For a company that espouses "Easy" Apple sure misses the boat sometimes…

As I mentioned last month in my Holiday Online Shopping post one of the total misses in my online shopping experience was with Apple.

My cousin was getting an iPod for Christmas so my wife and I decided to buy him some credit at iTunes so he could buy some music for it. Christmas came and went, so did New Years, still no cards. I called the first week of January and it turned out that something went strange in the system with my address. I had initially entered my office address but then decided to change it to home just in case it didn’t get there before Christmas.

Strike #1
Something didn’t take when I updated the address. The end result was my office street address with my home city & postal code. To make things worse when the phone number was stored it tried to put the whole 10-digit number in the 7-digit phone space and left the area code spot blank – this meant Purolator didn’t even have a phone # to try and get a correct address from me. The package went out, hung out at Purolator for a bit and then went back to Apple.

My email address was right – but I never heard from anyone saying “Hey something isn’t right here.’

Strike 2

Finally, in the first week of January and a week after they said it would arrive I gave them a call. The error found above was discovered, address corrected and I was told the order would be shipped again shortly. Smart, friendly call center person. Too bad there was no follow through. Fast forward two weeks to today, still no item in the mail.

Strike 3

As a last ditch attempt I call Apple once more. Checking the status on the site shows no material change in my order at all, and no second order created to ship the cards to me. Explain to the girl she goes on to explain that it’s easiest if I go to yet another iTunes store page (I think I’ve counted 3 distinct “stores” on apple’s site so far) as she would just have to do that herself anyways. I take one look at the site (a usability disaster in its own right) and tell her just cancel the order, I really can’t be bothered to go through this much work over a pair of gift cards and she made it pretty clear she wasn’t interested in doing it for me.

She puts me on hold and comes back with “I went to the iTunes store and requested a cancellation, expect someone to email you back within 36 hours.

Physical Cards for Online Stores?

I commented to the girl about the sheer stupidity of having physical gift cards for a purely online store. Who the heck thought that up?

It’s not like people have a swipe peripheral on their PC – the reality is my cousin would get the cards, scratch off the silvery patch on the back to reveal a code which he’s then going to punch into the iTunes online store. Why not save the headaches, shipping costs and time and just let me buy codes directly off the site.

Continue Dealing with the Same Company

When I place an order with your business I want to continue dealing with your business. I don’t want to hear sob stories about how that’s another system or a different division. If you can’t support the fulfillment process don’t sell the product.

“Perceptual Integration” is a wonderful thing – The first girl did the right thing, she didn’t tell me about others sites or stores – she just did what she could to make it happen I was none the wiser, I perceived an integrated system where there clearly is not. Unfortunately someone dropped the ball in the interim and the second shipment never happened. If I’d just been able to buy the codes off the site in the first place though, this wouldn’t have been an issue.

Confusing Websites

Aside form having three stores I found it really tough to locate where my order had placed and what its status was. The site kept trying to get me to install iTunes when I clicked on the obvious stores but I knew that wasn’t where I had bought the gift cards from. The third site that the girl pointed to me was literally four directories down in the apple site – I have no idea how one would easily find their way there. When I did get there the page was so busy and cluttered I was completely lost and just gave up.

Lessons?

I think one lesson to take away for any online store is if you don’t have a physical presence have a purely electronic way for people to buy gifts (Hint: Steve call Jeff, I know you guys are good buddies and his team at Amazon put this notion together years ago). Sure, make cards for Point of Purchase displays in physical stores, but don’t make electronic consumers wait for a physical item when the only use for it is in electronic form.

There’s lessons in call center training (the second girl blew the deal), and system architectures (why two storefronts? why do I have to cancel my order somewhere else?) etc. in here somewhere to.

All in all though a disastrous online shopping experience.