Get What You Pay For (6/28/00)

Have you ever wondered why there seem to be such wildly differing opinions of the quality of Apple's technical support these days? Some people rave about it like it's free cable or something, while others consider a call to Apple's support center tantamount to self-performed oral surgery without benefit of painkillers or a cyanide capsule. If we had to guess, we'd posit that most of the folks of the former opinion are used to what typically passes for tech support on the Wintel side of the fence-- which, while there are certainly exceptions, often makes Apple's efforts seem saintlike by comparison. Most of those in the latter camp, on the other hand, are probably longtime Mac users who remember how good Apple's phone support used to be.

But even that doesn't fully explain what seem to be some incredibly contrasting experiences noted by people who call the AppleCare support line. Suddenly, though, it all comes clear; AppleInsider claims that Apple's been stacking the deck, and the level of service you get will depend on what pops up on the call-taker's screen when he or she enters your ID number into iCustomer, the company's homegrown profiling system. Reportedly, "customers are ranked automatically by the database... grouping them as 'Silver,' 'Gold,' or 'Platinum' customers, depending on how much money they've spent in the last month." If you're lucky enough to have a spending profile that slaps you with the Platinum label, the support center will stop at nothing to resolve your problem quickly and courteously. If you're a Gold customer, at least a service rep will call you "if the issue involves troubleshooting." You poor Silver shmoes, however, don't even rate a call-back. Holy Classless Society, Batman!

What's worse, our own shadowy sources behind the Silicon Curtain inform us that iCustomer can now actually assign several classifications below Silver. If you haven't spent any money on Apple equipment in over a year, you're stamped as a "Bronze" caller, and your call is forwarded to the Crank Call department, where trained professionals pretend to be answering the phone at a pizza joint in Moline. The ensuing hilarity is recorded and played back over the PA system in the Support Center commissary for the amusement of the employees. If you've gone two years without buying new Apple equipment, you're a "Tin" caller and you are immediately forwarded to the department of verbal abuse. There, other trained professionals will proceed to say several not-at-all-nice things about your financial situation, your ancestors, and the sound of your voice. They will then cast aspersions on your sexuality until you hang up-- at which point, the recorded conversation is once again broadcast in the commissary, much to the delight of all workers present.

Worst of all, if Apple's records show that you haven't spent a dime on Mac equipment in over three years and you still have the sheer audacity to call asking for help, your customer record is marked as "Toast" and two local pipe-wielding goons are immediately dispatched to your workplace or dwelling. When they arrive, you will be subjected to a savage beatdown, after which one of the goons will stand on your head, while the other will proceed to order as much equipment from the Apple Store as the credit limit on your blood-stained MasterCard will allow. On the plus side, if you then call AppleCare again and toothlessly beg for medical help, you'll be a Platinum customer and Apple will dispatch an ambulance and a "Get Well Soon!" bouquet post-haste. So we suppose it all works out in the end.

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The above scene was taken from the 6/28/00 episode:

June 28, 2000: Getting lousy service from Apple technical support? Maybe you just haven't bought enough gear lately. Meanwhile, Intel announces that its new chip will be called, astonishingly enough, the Pentium 4, and word gets out that Larry Ellison hired a detective agency to dig up dirt on Microsoft during the "Redmond Justice" trial...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2387: Is Anyone Surprised? (6/28/00)   Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves: Intel, the company who brought you such memorable and evocative (hey, at least they evoke a gag reflex) product names as "Celeron" and "Itanium," has officially bestowed a moniker on its upcoming processor code-named "Willamette."...

  • 2388: Rich Dogs, Dirty Tricks (6/28/00)   If you haven't been just waiting for something like this to happen, you simply haven't been paying attention. While we viewers suffer a drama drought as Microsoft and the government prepare their respective arguments for the Supreme Court, recurring "Redmond Justice" special guest star Larry Ellison has wormed his way back on the show to take up the slack...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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