Just as I was praising how cool Macs were in a previous post, my girlfriend's Nano died today and she had a run in with Apple's service center here in Beijing. As I mentioned previously, Apple seems to be having issues with service and support in other "emerging markets." Is this common in all emerging markets that companies known for quality and support in their home country give developing and emerging markets a different standard of support and quality?

Her user experience was not optimal at all. This is her own words of today's experience:

 I'm amazed how fragile the ipods are. I own 2 of them so far. A previous
   4th generation, 40GB Ipod died due to disk failure. In order to overcome
   my  gadget  grief,  I  went  out  and  replaced  it  with a new 4GB nano
   immediately.

   However,  in  less than a year, my nano also died due to non-functioning
   disk  drive within its warranty period. So, I did what the many did when
   their apple products died for no reason.

   I  packed up my fa piao/receipts and all the necessary prove of purchase
   documentation and headed down to nearest apple care center.

   And the reply I got was: Sorry madam; even thou your ipod is genuine, we
   can’t replace it for you?
   Me: What? Why?  It’s still under warranty

   Apple  service  center guy: Oh...Your nano was brought in one of the non
   proper  distribution  channels.  We are not authorized to entertain such
   requests?
   Me: holding my breath. Any other solutions please?

   Apple  service center guy: You can go back to the place where you bought
   your  nano.  You  should  be  able  to  work  out  and  even  get a free
   replacement from them.

   Me: I’ve tried.  It doesn’t work. That’s why I’m here
   Apple  service  center  guy: Please call our customer service hotline at
   800-810 2323


   Immediately,  I’ve  became  one of the million of Apple hating customers
   walking out of the service center feeling being ripped off big time. And
   on top of that, my call to the apple call center became a total shouting
   match.

   Summary of the call:
   Call center dude: There nothing I can do. Give me say at least 10days so
   we can sort it out.
   Me: Is that the best reply you can give me?

   Call  center  dude:  There’s  nothing  I  can  do.   Even  if  its Apple
   distribution problem.
   Me: Just because its apple’s distribution policies in China screwing up,
   why  do  I  have to go through this? And your answer is not good for me,
   doesn’t solve my problem or a concrete way to solve it.

   Call  center: Nothing I can do here. I can only return you a call in ten
   days after consulting with the other channels

   Total meltdown begins!


   This  may be my last apple purchase and I'm thinking it will be my last.
   This  level of customer service for a tech brand is simply unacceptable;
   and  I  will  never going back to buy any of their products despite what
   their sleeky ads have claimed otherwise.

   Come  to  think  of it; it’s no wonder that Apple doesn't have that many
   corporate customers ? why would you want to put up with this?

   I know I wouldn’t.

For some background, that's how I got my second 4th generation Ipod for free. No Apple service center in China was willing to fix my GF's 40 gig 4th generation Ipod with or without a fee. There was no other solution other than to throw it away since we were in China. However, I was lucky enough tosee this post on the web and tried it myself.  All I needed to do was to buy a replacement Toshiba Hard Drive and re-initialize. Getting a Toshiba Hard Drive replacement took 10 minutes at Zhonguancun's computer complex and I formated the disk with the Ipod updater from Apple painlessly. The hardest part was opening the Ipod which is a bit tricky but possible. I replaced the drive and the once dead Ipod worked again without a hitch. I'm not sure why Apple refuses to do something as simple as this for their customers in China but I'm sure I'm not the only one who has gone through the service center hell of Apple China.

If I am going to pay more for a branded MP3 player that is 100 to 200% more expensive than comparable MP3 players, I hope that part of that costs goes into supportng the product during its lifetime and not just for a few months.

Maybe Apple service centers have their own sweatshop operations of their own?

-frank yu

UPDATE: The Backlash has begun....

 

disclaimer: none of my Apple products have ever broken down...but then again I just fix them myself.