Delays when purchasing Apple hardware

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).

17 thoughts on “Delays when purchasing Apple hardware


  1. It’s such a shame. I have been an Apple advocate for many years now, but in my opinion Apple’s growth in market share and increased brand awareness has started to have a negative effect on its operations.

    I have purchased an iMac, two iPods and an iPhone from Apple, as well as assorted accessories and music, all under my Apple ID. However, when the grey rubber surround on my Apple earbuds began to break up and come away, I got in touch with Apple to see what they’d do.

    My experience suggests that as soon as Apple has your money, they’re no longer interested in customer service and if the product goes wrong outside its one-year warranty period you’ll be lucky if they even take your calls. Unless you shell out for their overpriced extended warranty, AppleCare.

    I never buy extended warranties; UK law offers significant consumer protection even outside of manufacturers’ stated warranties. The Customer Service Representative who eventually got in touch with me about my earbuds issue eventually informed me, after a long discussion which involved several telephone calls and an email with photos, that she felt the issue was accidental damage rather than normal wear and tear, but eventually offered to send me some new ones as a “gift”, making it very clear that these would themselves only be covered by a 90 day guarantee.

    So I got a result in the end, although I was treated as though my claims were groundless and they were just giving in to shut me up, but why should I have to go through all this? A simple check of the AppleID that I entered when I first used the contact form would have revealed how much money I have spent with Apple, and they couldn’t just spring for a £20 set of headphones to keep me happy. No, I had to fight for them and whilst I got there in the end, it left a bitter taste. If my iPod itself had become faulty after only twelve-and-a-half months, I bet they wouldn’t have sent me a new one.

    As it is, I love Apple’s products, although my fanboi t-shirt is getting a little worn, I think. I fancy a new iMac in the next year or two, and I can think of several reasons why I “need” an Apple TV. I’m going to resist for a while though; Apple’s lousy after-sales service is really putting me off.


  2. That’s too bad. While it’s far from what you want to hear, I believe when you order anything with your computer, it’s classified as a ‘custom configuration.’

    My experience with Apple delivery times has been varied, but I did receive my most recent purchase (mid range new Macbook, also through EPP to Canada) in under a week. I however, did not order any extra items with it.


  3. Woohoo! Just called home and my wife told me that I have a nice new toy waiting for me at home (my MacBook). Pity I have a load of work to do this afternoon and can’t unbox it until later!


  4. Presumably you unboxed it, give it a quick admiring glance, then spent Valentine’s Day evening with your lovely wife? ;-)


  5. Aaargh!!
    Encouraged by their voucher for £69 off purchases over £699, I filled a basket (BTO iMAc and other bits) on the apple store site and left it a day or two to have a think. One of their customer ‘service’ people rang me to ask if I was interested in making the purchase and suggested he might be able to ‘help with the price’. Wish I had just used the 69 quid voucher offer and shopping site cashback, or nectar site – by the time he had ‘helped’ me there wasn’t much difference.
    Expecting a lovely package to arrive within three working days (of course, they don’t actually tell you that ‘shipping’ means shipped from China or wherever), I am experiencing the same messages as you and have no indication of when it is actually going to arrive – from ‘track your order’ looking at 8 days from today (subject to change) – was ordered last Thursday.

    I had a feeling I would be better off going to the ‘real’ Apple Store half an hour’s drive away, even if it did mean paying a bit more, but was beguiled by Irish charm (and gift of the gab). All very frustrating.

    If they can’t deliver goods within a few days why can’t they just be honest about it? Those who are happy to wait will wait, the rest of us will add to our carbon footprint and go to a real shop. They don’t give a damn of course.

    I also pooped over to their US store and ‘bought’ exactly the same things there. Across the Pond they would pay around £500 less for what I had ordered. Makes one think.


  6. @Tom – £500 – that is a big difference. I found that the US prices don’t include sales tax (whereas the UK ones include 17.5% VAT) but unless you were spending a couple of grand it sounds to me like we are losing out over on this side of the pond.


  7. Based on that, about £350 of the difference was VAT going straight to our government for them to waste… (must stop there before I go off on a political rant about rising cost of living and deteriorating national infrastructure).

    What a bummer. Hope it’s with you soon. If it’s any consolidation, mine turned up slightly earlier than Apple indicated (not that it makes much difference when you expected shipping to take a couple of days and instead had to wait a couple of weeks). Watch out for the UPS van!


  8. Update:
    I ‘phoned customer services yesterday – day before delivery was scheduled – and was assured that all was in order for delivery today. However, the tracking facility remained stubbornly unchanged, no carrier ref etc. Phoned again this morning – told that it wasn’t going to be delivered today because of a “delay with the iMac”. Deep breath taken and calmly but assetiviely told chap that I had taken day away from work after the assurances given yesterday, that I was very annoyed and that I wanted to know how to cancel the order altogether. He said he would ring back within the hour.

    Meanwhile phoned local high street Apple Store, only to find (after listening to endless cheery options to press endless combinations of numbers) that they don’t actually insert hard drives, only RAM….Der.

    Phone call returned from CS chappie who explained he was trying to do all he could and would ring back again within the hour. He did. Result!! They have somehow managed to sort out the “delay with the iMac” and are despatching a driver from the distribution centre with the order to my home in the North of England as I type! he asked would I please be in between 4.30 and 5.00 p.m.? I must say I was profuse with my thanks to him, but could have done without taking most of the day away from work and all the stress.

    Obviously I managed to get someone on the phone who can use his initiative and get things done. We’ll see if it arrives now….
    Now not sure how to fill in the inevitable
    “As a valued customer, your opinions are very important to us. That’s why we would greatly appreciate your feedback regarding your recent experience purchasing at the Online Apple Store. Your participation in this survey will help us improve the shopping experience. Please take a few minutes to share with us your candid feedback.” It will certainly be candid!.

    Anyway, deep breaths, assertiveness coupled with politeness and controlled anger, along with a serious sounding threat to cancel the whole order seems to work!

    Will think hard before using Online Apple Store again.


  9. A bit of an old post now but I came across it while googling for info about apple deliveries. I myself ordered a MacBook Pro recently as the web site said 24hrs. I thought great, it will be here within the week – no such luck. All the Apple web site says is that it’s been shipped. No tracking information whatsoever. If I had known it wouldn’t really be shipped within 24hrs I would of bought in store like the rest of your guys. Oh well…


  10. Hi,

    Comment from Matt
    Time: Sunday 5 October 2008, 23:55

    “A bit of an old post now but I came across it while googling for info about apple deliveries. I myself ordered a MacBook Pro recently as the web site said 24hrs. I thought great, it will be here within the week – no such luck. All the Apple web site says is that it’s been shipped. No tracking information whatsoever. If I had known it wouldn’t really be shipped within 24hrs I would of bought in store like the rest of your guys. Oh well…”

    I’m having exactly the same problem and have spoken to Apple Customer Service employees in England, Spain and Ireland today. Apparently there is no way they can pick up their phone and speak to someone at the distribution centre, they can only send them an email. Whether or not that is true, I will probably never know. It is, nonetheless, diabolical customer service. I would hate to work for Apple.

    I haven’t even made the £2,300 purchase for myself, it’s for my work.

    I have recently become very cynical of Apple, there is something very sinister about their marketing. It’s ferociously capitalist underneath it’s ‘cool’ veneer.

    I have a dying 3-year old iMac at home and was just recently given an iPod classic as a birthday present – how many years should I give it to live? 2 might be generous….


  11. Another disatisfied new Apple customer here. I ordered one of the new MacBook Pro models online on 16 October along with an iPod Nano as I would receive a £95 rebate being an Educational customer. The order was shipped on the 22 October and an estimated delivery date of the 29 October was given. Well, today is the 29 October and nothing has arrived.

    The tracking system offered by Apple is vague; terms are not explained correctly and actual order tracking appears to be nigh on impossible. A call to Apple resulted in me being told that today was not in fact the delivery date but the day in which the order was being picked up by the courier. Again, this is not explained at all on the order status page. Out of all the orders I have placed online I have never been confronted with such an atrocious tracking system. I am now told that it ‘should’ arrive before 31 October, if not they will offer a goodwill gesture. Despite this offer I am still no wiser as to whether this will arrive tomorrow or Friday. What’s the betting that I will be at work when it is delivered.

    For such a high profile company this is very disappointing. All my colleagues heap praise upon Apple and their service but I must say that it leaves a lot to be desired. Be aware when placing an order with them, shipping takes much longer than you might expect!

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