Apple Thinks I’m a Mom-Blogger Thief

Last week I had a very pleasant surprise when I received an e-mail informing me that I was selected as a winner of an iPad from a drawing held at BlogWorld in Las Vegas. There was much celebrating in my house that night, for I’m never that lucky and especially not with a prize as big as an iPad.
A few days later, it arrived in the mail. I had already been reading up on features and apps I wanted to download, but I was waiting to see which model it was. I received the 16GB wifi model, which is a very nice product, but Aaron and I talked it over and decided that the 3G version of the device would be even more useful.

So yesterday I made the trip out to the Apple Store to upgrade my new precious to an even shinier model. I carried it into the store – still in the box it was mailed in – and took it up to the counter. I quickly met the eyes of an employee and put on my best smile to attract his attention. “Hi, I received this iPad as a prize when I went to a blog conference recently, and while I love it a lot, I’d really like to trade up to the 3G model.”

The man looked the box over carefully, reading the label, peeking inside to verify I did have an iPad in there and checking to see which model it was. “Oh, OK. Well, do you have the receipt for it?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, no. I received it as a prize. What you see here is all that came with it. But I can show you the e-mail they sent me.” I took out my iPhone and quickly pulled up the e-mail.

He looked closely at the screen. “Hmm…but it doesn’t have any receipt for purchase on it. Let me go find someone to help you with this.”

While he was away looking for a manager another store employee, who was standing there listening the entire time, took the iPad out of the shipping box and said he’d throw away the box for me.

The other employee came back with a manager, who told me without a receipt they couldn’t do an exchange. “We just don’t know where this iPad came from,” he explained, “It could have been purchased in a number of places, and we’re rather you return it to that place of purchase. A lot of our products are popular, and there’s a lot of theft, you know.”

I again explained that I received it as a prize and showed him the e-mail from the PR company who sent it to me, along with the shipping slip. I was confused at this point, and starting to feel like they thought I had stolen this iPad. “Your company makes the product. Why should it matter where it was bought? It’s still the same product. I don’t want any cash for it – I’m only asking to pay the extra money and upgrade to the 3G model.”

“Well, without the receipt, we can’t do anything for you here,” the manager responded. He then smiled and added, “But it’s a popular product, so you shouldn’t have any trouble unloading it some other way.”

Unloading it. Seriously? I hoped for a moment that maybe “unloading” was new hipster-speak for “finding a legitimate way to trade it in somewhere else” but quickly realized that they totally suspected me of stealing this iPad.

“I don’t want to sell it,” I insisted, “I want to USE it. But the 3G version would be more useful for me, so that’s why I’m trying to exchange it.”

“Well, we have to have some proof that the serial number on this model matches what was purchased. If you can produce a receipt with the serial number on it, then we can help you. Like I said, iPads are hot. I’m sure you won’t have any trouble unloading it.”

I was furious. I wasn’t angry about the exchange policy – if that’s their policy, fine. What I’m still angry about is the way I was treated. I don’t care how popular their products are – when I walk into their store, I expect to be treated with respect, not as an enemy.

From the moment I said I didn’t have a receipt, nothing else I said mattered to them. I was no longer a customer – I was a scammer. Forget the fact that I was planning to spend $130 to upgrade. Forget that I was likely to buy a case and other accessories to go with it. Even with an e-mail, a valid explanation and a shipping box showing where it came from, they couldn’t help me and could only suggest I turn to a reseller market to make a little cash off of it.

Oh, and about that shipping box: as soon as they made it clear they wouldn’t help me, I asked for the box back. The employee who originally helped me looked surprised as to why I wanted it back. “I’m not walking out of here holding an iPad box for all to see. It screams: ‘Mug me’ don’t you think?” They grudgingly found my box and gave it back to me. I packed everything back up and left.
When I got home, I took a closer look at the box. On the original label was the original sender’s address, which just happened to be Apple HQ. And there was an order number, which was a valid order number when I entered it on Apple’s website. Not to mention the iPad’s serial number was also on a sticker on the outside of the box. Yet the store employees refused to look for any evidence to back up my claim, and nearly threw out my proof.
I’ve experienced my share of bad customer service, but this trip to the Apple Store was one of the worst yet. I was made to feel ashamed, as if I was doing something illegal, just for wanting to exchange an unopened product for a more expensive one. It completely stripped away all of the excitement I had for the iPad.
I’m still unabashedly appreciative and grateful to the company who hosted the giveaway and randomly selected me as their winner. And I still hope to get the iPad upgraded to the 3G version somehow. With 3G, we can take it with us in the car or in other places that don’t have wifi, and I plan to load it up with apps for Cordy. There have been several apps designed for children with autism, and I’m hoping the iPad can be a tool for Cordy as well as a useful tool for me, too.
But I have absolutely no respect for Apple and their poor customer service at this point, and will tell my experience to anyone I meet.
I didn’t deserve to be treated like a thief.

Edited to add: After all that drama, it was suggested in the comments that I try Walmart. I took it to my local Walmart, and they let me exchange it with little hassle. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Apple could stand to learn a few lessons in customer service from Walmart.

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  1. Go ahead and email Apple directly. It doesn’t seem like much, but I’ve found that when I get awful service like that and email really can help resolve things. Put in a very grievous complaint about their customer service and it gets attention. That’s how they lose customers so companies take these complaints seriously.

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  3. And this is exactly why I refuse to buy Apple.

    (Oh, and the endless problem with our old iMac, compounded by the “you’re trying to get something for free, aren’t you?” attitude of the Apple Store employees at Easton, when we tried to get them to fix it.)

    I hope you can get this resolved, but I’ll understand if you have the overwhelming desire to punch these pricks in the throat too.

  4. Having known somebody who went through Apple’s training, I KNOW for a fact that this is not in their policy toward customers. I would send that email, because somebody or somebodies were acting wrongly.

  5. I’d email apple directly and explain not only the situation (that you want to exchange) but I might also file a formal complaint against the employee/store. Apple should know about that.

  6. I hear these horror stories about Apple all.the.time.

    So even though no one at Apple has ever been anything but nice to me, and everyone raves about their products, I still have a huge, huge bias against them and won’t buy from them.

    This behavior just confirms my decision.

    Plus, Apple iStore employees? You work *retail*. Nothing against retail works everywhere–my SO works in the restaurant business–but there is NO reason to have such a holier-than-thou attitude.

  7. That is really too bad…agree with sending an email as I’ve had good luck with them. My dad started a non-profit where he fixes up old computers and gives them away. Apple is the only company that will take an old computer and reinstall the operating system, usually apologizing that they don’t have the original but have to upgrade it. Microsoft will insist on the original reg # for computers that have been in circulation for 10 years.

  8. As a wife of an apple employee, I want you to know that not all employees are like this. (I am not just saying this to stick up for my hubby.) I don’t which you went to Easton or Polaris, but regardless, I can’t imagine why anyone would think it would be ok to act like this. If they had taken a moment to actually pay attention to the box and such, they would have seen what you saw.

    I hope you get it resolved and I would complain too and I have, even though hubby works there. I hate to say this, but I am not happy with many of his co-workers…and I know a lot of them could care less about their job and there for treat people (including me) horribly.

  9. What the hell? I don’t understand why businesses can’t see past their standard responses.

  10. That pisses me off on your behalf. Heck, you can take anything Walmart sells to customer service and they’ll give you store credit for it as long as they can find it in their system! Even if you aren’t sure it was bought AT Walmart!

    Customer Service Opportunity FAIL. I hope someone at Apple sees this and makes it right. You want to give them MORE MONEY, for heaven’s sakes!

  11. Liz@thisfullhouse says:

    This is the poorest example of customer service I have EVER heard of, Christina.

    Especially, as their products seem to be “very popular,” they should be raising the bar on customer service, as well, no?

    You were treated very badly and I really hope that you get the satisfaction you deserve, my friend.

  12. Ok, well YAY for winning! It’s too bad that that spot had bad customer service. I hope it’s a random occurrence and not a nationwide problem…

  13. I don’t know why businesses can’t see past their standard responses.

  14. Good on you for blogging this, my friend. It’s unfortunate that they really lost a chance to create a happy customer. I would suggest that you email Apple, CC the PR firm and BlogWorld as well.

    Bad PR, Apple. Bad PR.

  15. Queen of Snark says:

    I’m really surprised. Generally one has to call Barnes & Noble customer (dis)service to encounter asshats of that magnitude.

    I wonder if the employee who took the box realized what info was on it & was trying to protect their co-worker’s position in case you noticed what was on the box before they returned?

    I hope the situation is resolved quickly. Don’t give up. I’m sure if you get in touch with the “right” person it will be.

    Good Luck!!

  16. Apple store employees eat puppies on their days off.

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