Apple should offer 30-day risk-free Macintosh trial to potential switchers

Jack Russell (the writer, not the terrier) says it’s no wonder that people don’t buy Apple Macs in greater numbers.

“We’ll assume, for the moment, that an $800 PC and an $800 Mac are an identical value. Given this, the Mac is still too expensive,” writes Russell for The Inquirer. “Why? Because the Mac is an unknown quantity to its potential buyer. Given that Apple only holds 1.9% of the current worldwide market, the vast majority of potential Mac users have probably never used one extensively (if at all) and may not know someone that owns one, or, even if they know someone who owns one, there’s no guarantee that the person owns a new Mac running OSX 10.2 or later on a fast enough machine to really show the OS off. Given this, a buyer considering an eMac has to accept on faith that this is a better purchase for them when they know almost nothing about the OS or how to use the system. They might be able to visit an Apple store (if one is in the area or the potential buyer knows they exist) but this isn’t a guarantee, nor is it going to answer all their questions.”

Russell continues, “Given that $700-$800 is all one needs to budget for a computer purchase these days (at the low end at least) an eMac represents a substantial risk with no guarantee of reward. Apple’s return policy isn’t exactly comforting either-you have the right to a return if unsatisfied with the product, but only if the product is unopened in the box. Hard to tell if you’re unsatisfied with the product if it’s still in the box, isn’t it?”

Apple might do better, Russell offers, by “offering first-time customers a free 30-day test- drive on a Macintosh system. Here’s how the system might work:

– The customer calls Apple to investigate switching to the Macintosh platform.
– Customer is offered a free 30-day trial, on any system of his choice, but must provide Apple with a valid credit card number with a sufficiently high limit as to pay for the potential purchase of the computer. Apple pays shipping both ways.
– The customer’s thirty day period begins from the day he/she receives the system. For thirty days he has access to the standard Apple-shipped suite of software. At the end of thirty days the customer has a two-week grace period with which to return the system (in its original packaging) to Apple.
– At the end of the two-week grace period, if the system is not en route to Apple, the customer is billed for the full cost of the system (just as any Apple user would be). At that point the transaction is considered closed. Customers are also charged for any system returned that is no longer in suitable condition to be used again as a rental. Customer information is kept in a database used solely for the purpose of ensuring that customers do not repeatedly abuse the system.” Full article here.

What do you think?


  1. 1.9% ? That’s a new low, which is wrong. Actually the people that do make up Mac users is at 10%, which never gets reported. It’s at 3-5% usually because that number reflects the numbers who have bought Macs within the last 12 months. My mac? A G3 333mhz, which is 6 years old, and I still use it all the time. I bet they don’t have me within the 1.9% of users who use a Mac …. but they’re wrong.

  2. Might be a good niche market for 3rd Party Resellers too. But they’d need to charge a small fee for the 30 days, say about $50 or $60. Returned computers would be reinitialized and sent out a second time. If a computer comes back a second time, sell it as an open box system for about $400 or $450.

  3. This would be great. It’s not just the hardware costs that we potential switchers factor in, it’s all the additional software (think about having to switch all your favourite mac programmes over to PC and imagine how much that would cost). As I’ve said many times, this is a biggy for long-to-medium term PC users who’ve already built up a library of stuff to use.

    I can’t think it a coincidence that two of the three people I’ve managed to get onto macs thus far are A-level students about to go off to university who have thus far been using a family PC and so now need to ‘start again’ (if you see what I mean).

    Brother Mugga

  4. Hehehe it’s obvious you’ve never been in Sales before. 30day MBG guarantee that you will be “renting” Macs. Back in the days I can’t tell you how many Camcorder sales “flew” out the door before a Holiday…only to be returned a week afterward along with a lame excuse. Apple would go bankrupt over this. Renting a computer can cost a hundred dollars per week…doing this would reduce that cost to 0 for the dishonorable consumer and $$$ for Apple. Bad idea anyway you slice it.

  5. Okay not ASTOUNDINGLY bad, but they ended up with “returns” that no one would buy because they were “used”. While the campaign did help sales, the number of unwanted “returns” (and stuck with it inventory) balanced out those extra sales.

  6. What I hate about articles like this one is that they never, ever, ever do the calculations necessary to show what it would take for the program to work.

    Let’s make some simple assumptions:

    Apple could sell a returned eMac for $100 less than retail price. (An aggressive assumption that does not factor in the cost of refurbishment)

    Apple makes $75 profit on each eMac it sells. (Probably too high, given that it is a low end product)

    The cost to administer this program is $50 per machine (given shipping and handling of each “order”).

    If these assumptions are true (and, while I think they’re reasonable, I’m not saying they are — I think the onus of analyzing the profitability of the plan is on the person who proposes it), then Apple would have to sell 4 eMacs under the plan for every one returned just to break even. I don’t think that’s plausible — you may disagree — but at least we can talk about that.

    (As a side note, I think anyone with access to an Apple Store should be able to run up enough time on the test eMacs over the course of a few visits to determine whether they’re willing to take the plunge)

    I think it would be more effective to allow people to rent eMacs for $20 a week, with the rental applicable against the purchase of a new machine. But I still doubt that this would work.

  7. This is a fabulous idea. Of course, it should be longer than 30 days… say 2 years. And it should be available to people who already had Macs.

    Let’s see… I’ll start by trying out one of those nice new G5s…

  8. Think an article by the dog (Jack Russell terrier) would be more factual. Like most journalists this one is full of it, don’t these guys know how to do research before the publish their crap.

  9. as an apple store employee, i think that the policy apple has on returns is fine how it is, the person who comes in to buy the computer has the ablilty to play with the machine and get all the questions they need awnsered. If they like what they hear and the feel of the system they make a purchase. Apple also has classes in the store and on .Mac that a switcher can take to learn the system.

  10. “I think it would be more effective to allow people to rent eMacs for $20 a week, with the rental applicable against the purchase of a new machine. But I still doubt that this would work.”

    This sounds far more plausible. They’d have to pay a hefty deposit or insurance against theft. They could make a small number of for-rental only machines, maybe with a coloured case (knowing that they can never be re-sold legally) which would be exchanged or returned with say a 30 day or 60 day limit. Returned models get their drives wiped and re-installed ready for the next ‘rental’.
    On exchange/purchase they get a brand new box and a DVD or three containing the files they created during the loan period. (Or I guess the files could be transferred in the apple store or wherever).

    I think this is potentially a good idea, but logistically it would be a bit of a nightmare and possibly more trouble than it’s worth.

  11. Lease (or give!) pre-configured iMac stations to cafes, bookstores, etc. for use as public ‘net stations. The establishment could charge users or not, up to them. The systems should auto-restore to a fresh install once a night so no problems develop. Add multiple stations and you have a cyber-cafe–with people using OS X, iChat and Safari, maybe some 3rd party games, and getting used to the Mac as a real choice. A limited form of .mac could be offered free, so people could have limited email and an online address book even without needing a Mac of their own.

    Add iTunes and the station could also be the cafe’s jukebox. Allow CD-burning and people could even buy music.

  12. Both IBM and Dell offer 30day no questions asked return guarantee on their systems and _somehow_ are profitable.

    As for the $75 margin of profit, are you kidding me?? It’s closer to $400 or more of GM on each emac.

    And finally to the guy who’s sold cameras… cameras and TVs and such do not meet the same profile as computers when it comes to sales. It is a completely different buying approach. People do not buy computers for a “special occassion” and there is a need to change the item (as in installing programs and using harddrives, etc..) unlike TVs and cameras.

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