Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I might get a Mac someday

I originally wrote this in three separate pieces but I've made it one entry to simplify understanding the whole tale.

Jan 21, 2005

Three weeks ago (12/31/04), I ordered a Mac G5 with 30" display (you only go around once in life, right?). Estimated ship date: same business day. I took the offer for free ground delivery so figured I'd give them a week. I was going to be at home the entire week so I gave them my home address for delivery. I received an email confirmation of the order.

A week went by. No Mac. So I called to find out where it was. It turns out it hadn't even been shipped. Apple was waiting to confirm the purchase by calling the billing number - which is actually at another address (and no one's there this month to answer the phone). But my credit card is tied to that other phone so that's the number I'm obligated to give so that orders are accepted by the credit card company. But that wasn't good enough for Apple. They put the order "on hold".

Me: So do I have to get someone to call from the billing phone?
Apple: No, we just needed to speak to you so we can release it now.

Huh? If I'm not calling from the billing phone, how do they know I am who I say I am? Makes no sense. But more importantly, why don't they put a note on the order page saying that they will confirm by calling the billing number? (I've never been called to confirm an order before.) I never would've expected they had to confirm in that way, especially since they already sent me a confirmation email and no subsequent email to let me know of a problem.

How long would they've held it if I didn't call? Who knows but you have to wonder why they didn't at least send me email. They sent me order confirmation messages via email so they know how to email me.

On a good note, the Apple rep agreed to ship it "expedited" at no charge to me. Fair enough.

So I go back to waiting and the following day, I get email from Apple that they have broken the order in to 3 shipments and have shipped piece 1 of 3. So I'm waiting several more days until finally I see on Fedex's web page "customer wasn't home". Huh? I was home most of the day and there's no door tag to indicate they came by. I call Fedex and the following discussion ensues:

Fedex: No problem, they'll try 3 times.
Me: I can't wait at home the whole day, can you give me a window?
Fedex: What time will you be home?
Me: I can be home any time, just not the entire day. Just give me a window.
Fedex: We need a window.
Me: I know! I thought I was making it easier for you. I have no idea what your window sizes are - my experience with other companies is that they just give me a choice of windows. So what windows do you offer and I'll pick the best.
Fedex: Just tell us what time you'll be home.
Me: Uh, how about 6AM-10AM
Fedex: Thank you.

Needless to say, I wait til 11AM and no shipment. At this point, I can't hang around home any more. I need to go back to my workplace. I come back after work; no door tag. I call Fedex again and, of course, speak to a different representative:

Fedex: We don't offer delivery windows, can't imagine why the previous rep told you that we do.
Me: So where's the package?
Fedex: It's on the truck to be delivered, that's all we can tell you.
Me: That's not good enough.
Fedex: Ok, we can start a trace.
Me: Aren't packages tracked already?
Fedex: It's an investigation. We'll get back to you within 72 hours.

So the following day, sure enough, a truck pulls up at a time I was fortuitously home. He holds the display in his hands. I thank him but also ask him where he's been.

Delivery dude: They gave me too much too deliver in one day. They're always doing that.

What the heck is going on? I thought Fedex's motto was ... oh never mind. It's not even Fedex doing the delivery - they contracted it out to someone else. The truck was not a fedex truck. I don't remember what the truck said but it could as well have said Joe's Pizza on it. It was a dumpy little thing with a faded name of some kind.

Needless to say, I videotaped myself breaking the seal and opening the display box. Just in case the thing was mishandled, I wasn't going to pay for it. But it was fine. Whew.

So I go back to periodically checking Fedex's website for the 2nd of 3 shipments. I see that the Apple Care box is next to arrive. However, knowing that I'm not going to be there, I realize it's stupid for them to try to deliver it to my home. I call up Fedex:

Fedex: No problem, we'll retry 3 times and then we'll hold it at our warehouse.
Me: Why come out to my house 3 times when we both know I'm not going to be there.
Fedex: We can't leave it at the door - our agreement with Apple requires that someone must sign for it.
Me: Ok, how about changing the destination address to a nearby Fedex office. Your warehouse is a two hour drive from me.
Fedex: We can't change the destination after it's been shipped, sorry.
Me: Why not?
Fedex: It's our policy. We can however change the destination for later shipments.
Me: So I'll have to wait for the current item to be shipped to my house 3x unsuccessfully and then you'll send it back to the West Coast?
Fedex: Actually, we'll send it back to Apple and they will have to ship it again.
Me: Can we at least change the shipping address for the next package in the order?
Fedex: You'll have to call Apple to do that.
Me: I can't just tell you?
Fedex: No.
Me: Why not?
Fedex: That's what our agreement with Apple says.

Further argument was futile (although I did try).

So I call Apple. I give them a new address - a Fedex station near my house that the Fedex guy specifically told me can hold packages. Next I ask Apple what we can do about the bouncing Apple Care package. After ten minutes of discussion, Apple finally says this:

Apple: It's just AppleCare, you don't really need it immediately anyway.
Me: I realize that but I would like to receive it eventually and because of the way it was shipped, it's going to have to go back to the West Coast and you're going to have to ship it again. Not only am I saving you effort and Fedex effort, but I'd like to avoid having to make extra visits to Fedex myself.
Apple: Oh, you don't even need the AppleCare box. There's nothing in it anyway except some literature and maybe a CD that you don't really need.
Me: Huh? So why ship it in the first place?
Apple: Some people like getting it that way, like if you gave it as a gift, you'd have something to wrap.
Me: Do you realize how much time and money is being wasted to ship this non-gift?

So I really could care less about the package bouncing back and forth from coast to coast but if I can avoid me having to drive to the Fedex office, that seems reasonable. But after waiting a few more days, suddenly the Fedex tracking website changes from "in Sacramento" to "no such package". I call Fedex.

Fedex: We haven't lost it. It's just there appears to be a shipping problem.
Me: Huh? So where is it?
Fedex: I'll start a trace. We'll get back to you in 72 hours.

As more days go by, I periodically check the Apple website only to see the computer itself (part 3 of 3) has not yet been shipped. I call Apple:

Apple: Your computer is on hold.
Me: Why? And why didn't you contact me if there's a problem.
Apple: It seems the new address you gave us is not acceptable. You gave us a Fedex address but we're not allowed to ship to a Fedex address. We need to ship to a person.
Me: No problem, just put my name on it and mark it "hold for pickup."
Apple: We can't do that.
Me: Why not?
Apple: Because we have no way of knowing if the person who comes to the Fedex station to pick it up is really you.
Me: How is that different than Fedex attempting delivery 3x and then holding it for pick up?
Apple: Because then you'll come back to Fedex with a door tag.
Me: First of all, Fedex doesn't seem to be leaving door tags. Secondly, that hardly seems a good way to prove I am the recipient since anyone could get the door tag from my front door.
Apple: We consider it more secure.
Me: Well, it obviously isn't. Here's an idea. Ship it to Fedex and mark it "hold for recipient, demand passport as proof." You can't get much better ID than that, right?
Apple: Our policy is to request the door tag.

Finally I gave in, but still hoping to make things easier ...

Me: Since it's going to end up at the Fedex office anyway, let's just make sure it goes to a more convenient one ok? The one it will be held at is hours from my house.
Apple: Sorry, we can't ship it to a Fedex office.
Me: I'm not asking you to ship it to a Fedex office, I'm just asking that you designate the one it's ultimately held at.
Apple: That would be shipping to a Fedex office and we cannot do that.
Me: But it's going through Fedex in the first place. Don't you trust them?
Apple: That's our policy.
Me: Please transfer me to someone above you.

I ended up speaking to a manager who repeated these same basic answers.

Me: Please transfer me to someone above you.
Apple: There's no one above me.

I probably should asked to be transferred to Apple Corporate at that point, but instead:

Me: So what do we do then?
Apple: Can't we ship it to a neighbor or your workplace?
Me: So you trust my neighbors more than Fedex who is responsible for delivering it? Even if I could find a neighbor who was here during the day - all day, can you even give me a delivery date?
Apple: No, not at this time. We have to ship it first. All dates are estimates.
Me: How could I possibly ask a neighbor since I can't even tell them what day they would have to guarantee they'd be home?
Apple: How about we ship it to your workplace?
Me: Out of the question. My workplace receiving dept would open the box, search through it for security reasons, slap a property tag on it, etc. It's a personal purchase and I don't want them handling it.

Finally, in dispair, I give in and agree to give them their 3 tries at shipping it to my house in the hopes that the stars would be aligned and I'd be there when they attempted delivery. Sounds stupid but I didn't know what else to do.

The Apple manager also confirms that the Apple Care box has been lost and he will see that another is shipped.

So I ask the guy whether he can now give me a better estimate of when the computer will ship.

Apple: It looks like it was originally delayed because they didn't have the graphics board you requested. But assuming the computer has been built by now, it should be shipped tomorrow.
Me: I'd be willing to overlook all the other incorrect assumptions that were made so far and agree with you on this except that I just don't know why you assume the system has been built by now.
Apple: Because they've had plenty of time to build it by now.
Me: According to the Apple store web site, AS OF TODAY if I configure a system with that particular graphics card, it indicates a 3-5 week ship date. So it sounds like they have a problem getting that card. In fact, I ordered that board specifically because the web site BACK THEN said it could ship immediately. And the web site specifically cautioned buyers that the more expensive card would cause delays and to avoid ordering it, so I did. I ordered the cheaper card as it recommended. And the web site STILL says that in the card descriptions. But the estimate the store generates for the expensive card is now 2-4 days, much less than the cheaper card!

Apple: Yes, I can see that myself. I guess the factory has a supply problem.
Me: So in other words, we really shouldn't count on it shipping tomorrow.
Apple: Well, it might.
Me: And it might not. Can you call the factory and find out if it's been built or what the status of the order is?
Apple: No, I can't do that. But I can send them a note to give your order priority.
Me: That's great, but it won't do much good if they don't have the card.
Apple: Your system might haven't been built by now.
Me: I really don't want to take the risk that I'll be waiting another 3-5 weeks. The more expensive card is only $100 more. Let's change the order to that. Would that speed things up?
Apple: It might. It might not. I have no way of knowing. Maybe your system has been built and maybe switching to the other card would just slow things down.
Me: I have no confidence that the system's been built, I'll pay the $100 extra because as I understand it, that would limit the build time to 2-4 days at worst.
Apple: Ok, I can take care of that.

Me: While I've been waiting, I occurred to me to check out memory prices and I found places that sell RAM cheaper. I know Apple has a price matching policy so could you match prices on the RAM. That would offset the extra expense on the graphics card.
Apple: I can't do that. To use our price matching policy, you have to deal with Sales. And you'll have to resubmit the order.

So he could increase the price but not decrease it!

Me: I'm not sure it's worth the aggravation.
Apple: It's up to you.

Finally, I said never mind. I just wanted to get off the phone and take some aspirin.

But the following day, I decided I'd resubmit the order and get the price break on the memory. After all, I was paying $100 to Apple because of their own inability to manage their part inventory properly and their inability to check the status of an order, not because I needed the higher performance.

So I call to cancel the order. Then I had to call again to resubmit the order. Getting a live human on the phone turned out to be difficult, the Apple phone tree transfer me 6 times until I got in a loop until I selected an option that I hadn't tried and frankly didn't apply. But it worked. I got a human salesperson.

Me: I'd like a lower price on the memory, per your price matching policy.
Apple: Our price matching policy doesn't cover memory.
Me: Arghhh!

So I had closed the order at the suggestion of the previous Apple rep (a manager) for nothing.

Me: Can you uncancel the order I just cancelled?
Apple: No but perhaps customer support can.

Back in to the maze that is the Apple phone tree. After fruitless attempts, no one was able to uncancel the order. So I re-placed the original order - this time with minimal memory.

I ordered memory from someone else. They sent me a confirmation email. They didn't call the billing phone. The memory arrived two days later (UPS left it on my doorstep). One third the price Apple charged.

The following day I get home and there's a box waiting - the Apple Care box. So after all that, Fedex didn't even bother to get a signature. For all I know, they didn't even bother to ring my door. It wasn't left on my doorstep. It was sitting in the driveway!

I really don't understand what's going on with Fedex but I will NOT ship with them in the future. Something is definitely wrong with that company. Apple too.

So I've got a pile of stuff at home: display, memory, apple care, and printer (they threw in a printer which will be free after rebate). But all powered off. I just need the computer.

By the way, Apple really needs to change their answering message - which I've almost got memorized I've heard it so many times. ("Due to holiday volume, we are experiencing longer than normal hold times, we appreciate your patience, please stay on the line..." It's been more than a month since Christmas. I have trouble believing that excuse isn't entirely bogus.

Apple finally sent me a message saying the computer's been shipped. As I write this, Fedex currently says it's in Indianapolis. I can only imagine what it's doing there. It is still marked expedited on my shipping confirmation but I guess that doesn't mean "overnight". My fingers are crossed anyway. I might actually get a system someday.

Update - Jan 23, 2005

My system has now moved from somewhere in Indianapolis to somewhere in Virginia. The Fedex website lists it for "2Day Delivery" even though 2 days would've been up yesterday. So I called Fedex to find out why it wasn't here yesterday and Fedex explained that 2Day doesn't include Saturdays and Sundays. Evidentally Apple didn't specify Saturday delivery would've been ok. I can't believe that since, after all those conversations, Apple obviously knew it was going to my house. Indeed, I waited around all day yesterday (Saturday) thinking it would be delivered after seeing that the Virginia Fedex clocked it in at 5:59AM. And there it sits. Fedex rushed it across the entire US only to have it now sit in a warehouse for 2 days.

Update 2 - Jan 25, 2005

In my last conversation with Fedex, they said they would attempt delivery Monday.

Me: Can you estimate what time of day they'll come?
Fedex: It should arrive before 4:30pm.
Me: Can you estimate it a little more precisely, so I don't have to wait here all day?
Fedex: Call back after 10AM on Monday and we'll give you a better idea of when it will come.
Me: Ok, thanks!

So on Monday, I wait at the house until 10AM just in case, then I call Fedex:

Me: Can you estimate what time of day they'll come?
Fedex: It should arrive before 4:30pm.
Me: Can you estimate it a little more precisely so I don't have to wait here all day?
Fedex: No.

Gosh, thanks!

Fedex: If you like, just leave a note on your door asking them to leave it at the door step.
Me: Huh? But the previous Fedex rep said that couldn't be done. This is a package from Apple.
Fedex: I can't tell without looking at the box itself. Go ahead and leave a note on your door.

This contradicts what the earlier reps told me - that it was an Apple policy not to leave things at the door. And yet the AppleCare box was left without a signature so I suspect the boxes themselves don't say anything like that.

Me: Ok but can I have the station hold it if it comes back?
Fedex: Sure, I'll make a note to do that.

This also contradicts what an earlier Fedex rep said but I'm certainly not to argue against a policy I like, so ...

Me: And at what station will it be held?

The Fedex rep proceeds to give the station just a few miles away, the same station I was desperately trying to get them to transfer the other packages to but that they refused. And the same station that Apple refused to ship to outright.

So later that day, I get home and see - nothing. In fact, there's a thin layer of snow on the ground so I can tell no one's even been to the house.

I go inside, bring up the fedex tracking info and it says "Could not deliver due to circumstances beyond our control." Huh? The snow isn't THAT deep - it's just a thin layer. And I got USMail. So what's the problem? I call Fedex.

Fedex: I can't tell you what the problem was. We don't have that information. But it says here that you asked to leave the package at the station.
Me: Yes, so?
Fedex: Maybe that's why it wasn't delivered.
Me: That makes no sense. I specifically said to leave it at the station only if delivery failed.
Fedex: I can't tell you any more than that.
Me: Is it at the station now?
Fedex: Yes, you can pick it up now.
Me: Thanks.

So I drive over to the Fedex station. I go inside and speak to a rep at the counter:

Fedex: What's the tracking number?
Me: Damn, in my rush I forgot to bring it.
Fedex: No problem, what's your address.
Me: (I give him my address)
Fedex: Sorry, it's not in our computer.
Fedex: What's your name?
Me: (I give him my name)
Fedex: Nope, not there either.
Fedex: Let's call HQ and they should have the info.

So he hands me the phone and I speak to another Fedex rep and we go through the whole thing again where she asks me my name and phone number.

Fedex: It's not in our computer.
Me: And the shipper is "Apple".
Fedex: Nope, not in our computer either.
Me: So you can't track a package by name or address?
Fedex: Yes we can but your package is not in our computer.
Fedex: Anyway, even if you were in our computer, we wouldn't give you the package without you giving us the tracking number.

What?! So what have we been doing for the last 15 minutes trying to figure out the tracking number if they're going to make me give them the tracking number first?

So I hang up in disgust, figuring I'll have to come back tomorrow because it's now after closing and they've already locked the doors outside.

At this point, the guy behind the Fedex counter - who has been listening, but just to my side of the conversation - asks me:

Fedex: How big is it?
Me: (I outline the rough size)
Fedex: Ok, wait while I go in the back and look for it.

5 minutes later he returns with a big box with G5 emblazoned on it along with my name and address. He checks my drivers license and that's it. He hands it to me. Good think he doesn't appear to know that he's not to give me a package without a tracking number. Or was that just so much BS?

Me: Does it seem strange that it wasn't in the computer?
Fedex: No, it happens pretty often.

Bottom line: Numerous Fedex and Apple reps have contradicted each other many times. The Fedex tracking system is full of holes. The Apple ordering and inventory system is full of problems. And both Apple and Fedex policies are so nonsensical that some of the staff ignore the policies making things up as they go along. Total time from order to delivery: 25 days.