How one person's hellish Apple Store experience is another's perfect encounter

Recently, Business Insider published an opinion piece by writer Avery Hartmans about what visiting an Apple Store for a repair is like. The article, though an editorial, is not the kind of thing that should be covered on a news site. It's one person's experience, written from one person's perspective.

Here's what I mean.

Hartmans starts the story off describing how she went to an Apple Store for a repair without an appointment, hoping to be seen that day (there were no more online appointments available and she was in a hurry). She explains how Apple's Town Square approach was too confusing for her.

When I stepped inside, I was immediately struck by how many employees were working on a Sunday afternoon. The store was packed with people, about half of whom were employees. Somehow, they all seemed busy...There was no clear place to stand or person to approach, and I wandered before finding an available employee. He passed me along to someone else, who handed me off to a third person.The fourth employee I talked to was my technician, who took my phone and promised to repair the screen in about two hours.

From my perspective, she was helped by four Apple employees who each gave her instructions on where to go and what to do. That's bad?

Without an appointment, Hartmans was seen right away and was told her screen could be repaired in just a few hours. Though it took longer than expected, she (again, without an appointment) was able to have her iPhone screen repaired in four-and-a-half hours. That's bad, too?

Then, even though she admits to having dropped her iPhone twice, Hartmans' iPhone went black and "bricked" —something she blames solely on Apple.

Since my phone worked perfectly before I went in for a repair ... I can only assume that a mistake was made in the repair process.

(That's a presumptuous assumption.)

She went to a different Apple Store, again without an appointment, to get her iPhone fixed. She waited "several minutes" (which is pretty good by retail standards) to talk to a greeter who gave her clear instructions on how to find an Apple staff person to help her see a Genius, which she considers to be confusing, as well.

"Take the staircase on the right and go to the second floor," he said. "Find the person holding the red iPad."I walked around the entire upstairs and peered at each employee's iPad until I found one with a red cover.

Sounds like she was able to find who she was looking for right away. She was also able to get an appointment for just 30 minutes later.

When she came back for her official appointment, she checked in with the appointment receptionist, who told her to sit at a nearby table. She was then helped by another Apple employee who got some information about her issue (presumably to let the technician know what they should bring to the appointment). She was then helped by the official technician 20 minutes after the start time of her last-minute appointment. I've waited longer to pick up take-out that I order two hours ahead of time.

So, after being helped by a number of people that were trying to make the process quick and smooth, she was given a new iPhone at no cost (other than the original $150 that she paid for the cracked screen repair).

From my perspective, this is a perfect experience when dealing with an emergency repair. She was helped by multiple employees, all doing what they could to ensure that she was accommodated in a timely fashion, even though the store was busy and she hadn't made an appointment.

Hartmans, however, considered it to be "from hell" because she (of her own admission) would prefer to stand in line.

I know Apple envisions having a store where customers can flow in and out — or congregate, like in a "town square" — but sometimes it's just easier to stand in a line. At least from a customer's standpoint, you know where you need to be.

She prefers the stand-in-line method over Apple's way of freeing people up to wander around. By not making you stand in line everytime you want to speak to an employee, you're able to check out new accessories, sit on a stool for a bit, and play with iPhones, iPad, Macs, or whatever else catches your eye.

Would you rather stand in line?

I'm not trying to say that every Apple Store experience is wonderful, especially when we're referring to some of Apple's most popular locations. They are very busy and it can sometimes be difficult to navigate.

I don't think Hartmans' opinion is wrong. It's an opinion, after all. What she doesn't seem to understand, however, is that what she calls hellish, I call ingenious. Some people will agree with Hartmans' assessment that, "there's much to be desired with Apple's repair process." I also believe that some people will agree with me that everything she complains about is what I love about the experiences I have when visiting an Apple Store for a repair.

The real problem is that Hartmans' piece is written on a business news website and speaks about subjective matters in an objective way. It's just one perspective amongst many based on one single experience.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

48 Comments
  • I get that Apple would rather "free up" customers to wander around, because that's the best way to get them to buy more stuff, but when you're walking into an store wanting something serviced/repaired, there's a high chance you aren't in the mood to window shop. In that sense, I can relate to her. Obviously Apple's defense would be that she didn't make an appointment, but you'd still expect them to give her some some sort of timeline the after taking a look at her case. It's like going into a government office to complete some form of registration; you don't want to be there, but it needs to be done, so you hope to get it done as quickly as possible, and would like to know where you stand in the process (either waiting in line or taking a number) and how much longer it'll take. Now imagine yourself going in, meeting a clerk, and she tells you "Please take your time reading some propaganda while I get someone to process your request" coupled her usual fake-hollow smile. Also disagree with your comment on the BI writer's presumptuous assumption. So what if she dropped it? It was working fine before she handed it over, and it came back dead. Imagine sending your car with a dented bumper, otherwise perfectly running, and it refuses to start after the mechanic has worked on it.
  • I understand that people don't feel like going to the store when they have to much less want to be there any longer than they have to. Then again, considering how many Apple products there are this is a pretty good deal. Especially if you consider that after Apple performs a repair on your device they put it back under warranty (if it wasn't already). I only read the excepts contained in this article but it sounds to me like she dropped her phone twice after getting it repaired which led to the phone being "bricked" (I doubt Apple would give it back to her if it didn't work). In this case she ended up getting a new phone at no additional cost even though it was her fault it stopped working. What would this article have been like had it been written about a damaged Samsung phone? What about a phone from a manufacturer with a smaller market representation? My feeling is that people single out Apple because it gets attention, not necessarily because the experience was clearly bad. People tend to either expect more from Apple or just don't like them. In either case we all want to bash them because of our feelings.
  • ...and she picks it up and runs it into tree...twice.
  • I guess she's never made an appointment to a doctor or dentist and had to sit there for 45 minutes past your appointment time, staring at bad pastel art on the walls or reading 6 month old magazines.
  • Yes, I always say, you should go Samsung or LG so when your phone breaks you send it to Singapore and then you have the privilege of waiting in line at FedEx for five weeks, complaining to other customers the while about the horror The HORROR, of wandering like cattle through an Apple store for whole minutes awaiting service.
  • Here’s my thing: you say “you aren’t in the mood to window shop” but if I’m faced with the choice between standing uncomfortably close to people in a linear fashion or wandering around at will, I’ll pick wandering. To your point, however, about knowing where you stand in the queue of reservations, I have been in and out of online support chats with other companies like Comcast, AT&T, etc, and if an agent isn’t able to jump right into the chat and you have to “wait your digital turn,” like in my support chat yesterday with AT&T, they (in “realtime”) updated the chat window message every minute or so, saying something like “Thank you for your patience, your hold time is approximately XX minutes. You are #36 or 8 or 5 in line!” I loved seeing that. Great points, Moodyz! :)
  • Some people are always going to complain about Apple. Compare praise given to Samsung for things when Apple will get a complaint about the same thing. I can certainly understand wanting something to be fixed right away and that is not likely to happen when you go to an Apple store without an appointment regardless of the day of the week. Maybe I've been conditioned to know what to expect but the alternative is to either take it to a local repair shop which may or may not do a good job (and regardless of quality of workmanship) not stand behind their repair after the fact or have to mail your phone in and be without it for several weeks. Given the choice I'd take a trip to the Apple store over the alternative.
  • Samsung has a small number of stores but I get your point. It’s sort of like getting your journalistic street creds when you excoriate Apple for things. I mean according to some the company can’t do anything right.
  • Probably best to just stop at “Business Insider” rather than wasting time trying to reply to this clickbait.
  • I would agree with you Lory. As a funny wee side note, I am a Brit and I still agree 😂 I do not find going into Apple (read: Apple Store) difficult at all. You just ask a member of staff and it all cascades from there. As you pointed out. Waiting in line, held more or less to the same spot, unable to distract yourself with an iPad or other device, sounds more like torture to me. In my opinion, Apple should just keep doing what they are doing.
  • Much ado about nothing. Can’t wait to see what The Macalope does to this one...
  • My last experience at an Apple Store was, in my opinion, horrible. I had just bought an iPad Pro 10" from my local T-Mobile store. When I started experiencing issues with iOS11 (Files app giving error message when trying to open Numbers spreadsheets), I took the iPad Pro 10" to my local Apple Store since T-Mobile was unable to help me. I made a drop-in appointment (for 30 minutes later) and, when my appointment came, I was led over to the Genius Bar. When the Genius walked over to help me, I explained my problem (that the Files app was giving me errors when trying to open a Numbers spreadsheet) and, to my surprise, he became huffy and told me "I'm not going to deal with that problem". When I told the Genius that AppleCare, whom I had called the day before, was extremely interetsed in my Files App problem (a Senior iOS Technician has even given me a Case Number that was being CC'ed to the iOS Engineers), the Genius adamantly declared that I had no right to speak with a Senior AppleCare Tech about my problem. I ended up leaving the store feeling stunned as to why the Genius had acted that way. Since the Files App problem never resolved itself, and the Senior Apple Care Tech was ultimately not able to fix the problem, I ended up returning the iPad Pro 10" to T-Mobile (before my 14-day return period expired) and I decided to not get a replacement.
  • Get peoples name and what store it was. Share it here, at least the store name. That is not how they are supposed to do things. Never had that happen to me. I go there to look, ask questions, and share ideas. They learn from me sometimes. Love that classes. I wish I could have helped you myself.
  • It was the University Village store in Seattle, WA. I don't remember the Genius' name, although I do vividly remember that his entire left arm was covered in colored tattoos. I live pretty close to that mall, so I'll try getting down there tomorrow and ask one of the other employees what that guy's name is.
  • Like any company in the world, Apple has good employees and not so good ones. You just happened to fall on the bad Apple (excuse the pun).
    I've had a run in with a couple of them over the years. However in general they are very helpful.
  • I definitely disagree with your take. "From my perspective, she was helped by four Apple employees who each gave her instructions on where to go and what to do. That's bad?" How was she helped by 4 employees? Being handed off without any clear progress to a resolution is frustrating. Having to explain your issue over and over in a crowded space doesn't sound very helpful or efficient, IMO. Why did she have to see 3 people before she got to someone that could address her issue? Why couldn't the first person direct her directly to the last person she needed to talk to? Cracked screens are a common issue, getting to a point of resolution shouldn't be that cumbersome.
  • Most technical questions I've had over the years required at least 3 people.
    1) The sign in, the person who greets you.
    2) The person who will look at your problem and do some initial diagnostics
    3) The specialist who will dig deeper if (2) can not help you. Nothing wrong with that, just this writer's unreasonable expectations.
  • I respectfully disagree. Do you consider a cracked screen a "technical question" because I certainly do not. It is a common issue. In your example, I would question why 3 people would be "required" for such a low level task. I mean, you really need 3 or 4 people to get involved for a cracked screen repair? Really?
  • I agree. when I went in to buy an apple watch, I talked to 3 people before being able to just buy the watch. I didn't have any questions, knew exactly what I wanted. 3 people.
  • What story would have been told if it was the Google pixel that got cracked? Not fixed the same day I can tell you that.
    The iphone was repaired and worked fine for a full day she said. Then something failed - to presume it was a faulty repair is a stretch. She could easily be the cause ... she had already dropped it twice. Things fail — yes it’s a pain to go back but they gave her a new phone. And she even complained that she had to pay for the first screen she broke.
    Who in there right mind wants to stand in lines over being texted to come back and pickup your repair. She need to spend some time trying to get an android phone repaired.
  • I'm frankly shocked that anyone is defending the Business Insider's article. She didn't have an appointment but didn't like the way she was moved to different employees within the store? We are all busy. Get an appointment like you're supposed to do and the process would be smooth and easy. I can't stand complainers like this.
  • To the new client Apple’s approach can be a bit disorienting, we are too used to being treated poorly with long lines, poor service and high prices. Apple’s approach is a jarring change from this norm that it feels wrong and makes you suspicious that you are being tricked somehow. I felt the same way the only time I ever used the repair service, when it was over I was confused. I’m not used to being treated like a human at a retail store.
  • When you LOVE apple the way the author does, it all seems good!
  • Now i agree the experience really was not that bad walking in wihtout an appointment she is very lucky. and outside of apple you cannot walk into most retailers for repairs even only thrid party authorized locations. Now i had a very poor experience which could have been handled better which i would describe as hellish and would have made this author cringe. My wife's camera stopped working, so we made an appointment 4 days ahead of time was the earliest i could get for saturday at 5:30pm. I arrived promptly at 5:30 and checked in with my wife and daughter, phone was already backed up and find my iphone removed. we waited until 6:45 until a technician finally came to greet us. only to be told they were no longer doing repairs for the day and the phone would have to be left overnight. or we could come back tomorrow and drop it off. Now i understand this happens but when i make an appointment not near the end of business hours i do expect it to be honored. or at the very least tell me when we checked in our situation. So we wasted the 1 hour drive each way and the 1 hour and half in the store. only to be told to come back tomorrow. I questioned the tech and why we were not told or about an appointment for the next day and they said i could just drop it off.
    but in the long run through a very painful process the phone was fixed. something i would have had to mail out for most other device brands. So i still like that apple does repairs in store. But the chaos of finding a person to check in with can still be painful. i suggest using the apple store app for those of us savvy to check in for sales service, and have you take a selfie so the representative can find you. this would be a lot better i think we could even enter our own notes. i mean **** we can ring ourselves up.
  • Hi Lory,
    I actually read the entire Business Insider piece and I would also add another quote to your article. The points where I would disagree with her is where she says,
    "In the end, I paid $150 for a brand-new screen I was able to enjoy for less than a day, and I never got that money back."
    Well she did have a choice to stay with a broken screen after dropping it twice. "Since my phone worked perfectly before I went in for a repair — I had even tested my battery the week before to check that my phone wasn't being throttled — I can only assume that a mistake was made in the repair process."
    Here she clearly does not know. Maybe dropping it twice jarred something loose inside. If it worked upon leaving the Apple store in Brooklyn, then there's nothing else Apple could've done.
    When she went back they replaced her phone no questions asked. I think this author could've said that Apple store overcrowding impacts customer experience. I would also suggest she gets a rugged case for her phone.
  • The interesting thing about her experience is that she had the most painless experience possible. I have never been a huge fan of apple, I do use an iPhone X (tried to switch the girlfriend to android but gave up lol). Her experience with any other phone manufacturer would result in her waiting more than a day for a new phone and that's only if she had an extended warranty. Apple has the best warranty period. Yes applecare+ has gotten expensive, I won't be getting it on my X. If you have an apple device and its under warranty, you can take it to any apple store and get help, yes they are usually always busy. I live in Calgary, Alberta and we have 2 and they are always busy and appointments are recommended. She was able to go to an Apple Store in Brooklyn(on the weekend) with no appointment and get her phone fixed on the same day. It was replaced on her next visit be it a week later. She could have hit an Apple Store in Vegas and had it replaced the afternoon she landed there.
  • It's Business Insider. They smoke weed at lunch.
  • very long time apple customer posting here (//c in 1984 through SE and MBP now). I will say that the process for dealing with repairs has gone downhill in the last few years. Perhaps this is due to the sheer volume of customers. Back in my day when i was the mac post-doc guy in the biology lab, I was responsible for about 40 machines. If there was an issue with one of them (rarely, but it happened), I took it to the apple store, I WAS GIVEN A REPAIR AUTHORIZATION NUMBER, and they kept me informed as to the repair process at every stage until it was ready for pickup. My wife had an iMac fail on her (i thought it was likely the hard drive but wasn't sure if logic board was involved) and she took it to apple store. They said they would fix it, then it fell into a black hole of phone calls and store visits trying to figure out where it was. At one point they had the wrong phone number associated with the iMac. Every time we went to the store or called them they had to look her up by her name and was a total fiasco. I begged them to give her the repair authorization number so they could look it up faster when we called or maybe she could look it up online. "that was not possible". eventually they got it back to her 2 weeks later and even comped the repair, which was great but it turned out that they had broken the screen during the iMac teardown and tried to hide it under a "screen recall" that didn't exist , thus explaining the delay. really disappointed in the poor communication and lack of transparency. we know mistakes happen and I'm sure glad i didn't have to crack that baby open but just tell us what happened and we'll understand. apple is the best, but the best is not perfect by any means...
  • All my Apple Store experiences have been fine but then again I've never had hardware needing repair or had beg to replace something. One time it was just to buy a physical Apple Store gift card. Another time it was to ask for help with a "frozen" iPad and the clerk just showed me all I had to do was press down on the power button for ten seconds. After that the iPad was up and running. I'm sure she thought I was pretty clueless but didn't say so to my face. Most recently I'd been given an iPad Pro as Christmas gift and a $140 Apple Store-only gift card had been included as a one-day promo. I was a little disappointed I couldn't use it at the iTunes. However, I went onto the Apple website & ordered $130 worth of accessories (protective iPad Pro cover, 3.5 inch audio port adapter, spare Lightning power cable) all for free. I got a reply within ten minutes saying my order was ready for pick up anytime. I went down to the store, found an available clerk and within five minutes was given the free stuff I'd chosen.
  • My recent experience was near perfect.
    My iPhone X was working fine on Saturday. I was using it and put it back in its holster. Next time I took it out it was dead. Wouldn't even power up.
    Looked online for an appointment slot at the local store. None until Tuesday. Not going to wait that long. Showed up at the local store Sunday at opening time. There was a line at the door. There was an employee taking appointments before the store opened. I got one for 30 min later.
    Showed up at the appointed time, told where to sit and was seen about five min later. Tech put the phone on a diagnostic PC that ran about 5 min. Verdict: DEAD. Employee went in the back, brought out a brand new phone exactly the same configuration as the one I had. Put my SIM in the new phone and told me I would have to go to Sprint to have the phone activated as Sprint locks the SIM to the device.
    Bottom line, I was in and out in about an hour with a brand new phone, no appointment, no charge.
    Biggest hassle for me was restoring the new phone. It just takes time and patience.
    Works for me.
  • I read the original Hartman article a couple of days ago, and came away wondering why she was upset. For many products, it is very difficult to get any service at all, and it is often the case that companies will spend more time and energy trying to avoid making things right. Apple sells premium products, and yes, they can be expensive. But, they do back them up, and Hartman's article, in my opinion, should be used to demonstrate how Apple offers great service, and stands behind it's products.
  • A few days after Lory Gil posted this and based on several posters' reactions and personal stories my conclusion is that Apple does provide good service for their products, however in some very busy stores the process can be improved.
    Of course a story based on this would generate that many clicks for BI.
  • While I admit that to try things out or getting an appointment is easy at an Apple Store. Just going in picking up what you want and paying for it is a pain. Most times I have to wait for someone to become free to pay, often that takes more than 15 minutes, several times it has taken over 30 minutes. Personally I'd rather line up to pay someone and leave in 5 minutes or less. There have been a few times where I've just dropped what I wanted on one of the tables and walked out.
  • If you have the Apple Store app on your iPhone, just scan the barcode on the thing you want to buy, activate ApplePay and walk out the door. No need to talk to anyone.
  • This is not so much about Apple's customer service as much as it is a complaint about a new retail paradigm. Apple's new store layout and F2F customer service are offputting to some, especially a person who prefers a queue. A person over 30 is accustomed to a particular retail paradigm that is based on clear signage to help you know where to go, lines in which to wait for service, and a human experience that is geared ideally toward a satisfactory outcome. When a retailer breaks one or more of those elementary expectations, the customer may experience discomfort and unfamiliarity, resulting in an unsatisfying experience even if the object of their visit is obtained.
  • Not sure what the gripe is. A few months ago I broke my screen and was able to walk in without a appointment and get my phone replaced in about 30 minutes. That's pretty darn good IMHO. I've had a few issues over the years needing immediate help and I've been able to go in without appointments and be seen within 20-30 minutes. That's awesome compared to the competition! Guess she'd rather have the alternative of waiting for a replacement in the mail, then having to package and ship off her damaged device!
  • I always find the Apple Store a bit challenging because it is generally extremely crowded and noisy and both of those conditions make me nuts as a general rule. It’s not just Apple - I feel that way in any crowd. That said, I don’t mind the handoff system as it is a good way to avoid one very long line and gets you to where you need to go quickly. Compared to my experience at big box stores where you might have to ask five people where something is before you reach the right aisle, I agree with Monty Fowler that the new customer paradigm employed by Apple can turn some people off. I think the person with the broken screen (which could have been avoided with adequate protection, unless she took a hammer to it purposely) is overly defensive about something that is basically her own fault. In addition, I would generally not go to the Apple Store if I needed specific assistance without an appointment. However, the few times I have just walked in, I got seen pretty quickly. However, Apple (the company, not the Store) messed up a repair on my laptop years ago when they failed to put all of the internal screws back in, damaging the video cord so my screen was unviewable, so if I need an Apple product repaired, I take it to my local Apple authorized vendor and repair shop. If I go in an Apple store these days it’s because I’m just looking around with no specific purpose or taking a class. I find if you tell them you are just looking, they say, just let us know if we can help you and pretty much leave you alone.
  • It does work better at places where you can walk up to a counter and talk to one person and let them handle all the other folks. The techs hide in the back unless they need to come out and talk to you. I do like their system for paying for things except when you pay cash. They must be trained to try and shame cash customers, they have to take your money across the store to a secret drawer. I remember back when they still had a counter and lines you stood in to buy things, there was this one cashier who I always seemed to get when I’d go in and get a game or some other software. He’d always act surprised when I paid with cash and say “people still use cash?” And I’d say “people like you who finance everything they buy are why we are going to have a banking crisis.” I listened to a lot of talk radio then and they were always warning about it.
  • LOL! Great comeback, although I think your experience is unique to that Apple employee since I have paid cash for everything I have bought at my local Apple Store and it have never been an Issue at all and not one of the Apple employee's has had a snide comment or tried to shame me in any way for paying with cash. I hope you don't mind if I use your line if the opportunity arises?
  • Sounds more like a testimonial for excellent service. On two occasions, the writer received same day service without an appointment. This is unlike my experience earlier today when I drove two hours to the nearest Apple store, arrived on time for my appointment, waited 10-15 minutes for the Genius to be ready for me and was informed that I would have to wait 4 hours for a battery replacement. Even when I informed the genius that I had a 2 hour drive home and made this appointment a week earlier, he could do nothing for me. I was offered the opportunity to keep my case open so that I could drop in and take my chances anytime in the next 5-7 days. Does anyone think 4 hours is too long to wait for a repair that is reported to take as little as 20 minutes for a really good tech and up to 40 for the slower tech?
  • I agree with you, Lory. What she sees as “hellish” really is ingenious. Apple is essentially doing for the service appointment line and subsequent process, what Amazon (GO) stores are doing to rid grocery stores of lines, cashiers, etc.
  • Two words to sum-up Ms. Hartmans' piece: Business Insider. 'Reporting' like this is why they are blocked from my news feeds.
  • It would be funny if they had a roped off pen with a sign over it that says "disgruntled grouchy people wait here". Standing room only. With one of those "take a number" dispensers.
  • I hate standing in line with nothing to do but just stand there. I would never go to my local Apple Store without an appointment if at all possible because my local store is almost always busy and I don't want to be put in the position of having to be "fit in" because there are to many customers that have an appointment waiting, and by rights should be helped first, after all they have an appointment. I consider the experience this woman had as very good in this day and age where most businesses I visit customer service is a thing of the past.
  • Customers differ, and I do see both sides here, to be honest. But the writer is wrong about the location of the Business Insider article: an editorial is exactly where such a piece belongs and only belongs. Also, I myself would be more generous to another writer — as I often have been — especially if I could not manage correct grammar in the first sentence of my own article. (Doesn’t iMore have editors who scan published materials, even if on lightweight fora such as the internet?)
  • Apple’s random wander method is ok for snagging a quick accessory, but, drives me nuts for service. Apple’s “pass the buck” approach tells the customer that nobody is taking responsibility for their issue. First contact should own the issue to completion.
  • I have two Ipads.. Not long after I got my first one which was an Ipad 4, Retina display, an update upset the Apple Mail app. I took it to my local Ipad store in Brighton, UK, and the problem was fixed for me on the spot. Getting my tablet fixed was more important to me than worrying about having to see different people or having to wait to be seen. I also had an out of warranty screen repair done on the same machine and I was very happy with that too.
  • I have never bought an apple product from an apple store but i have an iPhone I got from my service provider.
    Apple staff in my area do not know the word "refurbished" - maybe because they don't have any of those.
    And they are not aware of battery replacements - because maybe they also do not have one of those.
    For repairs, they have to point you to an accredited 3rd party repair center somewhere in the city that is always close for some reason with a telephone number that cannot be reached.
    So yeah... no matter how you adore the product, it's just hard to get help from them. It's like a private club you can't get in to without knowing the owner.