Mac, Mac, Mac, Blech

Just to prove that I’m an equal opportunity malcontent, I will relate the story of the past 5 hours.

There I was, happily working away on my iMac. I needed to print a document from AppleWorks out as a PDF — a usually-very-simple prospect of File, Print, Save as PDF. Except that AppleWorks crashed when doing so in some great and amazing way that ground everything else on my Mac to a halt.

So much so that I actually had to power it off and power it back on again. And when the lights came back on, woe betide, my mouse wasn’t working. I tried all the usual voodoo: unplug and replug, plug into a different port, try a different mouse, reboot, etc. Nothing doing.

So I called the friendly folks at Apple.

It used to be, in the good old days, that, warranty or not, Apple would help you solve your problem on the phone. No longer. Now, unless you have purchased an extended warranty (for $299!), you have to pay them $69 to solve “an issue.” Reasoning that I would expend more than $69 of my own sweat by thrashing around for an answer myself, I took out my credit card and paid my dues.

And then I spent 2 hours on the phone with various Apple people, spending most of the time waiting for various rebootings to reboot, and decanting various mystical key combinations during said reboots in a very Twister sort of way (things like Control+Option+O+F).

The Apple experts eventually concluded that my problem was related to “third-party software conflicts” and said my only solution was to reinstall the operating system. They promised this wouldn’t screw anything up, and would take about 20 minutes.

That was only partially true.

The installation of the operating system took about 20 minutes. And now I’ve spent the last hour loading all the various security and application updates down through Software Update to get things back to where they were before.

The whole experience has been almost (but not quite) as frustrating as a Windows Debacle. Proof that maybe technology has become just too darned complicated for us to keep it floating all the time.

Some days I pine for the simplicity of doing a brake job on a 1978 Ford F-100 pickup truck, where everything is obvious, and all frustrations can be solved with a hammer.


nathan's picture
nathan on August 12, 2003 - 03:33 Permalink

No matter what sides of the platform/OS debates you’re on, it is a sad state of affairs when you have to pay $69 to be told to reinstall the OS. I think the best tool to solve this sort of technology frustration might still be the hammer.

Mandy's picture
Mandy on August 12, 2003 - 04:37 Permalink

Nathan, you got the right idea boy.

Brian's picture
Brian on August 12, 2003 - 09:51 Permalink

Sadly, I had a similar experience with Apple, much to my dismay (I always thought they were the good guys). However, it prompted me to develop an ingenius solution that I’ve called Back Up. And it saved me the 5 hour ‘reload everything’ ordeal only a few weeks ago.

Dale's picture
Dale on August 12, 2003 - 15:35 Permalink

Peter, while it may have taken a while to get through (my phone never stops ringing lately) you most certainly could have called us here at the Little Mac Shoppe. I don’t know if I could have figured out a solution much more quickly than the Apple Gang, but it wouldn’t have cost you $69. In the future please don’t hesitate to call.

dave moses's picture
dave moses on August 13, 2003 - 17:59 Permalink

One of the many horrible truths that I’ve learned in my past two and a half years in the computer (particularly Apple) sales and service business, is that people don’t think they’re buying a machine… they think they are buying the use of a machine.

Most people don’t honestly care what they use as long as it never lets them down… which it will always do… or that if it does let them down, it can be immediately and magically fixed…. which it rarely, but sometimes, can.

What is almost always forgotten is that these delicate machines are performing miracles on a minute by minute basis and it’s amazing that we can get as much done as we do.

And the cost? My god, these machines which can perform so many tasks that would have been considered magic only 100 years ago cost a mere couple thousand dollars. They are so cheap they are piling up in our landfills.

The trouble with these little miracles are that you need to sell billions of them to make any money. In fact, margins on this miracle working is so low it’s almost impossible for a company to make sufficient profit to satisfy shareholders. So what’s gonna happen? User fee Service will be the primary source of income for all computer companys…. it’s already happening obviously.

You will either have to pay a huge amount for your computer with great service (a model which is dead already) or you’ll have to pay a “reasonable” amount for the machine…. and “pay later” with the “extended warranties”, “platinum level” service packages and all.

But why can’t everything on my computer always work and never crash? Because you didn’t pay enough for it.

(Literal) Mission critical, “bugfree” software and hardware is developed for applications in the Military and Aerospace industries and the cost is billions. So our everyday alternative is to find the machine that causes the fewest headaches for the least amount of money—-that’ll still run all our old stuff…but alll the new stuff too.

That’s why I use and sell Macs.

My, admittedly limited, retail experience suggests that the retail consumer is a blood thirsty creature with an insatiable hunger for “what’s comin’ to them”. The only way to keep them at bay is with the magic of this seven word mantra: “May I have your VISA number, please.”

This is of course why Dale is behind the counter at LMS and not me— I, who have been rightly accused of chasing some little, old lady out of the store for asking too many questions… I knew we just couldn’t afford to make that sale.

Satan is preparing a special place in Hell for me I’m sure.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 13, 2003 - 18:20 Permalink

Whatever you think of the Murphy corporate philisophy, they don’t see their customers as “a blood thirsty(sic)creature with an insatiable hunger for ‘what’s comin’ to them’ ” And they got it right. As often as I thought about it, I never could chase a little old lady, even if she had a 4-snap change purse.

You are too slow, you can’t keep up, and you are in denial. ” Wake up call…the consumer is what is driving your industry. The harder they push, the harder you must work to keep up. The same drive is in the golf industry…more, more, more distance. And it is working. Kids today are hitting the ball further then we ever dreamed 35 years ago. And it is not just because they are better coached and conditioned. The equipment has improved, because the marketplace has demanded it happen.

Like somebody said…

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

dave moses's picture
dave moses on August 13, 2003 - 20:07 Permalink

i don’t doubt that I will be trampled, but it won’t be by business people wanting to get into the person computer retail business.

and mr. murphy and his ilk have doubtless come close to perfecting a caffiene delivery machine and are deservedly aswim in their lucor.

however tough it is to make and serve a great cup of coffee (with a crazy 1000% markup) I would argue that it’s not in the same league of making and servicing a personal computer (with a less than 5% margin)

I agree, too, that the market is running things right now. I’m just wondering how long they can maintain the “iwants” without somebody having to pay…. and somebody always pays.

Like somebody else said (forgive my bad french):
“La plus ca change… la plus ca reste meme”

Alan's picture
Alan on August 13, 2003 - 20:13 Permalink

Someone will have to explain the idolism of Murphy. As far as I can tell they run a Tim’s monopoly half-competently. I have had better service at many Tims elsewhere as well as worse at many. The PEI franchise was the home of the tiniest fritter until they all standardized. I have never been wowwed by the service at the other restaurants. I have also watched one try to bully a city council into deciding temporarily that minor jr. hockey is better than major jr hockey. Small ponders.

Dale's picture
Dale on August 13, 2003 - 20:47 Permalink

I think Dave made a very valid point that Wayne either didn’t understand or missed entirely.

There are truly some customers that aren’t worth doing business with. (Peter is not one of these)

In a business of such small margins there are customers who can completely monopolize your time and resources and like it or not you are better off simply sending them on their way. In his defense, the little, old lady was sent to him from another store that no longer wanted to do business with her. In fact I know several places where she is not welcome.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 13, 2003 - 20:51 Permalink

Good custome service is good customer service…whether it is selling BMW’s or toilet paper. The way I see it in your industry, all this “pushing” has left the poor “Vic 20” far behind…and as somebody else said…”Thats a good thing!”

Staples and Futureshop are all run by business people, forced by their competition between each other to provide good customer service, and making the customer feel happy. As a consumer, I value that to the point I make them my first stop on any purchase-chase. And, I tell them that I do so because of thir policies regarding service, warrenty, exchanges, etc.

Watch out for the “suits”…they are doing a good job, and setting the bar high, in my view. Maybe the big guy is the only one who can afford to provide such service…I have found that it is a myth that good customer service is something found at “Mom and Pop” places. It is found where such service is a recognized asset to a companies image… where it is valued at management level, and that policy is clearly spelled out to the guy/girl at the counter.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 13, 2003 - 20:55 Permalink

I did not miss, and I do understand the point. There were so many ways to comment, perhaps you missed how I chose to respond…

Have you ever heard of “word of mouth”, Dale? It can be the kiss of death in small markets(like PEI). Who is making these judgements of worthy customers in your shop, Dale? Somebody qualified, I hope. I would love to see those criteria…would I qualify?

dave moses's picture
dave moses on August 13, 2003 - 21:08 Permalink

oh jesus wayne. the “suits” aren’t doing a good job. they’re treading water. they’re treading water hoping the other guy will drown first. it can’t be true that you honestly believe that Staples and FutureShop are the epitome of good business… or good service.

and if you do… you’re part of the problem not the solution.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 13, 2003 - 21:23 Permalink

I have first hand experience in customer service with both retailers, and have found in all cases, their performance was excellent. Sounds like it is your problem, dave…not mine.

Dale's picture
Dale on August 13, 2003 - 21:30 Permalink

Wayne, the criteria for being a “worthy” customer:

1. You treat any employee of the store the way you would like to be treated.

2. You treat other customers in the store with respect and wait your turn.

3. You do not damage store merchandise

4. You do not use foul language or gestures while in the store

5. You basically behave in a civilized manner

6. If you are unhappy with the service or prices, you shop elsewhere instead of breaking criteria 1 thru 5.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 14, 2003 - 00:09 Permalink

I can buy that, Dale. Nice to see you are willing to identify the criteria for your employees, and it looks like you are willing to stand behind those employees if these rules are broken. But, not a very courageous list…it seems that the Criminal Code of Canada already has most of these issues covered. (I hear Alan comin’) Are all of “your bad” customers crininals, or are we really talking about not wanting to deal with ones that are difficult closers? To me, it is simple to deal with easy sales…what marks good customer service is how you deal with the difficult ones. I am not advocating giving the business away, but by treating them with some of the rules you mention above (Golden Rule, respect and patience, inoffensive behavior)goes a long way in displaying overall attitude to the neighbourhood you are dealing with and living off. (Chasing grannies in hoop skirts does not cut it)

What sparked all this to me, was I was sure I heard a different definition of difficult customers…such as having unreasonable expectations. Who taught them where to place the bar? Perhaps the problem is expectations? Who set them so high? If they are too high, then the company responsible for setting them either succeeds or withers and dies. That is free enterprise at its purist.

None of my business, really, but do you really want to spend your life dealing with ‘blood thirsty” customers. Either you change this attitude, or you change your customers attitudes, in my opinion, if you wanna succeed or don’t wanna die of a stroke before your 35. Best of luck if you chose to try to change the guy walking in your door.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 14, 2003 - 00:13 Permalink

PS If customers do not monopolize your time, you will have plenty left over for Solitaire and Blogging. I guess there are some things more important, like golf, eh?

Alan's picture
Alan on August 14, 2003 - 00:21 Permalink

Sorry, Wayne. Phil has gotten to me. Too scared to write any opinions now…

Lana Stewart's picture
Lana Stewart on August 14, 2003 - 00:29 Permalink

Wayne, how’s the view from up there? I wish my horse was as tall as yours.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 14, 2003 - 00:52 Permalink

Good one…probably your best.