Hangn’ at the Mall

by Colin Berkshire

I will lose eight hours of my life because of Apple, and I begrudge it.

My iPhone is two years old and well, it’s not as it used to be. The battery lives for the next charger cord like an alcoholic lives for his next drink.

Apple admits they are slowing down older iPhones so that a design defect that causes them to crash if run at full speed with an older battery doesn’t show up. Apple tries to spin this as protecting customers from spontaneous reboots, but it’s just a cover up for the fact that the phones can’t perform at the advertised speeds.

So I brought the phone in for a battery replacement, which Apple is offering at “just” $29. (The battery must be made from unicorn horn dust.)

I went to my Apple store, a 40 minute drive one way. When I arrived they told me they can’t fix it without my going home and scheduling an appointment. So I went back home. The soonest appointment available was the next weekend.

I brought my phone in at the scheduled appointment time and they tested the battery. It had lost 30% of its capacity, which Apple thinks is less of a big deal than I do.

The “genius” there told me that normally they wouldn’t allow me to buy a new battery, since they considered 30% to be still good. I told them that it would be worth $30 if the battery was only 10% reduced. The genius wasn’t sympathetic. (Apparently he hasn’t ever been on the tail end of a contract negotiation with only 3% battery life left.)

So he agreed to replace the battery. Fine. Except that they were out of stock. He didn’t know when they would get more, but they would call me. So I went home a second time.

Two weeks later I got a phone call and was informed that my battery was in and I could come by anytime. I told him I was headed out of town for two weeks and I would have it installed then.

No, he replied. If I didn’t have the battery installed within 10 days they would release it to other customers. I would then have to come in again, have it be put on order and again wait for it to come in.

I suggested that since it took two weeks to come in perhaps he could release my battery now, then order another replacement and when it come in after two weeks I would come in. It would be perfect.

No, he replied. He can’t set up a new repair without me being in the store. And the queue for batteries is now 2~3 months. (WTF?)

So despite my hecticly preparing for this trip I had no choice. I headed to the Apple store. It was the usual mob scene of aspirational customers and white youthful clerks dressed in Apple logoed shirts. (It would feel less unsettling if just once in a while there would be a clerk my own age, but perhaps wishing for that is ageist.)

The battery was in, they could replace it, but would I mind coming back tomorrow to pick it up? I told them I lived 40 minutes away, that it would be the fourth time I had to do this trip, that I already had five hours of my life invested in just trying to get my iPhone to perform like new and, no, that was not acceptable.

By this point my voice was loud enough that customers nearby were listening in and pretending that they weren’t. I got the standard response of being asked if I wouldn’t mind standing over there in an isolated corner to discuss this more privately. (And, no, I am perfectly comfortable in the middle of the store, slightly loudly and publicly expressing my displeasure with Apple treating its customers as if their time was worthless.)

A manager came out and suggested he could rush the repair as a special service to me. It would take 2½ hours, and then I wouldn’t need to drive home and back again.

Apple used to have superior products. They were slightly pricey, but still were an excellent value. They had great service. They were a better company.

Now, Tim Cook’s Apple feels very much like Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft. (Why do these MBA types discount satisfied customers so much?)

Nadella turned around Microsoft. I think it is time for Tim Cook to retire from Apple. Please.