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Brian Keelan's picture

The customer may not always be right…but the customer is always the customer

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 14:00 -- Brian Keelan

I bought my first Apple computer back in the 80’s and used it for 8 or 9 years before I switched to PC in order to be able to use Windows and the Microsoft Office suite. I was also starting to write back then and everything was being written - and published - in Microsoft Word. Also, all the accounting software available used the Windows operating system while Apple was the darling of the graphic artists and students.

I stayed exclusively with PC computers until 2014 when I bought a Mac-Air so that I could publish on iTunes, which you cannot do from a PC.  I was big into iPad, iPhone, iTouch and Apple TV so this would blend in nicely. Apple had also gone over the wall and put windows and Microsoft Office in their Macs which allowed me to easily migrate files back and forth between the Mac Air and my PC. Since doing that, I have fallen deeply in love with Evernote - a cloud-based note building app that can easily be accessed from all my devices no matter which race, religion or operating system lives in the device’s DNA.

Periodically Apple would send me notes announcing a new version of their operating system and provide on-line instructions as to what I needed to do on my Mac-Air so they could download and install the latest updates to their operating system on my computer. And so, it was in the last week of October, I was thus informed. After downloading the upgrade, my Apple computer restarted and came on with the usual prompt icon asking me for my password which I entered and then - instead of opening - the computer just sat there blinking at me as if I had not entered the password. After shutting it down and trying to re-open it several times, I gave in and phoned the Apple help number.

Over the next three days I logged in almost four hours of “talk-time” with Apple advisors and another two hours of waiting time always with the same result, “I’m sorry sir, this is beyond my scope of service, I am going to arrange for you to speak with my supervisor. Finally, they gave up and told me, “I’m sorry sir, we cannot do this on the phone. You need to take your computer into Apple Service.”

Now then, Apple has a feature called “Time Machine” and if you have an auxiliary hard drive (about $50) you can plug it’s USB into the Apple and it will “back up” all the files on your computer to the external hard drive. I had done that on Sept 27 and I highly recommend that you do this ASAP if you have not done so.

I took my computer and my back-up drive into Staples - where I bought it. They wanted $60 up front just to look at it, which I gave them then went home and called Apple. After another hour or so of waiting, I finally talked with a nice lady in Tennessee and explained to her that this whole thing wasn’t really my problem: “I mean this thing worked great for four years until you guys came along with this new operating system, downloaded it for free into my computer and now my computer doesn’t work anymore. Can you please tell me why I have to pay to fix this problem?” She excused herself and a few minutes later she told me that Apple had agreed to this one-time charge to cover my cost to repair my computer but just had to add, “But remember, this is a one-time only thing and will never be repeated. Ever!”

I said, “So... what you are telling me is that you will provide good and proper service this one time but that I should never, ever expect to be treated fairly by your company again?”

She replied, “That’s right sir.”

I said, “Thanks very much. This is going to make a great story.”

A few days later, I went back to Staples to get it and they wanted me to pay for the service – another $159. I told them Apple had agreed to pay the service fee but they said they were not aware of that. I was somewhat surprised since the nice lady from Tennessee, had kept me waiting one the phone while she called the local Staples store and made the arrangements. Even so, the Staples people claimed that call had not been made. I agreed to pay the $159 - and fight it out with Apple later - if they could prove to me the computer worked. When they went and tried to open it, they could not do it so they apologized and told me they would send it back to their service people.

A few days later, they told me that they had wiped my entire drive, re-installed the operating system and then re-installed the files from my back-up drive and I was all set. They also told me that - surprisingly - they had decided to offer the service, “No Charge” because of the frustration I had endured over the last week. So now I had Staples biting the bullet and fixing my computer for free and Apple claiming they had paid them. Even so, Staples kept my original $59 payment.

I tried to open the computer and it opened. So, I took it and left.

When I got home, the computer opened but when I went to open my files, I found that the entire Microsoft Office suite was not there. My files were, but the operating software was not. When I called Staples to ask, “Hey what the heck?” they told me that according to their “Apple-certified” service people, I would need to go to my Microsoft account and look up the product key number I got when I bought the software. But it wasn’t on my Microsoft account. That’s because the people at Staples had installed the software when I bought the computer and it had not been registered on my Microsoft account. Now I had to find my Staples receipt from 2014 and get the product key from there. That’s when the ordeal took a hard-right turn: I could not find my receipt from 4 years ago. This is unusual for me since I have receipts I’ve kept going back to the last century. If I ever write a big-selling book and make a few million, I would want to be able to write off all the money I have spent on equipment, software and training. But, the only thing I could find was my Visa receipt from 4 years ago verifying that I had spent fifteen hundred dollars at Staples and the only thing I ever bought from them that cost that much was my Mac Air.
So, with great trepidation, I called Staples and asked them to see if they could find my receipt. I figured it would be a little bit of work, but when I owned my retail store we had to keep our records for a minimum of 7 years in case the government wanted to come in and see if I had paid enough taxes - corporate and personal income as well as all the sales taxes I had collected. I figured it would be the same deal for Staples. I called the Staples lady a few days later to see if they had found anything and she told me they only went back two years. I figured that was bogus due to the seven-year thing, so I called Staples Canadian head office in Toronto and spoke to a guy named Mike who told me that they would have the records and he would be happy to check into it for me. An hour later he called back and left a message saying that they could only go back two years.

Now I’m in a real fix: Apple wants $400 minimum to replace my Windows and Office suite and nobody seemed to want to help me out. I didn’t bother to phone Staples because I had walked out of there with the distinct feeling that they never wanted to see me again - which - by the way - was okay with me. I like to buy at a place where I am not made to feel like it is a privilege to be allowed to buy or get service there. I told them not to worry about that because after all, I’m just a customer.

Back home I called the Apple help line again. Spoke to a nice young lady named Dey from New Jersey. She asked me if I would hook up the back-up drive to my Mac Air and then giver her permission to do what they call a, “screen-share.”

I said, “Sure.”

Now she is in my computer and looking at my screen. She can’t operate it but she can move a pointer around and say things like, “Okay, press this button.” She gave me some instructions and then we went into my back-up drive, found the all Microsoft Windows and Office files from 2014 and re-installed them.

Fifteen minutes later I had all my Apple software back and everything was exactly the way it had been three and a half weeks ago except I had the new Apple operating system.

I asked, “Where the heck have you been? I’ll bet I’ve talked to 10 Apple service people in the last three weeks - many of them at a much higher pay level than you - and many of them with screen-sharing capabilities like you did – but none of them could do anything about this. I luckily get hold of you and you fixed it in five minutes.”

She laughed. “I don’t know what to say Brian. It’s right there in front of their faces if they just looked.”

I told her that I think that the demand for knowledgeable service people is so high and yet the ability to provide it is so low and so frustrating to the customer. Staff turnover is so high because all the good people are getting snapped up by the new companies that are starting up every day.

I think that’s why they tell us, “This phone call is being recorded for customer service reasons.” It’s really so they can say, “Well sir if you’re going to use language like that I’m hanging up.”

At least that’s my opinion. I could be wrong but even if I am, I wonder why these people don’t just concentrate more on fixing the problems rather than looking for a reason to blame us for them. After all, we are the customers and as soon as somebody comes along with better service, we’ll be their customers.

At least I will be.

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