Thursday, December 17, 2009

Apple Customer Service Failure at Every Level: Or How I Learned to stop Worrying and Quit Buying Macs

I host an internet-based radio show that reaches a fairly broad audience. Each week I deliver my tirades to my audience and when I’m treated fairly, I treat that person to some of the same, lifting them up above the cloud of my vengeance and staying my wrath. Prepare then, Apple, to lose thy place among the exalted. You have failed me.

I have been a Mac enthusiast for the last 8 years since my first Mac desktop purchase. Tired of the daily maintenance of anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-trojan, anti-malware, anti-familytime, anti-usability software that encases the average windows system in a very thin bubble of easily exploitable, and definitely not Pope-like protection, the transition had been painless, and I thought, well earned after my years of uncompensated Windows vulnerability patrol. When it was time, in the fall of 2007, to outfit my new home studio I purchased one of the brand new core 2 duo Imacs. I know, I know. Why would you buy an all-in-one integrated system? Two words: consumer confidence. By this time I had purchased 2 Mac minis, one macbook, one macbook pro, and now the 24” intel mac. The whole family had been outfitted. For the most part, the only unit that was receiving moderate to heavy use was the imac. All was happy in the land of mac, the evil virus rebellion had been squashed and we rejoiced with barrels of the finest meads, retiring to our drinking halls at night, happy members of the mac cult I had always heard so much about. My Jonestown, however, was about to be served the proverbial kool-aid. The beginning of 2009 marked the downturn for my imac’s overall health. Things seemed to slow down a bit. We no longer frolicked in the fields of our internet and Photoshop of our youths, we meandered lazily on intensive tasks and eventually the concussive blast of my first hard drive failure was felt throughout my little kingdom. No problem I thought, I’m under warranty. This is Apple. The uber –hip, utra saavy, we-know-what-our-customers want industry shakers right?

Turns out that the Apple representative informed me that my initial one year warranty was a week expired. Ok. So hook me up with Apple Care, brothah. I have a credit card and me and debt go way back. No? Well, I assumed that after paying another $100.00 annually for my .mac account and idisk that I would have received an email informing me that it was time to pay up. I should have? Oh, well I didn’t. My first verbal disagreement ensues with Apple’s less than cheery service. After two days and two fraud disputes over using my Apple credit card to pay for Apple Care (the representative finally submitted when it was admitted that my email they had on file was actually different than the one that I had set up… how this happened will later be explored in a future episode of Mystery Quest as we both agreed the mix up was near impossible, but nevertheless had indeed happened) You see, and this makes perfect sense, that when you try to use your Apple Card to make a purchase through Apple, a red flag goes through to the bank that this could be a possible fraudulant charge. Again, why not? Since I had agreed to take the trip to Crazyville why not stop at all the local sites and learn about the town’s thriving logging operations. Sigh. I pay for the Apple Care after numerous attempts by Apple to refuse my money and deny me service. I win. Not really, but I’m desperate after my exchanges and frankly the trip to planet Customer Service Insanity had left me a bit rattled.

I find an Apple Certified Service Center in my area and decide to take it there instead of an Apple Store thinking I might get more personal attention. They give me so much personal attention that they extend the repair time of 2-3 days to two weeks. For a hard drive. Yeah. I finally get my unit back, reinstall everything and I’m back up and running. I’m reunited with the wayward traveler who has found his way back home. We reminisce, but his journey has left him changed, different somehow. He has trouble sleeping, and when I say he has trouble sleeping I mean that he goes to sleep and DOES NOT WAKE UP. I reboot and change the energy saver settings. Wait you must for the Halls of Valhalla my friend as there will be no rest for you in this life!!! So my system must never sleep. My system is now the autistic insomniac girl from Real Genius, but I have my machine back and I’ll weather the small inconvenience because I can’t spend another two weeks working exclusively on my laptop.

I back up my system on a pretty neurotic basis. Mostly I use external drives and occasionally I use discs just to be sure. I started racking up coasters in a pretty short amount of time. Oh but the stress of war had really taken its toll on our traveler. My optical drive checked out. The awesome thing is that it checked out right in the middle of my Snow Leopard installation. Yay! If you’re going to step up to me, don’t half-step, optical drive. Don’t half-step. Hey, hey, this man be prepared though. I gots my Apple Care, and there shouldn’t be an issue. Apparently Apple Stores only carry flux capacitors, warp cores and other mythological and totally intangible replacement parts, because they have NOTHING ELSE IN STOCK. Hello Totally Indifferent and Disinterested 19 year old Mac Store employee. Mac go boom, no more worky. How long bring back from Black Sleep of Khali Ma? 2-3 days. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Over the next week and a half of I and my Mac’s trial separation I find myself thinking a lot about our relationship. Was I asking for too much? I rarely every used a pc anymore and I knew a thing or two about discretion, so that couldn’t be it. Was I losing that loving feeling? I decide to give this thing another go and try to find what we once had. Afterall, I had a lot of time invested in this relationship by now. Lots and lots and lots of time. All those brooding long distance drives to the Mac stores and repair centers kept playing over and over again in my mind, but I had made a commitment.

My Mac and I regarded each other that day as I finally picked it up from repair and we made a silent promise: never again. Everything seemed fine after that. As a sign that we were willing to change I purchased more memory: promise memory, if you will. If there is one thing that today’s hits and tomorrow’s favorites of soft rock have taught me is that promises are sadly made to be broken.

I should put a Kerouacian title on the next few paragraphs. Maybe Dead, Pixels Dead Soldiers? Maybe that’s too Robert Frost… dead pixels are the syphilis of the designer’s world. Why won’t this spot go away? I keep using the microfiber cloth but this spot just won’t go away!!! Everything feels fine, but Oh my God… are those dead pixels?!?!?! A week ago I noticed two dead pixels. Two dead pixels. Side by Side. RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SCREEN. I lie to myself and choose a darker wallpaper. I’m back in school now and the intense curriculum for my Masters forces me to use my laptop more. It’s a big deal but it can wait. I sit on my sofa and pick up my apple remote. I’ll just listen to the soothing sounds of the RiverDance as I learn about the weighted cost of capital. Remote seems to have its line of sight blocked or something, hmmm. Too bad my studio has more free space than the frickin Tardis. I now also have bad IR sensor it seems. The combination, and those of you with heart murmurs might want to write this down, is a surefire tapdance to the sounds of a coronary. I call Customer Service, who now practically knows what kind of cereal I eat and why I get especially ticklish after jogging asks about the wife and kids and I proceed to tell him about the myriad of new problems. We make an appointment for me at a local store for the Genius Bar (giggle).

I arrive at the Genius Bar at a different Mac Store location with my Mac practically coughing and wheezing at this point (the Mac. Not me. But I did save two bullets. Ya know, in case we absolutely had to.) Hello Totally Indifferent and Disinterested 19 year old Mac Store Employee. Good to see you part of family business. Saw your brother at other store. Mac no respond to remote. Honeymoon Over. Do need Carousel? Renewal? Wait for it. Wait for it. … 2-3 Days.

Every man has a trigger, and I’m not talking about the well-oiled hair trigger of a BA-K-47 assault rifle as the sight reflects the sun from your thoroughly researched and well out-of-site vantage point. I’m talking about the trigger that signifies the end of tolerance, the end of patience…ok so these two triggers are very similar. I spit words through my clenched teeth. Very diplomatic and carefully chosen words: “Replace it”. I didn’t want a repair, I didn’t want this machine back. I wanted it replaced. I had already brought it in twice previously and now I just wanted a new system. I might have well just crapped out a live tiger right there on the counter, because the look that I received rested somewhere between confusion and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. “I could go get my manager?” It was a question and it almost seemed distant and rhetorical as if it shouldn’t have been said aloud. “Yes” was my answer.

This next paragraph was going to be spent issuing a love letter to the truly majestic and buoyant man breasts of the Mac store manager, but I thought it petty, so I’m not going to do it. Manager has obviously read Conrad as he steps over the brown tiger in the room and borrows the other employee’s confused child-like stare. I explain my multiple issues with “the lemon” and how now that it was going to need a new IR sensor, a new video card (I left the red-yellow pixel shift that accompanied my Safari use out of this blog because it sounded like a wedding dance and things are already getting confusing), a new display and a new logic board, I simply wanted a replacement unit. I even said that I would pay for an upgrade to a new unit as my faith in the older product line had been considerably shaken. Of course at that moment a shockingly stealthy giraffe must have crawled out of my pants to challenge the ass-tiger to a rousing game of yahtzee because the manager’s face turned the shade of hemorrage and crumpled in on itself more confused than before.

His response was that since the unit had not been in for repair before (huh?) that there was no grounds for a replacement (whaaaaaaaaa??????). Employee #1 then casually slid over and pressed a key on the store’s computer that either showed a new screen or actually turned it on and the manager was presented with information on the previous repairs. I was then informed that this still didn’t warrant a replacement. Wiping the blood off of my hands from where my fingernails were progressively digging deeper I explained that repairing this “lemon” (I thought the good folks at Apple would appreciate the fruit analogy) was just going to lead to more repairs and that a replacement would solve this. I do want to thank the good folks at Apple for laughing at me after I left and not directly to my face, as the answer was again a “no”. I further explained that I was simply tired of lugging the unit back and forth to be serviced and then being without the machine for weeks at a time. I was then told that I had always had the option of a technician actually coming out to my property to check the machine and then take it for repairs. Umm, really? Looks like that option had never been explained to me. EVER.

So the latest breaking news from this morning is that they were currently waiting on the last of the parts to arrive (today being day three of my 2-3 days). I was then informed that even if it did arrive today, that there were no repairs being done today and just to let me know, there is a LOT of work that has to be done on this machine … “Frustration is in the lead with Piping Hot Anger in a close second and the dark horse in running, Ritual Suicide is closing in. Wait, what’s this? Vein Splitting Fury has suddenly made this race interesting in a surprise move here in the last hour!!!”…

I have had horrible customer service. I’m not going to even say that HP’s customer service back in the day when I was still in the PC game was stellar. Here’s the difference: I paid 598.00 for my HP in 2005. I paid (including Apple Care, tax, etc.) 2500.00 for my Mac in 2007. There are certain expectations that come with a product that is touted for its reliability and a company that boasts of its customer relations. After meeting the same kind of service on three different occasions from three different locations, I can’t call this a fluke, nor can I chalk it up to “bad policy”. I place the blame firmly on a company that has forgotten that not everyone who buys their products falls squarely and neatly under one tax bracket. There are those of us who intend to make our purchases last and are not impressed with a 2500.00 lemon when they could have just as easily settled for a 600.00 one. Could be the reason I decided to go Mac in the first place, huh? Too bad this is a story that goes from first place to last place way too quickly.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Artificial Immortality: At What Point Do We Stop Being Human?

With the scientific advances that have been made in medical care over the past few decades with things such as artificial organs, prosthetic limbs, and computer technology, how far are we from making ourselves immortal?

Nowadays we have artificial kidneys and other organs, but those are only good for a limited time, but with advances in medical technology, how far off are we really from having parts that will not only function for longer, but will be better than the real thing? What about organs that are interchangeable by the person that they are installed in? I know we have seen fictional cyborgs like Robocop, but how far off is that from becoming a reality? Was Murphy still alive in that shell, or was he just a skinning on a robot that accidentally carried over some memories from a previous life?

This scenario raises many questions for me. It makes me wonder if we will be able to produce artificial immortality and what parts of the body are actually fully necessary to still be human. I'm sure a fully working artificial heart will not be far off to where it will plug into the brain and use electronic pulses from the brain to know when to speed up or slow down as necessary. It seems there is now also a way to combine living neurons with microchips. We already have somewhat artificial limbs and I'm sure there is someone somewhere working on a way to replace our veins and arteries with surgical tubing. I know people who have metal bars working as a bone when the bone was shattered, and how many senior citizens have you heard of having an artificial hip?

Sure we want our loved ones to be with us forever, but there is also the ethical question of how long should we keep someone alive and when we do have the ability to keep someone alive artificially, at what point should we pull the plug and send them to the afterlife, or are they already in the afterlife and the living entity is just a soulless shell of a person. Where do we cross the line from being living to dead? I think the best answer to this is to just listen to our hearts.


Friday, December 4, 2009

If I Never See Bigfoot, Does He Not Exist?

We’ve all heard the philosophical phrase “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Since sound is vibration that is transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of the ear and recognized as sound only at our nerve centers. The falling of the tree or any other disturbance will produce vibration of the air. If there are no ears to hear, there will be no sound." So in other words, if one never sees Bigfoot or anything commonly classified as paranormal, does it not exist and in turn lessen their credibility when discussing the topic?

As many of you probably know by now, I have been an avid paranormal enthusiast (ok...I take that back, a paranormal fanatic being the more fitting term) for as long as I can remember, yet never have I seen anything that can be considered paranormal. Does this make me or anyone else that fits this description any less credible when he/she is looked at as somewhat of a paranormal SME (Subject Matter Expert)? I’d like to believe that it affords me a little extra objectivity when debating with skeptics or responding to one of the many expert guests we interview weekly on ‘The Parafactor Radio Show‘. Though I yearn for the opportunity to step in some proverbial Sasquatch poop, there is also another part of me that is scared to death and wants no part of a firsthand encounter with the beast or anything paranormal for that matter. I believe it is this inherent fear of the unknown and the never ending quest for truth that keeps me coming back for more.

There is also an additional part of me that is afraid of being disappointed by the paranormal much like meeting that sports hero and finding out he did steroids his whole career to achieve those lofty statistics. For example, maybe Bigfoot is a big jerk and no fun to hang out with at all. Maybe he just wants to sit around and watch bad reality television while smoking cheap cigars, or better yet, crash fancy White House shindigs! I guess everyone has their flaws; sports stars, celebrities, politicians, and yes, even Bigfoot. I’m almost certain that The Loch Ness Monster, Yeti, Extraterrestrials, Chupacobra, Champ, etc., etc., etc., all have their share of faults and inadequacies as well. This doesn’t make us love them any less, does it?

My point being in all of this is that it’s ok to have an interest in, or even worship, something that may never have tangibility. It’s even ok to revere those with flaws and imperfections. I recall reading somewhere that man (shortcomings and all) was created in God’s image, so wouldn’t this hold true for paranormal beings too? Have passion for whomever and whatever you believe in, regardless of whether or not you can reach out and touch them.