Hit In The Head With An Apple

I got an interesting email from a friend who has historically been a huge Apple fanboy. I asked him if I could repost it verbatim and he said yes. It follows – I’m curious what your response is to this.

While I’m still very involved with the art world here in Colorado and still working on conservation issues we’ve actually just returned from almost a year away, the last 6 months in India.  I realize that a lot of what I see is colored with the lens of India, but maybe that’s helping to make things more clear.

Anyway, in preparation for re-entry after India (we were in rural, south east India, without much electricity so I figured home might be a shock), I started to try and catch up on things.  Your blog was one of my tools for this.  I read the post on creating the best product, agreed, and moved on.  One of the first things I planned on doing once home was to buy a shiny new macbook to replace my 4 year old white macbook.  Maybe going to the mall, rather than just buying it online was my first mistake, but the cult of apple and the temple that is that store made me gag the second I walked in there.  And while my macbook may be old, my use of apple products is right where they want it to be… had the iPhone5 the 2nd day it was out, mcgyvered the Airtel sim cards to work as nano-sims card in india, have a small film production crew all working on the latest macbook pros and iMacs, iPads and iPods at home… on and on.  But in the store, what I noticed was a culture of elitism and insincerity.  I had a 4 year old laptop with me, and was treated like a Luddite because I didn’t look up to speed.  Insulted, I kept the $4,500 in my pocket, thinking I’d keep the laptop running, which I did.  Small thing I know, but my thought was “if apple doesn’t care about me, who do they care about?”  Today an even smaller issue illuminated this even more.  I went in again, this time to replace the defective “top case/keyboard” from these old white plastic macs, and was told that the machine was now “vintage” (that’s the official apple label), and that they couldn’t replace the “defective part” (also their official language) as they had done in the past, because it is more than 4 years old.  I thought that maybe I should just get a new machine and quit belly aching, but I pushed a little just to see what apple thought about a customer like me…  and called apple to ask if there was anything more they could do.  After a lot of insincere apologies, I asked if there was really nothing they could do.  The support supervisor insisted that there was no more senior person to address this issue but that I might try craigslist.  I was pretty surprised that apple’s official support process ended with telling the customer to check out craigslist for an old mac to scrap for parts.  I’m such a pushover that if he’d offered me $100 credit towards a new macbook, I’d have smiled and bought another apple product.

As I right this, it sounds too much like a rant.  But I couldn’t help writing, first to say hello after a long while (I did hear about the 3D printed tooth in Croatia…amazing!) and second to just try an make sense of what apple could possibly be thinking… the “cool factor” is clearly waning, they’re products are overpriced, and now they’re indifferent, even hostile, to customer who regularly spend tens of thousands of dollars on their products.  Can they really be thinking that the best product is the one that you replace really quickly with something “cooler” and more expensive?  I think this time, I might really go get the chromebook.  I can’t be alone, and that can’t be good for them.

  • This is the apple I have always known; I don’t have an issue with it; neither should you. Apple is in this to make a great product, not spare parts, not upgrades, not value-add co-purchases. If their latest product isn’t great enough on face to warrant a purchase, then you should go with something better; I’m pretty-sure you will find that, on-face, the apple product is still the best replacement you can buy: that no-one will treat you like a customer-in-good-standing when you bring in a 4yo device, but few other vendors will deliver a consumer product with a 3year operational lifetime. I’m not an apple fanboi, I only own one I hardly use, it’s used, 4 years old, and runs great. If I was buying consumer hardware, apple is one of the best practical decisions you can make. Even treated like a Luddite at 4 years is still probably the best (sincere) treatment you’ll get at this point.

    my $.02us

    • couldn’t agree more with u! Buying a new MBP is probably the best option!

    • Benjamin — I agree with you. Apple is often accused of being arrogant, and probably fairly so. But, having a business policy and sticking to it – in this case: products older than 4 years are not supported and are to be repaired by third parties – allows them to focus on their core business and is why they are so good at doing so. I have a quite a bit of older Apple hardware and am often annoyed that they are no longer supported when they seem quite capable of continuing to provide value and, as a result, I have gotten really good at doing the repairs myself (with the help if ifixit.com). But, I don’t blame Apple — it is the right business decision for them.

  • @FakeBradFeld

    I am sure there will be many fanbois that will say Apple is the best product and you should deal with the elitism, but the reality is Apple should be judged against other premium brands (BMW, Mercedes, etc). Based on this post, I would say that Apple is not treating their customers in the same way that BMW treats their customers. It is a fair point. I’ll put my $1100 Samsung ultrabook against a $4500 Mac. Sure, the materials are different, but the premium that is paid to Apple is very significant and Apple’s customers should be treated accordingly.

    • narikannan

      I agree with this 100%. Fanbois will be in denial, the mainstream will leave, fanbois cannot sustain and grow a company in the long run. When the premium you pay does not justify the exceptional service you expect but do not receive, the value is not there anymore.

    • While I agree with your main point – using BMW as an example I find absurd, based on my personal experiences. We’re talking about how a manufacturer treats an owner of a late model (not under warranty) here, right? I had a BMW that (at about 8 years old, which I’d argue is younger than a 4 year old Mac, in car / computer ages) started having wacky shit happen. One day, for example, I turned the key off in the ignition, the key started just turning freely – and the key came out, with the car still running. I drove to the shop and discovered that it’s not as simple as cracking open the ignition and fixing it — there was a whole kit for the ignition that was $800 (before labor). I proceeded to have another 5-6 wacky things like that happen (the mechanism that springs the trunk blew out, the power windows stopped working, etc.). At every step in repair of aging parts, BMWs introduce black boxes that are intentionally designed to drive maximum service / parts revenues. How, exactly, are they a good example of a manufacturer that treats non- warrantee customers well?

      Also – while I don’t find the original writers’ observations whiney, they do seem very unrealistic. The standard of comparison is how other electronics manufacturers handle old / defective equipment. I don’t think there are many readers of this blog who haven’t endured countless hours historically chasing down PC manufacturers for issues (still under warrantee) and them deflecting responsibility. How fun it was to call into a Toshiba or HP and have them claim your issue was related to Windows or some software you’d installed. Or them having you run bios? The customer service standard set by the PC manufacturers and their distributors was so abysmal that I think this is hardly an area that’s going to erode Apple’s sales in a meaningful way.

  • Hi Brad, This is a great post – (Im happy that you were able to share it – as written). Thankfully, I think we are getting past that “golden age” of paying too much for hardware (And, according to your pal’s post – “pay” can mean a lot of things) – no matter who manufactured it. I think that the real question is quickly becoming – What do you want it to do? This post may have pushed me over the line to take on a long-anticipated/planned Chrome Book experiment. With Google-everything (Email,Docs, etc etc), It just might work. As long as your friend isn’t super-dependent on specialized production etc. software, it might be a good solution for him too…

  • At $199 bucks, and with all of your stuff safe in the Cloud – Throw away might not be a bad answer http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Acer—11.6%26%2334%3B-Chromebook—2GB-Memory—320GB-Hard-Drive—Iron-Gray/7098526.p?id=1218829108571&skuId=7098526

    • See my comment above. Throw away is definitely an appropriate phrase.

  • Meredith Collins

    I bought a powerbook in the 90s and was treated as you describe. I’ll admit, I was a luddite when it came to computers, but considering the price at the time and apple’s market share back then, you would think they would have cherished every customer they got…but they did not. I needed help setting that thing up and I got none from Apple. I definitely did not become a fan-boy/woman and felt no loyalty to apple…til I checked out what else was out there. And that’s when I realized just how really beautiful apple products are. When I bought my white one, I said those words to my brother who is a hard-core financial type who could care less about design, and he looked at me like I was nuts. Then he got an iphone…and for the first time in our lives filled with intense sibling rivalry, he uttered those wonderful words that I had been waiting years to hear: “You were right. It is beautiful.” While I do not buy things because they are hip or trendy, and to be honest, I am really not all that loyal to companies in general, I will keep buying apple products until there is something else as easy to use and as beautiful. And, to be honest, the customer service has gotten a lot better – I got some faulty help recently and they sent me a hard-drive as a mea culpa! All that being said, I can only imagine the culture shock coming from rural India to an Apple store – in a mall, no less!

  • Surely there are other companies besides Apple that can repair their products. I can think of two that I could get to sooner than a company store, which we have at least two of in the Atlanta area. Why not give them a try?

  • Im calling BS on this one in several dimensions.

    First this – “I had a 4 year old laptop with me, and was treated like a Luddite because I didn’t look up to speed…” Now, come on… if you’re shopping for a new Macbook why would you take your old one in and wave it around? Do you take your old TV in when you shop for a new TV?? Also, walking in with an attitude like “…cult of apple and the temple that is that store made me gag the second I walked in there. ” shows quite a bit of bias going in. Mayhaps the poster let some of that attitude leak through?

    Second, what Macbook costs $4500?? *Maybe* a fully tricked out, top of the line 15″ Retina Pro. Maybe (but note that they start at half that price…) But give me a break – guy’s using a 4 year old, entry level Macbook and now can only live with a top of the machine? How about getting a 13″ Air or MBP which are more reasonable machines for someone who can use a 4 year old Macbook? Hell, I replaced a white Macbook last year with a refurbed 11″ 2011 Air. For $850. Not $4500. Did I mention the letters B and S?

    Third, the “I was treated like a Luddite”. Obviously I can’t speak to how this person was treated or not, but guess what, if you walk in with a chip on your shoulder looking to be offended, you might perceive offense. Even if the Apple store people were rude that says nothing about Apple in general or even the Store people in general. Your experience is just that… yours.

    Fourth, the thing that makes this post really smell is the trotting out of that hoary old canard “they’re [sic] products are overpriced.” Spec for spec, Apple’s laptops are about where most well made Windows laptops are. Sure, you can find super budget PC laptops, but they generally have significant compromises. If you compare things even up (similar specs, weight, battery life, etc), The Macbooks are roughly the same as their PC counterparts. Of course you can compare an entry level ultrabook to a fully loaded 15″ Retina Pro, but that’s obviously ridiculous and no one would do that… right?

    • Maybe there was still some latent guilt being deflected towards Apple from the India trip, where $4500 would probably feed some families and build a new school, who knows?

    • Exactly. I walked into a Best Buy and was treated like an asshole by an indifferent 16 year old, who then tried to sell me a warrantee that cost more than 50% than the item I was buying. Somebody call the Better Business Bureau.

  • I’m sorry, but what “3D printed tooth in Croatia”? I live here and haven’t heard about it…

    • I had a bike accident in September in Slovenia – http://www.feld.com/archives/2012/09/blood-in-the-streets.html

      I broke my tooth and had an amazing experience getting it repaired.

      • Ah I see, Slovenia not Croatia, but close enough. 🙂

        Anyway, who do I have to kill to have you make a trip to Zagreb and check the local startup (and biking!) community the next time you’re in Slovenia? 😉

  • Keith Caneiro

    I wanted to add a few things here:

    a) When Apple refers to a product as vintage – it is the term that they use to describe any product that is end of life and past the date in which they provide software/hardware updates and parts. It is not designed to make you feel inferior and they clearly are not using the word obsolete by design.

    b) The temple that you refer to – the one that makes you gag – is the most successful retail store design by a number of metrics – one of which is sales per square foot – the other is satisfied customers. I think that having 125B in the bank proves that the old strategy of using CompUSA and other box movers did not work.

    c) Apple is running a business. They offered to replace your “defective part” outside the warranty period. This does not mean that there is an unlimited supply of those parts or that they are committing to keep parts on hand for life.

    d) If you really wanted 100 bucks credit – either write a letter to Tim Cook or recycle the old hardware – I’m sure it’s worth more than 100 dollars. Explain how you have been a loyal customer and detail out what your issue is. Try to leave the non-essential stuff out – let them know what your expectations are.

    e) I’m not really sure where you could get a similar machine with the same build quality for less money. I was going to say that you could get a Surface Pro which has a similar hardware build – but it does not run OS X. I’m not sure if “cool factor” is a factor that I use when I select hardware and software – but I’ll grant that it is legitimate for some. You mention that they are overpriced and that the people were hostile. I’m not sure how you were treated as a Luddite – but I’m sure you were not putting wooden shoes into the machinery. Did people look at you and sneer or was it something that was actually said that made you feel the “culture of elitism and insincerity”

    I see that you did not get what you wanted. I’m not discounting anything you are saying. I was in the Apple store last night – it was crazy busy and someone greeted me by the door and asked if they could help me. I was able to return a 128GB iPad 4 in about 3 minutes from the time I entered to exit. I think that the average age of the employees was skewed to the young side – but they completed my transaction with confidence. I never once felt that anyone was looking down on me for returning the device. I also bought an iphone 5 at the same store last week. Same thing – store was crazy busy – young staff – out in five minutes.

    I think some of the push back that Apple is getting is that it is not the company that it was – but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The market for Apple products has expanded and the products are better made today – at a much lower price then they were when Apple had a much smaller segment of the market. They have created entire businesses that others were unable to (iTunes music, app store, etc.) that have paid developers 8B in payments. There is a reason why applications are developed on the iphone first. There is a reason why most of the people that I know today are using Apple products – they are superior products. You can use Android, Windows Mobile, ChromeBook, etc. Whatever fits your needs is what you should buy.

    • Well said. Recognize you aren’t responding to me – you are responding to a friend. I was trying to use this post to get to a deeper point, which you (and the other responders) helped me do!

      • Keith Caneiro

        Brad – I will offer up this.

        I was using the Surface RT, Surface Pro and Nokia 920 each from their respective launch dates. I moved from an MacBook Pro – iPad – iPhone – to be able to use OneNote 2013 to take notes.

        For all the talk about Windows 8 being terrible – and I have read some crazy polarizing stuff – the hardware and software were pretty nice. I found that being able to use the Surface RT to create content instead of 99% content consumption on my iPad – was an unexpected benefit.

        It ended up that there is a bug in OneNote 2013 which does not allow audio files recorded on the Surface Pro to actually play back on either the Surface RT or Nokia 920. I was able to use the Microsoft store in the local mall and after a false start – was able to get them to confirm the issue.

        They ended up refunding all of my money since they have no release date on fixing the issue. The point here is this – there are alternatives to the Apple world and depending on your specific real world needs – I’m not going to get into what Apple marketing makes you feel – special or otherwise – these alternatives can serve.

        The Microsoft store was also well designed – had very intelligent and on the whle – nice people – working there. They did the right thing but in the end, I’m back in the Apple ecosystem – because of my needs.

        I’m not sure where you are reading anything about a balance between reality and fantasy on a meta scale here – but it is your blog and it could just be me – and it might just be that this person had an experience. I didn’t read into that a 4 year old machine was state of the art in India and it was vintage here. I read it that he was able to get service out of a four year old machine and wanted to either buy another one or get Apple to fix a cosmetic issue that they had a service program on…


  • Yep its a rant. This is reality in the world we live in. The renewal cycles on laptops, phones etc is 2 to 3 years at best. If they don’t go bad they are just obsolete for the programs you want to use.
    This is reality of this ecosystem and not just Apple…

    • Yup, although part of what I was trying to get to was understand the “meta” that was going on and the comments have helped me immensely to understand that the meta is the disconnect between the fantasy that has been created by Apple’s general amazingness AND marketing, and the reality that is the execution of this over a long period of time.

      • On the marketing point: I have been an Apple customer for over a decade and have most of the products shipped since then. During this period I have visted their genius bar 8 to 10 times.

        During these visits I have seen many other cases of people bringing their computers for repair. I have seen really old computers, windows machines (for data transfers), really broken machines and devices which were just pure mishandled by the user.

        In no case I saw an Apple employee be condescending to any of the customer (let alone being hostile). They have always been extra helpful and have gone out of their way to take care of things.

        I seriously believe your friend’s experience is a one off and wouldnt assume that it applies to the whole company.

  • DaveJ

    I don’t think this is unique to Apple. What’s unique is that they have their own retail stores, so you are more hit in the face with it. Fact is, almost any consumer technology product is pretty much obsolete in four years. And as we ride the exponential technology curve, this is only going to shorten.

    • As someone who pays $3k for a new computer every year, and has done so since 1984, I completely agree.

  • I haven’t been able to put a finger on what bothered me about Apple…until this post. Thank you for encapsulating the sense of entitlement that emanates out of the entire Apple customer experience (and this from an Apple product (iPhone,MacBook,iPad) user…but also a Droid user…a Windows user…Kindle user…). I am waiting for the pendulum to swing…

  • JackStrat

    It is really hard to buy into this opinion. If I try to boil it down into the most essential pieces, I get:

    1. The Apple retail experience alienates customers who want to buy a computer.

    2. The only laptop considered was a $4,500 computer (I’m not even sure how to get to that price point via an apple laptop).

    3. Apple choosing to outsource service of 4+ year old products to third party vendors means they don’t love their customers.

    It’s hard to agree with any of these objectively, once you press out the emotion. Now, I think it is fine for other companies or customers to hold a contrary point of view to Apple’s. Hell, that is the source of product and service differentiation. But this wasn’t presented as a look into a different way of doing things, it was merely criticism. And criticism is a very cheap and common gift.

    To the first point, the Apple retail experience was designed to be a very simple, clean, and accessible way for real people to interact with Apple products in a very low pressure kind of way. That model has been received as well as any retail concept on the planet (for technology) over the last decade or so, and to the point where many major competitors are now trying to imitate the model. A different point of view is fine, but I’d love to hear what that specific point of view is. Objectively, though, I don’t think you can say that the model as a whole alienates buyers or potential buyers.

    To the second point, there are many mobile options via Apple and other manufacturers that are less than $4,500, and in fact most Apple mobile options fall into the $800-2000 range. A consumer is ENCOURAGED to look at the value proposition of a product, and the full configuration of usefulness a product offers (programs, ecosystem, quality, design, operating system, etc) and to do some personal arithmetic and come to a decision. But to objectively state “overpriced” is an argument I’m open to but haven’t found much support for. What is the objective premium rate for quality, ease of use, and an integrated operating system? That will appeal to everyone in a different way, and so the answer “overpriced” is meaningless. So much better to hear, “here is an alternative I like better, and here is why…”

    To the final point, this is again simply a criticism that doesn’t seem to have much sense of proportion. For one, Apple may choose to do this precisely so they can focus on providing as much as possible for the largest majority of their customer base–those with products in a warranty cycle within about 4 years of purchase. Focus is not saying “yes” to things, it is saying “no” to things, and the technology marketplace is littered with the carcasses of companies that did not focus. The fact that a customer is actually pissed off at a policy of the company is actually evidence of strategy in place (if you don’t piss anyone off, you are probably not actually focusing on something).

    But as someone who used both Apple products as well as Sony, Google, and Acer, I can say that I’ve almost never found a company that was much of a help when servicing older products. To be fair, I never had an HP or Sony laptop actually make it four years, but out of warranty periods are always fraught with uncertainties and I have found no shining stars that didn’t require me to seek out their party service. So I find the criticism hollow. For the warranty period coverage, however, objective research (consumer reports, etc) have found Apple to be at the top of the performers in terms of service and repair.

    • Yup – agree! The meta point was the imbalance between fantasy and reality. And I think Apple has done an awesome job of creating a fantasy that is really hard to support in reality. Their actual reality is dramatically better than their competitors, which is one of the things that has helped them win and dominate, but there’s an imbalance to pay attention to at this point.

      • Shahir

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – it’s not that Apple is better than others but that there’s gap between what Apple is “branding” and the delivery. Warning, Will Robinson. Danger!

      • But how is Apple responsible for someone’s fantasy about them? By and large, Apple fulfills what they promise. Not every time and not for everyone, but it’s childish to expect perfection. The criticisms just fall short and continue to feel like someone reacting out of ill-considered and rather petty emotions. I’m thinking here of the reaction to the store, the supposed $4500 price point, etc. It really feels to me like someone thin-skinned looking to take offense and, well, in this world if you’re looking to be offended, you will be.

  • jake

    I see many people are in denial about their status as fan-persons, very excited responses for some mild criticism and a mini rant, the reaction far outweighs the original post. if a shop or
    company provides me crap service I do not use them.

    • That’s getting at the essence of the post. The perception “fan-person” is one created (brilliantly) by Apple and when it’s not fulfilled creates a more significant backlash than is probably warranted. That’s why I posted this – to try to get at exactly this point!

  • I’ve had a few bad experiences with Apple but I have had way more exceptional ones. I can’t imagine how hard it is to get consistent experiences across 45,000 employees (or whatever it is) that handle technical support and stores. Besides, I had some miserable experiences with Dell when I was on Windows and Google doesn’t have a tech support line!

    • Elia, that was going to be exactly my point. I would say I was an Apple hater. I hate the lock in.

      However, I will say that having gone into an Apple store three times. (Kids broke Air Keyboard, Daughter broke iTouch Screen, my iPhone5 earpiece speaker did not work)

      Their store experience compared to the alternative is awe inspiring. I can not tell you the absolute shit support I have had from Acer, Dell, and HP. As far as Google…..they can cut off your account and unless you are Brad you are screwed.

      • I agree – Apple support in the store is far superior to everything else. But it’s not perfect – which is part of the point of this post, and it’s a warning that Apple has to be extra vigilant to maintain the awesome quality they’ve had to this point given the expectation that has been set.

        • We have a saying: they might suck but everyone else blows. I agree that is no excuse not to improve.

          But bring a year and a half old HP Laptop into a Best Buy, I would love to be looked at as a Luddite, because they look at you like you literally have a turd in your hands as they recoil from even touching it.

          Try and get an Acer fixed that you bought at Costco and is 91 days old and now won’t recognize its battery because of a chip. Go to their website and try and find even an email to send a complaint to, if you want to know what it is to be truly ignored send them emails and expect a response. The best value I got from that was being able to “office space” the thing.

          Go to Verizon for a problem with your Droid.

          We have had a bring your own device rule at the office for a decade. That includes phone and laptop. You get paid a fixed fee by the month. I was one of the last converts. I doggedly stuck to my Dell, Acer, Samsung, and HP laptops out of pride. I scoffed at the iPhone. I got my ass kicked and teeth knocked in compared to those that worked for me that only had to buy one device as I kept replacing mine. Four years is an eternity, which is what my first purchase of an Air is going on. .

        • Support for older equipment in store is constrained for good reason.

          First, Apple stores are already busy places without someone lugging in a B&W G3.

          Second, Training their Geniuses on older hardware, and more importantly, older versions of OSX would be problematic at best. I’ve had reports that Apple doesn’t allow their Geniuses to open a command line on a client machine. Rather than fixing a system wide permissions error via a very careful series of chmods, they suggest a reinstall. While that might fly for 10.7 and 10.8 (not really), it certainly won’t for 10.6 and older.

          Third, their retail stores are in high cost retail locations. The more service they do there, the less selling they can do. Your friend can most likely send his Macbook in for top case replacement. Had he been in our local Apple store, they would have directed him to the Independent Mac repair shop in town, who does repair older equipment.

  • I’ve had good and bad experiences in Apple stores, like most retail… Sure they can be arrogant. Scale-gone-wild is by nature arrogant and customer service is generally bonus territory, not expected in these United Stats (sic).

  • He walked into the store with a computer they no longer support. They told him their policy. He chose to be offended by the policy. What am I missing?

    I’ve never had an unfriendly, negative, or anything less than completely helpful experience in any of the half dozen Apple stores I’ve been into while buying, not buying, or asking for help. Their product is magnificently superior to any computer ever made on the low end or high end – period. By the way, I am only a Macbook convert since last year. I spent my 32 prior years of computing with DOS, Windows, and Linux using them professionally and personally. I am happy to pay the premium for the superior product and the superior service and I bought a $1600 Air, not a $4500 anything.

    • I don’t think he was offended by the policy so much as deflated from the reality that his fantasy about Apple wasn’t reality. Specifically, after spending time in a place (India) where stuff that is four years old felt new to him, it was painful that a perfectly good and functional four year old computer was “vintage” and couldn’t have a relatively minor repair done. And, apparently, had zero economic value – hence the comment at the end that even a minor concession (e.g. hey – we’ll give you a $100 credit of a new computer) would have sustained the fantasy (and would have been smart sales tactics on Apple’s part.)

      • Thanks for reminding me about his perspective. I wasn’t taking it into account in my reply. I am so used to Apple bending over backwards for whatever I ask them to do, that it’s hard for me to see that point of view.

        I don’t think that overall Apple has much to worry about in the vein of his comment and concern that others are experiencing something similar, but it certainly makes sense for Apple to consider the fact that their products last a very long time and a lot of loyal customers may be ready for an upgrade and a little incentive wouldn’t hurt.

        As I type that, there is a bit of arrogance in the concept though, because Apple rarely offers any kind of real sale or incentive for purchases. On one hand, that actually helps product image, because they are so confident in what they offer and their value, that they don’t think they need to mark down or offer an incentive. For consumers though just looking for them to push a tiny bit for a sale, they may be losing out on new opportunities.

        Just as I overlooked the importance of his perception though, the power of perception is crucial in branding and pricing and I think Apple strategically is making the right call whether or not it feels very nice to us. There are any number of really nice Windows based computers I could buy with serious horsepower that have nice Appleesque designs, but unless something dramatic happens to Apple quality it won’t happen for me. My wife and kids all have HP notebooks with at least 6GB of RAM, serious processors, and storage and I didn’t pay more than $500 for any of them, but their next devices will be Apples at a premium price, because the product is so superior in my opinion and also means less work for me supporting them in their use. My perception is based on personal experience, but part of the reason I was willing to pay $1600 for a configuration that would be $600-$800 in the Windows world, is because I already perceived their value based on their image, reputation, and my experience with iOS devices.

        His credibility took a little hit for me though, when he claimed he was ready to spend $4500 with Apple, but now is going to jump to a $200 – $500 chromebook, because Apple didn’t volunteer a $100 incentive. What’s the logic in that? Is he going to punish himself in order to punish Apple for not offering an incentive to upgrade?

  • Andrew

    The surface level of this post doesn’t strike me a particularly interesting (i.e., is Apple service good/bad, etc.). What strikes me more is just how much deep emotional/identity baggage so many of us bring to our lives as consumers in our consumption-dominated society. The writer seems to have formed a whole identity around being A Very Important Consumer of Apple Products Who Should be Treated Accordingly. When that identity was challenged – in fact or in imagination I don’t know – quite a powerful range of emotions was triggered. Therein lies (part of ) the genius of Apple – making people feel like buying their products is a basis on which to build an identity and be part of some kind of movement or in-group. Of course, that’s all marketing hollowness and perhaps the writer’s first mistake was ever buying into any of that in the first place.I don’t mean to judge – most of us are lost in our hall of mirrors hollow consumer culture to some degree but that doesn’t make it a good thing. Hopefully we will evolve beyond this as a culture and perhaps the writer, with his/her disillusionment around Apple and reflections from India, is on his/her way to doing that.

    • Apple has definitely used extraordinary marketing to cause people who buy Apple products to feel “special.” I think they’ve done that extraordinarily well over the past five years. However, when the service doesn’t back it up, the feeling crashes harder than if it was never created in this first place. For example, when I’m dealing with Dell or HP, I expect it’ll be a painful service experience where I struggle to navigate a complex set of interactions. But with Apple I have a fantasy that I’ll go into the Apple store and all will be perfect in the world.

      My friend clearly had the same fantasy and did a nice job of describing the dissonance and disappointment that occurs when the fantasy is show to be – well – a fantasy.

      • You are so right about the marketing position they have created in our minds. They make us want to romance their products. And when you love something or someone…you know you’ll put up with imperfections or overlook them in favor of the other good stuff.

  • The best question I heard in this regard is, “Why would I pay the premium for an Apple product that opens the same web browser?”

    • I still fine that I like Apple hardware the best. I used a brand new Dell table running Windows 8 yesterday. It was fine, but it felt so clunky compared to my one year old MacBook Air. And when I look at my toolbar, I still have plenty on OSX specific apps. So I’m not 100% browser based yet and even then I’m going to care about the fit and finish of the hardware.

      But your point is a powerful one in terms of where the trend is going.

      • That’s interesting, because when I use a Mac it feels clunky to me. I can get around and do what I need, but clunky is the perfect description.

        I still use a few apps as well, but fewer and fewer each day. I’ve never really cared about the fit and finish of the hardware, but I also to prefer to use a desktop with dual monitors for most work anyway. Then, that part really doesn’t matter.

  • In Switzerland, if you go into a hardware store, they will sell you a yard-broom that will last forever! OK – some years you have to put a new head on the handle, other years you need to put a new handle on the head.

    Building stuff to last forever is a stamp of quality, and a sign of pride in engineering. Why? – profligate waste is offensive – whereas the best and most durable products become iconic and then antique !!!.

    Waste always was offensive, when over-sated people gorge themselves to an early death while others starve.

    And it always will be, in the US food crops are compulsorily turned into fuel for cars while others starve – Keeping food prices high artificially – doesn’t it make you want to puke?

    Any society that promotes consumption of exhaustible assets as a virtue, must face accelerated decay.

    So where does extravagance lead – Nero is often “associated with tyranny and extravagance” persecuted Jews and burned Christians as a source of light for his garden parties https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nero. Eventually Nero – committed suicide – the ultimate waste ?

    It turns out that throughout history extravagant cultures, seen as dissolute, are hated – US Foreign relations – anyone? – IS america to continue to be seen as the global Pie-eating contest ?

    For these reasons – I have never bought or used an Apple product – and do not plan to (unless their whole philosophy changes).

    In the long-term dissolution is un-cultured – and debauchery destroys cultures !

    Thanks for this great article – It provokes thought !

    • True, I like the emphasis on quality and durability of products which is more prevalent in Europe.

      • YesGrrrl

        Euro computers and smart-phones honestly never become outdated? Seems like that’s just tandard for the industry, without singling out Apple or anyone else. Moore’s Law and all that — products just can’t run the newer stuff anymore.

        • But I wasn’t thinking of tech products. Sure, they are made by the same manufacturers.

    • Keith Caneiro

      Did you just actually compare the actions of Nero to Apple?

      • Hi Keith – I guess it is a bit of a stretch in some limited respects, but I get really pi**ed off at being sold “designed for obsolescence” products.

        I did not suggest Apple actually burn people, but they do waste resources in the most extravagant manner. So in that limited sense – yes i do make a comparison. To be explicit…

        I find their entire elitist “keep up with the best” promotion utterly vile.

        Teaching society that people with less materially are inadequate somehow is what gets poor kids bullied at school. It is no better than teaching girls they are fat because they do not meet the absurd standards that the media set them to ensure they fail. It is a malaise and it does result in deaths.

        So far as I know none of Christ, Ghandi and MLK (if they belong in the same list) had access to Apple products or were notably fashion conscious. However, despite their relative poverty and their “telephonically challenged” lifestyles it appears they made durable impressions for the better.

        Apple might simply ridicule them – after all they are at least 4 years “behind the times”. This is their prerogative as it is mine to despise them for it.

        • Keith Caneiro


          I’m not convinced based on the story above that anyone ridiculed him for being four years behind the times. I don’t think that was presented in the story above – I think that was him reading into it.

          I think that most products in the technology field – by their very nature – are rendered obsolete because of technology advances in the field. There is little reason why a 20 year old computer could not be used as a word processor. There is little reason why an original iphone could not be used as a smart phone. I’m thinking that Apple is upgrading products are pricing comes down on components and to enable new types of usage for their products.

          I’m also not convinced that using a particular device – Apple or otherwise – helps one make a durable impression for the better.

          I just don’t see how Apple is an elitist company – even with their keep up with the best – promotion. They allow anyone into their stores – they have pushed prices down year over year and help people complete work (school work or business) in a timely fashion.

          I know that you didn’t suggest that Apple was burning people – I thought that based on the large majority of the information that survives regarding Nero – and based on the sources of that information that survives – that I would take most of it with a grain of salt. Not to say that Nero did not do some terrible things… But yes – I thought that the connection between Nero killing people and Apple selling trinkets was a bit much 😉

          • Keith –

            Well reasoned answer, though I disagree that they are not somewhat elitist, in that they clearly target the aspirational high-end market, but that is not bad per se.

            I have had a bad day (illness in the family) and probably vented more that I should as an escape. Please accept my apologies if I have offended.

            On a balanced note – as the US populace appears to be embracing environmentalism in a way that they did not previously (in general) – I believe it can only help.

          • Keith Caneiro

            James – no apology required. I was not insulted. I was trying to feel out your response….


        • But Apple products AREN’T designed for obsolescence. The machines are generally of higher build quality than most PCs and many people I know have run them for years (two friends have recently replaced 7 and 9 year old Power and Macbooks). The white Macbook referenced above is perfectly serviceable (I had one). What Apple DOES do is to remove support for things fairly aggressively. That keeps them from getting burdened with supporting 7, 8, 10 year old issues and allows them to keep things moving forward.

          For example, they dropped OS support for PowerPC CPUs in 10.6… but does that make your G4 obsolete? Not if what you need it to do can still be done under that OS and the G4 is powerful enough. Want/need more power or the features of the newer OS? Ok, then your G4 is obsolete…. but that’s no different than someone deciding that Win XP and their 8 year old PC needs to be replaced.

  • I’ll take the complete contrarian view.

    Going into an Apple store and expecting for it to be something else than what it is is wishful thinking.

    Apple has a great model built on the yearly obsolescence of its products. It’s who they are. Pricey yes, but who they are today.

    Recently had to upgrade my air to the new OS. Nightmare of uncompromising proportions. Not ready for prime time.

    But–Apple phone support does seriously rock. After call # 1, I was elevated to a senior whatever, direct line to him plus direct dial number. Smart as could be, personable, in my time zone.

    Sure, three calls are too many. But to say that Apple doesn’t care is not true, They understand customer service better than any company on the planet.

    Expensive. Some tech issues are certainly complaints. People wise and understanding consumers–they still are writing the book for everyone to follow.

  • An eye-opening and wonderfully-written critique that I’m sure resonates with many readers (and hopefully will at Infinite Loop as well).

    Quote of the Day: ““If apple doesn’t care about me, who do they care about?”

  • Wesley Story

    As someone who travels to emerging markets and third world countries regularly I get what your friend was feeling. It’s more about consumption, waste, and elitism than it is about Apple directly. You could substitute many premium brands and the message would hold true. We take for grantend how rich we are as a country in the US despite our so- called recession. We use words like “need” when it’s really a “want”. We “need” to upgrade to the latest MacBook Pro with a Retina screen so we can better enjoy HD videos from our favorite streaming service or to improve our web surfing experience. I too have a circa 2008 white MacBook and I’m going to buy a new MB Air soon because I “need” to upgrade to Mt Lion because I “need” to use iMessage to collaborate with some partners and for AirPlay. But in reality, my 2.2ghz dual core MB with 4gb of ram and 320gb hdd with 40% free space is far from obsolete. But Apple says it is and I can’t upgrade to Mt Lion on it even though newer machines with lesser specs can. I’m not complaining about Apple. As I said, you could replace with a number of consumer electronics or premium brands. However, when I’ve spent a few weeks in a developing nation and I come back home these things feel less important and more glutinous. But I still do it so I’m conflicted.

  • I worked at Apple at the Europe Headquarter this already destroyed all my fantasies that I had about Apple. I think people should finally understand that nobody and no company is like they think they are. They are idealizing something without knowing all the information. It´s like the movies. Companies and celebrities created a story a fantasie of themselves to sell.

    • It’s like sausage – it tastes delicious, but it is better not to know how it is made.

  • Robert Greenberg

    After reading this post (and spending no time in India) I thought to myself “I’m sorta feeling the same way.”

    I’ve been drinking the Apple kool-aid all along, and I’ve loved it. I’ve had an iPhone since almost the day it was introduced. I’ve had an Apple computer since I bought the IIe after I graduated from college in 1983. I’m still using a “vintage” white MacBook. But, lately I’ve found myself thinking a lot about checking out the new Samsung Galaxy s4 when it comes out later this month and I’m equally intrigued by the new Chromebook.

    At this point there are 47 comments to this post. Most strongly defending Apple. Being an Apple fan myself, I would expect that. But for how much longer?

    • There are perfectly good alternate choices to Apple. Few do user design as well in my opinion, but that’s of varying value to people. If someone considers what they want to do and chooses another vendor, fine. However, there was nothing in the rant above that indicated a thoughtful internal debate about what might fit their needs and why that might not be Apple. For example, there’s a reply here about someone wanting to use Onenote across their products… perfect illustration of why, for that person, Apple wasn’t the right choice.

      Me, I won’t buy another Samsung product… I bought the Galaxy S on release and the GPS refused to lock. Known issue. Never fixed or replaced by Samsung. It was released with Android 2.2… upgraded, months late, to 2.3 and then abandoned. Yes, I can (and did) root and flash things, but it’s obvious to me that Samsung is completely uninterested in you once the sale is made. I know other people who don’t care about OS updates and love their S3s.

      So, yes, one can choose alternatives to Apple or find Apple wanting and criticise it intelligently. But that’s not what this was.

  • Please show me another computer manufacturer where the hardware gets 4 years of software support. The notion that Apple is the big bad company designing products for obsolescence is just a ridiculous concept for products where everyone acknowledges has short life-cycles. Just another person who feels entitled to something for free.
    Please go view Harlan Ellison’s interview on YouTube regarding “free”. Everyone, including corporations, which last I checked are a collection of people, needs to get paid. There is no arrogance, and there is certainly choice. Go buy another mfcr’s product. The market “votes” every day, and currently Apple is winning.

  • Is it possible that this particular story is anecdotal and peculiar to that store or that rep was having a bad day or didn’t get trained properly or was new in their job? Or maybe they got fired by now.

    Apple has so much positive advocacy and loyalty built-in with their users including me, that I’ll give them a pass on this, as I’ll assume they will correct it.

  • It is NOT only Apple.

    This same mentality is behind the reason many of us can no longer find work in the software industry.

    Even though we have decades of experience in software and hardware, they turn up their nose at us even though we were serving our country and keying in page after page of byte and pc world code to teach ourselves programming back way before they were born.

    Let me show you why their sales figures are plummeting and they can’t find employees.

    found this on wikipedia the other day…

    Educational attainment in the United States,
    Age 25 and Over (2012)[3]EDUCATIONPERCENTAGE
    High school graduate87.65%
    Some college57.28%
    Associate’s and/or Bachelor’s degree40.58%
    Bachelor’s degree30.94%
    Master’s degree8.05%
    Doctorate or professional degree3.07%

    Basically if you will not interview anybody that doesn’t have a college education you have just eliminated 70 percent of America.

    Same thing with the apple store, or even J.C. Penny’s.

    Why in the hell do you want to eliminate 70 percent of your customers or employees?

    Keep America At Work

  • It’s funny: I’m a little intimidated to be critical of Apple. And I think this is the problem. It’s a great company that could use a healthy dose of humility.

  • sbc111

    The condescension gets worse when you move from the store’s floor priests on to the cardinals of the ‘genius bar’.

  • ECM

    I totally agree with the author. I avoid the Apple store like the plague. I find their indifference and superior attitude the antithesis of customer service. And really, what the author is touching on is that money talks — if you are there to buy a new shiny high-priced item at full price, then of course they are happy to serve you. But if you have an older product, or are buying a lower priced item, they treat you with not so veiled disdain. I’ve had this happen repeatedly– I bought a cover for my iPhone. I bought it during the Christmas season and had a return offer stating that anything bought during that time would be guaranteed until Jan. 1st. Well, the cover cracked in a matter of weeks. I went back, mentioned the guarantee, and the “line person” was a complete ass — told me I didn’t know what I was talking about, that it wasn’t able to be replaced, and quite frankly, tried to make me feel bad for bringing it back. I asked to speak to a manager, and of course, the manager took care of it right away and replaced the thing. I bet if I had said I was there to buy a new iMac I would have been shuttled to the nearest sales person and helped with glee. I find the whole community buys into the “cool factor.” I also have an older laptop, the last of the white ones, I am a developer. I upgraded to Mountain Lion. It works great. You should see the looks I get from other developers — it’s like it’s an ancient relic from the stone age, and not 2 1/2 years old. Perspective people! And P.S. Mac isn’t that cool. Lenovo with Umbunto is just as kick-ass, if not more so…

  • Guest

    “if apple doesn’t care about me, who do they care about?”

    Yep. I’ve been saying this for years* (and I worked at Apple in Cupertino for close to a decade).

    Apple thinks like the hot girlfriend that treats you like shit because, well, she can. People just keep saying ‘but she’s so beautiful! I can’t give her up’. Feel about right?

    It’s a seduction.

    With Jobs gone, there’s no master seducer anymore and the magic pixie dust is wearing off. People like you are just now beginning to realize: Oh,. that’s just a UNIX implementation Apple stole and put some nicely integrated interface on top of and then wrapped it up in some hot smokin hardware that’s really a form of copy protection that locks you into all things Apple.

    Oh. My.

    A friend of mine describes an iPad as: “A screen attached to my credit card”. That’s now pretty much ALL Apple products.

    My advice: Dual boot your macbook. Put windows or linux on it. Wean yourself off it (and the elitist culture that surrounds it). Simply use the best tool for the job. Sometimes it’s a windows machine, or a Linux implementation, an android app or an iOS app. I’ll even boot up a MacOS from time to time to mess with Garage Band, or do some video editing, just for fun.

    Being an ex-Apple fanboy is a little like being a fallen Catholic/enter your religion of choice. You’re eyes have been opened, but it can be a painful loss. And you’re old fanboy friends who are still in the ‘church’… oh man.. the abuse you’ll get… be prepared.

    But you’ll be free. Truly free. 🙂

    * Various rants:








    That’s all I could stand looking up…

  • Scott Converse

    “if apple doesn’t care about me, who do they care about?”

    Yep. I’ve been saying this for years* (and I worked at Apple in Cupertino for close to a decade).

    Apple thinks like the hot girlfriend that treats you like shit because, well, she can. People just keep saying ‘but she’s so beautiful! I can’t give her up’. Feel about right?

    Really…It’s a seduction.

    With Jobs gone, there’s no master seducer anymore and the magic pixie dust is wearing off. People who take a moment and step out of the cult for a bit (as you did) are just now beginning to realize: Oh,. that’s just a UNIX implementation Apple stole and put some nicely integrated interface on top of and then wrapped it up in some hot smokin hardware that’s really a form of copy protection that locks you into all things Apple. Look… it’s 2 or 3 times more expensive than similar stuff not from Apple that’s 95% as good for most of what you want to do.

    Oh. My.

    A friend of mine describes an iPad as: “A screen attached to my credit card”. That’s now pretty much ALL Apple products.

    My advice: Dual boot your macbook. Put Windows or Linux on it. Wean yourself off it (and the elitist culture that surrounds it). Simply use the best tool for the job. Sometimes it’s a Windows machine, or a Linux implementation, an Android app or an iOS app. I’ll even boot up a MacOS from time to time to mess with Garage Band, or do some video editing, just for fun.

    Being an ex-Apple fanboy is a little like being a fallen Catholic(or enter your religion of choice). Your eyes have been opened, but it can be a painful loss. And your old fanboy friends who are still in the ‘church’… oh man.. the abuse you’ll get… be prepared.

    Several of these folks are on full display here in comments.

    But you’ll be free. Truly free.

    Welcome to the other 95% of computing. 🙂

    * Various rants:








    That’s all I could stand looking up…

  • YesGrrrl

    I guess I’m not going to come out of this without sounding like a fanboi (goil), but I have honestly never had a similar experience at any of the Apple retails stores I’ve been to. I have enjoyed lots of free, earnestly helpful help at the Genius Bar, and also had many good warranty/service experiences before A-stores were a thing. That’s one of the main reasons I’m still buying Apple (literally and figuratively).

    I find it a little funny that the same tech-centric group who bitterly complain about how IE5 WILL NOT DIE and ask why our web programming still needs to support that old $&*@! could be pissy about not having their 4 or 5-year hardware supported.

    Sure, it’s always better to re-use, re-cycle, etc etc., but is that even possible with a personal computer, if you want to run what you need to run with it?

  • Apple has 137 billion in the bank. They listen to no one right now. They own the universe.. Pride goeth before the fall. Listen to just the sad app developers who create content both good and junk for the Apple app store…Only 20 of them are making more than 1 million a year…(according to the WSJ) the rest expect advertising will provide them with income…Pride goeth before the fall. Or as an English friend once said, “The day the brass nameplate goes up on the door the business is finished.” Isn’t Apple building a giga campus…..

    • AppleFade

      Without Jobs Apple is going to stop innovating. They will play catch-up to google glass and smart tv. They will let their OS corrode. IPhones will become overly complex with features no one really needs but sounds cool. This time there will be no one to same Apple’s descent.

      • This is assuming that Apple University is a failure, and Google glass is a success, neither of which is guaranteed. Also remember, we haven’t yet seen an Ive managed UI, nor have we seen what the market potential is for a $1500 device that makes you look and act like an idiot, not to mention the privacy issues.

  • viqueen

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been an Apple devotee for decades – and have preached it too – but this past yr I’ve experienced that same elitist attitude and it stinks. I hope they wake up before before the stink becomes unbearable.

  • I’d love to know his take on companies that do service well. I empathize with the commentary – I’m offended when folks do not say thank you when I leave a $1 tip for coffee.

    Very curious as to what brands do a great job of making your friend feel like he’s cared about

  • Thanks
    for all the information! It’s hard today to try and keep up with the changes,
    but you make it easier by giving only the information needed and not a lot of
    fluff in between.

  • Stop whinging. 4 years is vintage.

  • StevenHB

    This blog post, http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-18438_7-57584415-82/what-my-disabled-ipod-touch-says-about-the-state-of-apples-customer-service/, as well as its associated comments, reminded me of this conversation. A lot of similarities.

    I’m glad that I’m not using Apple Tech personally, but the rest of my family is (my Android phone allows me to claim ignorance of the iWorld).

  • AppleFade

    I love Apple products …. especially their computers.

    I have always hated the Apple stores though…they are pretentious. I’m surprised they don’t have a starbucks in them. The kids that work their are often too cool to help and the lack of configurations they offer for their products is sad. The usually have entry level and fully loaded…not much in between. The peripherals are always expensive. At the end of experience I am convinced that these apple sales dorks don’t know much about their products and are reluctant to help except to sell you the device ASAP. Must be a fun group to hang out with after work. I bet they cannot stand one another. The genius bar is incredibly pretentious also…I’m sure no one has an IQ over 110 that works there. Regardless… I will continue to buy all my apple products on-line…at least until they mess up OSX.