While I still use a Windows PC in my office, I am decidedly an Apple guy both at home and on the road. My experience with my first iPhone led me to my first iPad, which eventually led me to a MacBook Pro, which eventually became a Macbook Air. I’ve had multiple iPhones as they have rolled out new models over time. All the phones on our corporate cell plan are iPhones. Over the years, between original equipment and upgrades, for both business and personal use, I’ve purchased several Mac computers, about 5 iPads and well more than a dozen iPhones.

This has given me opportunity, on rare occasions, to interact with the Apple Store support personnel, known as Apple Geniuses. I’ve long suspected it, but a recent row over the replacement of an iPhone battery has largely confirmed something in my mind. I’m no rocket scientist, but I am beginning to think these people aren’t actually geniuses. I suspect it may all be just a marketing ploy.

And not a clever ploy, either. A clever ploy would conceal the fact that they do not possess extraordinary intelligence. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.

In fact, if these guys are geniuses, we in the workers’ comp realm are absolute Savants.

My recent experience at the “Genius Bar” did nothing to assuage this growing suspicion that we are being had. My current phone, an iPhone 6S (I refused to upgrade to the 7 in protest over the loss of an audio jack. The 8, in addition to the lost jack, looks too much like the 6, and the X – pronounced “10” – well, is just too expensive for my taste. My Scottish roots will not allow me to spend $1,000 for a flippin’ phone; especially one that doesn’t flip anymore. But I digress. Where was I?).

Oh yes, my current phone, an iPhone 6S, started suffering from a failing battery. Fully charged in the morning, even after minimal use, it would be licking the bottom of the electrical barrel by early afternoon. Adding to the problem, it crashed several times when it was at low power, and refused to reboot until it had been plugged into a wall outlet allowing it to suckle at the glorious teat of mother electricity.

Boy, there is some fancy artistic license lingo right there, I’ll tell ya….

So anywhoo, a few weeks ago I read about the lawsuit against and subsequent apology from Apple, Inc. for allegedly slowing older iPhones in the name of battery preservation. As part of their strategy to counter this PR debacle, they announced they were lowering the price of battery replacement on these older phones from $79 to $29. My Scottish roots liked that move; liked it a great deal indeed. While I was looking into that, I discovered that a “very few” iPhone 6’s, manufactured in September or October of 2015, qualified for a free battery replacement, as they “may unexpectedly shut down.” I ran my phones serial number, and my Scottish roots were even more excited to find my phone qualified for this free replacement. I immediately scheduled an appointment with an Apple Genius for Friday evening, January 5, 2018. I noted on the reservation that I needed a new battery, and that my phone was listed as one eligible for the free replacement.

I spent the morning of the 5th getting a haircut and a mani-pedi. The rest of the day I listened to Mozart while reading the works of Chaucer. I wanted to look my best and did not want to risk sounding like an idiot in front of a genuine genius.

That evening, when arriving at the Apple Store in Sarasota, I was directed to the Genius Bar at the back of the large retail area. After a few minutes I was fully engaged with an actual genius, who figured out all on his own that 1) my phone did indeed get a free battery, and 2) they had no batteries. He complemented the entire genius presence by noting, “We’ve been going through a lot of batteries lately. We can’t keep ‘em in stock.”

He assured me that they would have it within 5 days, and they would call me. It would be a simple matter of showing up and they would swap it out while I wait. Easy peasy.

15 days later I had not heard a word and went online to see if I could get some information. In this age of high tech tracking, real time inventory and Amazon same day delivery, completing this process was far more difficult than I expected. It took an extended chat session and a subsequent follow up phone call the next day (that I will describe momentarily), all to simply find out where my battery was (and they still really could not tell me).

I spent almost 28 minutes engaged in a live chat that appears to have involved multiple geniuses working on the issue. Following is the actual transcript of the chat:

Saturday, Jan 20, 2018 03:00 PM
Duration 27 minutes 25 seconds

RAYMOND
Thanks for contacting Apple Support. My name is RAYMOND. How can I help you?

Robert Wilson
I had an appointment at my local Apple store on January 5th to replace the battery on my phone (part of the free replacement group). Found out when I got there that they had no batteries. I was promised that I would get a call in about 5 days. Over two weeks and I’ve heard nothing. What is the status of Repair No: XXXXXXXXXXXX?

RAYMOND
Oh no!! I assure you I will do everything I can to help resolve your issue. Before we begin troubleshooting, Here is your case number in case we get disconnected: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX If we do get disconnected, please chat us back by visiting: https://getsupport.apple.com/ . I will also need to ask you a few questions in order to figure out what is going on. Is that OK with you?

Robert Wilson
Yes

RAYMOND
What version of iOS is the phone running?

Robert Wilson
11.2.2

RAYMOND
Thank you.

RAYMOND
Please allow me a moment to look at the replacement information.

Robert Wilson
OK

RAYMOND
Thank you.

System Message
We haven’t heard from you in a while. To keep your chat session active, please respond to your Apple Advisor and let us know you are still there.

Robert Wilson
refreshing…

RAYMOND
Automatic responce, I do apologize.

Robert Wilson
no problem. Just don’t want to get disconnected.

RAYMOND
No worries. I do have the office looking into this for you.

Robert Wilson
Thank you

RAYMOND
You are most welcome, my friend.

RAYMOND
Than you for waiting.

Robert Wilson
No problem

RAYMOND
Speaking to a senior advisor now.

RAYMOND
OK, Robert, I do have Jeremy here, one of my Senior Advisors, who would be happy to discuss this issue with you further. Would you like me to transfer you over?

Robert Wilson
OK

RAYMOND
Great!! Good luck my friend.

Jeremy
Thanks for contacting Apple Support. My name is Jeremy. Please give me a moment to look over your information.

Jeremy
Hello Robert, nice to meet you! I hope you are well!

Robert Wilson
Thank you

Jeremy
You are very welcome! I understand that you have contacted us regarding getting your battery replaced, but have not been contacted since then, is that correct?

Robert Wilson
Yes – I set up an appt at my local store, but when I went in was told they had no batteries (wish they had advised me before I went there). They were supposed to call within 5 days to have me come in for replacement. I’ve heard nothing since.

Jeremy
I am sorry for the lack of information regarding this. Yes batteries are in short supply at this time, so there is a bit of a wait to get an appointment for service. however I was looking at the case here and noticed that there is a repair here that shows Ready for repair. I believe they are ready for you to bring the device back in for service. This is all handled by a different team so the info I have is also limited.

Jeremy
what I can do for you if you like, would be to transfer you to our phone support team, where they could contact that store for you and see if this is something that is in fact ready for you to come back in for.

Robert Wilson
If someone could confirm that, it would be good, thank you.

Jeremy
Okay, sure thing. I can setup a call back for you with a senior advisor so that we can try to verify that before having you drive back to the store for no reason if by some chance it is not ready. however from what I am seeing, it does appear to be ready for you.

Robert Wilson
Ok. Can I just call the store directly? Would that be easier?

Jeremy
Actually no, because contacting the store would redirect you back to us anyway.

Robert Wilson
Ok – lets set up the call back

Jeremy
Awesome, what is the best number to reach you at please?

Robert Wilson
941-XXX-XXXX

Jeremy
Thank you, just one moment here as I see what the first available time slot is. You are EST time zone correct?

Robert Wilson
Yes

Jeremy
The first available time slot I have would be between 8:15 and 8:30 today. Will that work for you?

Robert Wilson
Unfortunately, no.

Jeremy
I can do a little later if you like, or even tomorrow if that is better. I know you want to get this taken care of as quickly as possible. I could also transfer you directly over, but it will not be to a senior advisor, and you may have a slight hold time. Just another option we have.

Robert Wilson
Anytime tomorrow will work

Jeremy
Okay, I can do that as well. And just so you are aware, once we have confirmed it is ready, you do not need an actual appointment to get this replaced, you can just go at your own convenience to have it swapped out.

Jeremy
do you prefer the morning, afternoon or evening tomorrow?

Robert Wilson
afternoon or evening

Jeremy
How does 1:00 PM work? I have pretty much anything available at this time.

Robert Wilson
1:00PM eastern is fine.

Jeremy
I booked you here for a call between 1:00 and 1:15 PM tomorrow.

Robert Wilson
Thank you.

Jeremy
You are very welcome! Are you okay with everything we have discussed here today, or are there any other questions I can answer for you at this time?

Robert Wilson
No, that will do it.

Jeremy
sounds good, thank you again Robert, for your patience and cooperation. I hope you have a great evening!

Robert Wilson
Thank you.

So, I had chatted with two people, and then patiently awaited the “call” from another Genius on Sunday around 1:00.

The call came in exactly at 1:00. It was an automated voice thanking me for scheduling a support call, and then it immediately put me on hold to wait for “the next available advisor.” I had an uneasy feeling build during the 5 minutes I waited for a human. Those feelings were confirmed when the genius came on the line. He thanked me for scheduling the call, and asked, “So, what can I do for you today?”

At this point I was incredulous. He had no information, no repair ID, no background notes – we were starting anew. He wasn’t even a “Senior Advisor,” just a regular old “Advisor.” This moron wasn’t even a GENIUS. I was driving and did not have the specific info available, and without that info he could not help me. It was a colossal waste of time.

I ended up just driving to the stupid store, which gave me the opportunity to say, “Hey Genius, where is my G&*$!@#@d Battery?” Turns out it was in fact there, and lo and behold, they were “just going to call” me that day. Imagine that. It took an hour and twenty minutes, they confused me with another Robert Wilson and I was asked 3 times (by the same Genius) if I was dropping my phone off when I was trying to pick it up, but damned if those whizbang Einstein’s didn’t get my new battery installed. Plus, while there I got to watch the spectacle of two other angry customers who were having problems eerily similar to my own, and the Geniuses were struggling to grasp their issues. Icing on the cake.

I wrote recently that the lack of clear communication is a major problem in workers’ comp. Turns out we are not alone. I would hope we all endeavor to not take our injured workers through a useless maze of misinformation, and when we see that happening, take steps to correct it. Injured workers’ after all, are dealing with far worse issues than a failing phone.

And at the end of the day, they don’t have a chance of uttering the wholly satisfying phrase, “Hey Genius, Fix My &%*$@#! Phone.”

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