Sunday, August 12, 2012

Apple and the Rich Idiot Babies

Apple devices are nice - they're pretty, they're shiny, they seem to be well designed. But then something breaks, and you quickly learn that appearances can be deceiving. It's only when something goes wrong that you truly learn how a company feels about their customers.

Take Zappos, for instance. Their customer service is famously good. I've experienced it firsthand, and it left me feeling like Zappos cared about me as a customer and treated me like a respected adult.

Apple, on the other hand, takes what I like to call the "rich idiot baby" approach to their customers. The operating system is designed from the ground up with kid gloves - e.g., why would you ever need to know where on your hard drive a file is actually located? Leave that to Dad to worry about. But for the most part it's still a usable OS, and since I do some iOS development, I decided that "the real thing" was the way to go.

Inevitably, sooner or later, something goes wrong. In my case, my laptop was probably defective from the moment I carried it out of the store, but I never knew until recently when I got a new monitor. The problem seems to be in the Thunderbolt chip or port itself. When connected to a Thunderbolt display, the display flickers black every minute or so for a split second. You can imagine this being quite annoying, especially given the price of the display. I made sure my software was all up to date, then brought the monitor back in for testing, and sure enough, I'm told the monitor is fine. Great.

Thus begins the yak shaving adventure of trying to fix something on a Mac. Since Apple thinks you are a rich idiot baby, the goal, of course, is to make it as hard as possible to actually diagnose and fix your problem. A bunch of Googling leads me to discover that there is an "Apple Hardware Test" included in the OS. I'm told that it's not very intensive, but will rule out obvious things. I figure it can't hurt, so I follow the instructions to run it (just hold "D" during boot). And ... nothing. Supposedly, it will boot from the Internet "if it's not included in your copy of Lion" (why wouldn't it be??), but instead, my system refuses to enter AHT. Perhaps it's cause I'm out of the United States, or perhaps their support site is out of date. Regardless, no hardware test for me.

No worries, I think. It sounded like a lame test suite anyway. Some more Googling leads me to something called the Apple Service Diagnostic suite. This sounds like what I want. It's an intensive series of hardware tests for diagnosing problems with your Mac. Someone on a forum mentions it's not free, but whatever, I'm willing to pay the $19.99 or whatever it costs on the App Store in order to finally have some real diagnostic tools for my Mac. I find a link to the actual suite on the Apple site, excited that I'm about to get some answers, when the price hits me in the face like a rabid madman swinging wildly with an iPad:


What. The. Fuck. Apple wants to be so absolutely sure that you will need to bring in your Mac for service that they make their diagnostic suite nearly completely inaccessible for consumers. That is how they view their customers - they're not just babies who need everything to be super easy and safe so they don't mess anything up, but they're also idiots who can't think for themselves, and have an unlimited credit card in case they want to solve a problem the Apple way: by buying a new system. I try to get an actual support rep to help me run the lame-ass AHT suite that wouldn't actually start up before, but that would cost $49 for a "single incident" tech support call. Forget it.

The saddest part of all this is that despite still being under hardware warranty, I've probably voided it by upgrading to 16GB of third-party RAM, since having Apple upgrade it at purchase would have cost about six times as much (literally). Sigh. Next time, I think I might go Samsung, simply because I find their "you can't copyright a rectangle" IP defense ballsy and hilarious.


  1. I got a service response from Apple for an itunes problem. My account was inexplicably blocked/rejected when it was working fine for years up to then.

    The response was that I violated the Terms and Agreement, and they gave me a link to the Terms and Agreement. (Note: again, I hadn't changed anything. I was just trying to download an app.)

    OK. I was totally willing to not do whatever they thought I did.

    However, the punchline is that link went to the Terms and Agreement which was about 50 pages long -- and they didn't say which part or item of the terms and agreement I was in trouble with.

    Basically it was an "FU! Figure it out yourself. Its your fault we changed the terms and you didn't follow along with every line of it."

    Yah, that was the last time I expected any kind of help directly from Apple.

  2. If you don't read the full TOS, you might turn into the human centiPad. Be careful.

  3. My last few broken i-product experiences were pretty good actually. I just took it to the store and within 15 minutes it was either solved or the device was replaced. Having said that, the devices I own are glued shut so there is very little I can do to void warranty.

    I've spent a lot of time fiddling with hardware in my lifetime. I even water-cooled my pc from a bunch of pieces I bought on eBay back in high school days. These days if something breaks on PC I sigh, because I know that on average I'll be syncing 4 hours of my life to diagnosing and fixing the issue. There is also no way around that unless I'm okay giving the PC away to a local store for 48 hours or more.

    It's nice to have the two extreme options and I'll never go all-Apple, but if you get an Apple product then you definitely are stuck playing their game.

    PS. is your monitor an official Apple monitor? :-)