Saturday, March 15, 2014

Biting the Big Apple

I’ve found that my business dealings with the new digital society that we live is characterized, for the most part, with fairly good customer service. With the internet, you just can’t escape consumer scrutiny, and a business’ bad deeds will be exposed in some form or another, thus coming back to haunt them.

At least, that’s the way it should work. There are certain companies that just have stellar customer service that you can count on. LL Bean is the gold standard, and has unequivocally earned my loyalty. Amazon usually had good service, though returns are tricky, and most supermarkets like Price Chopper and Coop will usually put the customer first.

In light of this, you would think a big and reputable company like Apple would have their act together. Perhaps it’s an issue of being too big. The other player in this, and probably the main culprit, is JoAnn Fabric (JF).

A was sent an iTunes gift card that was purchased at JF, but it was received under curious circumstances. You’ve seen these cards all over the place, they sell them at the register of countless stores. The way it works is you buy the card, they activate it at the register, and then you’re good to go. Now for whatever reason, the people at JF couldn’t activate the card, rendering it useless. The thing is, it was paid for, but they couldn’t activate it, and they wouldn’t refund the money or replace the card. Talk about terrible customer service, if not a complete rip-off. 

They said there was an (800) number to call to work this out, but that shouldn’t be the purchaser’s responsibility. When you’re spending your money, you should get what you paid for, not a bunch of sorry excuses. It wasn’t even that much money. What JF should have done, and yet failed to do, was give the purchaser a new card that they could activate, then taken the defective card and either eat the cost for a loss, or deal with the issue on their own. They chose the wrong path by putting all that on the consumer. This is very bad customer service because not only are you abdicating responsibility, but you’re sending a message that you don’t stand by your products.

Either way, now the ball is in my court. There has been much talk about a mythical (800) number to call and work out the problems, but thus far, I’ve found this to be the stuff of fables. The problem is, Apple has so many different departments and product off-shoots that it’s hard to pinpoint which one I need. It’s like going to Walmart and trying to find Q-tips, and asking a person who works there for help. Good luck with that.

I finally found someone to talk to (just keep hitting 0 on the menu), and after all that, they said iTunes is an online issue and I had to take care of it elsewhere. She gave me a web address to go to and there would an option to chat live with a rep, which was A-okay with me. Of course, when I tried to go to the site, it didn’t work. It could have been my computer, but I was back to ground zero. 

Finally, I went back to the iTunes gift card customer service site (how’s that for specialization?), where there isn’t even have a phone number or live chat, just an email and a link for FAQs. This was a little disappointing, but life is filled with disappointment, right JR? That doesn’t mean we should give up, it simply means we have to work a little harder. If anything, it should make it more imperative to figure this conundrum out and stand by your consumer rights.

I finally decided to send an email, which is inefficient because the back and forth takes so much time, but sometimes you have make the most of what you have. In all fairness, the folks at the iTunes gift card customer service responded immediately to my email, but mainly with more questions, for which I fortunately had the answers. Still, this is a bit of a hassle, and I completely put the blame on JF. Shame on them. There needs to be some reckoning, and I think I’m just the person to handle it.

One step at a time, however. Stay tuned for more on this drama.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Abdulwahab Al Tabtabae for the pic.

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