Examples of Apple Putting the Customer Second

by Chris Howard Jan 25, 2006

It’s easy to love Apple stuff. Sometimes though, it can be much harder to love Apple themselves. Some of their decisions are mystifying to say the least. It makes you wonder if they don’t love you back.

All around the world many people have complained about the prolonged wait for the iTunes Music Store to reach their shores - and we Aussies know that almost better than anyone, being the last added, although our friends across the Tasman in New Zealand are still waiting. But it wasn’t entirely Apple’s fault for the delays, with much red tape to be sorted out. Apple did contribute though by being hard nosed in their dealings with the record labels but - hopefully - that has been to the consumer’s benefit. In Australia we have just this week finally gotten some Sony-BMG artists on iTMS.

So I can understand the delays there. But there’s some things Apple does that I don’t understand, that I can’t see any logical reason for. Maybe you readers may be able to shed some light on these for me.

iTMS Gift Vouchers are only redeemable in the country of purchase
This may not be entirely true - I haven’t checked all the European countries - but I do know from disappointing experience, that if someone purchases a gift certificate from the US iTMS, it’s not redeemable in any other country. Now, to purchase a gift certificate from the US iTMS, you need an iTMS account which requires a valid US credit card but the fine print says the Gift Certificate is only redeemable in the US. How many of my American friends carry an Aussie credit card in their back pocket? None probably. So they can’t get into the Aussie iTMS to get me one there either.

The question though, is why is it not possible to redeem gift certificates from other countries? I can’t think of any logical reason why not. It’s not like the giver is purchasing music from the overseas store and thus breaching some legal international copyright.

The gift certificates are a great idea and it would be fantastic if you could send them to friends overseas.

iPod lack of backward compatibility
Hands up anyone who has purchased an iPod since they came out who’ve subsequently been given the cold shoulder by Apple when new features are added? Ok - all of you who don’t have a 5G. But that’s okay 5Gers, your turn will come. Apple will change the dock connector again, soon enough.

Imagine if as much lack of backward compatibility existed between each Mac model? My two and a half year old PowerBook has no compatibility issues by comparison with current models yet my six month old iPod is somewhat redundant by comparison to the newest iPods. Doesn’t seem entirely right to me.

iPhoto Books etc cannot be ordered from overseas
The iPhoto Books and other products are not available in all countries - Australia included. But more significantly, I can’t order them from the US or UK or any other country that offers the service unless I have an address in that country - kinda hard when I don’t live there. Unlike iTMS, there’s no restriction when ordering books where your credit card comes from.

I can understand that it’s possibly not cost justifiable to offer the service locally, but why Apple, can’t I order my books from the US? They’re my photos so there’s no copyright being breached and I’d be quite happy to pay delivery.

These are just a few examples and I’m sure there are others things Apple do that confuse and annoy their valuable clientele. If anyone has any ideas on why Apple does this, I’m all ears.


  • it’s indeed breaching international copyright laws. if you’d play by the rule/law you couldn’t even take a cd legally to other countries. the reason behind it is the way record companies license their music. major record companies don’t work as globally as it may seem. and no, you can purchase a gift certificate in one country and use it in another… as long as you have a residence/address in the country the certificate came from. so far it is possible to use more than one account in itunes.

    heiko had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I’m in the US, but I totally agree with you.  Many of Apple’s services are too US centric, and like your example with the photo books, it’s not always clear why.

    sworthy had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 10
  • Aren’t the photo books made up by a 3rd party? Maybe the restrictions could be more to do with them than Apple themselves. Maybe you could even try finding out who does it and try to contact them directly and try and sort out some deal whereby you’ll pay more to them, and supply with a fake address and when they see this address they’ll know to ship to Australia.. Oh I don’t know, but it can’t be impossible.

    As for the gift certificates, yes that is bloody annoying. I was going to send one to a friend in Australia (coincidentally) but then decided against it at the last minute. And it’s a good thing I did, too. The restrictions must be to do with currency or something, because a gift certificate has nothing to do with the actual music on either store. Just money.

    I would agree with you on the iPod thing, though. If I had an iPod.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 299
  • You guys blame Apple but it is not Apple’s fault. Regulations specify:

    a) For cash equivalent purchases, the credit card billing address and the ship-to destination for the certificates must be located in the same country. Otherwise, fraud would be rampant.

    b) As for using a gift certificate from one country (ie. Australia) to purchase Tunes in the USA, again, major currency issues, international regulations and red-tape. Again, nothing to do with Apple.

    c) As for setting up International ITMS stores, the delay is almost wholly to blame on the record labels and their own bureaucratic red tape they have to go through with their own country’s regulatory crud on communications.

    d) Obviously, with the largest and most profitable market in the world being the US, it doesn’t take rocket science to understand that needs to be the primary market to give Apple the capital to bring it to other countries.

    By the way, I am Canadian

    milklover had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 22
  • Apple would be quite happy if they didn’t have to spend the huge attorney fees to get the iTunes Store in every country.  If it wasn’t for various laws and label agreements within the different countries the iTunes Store would be world wide and making Apple a fortune.

    The books are a pain, but I have a feeling that it is more related to credit card fraud than anything else.  It isn’t that hard to put international postage into a database for billing, and Apple would like to have that additional revenue.  Maybe something can be worked out in the future to address that problem, but the credit card companies will probably have the final say in the matter.

    MacKen had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 88
  • Chris - I dub thee Ripple - not even a decent wine. Before you decide to bitch the next time take the time to learn what the heck you are talking about because you made yourself look stupid today. There are legal reasons why you cannot buy music for your friends off shore. Logistic reasons for being forced to buy a photo book from the country in which you live. As to iPod backward compatibility? You expect a device to be made perfect the first time? Or all future devices to be hobbled by initial mistakes? Oh, I get it. You want the iPod to be more like the original PC. Come on, think before you open your mouth.

    davidwb had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 32
  • @4.a
    Amazon seems to cope quite well - on several occasions I have ordered things from the UK (and once from Germany) and had them deliver to the UK and France without any problems…

    anotherchris had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I think the iPhoto books are produced by Kodak…they’re definitely made by a third party, and that probably has something to do with it.

    domarch had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 12
  • As AnotherChris says, ordering from Amazon is no problem. No credit card problems there. And their gift certificates work fine anywhere in the world.

    Davidwb, as you can see, the article was a question to readers - as I said twice in it. Thus it’s kind of hard to know “what the heck you’re talking about” and ask the for others to provide the answer. If I knew “what the heck I was talking about” I wouldn’t have needed to write the article or ask readers to provide the answer.

    Further, your responses are trite and do not answer the question. For example, the iPod is now at its fifth generation - yet you use the argument “You expect a device to be made perfect the first time?”. Good argument if we were talking only about the 1G…

    And what are these “Logistic reasons” why I can’t buy a iPhoto book from the US when I reside in Australia? Again, we all know there must be logistical reasons, but I can’t think of any logical ones, so I put it to the readers in the hope they might know the answer.

    No one has provided any solid reasons why any these happen. MilkLover tried, which I appreciate, but the Amazon argument countered those.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • I don’t understand why you can’t give a gift voucher that’s valid in a different country - as long as the person buying the music lives in that country (ie the person you’re giving the voucher to). Apparently when iTMS opened originally, you could buy music from any country if you had a US gift voucher, and that was a problem.

    As for photo albums I agree. There is a service in Australia by “http://www.digitaldavinci.com.au”. They’re a printing house tha have made a plugin for iPhoto. They’ll produce the albums - though not all albums are available and they are more expensive than in the US.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 228
  • My latest example of Apple deliberately and conspicuously soaking it’s customers is the iPod media cable, the cable accessory that connects your iPod to a TV via RCA jacks.

    I already had a mini2RCA cable, but it didn’t work with my iPod (or so I thought).  So I bought one of the cables made for iPod.  It turns out that the ONLY difference between the two is that Apple changed the outputs so that the red cable carries the video.  And that’s it.  Hook up a regular cable to your TV with red going into video and you’re good to go.  But Apple doesn’t tell you this.  They make you buy a more expensive cable instead.

    There is no other explanation for doing this other than deliberately taking more money from your customers just because you can.  And I’ve yet to hear a labotomized Mac-fanatic even try to defend this douche baggery.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 26, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • “And what are these “Logistic reasons” why I can’t buy a iPhoto book from the US when I reside in Australia? Again, we all know there must be logistical reasons, but I can’t think of any logical ones, so I put it to the readers in the hope they might know the answer.”

    How about, the number of people that would be willing to pay double the price of the book to get it shipped internationally would not be nearly enough of a profit to justify the cost of setting up the International shipping and ordering infrastructure. Basic cost/benefit analysis. That, and with trying to expand the iTMS to every corner of the globe is probably taking up considerable resources and getting the iPhoto Book thing out to the rest of the world is probably way, way down on the priority list on Steve Jobs’ to do list since the books are great gimmicks but I would be willing to bet that they bring in very little money for Apple.

    Gabe H had this to say on Jan 26, 2006 Posts: 40
  • This seems like a really lame attempt to bash Apple. I could think of a much better list.

    As people said, international law, etc. I don’t know much about the iTMS or international law, but I’m betting that music rights have a lot more trouble to get transferred to other countries than consumer goods like Amazon. Plus digital music sales a relatively new market compared to online stores like Amazon. Give it time.

    Give me an example of iPod non-backwards compatibilty. Or are you talking about things like video playback? What exactly do you want to be backwards compatible? You never say what you want backwards compatible. Are you mad about the iPod remote connector being removed?

    And as for the photo book thing ... that just seems like you were looking really really hard for something Apple does mediocre. I bet most Mac users don’t ever get a photo book. I’ve never known anyone to actually buy one. It’s a perk, not a feature.

    shrimpdesign had this to say on Jan 26, 2006 Posts: 16
  • I could think of a much better list.

    Like what?  I’d love to hear it.

    And why does no one ever address this cable thing from my previous post?  It’s kind of amazing how silent the Apple-fans get when there is simply no defense at all for one of Apple’s douche-baggy actions.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 27, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • I don’t have time for a long list, but I’ll try my best:

    1. Expensive adaptors and cables (which you actually mentioned, Beeblebrox). I got a new Intel iMac, I want to hook up my VGA monitor. $20. What about if I get a DVI monitor? Another $20. This really isn’t a big problem since most iMac users probably don’t use extended desktop very much. As for the iPod video cable ... you’re acting like it’s a horrible, horrible business practice and they should go to hell. Get over it, it’s just a cable. They charge a lot for accesories, it’s an annoyence at best,

    2. the iSight. $150 for a camera? I like the one included in my iMac, but I could live without it. I don’t really use it much.

    3. I wanted to get the 17” Intel iMac the day it got to the local Apple store. I called and they didn’t have any. Then I called later that night asking for a waitlist. They told me they had some 17” iMacs, and they’d reserve one for me. I got there and they told me the iMacs were for the store to put on display. I just got an uninformed Apple rep on the phone. Of course, stupid people work everywhere and you can’t help that.

    You know, I don’t actually have very many arguements against Apple, I realize. certainally much less than any other company. So why does Apple get flamed? They make good computers and mp3 players, overall their customer service is good. Sorry, but I guess I don’t have much major qualms with Apple at this point in time.

    shrimpdesign had this to say on Feb 03, 2006 Posts: 16
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