Steve’s gonna hate me for this.
About a year and a half ago, my sister gave me an iPod mini. Lime green. Love the thing. Yeah, it’s outmoded and old-fashioned now, what with its black-and-white screen and all. But, still. (I since got a 30-gig iPod, which is nothing by Steve’s standards, and it has become my primary one, but I still use the old green sucker.)
So, a few weeks ago, after several weeks of not being in operation, the iPod mini displayed a “sad iPod” when I turned it on. Now, I’m not Mac savvy, having not used a Mac since leaving Disney in 2001, but I know enough to recognize that a “sad” anything is very, very bad in the Mac world. (Does anyone actually call it “Macintosh” anymore?!)
Hoping that the little guy was still under warranty, I went online to see if I could send it in for service. Nope. Warranty’s expired. How convenient — a year or so after purchasing it, it collapses and the warranty just happens to have recently expired! The website says that my options are to send in the iPod for evaluation, but since they’ll have to see it to know what’s wrong with it I won’t know how much it will cost to get it fixed until they receive the gadget.
Or, the website says, I can take it to my nearest Apple store.
That’s what I did today.
What a nightmare.
I waited in line for 15 minutes at the cashier, only to be told that I needed to upstairs “and turn to the left.” (There are no signs that direct you to “service” in the store — there are no signs, really! It’s much too hip and cool for that.) Already exasperated (couldn’t they have had, oh, I dunno, a sign?!), I trod upstairs, turn to the left … and a hip and trendy, perky and cool employee says, “What can I do for you?” When I showed her my iPod and said, “I need to get this serviced,” she frowned. Like the sad iPod … call her the “sad employee.” She pointed. “Oh, you need to go to the Genius Bar.” (Emphasis mine.) That’s all. No further explanation. She turned and walked away.
Across the crowded upper level — an Apple seminar was being held — sits the “Genius Bar.” There’s no explanation of what this place is — explanations are, no doubt, far too 20th century for Apple. There’s a computer, though, that says, “Sign in here for the Genius Bar” on its screen. (Or some such wording.) There are two rows of images, with small words underneath like, “Apple Service,” “Creative Advice,” and other stuff.
So, I clicked on “Apple Service.” Then I got a screen that said, “Please enter your name and cell phone number to reserve a service appointment.” Wait a second, I think … an appointment? I enter the required information and click “Submit.” Then a nice little notice appears on screen. “The next available appointment is at 3:50 p.m.” I look at my watch … it’s half-past noon. Three and a half hours just so I can say to someone, “Can I send this in for service?”
I flagged down a way-too-cool employee. “Excuse me,” I say … already sensing I am losing my sanity. “I went onto the Apple website and it told me to come to my store to get my iPod service,” I explain, waving Little Lime in front of him. “Now I’m told I need to wait three and a half hours for an appointment?” He smiles at me, one of those smug smiles that people always smile when they have bureaucratic power over you. “Yes, that’s the way it works.”
At this point, thinking back to the screen that suggested I might hang out at the “Genius Bar” for “Creative Advice,” I’m envisioning Mr. I’m-Hot-You’re-Not Apple Employee hunkering down with a goth chick from Noe Valley, yammering on and on about how her nephew’s bar mitzvah invitation could look so much better with just a few sparkles around the Star of David.
I’m trying to be very calm, but I know I’m not going to succeed. “Well,” I say, “I drove here 20 miles from Oakland, and I just paid $16 to park downtown because the website told me to come here but didn’t say anything about needing an appointment to drop off my iPod for service.” He smiles again:
“You don’t drop it off. We need to look at it.”
“How am I supposed to know this, exactly?”
“I don’t know.”
“Neither do I,” I say, starting to fume, “but it would have been nice if someone had explained to me that I needed to make an appointment; I’ve only ever done that for my car.” I flash the iPod at him again, as if to underscore the point that a $35,000 automobile and a $199 electronic gadget are not equal in importance, even if Steve Jobs insists on having us believe that they are.
He smiles. A long smile. Frankly, a “f**k-you” smile. He tries to add a tiny frown and a little shrug, as if a non-verbal, “Oh, well, it’s your fault, not ours,” will placate me.
At that point, I turned and walked away. “Forget it,” I said.
That got him. Mr. Techno-Cool suddenly got worried. “Wait a moment,” he says. I don’t turn back. “I can get you in in about five minutes.”
I still don’t turn back, but I’m thinking: If he can see me in five minutes, why does this so-called Genius Bar need an appointment system? Is it the 2006 version of the old ’80s “wait in the bar” admonishment at trendy restaurants? Is it just another way to try to be in-your-face with hipness?
The noise level in the store is unbelievably high, primarily with Bittersweet Symphony filling the air from various iPod speakers being tested. “Sorry,” I say. “I’m not playing that game.”
I start to walk down the stairs, waving my hand at him to give him my own non-verbal signal that I’m not up for this smug coolness. The last thing I heard him say was: “Actually, I could see you now, sir.” Then: “Sir? I can take you now!”
To no one in particular as I descended the stairs, I shouted out, “You’ve lost a customer.”
Whether I mean it, I’m not sure. But for now, Little Lime will just be a very expensive paperweight, until I can figure out a way to get it repaired that doesn’t remind me of what a tragically unhip 40-year-old I have become.