Phenomenal Service

by Russ Roberts on August 21, 2011

in The Profit Motive

A thank you to Leslie Chew and Nicole Laredo at the Palo Alto Apple Store who guided me to a new MacBook Pro and got all the data transferred off the old one (that died) in six hours (after seeing how nervous I was). And a thank you to Apple that replaced the logic board on that out-of-warranty old MacBook Pro without charge. I am always surprised by how many employees are on-hand at the Apple Store and how many customers are playing with the toys.

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Mark Cancellieri August 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm

You should consider using Dropbox to automatically back up your important information in the background. You get 2GB for free, although I pay to be able to back up more than that.

John Papola August 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Hear Hear.

Steve_0 August 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I too use Dropbox all the time. I’ve referred so many people that I’ve more than tripled my free space. I use the shared folders feature all the time, it’s great. I do some photography, and it’s an easy way to share contact sheets and final images to clients.

Aside from just sounding like a commercial for Dropbox, I think it’s important to recognize that goods like this increase the floor level of ambient prosperity in ways that are difficult to measure. Check out Prezi if you ever do any presentations. I will never use PowerPoint again.

vikingvista August 21, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Dropbox is good, but I find Syncplicity more versatile.

Subhi Andrews August 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm

you get 25GB free with Microsoft Skydrive.

Cthorm August 22, 2011 at 10:47 am

Oddly enough, Skydrive lacks Windows shell integration (AFAIK), while Dropbox has it. Having a backup folder that appears on your desktop has a lot of value in terms of usability, especially for less tech savvy users.

Greg Webb August 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Apple sells good products and has exceptional customer service.

Sam Grove August 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm

That’s part of what you pay for.

Greg Webb August 21, 2011 at 7:36 pm

True that, Sam.

The Other Eric August 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

And have been gladly since 1987.

Giao Nguyen August 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Do not rely on online services for your backups, especially not for any information that you do not want to be found later through an online search engine.

Subhi Andrews August 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm

skydrive, dropbox, icloud are secure and not exposed to search crawlers. Just as your online banking information, secure cloud storage doesn’t expose the information to search engines crawlers.

Giao Nguyen August 21, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Dropbox recently had a bug where _nothing_ was protected by passwords. And even if they were secure, how most people pick passwords are not.

Secure backups of data has not changed. It still involved external media and a safety deposit box.

vikingvista August 21, 2011 at 10:41 pm

You can use it with AxCrypt. Then you are in charge of security.

Cthorm August 22, 2011 at 10:56 am

The vast majority of data is better kept through online backup. Absolute security is not necessary for most things people need to back up. Who gives a damn if someone copies your home movies and photos while Dropbox’s security is down? Financial documents and other sensitive data can usually fit on one USB stick, and there are models with biometric verification that cost less than an ipod.

Andy August 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm

For home backup, you should pick up a Time Capsule drive. A little pricey, but I think worth it for the simple integration with Time Machine.

Just Isaac August 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I’m a bigger fan of the Drobo for that purpose. Protection against corruption, drive failure, and it has potential for future growth by being able to mix drive sizes and hot-swap drives with bigger ones on demand.

The Other Eric August 22, 2011 at 11:55 am

Actually Time Capsule works with almost any drive. I use it with a 1 TB drive I bought at Costco. The software is Eric proof, uhm, idiot proof.

Underwriterguy August 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I have no idea what the precious posters said. Hope you do, Don.

HaywoodU August 21, 2011 at 7:49 pm

I have no idea who you are talking to, Over?

PrometheeFeu August 21, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I suppose it’s too late to try to convert you to putting *NIX on a PC… Sigh… Maybe next time.

Krishnan August 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm

apple users are indeed a unique bunch – true, what they have “just works” and they are happy to pay whatever Apple charges … for the rest of the 90% of PC users, they have all sorts of alternatives – certainly Linux/*Nix … with amazing collection of software to write software … the more recent Apple OS has improved a lot in the software environment (*nix underneath) – but they have a long way to go – it may be *nix underneath, but certainly not as easy as in the 90% to assemble software to create software

“Friends do not let friends use Windows (or Apples)” (they help them with Linux)

Jim In StL August 21, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Have you ever heard of “opportunity cost?”

Krishnan August 22, 2011 at 7:18 am

Re: Jim in StL. Yes, I know about opportunity cost, thanks. Precisely why I avoid both Windows and Apple (Macs). The alternatives allow me to do what I want to do more easily and at far less expense in both time and money.

Steve_0 August 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Not everyone wants to spend all their time hot-rodding. They just want to drive their car.

rbd August 21, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Knowing you run a popular and influential blog, Apple felt somewhat obligated to extend superior service to you – service otherwise not available to the lay folk. ;)

Greg Webb August 21, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Yes, it’s a capitalist and libertarian conspiracy! They are working together to benefit the Wall Street aristocracy by enslaving the people as unwitting serfs to buy Apple products. We need a people-led democracy!!!!!

Krishnan August 22, 2011 at 7:37 am

Re: rbd – I wondered about that. I am prepared to accept that Apple service is indeed outstanding to ALL (not just ones that run popular and excellent blogs and podcasts!) … their model is such that they make good money selling what they sell and good service may be a reason why so many flock there …

Dallas Weaver August 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Not true, I have received excellent service including fixing out of warranty computer and a Time Capsule. I used apple for a real time control system an all the other computers in my fish hatchery and saved money by having a much lower learning curve cost on my employees. Learning curve cost is where the real money is.

My apple machines also out lasted windows boxes, especially in a fish hatchery application (not clean room office work).

Methinks1776 August 21, 2011 at 8:43 pm

All without government regulators forcing them to provide good service to consumers? Impossible!!!!

Stone Glasgow August 21, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Almost time for an antitrust case; they’re almost the biggest company in the world now.

thedirtymac August 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm

If we keeep letting companies run amok unregulated like this, we will end up like that libertarian paradise Somalia.

Richard Stands August 22, 2011 at 12:35 am


Stone Glasgow August 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I’m surprised you do not have a Time Capsule. It works well.

Peter P. August 21, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Sounds like you could get a podcast out of this one…

EG August 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Congratulations for paying 3 times more money than the competition, for 1/2 the capabilities and 1/10 the compatibility.

Way to go Apple.

CR August 22, 2011 at 1:34 am

There may be less compatibility and less capability (in some respects) but the post explains why Apple does so well in consumer tech support. His Macbook was out of warranty, and yet they still replaced the most vital and expensive parts. I’m yet to see any other manufacturer do this – have you?

I should add that I work in IT and hope to never own any Apple computers. I build my own desktops, I’m my own tech support, and when it comes to business warranties I’ll stick to Dell – but for Russ, it sounds like he made a great decision when he purchased his MacBook Pro, hence the point of the post. Don’t be a hater.

The Other Eric August 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm

EG, I’m sorry you’re experience with Apple ended in the mid-1990s. Since then the hardware, software, and liveware continue to get better. I stopped writing code several years ago and don’t need access to system files (although OS X allows you to get under the hood if you want).

Capabilities? I’m a media producer with enormous data and file needs. I pitched out my PCs with the recycling five years ago. Apple sells information systems– they even dropped the “computer” from their name to reflect the change.

Compatibility? Really?? My accounting software talks to my banking software. My direct mail databases work with my GIS system. I don’t of a format that won’t open or transfer to anything from Kindles to PCs. Have you noticed the use of MP3, h.264, Mpeg 4, Doc/Xls/DB, the idiotic but still functional DocX, and damn near anything else in the computing world? Those all work on Apple systems. Even Flash works with a single plug-in, but HTML5 just works better.

As the company grew through the technology wars in the 90s and the boom-bust of the 00s it adapted rather well. Today it’s better positioned than computer makers because that isn’t what they do anymore. It’s more profitable than phone makers because that’s a fraction of their focus. They changed the global market in portable computing with a single device. Is that because they offer few capabilities and no compatibility? The world has simply fallen for some magical marketing unsupported by usable tools?

EG August 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Hmm…3,000 bucks to get the same level of technology as a 600 buck DELL. And it still can’t run MINTAB…or Excel without crashing every hour…or play a decent video game. They still haven’t discovered the right click mouse.

I don’t think their phenomenal service is worth the extra 2,400 bucks they want. No thanks. I want a computer, not nice service.

Steve_0 August 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm

You are delusional. Or lying.

My computer was $999, I run Minitab and Excel on it all day long. I’ve used both PC’s and Macs since the Apple IIe and Windows 3.1- roughly two decades. I’ve supported both platforms with somewhere in the neighborhood of 1600 clients. I finally went all Mac almost two years ago. No regrets whatsoever. I see PC’s listed on Woot for “amazingly low prices” and I just laugh at them. Such broken pieces of plastic junk.

The past two years, I spent a lot of time diagnosing and fixing the PC/Windows problems of my classmates, who were constantly complaining about Windows crashing and their short battery life. We had to cut meetings short because their battery didn’t last. All the PC users had to sit on the ends of the aisles and came early to class to try to get access to an electrical outlet. Meanwhile, my battery would last all day, and I could use Windows within my Mac environment for the Excel plug-in I had to have, if anything went wrong (and it was always with Windows) I could collapse the sandbox and just start over easily and quickly.

HP sees the writing on the wall.

CR August 23, 2011 at 12:01 am

Yes, because your laptop manufacturer is the only possible factor that determines battery life…

Stone Glasgow August 22, 2011 at 3:20 am

Apple is probably the most fascist large corporation; each worker is strictly prohibited from knowing what all the others are doing, when new products will be released, etc. Yet they are one of the most successful and productive companies. People hate working for them, but they create the best computers on earth.

I think the success of companies like Apple is a good example of what statists and liberals imagine is possible with the power of the nation state. They see it is possible to run a large organization like this and be the best. What they fail to see are all of the companies trying to be Apple — trying to take its place. They fail to see that Apple is the product of its competition.

Krishnan August 22, 2011 at 11:09 am

Re; Stone Glasgow. I cannot believe that people “hate” working for Apple. If so, we would not see that company grow.

Yes, it is true that the Apple Model is very different from other companies – but that does not prove that it is the ONLY model. In PC’s Apple owns about 10% of the market – and many companies prosper in the 90% – yes, in iPods and iPads Apple holds a large lead (now) and they may very well dominate for a long time … but I cannot imagine that Apple will survive if it runs the company like a Fascist State – Employees know that a key to their being successful is to NOT let others know what they are working on – this may be suitable for a few creative types – and not for other creative types –

I doubt very much that Statists and Liberals imagine modeling countries after Apple – since a key component in Apple’s model is that they respond to signals from the market – or create a market with their innovation – Statists are NOT interested in doing anything creative – but to simply control others’ lives

Steve Jobs may indeed be a “tyrant” in how he runs the company – but his creative skills is what the company has used to grow – Jobs cannot tantrum his way to growing a company if the market refuses to buy what he creates

Stone Glasgow August 23, 2011 at 11:00 pm

There is a lot of talk about creating “green” energy, which does not currently enjoy a market. Many want to see government “innovate” to create a market for green tech, much in the same way that Apple creates new markets for products that people didn’t know they wanted in the past.

I have three friends who work for Apple. They don’t enjoy the job much, but most people don’t enjoy their job very much, and it’s a small sample. What surprised me from talking to them was how fascist the company seems from the inside, and how friendly it seems from the outside.

Alan Mead August 22, 2011 at 11:35 am

The Chicago Apple store replaced my iPad at no charge last Thursday. They didn’t have to. Apparently spilling sugar free Kool Aid and/or running it down a slide (my 3 year old’s idea of social networking) isn’t covered by their warranty. But they replaced it because I’ve purchased a few Apple products over the years. By doing so, they gained undying loyalty. Again.

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