Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bad service from Apple on Black Friday

What a strange Black Friday I had. It started late on Thanksgiving night when I decided to not get up at 3 a.m. as there were no items that seemed interesting.

In a really strange turn of events my wife sent me to the Apple store to pickup a new MacBook because she got an email from Apple. She saw that the new MacBook I was looking at for months was on sale and that Apple offered six months no interest. The offer was possible by getting the Juniper iTunes reward Visa card and purchasing one item over $1000. Perfect. The site said it takes 30 seconds to get approved in most cases. Sweet!

So I went to the Deer Park, IL Apple Store before noon on Friday. I walked in and they had a very efficient setup with a line to stand in when you were ready to purchase. I walked up and someone helped me immediately. My sales associate walked me through the process of getting the Juniper Visa. I put in my info and it said that they were reviewing my request. I was supposed to get approved right away. "No problem" said the sales associate, this happens. He suggested that I purchase using a different card right now and if I get the approval later from Juniper just come back and switch it over. But, he said "I know it is tempting, but don't open this new MacBook or you will be charge a 10% restocking fee on the return." I asked if he thought this could all be done today. He said it should not be a problem. So I said to him if I pay now and get home and get the card I can just bring back my computer and switch it to get the six months zero interest. He said yes and reiterated the 10% restocking fee and reminded me to do it today to get the $100 off Black Friday deal. I said great and gave him my American Express card. In minutes I was out the door with my MacBook, Apple Care and a renewal for MobileMe. Great, but now to get home and wait for the approval.

So I get home and explain this to my wife. She said great and we can plan on going to the Apple store after dinner. So I waited for something from Juniper. After an hour I called Juniper and talked to several people. They said they couldn't give me any info on why I hadn't heard anything yet. They said this may take more than a day. They explained that with the high number of transactions (Black Friday after all) it could be difficult to say when this would be complete. The online hold messages said this also, along with the possibility that it could take 30 days to receive my new card. I didn't think any of that was important. Then they suggested I call the approval center and got a different 800#. One part that happened at the store was a "security question" that I did not know about. They said that may be the issue. So my wife signed up for the card online. Well this time it went through immediately. So great we got the approval, with plenty of credit to buy the MacBook. So now just to wait and go back to the store after dinner.

So we went to dinner with the MacBook in tow. After dinner my me, my wife and my 11 month old son drove to the Deer Park store and talked to an associate right away. I told him that I was in earlier today and wanted to switch my purchase over to the Juniper Visa. He said fine, but needed the number. So we went to the Juniper website and pulled up the new account. Then he said he needed to see the manager. He came back and explained that he could not do the transaction. He said that he needed the approval "barcode" from Juniper. He said the only way to get this was to register in the store and the store gets that approval "barcode" and then you can make the purchase. So, if I signed up at home and then went in or, like me, had a problem with my approval and came back later I could not do the process until I had the physical Juniper Visa card on me. He said there was nothing he could do. So I asked to talk to the manager. He came over and explained the same thing to me. I asked what are my options. He said I could take his business card and he would honor the Black Friday price (I didn't take it as it seemed to me to be an empty promise), but I would have to wait to get my card. I said well I could wait up to 30 days and I can't open the box so this was a real problem to me. The manager then denied that there would be a 10% restocking fee, as I was told earlier. He said it is just a transaction swap, so there would not be any restocking fee. Again he said I could just bring it in and see him and he would honor the price. I then asked what would happen if I didn't get the card before my American Express, a monthly paid card, was due. He said I don't know. So I asked what are my options. He said you can take this computer home, open it and wait for the card and then come back in when you have it or you can return it now. I asked if there were any other options, no. So the manager left and I had the sales associate process the return of the MacBook and the other items. The sales associate was very nice and said he was sorry plenty of times. But still we felt nothing but despair and disappointment when we left the store without the MacBook. I wanted to mention to the manager again when I was walking out that I thought this was a bad way to do business, but he disappeared when he walked away from us.

So the ride home was not great. We were both disappointed. I posted a bunch of messages on Twitter from my iPhone on the drive home, since my wife was driving. I sent an e-mail to a friend about this and didn't know what to do. I filled out the Apple customer service survey that was at the top of my receipt.

After I sat down and cleared my head I said wait a minute we were approved online. Why not purchase online and we still get the six month zero interest. So that is what we did. So I still got the price, rate and will get the MacBook in a few days. But I still have some problems with how the store handled everything. So I have some suggestions for Apple:

1. Don't ever suggest that you can do a transaction switch from one card to another later on any purchase by returning the product later. This eliminates the whole issue including whether or not there is a restocking fee.
2. Suggest ordering online. (I suspect that they may not have suggested that to maintain sales numbers at that particular store, but don't know for sure)
3. Allow customers to pay online and pickup in store. This gives customers another option when paying. They could pay from their checking account, Paypal or other online means. With this flexibility that could help increase sales. It also stops Apple from paying shipping fees to mail out the items you purchase. Sounds like a no brainer to me.
4. Be up front on the policies related to the credit card you offer. If there are scenarios that could cause you with purchase trouble(like only being able to register at the store to use the new card that day) just be honest about it.
5. Apple should demand a little more from Juniper. Juniper customer service was sketchy at best. Apple is about quality and so should the credit card they offer. It seemed to me that Apple should know more about this card. In many places I saw comments like "don't contact Apple as they will not be able to assist you with the Juniper account." I would expect more from Apple, maybe they could get a special number to give to customers to call about their Juniper account. I would expect Juniper to provide this to Apple. This would give them a higher customer service experience to customer that get the card through Apple.

I still hope that Apple Corporate contacts me about this transaction. I am still an Apple fan, and would hope I could pass on these suggestions so this doesn't happen to someone else. This could cause some people to just say forget it and not deal with Apple again.

A line I e-mailed my friend summed up the whole experience the best: "It was just a bad scene walking in with my wife and holding my 11 month old son and walking out discouraged like that. After I got home and cleared my head I figured why not just buy online. So by the end of the week I will have my sweet new MacBook, but I will still remember that experience."