London, Macbook

Getting Customer Service at Apple’s Regent Street Store

In terms of my Mac ownership I have had a story of two Macs. The first, an early Macbook, has had a lot of problems and if I hadn’t been able to keep taking the thing back to the Apple Store then I would probably never had bought a Mac again. The other is a MacBook Pro that I bought after the change to Santa Rosa. This machine was specced at the very high end and even included a full compliment of expensive Apple RAM. I have had no problem with this machine at all. I suspect the lesson is not to buy first wave Apple products and not to buy anything from Apple where the engineering has been compromised by price. As you are paying a premium anyway you might as well go for the best you can.

So, the latest issue with the MacBook is the power supply. The collar of the power supply split and revealed some wiring which worried me. I could have just taped it up with insulating tape and lived with it but I had read some reports that the problem can cause arcing and be more serious.

So I took the power supply into the store and showed it to one of helpers and he agreed that it didn’t look right and that it should be replaced but that I would have to make a Genius Bar appointment to do so. Genius Bar appointments are not my favourite things but I did make one and went along with my power supply and when I was seen it was agreed that the split was not good news and that it could be replaced as it was a flaw with a certain model of MacBook. However the exchange could not be done there and then as I didn’t have my MacBook with me (it’s pretty heavy so you wouldn’t take it along unless you thought you needed it) and my AppleCare records were not up to date so only my ownership of the MacBook Pro was showing up in the system. So I made another appointment, this time taking my MacBook but I foolishly let things drag on at work and didn’t make my appointment on time. The Concierge told me to make another appointment and annoyingly refused to change my Apple Care details so I would have to bring in the laptop again. All this week I failed to find any Genius Bar appointments so yesterday I was finally lucky enough to bag an evening appointment and went once more unto the breach. I made it on time, checked in and then waited half an hour. During which I reflected that when I was late I was turned down flat but when Apple runs late you are expected to suck it down. Something which all the worse because there is no system in place to be able to call or tell the store that you are running late.

So when I do get seen the MacBook’s barcode is zapped, the “floating” account is re-registered to my details. However the MacBook is out of warranty and now I am told that I cannot get a replacement. Well that would have been fine three appointments ago but now it’s poor customer service so I demand an explanation as to why I have been told contradictory things and instead I get a discretionary replacement. So I leave relatively happy with a new model power adaptor.

Here’s some things that would have made my interaction with the Apple Store easier.

  • A clear explanation of what I would need to bring in for the appointment.
  • An accurate idea of how much it would cost to buy a replacement. I was told a replacement adaptor would have cost £70 so therefore I was given an incentive to seek an exchange. Checking in the store later I found the price was between £50 to £60 depending on the model you need. I might have decided to buy a replacement straight away and saved me the multiple wasted trips and appointments. Here you are really suffering from Apple’s refusal to use commodity parts. If I had been able to buy a cheap power adaptor I would probably have done so because that is what I do with my Windows/Linux PCs.
  • I should have been allowed to call the store to explain I was running late and cancel or reschedule the appointment. Alternatively I should have been allowed to make a future appointment at the Concierge’s desk when I did arrive.
  • The customer database simply needs to be better and you should be able to update it with the Concierge. It should take a technical support appointment to update your records.

Here are some things that I learnt about dealing with Apple Store that I hope make your life a lot easier than mine was.

  • When you arrive at the store make sure the Concierge (one of the helpers at the Genius Bar) correctly registers your arrival and your name and confirms that you are going to get seen. If this part goes wrong then you just get left on the bench and never get called.
  • The Apple staff have business cards, when one of them tells you something get a card from them and if there is a dispute as to the advice given later produce the card and ask the person to contact their colleague and check things.
  • Apple staff have a huge amount of discretionary power. Although they may want to stick to a particular policy they have the power to bend the rules, particularly in the end of customer satisfaction. Remember that despite how they may act at times they are a premium electronics retailer and therefore need to retain their customers. There is not necessarily another customer coming through the door in a minute who will accept poor service.
  • Stay polite but firm. Remember that there are often two things going on in the store that are to your advantage. Firstly it is often busy and there is going to be a point where the delay in dealing with you formally is going to outweigh resolving your issue and moving on to the next customer. Secondly it is a store and if people see other customers having an unhappy or unpleasant experience then they are going to be less likely to buy something.
  • Don’t be afraid to use NLP framing techniques. Try saying things like “Can you tell me why I was told this?”, “Can you see why I am frustrated with the service I am getting here?”, “Can you explain why this has happened?”. Get them to view the experience through your eyes and see that you are being served poorly.
  • It doesn’t happen a lot but if one of the staff wanders off into technical matters remind them that whatever the cause of the problem they still need to resolve the problem for you.
  • If booking a Genius Bar appointment then try the website at several points in the day. On Saturday there were no appointments at 7am, nor at 8am but at 10am I was able to book through Saturday afternoon to Monday.
  • If you are late for an appointment just give your name to the Concierge. They will not be able to find you and will ask you when the appointment is for. Say that it was roughly for whatever time you booked. They will then hiss and tell you you are late. Explain that you were unavoidably delayed (it is London after all) and that you are here now. They can and should put you back on the list. By default you will ironically be the first person to be seen.

I wish I had known that last one! Kudos to the guy ahead of me in the queue who pulled it off.

Art, culture, London

Exhibition: From Russia

I had a chance to attend a Member’s Preview of the From Russia exhibition at the Royal Academy. The exhibition had a tricky start due to the status of some of the paintings as confiscated goods. The works are all here now though, courtesy of the Bolsheviks.

The preview was moderately crowded but not unbearable crush that these events can turn into all too often. The work on show is varied but the Expressionists predominate. Personally I reverted to type and really enjoyed the Constructivist and Suprematist pieces that are on show. Malevich has to be one of my favourite painters, even familiar stuff like Black Cross was great to see again.

The show has several pieces by Picasso who is normally a favourite of mine but they seem to be early stages in his Cubist phase and a far too Primitivist for me. Even the more “classically” Cubist on display didn’t grab me, maybe because it just doesn’t have any meaningful context. All the other Picasso Cubist paintings I have seen have usually been on display with at least a few Braques.

Of the native Russian painters Boris Grigoriev‘s Portrait of Vsevolod Meyerhold was the really surprising piece. A double portrait of an actor that has an amazing colour scheme. It also made me wonder why the double portrait is such a rarely used device.

I’m going to take a second look at the exhibition later but for all the fuss it does seem very thin.


London: City of Culture

The title of the post comes from briefly spotted headline in the Independent over Christmas. But, alors!, have I had my fill of culture this weekend! I have been to see the Terracota Army exhibition at the British Museum for a second time. An excellent chance to see a cultural and artistic oddity that can only be topped by travelling to China itself.

I also dropped by the Photographer’s Gallery, Antoine d’Agata’s exhibition is like a pornographic revisitation of Brassai’s Paris by Night. It’s worth seeing but there is a line between art and stylish pictures of people fucking. Less controversial was the excellent selection of Lee Miller photographs. Her war journalism is excellent and the photos from her “apprenticeship” with Man Ray are a delightful slice of life between the wars. I also enjoyed Chrystel Lebas‘s forest photography.

Then today is was an impromptu trip to the Wellcome sponsered Science Museum exhibition on iconic machinery. Did you know the Rocket steam locomotive is now part of the Science Museum’s collection? The exhibition dwelled too much on Britain’s contribution to manufacturing which I don’t think has ever been a strong legacy. However the British contribution to science and engineering was rightly highlighted without being jingoistic. I really liked the idea of using heroic iconic machinery as a way of indicating the developments in science and engineering. There’s just ten metres between the Model T Ford and the Morris Mini and both speak volumes about their times.


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

I had the chance to see this film at the London Film Festival and I happy to confirm that it features beautiful photography, excellent performances from all the leads, nice period detail and that it is indeed very, very, very long indeed.

I dread to think what was in the original cut but while I can see a fantastic multi-disc DVD release for the whole thing there is a theatrical release that is 45 minutes long dying to be free from this film. We really do not need to see Nick Cave mugging for the cameras for example.

Acting from the entire cast is excellent and it reminded me of how often we are dependent on just one or two principals for our narrative. Here everyone has a role in recreating the post-Civil War era with its complex politics and its often simple personalities.

In the era of really long films this one is actually worth giving your time to. If you watched Cold Mountain for example you spent a lot longer for a lot less.

Celeb Spotting, London

Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson

Wandering past the Almeida, side by side, like they were friends in real life. Higson had a white paper bag, which given the location and the improbability that he was out seeking a crafty afternoon kebab suggests a bite to eat at Ottolenghi. There is a certain odd couple quality to them, Whitehouse slightly brash and London; Higson diffident, quiet, very well-spoken. Both smartly dressed and not short a bob either.

Spotting them together must be extra points. Weird trivia: I am one of twenty people who have actually read Higson’s novel Full Whack. It is gruesome in parts, strange in others and is the only book I have read that features a dash along the M4 through Wales during which all narrative momentum is lost.

Celeb Spotting, London

Comedy Spot Max Out

David Mitchell on the tube, picking his nose and reading the Plot Against America. Looks better in life than on film. Meanwhile once off the Tube managed to spot Justin Lee Collins weaving towards the West Country train on his way from Heathrow. Another tall television presenter, sporting brightly dyed hair. Actually looks like some outlandish cartoon character in real life.