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Steve Jobs Personally Resolves Customer Complaint 341

An anonymous reader writes "The Consumerist recently published a story about an Apple customer who went through support hell with a broken Macbook. After escalating the issue up the support chain, and a month wait for his Macbook, the guy gave up and simply wrote Steve Jobs a blistering flame-mail. So, was he surprised when Jobs' executive assistant responded back the next day! He got both a brand new Macbook, as well as his old one to copy the hard drive. The guy also responded in a comment, and he turns out to be a slashdotter! He even wrote a journal entry here about the story."
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Steve Jobs Personally Resolves Customer Complaint

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  • by Xest ( 935314 ) * on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:07AM (#18970541)
    Sounds more like Job's admin staff dealt with it than Jobs himself.
  • Flame Mail? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Piedramente ( 1063240 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:13AM (#18970587)
    I don't believe what he sent would qualify as a flame-mail. It seems to be a well-reasoned and cool-headed response to a support nightmare. Kudos to Steve Jobs for fixing it for him.
  • Nice, but (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:13AM (#18970593)
    this "solution" obviously won't scale very well, unless you really do think Steve Jobs is a deity.
  • Re:Personally? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by froggero1 ( 848930 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:16AM (#18970615)
    Yeah, his direct assistant... who reads and answers This of course, in contrast to all the replies you get from (or whatever the hell his email is) Sure, this seems now like a silent marketing ploy by apple, but the fact is... a desperate email sent on a hail mary to the top of the apple food chain was answered, and not for publicity (by apple at least). Go send one to about not being able to refuse your Vista EULA on your new dell box, wait 24 hours, then submit an article to slashdot about how they refunded your product.
  • PR (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:18AM (#18970637) Homepage Journal
    How cool would it have been if Steve came to that guys house and rang the doorbell and said "I didn't appreciate the tone of your letter, it was very hurtful." and then just left.

    And miss out on all that (insanely) great free PR?
  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:19AM (#18970651)
    I'm sure he has a staff of secretaries that screen everything and is well versed by now how to take care of these relatively unimportant problems (unimportant to Jobs - I imagine that guy is busy with other, more pressing matters). Though it might be a good idea to have the CEO of any corporation see the failures of his organization every so often.
  • by jigyasubalak ( 308473 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:19AM (#18970665)
    If I had gone through the shit he has gone through
    the mail I'd have sent would sound 10X more nastier
    than what he had sent.
    And maybe that's what mattered in the end. The cool
    and collected way Mr. Maynard wrote the disgruntled-
    customer email must've done the job(no pun intended).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:21AM (#18970681)
    the continual decline of customer service here in the US.

    According to "Consumer Reports", Apple has the best customer service of ALL the PC and laptop makers and their quality also beats everyone. If you look at their charts, Apple takes the lead by a wide margin, none of this jazz of they're 8.2 while the closest competitor is 8.1. (Unfortunately, I don't have the issue in front of me to give you guys the real number numbers to show how well Apple rates.)

    Now, here's the best, and they're pulling this horseshit!?

    Stopping now because I need more coffee.

  • MIT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Any Web Loco ( 555458 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:22AM (#18970693) Homepage
    Key reasons for Jobs' response...

    "I am also an IT Manager for one of the labs at MIT"

    "...your company will lose ... my purchase recommendations to graduate students, professors, and support staff at MIT"
  • by ratsnapple tea ( 686697 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:35AM (#18970789)
    You know, some of us have known for a while that Steve replies to his email, or at least a small subset of the torrents he probably receives every day (a couple [] of public examples []). He's answered a few of the questions I've emailed him over the years, too, and I'm just a regular Slashdotter Joe.

    But the more publicity he gets for doing it, and the more people actually try to email him, the less likely he'll be to read and respond, and the less personal it's actually going to get. It's obvious from the numbers. Part of me hates myself for saying this, and I acknowledge that it's elitist as all hell, but I sort of wish these guys (the ones "in the know" about Steve's responsiveness over email) would keep it to themselves. Because if Steve stops answering his email, that's another piece gone of the old Apple spirit.

    Of course, I suppose we must all eventually succumb to inevitability—but there's no harm delaying that end, while possible. So please. Enough. Let me suggest we simply appreciate Steve for keeping it real, and not trumpet it all over the blog-o-spierre.
  • by aadvancedGIR ( 959466 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:39AM (#18970829)
    Another way to see this:
    -Act nicely and the world will treat you like a crap.
    -Act like a crap and the world will treat you nice.

    Maybe Buda got that whole karma thing the wrong way...
  • by canb ( 792889 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:40AM (#18970841)
    Well the author of the mail certainly has not sent a flame mail. On the contrary, it is very level headed and well reasoned. However, I do believe the fact that he has been an apple customer for over 30 years and that he's an IT Manager at MIT with the ability to sway the students' and staffs' buying preferences (which he makes sure gets conveyed in the mail) had an effect. I doubt if I had been in the same situation and written a similar mail, would get a similar response. Overall, I applaud the author for doing the right thing.
  • Re:MIT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Valtor ( 34080 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:41AM (#18970855) Homepage
    Indeed, but they had to actually read the whole email to get that. Which is news by itself IMHO.
  • by tgatliff ( 311583 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:44AM (#18970891)
    Ive got an idea for you... Next time you have a major problem with windows, send a personal email to Steve Balmer and see how far it gets you... :-)

    The point is Apple, and apparently Steve Jobs as well, still understands that they are there to serve people and not people serving them. As long as Apple rememembers this, they will continue to take the high end and most profitable customers.

    Oh, and I would believe the "Apple has an insignficant market share" argument... Apple is taking the most profitable customers from the rest of the tech industry. Those are the most painful for Microsoft/Dell/HP to loose...
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:56AM (#18970993) Homepage Journal

    I also heard a story about the CEO of Virgin Atlantic (charles bronson?? or was he an actor, God I have bad memory for names) traveling with the public or playing the role of a flight attendent/steward and listen to customers. One Indian guy had ordered vegetarian meals and it was not available. Charles was playing steward on that flight. He made an unscheduled landing at a nearby airport and rented a limo to take the passenger to an expensive Indian joint and flew him first class to complete the journey.

    Thats Richard Branson. He does that kind of thing because it gets in the news and it is much cheaper than paying for advertising. He is a similar kind of charismatic leader, though.

  • by s31523 ( 926314 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:02AM (#18971043)
    Maybe you don't remember his name because HE didn't understand HIS duties. The referenced quote is how old-school business works. Places like Apple, Google, and others don't conform to these old stigmas. Quite frankly, Jobs probably get a thousand of these emails a day and probably has a PA who's sole task is to sift threw them and cherry pick a couple for him to "Take action" on. It generates good will and and is good press, when the public actually heres about it, to the tune of, 'look, Steve really cares, buy Apple! F- Microsoft'.
  • Stop the fanboyism (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TorKlingberg ( 599697 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:05AM (#18971071)
    Could we please stop this Apple fanboyism? How is this interesting in any way?

    "Today the great chairman Mao visited a poor child in the village Mangtung. He gave the child healthy food and read a story. This how out great chairman Mao cares cares for all the people."
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:06AM (#18971087) Homepage Journal

    One famous manager (I don't remember who exactly though) once said, that if the company's leader performs mere employee's duties then either he does not understand his role or there is something terribly wrong with the way the company operates.

    Dunno about that. I lead a small team of engineers who do internal toolchain support for several of our sites. Most of my job involves allocating tasks and taking care of planing, etc. But every now and again I take a job off the queue and do it myself because (1) it keeps the guy who would otherwise have done it on their toes, to have me messing with "their" stuff and (2) I get a better picture of what is really happening out in the real world.

    So I wouldn't be surprised if Steve Jobs occasionally takes charge of a fault call. Probably a healthy thing to do.

  • by juuri ( 7678 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:08AM (#18971109) Homepage
    I feel many people are afraid to ask for or demand better service when needed. Sometimes you simply have to escalate as far as possible to get any sort of result. Systems break down and often it only takes the incompetence or lack of caring in one person in a lengthy process.

    Around aught-zero my DSL provider was forced out of business by some rather dramatic changes in the DSL market. They had a length of time to shut down and began immediately cutting employees. At the time this was a very fast DSL connection and my bill was on the order of $200 a month. After canceling my service they continued to charge me. I called, of course it would be fixed! It wasn't for month two... then three... then four, every month them charging me only to refund money after many calls on my part and being told the problem was fixed for good.

    Month five. They did it again. So I did what any pissed off customer would do, I flew down to their office and bea... er. Found their about page and looked for personal information for company employees listed at the VP level and above. Guess others had done the same, because it was all impossible to find. Then I noticed their board list, sure enough, many of the board members had information available online. So I wrote one, more out of frustration than anything explaining what had happened for the previous five months. Twenty minutes later the CEO of the company called me and assured me the problem would be resolved and then proceeded to offer me an additional refund for my "time spent on their failure".

    The point of all this? Even the boss has a boss or someone he is "scared of" or "respects". When you come to the end of a normal process without success, it is okay to escalate to them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:23AM (#18971315)
    It's just more fanboy adulation. And the Jobs staff wouldn't have time or resources to take care of all complaints if all the dicked over Apple customers did the same thing. Apple laptops are atrocious. It's been going on for over a year. Apple delete threads on their forums which cite the issues. Apple Defects (.com) has a list a mile long. Almost exclusively laptops. Made in China. Slave labor. Jobs doesn't care. Jobs cares if his PR team tells him he has to do something. Otherwise Jobs doesn't give a damn. Not now, not ever. What's missing is that every Apple Intel laptop customer write to Steve Jobs the same way, that the press - the WSJ, Forbes, et al. - make a big thing out of this and that Apple for now refund everyone for their craptops and then either sell the company or make structural changes so the same hardware disasters don't happen again. A good start would be getting rid of a CEO who gets involved in backdating options and doesn't give a good goddamn what customers think.

    This is the creep who gave the go-ahead on an initial iPod design that did not give a hoot that the lithium ion batteries hermetically sealed within were going to wear out. A CEO who invests everything in lifestyle revolution hype rather than quality. Friends, get the message: Steve Jobs has never been, is not, and will never be your friend. He's also not your or anyone else's religious leader. He's screwing you and enjoying it. It's payback time.
  • Re:Personally? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:35AM (#18971457) Journal
    I personally think that makes a very strong statement about Mr. Jobs's commitment to superior customer service.

    Hmmm...I can't seem to find the page on Apple's website that explains how to escalate your problem past the Customer Service monkeys when you can't get it resolved. How is that superior customer service? I think the problem is that we're so used to crappy service that when we get *any* service at all it's considered "superior". I, for one, am not about to applaud Apple for "going above and beyond" when the thing that necessitated it was a complete failure of the system in question.
  • by CokeBear ( 16811 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:49AM (#18971637) Journal
    I don't think you have to worry too much about this stuff. He read some of them, the ones that get forwarded to his private email box by the army of staffers that are reading his email. The only way you get all the way through to Steve is if you have exhausted the Apple Support chain of command, you have a legitimate complaint, you are polite and professional, and the SteveStaffer who screens your email is having a good day. (It probably helps to be an IT guy at MIT)

    So keep right on flooding Steve with emails. He'll get the ones that he should, and his staff will take care of the rest. Also, I know its unlikely, but have you all considered the possibility that its not really Steve answering those emails? In my experience, the emails that come directly from him are very short and to the point (a few words at most). He probably also has people he trusts to reply on his behalf.
  • by sockonafish ( 228678 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:59AM (#18971773)
    This is nothing new.,, and a few other addresses all go to Corporate Executive Relations. This is a group of premier customer service folks that have the power to get things done if the lower tiers are failing.

    Please, everyone, don't abuse it. I've had a couple of issues that the regular AppleCare folks weren't taking care of properly, and those issues were promptly resolved by the friendly people in Corporate Executive Relations. I'd hate to see them lose their effectiveness because they're being bombarded with things that ought to be going to regular AppleCare.
  • by Khomar ( 529552 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @10:01AM (#18971801) Journal

    One famous manager (I don't remember who exactly though) once said, that if the company's leader performs mere employee's duties then either he does not understand his role or there is something terribly wrong with the way the company operates.

    Personally, I find that line of thinking very elitist and in the end self-destructive. Managers who look upon their employees as "mere employees" will not be able to get the most out of those employees. I believe that true management is serving those under you to enable them to do their best.

    Regardless, there is a certain point to that statement. The key here is not what Steve Jobs did but what changes will occur in the company to see that he doesn't have to do this again. It is all well and good that he is able to provide good support, but if all of the other support employees fail, it could eventually sink the company.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday May 03, 2007 @10:06AM (#18971867)
    People should also RTFA (no, I'm not new here). This wasn't just another customer. He specifically mentioned that he worked as an IT lab manager for MIT and threatened to start bad-mouthing Apple to students and advising against university purchases. That's more likely to have caught their eye than just Steve's selfless desire to help out a customer.
  • by Jaeph ( 710098 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @10:20AM (#18972071)
    I don't care what famous name said what. When you look at the great leaders in history, all of them were very detail oriented and could help out with the small things in a pinch. For example, Patton (and his generals) did direct traffic, etc.

    If you are a great leader, you do what you need to do to get the job done, and once in awhile that's a matter of low-level work rather than high-level thinking.

  • by cpotoso ( 606303 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @10:25AM (#18972135) Journal
    How about this line: "I have GBs of ripped music, application installs, etc which I will lose." Hello! You are an IT person at MIT and you don't have a firewire/USB2 external drive with the backed up data? Really???
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2007 @10:26AM (#18972145)
    Who modded this shit insightful? The old iPod battery myth again, a call to get rid of a CEO who brought Apple from disaster to not only profitability but market dominance in a new sector, and whining about Apple laptops being made in China (like pretty much everything else nowadays). The mod you were looking for was "Flamebait" or "Troll".
  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @10:38AM (#18972335) Journal
    It has nothing to do with stock options or Greenpeace. Writing to the Steve Jobs email address (which of course does not go directly to Jobs) has long been a way of getting a bit of positive attention from Apple when their lower level organization has screwed the pooch. I've never used it myself (worst I had to do is use a firm tone with an Apple Store idio..err, genius) but a few people on have.

    I'm sure having the address slashdotted will mean it is less useful; they'll probably stop paying attention to it for a while. Hopefully after this story blows over and volumes recede, it will continue to be a useful resource.
  • by BeanThere ( 28381 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:07PM (#18975867)
    I guess your insight and clear superiority to Jobs in terms of business skills must be why Apple is collapsing into the ground as a company, while you're posting to Slashdot from your successful multibillion dollar company headquarters. Honestly, I've never heard such nonsense. Revel in your +5 interesting while Steve enjoys the most profitable quarter to date in a company whose support rates amongst the industry's best. Must be something "terribly wrong" there.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2007 @04:24AM (#18985111)
    But please don't waste the dude's time. I would have the same opinion regardless of the CEO or company.

    Bah. Steve Jobs called the CEO of HP when he was a teenager to ask for free circuitboards for some random project he was doing, just because he didn't feel like paying for them. He's not in a position to complain.

    Besides, who is really gullible enough to believe he does this out of goodwill rather than a shrewd business sense? Alright, so it's probably a combination, but please, for the love of God, don't pretend that getting huge amounts of press for an "aww, so he's just a regular guy, like the rest of us!"-story of this kind is something Steve will be unhappy about.

    Maynard, I'm glad you got your computer fixed, but I guess I'm just too cynical to just view it as a random act of altruism.

No extensible language will be universal. -- T. Cheatham