Does Apple use flying monkeys for customer service?

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Code Monkey

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The other night I encounter the first serious glitch in the iTunes store that's affected me in the more than six years I've been using the program. I searched for a program called "Uzu" based on comments in reviews for another program. I clicked on the app description link and suddenly see a bunch of stuff start downloading. With no request for my password or confirmation dialog, I have somehow "purchased" a playlist titled "Uzu" by clicking on the Uzu app description. Great, there's $12 taken out of my bank account even though I never did purchase the playlist and cancelled the download immediately.

I use the "report a problem" function and tonight they refund my money. However, instead of apologizing for the store error, they chastise me for making a mistake telling me this is a one time exception and in the future I will be held responsible for all purchases. The icing on the cake is the rep tells me to use the shopping cart feature in the future to avoid such boneheaded mistakes on my part; the shopping cart is an option that hasn't existed for more than two years!

Am I really going to be held responsible for store errors in the future because Apple can't admit to making mistakes? I feel like I should swear off of ever using the iTunes store again, but when you've got an iPad and touch in the house, pretty unlikely that's going to happen in reality.
 

ScoobZ

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Ugh. Was the conversation via email or phone? The one time I had a problem (with a song) I started the process via email but then took it to phone as it was much easier to deal with. I didn't get 100% satisfaction (more like 95%), but it was much more than I sensed I was getting via email.

I wouldn't swear off it based on one incident that, although they chastised you, was more likely a problem on their end that will probably be fixed in short order. (Just for fun I just clicked on both the iPad Uzu app and the Little Uzu app for the iPhone and nothing started downloading. I'm not signed in to the store though as I'm not that brave!)
 

Code Monkey

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It was email, I try to avoid the phone whenever possible for anything resembling business. Anyhow, yes, definitely unrealistic to think I could actually avoid the iTunes store, I just couldn't believe the way they threw a store error back at the user. I don't store my iTunes Store password and, to the best of my knowledge, they always have a confirmation dialog for anything that costs money, so the assertion this was my fault, that I mistakenly entered my password when I thought I was clicking on an app description and then mistakenly clicked yes to spending $11.99 on a bunch of obscure classical tracks I would never listen to when I was trying to look at an app description for something that cost a dollar or two was terrible customer service. I might have even let their most likely form response not bother me except their suggestion I refer to the help document on setting my iTunes to use the shopping cart. *That* was what really got on my nerves. If your CS reps are working from form responses and protocols that are at least two years out of date, you are not doing your job as a company.

I sent a follow up message to their CS regarding this, we'll see what comes of it. I can live with rude CS reps, I just don't want some sort of flag set on my account that I've burned my one "do over" over their error. If I'd known they were going to that, I'd have picked an error more serious than $11.99 to report ;)
 

ScoobZ

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I agree with all of your points. That is some shoddy CS work they gave you. I'm curious to hear their response to you.
 

jasoncordelle

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Code: Was this on your home computer or your iDevice?

If on your home PC/Mac - are you signed up for 1-click purchasing? If so - that's how it would have occurred.

Otherwise - I agree: Flying Monkeys.
 

Code Monkey

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If on your home PC/Mac - are you signed up for 1-click purchasing? If so - that's how it would have occurred.
There isn't anything other than 1-click shopping, you must have last used the iTunes store when this CS rep did ;)

I would LOVE to have a shopping cart. That's all I ever used, I hate the whole notion of one click shopping for ANYTHING. However, starting with iTunes 9.0, there is no shopping cart and even if you should do something as oddball as create a separate computer user, install iTunes 8.X for using the iTunes store, they've made it so you can only purchase apps through the post 9.X mandatory 1-click shopping.

Regardless of that, the point here is that there was no prompt for password (I explicitly don't store my password because there is no longer a shopping cart), no confirmation dialog, and I was clicking on an app description. Even if I had a choice and I "recklessly" stuck with 1-click shopping, this ain't my fault :)
 

jasoncordelle

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Even if I had a choice and I "recklessly" stuck with 1-click shopping, this ain't my fault :)
See - this is what's wrong with the way you are approaching this.

You must know by now that if Apple (or an Apple employee) has deemed you to be at fault, then you clearly ARE.

I don't see any defence to that strategy...whether their systems work the way you want them to or you deliberately go about things the way YOU want...if it's not the way Apple (or said employee) says it is supposed to be done, you are at fault. Plain and simple.

Boy, must you be feeling silly right about now. ;)
 

Code Monkey

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Heard back today. I'm happier, but, damn, Apple just cannot fess up to a random glitch:

Another CS rep issued me a 5 song credit as "hush money" and apologized for my dissatisfaction with the way the first CS rep handled my issue (guess that's as good as that's going to get). She could have stopped there but...

... she referred me to the knowledge article on resetting warnings on my account (only she actually gave me a link to a completely unrelated article :D). What is wrong with these people? The warning IS on for purchasing goods. Without a shopping cart, do you really think I was going to turn off the "Are you sure?" for spending money that gets taken straight out of my bank account? I've got young kids, I've got dogs who will get on my desk to look for something to eat, sometimes you click the wrong place, the last thing I ever want is a single mouse click that equals money spent.

How hard is it just to say, "We're sorry that an unknown glitch resulted in the accidental charge to your account. We have removed the charges and the unwanted items from your purchase history. Have a nice day"?
 

rockmyplimsoul

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One thing I've noticed is that the first purchase of your iTunes session will prompt you for a password, but any subsequent purchases will complete without a password. Once you exit iTunes, the next purchase will prompt for a password, so perhaps you (or someone in your household) made a purchase earlier in the day from the same iTunes session? I could be mistaken in that it is a daily thing rather than being limited to an iTunes session, but I'm pretty sure that if you exit iTunes (or buy from another computer or device on the same account) it will reset the password requirement. Also note that an App update (even a free App download) will count as a "purchase" in this regard if you enter your password.
 

Code Monkey

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One thing I've noticed is that the first purchase of your iTunes session will prompt you for a password, but any subsequent purchases will complete without a password. Once you exit iTunes, the next purchase will prompt for a password, so perhaps you (or someone in your household) made a purchase earlier in the day from the same iTunes session? I could be mistaken in that it is a daily thing rather than being limited to an iTunes session, but I'm pretty sure that if you exit iTunes (or buy from another computer or device on the same account) it will reset the password requirement.
Possibly, but that still wouldn't disable the warning before purchases that never gets cached, nor would it explain why this is my fault when clicking on an app description purchased a playlist.

Oh well, got five free songs I can go buy and it *appears* they won't hold me to the "you've burned your one do-over" limitation. When dealing with flying monkeys, I guess you got to take what you can get ;)
 

Jesse Hollington

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The folks behind iTunes Store Customer Service are basically robots. I've dealt with the iTunes Store CS on several occasions and you have to be pretty careful to not get too complicated with them otherwise their circuits tend to shut down with some kind of logic error and they begin spouting formulaic nonsense.

For example, a couple of years ago I had downloaded a season of a TV series and discovered that three episodes were missing the audio completely beyond a certain point. My initial "Report a Problem" submission explaining that the audio was missing seemed to trigger some kind of inane response based on the assumption that I was requesting a refund for these episodes and giving me the standard "All Sales are Final" party line. It took a couple more e-mails before I could get somebody to turn off "robot mode" and realize that what I was looking for was to have these episodes replaced with ones that, you know, actually work :rolleyes:

To be fair, once I got that established they were extremely helpful, but when problems fall outside of the generic requests it seems to "not compute" with the front-line folks. It also doesn't help that a back-and-forth e-mail exchange still often results in responses from different people even within the same thread.

All of that said, iTunes Customer Support seems to work pretty well when dealing with the more "routine" problems, as they obviously have the script to deal with this. I've had issues with things like incomplete downloads that have been solved very quickly and professionally, although still usually following a pretty robotic "process" of form-letter e-mails.
 

Code Monkey

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I've dealt with the iTunes Store CS on several occasions and you have to be pretty careful to not get too complicated with them otherwise their circuits tend to shut down with some kind of logic error and they begin spouting formulaic nonsense.
I suspect this was the root of my problems with them. Instead of just saying, "I clicked on the "Uzu" app description and, without warning, found the "Uzu" playlist downloading and my account charged. I have no idea how this happened, please refund ASAP.", I insisted on writing at least on the high school level with enough detail to make a lawyer happy.

I need to remember that most Americans can't read in any appreciable manner above the 8th grade level and that there's a very good chance these weren't even Americans (or Canadians for that matter :D).
 

Jesse Hollington

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Yeah, that's generally been my problem with them as well, although the problem doesn't seem at all limited to Apple's customer support -- I have the same problems with e-mail support when dealing with other companies as well.

To be fair, the iTunes Store folks probably get a LOT of support e-mails for all sorts of reasons, and I'm sure many of them are inane at best, and downright stupid and even offensive at worst. The result is that most of them have probably developed the bad habit of skimming through things without reading them thoroughly, thereby pre-judging the nature of the problem without fully understanding it (ie, "(sigh) It's yet another moron who clicked on something they shouldn't have and wants a refund. Send the standard form letter again").
 

Code Monkey

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Satisfaction, finally...

After the last CS rep tossed me the 5 free songs but insisted on giving me yet another lesson on how *I* can avoid accidentally buying things in the future I sent one last email asking the same thing I posted here ("How hard is it...") along with a very succinct description of what happened and why their repeated articles were irrelevant to my issue.

I finally got a real apology, a real human response, and a tantalizing bit of information:

...unfortunately it is not possible to have our email support open 24 hours a day 7 days a week so at times when there is no one physically present in the email department, the computer system will attempt to answer the emails in our absence in the self-service system. Sometimes this is successful, other times it is not, such is your case.
Now, maybe this is just more skimmitis on their part and she's decided I was complaining about the FAQ section that shows up in the obvious auto reply, but it also hints that maybe it's not flying monkeys but rather simple parser bots (in which case, Jesse's observation is also quite amusing).
 

AndoDoug

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Parser bots, flying monkeys--what's the difference? Neither are programmed to recognize the possibility of errors from their side - Code Monkey's frustration would've been similarly felt either way.
 
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jasoncordelle

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I disagree - Parser Bots would have less entertainment value than Flying Monkeys, in my opinion. Assuming, of course, that you have a video feed to the said flying monkeys.
 

sawatzky

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There are real robots out there!

The folks behind iTunes Store Customer Service are basically robots.
Have you ever dealt with eBay customer service? They are REAL robots. Not a single human behind your interchange with them. I know because I've tried to delete an account that used my email address, but wasn't set up by me. I don't know the secret question answers to retrieve the password so I can't delete the account. I've contacted both customer service, and the fraud line. I've had circular arguments with them that no human would fall for. I've asked them if they are 'human' and they respond "yes"... and go on to the next question. Half an hour later we are back to the same questions, and I ask them again "are you human"... and they reply the same way. They never get tired, and the transcripts obviously never get reviewed by a real human... because i still can't release my email address from that fraudulent account.
 

sawatzky

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There isn't anything other than 1-click shopping, you must have last used the iTunes store when this CS rep did ;)
This flying monkey must have forgotten to update his jargon. The Shopping cart is still there in the form of a "Wish List" But you have to aim for that tiny arrow beside the giant price button to access the wish list. Even if your intention is to add a selection to the wish list, there is a good chance you'll buy the item instead... it all depends if you've had your morning coffee. I just checked my wish list for the first time, and all my un-bought shopping cart items are in there.
 

Jesse Hollington

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The Wish List does not work at all in the same manner as the Shopping Cart did, and it's not an excuse for accidentally purchasing something. Before iTunes 9 you could enable the "Shopping Cart" and any attempt to purchase anything at all would drop it in the shopping cart so you could review it before buying it. With the Shopping Cart feature enabled, it was impossible to make a one-click purchase. The Wish List is a poor alternative for impulse shoppers and definitely not a useful suggestion to avoid accidental purchases.
 
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