Mar 12

Apple’s momentary lapse of reason

As we all know (and Wall Street knows), Apple is a well-oiled machine these days. Unfortunately, there seems to be a screw loose down in the shipping dept.

This is the story of my friend Sam in Tucson, who was anxiously awaiting the scheduled March 16th delivery of his gorgeous new personalized iPad.

On March 14th, just two days before his delivery date, Sam received the above email from Apple. Even after he read it a few times, he was scratching his head.

For starters, it was riddled with typos. Not one or two, but six. Given Apple’s perfectionist standards, surely someone’s head would roll as a result. (Just three hours later, Sam received another email owning up to the errors. See that one below.)

But the content of the message was equally surprising. Apple was informing him that his personalized iPad would arrive on March 20th instead of March 16th — a four-day delay. But to make sure he was happy, they were offering an alternate arrangement.

If he could respond to the email in four hours, they would send him a non-personalized iPad right on schedule. They would also send him a prepaid FedEx label so that when his personalized iPad arrived four days later, he could send it back to Apple.

Uh, what?

On the 20th, Sam would have two iPads in his possession: one personalized and one not. He would then have to send the personalized iPad — the one he really wanted —back to Apple.

Obviously, someone was trying to be nice. But it ceases to be nice when the offer (and the quality of the email containing the offer) makes you wonder if there was an adult in the room when this brilliant idea was hatched.

For a mere four-day delay, Sam would have been happy with a simple apology. If Apple insisted on a public display of affection, it would have been vastly better off saying “Sorry, your order is delayed for four days. As a thanks for your patience, please accept this $20 gift coupon for the Apple Store.”

Even if that cost Apple $10 in real money (which it probably wouldn’t), that’s still much cheaper than two FedEx charges, removing and replacing the engraved back and turning a new device into a refurbished device that would have to be sold at a discount. (The rules forbid Apple from selling any product as “new” once it has been returned for any reason.)

Sam decided not to take Apple up on their offer. He would wait the extra four days for the personalized iPad he ordered. And then yesterday his story became just a little more absurd. His UPS tracking info changed to indicate that the personalized iPad would actually arrive today, right on schedule. Then, early this morning, it changed again, indicating a stop in Alaska and delivery on Monday. (Just three days after his originally scheduled date.)

You know what this story means, right? Sell your stock! Apple is imploding!

Well, no. Remain calm. In the scope of things, this is but a tiny ripple in the pond.

I always advise people not to judge any company by one person’s tale of woe. Far more meaningful are the customer satisfaction surveys that poll tens of thousands of people, comparing all the technology companies. And in those measures, Apple is consistently #1. Remember, Apple is only human — which happens to be one of its best qualities.

If I were to put money on it, I’d bet that Apple has already made sure that this type of silliness never repeats. I’m also sure that the moment Sam receives his iPad (whenever!), he’ll forget this ever happened.

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  • Scott

    I received my new iPad today, but it was personalized with “Sam From Tucson”.  WTF?!?

  • Johan

    Was it bring your stupid son or daughter to work day this March 14?

  • I see a delightful moment when it is revealed that real humans inhabit the company. Imperfect ones whose hearts are in the right place. 

    My goodness the logistics that have to be involved in dropping a million (+?)  iPads (some personalized!) all at once. In the real world. Where things go wrong. Weather. Equipment. Human error. Software. And this isn’t the continuous process of shipping an established product, this is a launch event. Every one is different. (Moreover on the software side, like the liveblogging from apple events, how do you really test? Nothing is like a real world load.)I’m guessing its not just the assembly workers who work very long hours to make the magic happen.At first I agreed with your logic, but now I’m not so sure. At best, though, we’re monday morning quarterbacking. We’re not in the game facing the clock and the defensive line.

    Impressed as hell by Apple here. And worried that our expectations  put their people under a little too much pressure.

  • RicC

    All communication on my preorder was that it would ship on March 19 and arrive about 9 days later.

    When I got to the office on launch day–March 16– my personalized iPad was sitting on my desk. My boss’s (ordered 2 days before mine) arrived at the end of the day.

  • Kenn Fong

    They can do this for someone buying something new, but they ended their program to fix the defective sound cards in the first Intel iMac. I guess if you have an unlimited discretionary income to buy new products, Apple loves you. Longtime customers who scrimp and save to afford their products but don’t replace them with every new release don’t count for much.