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[personal] Lightning rod for terrible customer service - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2012-10-25 05:58
Subject: [personal] Lightning rod for terrible customer service
Security: Public
Tags:apple, cancer, child, culture, family, food, friends, health, personal, portland
More grumbling, feel free to ignore.

Apparently the universe heeded my grumbling on Tuesday about Apple's warranty service policies [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ] because yesterday I got seriously pwned in the customer service department by both the SE Portland location of Papa Haydn's restaurant and my good friends at the Portland Pioneer Place Apple Store.

My aunt M. was briefly in town from Colorado, so she and [info]tillyjane (a/k/a my mom) and my dad and (step)mom and Lisa Costello and I went out for lunch. Where it took Papa Haydn's over forty-five minutes to get our orders out from the kitchen. That would be four sandwiches and one bunless hamburger. Not exactly a weird special order. What made matters a lot worse was after the first five or ten minutes, our waiter vanished and hid from us. We got no updates or apologies or explanations or help. Instead we got to watch other tables get seated, served and cash out while we waited for our food. These days, on chemo, long delays for food are extremely troublesome for me, and my willingness to be good humored about problems is a lot less than normal. But the total lack of engagement by the waiter was really the topper. One bad lunch has managed to irritate me enough to wipe out a decade of goodwill from pleasant dining experiences and tasty food.

In fairness, after Lisa Costello and I left to get back to our respective Day Jobbery, the host apparently came over and made some amends. Would have been nice if they'd done anything whatsoever in the hour or so I was sitting in the restaurant, almost all of it waiting unacknowledged for whatever the hell happened to our order in the kitchen. I won't be going back to Papa Haydn's. Not with those kind of kitchen and server training issues.

Later that same day, Team E— went to pick up [info]the_child's MacBook Pro from its repairs at the Pioneer Place Apple Store. Apparently you cannot pay for something at the Apple Store with a credit card over the phone. I explained to the Apple employee waiting on Team E— that I was very ill, and could not come down to the store in person. She apologized. I asked to speak to the manager. She went off, then came back. The Apple Store manager refused to even speak to me, merely instructing the front line employee to re-iterate the policy. Team E— had to leave, I had to go out to the ATM to get cash to pay for this, coordinate deliver of the cash to Team E—, and they have to make another trip today.

I understand why some establishments won't do a Card Not Present transaction. It's a fraud issue. That policy causes problems for me personally, and is not the least bit disability-friendly in general, but I recognize my needs are shared a very small fraction of Apple Store customers. However, the manager declining to speak to a customer on request is inexcusable. Unfortunately for me, unlike Papa Haydn's, I don't have a serious alternative to going to Apple for service and repairs. There is another Apple Store much further across town, and there are some independents here who can in some circumstances honor AppleCare warranties. Why the hell the manager wouldn't just talk to me in the first place baffles me.

So, yeah, grumbling.

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nojay
User: nojay
Date: 2012-10-25 14:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Re: The Apple store manager.

You wanted to talk to him and he refused, right? What did you expect talking to him would achieve? Apple Store policy is not to process Card Not Present transactions, as the first employee told your friends trying to pick up the machine. All the manager could do is reaffirm that and all he could reasonably expect discussing it with you on the phone is to waste his time and yours. If my short and colourful history of dealing with frustrated customers is any guide he might well expect abuse and vituperation and he still has to go with the store policy of not processing Card Not Present transactions. I'm glad he stood up for his subordinate in fact as that doesn't always happen.

Edited at 2012-10-25 02:11 pm (UTC)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-10-25 14:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm actually quite polite. What I wanted to find out from the manager was if the ban on Card Not Present transactions was an absolute ban based on the card processing contracts (a subject about which I know a great deal more than your average bear, due to Day Jobbery), or if it was a management policy for which exceptions could be made based on special need.

I've been a customer of Apple since 1985, a customer of that Apple Store since 2000, and it wouldn't be hard to verify a long, multi-year transaction history between me and them. Ie, I'm not some random fraudster trying to pass a card.

Also, I strongly disagree with your contention the manager was right not to talk to me. (1) I had a reasonable question only they could answer. (2) In retail customer service in general, when a polite customer (me) asks politely (as I did), there should always be an escalation path. *That* is bad customer service.
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nojay
User: nojay
Date: 2012-10-25 15:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If the manager had agreed to make an exception for you he's going against blackletter company policy and he's also cutting his subordinate off at the knees in front of a customer. That's pretty much page one of Bad Manager Practice second edition.

It's unlikely a store manager would have immediate access to company records of previous financial transactions of customers; the possibilities for abuse are enormous and unfortunately more and more commonly reported in the press, accompanied by multi-million dollar lawsuit settlements. As far as the manager is concerned you are not a customer, you're an anonymous voice on a phone trying to social-engineer his staff into abandoning company rules "just this once".

The employee you spoke to did answer your reasonable question. It wasn't an answer you wanted to hear and hearing the same thing from the store manager wasn't going to be any more productive for you. You could always escalate it to the district office, of course as there is always an escalation path as you say.

Monday-morning quarterbacking the situation I'd possibly have thought to mention to the staff when the laptop went in for service that the repair would be paid for via credit card but the card-owner couldn't make it to the store for various reasons and how could they settle the bill when they came to pick it up? Knowing there was a no-exception policy for credit card payment over the phone then your friends could have turned up with cash or alternatives. That's now of course, not then.
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matt_doyle
User: matt_doyle
Date: 2012-10-25 19:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
At least at any Verizon store I've ever been to, every employee has what seems to be a complete record of my entire history with the company. Would not at all surprise me if Apple had that information available as well.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-10-25 21:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
BTW, we're obviously looking at this from different viewpoints, and are not likely to change one another's minds, so I'm happy to wave the whole subject off. But I did want to mention that I've learned authoritatively today that Card Not Present transactions at Apple Stores are in fact at manager's discretion, or at least were as recently as this past July. (It's certainly possible policies have since changed.)

Which means if that manager had been willing to take my call and listen to me, this could have been worked out. Which was of course my original point.
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Bob
User: yourbob
Date: 2012-10-25 21:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
A manager refusing to talk to a customer, ANY customer whether reasonable customer or not is SHIT customer service.

There is absolutely absolutely no excuse for that refusal. It puts the employee in a position where a polite incident could escalate to screaming simply for that treatment.</p>

It is the fucking managers job (their JOB!) to deal with such issues. Any manager I employed that refused for any reason short of actual gunfire to speak with a customer -at least start such a conversation (I understand having to shut abusive customers down - would be terminated on the spot.

No fucking excuse.

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nojay
User: nojay
Date: 2012-10-25 21:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This was an Apple store, right? The day after an Apple Keynote and the release of the 8" Apple iPad, a new retina MB Air, a revamped iMac and an uprated Mac Mini and the store manager is supposed to stop serving customers over-the-counter to talk to someone on the phone who he suspects may be a credit-card-scammer and who already has been dealt with by one of his staff.

I suppose it could happen.
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Karen
User: klwilliams
Date: 2012-10-25 23:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It should, if the manager wants to keep having all those customers still coming to his store.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2012-10-26 10:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Apple, as a retail store, has obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Sec. 12182. Prohibition of discrimination by public accommodations.

It's not good enough to say that the manager was obeying store policy if, de jure, store policy was unlawful.

Apple should have made reasonable accommodation to Jay's requests: the law requires Apple to do so. Their refusal even to discuss such accommodation is appalling.
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Little and foxy and sexy... what more do you want?
User: little_foxy
Date: 2012-10-25 23:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I would writing letters of complaint to both companies.

And regardless of any company policy on credit cards, not speaking to a customer is inexcusable. There is no reason for that and it only makes for an unhappy customer. Even if all he had done was speak to you to restate the policy you would have been happier that you were being listened to.

And if as nojay has said he was too busy due to product releases then that too shows incompetence for not having enough staff to deal with the workload.
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a_cubed
User: a_cubed
Date: 2012-10-26 04:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
WRT Apple, well this is what you get for buying into a closed ecosystem. You're at their mercy. As much as possible I use ecosystems that are as open as possible. It's getting harder because there are costs to openness that I could go on about at length, but really it's a case of short term versus long term benefit. You may get short term benefit from engaging in a closed ecosystem, but in the long run they'll screw you when you have no alternative. THis is why monopolies are usually technically illegal, though these days it can be politically impossible to truly deal with a monopoly (compare the MS cases and Standard Oil cases).
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-10-26 13:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm well aware of the closed ecosystem issues, both as a philosophical problem and as more focused business problem. But I'm also well aware of my own time/value equations.

I've been a Mac user since 1985 and a Windows user since 1997, with several stints in Linux as well, and I can tell you that the total amount of time I've spent on software and hardware hassles (install, configuration, updates, bugs at whatever level, weird incompatibilities, etc.) in over a quarter century of being a Mac user is less than I spend on any given year using either Windows or Linux.

Despite having a deep technical background and being fairly capable when not in the throes of chemo brain, I don't fundamentally enjoy troubleshooting and configuration, and it's a zero value (or worse) use of my time compared to other activities like writing or hanging out with my loved ones.

A better than 1:25 ratio of my time expended on unnecessary issues that don't advance my productivity one iota is a pretty compelling argument to me personally for holding my nose and coping with the walled garden.
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fx4
User: fx4
Date: 2012-10-26 16:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have to wonder about the people that complain about Apples "walled garden". Do they have fence around their property? Do they password protect their WiFi? Do they lock their doors to their house? Do they own a car with a removable ignition key? Does their car require parts from a specific company or is it "open" and they can install whatever engine they like? Do they realize that walls provide many benefits, unless you want to break in, or out.
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russ: lyles constant
User: goulo
Date: 2012-10-27 19:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:lyles constant
I think this is a case where "argument by analogy" doesn't work very well and misrepresents who is being blocked by the wall. The "wall" around an Apple computer is keeping you, the owner, from entering (not "breaking into") your own property; a fence around your property, a password on your WiFi, a lock on your door etc protects your property from outside intruders.

But in the spirit of analogies, I'll counter-propose: "Do you own a bike and can only buy lights, helmets, tires etc from one bike company? In your home, do you have to buy all your furniture from one furniture company? In your kitchen, do all your plates and cookware have to come from one company?" Then the "walled garden" scenario doesn't sound so beneficial. :)

Hmm, FWIW, I recall that when I owned a car, I was often able to buy parts from various companies in any case, although granted, I indeed used the original manufacturer's engine. :)
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fx4
User: fx4
Date: 2012-10-28 19:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Except your counter argument also doesn't work very well either. I can buy any hard drive I want (my macbook pro has a SSD and a HDD, for example, neither came from Apple). I buy RAM from Crucial or OWC, not apple. Newer technology batteries are better and cheaper than Apple's. Very little of my software is made by Apple. I can hook up any monitor I want (and several at once, though it's expensive getting one that is bette than Apple's) Any USB pointing and input device works, assuming it is built to industry standards (don't get me started on non-standard device drivers, that's a headache on any platform). None of my music or videos or ebooks came from Apple's store. I have non-Apple power adapters and cheap generic 30pin ipod cords. I do have an Apple router because I got tired of Linkgearnetsys-shit burning out after 12-18 months. The speed and performance are a notch above all the others I've tried. My server is Synology.

I am an independent consultant. I make my living by working on Apple products in ways Apple does not intend (not least of which is house calls). From the inside, the wall around Apple's garden is essentially a picket fence for all the difficulty it presents to the owner of the device. From the outside, it is protection from the nefarious. Unless you recklessly break it down, then you are no better or worse off than the rest of the un-walled.

The people who are genuinely inconvenienced by Apple's walled garden are (in my extensive experience) very much the edge cases. I am one, so I change things. It's not terribly hard. Apple lives by the 80/20 rule, they really serve more like 95%.

The fools that believe you have to buy everything from Apple (parts, accessories, music, videos, etc.) are usually too lazy to bother to look for alternatives. It just works and is easy, so they are happy.

FWIW, If I owned a BMW or an Audi, I certainly would not put off brand cheap parts on it, though I am sure I could. I would carefully research and possibly decide to use an aftermarket part if it was indeed better.
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russ: lyles constant
User: goulo
Date: 2012-10-28 21:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:lyles constant
Hi, just to clarify: my counter analogies were intended as intentionally humorous extreme analogies (not at all as serious analogies or arguments). Just to illustrate that analogies don't really seem useful as arguments, at least in this situation, because it is so easy to make extreme/absurd vaguely analogous situations. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

(But I do maintain that your original analogies had an additional problem of misrepresenting who was being "walled out" by the "walled garden" metaphor of closed proprietary systems. A company's policy of intentionally making it hard or impossible or illegal for owners to access/modify own system is not at all like an owner locking their home/WiFi/etc to protect it against other people.)
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fx4
User: fx4
Date: 2012-10-28 21:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
(But I do maintain that your original analogies had an additional problem of misrepresenting who was being "walled out" by the "walled garden" metaphor of closed proprietary systems. A company's policy of intentionally making it hard or impossible or illegal for owners to access/modify own system is not at all like an owner locking their home/WiFi/etc to protect it against other people.)

I respectfully disagree. In practice, for the vast majority of people, the analogy holds true. Using WiFi as an example, far more people have "someone" set up their router for them, and have no ability or knowledge to make any changes to their own network. They call Comcast whenever there is a problem. Most people take their car to the dealer if anything is wrong with it (they don't troubleshoot it themselves). Bike maintenance and repair is trivially easy in most cases, yet people think it's arcane and take their bikes to a bike shop, usually where they bought it "because that shop knows brand X"

Apple's walled garden is perfectly suited to the vast majority of the population. As I said, Apple lives by the 80/20 rule. It is NOT walling out 80% of the people who use it. It's walling out hassle for those people. Those people are not you.

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