Tag: Apple

Note: my experience below happened in February of 2013, I’m just super late in publishing it.

There’s been a growing trend in the way corporations approach customer service. In industries that have become largely undifferentiated in the products or services they offer, the thing companies are trying to do is put forth the best possible customer experience. Which is great, you should always treat your customers well. But a recent experience has made me wish some of them would take a page out of the big book of common sense.

I recently had to contact Apple for technical support. As a very technical person, I don’t look forward to having to talk to tech support. I have to invest a certain amount of time going through the standard menu of questions about my problem. Sometimes the level 1 person can solve my issue, but often they can’t and things have to be escalated. Only they don’t always know (or are allowed?) to do that.

My Apple problem was strange and unexpected: I tried to buy an iTunes e-gift card for my mom’s birthday. I’m 99% positive I’ve made this kind of purchase before but it’s been a while. I hadn’t upgraded to iTunes 11 yet so that was the first thing I did. When I tried to complete the purchase I got a message saying it couldn’t be completed and that I’d need to contact Apple for assistance. So that’s fine. Only it was very not-fine.

I went to apple.com and filled out a request for support. I got a lengthy e-mail reply that started out with the words ‘A wonderful day to you!’ Why, thank you! The person indicated they were working on my problem, that I would get an e-mail after the matter has been investigated, etc. A day goes by and I get another reply, in which the same person says sorry but ‘my account is not authorized to obtain content from the U.S. iTunes Store. For this, we are unable to provide further information, but I strongly suggest you to review the iTunes Store Terms and conditions.’ Whaaa? That made no sense at all, and was entirely too cryptic.

My first thought was that they think I’m doing something fraudulent. I know all about Mat Honan’s experience and I’m sure Apple is still feeling some paranoia from that. And I did notice that the credit card I had on file in iTunes had expired when I went to make my purchase. I updated my payment info, but maybe they still weren’t sure things were on the level. That’s understandable.

I replied back saying that doesn’t seem right, I’ve bought a lot of stuff over the years through the iTunes store, could they escalate my ticket. What proceeded was two weeks of back and forth over why they wouldn’t let me give them money, and why they wouldn’t tell me what was really wrong. I don’t expect them to tell me every little detail about what’s in their records or their processes for customer disputes. But at least give me the overall reason, like ‘the payment info we got from you appears bogus’. More information is usually better than less. Instead in each e-mail they kept using phrases like ‘I acknowledge that you want to have an explanation for this’, apologizing profusely, thanking me for being a customer, and giving me a link where I could leave feedback.

Eventually they flipped whatever switch would allow me to purchase an e-gift card via iTunes, but by then the birthday I was buying it for had passed and I had already gone with Amazon. So sorry Apple, but I may need to look elsewhere for my MP3-buying needs in the future. My suggestion is you try to be more open and forthright when helping customers, rather than include so many nice platitudes in your e-mails.

Musing

I’ve been waiting to upgrade my iPhone 4S to iOS 6 until there was a maps app available other than the new native one that Apple built. And by ‘other’ I really mean one from Google. I only use maps for directions about half the time; the other half is spent searching, which is precisely where the Apple app falls down hard. So it was with great pleasure that I installed the official Google native maps app shortly after it was released. It’s beautiful, and definitely works as well as the pre-iOS 6 one. A couple days after loading it I pulled the iOS 6 trigger. Everything I used on a regular basis was working great…or so I thought.

I use my bookmark browser every day. It has an option to refresh bookmark data each time you start a new session, but I’m not using it at the moment. That means I must manually refresh the data, which I do every week or so. But after the OS upgrade the refresh process started acting weird. Normally it takes a few seconds to get the data from Mozilla Sync. Once the data is downloaded the last refresh timestamp is updated along with the total bookmark count. What was happening is the refresh seemed to happen instantly. It would update the timestamp but the count never changed. I knew this was not right because I happened to do a bunch of bookmark organizing and the number should have been very different.

I found that clearing all website data for Safari would allow the refresh to work properly. But that blows away any data from other web sites, which is bad. I finally got annoyed enough that I opened up the code to see if maybe I was doing something wrong. My investigation lead to the cause of the problem: Apple had messed up again.

Here is what seems to be happening, based on this really popular question at Stack Overflow: Apple is servicing POST requests from its cache rather than sending them to the server if no cache-control header is included and the request data is unchanged. It appears to be a bug. The AJAX call the bookmark browser makes to the server uses the same parameters each time: username, password and key. So the browser was basically not making the call to the server, and my post-request code was executing as if it had.

The solution was to set the ‘cache-control’ header in the POST to ‘no-cache’. It seems to have solved the problem. The good news is an official fix is supposed to be in the up-and-coming iOS 6.1. It seems like version 6 is on track to be the most problematic iOS release yet.

Musing