Dear Get your Act Together

- by Paul Murphy -

As regular readers of this column know I'm a big fan of the Apple Macintosh, but I'm much less of a fan of Apple Canada in general and their dealers in the Toronto area in particular.

This morning (Tuesday, Oct 19) I needed an external power adapter for a 17 inch titanium - since it doesn't have a SPARC CPU, having to call it "sparky" every time the power supply cable twitched just seemed wrong somehow.

Now you'd think this should be trivial, but it isn't. The state of Apple retailing in this part of Ontario makes bad seem remarkably attractive.

First I tried the obvious - hit the website to find a local dealer. Huh, all I got was a blank page with the url "" and the helpful message:

an error occurred while processing this directive

So I tried google for "apple dealers toronto" and found Woody's ONTARIO Mac Dealers List! Great, scroll down to the Toronto section, and try the first one on the list. The "Computer Systems Centre" is on the list as an "Apple Authorised Reseller and Service Provider". After waiting out a hold, and a transfer to "sales" I was rather loftily informed that "we're a sales office". I don't know what that is, but apparently it doesn't include sales to customers looking for power adapters.

"Carbon computing" has a similar listing and a street address that sounded close the downtown Hilton where I wanted the thing delivered, so I called them. After some coaching they admitted to having a third party product but drew the line at selling it for delivery outside their store. "Too much credit card fraud lately," he said, hanging up.

I tried two others, "Steve's Music", listed as an "Apple Authorised Reseller" helpfully suggested I try a computer store, while a second had a sales person whose language skills apparently don't include English.

In despair I tried "1-800-My-Apple" - something I usually avoid like the plague because I'm old and have trouble reading the micro print they put on phone keys. Surprisingly, however, I got through -to one of those helpful phone menu systems that have you infuriated long before you get to a human being.

Ring, listen, wait, and click - where is Lily Tomlin on this? "For your convenience"- ya, right, what kind of convenience are they talking about putting the customer in? More waits, lies, and clicks later some poor soul tells me he can't sell me the product because the website's down. Maybe customer service can, he says, but that's more clicking and waiting and I'm too frustrated by their so helpful, customer despising, system to put up with it. The powerbook's under warranty and I've got full backups -so if a sparc hits the chassis and fries the thing, Apple can [expletives delted -ed] well wear it.

Just to remind myself, however, of how it's supposed to work, I called Westworld Computers in Edmonton where a human reception answers immediately and salesman "Pete" asks whether I want to pick it up or have him send it out. In contrast to Toronto that's almost insanely great, but what's insane about it is that Westworld's approach is actually what normal should be, it's the [more expletives deleted, grow up Paul - ed] dealers in Toronto who are insane and undoubtedly depressing Apple's market share.

So here's a hot message for Steve Jobs: get your act together. I mean, really, how hard is to have a backup website? how out of sync with Apple's human friendly image is it not to have a human receptionist answer the phone at the Apple store? What do you think it costs you in terms of both the customer dollar and staff turnover to have people enraged by the barriers you put between them and the first person delegated to help them?

Tell you what, Steve, phone your Canadian My-Apple number and think about all this while you're on hold, ok? Trust me, you'll have plenty of time.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 20-year veteran of the IT consulting industry.