On Apple and Bureaucracy – Apple doesn’t think people move

As faithful readers know, I have recently relocated from the US to Australia, and now my stuff, including my iMacs, arrived in their container. I would like to use them. Sadly, American power and Australian power are different voltages, different currents, different shapes of plugs. My MacBook works fine with an adaptor, surely, you say, one can go to the Apple Store / Town Center and pick up a replacement power cable. How hard could this be? I think the only difference from the computer’s perspective is the cable, not the country of origin, as the device itself has a transformer.

I went to Apple Store at Broadway, near campus. I learned after about 15 minutes of very polite back and forth that Apple does not sell replacement power cables, they are considered service parts. However if I had my serial numbers they might give them to me. Unfortunately, I did not memorize my iMac serial numbers, I barely remember my phone number. This is offloaded to the computer, which is of course not plugged in, as it is in Australia with American power cables. They could not look it up for some reason.  Also, I did not carry my iMac with me, which might have made this go faster, if my arms tired. Find my iPhone doesn’t tell you the serial number (also it doesn’t use TouchID).  The computer is out of AppleCare warranty. They said I should contact support online.

I had a lovely 20 minute text chat with Apple Support which in the end resulted in them saying they can’t do anything since they are in the US (though I logged in from Australia, my computers are American). But they very politely connected me with local technical support via telephone.

I repeated the story. After a 20 minute conversation with the first local technical support person, I had to be kicked upstairs to Herbert who informed me he was from Singapore (I am not sure where the first person had been located). After another 25 minutes, he was able to generate an exception and said the cables would be sent to my local address in a few business days.

So the good news is they could eventually resolve my problem. The bad news is it took 4 people and more than an hour of time (both mine and theirs) for something seemingly so simple and inexpensive.

So in answer to the question “how hard could this be”, the answer is very. The reason is that Apple, like so many large companies, is functionally a bureaucracy without empowered staff. They have systematically lost a can-do spirit, and almost everyone, while well-trained in customer mollification, lacks authority to do things that are exceptional. There is no doubt a reason bureaucracies exist. As the famous quote from the The Caine Mutiny says “The Navy is a system designed by geniuses to be executed by idiots. If you find yourself in the Navy and you are not an idiot, you can only function well by pretending to be one.” The US military is the extreme example. However Apple’s growth is clearly driving it in that direction too.

I realize the simpler solution would be to just get a off-the-shelf non-Apple US-AU power adaptor, but when I started the process, I didn’t think it would be so difficult. But, I am an edge case.

Post-script 2017-10-28. 1 Powercable arrived in the mail on Friday. I had clearly asked for 2. It did however work fine.