When Diane L. Katz reached out to Apple tech support for help with a mail application that kept presenting her with the spinning symbol, she never imagined things could spin so far out of control.
What might have been a simple fix instead led to the Apple tech advising her to erase everything on her Apple Time Capsule external hard drive, deleting all of her digital photos, videos, and business and personal financial documents.
As a result Katz, a PhD who works in conflict resolution, wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook requesting $10,000 in restitution for her loss. She was disappointed to receive word a few weeks later that the best Apple was willing to do was provide a $200 conditional store credit. So she talked to a journalist friend to help her connect with other reporters to tell her story. Here it is:
Katz, who considers herself relatively tech savvy, has an iMac that’s five years old. Around the end of April, she started noticing the email issue noted above. So she called Apple tech support and explained the situation. The tech support worker said the problem was most likely her hard drive, which made sense to Katz given the age of the computer. Apple tech support suggested she keep the computer but get a new hard drive. Katz bought a new hard drive for $650 and had an authorized Apple technologist install it for her. Katz then migrated all the content to the new hard drive, but still she ran into the same problem with her mail application.
So Katz called Apple again, this time speaking with a senior advisor in tech support, who asked her to once again explain the situation. The senior advisor tried different things, including setting up a new admin because it looked like some things on the computer might be corrupt.
Then things took a turn for the worse. Katz was advised to erase everything that was on her Time Capsule. She questioned the senior advisor to confirm the course of action, and she was assured that it was the way to go. So she took the advisor’s number, they hung up, and she got to work erasing the content.
When she was finished she called back, but she couldn’t reach the advisor. After two or three days passed (days in which she didn’t have access to her content, of course), she was able to connect with another senior advisor at Apple tech support, who said the original advisor that suggested she erase the content was not available to speak with her.
This worried her, so she decided it would be best to come in to an Apple store to have the situation addressed. She told her story yet again, and the Genius manager essentially responded that if customers lose stuff while they’re working with Apple support, they are out of luck.
He also advised her to leave her computer at the Apple store for a diagnosis. She did, and she left them with a log of her entire experience, urging them to read it closely. She was ultimately told there was no fix, and the two techs with whom she’d been working expressed surprise that the Apple tech that provided phone support would advise a caller to delete their content. They also said tech and retail don’t talk to each other, and often disagree on the best course of action.
So Katz asked if they could at least fix her email, which they did. They were also able to recover her documents, but she was still without her financial files, photos, and videos.
Katz was so frustrated she decided to write a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook reiterating her experience, which she did in July. She got the store credit offer noted above in response. Apple did not respond to my email today requesting comment.
As for Katz, she told me today: “I have an Apple house, but I’m just not going to have an Apple house forever that’s for sure.”
This experience, she said, demonstrates that large businesses like Apple need to take more accountability for what they do. Apple makes great products, she said, but their treatment of a loyal customer in this case is downright “shabby”.
Executive Editor, TMC
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