Service: Getting Some Back (5/4/01)
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Speaking of poorly-kept secrets, it's not going to come as any surprise to most of you that technical support for Apple customers-- while still pretty strong-- has been on a downhill path for the past few years. Not that we're particularly faulting the company for doing what it can to cut costs; sure, it's easy to offer your customers lifetime toll-free technical support if you don't mind losing a billion dollars a year. And while we aren't thrilled that Apple has been moving to a more "Microsoft-like" (their words, not ours) support structure, we fully acknowledge that fee-based per-incident phone support is likely just one more reason why the company has been mostly profitable since 1997. (Of course, that doesn't mean we have to like it.)

So we've become accustomed to watching the quality of Apple's technical support continue to dwindle-- which is why we weren't surprised a few months ago when the company nixed the option of buying AppleCare extended warranty coverage for refurbished products at the Apple Store; you got your standard 90-day warranty and that was that. In other words, if you bought a refurb iMac and 91 days later it burst into flames, pretty much your only recourse was to buy another one (or, more likely, switch to a manufacturer who stands behind its products more firmly).

What did surprise us, though, is evidence that the pendulum may be starting to swing the other way. As recently reported by Accelerate Your Mac!, the option to buy three years of AppleCare coverage for refurb gear has returned to the Apple Store, thus providing further peace of mind to worrywarts like us; grab a refurb Graphite iMac DV Special Edition for $999, toss in another $149 for extended coverage, and compute merrily away, free of angst for a full three years. What's more-- and this is the real stunner, folks-- all refurbished products now carry a full one-year warranty standard, just like their brand new brethren. That's huge, people! We've never seen Apple cover refurbs for more than three months.

Needless to say, this is a happy development. Back in the day, Apple's unparalleled support was a major selling point when evangelizing the Mac platform to outsiders, and we sorely miss being able to tell people that buying a Mac meant that free help was always just a toll-free call away. While we don't expect to be able to say that again anytime soon (well, at least not truthfully, but what's a little exaggeration between friends?), any improvement is more than welcome. Perhaps this is just the start of a massive trend in corporate strategy, and one day in the distant future all Macs will be guaranteed against defect for life and will come with a personal service tech who lives out in your garage just in case you ever need help. Now that's a reason to buy!


 
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The above scene was taken from the 5/4/01 episode:

May 4, 2001: Apple continues to wave the "No Comment" flag even as further evidence of scads of Apple retail stores continues to pour in. Meanwhile, service steps up a notch as Apple ups warranties on refurbished products to one year and restores extended AppleCare options, and now that the new iBook is done, Apple's gnomes turn back to the PowerBook in preparation for a feature bump this summer...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3033: More Retail Rumors A-Plenty (5/4/01)   You know, at this point the real mystery isn't where Apple's retail stores will be, or what they'll look like, or whether their commercials will feature arrow-through-the-head Crazy Steve pushing Midnight Madness sales by holding up fistfuls of cash while yelling "Insanely great, or just insane?...

  • 3035: ...And Back To The TiBook (5/4/01)   More than a few of you are a smidge puzzled by one thing about the new iBook: the option of getting an internal CD-RW or CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive in Apple's lower-cost consumer portable, while the high-end PowerBook G4 is strictly DVD-ROM-only...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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