Apple Seed

I take full responsibility for the fact that my kids are late adopters of technology.  And while I’d like to say this is because I’d rather them play real sports than wave wands in front of a television screen, the truth is it’s because I’m cheap.

I’ve always been tight with a dollar but when I quit my corporate job the household budget came under new scrutiny and my frugal tendencies kicked into full bloom.  I became the electricity police, trailing behind family members unplugging devices and turning off lights.  I began to consider whether expiry dates might be a suggestion rather than a rule.  And I made every effort to ensure that my kids knew the full cost of things.

“Why can’t we have a pool?” they asked.

“We could have a pool, but Mommy would have to go back to work in order to pay for it.”

Today, Jack and Taylor stroll home after school with their friends, enjoy a homemade snack and plop down in front of the television.  Comparing this to the alternative of a YMCA after school program where chaotic groups of ill-behaved kids amuse themselves until their work-weary parents arrive to pick them up, my point was crystal clear.  A pool wasn’t worth the price.

To drive home the point that life’s extras need to be earned, Craig and I insist that Jack and Taylor save their allowance to purchase their own big ticket items.  Jack eventually saved enough to buy an iPod, and thanks to an infusion of cash a couple of Christmases ago, Taylor was able to purchase her first Lululemon sweater.  But something as expensive as an iPad was out of reach.

That is, until one day a leaflet fluttered out of our community newspaper advertising jobs for carriers in our area.

For a whole year, every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Taylor lugged bundles of newspaper and flyers from the base of our driveway into the house, where she assembled them.  Inky fingerprints dotted our foyer walls and elastics found their way everywhere.  Through all sorts of weather she dutifully delivered papers to 51 houses in our neighbourhood, encountering yappy dogs, terror-inducing bees and a cranky old man who declared, “This rag isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on!”

But when the iPad3 was released this spring, she was finally ready to purchase.  It was a proud day for all of us.  In short order, Taylor accumulated a stunning library of music, photos and unflattering video clips of her family and friends, and mastered a plethora of apps.  She was rarely without her iPad by her side.  It came to Jack’s hockey games.  It went on sleepovers.  And on a family camping trip this summer, she even took it to the beach.

But it’s risky to take a fragile device everywhere you go.  A couple of weeks ago, in a split second of carelessness, Taylor leaned on her precious iPad and sent a spiderweb of cracks across the screen.  She was furious with herself.  Horrified.  And grief stricken.

The web is full of tales of woe from iPad owners who have experienced similar mishaps, and Taylor and I were pleased to discover that many had received remarkable service and sympathy at their local Apple store.  Some even claimed that Apple had replaced their device for free.  Well, what could be more sympathetic than a 12 year old girl who saved for a year to purchase her own iPad, only to have it meet this untimely demise?

So off we went to our nearest Apple store, conveniently located 35km away, to plead our case.

The store’s sleek design dazzled us, as did the table groups of Apple devotees raptly absorbing information from user tutorials.  Employees strode purposefully past us, and Taylor and I paused for a moment in the midst of all this activity wondering what we should do.   Was there some sort of secret signal we were supposed to make to indicate that we needed service?

We cautiously approached a rectangular table at the back of the store where a number of employees were talking to each other.  After some time, I found a break in their conversation and interjected.

“I’m wondering if someone can help me.”

“Do you have an appointment?”


It had never crossed my mind that I’d need an appointment to ask a question in a retail store.

“I really just wanted to speak to someone about my daughter’s iPad.  She cracked the screen the other day.”

“You need to see someone at the Genius Bar about that.  We don’t have any appointments today but I could fit you in tomorrow afternoon.”

Genius Bar?  Really?  I mean, I know Steve Jobs was really full of himself but isn’t it a bit of a stretch to start calling the guys who work here geniuses?  What do they make; maybe $15 an hour?  I began to wonder if I might be on some kind of candid camera show.

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware I’d need an appointment… and we’ve traveled a bit of a distance to get here.  We can’t come back tomorrow afternoon; my daughter will be in school.”

“You could try the Burlington store.”

“I guess I don’t understand why someone who is here right now can’t answer our question.”

With a heavy sigh, he turned to one of three employees next to him, who were leaning idly against the table.  “Can you deal with these people?”

In the end, I suppose we got the information we needed.  No free replacement.  No interest in hearing our tale of woe.  No sympathy for the little girl who saved for a year, only to see the fruits of her labour damaged in a split second of poor judgement.

The cost of repair was close to the cost of a new iPad, and came with a stern warning that we really should purchase AppleCare to protect us from such mishaps, and a ‘tut tut’ that we didn’t do so the first time around.  The sad fact was that Taylor didn’t have enough money in her bank account to pay for the repair that Apple offered, never mind the extra cost of AppleCare.

The whole experience left us feeling somewhat sour.

A non-Apple repair shop is a less expensive option that Taylor has enough money for today, but with a bit of time to think it over she’s not sure it’s worth it.  Right now she’s thinking she’ll keep her money in the bank and work around the cracked screen.

My tree.  My little apple.


8 thoughts on “Apple Seed

  1. Great story, Diane! Kudos to you and Craig for not caving on the kids working for their “wants” while you provide for their “needs”. I was sorry to read about Taylor’s tough lesson in consequences, but she really has learned a lot about the cost of being a consumer. This is a good warning for iPad users and I will be sharing it. Thanks for being so generous with this information. Love to all of you, Winnie

  2. Diane, I loved your little tale of customer service woe – not even a 12 year old girl is immune to the poor service experience! And yet. Apple’s stock price has soared over the years to extraordinary level today – perhaps their devoted followers who patiently book appointments have inadvertently redefined Apple’s customer service experience?!

  3. I agree… Apple is so powerful in the hearts and minds of its fans that I think it’s re-defining expectations. I wonder if their appointments system makes customers feel like they’re seeing a ‘real’ professional like a doctor? Meanwhile I stroll into my accountant’s office anytime I like and he makes time to answer my questions. Is his time somehow less valuable than the ‘genius’ at the Apple customer service desk?

  4. Thanks Winnie. Craig and I had a little debate about whether we should have purchased AppleCare for her or insisted that she do so in the first place. On the one hand it would have made for an easy fix for the cracked screen, but on the other it would have robbed Taylor of this important lesson in consequences. I’m betting you can guess who’s who in these two points of view!

  5. Hi Diane,

    Hind sight is 20/20 when it comes to extended and expanded warranties. Even with Apple Care, Taylor would have had a very interesting experience dealing with their system, but maybe not such a life altering lesson. I am pleased she allowed you to share this with everyone, so others may learn from her.

    Where has the summer gone? We are still in landscaping mode here. What I would have given to have had Alica steer us through this mess. Didn’t have the energy (or money) to deal with replacing the front and back decks this year, and will start that process in January as they have to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Before we can do the back deck we have to replace the eaves trough on that side of the house and someone is coming today to give us a quote. Thursday, the electrician is coming back to finish installing the landscape lighting. Next we will order hand railings and guards for the top of the retaining wall. I hope to have some photos to send before the snow flies here.

    We hope this finds all of you healthy and happy and settling back into school routines and the kid’s activities. I assume Jack is in hockey. Is Taylor still doing art, piano and soccer?

    Happy Thanksgiving!!!

    Love to all,

    Winnie (in Victoria) and Kevin (in Vancouver)

  6. Hi Diane… You have proven to me that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover or title… and here I thought you were going to tell a nice story about apple picking and baking pies with the kids! Geez… how rude…no one of any age should be treated like you/Taylor were from any store. Sounds more like an apple a day keeps the customer away!

    Hope you and family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  7. Thanks Barb — I must admit, I find naming these blog posts the hardest part! Maybe I’m being too cryptic? I’m glad it drew you in though!
    Happy Turkey day to you as well!

  8. that’s cute, good for Taylor !
    Can I borrow her when I’m shopping ?
    Have a good turkey day

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