I take it all – well nearly all – back

In my last post here, I lauded Apple’s service and people. And I stick to that, however, I saw the other side of the coin today.

Stick with me whilst I rant a little. We buy Apple products, at least in part, because of the design, or style that they have. And I’m seeing a lot of MacBooks out there, so I’m not alone. But the incomplete product set means that there is no power adapter for use in cars and, more importantly, aeroplanes. I travel a lot – I crossed a million miles in less than three years with American – and a flight has to be productive time for me. So, when planning for a two week trip to Europe I bought the travel adapter kit and tried, tried very hard, to buy an adapter for use on the flight.

There is no such animal.

I have used the iGo Juice for many years and like it. But the fancy magsafe connector on the MacBook is not available, so I’m back to Apple. Except Apple don’t have a solution. They recommend a Kensington inverter that plugs into the airline outlet and into which I plug the regular Apple power supply. Well, the inverter is like a black brick (remember that design/style thing?) and adds another chunk to the things I need to carry (and I’ve downsized my briefcase in order to meet the stupid Heathrow smaller size restriction…..). However, I have no other option and I have projects that need to be done…..

So I buy it $70 – as much as a power supply itself – and off I trot. It is encased in a sealed hard plastic bubble which has to be destroyed (with sharp scissors) in order to extract the item of value. Regular readers will detect that one of my marketing hot buttons has been pushed.

Hard. Very hard indeed.

Which school teaches marketers and product managers to do this? Why on earth do we need packaging that is impossible to open without brute force? HP has incurred my wrath for this before. Back to the point. The packaging is totally useless by the time I have extracted the inverter so, of course, I ditch it (into the recycling).

On the flight back – a 12 hour Heathrow to LAX excursion – the inverter refuses to work. It will light up and power the machine for about 30 seconds an then the red light comes on and the power indicator on the MacBook goes out. Needs must, I do what I can. I spend the rest of the flight wondering how I explain to the client – the one who is being billed $300 per hour on this project – why his work isn’t done as planned and committed. Well, I’m a big boy I can manage all of the crap that accrues from such project misses.

So, I’m back in San Francisco and I have a note to return the inverter. I dig out my receipt and head to Apple. “I need a supervisor to authorize a return without packaging”. Supervisor arrives. Refuses to accept a return without packaging. I explain, quite patiently for me, that the packaging has to be destroyed to extract the product to discover that it is faulty. She understands. I know she “understands” because she keeps telling me so. Except that her definition and mine don’t seem to come from the same dictionary. So even though she concedes that the problem is real, there is, apparently, room for “understanding” but no room for flexibility.

Rules is rules.

She tells me that she can show me where it says that returns must be in the original packaging on the receipt. I tell her that we have spent over $5,000 with Apple in the last month – yes we did plump for the iMac for Barbara as well as my machine and the inevitable addons. “Am I to walk out and not spend any more with Apple? Over a defective $70 part?” It looked like the answer was yes and I picked up the inverter and was ready to head out. She offered to exchange it. Not really what I wanted, but again I’m out of options. This whole saga has been one of bad options only being available. Perhaps that’s what one gets for buying things on the 13th of the month.

Apple – Steve or Phil are you listening? – I love your products. I love the design. I’ve been a rabid advocate of you and yours. But you people need flexibility. If they have that empowerment (and I’d be amazed if they don’t) then they need training. I was talking to a supervisor apparently, but she still needs training. Even if I’m not the perfect customer – and I could believe that – I am a customer. One who spends a lot of money. One who has sold a lot of Apple gear. One whose profession is Word of Mouth marketing. Who has some vague idea of my lifetime value to Apple.

One who has been royally and utterly pissed off by rigid adherence to an unimplementable rule over SEVENTY dollars. My perception of your brand is a reflection of every interaction I have with your brand. Your brand equity with me has just gone waaaaaay down.