Bored of reading all those fanboy stories about Apple yet? So are we. So that’s why we bring you the occasional Apple horror stories, too. But this isn’t one. It was almost a horror story (relatively), but it turned out not to be. It’s really just a story about Apple being out of iPads.
I’m in the market for an iPad. (Not for me–for my Dad, who loves gadgets and is recovering from surgery and therefore has more time than anyone would ever want to lie on his back and fiddle with a new toy).
I planned to stop at the Apple Cathedral on 5th Avenue this afternoon to pick one up on my way to see him, but I was reminded that demand for iPads has been so intense that Apple is frequently out of them.
So I called first.
And for a minute there, I thought I had an honest-to-God Apple customer-service horror story.
I listened to the canned (but pleasant) voicemail message about how the magical new iPad was finally here and how I could get store hours or book time with a Mac Genius and so on by pressing particular buttons. There was nothing in the voicemail about iPads actually being in stock, so I assumed that the magical availability that the canned voice was referring to was a theoretical availability–as in, “can be purchased somewhere, sometime”. This, it turned out, was the correct assumption.
The voice said to press “5” for all other questions. So I pressed “5”.
And I got the beginning of the voicemail again!!
Imagine my shock and horror. Apple, the awesomest company in the world, dodging customers with endless loops of voicemail hell! As I listened to the voicemail again, wondering if maybe I’d misheard something, I was already composing a rant.
At the end of the voicemail, there it was again: Press “5” for all other questions (including, I assumed, the question that most callers want the answer to: “Do you have any iPads?”)
Still in disbelief, I pressed “5” again. And this time, thankfully, Apple redeemed itself. The voice informed me that all customer service representatives were busy and that there was… one call ahead of me.
That was more like it.
I waited 30 seconds, and then a real live Apple human being gave me my (disappointing) answer. No iPads available.
I called the other three stores in New York. This time, pressing “5” immediately got me a person. Alas, I learned that there are no iPads available in New York. So my dad is going to have to make do with his iPhone for a while.
Now, based on my experience calling the other stores, my guess is that the first “press 5 and get an endless voicemail loop” for the 5th Avenue store was not, in fact, a glitch, but a planned default when all store representatives are busy. Apple probably figures that at least some callers don’t listen carefully the first time through and can be helped automatically with the repetition.
If so, I don’t think this is the BEST customer service option. I think the best one would be to default to the live human being queue (or at least offer a new option of being sent to that queue). But perhaps other Apple customers disagree.
It’s also possible, of course, that I just pressed the wrong key on my iPhone and that it was my error that started the loop again. In which case, Apple’s customer service cannot be said to suffer from even this minor blemish. (Except, of course, for the lack of availability of those iPads).
In other news, yesterday I saw iPads used the way I eventually expect them (or other tablets like them) to be used in basically every house in the country. I walked into a venture capitalist’s office and there were two of them just sitting on the foyer table. I fired one up and used it while I waited. I also set the default web site to SAI, for the pleasure of the next visitor.
Of course, right now, you have to be a venture capitalist to afford to just leave iPads lying around like that. In a few years, though, when iPads cost $199? Every household will have a couple.