iPad 2: good product, bad business
I just returned from the Apple Store at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. I arrived at the mall at 5.20 AM to wait in line for my chance to buy an iPad 2. I was number 27 in line. I did not get one. The line went to 81. My wife had been there for the past two days, and both days she was shut out. She was number 39 yesterday, with no luck.
For a revered brand, Apple is risking customer will in the way they are managing the iPad launch. When you call, the stores cannot tell you when or how many they will get in. Even the night before when you call they cannot tell you what they are getting at the store less than ten hours later. If it’s coming from California, they have to know what is coming at that point, but the company is not telling their stores and their stores are simply telling people they don’t know. Does not sound like the operations of a company that makes sophisticated computer products and runs one of the most trafficked websites online, does it?
There are several people who have waited in line multiple days and still do not get product. I was with 70 angry customers this morning. Only ten people got iPads – there were twenty available and the first ten people – many of whom looked like resellers for eBay or were shipping them overseas – all bought two. Apple’s policy, we were told, was to sell two. The 70 customers in line requested that the manager not follow policy, but he would not listen.
By the calculation of someone in our line today, Apple sells 14,000 iPads a day through their stores – at that rate about 3.3 million a year. What they are not counting is the 70 people at each store each day who walk away frustrated. For their 700 stores, that equals 49,000 day. They are frustrating four times as many people as they are delighting. Ouch!
If this goes on for a month – and at this rate that is conservative – that will lead to 1.5M frustrated customers. Think about that, one the greatest brands in the world is now going to have more than a million people saying why they are not fans.
This was preventable and manageable if the company thought about the customer experience. The manager this am said to me and the other frustrated customers “that is the policy.” The company that reinvented computing now focusing on policy. Hmmm. He said that “this happens with every launch.” So does that mean they knew they were going to create all this ill will? Hmmm. I even said why not give every one in line a $5 itunes gift card. “Sir, I just can’t go do that” he said. Would have cost $350 and been the best money he spent – but it was outside of policy. Hmmm.
We’ll all go buy an iPad. My wife wants to try again on Monday. I am giving up. I will order online. But whether I like the iPad or not when I get it, my feeling toward Apple will never be same. They are big, they follow policy, they are not focused on customers. They make great products, but not happy customers.