Burton on the Bay:
Apple, Say It Isn't So
This joke is for real, No April Fool ending

A fool and his money are soon parted.

	-Old English proverb


And, might I add, a fool and his loyalty are soon parted. You're reading, on April Fools Day, the confession of an April Fool.

And this is for real, no April Fool ending. If only it were otherwise.

There I was going through the mail the other day, and within the stack of bills to be paid by the end of the month was this letter from Apple, not the Baldwin or Golden Spy variety: No, the Big Apple, Apple Computer, the Macintosh people.

I opened it, read it and laughed. That free-wheeling, lovable Apple gang sure has a sense of humor. They're getting into the swing of April Fools Day, are they not. They're playing to their image, people friendly, free of spirit.

After years, the fellows at Apple, I figured, are putting one over on me, a loyal Apple computer buff for nearly two decades since I purchased my first PC, which for the computer illiterate -- and I admittedly am within that category --is an acronym for personal computer.

There it was in black and white, the Big Apple wanted no more of my business. They were informing me -- a faithful and devoted Apple booster dating back to my first Apple IIe more than 15 years back -- they would not renew my service policy of long standing on my current Apple Duo 230 notebook.

I'd have to go out into that intimidating World of Computers and find my own service carrier. Old Nellie, my compact Duo that has accompanied me on writing junkets across the country, the Apple people told me, was too old - though she has 65 or so less birthdays than the steadfast Apple buff who pounds its keys on boats, in autos, streamside, pressrooms or sometimes in the home office as a diversion from the stationary big Apple Performa that usually dispatches this column and many others via a modem connected to various publications.

Ha ha, I thought. The Big Apple sure has a sense of humor. They know how just the thought of the slightest of computer problems worries me to distraction. So, to pull one over on me, here they are telling me my Duo - the one they made and the one they serviced for years - no longer belongs in their shop. Get lost was the theme, though they did offer to take on any other younger Apple products I might have.

Yep, those Apple fellas sure have a sense of humor. I rummaged through the remaining stack of envelopes for their "Ha, we sure got you on April Fools Day, didn't we?" message. Then I'd join them in a big laugh, send my check and Old Nellie and I would once again bask within the Apple security blanket that accompanies us when we hit the road on assignments like the 29th annual BASS Masters Classic that comes up in July in New Orleans.


This Was No Joke

But within that stack, there was no other letter from Apple. Surely, it was lost within the U.S. postal system. I started dialing not only Apple's 800 number but also the additional figures needed for the various options within the convoluted voice mail systems of big corporations where one gets the impression no real people exist on the other end of the line.

Finally, I got a live person, an apologetic lady with a western accent. The letter was for real, the joke was on me. Old Nellie: Apple wanted no part of her. Seems they don't have the parts any more. They were cutting the umbilical cord. Henceforth, Nellie and I, we're on our own.

Nice doing business with you, but business is business and we don't want Old Nellie. "The product(s) listed on this notice will no longer be eligible for coverage under AppleCare when the current agreement expires," is they way they put it.

Welcome to the World of Big Business, the World of the Bottom Line, a consumer's quagmire where the little guy is just that. You know, thanks for patronizing us in the past, but what have you done for us lately? Again, get lost.

And they mean get lost. Not even a useful suggestion of where one might turn, just another 800 number to call to get the names of possible service carriers in the area. No guarantees: you call 'em and see if they're willing to doctor Old Nellie when a bunch of crazy figures - or worse still, nothing at all - pop up on the screen when a deadline looms and the story is locked in the hard drive - and an editor with a hole in a page is screaming over the phone.

AppleCare, thankfully not Nellie, has turned into a lemon. Which prompts worry about what happens when the final year runs out on a five-year plan to keep the current Performa under the Blue Cross system of Silicon Valley. Is another letter due from AppleCare informing me Big Nellie has gotten too old? Must I start shopping again for a Medicare plan?

Loyalty, it appears, is a one-way street out there in Silicon Valley. The loyalty of the customer is taken for granted; nothing in return but a gaggle of 800 numbers. Not even an apology or explanation in a computer-written notification.

But the folks at Apple do have the gall to say "Apple is pleased that you chose AppleCare for your extended service coverage, and we look forward to serving you again as you upgrade your technology."

What a crass way to let Nellie and me know she's too old and out of date. She's still young enough to do what I need when on the road with editors waiting for a column.

"As you upgrade your technology -" what a blatant and vulgar sales pitch. Planned obsolescence from the company I stuck with through thick and thin.


Won't Be Fooled Again

Like when I got the first Apple IIe. It wasn't too compatible with the Baltimore Sun's computer system, which meant awkward transmission for a while, but I wanted to do business with an energetic company. Same when the IIc came along, then a dock for Nellie and another Duo. Then there was a Newton for my son Joel, another Apple or two for him, then one for daughter Heather.

When it came time for a big computer in the home, Apple was in the doldrums business-wise. There was advice to switch, ignored because I still wanted to go with the underdog. I was a loyal customer, so the Performa was my choice - and has since seen the shop but once for a minor repair.

And just when I was thinking of another desktop to accommodate my endlessly growing files, the Silicon Valley manufacturer of my choice coldly severs the ties.

There'll be the new computer, but will it be an Apple for this April Fool? If you know the answer, it's no question.

| Issue 13 |

Volume VII Number 13
April 1-7, 1999
New Bay Times

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