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Apple's Shady Selling Practices [Resolved]
MiscAbout 3 months ago, a couple of days after the launch of the 2008 MacBook Pros, I went into an Apple store and decided to take the plunge and get a shiny new MacBook. Just before I handed my credit card over to the sales person, I was informed that as I was buying a MacBook, I was entitled to a heavily discounted iPod. With Christmas just around the corner, I jumped at the offer as it'd make a cheap Christmas present. The catch? The discount had to be claimed as a rebate, which means paying the full price up front and then claiming the money back via post.

Before I even unpacked my MacBook, I went online and filled out and printed the rebate form, stapled my receipt and barcode label to the form, put it in an envelope and stuck the envelope in the post. One thing I noticed was that the offer was called the "Back to School" offer. I thought to myself "Is this offer for students only?". To put my mind to rest, I returned to the Apple store and asked for clarification from a sales person. They assured me that I was still eligible despite not being in education.

Christmas came and went, my mother was very grateful for her gift of an 8GB iPod Touch. Another month passed, and I suddenly recalled the rebate and the lack of communication regarding it for 3 months. The very next day, I received an email from Apple's promotions department stating that the offer was intended for students only and that I'd need to provide some form of identification proving that I was in full time education. Rather than getting out my old student ID and photoshopping the dates, I decided to be honest and explain exactly what had happened. The promotions department representative told me that I had to take this up with the manager of the store where the device was purchased from.

During a lunch break, I headed into Cambridge and stated my case. The staff, to their credit, were understanding, but said that the Apple store and the promotions department are separate companies with different tax codes and couldn't authorise the rebate. They did, however, offer me a refund. This was not the option I was looking for as it would mean taking my mother's gift back. I was told to contact the promotions department once again to explain that the device had been mis-sold and to see whether that would change anything.

After emailing the promotions department for one last time, I was told to contact customer service - there was no information about whether my case had been closed or whether it would be processed.

Today, I phoned customer services and was greeted by an extremely unhelpful person who explained, once again, that the Apple store, the online store and the promotions department are all actually separate companies and that had I bought the device from the online store, it would be within his remit to make right the situation, but as I had bought from a retail store, there was nothing he could do. He explained that the onus was on the store manager to remedy the complaint.

So, in summary:

1) Apple mis-sold me the iPod device. If I was a student, would I not have claimed a discount on the MacBook itself too? I made no false pretences about being in education.
2) Apple lied to me when I enquired about the offer upon returning to the store.
3) Apple's customer service is terrible. Everyone passes the buck and hides behind the excuse of each department being a different company. This really isn't the way to keep customers happy.
4) The Apple representative offering phone support claimed that as the device was 3 months old, it was outside of its return period. So by taking 3 months to query my rebate, Apple had effectively stripped me of my statutory rights. Apple's only saving grace is that they did offer me a refund, despite what I was told over the phone.

I believe I shall go back to the Apple store with my mother, iPod in hand, and ask the store manager to explain to her why he's taking her Christmas present back. If Apple is cold hearted enough to go through with the refund, I'll then purchase a brand new iPod (for the same price) from the same store to prove that money was never the issue and that it's the principle of the matter that counts.

I've been a faithful Apple customer for a good few years and have given them much business, but at the end of the day, it seems that the customer comes second.

* Update 02/02/2009 *
It pays to complain. The Apple promo status website now says:

"Thank you. Your record has been located. Details below:-

Your claim has been approved on 30.01.09 and is scheduled for immediate payment.

Payment will be issued in the amount of 95 GBP by cheque."

I'll take this as a quiet admission of fault. Thank you Apple for keeping your customers happy.

* Update 07/02/2009 *
I have, in my hands, a nice cheque from Apple.

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