The Apple Computer Store: Heaven or Hell?
Some of you see this modern technology store as a holy place worthy of a pilgrimage. Well let me tell you, I pilgrimaged and it isn't Heaven. Maybe Hell is a bit harsh...but let me share the customer service experience I had this week.
My husband has turned me into a Mac person more because he knows a lot more about these sorts of things than I do. I think the branding of Mac as hip and cool is super effective. As a Mac user I feel ten years younger and twenty pounds thinner not to mention MUCH smarter just because I use a Mac. But here is where I am not thrilled: The customer service at the telephone level.
I had called a few days earlier and set an appointment at the Apple store at University Park Mall in Mishawaka, Indiana for 12:15pm Thursday June 30th to have our iMac G5 looked at. It was NOT performing whatsoever despite my hubs efforts to do all the stuff we can do to make it work usually. They asked my name and maybe my telephone number. I was surprised they didn't ask what was wrong with it, but I think I prattled about that to them anyway even if they didn't ask.
This was my Thursday: Pack up and load my six month old baby and two and half year old daughter into the car at 9:30am (right after taking the baby to the doctor for her six month visit and shots, I may add.) Drive one hour and some on the toll road spending three bucks to get to the store. I had spent considerable conversational effort with my friend Maggie who was going to watch my kidlets while I dragged the computer into the mall. The time change meant after arriving I was an hour behind which made everything trickier. We decided she would meet me in the mall and I would wear the baby to the store while her toddler played with mine in the mall play area.
As I put the baby on, got the boxed computer out of the car (my fabu husband kept the original box, not sure what I would have done otherwise!) and balanced the toddler out of her car seat with one hand I realized I could not carry the computer through the mall...too heavy and bulky. So I got the tiny folding umbrella stroller out which the toddler cried to ride in, balanced the computer box on it and proceeded into the mall at an embarrassing and traffic stoppingly slow pace. I was sweating, the toddler was crying, and the baby spit up all over me and the carrier. We had not even entered the mall yet.
We finally made it to the Apple store...all five of us after hooking up with my pal and her son. What I really liked about the store and the employees is they had a kid level table and chairs and computer stations right by the front which our tots ran to. I was greeted right away, they took the computer from me (WHEW!) and when I asked if I had time to find a bathroom, they offered theirs....which was hidden behind super cool stainless steel doors next to the service counter. I asked if all of us could go, the hip computerista said "Do whatever you have to do!" So we all went into the secret hallway and used the facilities happily. When we came out it was just a few more minutes before I was called up to the computer bar. The baby threw up on me again. It hit the floor with a wet splat and I apologized to Katie who had called me to the counter. She was gracious and kind about it which I really appreciated. It is gross enough to wear baby hurl like perfume, worse still to have it dispensed on private property.
Katie looked at our computer's serial number and plugged it into her system. She frowned and turned to me with a genuinely concerned look on her face. "I am so sorry to tell you this, but your G5 is six years old, and we are not allowed to work on anything that is older than five years, it is considered vintage."
You know the slow motion montage you see in some movies where the protagonist climbs over the counter and throttles someone as a fantasy but in real life they just stand there dumbfounded and some shade of irate? That was me. Katie was so kind and concerned about it I wasn't irate, but I was super unhappy. I said to her, "Katie, I know this is not your fault...but I have just driven over an hour with two tiny babies, had a friend come with her small child to meet me and help, dragged this computer in here and now you cannot help me?" She gave me a card (Katie Holt: Genius) and jotted down the info for a computer place in town that could work on my machine, Pixel Creek Technologies. It was all the way across town by the airport. My plan had been to hang out waiting for the computer if need be with my girlfriend who lives near the mall and nowhere near the airport. I turned, near tears and fuming, towards the door.
Katie then did the best thing ever: she offered to have Azeem carry the computer back out to the car for me! "ABSOLUTELY!" I said. Now THAT was excellent customer service. It only partially redeemed the situation for me, however. As I left the store with my entourage I realized one basic, simple, obvious question could have averted this awful experience. One simple question that seems would be standard for any person calling Apple with technology issues. One question would have saved us all: What kind of Mac are you bringing in?
I hope Apple adds this no brainer question into their telephone exchanges in the future. My Mac may make me thinner, younger and smarter, but I expect more too. I expect not to have the day I had again. I won't sell off my kids, so my only hope to never have this happen again is that Apple learns to ask more questions before my young, skinny, smart self straggles into their store again.