The Apple Store: Bad Customer Service at Your Local Mall

by Gregory Ng Jul 10, 2003

imageI have always taken pride in being a member of the 3.5-5% minority group known as Mac users. I found out this weekend one of the reasons we stay in the minority. I came to this realization this afternoon while I was at the mall with my wife and daughter. There we were, strolling past Victoria’s Secret, Crate and Barrel, and Ann Taylor: all the usual stores you will find in any mall across the United States-when I saw a new Apple Store. The black facade, the white glow of the Apple logo—my heart began to race and my palms began to sweat. My first reaction was of excitement. I have frequented 2 other stores within driving distance, but this location is by far the closest to where I live. My walk suddenly became brisk in pace and I just couldn’t wait to see everything inside. This excitement quickly turned to outrage. Mind you this was not a verbal tirade. I was not about to make a scene in front of my daughter. Rather this was an internal rage that I have kept inside of my brain for 6 hours now and thus, I am spilling out my frustration onto my iMac. Here’s what happened.

Absolutely nothing.

Not one person. Not one so called “Mac Genius” who today were all wearing bright orange Apple Camp t-shirts, came up to me. Not one person greeted me with a hello. Not one person asked if I needed any assistance. Not one person explained to me what Apple Camp was even though as a prospective switcher nervous about the transition, I might find it useful. “This is a problem”, I thought. “Maybe they think I’m just browsing”, I thought. So I started to fiddle with things. I picked up the 30GB iPod. I ran my hand down the back of the Harman Kardon subwoofer. I picked up the ibook and flipped it over.

Still…no one.

“Maybe they are busy, I concluded as I glanced back to the bar area and saw 4 employees laughing and talking in a group. I left in disgust.

This is a big problem that Apple has on their hands. Suppose I was a timid PC user, riding the fence on switching and I came into this store looking for a friendly hand in making the switch? I would have turned right around and walked back out the door. The following is taken from Apple’s website:

“At the Apple Store you can experience the complete line of Macintosh computers and an amazing array of digital cameras, camcorders, the entire iPod family and more. The Apple Store is a place to ask questions and get answers. And it’s the best place to learn about the Mac.”

Ok, the store had the products nicely displayed but it was not the, “best place to learn about the Mac”. I am not asking for a dedicated greeter like my local Walmart. Nor am I asking for someone to hound me, a la Circuit City. Rather the Apple Store needs to focus on the non-Apple users before they cater to the existing Apple user base. We already know what we want, what is available, and what it costs. We are there to ogle and fondle. We are the 5%. Apple already has our support, our dedication, and our money. But if Apple wants to have any chance in increasing market share via the Apple Store, they are going to have to train their employees to be friendlier. Or at the very least to talk to their customers.

It’s customer service 101. What have your experiences been like at the Apple Store?


  • There is all sorts of incorrect information being spewed from all sorts of people here in regards to Apple Stores, the employees, and Store policy and procedures.  And a whole bunch of whining and bullshit too.

    The return policy is CLEARLY marked on the receipt.  If your vision is too bad to read it, get some glasses.  If you care, you should ask.  It is, and always has been, 14 days.  Employees are supposed to explain it to you.  If they don’t, ask!  Bose products are 30 days no questions asked.

    Dead pixel policy is UP TO NEGOTIATION as per the Store Manager.  If the pixel in question is in an area of the screen that makes the machine annoying to use, Apple is VERY sensitive to this and will make the customer happy.  If you are an A-hole, you don’t deserve to return a display with one out of one million pixels dead.

    Apple does not have the best customer satisfaction by accident.  Those of you with bad experiences at the Apple Store need to give them another chance.  Or not, does not matter to me.  Apple is doing quite well.  One visit to an Apple Store does not make you an expert on that Store or any other Apple Store.

    The Stores are understaffed most of the time.  That is a problem.  Don’t take it out on an employee because they can not do anything about it!  Call Apple, mention it to the Manager.  If that does not do it for you, then go get a Dull and like it.  You are probaby coming from Windows and can go back for all I care.

    The guy with the broken key on the Powerbook:  You are full of it.  Apple replaces keys for FREE at any Apple Store.  Does Dell do that at the Dell kiosk?  No.  Does CompUSA do that?  Probably not.  CompUSA guys get commission to sell you a PC, not a Mac.  Do they transfer data from your Mac to your shiny new Dull at CompUSA?  Install software for free?  No.  Free services at the Apple Store are an amazing service.

    Free workshops.  Every day.  Every store.  FREE.

    Do any of these other stores give FREE technical support?  No.  Oh, you had to wait a bit for some FREE tech support from Apple?  Sorry we could not drop everything and help just YOU!

    These Stores are an amazing place where you can play with all of Apple’s gear, use the internet ALL DAY LONG for free, and test lots of awesome software.  You can’t do that anywhere else.

    As far as the experience and quality of the typical Specialist….it can vary, as people vary!  Some of you apparently expect that a Store employee is supposed to know every one of your answers about every peripheral, every upgrade card that Apple does not sell, and every third-party software solution.  Keep in mind that Apple is paying slightly more than minimum wage to it’s specialists.  Some don’t care what they get paid since they are there because they really enjoy working for a cool company with cool products.  Some of the people they get are folks who are in college and are doing the Apple thing part time.  Some other people are changing careers.  Don’t assume anything about the Apple Store employees.  They are not supposed to assume anything about you.

    The Genius staff is trained on Apple computers.  They are not trained/paid to be experts on Windows nor your Dull PC.  They will try to help of course.  Do you think the “Dell Dude” is going to help you with your Dell Display and your Powerbook?  I don’t think so.  They probably don’t even know their display can work with an Apple computer.

    Is the Store perfect?  No.  Could there be improvements?  Of course.  Apple has never been perfect and probably will never be.  Get over it.  Life is not perfect.

    Somebody here said their mother was told she need Virtual PC to open Word files.  Well all I can say is there must have been some serious miscommunication there, which happens ALL THE TIME.  Usually it is a result of the customer not CLEARLY indicating their needs.  Sometimes it can be an employee who might not understand what the customer is trying to do.  These things happen.  Just like when the Windows people tell potential Mac customers that “Mac’s don’t do Office and can’t get on the internet or do email.”  We all know that is not the case.

    The Mac OS vulnerable like Windows?  Right.  ZERO viruses for a reason.  Admin password is required to install critical software.  Not so on Windows.  ZERO spyware as well.  These are facts.  Of course, facts are not easily swallowed by idiots.  “I heard” it is because of the market share of Macs!  Ok idiot.  How many OS X attacks where a customer/user lost data?  ZERO.  How many corporations/universities/government branches shut down because of OS X vulnerabilities?  ZERO.  Get over it and find something legitimate to complain about.

    No batteries in the BOSE headset in the APPLE Store?  Oh wow!  That has got to be the most chicken-shit problem in your day.  They won’t put new ones in?  Did you bother asking the Manager?  Probably not.  Not all the employees there have the authority to just walk down the street and buy some batteries for a Bose product that you are “just looking at” anyway.  A little tip:  The Bose headsets are just average.

    I would bet that MOST of the complaints on this site involved people who never mentioned any of their experience to Apple management.  They just complain about it to a bunch of people on the internet, thereby accomplishing nothing.

    Most customer issues are due to unreasonable customers.  You may not want to hear that but it is true.  These people will never be satisfied and need to STFU and RTFM.  You can get VERY far at the Apple store if you have reason and logic and don’t start yelling because you are too stupid to read the manual or the back of a receipt.  Lots of customer have no idea what they bought.  Like AppleCare.  “Do you have Applecare?”  “I don’t know!”  Jeez.

    macdude had this to say on Oct 04, 2005 Posts: 3
  • Nicely put macdude.  People in this world have forgotten about what it means to be nice.  You get much further in life by being nice than you do by being an a-hole.  There is a reason why your a-hole is in the back of your body and covered because no one wants to see that, and the smile you very rarely put on your face is out in the open for all to see but you would rather moon the whole f-ing world just so you can show them you are an a-hole.

    Apple stores ROCK!!!

    I especially like the free classes on all the high end product.

    Food4Mac had this to say on Oct 04, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I was greeted and handed a advertisement card, but what really disappointed me was the lack of knowledge by the employees. I was very interested in getting an ipod video that day. i had cash in hand. I have an older G4 tower mac and i dont have usb 2 on it. i asked an employee if there was any kind of adapter or plug i could get to make a ipod video connect via firewire and not usb. He said there wasnt any sort of adapter for that and and said i should consider upgrading my computer. i couldnt believe that no one made an firewire connector for the ipod video. but i asked him another question while i was there. I saw that the in-store models had the polar express running on the ipod videos, and i was curious about how they transfered the movie onto the ipod. He said it was difficult and that they dont recommend it. thats all the information i could get. I left the store very frustrated. i didnt know if i was disappointed with the product or the employees. Later that day i went to microcenter, which is a computer retail store, and they had a macintosh room and the employees there were much more knowledgable and helpful. they showed me the program they used to transfer movies and showed me a dock connector that had both usb and firewire plugs on it. I am going back to microcenter soon to purchase my new ipod video.

    macattack had this to say on Dec 06, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Macdude:

    “The guy with the broken key on the Powerbook:  You are full of it.  Apple replaces keys for FREE at any Apple Store.  Does Dell do that at the Dell kiosk?  No.  Does CompUSA do that?  Probably not.  CompUSA guys get commission to sell you a PC, not a Mac.  Do they transfer data from your Mac to your shiny new Dull at CompUSA?  Install software for free?  No.  Free services at the Apple Store are an amazing service.

    That would be me. I would love to be full of it, I really would. Unfortunately, this is a true story. I have absolutely no desire to lie or hide the truth… it’s not like it would buy me anything.

    I do have to give credit where credit is due, however - at The Grove, the Apple techs were amazing. They looked at me like I was nuts about the keyboard issue, and offered to fix it. I was delighted. I was so happy, I actually went back to the other store (in Mission Viejo) last week on Black Friday.  I was delighted to see that things there had gotten a LOT better at that location. So I bought a ton of stuff.

    As for vulnerabilities, you are deluded. OSX has quite a few. There are just reasonably few known exploits. The difference is the same as the difference between a motorcycle having vulnerabilities and a motorcycle sliding sideways through traffic.

    Lots of Mac people are not Unix people (or even technical) and so they tend to buy the “hype”. Well, that’s fine. I still love OSX, and I’m still waiting on the new Intel Macs. So far Alienware and Boxx haven’t been able to convince me they will supplant Apple (Despite my initial hopes)

    Take care.

    WntSolstice had this to say on Dec 06, 2005 Posts: 4
  • Dang!  An Apple Store?  I’ve never seen one before so thanks for putting the picture at the top of the article so I can say I saw one.

    I get my Macs on line.  Then again, my wife makes me stay in the basement most of the time as she’s afraid I might scare the little animals away.

    SirGeorge53 had this to say on Dec 08, 2005 Posts: 27
  • OK I recently switched to mac mini after buying a nano. Been in the Sacramento store a few times and have experienced most of the above. Was completely frosted about not being able to make an appt. at the genius bar, just bring it in, and then told it would be a 4-5 hour wait. Over New Year break I got a few accys. and stood in line 30 min.OK they were very busy I understand. When finally at the counter in asked if their overpriced a/v cable would work with my nano it does say on the box works with all color displays but I wanted to be sure having bought a camera connector (same labeling) that didn’t) Her immediate response was yes, very confident. 2 days later to return I stand in another real long line to be told it sure does work w/the nano, The 3rd guy knew that the nano doesn’t have a video out. Great product knowledge!

    sixmackoi had this to say on Jan 06, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I have noticed many of the issues commented on here, but I am hyperventilating over my most recent experience with the Apple Store Online.  We have been loyal Mac users for years, have ‘em all over our house.  In the last six months, my teenager got her first job and scrimped and saved every penny for a new G5 iMac, to replace her old Snow one.  She was so excited when we finally placed the order!  In order for her to have the experience of paying for it herself, we arranged a transfer from her savings account, and a week later had heard nothing whatsoever from Apple.  We called and went through the usual round of transfers and holds, only to discover no one knew where our money was.  Someone offered to find out and call us back.  He never did.  We had to track the money down, where it was with Bank America in Texas, with no one knowing what order to apply it to (we had provided all the information when we made the transfer).  Two weeks later, we were promised it would go out “today.”  A week later, I checked the web page, and found out it was not scheduled to be delivered until several weeks from now.  For the second time, we called Apple and were told it was due to “customization” issues (how long does it take to put in a piece of memory?).  We were transferred to the “complaints department.”  We were disconnected.  We went through the same process several times over about a week and a half.

    Finally, tonight, we called again and again were given the “customization” baloney.  I called customer service, and after several disconnects, I began speaking in a very, shall we say, LOUD voice, insisting that I be connected with someone who would actually help me.  A customer service person spoke soothingly and did his best to transfer me to sales, but I took a dim view of that, and he put me on hold and talked to them himself.

    He returned with the real story:  Apple had not been able to process our order because the bank transfer was ONE PENNY short.  One penny.  He then suggested that we order the new Intel chip.  He promised it would not cost more.  I was at first suspicious about this (do you suppose they’re possessed by the devil, those Intel ones???), but finally agreed.  He said he himself would make sure the order was processed, would confirm it with me, and gave me all his contact information.

    A few minutes later, I got an Apple iCard from him, stating that it was all taken care of, and when I could expect delivery. 

    Obviously, until we actually get the iMac, I don’t know whether this has had a happy ending or not, but one can only hope.  After many visits to our Apple Store here in Chapel Hill, where we were ignored in person, I thought ordering from the online store would work better.  It didn’t.  The local store is looking pretty good at the moment:  crowds, surly checked-out sales people and all.

    Cimorene had this to say on Jan 19, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Hi. I live in Maryland where there are 4 Apple Stores and I visit every one (including when I travel) I can find just so I can get a good idea of what service is like. I have actually been treated with a mix of good and bad service. Some stores treat me really nicely and are very helpful, while others are not (I had the misfortune of going to one during the Holidays and well, that is a whole other story. So, I pretty much agree with everyone one because everyone has a few valid points.

    Sabree Shah had this to say on Feb 02, 2006 Posts: 2
  • In the three or four Apple stores I’ve visited, the staffs are generally snobby IMO. Still I’d rather deal with them than buy another PC.
    Besides you can buy Macs at either Fry’s or MicroCenter too.

    auxlepli had this to say on Mar 05, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I had a similar experience at the Apple Store in Pleasanton, Calif.  The staff would not return something that I purchased (still in the plastic package) only a couple of days past the 14-day cut-off period.  When I asked store manager Michael Robertson for a little flexibility, his response was, “we’re not obligated…blah, blah, blah.

    Where is the customer service for a loyal Apple fan?


    DOTCOMMREFUGEE had this to say on Jul 25, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Hi,

    Ironically, I found this website while looking for a customer service number for Apple. The reason, though, was that I got really great treatment at one of the Apple stores and I wanted to tell someone at Apple. I am a 59 year-old, self-employed, reasonably computer-literate, ex-Mac user who switched to a PC probably 10 or 12 years ago. I stopped into their Sacramento mall store and was approached by Patrick, a young man who was not only polite and respectful, but displayed a masterful knowledge of both the Mac OS products and peripherals as well as the way PCs work. His answers to my sometimes naive questions were never patronizing and I really came away very impressed and ultimately bought a desktop system and a laptop for my daughter. I am usually a bit intimidated by these places, but honestly, this was a very positive experience. I would not hesitate to recommend this store.

    Edward had this to say on Aug 30, 2006 Posts: 1
  • If you ever need to exchange something good luck.  It’s easy for them to take thousands of dollars from your pocket but when you have a problem with one of product it’s a big hassle at their store.  They need a customer service evaluation (Burlingame California) in particular

    tru5 had this to say on Sep 01, 2006 Posts: 1
  • The APPLE STORES are the greatest outlets ever. I’m always lured into the store by the greatest displays. However, all that exciting experience is washed away by the sales people working in the stores. Does anybody at Apple care about training those people? What about replacing them with robots? The robots would be much warmer, friendlier and less sarcastic than the salespeople. Robots would not make sarcastic comments or faces to other robots about their customers. I begged my friends to stop me if I ever mention about going into an Apple Store again. I was doing really well for the last 12 months with my promise of not stepping in any of the Apple stores, until the new iPod Touch was released. Because I still wanted to honor my promise, I decided to call the store to see if they had the product in stock, so I would ask a friend to pick up the product for me.
    Here’s the phone conversation that I had with one of the sales person at The Apple Store Eaton Centre, Toronto, Canada on Sept 07, 2007 around 5:00 PM.
    Salesperson: “ApStoEaCenterrrrr!!!” I was greeted by a not so friendly Mac Genius, and I guess she couldn’t say “Apple Store Eaton Centre” after handling so many calls, so she combined the first syllables of each word into one word to express her frustration - “ApStoEaCenterrrr!”
    Me: “Do you…” . Even before I finished my question, she interrupted me by shouting “NOOOOO!”.
    Me: “Do you…” and she shouted “NOOOOOO!” once again.
    Me: “May I…” and she shouted “NOOOO!” again.  So I decided to play her game of interruptions, regardless of my mom’s advice when I was kid (“Do not talk when other people are talking!!!”).
    Me: “May I finish my question before you say ‘NO’?” I shouted back.
    Salesperson: “I know what you are going to ask, and the answer is NO”. After that answer, of course I would not ask if the iPod Touch was available in stock, so I thought about asking for the availability of another product such as the iMac, Apple TV, etc, which I know it’s in the stores already. However, before I had the chance to start the question, she hang up on me.
    I was in a good mood that day, so I didn’t let that drive me insane. I assumed she had a bad day, but I still wanted to know when the iPod Touch was going to be available in the stores. So I decided to call again… I waited 5 minutes, hoping she would go to the washroom change her “iPad” (see, then I called again.
    Salesperson: “ApStoEaCenterrrrr!!!” It’s very encouraging to hear gibberish that sounds like the real name of the store. I was expecting another pleasurable conversation with the Mac Genius Girl.
    Me: “Do you…”. and she interrupts again.
    Salesperson: “Didn’t I say ‘NO’ before?”. The first picture that came to my mind was of a chubby dominatrix with the Apple logo on her chest and a whip on the other hand. She was ready for total domination and humiliation. That may turn-on a lot of people, but I must admit that I’m pretty vanilla, so I replied…
    Me: “I’m so sorry to disturb you…” and before I finished my apologetic statement, she hang up on me again. I had a great day and I wouldn’t let that spoil my day, so I called it a day.
    It’s Saturday morning on beautiful sunny Toronto. I had to go shopping at Sherway Gardens Mall where there’s another Apple store (hopefully with polite Mac Geniuses), and it happens that one of the Mac Geniuses was just coming out of the store, so I approached him with a quick question. I could see the “look of death” in his eyes. How dare I stop him during his break, but he couldn’t ran away.
    Me: “Do you have the iPod Touch in stock?”
    Salesperson: “No”. And his body language tells me that he is ready to go for his break.
    Me: “Any ideas when it will be available in the stores?”
    Salesperson: “At Christmas”. How could Apple release a product in the beginning of September, and not be available in the stores until Christmas? The fulfillment process must be really screwed up. I felt like saying that Apple would be out of business by Christmas if they don’t do anything about their customer service, but he couldn’t care less.
    Me: “Do you know if iPod Touch is available in the stores in the USA?” I was willing to drive to Buffalo-NY and get one.
    Salesperson: “I don’t work in the USA… d’oh. I don’t know. ” and he walked away before I asked any more questions.

    Oh well… I guess Apple can get away with such bad Sales staff. I still think Apple creates great products, but the bad experiences that I had with Customer Service makes me think about going back to the PC World again. I’m already prepared to hear “I told you so” from my friends. 
    I know it’s hard to believe, but you can check the APPLE Customer Service for yourself. Call the Apple Store Eaton Centre, in Toronto Canada, and ask anything about the iPod Touch. You can reach them at (647) 258-0801. I hope you get the Apple Dominatrix.
    What happened to the polite Canadians? Where is Apple recruiting those people from? What about sending them for Customer Service training?
    Has anybody else had a bad customer service experience like me? I’m posting this message in a few newsgroups and it would be nice to hear your experiences. Have you converted back from Mac to PC? If so, is there any counseling or support group out there? Would the PC world accept me back? Pleeease!

    YYZBear had this to say on Sep 09, 2007 Posts: 1
  • iPod touch is shipping from 28th september.

    Benji had this to say on Sep 09, 2007 Posts: 927
  • I recently bought a 160GB ipod classic at the Reno, Nevada store. When I opened it, I noticed a flaw on the headphones at the seperator piece. I immediately took the earphones back to the store and was told to make an appointment with an “tech genious.” This appointment was for three hours later. When I told the greeter that that was unacceptable, he sent me to a manager who picked at the flaw and peeled away the rubber casing. He showed his manager and I was told that Apple doesn’t cover product abuse and that I had “peeled away the covering.” After explaining that these are brand new and haven’t been used I was told that there was nothing they could do. After getting upset, the manager brought me a new set and said this is the only courtesy exchange that will be given for my ipod.

    mlope had this to say on Mar 04, 2008 Posts: 1
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