After the disappointment that was Macworld 2008, last weekend I decided to bite the bullet and buy an Apple notebook. A MacBook Pro would be great, but it is also an old design and very expensive, so I decided to buy a MacBook.
My employer is a member of Apple’s employee purchase programme (EPP) so I bought the computer from the UK online Apple Store (EPP discounts are not valid in brick and mortar stores). Somewhere in the purchase process I’m sure that I was quoted 3-5 days for delivery (24 hour shipment for non-customised orders) – right up until the order was finalised, at which point it got a lot longer.
I also purchased some accessories (a mini-DVI to DVI adapter and iPhone headphone adapter) but that’s not really customisation. Is it? Apparantly is is, at least according to Apple. Checking the site now, it seems that adding accessories like this increases the ship time from 24 hours to 3 days.
My order was shipped within 48 hours but is currently estimated to take 11 days for delivery. I could walk from my house to Apple’s UK distribution centre in Leicestershire and back in that time (most couriers that come to my door have a nice big diesel van to make it faster for them…). I was confused, especially as the shipment status page has displayed “In transit to final destination – carrier details to be updated shortly” for a couple of days now and I’d expected it to be with UPS/DHL/insert-name-of-courier-here, allowing me to track its progress (and to make sure I’m here to sign for it).
So I called Apple and it turns out that my Macbook is not from stock in the UK. It’s being made in China. Shipping within 24 hours is all very well but when it’s shipped from the other side of the world it’s kind of irrelevant. Meanwhile, this was not clearly communicated to me at the time of order (I might have foregone my EPP discount for the sake of picking one up from a store) – making me a very dissatisfied customer – particularly as if I decide to cancel or return the order it will cost me another £60.
Apple has traditionally enjoyed a loyal fanbase and, more recently, has increased market share by encouraging many consumers to switch to their product range. I know that in my case the original decision to buy an Apple computer was based on style and the surity that if I didn’t get along with MacOS X, I could always install Windows on the Intel hardware. I’m now buying my second Mac and am extremely disappointed by the service I’ve received. It’s not as if the MacBook is inexpensive either – from a cursory glance around it seems that comparibly specified PC notebook from another vendor can be purchased for significantly less money and other major OEMs are happy to talk to me about product roadmaps so I know I’m not buying a white elephant (no chance of that with Apple).
It seems to me (and to friends who have experienced Apple’s customer service of late) that, as Apple grows its market share, attention to detail on the things that matter most to customers declines. Maybe that is just a reality of capitalism. Maybe it’s a reflection on corporate American business practices. Or maybe Apple have just taken their eye off the ball (again).