Columns, Opinion


I’d like to take a stab at the old Mac versus PC argument. It’s dangerous territory, I know. But I have the advantage of limited bias. My house boasts Macs and PCs, and I sport a MacBook but intentionally lack and iPhone. I’ve been to both Apple and Microsoft stores, and had customer service experiences with each. Both computers have their merit, so it comes down to what you need to use it for. I’m going to delve a level deeper, into their customer care.

About everyone with a Mac (and many without) knows the Apple Store experience. An open space dotted with devices to sample and employees wandering ready to sell you their products. The new Microsoft stores mirror this model nearly exactly. But having an employee talk about products is easy — what happens when you present them with a malfunction?

Here are my experiences with each company. At the Apple store, a disk was stuck in my sister’s laptop, and at the Microsoft store I couldn’t install Windows 7.  Starting at Apple, we went in with my sister’s old MacBook. We explained our problem and they were eager to help.  At Microsoft, I walked in explaining that I had purchased Windows 7 as an online download, but my computer was asking me for an original disk, so I needed them to help me work through the installation process.  Again, they were eager to help.

That’s when the processes started to stray. My sister’s computer was out of warranty, making most problems — even manufacturer’s problems — impossible to fix. And at Microsoft, because I was installing Windows 7 on my Mac, I knew they might not be able to help much. So our Apple representative explained he would remove the stuck disk, and see what the trouble was. My Microsoft representative informed me that because Windows 8 had just released, they didn’t have previous operating systems in stock. Hold up … does that mean any Microsoft customer without Windows 8 is left stranded and helpless? “No,” said the rep, “they will have the option of purchasing Windows 8.”  One point to Apple.

The Apple rep returned with the MacBook saying the bottom case had been warped, likely from years of sitting between books in a backpack. Unfortunately, that’s not a manufacturer’s problem, that’s a usage problem.  One point to Microsoft?  Not quite. Apple had realized this was a common problem because of the thin plastic casing of the old MacBook, and they were able to fix the problem for free, disregarding that the three-year warranty had expired. Two points Apple. My Microsoft rep, in contrast, turned me toward his manager with my Windows 7 problem. Good news! They had a few leftover copies of Windows 7 in the back.  But because it wouldn’t be the same serial number as the one purchased online, it would cost me a humbling $200. Three points Apple. Luckily he eventually caved into installing Windows 7 in the back for free. One point Microsoft.

At Apple, the rep typed in the serial number of the MacBook and they whisked the computer away for a few days of fixing.  Back at Microsoft, the first rep I spoke to began the transaction. Unfortunately, the computer froze, almost comically.  Four computers, two laptops and a Microsoft Surface tablet later, the rep, who accidentally let me know “how annoyingly slow” these computers can be, finally was able to stop running “error” messages. Four points Apple. They then whisked away my computer.

And the moment of truth: pick-up. At Apple, we received an email that our computer was ready for pick-up. We walked in with nothing but that email and picked up our computer quickly and conveniently.  Microsoft failed to contact me, so I went to the store myself well after the decided pick-up time. They were having some trouble with installation and would need at least half an hour to finish. So I waited, politely asking about their new Surface, and over and over they compared it to the iPad. I won’t give Apple a point for that, although I should.

Finally, my computer came out, luckily unscathed, and I just a frustrated customer. As I reached for my laptop, I found out that I would have to pay for Windows 7. What? I paid for it online and they had my account pulled up to prove it, thankfully on a working computer. The same manager I had talked to previously came back out, explained what went wrong, and waived the fee. That’s five points to Apple. I thanked them and left.

Now, of course my made-up 5-to-1 score is arbitrary. But there is no doubt that Microsoft was a customer-service nightmare, one that I am not eager to repeat. So here’s my two cents — customer care matters immensely, and in that aspect there is a very clear winner: Apple.


Zack Robinson is a freshman in the School of Management, and a guest columnist for the Daily Free Press. He can be reached at [email protected]

One Comment

  1. I am lucky because my husband is an ex computer technician currently going to school (and graduating as of May!) for electrical engineering. So I have had the fortune of my electronics lasting me as long as they possibly can. But I agree if you can fix it for cheap it is better. If it is going to cost you more to fix it than to buy a new one you have to let it go. Electronics have a short life and becomes outdated the moment you buy it, so you have to find a balance of when let it go. If you have a lap top that lasts over 4 years pat yourself on the back!