The Good and Bad of Apple


Over the Christmas holidays, the battery of my black MacBook, which had been losing its maximum capacity steadily, went decidedly unstable. It just wouldn’t hold a charge. The indicators all listed with a health of “Fair” or “Poor” (depending on the battery’s mood), and I couldn’t get more than 90 minutes charge out of the thing.

A quick search online showed me that Apple has written up a page on similar problems. Armed with this information, and with Apple Extended Care covering this computer, I decided to call Apple’s customer support when I returned from vacation to see if they could get me a new battery.

The experience went like a dream. Despite heavier-than-normal volume promising a wait time of “at least fifteen minutes”, I was talking to a customer support person within ten, and she had assessed my problem and taken my information and kindly told me that a new battery would be shipping my way within five business days, free of charge. Not only was a problem resolved in a quick and professional manner, I would soon be computing with a full, fresh battery, recalling those heady first days of Mac ownership.

This is why I love being an Apple user; they have the computing experience just right. Their machines are elegant, their operating systems function without shutdown for weeks on end, and if anything breaks down, their Apple Extended Care program will replace it for you. It’s no wonder the company has so many friends; their all-round excellence really builds customer loyalty.

Which makes those times when Apple doesn’t meet its standard of excellence stand out even more.

This Christmas, grandpa Wendell and Judy bought us an MP3 player, not knowing that I already had an iPod and had just bought Erin and iPod nano. They good-naturedly offered to exchange the gift. So, we braved the after-Christmas crowds and went down to Circuit City with the receipt in hand. Circuit City won me over with its effortless return policy, and as I was waiting for the salesman to key in the transaction, I noticed the rack of iTunes gift cards behind him. I thought that would be a suitable replacement, so I asked that a gift card be a product of the exchange. This was done. The problems came when I tried to make use of the card online.

So, I open my computer, open iTunes, and click over to the iTunes Store and click on the link to redeem my gift card. I enter the card’s particulars and run into my first obstacle: this is an American gift card. I’m a Canadian. This gift card can’t be used on the Canadian iTunes store. Fair enough. I flip the drop-down menu and move to the American iTunes store (I’ve used to order books occasionally, after all). I click on the link and am stymied again. I can’t shop here. I’m Canadian. And I certainly can’t redeem my iTunes gift card here, unless I supply an American billing address.

After going round and around in circles, I get frustrated and fire off an e-mail to Apple’s support. Their response:

The iTunes Gift Card you have was intended for use in a country other than your own. Currently, iTunes Gift Cards can only be redeemed in the country where they are purchased.

If the Gift Card was purchased from a third party retailer, you may want to give your Gift Card as a gift to an individual who will be able to redeem it. Apple cannot provide replacements for cards purchased from third party retailers.

Alternatively, if the Gift Card was purchased from Apple, you can have the purchaser contact Apple by using the form at the bottom of this webpage:

I sincerely hope this has helped to resolve this issue.

Well, no it hasn’t. I’ve basically been screwed. And as I’m not the only one to have encountered this problem, and as these people have had no joy, either, it doesn’t seem like the situation is going to change.

Now, I can understand why there is an American iTunes store and a Canadian iTunes store, and I can understand (if not sympathize with) why Canadians would be barred from shopping at the former: issues of copyrights and all of that, but the giftcard distinction makes no sense. The way I see it, my in-laws basically gave Apple currency. They gave Apple a commitment that somebody would spend $25 purchasing something the company had on offer. That commitment might include a particular band, or it might not. It’s just a commitment to spend. How are rights issues involved in that? How hard can it be to change a commitment to spend $25 US on the American iTunes store into a commitment to spend the equivalent in a different Apple store elsewhere?

As far as I can see, it’s a stupid distinction, and Apple should know better. And even though we are talking about a $25 bad experience versus the $129 good experience described earlier in this post, I’m remembering this sting a lot more than I’m remembering the earlier elation.

Oh, well. So, I have a $25 iTunes gift card that can only be spent by Americans in America, and none of my in-laws are realistically going to be prospective iTunes customers anytime soon. Hmm….

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