Cross Post from Blogger Friend Will Wheaton

Earlier today, when my iPod and my upgraded iTunes 7 got together and decided that my purchased music would really be happier living on a farm upstate with other m4p's, I did whatever I could to convince the music to come back.

I tried to reverse the polarity on my iPod, and I tried modify the navigational deflector on my Powerbook, without any success. It also turns out that the isolinear optical chips are only on MacBook Pros, but even if I had them here, Data was too busy laughing at me with his emotion chip to be of any use.

So I opened my hailing frequencies, and sent a subspace message to support at Apple.

Okay, I'm done with corny Star Trek metaphors . . . but admit it, wasn't that fun?

Though the company was unresponsive last time I contacted them about an iTunes Music Store purchase issue, they responded very quickly this time. A very kind woman named Kate called me, and told me that she'd read my blog about my problems with my purchased music.

Wait. She read my blog? Okay. That's weird and unexpected, and a stark reminder that, despite my impression that readership has fallen steadily in the last year, people still read my blog.

She said that Apple wants to keep their customers happy, and ensure that they'll be confident purchasing things from the iTunes Music Store, so she was going to push a Big Red Button that would allow me to have a do over, and download all of my purchased music again, free of charge. This seemed excessive to me, and way above what would be reasonably expected, but before I could tell her that, she told me that she'd read on my blog that I didn't expect Apple to treat me any differently than they'd treat any other customer. She assured me that this is Apple's corporate policy, and they'll do this for anyone who has a catastrophic loss of their iTunes Music Store purchases, regardless of the cause. I think that's really cool. Can you imagine walking into a record store and telling them, "Hey, guys, I lost all my CDs over the weekend. I know it's my fault, but . . . can I have some new ones?"

I think that's worth mentioning again, in hey-look-at-me bold text: If you make a purchase from the iTunes Music Store, and something horrible happens and you lose all your music, Apple will give you a one-time only do-over to replace all of your purchased music, free of charge.

E-mail from Apple support was equally helpful. A woman named Sheila apologized for the inconvenience, and repeated the offer to give me a do-over on my downloads. She also included some polite advice on the importance of backing up music, and how iTunes 7 makes that easy with just a few clicks. (It is as easy as they say. I spanned 10 CDs of Lost episodes and purchased music.)

In retrospect, this was so quickly addressed and fixed by Apple, I'm a little embarrassed that this turned into such a huge thing, especially once it hit Digg, and became a "let's attack Apple because we can" thread. I'm a Digger, too, and I believe that when the wisdom of the masses becomes the tyranny of the mob, it reflects rather poorly on all of us. I'd also like to stop and admire all the schoolyard insults that were hurled my way over there. It's reassuring to know that there's still a place on the Intertubes where people can get in touch with their inner 6th grade bully. (Oh, it looks like this post hit Digg, too. Hello again.)

One thing that I want to clarify -- for myself as much as for anyone else who read my blog earlier -- I identified this as a DRM issue because the only files that disappeared were ones that had DRM on them. After a day's worth of reflection, however, it's more accurate to identify it as a backup issue -- which has sort of been addressed by the backup your whole library feature in the new version of iTunes. I'm still not crazy about DRM, and I don't like anything that restricts what I can do with what I purchase. However, I also believe that artists should profit from their works, and stealing stuff is bad, but I'm not sure if restrictive DRM is the best way to handle it. That's an argument that's been run into the ground forever, so on that subject, I'll just say "Abortions for some, tiny American flags for others!

In all seriousness, though, I want to thank Kate and Sheila from Apple for quickly responding to and addressing my problem. The way you treat a customer once they're out of the store is even more important than the way you treat them when they're in the store, and Apple has always taken good care of me, as a customer. Will I continue to buy things that are DRM-laden? If it's something that's hard to find and I absolutelymusthaveitrightnowbecauseineedit probably. But I think I'll be making physical purchases of CDs more frequently than not from now on. Also, don't forget that lots of CDs have incredible design in their packaging. Tool's 10,000 Days immediately comes to mind.

I also know that some people who are very much in touch with their inner 6th grader will say that this is just a publicity move, and I'm a stupid dupe for playing along. Well, it is good publicity to take care of your customers, and since it turns out that a lot more people than I can fit into my back yard read my blog, I'm happy to spread the word a little bit.

Thanks for this post WIll


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the real world of computing! Apple will ALWAYS have my vote--not only for simplicity of use, innovative features, but very clearly for a superior product and it's customer service...both in and out of the store. This has always been my experience with Apple and I am delighted to hear that others are experiencing the same. Maybe someday Bill Gates will learn a lesson or two.