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Apple Businesses Hardware

Just What is a Custom Configured Server? 318

Posted by Cliff
from the the-difference-between-'product-options'-and-'custom' dept.
djhanson wonders: "I just got back from a small claims court proceeding against Apple Computer. They successfully won their argument in front of the court that selecting additional memory and disk drives for a computer/server at the time of purchase, off of their website, constitutes a 'custom configured computer built to the customer's specifications'. Said computer is therefore not eligible under the company policy to be returned. Has anyone else heard of such a thing? As near as I can tell, Apple is the only company that has such a restrictive policy. I called both IBM and HP, and neither of those companies has such a policy. Am I the only one that thinks there is something terribly wrong with a policy like this? Any opinions? Suggestions? Comments? Whatever?"
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Just What is a Custom Configured Server?

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  • complicated (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @06:57AM (#8395905)
    on the (limited) information you've given it does seem a little unfair to you though, technically, the judgement was correct. You configured the machine, you are a customer, therefore it is a customer configured machine.

    There should be a warning on their site when you do configure the machine yourself that you won't be able to do certain things.

    an interesting point would be, what if you used the same customer configuration system to add in say some extra software or another battery for a laptop?
    • Re:complicated (Score:5, Informative)

      by wacko1138 (730161) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @07:47AM (#8396070) Homepage
      Actually, they have a link at the bottom of their store page labelled Sales and Refunds [apple.com].

      On that page it says:

      "RETURN & REFUND POLICY
      If you are not satisfied with your Apple purchase of a pre-built product, please call 1-800-676-2775 for a Return Material Authorization (RMA) request within 10 business days of the receipt of the product."

      And a little further down:

      "Please note that Apple does not permit the return of or offer refunds for the following products:

      1. Product that is custom configured to your specifications"

      I do think it's a bass-ackwards policy, but it's all there on the site. May not be fun, but always a good idea to read the fine print (especially before laying out the sort of money Apple wants).

      • Re:complicated (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hool5400 (257022) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:11AM (#8396761)
        That text is for "if you are not satisfied".

        The poster doesn't mention whether the return is because of an unfit product, or just changed his mind.

        I suspect the latter, and you can see Apple's point. He gets it and doesn't like it, sends it back, and they have to pull out the RAM, extra HDs - a giant pain in the arse. Why should they?

        If it was broken on the other hand and they refuse to take it back, I'd have an issue, but I'm sure there are consumer laws in the US to protect the consumer from manufacturers selling unfit goods.
        • Re:complicated (Score:4, Informative)

          by rower46 (302299) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @01:35PM (#8398876) Homepage
          Apple really has a fair policy. My wife purchased an eMac back in November with additional RAM. We felt that there was a problem with the display. Apple agreed and refunded the purchase with no hassle at all!
        • Re:complicated (Score:3, Interesting)

          by localman (111171)
          you can see Apple's point. He gets it and doesn't like it, sends it back, and they have to pull out the RAM, extra HDs - a giant pain in the arse. Why should they?

          Ha ha ha! That's pretty funny!

          They should do it because it's their job to please their customers and it makes for good business. Anything less is basically stupid. That's right: stupid.

          I work for a company [zappos.com] that bends over backwards to please our customers. We just instated a 365 day return policy. And we offer free return shipping. Yes,
      • Re:complicated (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ssewell (733858)
        You should also note that Apple does not accept any third-party returns. Even if they're not functioning!

        When I received my order of Logitech Z680 5.1 Speakers from Apple, they were DOA. Apple wouldn't refund or exchange my order (as stated in their return policy), so I had to go through the manufacturer. And we all know how fun that is!

        Don't get me wrong, I love Apple products... but they really need to be more flexible about their return policies.
        • Re:complicated (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dizzyduck (659517) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @06:44PM (#8402482) Homepage

          When I received my order of Logitech Z680 5.1 Speakers from Apple, they were DOA. Apple wouldn't refund or exchange my order (as stated in their return policy), so I had to go through the manufacturer. And we all know how fun that is!

          Wouldn't Apple be legally obliged to exchange the item or offer a refund? You paid for a set speakers, you got a doorstop. End of story.

          For consumers in the UK at least, the contract exists between the customer and the trader - the manufacturer doesn't figure into it at all (Sale Of Goods Act). It is up to the trader to sort out any problems with the goods - not the customer. That said, many high street electrical stores will insist that the customer contacts the manufacturer for repair as many consumers are unaware of the rights they have.

          I'd find it hard to imagine that this isn't the case in the US too.

          • Re:complicated (Score:3, Interesting)

            by kommakazi (610098)
            Here in the US almost every time I've had to return defective hardware I had to deal directly with the manufacturer... it makes sense to me - the manufacturer should be held responsible for their own defective products. Also, by dealing directly with the manufacturer you cut out the middleman - which should generally result in an overall quicker return/exchange process...
    • I believe that since those came in separate boxes, you don't need to worry.
  • by ottawanker (597020) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @06:59AM (#8395912) Homepage
    Where do you live that you have a small claims court open at quarter to six in the morning? Doesn't seem like anywhere in the USA or Canada, which may cause unforeseen errors in our legal advice.
    • by acd294 (685183)
      Maybe I am wrong, but I think that the time it was posted is not the same as the time it was submitted. It could have been a few hours earlier which would be a perfectly reasonable time if the hearing was in the afternoon.
  • by jmt9581 (554192) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @06:59AM (#8395916) Homepage
    Why not write about your experience in a place where thousands of geeks across the world could be disgusted by Apple's slimy business practices?

    :)

  • Sounds like your computer does fit that description in its barest sense. Good on you for actually going to small claims court, though. Good use of the system. Hope it was a neat experience. Unfortunately, yeah, Apple does screw people in a couple of places. It's unfortunate, but they don't have huge margins for their hardware, and they are hell bent on turning a buck. As far as consumer rights go, you got screwed, but at the same time, you could have read the terms of the sale beforehand.
    • by bryan1945 (301828) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @07:29AM (#8396007) Journal
      This may have changed, but Apple has (or had) the largest margins on their machines; something around 25-28% or so. This was the average along their entire line, with laptop having the top margins and iMacs eMacs having the lowest margins.

      As for the lawsuit, well it does seem a bit shady that adding RAM is gonna screw you. Maybe there is something more going on here that is not being disclosed?
      • Those are very interesting numbers. Where do you get these sort of figures? Do they just show up in the news every once in a while?
        • Those are very interesting numbers. Where do you get these sort of figures? Do they just show up in the news every once in a while?

          In addition to showing up in the news [macminute.com] from time to time, I think that Apple bundles figures like that in the news releases that they give out to shareholders.

          I'm not sure about the shareholder news releases though, I'm not a stockholder. I just heard about them in a comment on another story.

      • by G4from128k (686170) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @08:39AM (#8396212)
        This may have changed, but Apple has (or had) the largest margins on their machines; something around 25-28% or so. This was the average along their entire line, with laptop having the top margins and iMacs eMacs having the lowest margins.

        You are right that Apple's margins are in that range. According to Apple's Annual 10-K report [yahoo.com], the company had a gross margin of 27.5%. But that is only their gross margin (the difference between the price of the item and the cost of the materials in that item). That figure leaves out a number of costs that Apple pays. Out of that 27.5% comes the 8.6% of sales that Apple spends on R&D. Another 19.5% of sales is spent on SG&A (Selling, general, and adminsitrative). Note that Apple's 27.5% is not even that high as the average across the S&P 500 is nearly 50%

        This leaves Apple with a net profit margin of only 0.4% which works out to about $8 in profit on each of the 3 million computers they sold in 2003 (Compare that to Dell's 6% net margin [msn.com] to see who is really making money off their customers).

        I won't excuse Apple for not warning customers about the return policy in more forceful terms. For custom configured purchases they really should have a bold-face warning in the purchase script that is triggered by what Apple considers "custom configured". Yet, nobody can claim that they make to much profit from their computers or fault them trying to contain costs.
      • This would be shady even if the customer added memory. But it's twice as shady when the customer requested additional memory and drives and apple installed and configured them!

        The reason for the policy is simple, they are cutting out some returns for starters and the overhead those machines would bring since they would need to either track those systems seperately or remove the memory/drives before putting them back in stock. This of course only makes sense if apple is in turn selling these systems as ne
        • The reason for the policy is simple, they are cutting out some returns for starters and the overhead those machines would bring since they would need to either track those systems seperately or remove the memory/drives before putting them back in stock. This of course only makes sense if apple is in turn selling these systems as new again.

          The policy only makes sense if Appls's customers are coming back and returning their systems en masse. Otherwise, a return policy is what it is. If you're going to

        • by meta-monkey (321000) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @01:01PM (#8398460) Journal
          That's why you never tell a company that you have done anything with their product that they do not expressly approve. This applies to everybody, not just Apple.

          However, case in point involving Apple. The video card in my G5 was bad. I'd get these green pixels flashing on the screen when I played a DVD or a video game. The video card also failed the Apple hardware test. So, I called AppleCare, and made absolutely certain not to tell them about the extra RAM I bought from Crucial and installed in the computer myself. Every time they asked if I'd modified the hardware in any way, I'd say "no, no, I don't even know how to do that..."

          They had me bring my G5 to a local Apple authorized service center, and they swapped out the card, and it works fine now. Of course, I removed the extra RAM before I brought it to the service center...
    • ahhh, I believe that Apple has some of the highest margins in the OEM market. Not that that's saying a whole lot, but if anyone can afford to restock a computer it's Apple.
    • I would hardly call it being "screwed." If they were screwing him, he would've won in small claims court because there would have be no legit reason for Apple not to accept the return. Maybe he screwed himself...
  • You've been stung (Score:5, Informative)

    by kinnell (607819) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @07:08AM (#8395942)
    Any opinions? Suggestions?

    Read the small print next time. I think it's reasonable for them to claim that it is a custom configuration, but refusing to support it when they have done the assembly is pretty disgraceful.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "...refusing to support it when they have done the assembly is disgraceful"

      where does it say that they aren't supporting the machine? all that was said is Apple won't accept "customized" orders as returns. it's actually perfectly understandable. when you "customize" a system, such as a different size hard drive, more ram, dvd burner, etc, it would be hard to sell the machine to someone else. who's to say someone else would want the same exact options? as for 'removing' the customizations, how would you
      • how would you like being sold something as new but was actually taken from a returned 'customized' item. those customized items can no longer be sold as new.

        I wouldn't know if it worked. Therefore I wouldn't care.

        those customized items can no longer be sold as new.

        Yes it can be resold if it is not damaged. Happens all the time in the retail industry.
        • Many states have laws specifically forbidding this. I worked in retail at one time in a state that did, and we had to take large discounts to move the items.
    • by aluminumcube (542280) * <gregNO@SPAMelysion.com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @08:40AM (#8396215)
      Well, I think this is not a matter of Apple supporting the product, it is a mater of Apple not willing to accept a return of the product.

      Personally, I think Apple offers 'custom configurations' because some customers want it and it sort of looks stupid not to offer it. Apple goes out of it's way to insure that their prices on RAM and extra hard drives (about the only two items you can 'configure' your system with) are way out of line with what's available on the open market. The fact of the matter is that Apple's margins on these components are extremely low and the resources required to pull a machine off the shelf at the warehouse, have an employee put the components in, repackage the whole thing and ship it are not worth it for Apple.

      I think Apple really wishes customers would simply go out (or online) and procure a bigger hard drive or more RAM themselves. They go out of their way to provide instructions for installing these components and it really isn't that hard to do. Besides, it's far less expensive for the customer in the end, and you don't need to wait an extra week for the computer to be shipped by Apple...

      • Re:You've been stung (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kinnell (607819)
        it is a mater of Apple not willing to accept a return of the product.

        The point is, though, that the work is done by Apple, and should be done to as high a standard as the original manufacturing, and they should be prepared to offer a guarantee on it. Even with a well designed product, there is always a chance that a component will fail, and therefore the system should be fully guaranteed. It would be fair enough not accepting returns if the buyer had modified it, but not guaranteeing your own workmanship

        • Re:You've been stung (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Freak (16973) <prius,driver&mac,com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @12:39PM (#8398183) Journal
          No, the point is that Apple DOES guarantee their work, they just won't take a 'no-fault' return on custom equipment.

          If my engraved iPod stops working within the warranty period, I can get it repaired/replaced at no charge.

          But if I decide that I just don't like my iPod, I can't return it if it's engraved. If it's *NOT* engraved, Apple policy says I have 30 days to return it for a full refund, no questions asked.

          Same with computers. A 'non-custom' one, I can just decide that I don't like it and return it for a full refund. (Maybe I decided on the Dual 2.0GHz instead, who knows?) But if I have customized it, I can't return it for a refund. If it breaks, I can get it repaired under warranty, but I can't return it for 'no reason'.

          The original poster isn't clear, but it sounds like he just wants to return it with nothing wrong.
      • Re:You've been stung (Score:5, Interesting)

        by splattertrousers (35245) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:44AM (#8397045) Homepage
        I think Apple really wishes customers would simply go out (or online) and procure a bigger hard drive or more RAM themselves.

        If that's true, I wonder why the standard amount of RAM on all Macs is so rediculously low. If they threw in more RAM, perhaps fewer people would custom configure their computers.

        • Re:You've been stung (Score:3, Informative)

          by Beowulfto (169354)
          The real reason they don't have larger base levels of RAM, 2 button mice, and other options that would make Macs perfect systems out-of-the box is the resellers. Mac resellers can only sell the machines at MSRP. In order to compete with Apple they need to add value, so they offer service and free additions to the machine. Most catalogue resellers add free RAM right off the bat, then throw in software or a printer to sweeten the deal. If all Apple systems shipped with sufficient RAM (512 MB min), that op
      • Re:You've been stung (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kabocox (199019)
        I think Apple really wishes customers would simply go out (or online) and procure a bigger hard drive or more RAM themselves. They go out of their way to provide instructions for installing these components and it really isn't that hard to do. Besides, it's far less expensive for the customer in the end, and you don't need to wait an extra week for the computer to be shipped by Apple...

        It would be easier in most industries if you did the work instead of the company. Hey, most people don't want to bother.
  • I call BS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hungus (585181) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @07:12AM (#8395957) Journal
    I have certainly returned custom apple systems in the past and have not had any issue whatsoever with it. How long had you had it before trying to return it? Where is your court docket? You are way to lite on details for me to consider this anything but false at this point. Feel free to prove me wrong however.
    • Servers or desktop?
    • Re:I call BS (Score:5, Informative)

      by derek_i (35510) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @09:21AM (#8396421)
      I had a machine on delivery (ie. Apple had shipped it and I had not received it yet) and their customer service informed me that I could not return it since it was custom built (I ordered a 15" laptop with a SuperDrive which was considered a custom built machine). The reason I wanted to return it was in the meantime we went to the Apple store to purchase more notebooks for the company and I picked up a nicer one for myself. So in short, time was within one week of purchase, no delivery, no open box, over $6000 spent at the Apple store, big F U from Apple.

      Don't get me wrong, I like Apple hardware and and OS X, but the company is focused on money, with consumers coming second (like most companies) and they are not your friend.

      -D
      • Shouldn't have signed for it when it came to the door!
      • Re:I call BS (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dema (103780)
        LOL, you ordered from the web front, then decided to buy from the store front out of the blue, and you think THATS a legitimate reason for a return? Come on man.
    • by xtal (49134) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:09AM (#8396745) Homepage
      People have tried writing Steve Jobs, petitions, you name it. They do this all the time with notebooks. Their ram and HD upgrades are a ripoff anyway, I just add that stuff later. Apple won't take the machine back if there is a problem.

      Worse, IMHO, is that there is no way to get Apple to send you a machine in the interim while yours is getting fixed. I make money with my hardware, and if I don't have a machine, that costs me a lot of money. So I have to have a backup machine just for that eventuality. Kinda stupid eh?

      Hey Apple Executives, if you ever read anything here, FIX THIS BEFORE IT BITES YOU. This is one part of Apple that is really lacking, and coinidentally I'm sure, it's also one that Steve Jobs doesn't have a lot of personal expertise with.

      I'm already paying a huge premium for Apple hardware. I would gladly pay a little more for the ability to get a hotswap done - Applecare does not offer this.
    • Re:I call BS (Score:3, Informative)

      by djhanson (721291)
      Court details: State of Washington, Seattle District Court, Small Claim No. Y3-9978, Trail date was 2/24/2004. Apple sent a corporate employee as their representative. I called them on the 10th day. They had no problem with the timing.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What other company that anyone knows of throws a beer bash with live bands and free beer for its employees?

    Apple treats their employees great. if you dissagree, your one of those "the grass is greener in the desert because the internet told me so" people.

    • apple here employs asembly line workers through an agentcy. The agency fee is deducted in an hourly rate through the employee's hourly wage for the complete duration of the employment.As a result the employee gets under the national minimum wage which is 7.35 euro's .I am in ireland. I know this as i was going to work there for the summer.
  • Dell (Score:3, Informative)

    by martin (1336) <maxsec@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @07:59AM (#8396097) Journal
    they do the same.

    you WILL have the machine we sent...

    --
    martin
  • Details (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Compulawyer (318018) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @08:39AM (#8396213)
    You leave out a number of basic facts that make it impossible to comment intelligently on your posting. I'd like to know:
    • What country/state are you in?
    • WHY were you trying to return the computer? Was it defective or did you just not want it after you got it?
    • How long did you have the computer before you asked Apple to accept a return? For that matter, DID you ask Apple to accept a return or did you just file suit?
    • If you did ask Apple to accept a return, how far did you escalate the matter? Did you stop at the first person who told you "no" or did you ask for that person's supervisor?
    If I was representing you in this matter, these are just the first of the questions I would be asking you, for two reasons: First, it is information that establishes whether you have a case. Second, they are the first questions the OTHER SIDE will ask you.
    • One problem is that there is little way to judge exactly how suitable a computer will be for ones needs other than using it. A computer constitutes a major expenditure for many people. Apple is selling some people products that do not meet their needs and then forcing them to keep them. There is no good way to evaluate whether different configurations meet customer needs.
      • I can give a Credit Card for the down-- seeing as my CC Co. allows returns -- I got a big date this weekend and I'd like to 'impress' -- sure the car does not "meet my needs and I don't want to be forced to keep it" -- but it is so schweet... and I'm a lazy bastard who can't be bothered to go down to the Ferrari dealership and test drive the thing to realize it is not the right car for me...
      • Re:Details (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Compulawyer (318018)
        But there ARE good ways to evaluate suitability - specifications are one. Recommendations by a salesperson are others. In fact, if a salesperson recommends a specific product based upon his knowledge of a customer's needs, an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose arises as a matter of law when the sale is made. If the recommended product does not do what the customer said he needed the product to do, the implied warranty is breached and the seller is liable to the customer for the customer
    • Re:Details (Score:4, Informative)

      by djhanson (721291) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @07:29PM (#8402917) Journal
      • Seattle, Washington
      • After evaluating the server we determined it would not work for our needs. I assume that is what the 10 day trial period is for.
      • 10 days. Talked to Apple employees on over 10 different occassions before filing suit.
      • I asked for an escalation on the second call regarding the return. Took them 3 days to call back, and only after a second call from me. Then letters and calls to the Executive Office of Steve Jobs.

        More details in my posting later in this thread: Little Guy Vs Apple - THE DETAILS

  • Wait, wait, wait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheAJofOZ (215260) <{adrian} {at} {symphonious.net}> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @08:42AM (#8396225) Homepage Journal
    I must be missing something here. You bought a new computer, paid for the computer, took delivery of the computer, then later changed your mind and decided you don't want the computer. Why on earth would you expect them to give you your money back?

    If the computer was damaged or malfunctioning, Apple have a warranty program that covers that, they'll repair or replace the computer at no charge to you. They even pay for the shipping.

    Come on people, this isn't an abuse of consumer rights, it's an abuse of the court system because some guy couldn't make up his mind about what he wanted.
    • Re:Wait, wait, wait (Score:5, Informative)

      by lfourrier (209630) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @09:44AM (#8396581)
      Wait still...

      Depends of the country.

      If customer is in France, and is not professionnal, and it is commerce at distance () sorry, don't know exact translation), he has 7 days to say : "In fact, I don't like it".
      He then return it, and the provider must reimburse everything except postage.

      It is not a matter of custom config, it is a matter of law, when the consumer cannot see the product he is buying.

      And the fact that US consumers are not protected this way is quite frightening.

      By the way, this (quite old) legislation does not seems to impose an undue burden on french corporations, because they continue to sell at distance... So you can have high customer protection and working economy at the same time.
      • But Apple does take back computers if you decide you don't want them - when they are in standard configuration. Can someone in France order a pink Ferrari and then decide he didn't actually want a pink Ferrari?
        • Painting a car pink is several orders of magnitude more difficult and expensive than adding a RAM DIMM.

          There is nothing you can "customize" on a computer that can't be removed an two minutes.

        • That's not what Apple's "custom configuration" is. Selecting which hard drive you want is not a custom configuration, it's just an option. Selecting power windows on a Honda does not make it a custom car.

          Now, if you called Apple up and told them to paint your computer purple with yellow stripes, I can understand why they wouldn't want it back. But when you choose from a list of options, it does not make sense to call that a custom configuration.
          • I recently bought a car. There was no "return it for you money back if you don't like it" policy. In fact, the policy is simple: you bought it; you got it.

            If I wanted to return it, I would have to sell it as used. Even if all I did was drive it out of the lot, around the block, and back in.

            Apple's terms are stated on their website. They explain their return policy in the "returns" section on their website. The same website used to make the purchase. It's not hard; it just takes a minimum of effort to be
      • by lxt (724570)
        That's not entirely true - if the customer was to return the product damaged, the store can refuse to return it. ...just imagine a French guy walking into a pharmacist and saying "This condom wasn't to my satisfaction - I want to return it".
    • legal in europe (Score:3, Informative)

      I have bought computer components, installed them, removed them and brought them back.
      The parts where fully functional, I just changed my mind and wanted an other part. It was -at the time - due to my limited knowledge about available software for the part. So I couldn't use it. The part I eventually bought was delivered with working software.
      It was less than 7 days after purchase, so I got a full refund.
      It's the law. A customer is allowed to change his mind, bring back the product and demand a refund.
      • The most important right is choice. Allow the consumer to choose what to buy and where to buy it. Here in the US (I can't speak to Europe), a consumer has a lot of choices. However, in order to use these choices well, a consumer also has to ask questions and understand the terms of the deal. I can shop at a Mom & Pop, CompUSA, Best Buy, online, or eBay -- just to name a few choices. The terms are different in each circumstance.

        Maybe I don't value the XX day change-my-mind warranty. In that case, I can
  • Sorry, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CompVisGuy (587118) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @08:45AM (#8396233)
    Sorry that you came off worse in this instance, but...

    1. If you didn't want the machine, why did you order it?

    2. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but their definition of a 'custom configured computer built to the customer's specifications' seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    3. It seems reasonable for Apple not to want to take back a machine that was built to your specification -- hopefully they made you aware of this at the time of buying, but since you went to court, I guess this isn't so. I assume the machine worked -- I'd be dissapointed if they didn't accept a returned faulty machine.
    • Re:Sorry, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arkanes (521690)
      In my mind, selection from a list of pre-configured options does not constitute "custom".
  • Synopsis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mononoke (88668) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @09:00AM (#8396298) Homepage Journal
    I just got back from a small claims court proceeding...
    They successfully won their argument in front of the court...
    Am I the only one that thinks there is something terribly wrong...
    No. I think it's "terribly wrong" to come out in public (especially this public) and tell us half the story just for the sympathy.

    Got any other anecdotes we can use to bash "The Man" who still seems to just "keep us down?"

  • by gwbuhl (462020)
    When I recently bought a Powerbook from my University's Computer Store, the sales person probably told me about three times, that since I was customizing the computer I couldn't return it. This was fine with me, since I knew what I wanted, but it was good of him to be that explicit about the return policy.

    I haven't bought a computer from Apple's website, so I don't know how clear they are about the return policy. Whether or not you thin this is a good policy or not, this is an example of "caveat emptor".
  • No its not wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jeff Kelly (309129) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @09:41AM (#8396546)
    In germany, where i live, we have something called the "Fernabsatzgesetz" regarding purchases made by phone or internet.

    The argument goes something like this: Since you have no way of testing the product before you buy it (since you ordered it through the internet) the law grants you the right to return the product within 14 days of your purchase without giving reasons why you'd returned it provided two conditions hold:

    1. The product was not damaged by you since you opened it

    and

    2. The product was not costum built for you.

    If either one of these conditions doesn't hold you will have to keep it. A product is custom built if it deviates from the basic or standard product in a way which cannot be undone. So simple upgrades like more memory or a better graphics-adapter don't count as custom built since theses modification can be undone by the vendor.

    A personal engraving for your iPod on the other hand would count as custom built.

    Of course since in your case it is not a law but only company policy you have to stick to their rules and Apple clearly states that any upgrade counts as custom built and makes the item exempt from the return policy.

    So no it's not terrible wrong. Just because you were to lazy to read the terms of service doesn't make the apple bad.

    Regards

    Jeff
  • by Chase (8036) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:04AM (#8396712) Homepage
    Here is an idea for the future. Buy from a middle party that you can get better service from. I have used PCConnection for years, personally and on a corporate level. I have never had a problem returning custom configured equipment to them. Half the buying we did were Apple systems.
  • but if they have a notice posted doesn't that make you SOL?

    Granted, yes it's a rather ridiculous policy. But, if you look at a definition of custom built their system falls under it. Also there IS that notice explaining their policies.

    Buyers need to use sense. Especially tech buyers. It's not much tougher than that.
  • Am I the only one that thinks there is something terribly wrong with a policy like this?

    I think there is something wrong with a policy like this. It's a technicality, and a bullshit one at that.

    I called both IBM and HP, and neither of those companies has such a policy. Any opinions? Suggestions? Comments? Whatever?

    Yeah, I have a few suggestions/comments/whatever...if you can't live with their policies:

    • Caveat emptor.
    • Don't buy an Apple.
    • Buy an IBM.
    • Buy an HP.

    I guess these suggestions look a l

  • Small claims? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anixamander (448308) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:13AM (#8397296) Journal
    What juridiction is this guy in? In my state, small claims court does not allow attorneys. You can still go to civil court for similar amounts and use an attorney, but not small claims. I can't imagine Apple going to court without an attorney. The usual tactic for big companies is to get the case moved to circuit court. This involves months of waiting to get on the docket and can be quite expensive. This story, if true, would be very odd.
  • Returns vs exchanges (Score:3, Informative)

    by amichalo (132545) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @01:08PM (#8398539)
    Since there are few details provided, its hard to say, but I wonder if there wuld have been better luck returning say a 20" iMac for an exchange on a G5 w/ Cinema Display setup.

    Try anyone else - Dell, Gateway, etc. Customize the system, then try to return it for a non-warranty reason.
  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @01:18PM (#8398625)
    This makes me reconsider whether or not I should try to save $29 by not getting the 56 Kbps internal modem with a new Dual G5.
  • Why is it that people seem to think Apple's written policies simply do not apply to them? And if people act this way with other companies, why does it only seem to be newsworthy when Apple is involved?

    First we've got the iPod retards, who apparently think there are at least eighteen months in a year. I mean, why else would they act like Apple owes them something under the terms of a one-year warranty when their battery dies eighteen months after purchase? Are they traveling at the speed of light? Do they use the Martian calendar? Who knows? They also seem to think that Apple told them the battery would never die, but that's another rant.

    Now we've got this other tool posting his whine about not being allowed to return a customized machine. The link to Apple's written policy on that is only on the bottom of every page generated by the Apple Store web site, so it's easy to see how he failed to see it. So now he's trying to raise a public stink in the hopes Apple will make an exception for him to quash the bad publicity he's trying to generate.

    These people who flagrantly ignore written policies and then get indignant about it must be the same type of people who park their hulking SUVs in spaces marked "Compact Only." I think the next time I see one of those, I'll key it to demonstrate my contempt.

    ~Philly
  • by switcha (551514) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @01:37PM (#8398920)
    I just got back from expecting the world and all companies it encompasses to revolve around me, even though I spent a couple grand on a product without clicking a link to see the explicitly stated return policy, or lack thereof. Now heap sympathy on me. I am a victim, and I know you all hate big companies and will concur with my short-on-facts synopsis.
  • by GoRK (10018) <johnl@[ ]rbco.com ['blu' in gap]> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @01:55PM (#8399167) Homepage Journal
    You are lucky you live in the US where the laws allow idiot consumers taht spend too much money to simply change their mind and return used products. This is most especially true with cars when if you want a custom order from the factory that might not have good resale value if you return it, you have to jump through hoops to convince a dealer to do it.
  • by GizmoToy (450886) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @02:31PM (#8399746) Homepage
    If you had your order shipped to you, as you must have, you probably ordered it over the internet, correct? You will have then paid with a credit card. Both MasterCard and AmericanExpress (and others, I'm sure) guarentee items you purchase with your card. They state that if the merchant you bought something from won't take it back, they will. You might wanna give them a call to find out the details as they apply to your card.

    Good luck!
  • by shylock0 (561559) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @03:24PM (#8400415)
    This story reeks of fish. True, what he describes is indeed Apple's return policy. But this guy's tale has more holes than a Alpine cheese. I'm not a die-hard Mac user (I run a five-platform company) but this is just anti-Apple bullshit -- specially when you consider that the two companies he picked for comparison, IBM and HP, are two of the only companies that *will* let you return customized equipment, and then only under certain circumstances. Read the fine print at Dell, Sun, a copy of an old pre-HP Compaq return policy (I have one in a filing cabinet here in my office), and you'll find that this is just standard fare. Some will let you return certain customized systems under certain circumstances, but for the most part, you buy something different than today's special, you play for keeps.

    IANAL, but I happen to have one on staff. Major corporations, like Apple, almost never appear in small claims. They will either try to have the case moved to a higher court (a slow and expensive process, because it almost always requires that the consumer hire a lawyer), or they will simply not show up and pay whatever fine (the max is usually $5,000) the judge throws at them. Corporate lawyers are expensive. At the rate Apple has to pay its lawyers, it just doesn't make sense for them to show up in court.

    -Shylock

  • alienware (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Suppafly (179830) <`slashdot' `at' `suppafly.net'> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @04:24PM (#8401170)
    Alienware and several small time pc sellers take a similar stance on 'customized' hardware, even when the customization is just adding harddrives or ram. It's pretty bad that Apple is doing this though, what would happen is Dell acted like this, every pc they sell is customized based on this logic.
  • by djhanson (721291) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @07:09PM (#8402747) Journal
    Sorry for the slim details in the original posting. But, let me try to fill in the blanks, and clarify my position.

    Court details: State of Washington, Seattle District Court, Small Claim No. Y3-9978, Trail date was 2/24/2004. Apple sent a corporate employee as their representative.

    The purchase was a dual processor Xserve. I upgraded from 512MB of memory to 2GB and from 60GB of disk space to 480GB.

    I was totally aware of Apples return policy before placing my order. My dispute is: Does selecting additional memory or disk drives really constitute a product that is "custom configured to your specifications". According to the defense that Apple used, even adding one stick of memory would have made it custom configured. My upgrades were selected from a standard menu on their website. I didn't call and ask for some esoteric tape drive or anything like that. In court someone brought up the analogy of buying a car. My response to that was, if I am buying a brand new car off the lot, and I ask for an automatic transmission (which usually costs more), I still have a stock car. No one is going to say that I bought a customized car. Knowing what I know now, I would order the hard drives and memory separately and install them myself after the 10-day evaluation period.

    I appreciate the comment made by one poster regarding how the sales clerk made the return policy very clear. I think that Apple's website should be as clear. Maybe "Custom Configured" icons could be located next to the items that will affect the return policy. Apple's defense claimed that it states at the top of the web page "Configure your Xserve" and that this should be enough of an indicator. But, options included on this very same page also include the "Mac OS X Server Maintenance Program", "AppleCare Service and Parts Kits for Xserve" and AppleCare support Plans. Surely selecting these items wouldn't constitute a custom configured product. And at no other time during the purchase process, including my invoice receipt from Apple did it indicate that I was purchasing a custom configured product that could not be returned. I certainly don't think that Apple deliberately sets out to trap customers into purchasing items that can't be refunded. But, on the other hand their policies and procedures sure don't give the impression of being well thought out, or cohesive.

    As for the concern about whether I was returning the product because I just changed my mind or it because it was broke. I'm not sure if the reason really matters, unless Apple wants to use the information to possibly make changes in their product or policies. After all, their policy does state "if you are not satisfied". It says nothing about have to give reasons. But, since people are curious .... The hardware worked without fail for the 10 days that we evaluated machine. In fact the hardware is the reason that we were attracted to the Xserve. The problems were related to the software. We found Apple's customized version of BSD Unix to be difficult to work with. We would add commonly used Open Source software and it would break some Apple proprietary interface, or vice versa. We really tried hard for the 10 days to make this machine work for us. And we found it frustrating every step of the way. I attribute this to Apple's proprietary way of doing things. But, the clincher for us was when we started with a clean install of OS 10, added Webmin (a commonly used remote admin program), and the server would crash when trying to remotely reboot it, from the shell prompt. This was very easily reproducible. And also totally unacceptable since the final destination for this box is a data center where hands-on reboots are a rare event. I know that I could have worked with Apple and probably gotten a patch for this issue. However, it seemed serious enough for me to decide to return the product, and look elsewhere.

    I did give serious thought to installing Yellow Dog Linux on the machine and not even dealing with Apple's version of BSD Unix, but after havi

    • I think your last line summed it up nicely, "But, I have learned my lesson, and from now on I will be calling and verifying such assumptions before I make a purchase."

      Contrary to some of the others assailing you for making a false set of assumptions, I can clearly see your point of view. A customer-oriented company would take your experience into account and design their storefront to make it more clear what the return policy is for a particular piece of equipment. For example, a reminder of their policy o

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