So I went to the same Apple Store that day and bought another one. I didn’t go to the Genius Bar to try to get it replaced that day because I felt that it was my fault for leaving it out where it could be broken and I would just eat the $80. I could have saved myself some money over the next three months if I’d have tried to replace it at that time…
So the woman at the Genius Bar takes my brick and starts fiddling with her retail tech support app. She asks my phone number and I give it to her. She asks me if she has the correct address. She does. Then she blows my mind.
“Did you bring your PowerBook in with you today?”
“No. Why would I need that?”
“We need the serial number off of it.”
“That’s our policy.”
“Well its back at the office. I use the machine for work and I need to get back there.”
She goes in the back to confer with another black-T-shirted drone.
“I’m sorry, but we can’t replace this without the PowerBook serial number.”
“Fine, where’s a new one? I just need to get back to work.”
More backstory: I’ve worked a ton on retail in my life. I know how to handle a disgruntled customer in a packed store in the middle of Christmas season. You get them out of the store as fast as possible.
The other black-T-shirted drone (the manager) follows me to the back counter and hands me a power brick box, all the while trying to explain his position while fantastically not noticing that I couldn’t give half a rat’s ass.
“Well, we really need that PowerBook serial number.”
“Why? I told you it was a replacement that I just bought straight out. It didn’t come with the PowerBook.”
“That’s our policy.”
Ah, the drone’s delight. Policy.
“I don’t understand. If it didn’t come with the PowerBook, then how could you possibly need the PowerBook serial number to replace it? This thing has a serial number of its own.”
More mind blowing: “That’s not a real serial number.” I just couldn’t formulate a response to that, other than: “That’s your problem. What if I just bring the PowerBook serial number in tomorrow?”
“No, that’s no good. We need it at the time of replacement. I can’t make any guarantees.”
“Ok pal. Fine. Get out of my face.”
Pay. Leave. I was so heated I almost didn’t notice how pretty the clerk was. Almost.
Now, I’m not sure the manager knew, but I know why they want the PowerBook serial number when they are replacing items. Apple wants me to do the work of tracking product defects for them. And they withhold services until I do. I could have believed that they wanted to actually see the PowerBook itself to make sure that the power brick being damaged wasn’t a result of me trying to shove it up my ass or some other such craziness that’s not covered under the warranty, but at no time did the woman at the Genius Bar ever seem interested in the PowerBook. Only its serial number. So the story the manager later tried to tell me about needing to see it to make sure it was a straight up thing was bullshit and that’s also what led me to believe that he didn’t know why they needed it in the first place.
Plus, I also get why they changed the Genius Bar from a simple web app to a Flash app. It looks fancier (not better, just fancier) and now they shorten the wait queue in order to keep you in the store longer. They clearly didn’t think about someone buying replacement parts on a work day at this location.
Apple clearly is out for that 20% profit margin in all areas and I’m pretty damn fed up with it. I pay for value. That’s what I look for. I thought that by going with Apple this time around, I was getting a superior value. However, if this is the kind of “customer service” that I can be expected to receive, I’m better off going with another vendor that doesn’t break my balls on a work day.
Best part: the woman who had her chaffeur bring in the iMac G5 was lamenting that this was the third time in a few months that its died on her and all she kept thinking on the way in to the store was “Dude, I’m gettin’ a Dell”.