NY Times’ Joe Nocera blasts Apple customer service with unsubstantiated claim

In the New York Times today, Joe Nocera recounts his sob story about losing a Sony PlayStation3 he orderd from Amazon due to a shipping screw-up:

Nonetheless, I got on the phone with an Amazon customer service representative, and explained what had happened: the PlayStation had been shipped, delivered and signed for. It just didn’t wind up in my hands. Would Amazon send me a replacement? In my heart of hearts, I knew I didn’t have a leg to stand on. I was pleading for mercy.

I shudder to think how this entreaty would have gone over at, say, Apple, where customer service is an oxymoron. But the Amazon customer service guy didn’t blink. After assuring himself that I had never actually touched or seen the PlayStation, he had a replacement on the way before the day was out. It arrived on Christmas Eve. Amazon didn’t even charge me for the shipping.

MacDailyNews Take: That’s it. No facts from Nocera to back up why he would “shudder” if called Apple. No proof that “customer service is an oxymoron” at Apple. Nothing. Just an unsubstantiated opinion thrown in to slam Apple; one that, in fact, runs counter to most every study we’ve ever seen:
Apple Mac desktops, notebooks top PC Magazine’s Annual Reader Satisfaction survey – again – September 18, 2007
Apple again tops the field in LAPTOP Magazine’s ‘Tech Support Showdown 2007’ – June 19, 2007
Survey shows Apple near top of U.S. consumers’ most-trusted brands – April 25, 2007
Consumer Reports rates Apple best place to shop – November 24, 2006
Apple again leads Consumer Reports’ survey for notebook, desktop computer tech support, value, more – October 16, 2006
Apple Mac desktops, notebooks top PC Magazine’s Annual Reader Satisfaction survey – again – August 22, 2006
Apple far outscores all other PC makers in Consumer Reports Computer Tech Support Survey – May 05, 2006
Apple Mac desktops, portables top PC Magazine’s 2005 Reader Satisfaction survey – August 24, 2005
Apple Computer products top PC Magazine’s annual ‘Best of the Year’ survey – December 16, 2004
Apple Macs top PC Magazine’s ’17th Annual Reader Satisfaction Survey’ – August 10, 2004
Apple leads PC Magazine’s 16th annual Service and Reliability Survey – July 10, 2003

Full article, Think Before You Click™, here.

MacDailyNews Take: Upon researching Nocera, we found that at one time, he had an iPod hard drive die. The iPod was over a year old, hence out-of-warranty, and Nocera had declined to purchase Apple’s extended warranty. On February 4, 2006, Nocera proceeded to pitch a hissy fit in The New York Times because he was too stupid either to protect his investment or to grasp the concept that a one-year warranty expires after the period of one year. That would seem to be the basis upon which Nocera drops his unsubstantiated, unfair blanket characterization about Apple’s customer service in today’s article.

Nocera seems to think that he’s entitled to receive services beyond which are covered by warranty or for free, because he decided not to extend his warranty. Extended warranties have a value. That’s why they have set prices. If Nocera declined to purchase the extended warranty, why does he still expect to be covered for free?

Undoing the damage caused by Nocera with his unsubstantiated statement, one that is, in fact, very well disproved by multiple surveys and reports, will be tough. We’d expect that, even if The New York Times runs a retraction and/or apology, they would bury it deep within their pages in tiny type.

That said, the contact info:
Joe Nocera:
New York Time Editor:


  1. He’ll get bombarded by emails, then write a story about the vitriol Apple induces amongst its fans. Can’t win.

    People don’t believe everything they read anymore in part because of crapy writing like that.

  2. Whenever I have had to deal with Apple CS directly, they have treated me better than any other company I can think of. Everyone I have talked to has said the same. They will cross-ship a replacement (meaning they’ll send the new one immediately, before they get the old one from you) and they’ll send you a new, safe, pre-stamped box to send it in.
    Now, the retail stores are a slightly different story. I’ve never been treated ‘badly’, per se, but it is definitely less consistent as many employees are clearly inexperienced.
    But an ‘oxymoron’? Not a chance. I think he must be thinking of Quark.

  3. … and now I’ll get pounded.

    I do customer service for a living and I believe that the Amazon person did the right thing and that whoever Joe Nocera worked with at Apple did the wrong thing. And that if Apple does, in fact, train it’s folks to take a hard line with customers when they come in, then Apple is not long for this world.

    Remember Stew Leonard’s two rules of customer service:

    Rule 1: The customer is always right.
    Rule 2: If the customer is wrong, refer to rule 1.

    At the very least, the data shows that if you make a customer angry you can be certain that they will tell 25 friends (or in Joe’s case the readers of the NYTimes) what a horrible experience they had. You, the vendor, have already lost. Was that really worth the $200 you saved the company?

    Imagine if every place in JN’s piece, where it said Amazon, it said, instead, Apple. You can’t buy that kind of positive, free publicity. Amazon certainly couldn’t have. They even got free mention of the Kindle thing.

    Apple should have a system in place that lets its frontline folks “comp” something if they feel they need to. At the very least, the frontline folks should be able to contact someone (right away) to get approval to comp something.


  4. @Peter Lin
    “whoever Joe Nocera worked with at Apple did the wrong thing”

    He never backed up what his bad experience was with Apple!!!

    heres my email to Joe concerning our experiences

    Hello Joe

    I enjoyed your story about Amazon, as we use them a lot and have always had great service.

    But I do not understand the unsubstantiated swipe at Apple

    “I shudder to think how this entreaty would have gone over at, say, Apple, where customer service is an oxymoron”

    Apple has received great reviews and surveys putting them at the top in owner satisfaction and customer service

    In the last year and 1/2 our family has purchased 4 computers, 3 iPods, an Apple TV and an iPhone, and have nothing but fantastic customer service! I admit we have never had to use their service for mechanical reasons, as everything we have purchased just worked, and still do. We have used their phone service for answers and help in setting a few things up, and the help spoke english! without an accent.

    We even had a similar experience to you last Christmas, when someone signed for my daughters new MacBook at her collage apartment complex, not only did they send a replacement out right away, but shipped it Fed X overnight at no additional cost to us.

  5. “And that if Apple does, in fact, train it’s folks to take a hard line with customers when they come in, then Apple is not long for this world.”

    If Apple does, in fact, inject adorable manatees with radioactive sludge and feed Alka-Seltzer to innocent seagulls, then Apple is not long for this world.

    Thing is, they don’t do either of these things. Not even if you imply they do.

  6. A few years ago, my G3 iBook’s logic board failed. Because that particular model’s boards were prone to problems, Apple was prepared to replace them for an extended period (three years, as I recall). Mine of course decided to fail a few months outside this period, and my local dealer explained that they couldn’t replace it for free, so it was now a doorstop.

    However, they recommended that I ring Apple. The first voice gave the standard reply. I responded with a mild expression of dissatisfaction, and was passed to a second voice, who rang my dealer. After some discussion (evidently involving my longevity as a Mac user), voice 2 returned and said they would replace it for free.

    Now, it could be argued that a laptop’s logic board shouldn’t fail after three and a bit years, but I still see the incident as good service. Had there been a different outcome my impression of Apple would have been dented.

    So, I guess I agree with Peter Lin. Although I’m not excusing Nocera’s sideswipe, when it comes to customer service, you need all the good publicity you can’t buy.

  7. Peter, you are right you should get pounded.

    Customer is mostly right. I could see your point is you were withing say a week of warranty. But to say every time a customer complains that their product stopped working (IE My Apple IIc died last week) the retailer should bend over you are dead wrong.

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