The rain has finally stopped falling — dropping just enough to lower the temperature into a nice cool evening. With the windows down, I’m off to the local AT&T corporate store to get myself an iPhone.
Ever since Steve Jobs flashed that sleek, innovative, make you IT staff mouth’s water gadget, the hype has been building. And building.
Apple has done a great job of releasing just enough information, online videos, and TV commercials to keep the heart racing and the wanting growing. And now I’m five minutes away to achieving tech-gadget nirvana.
Flashback to one week ago. In the kitchen, my wife rolls her eyes at me once again as I talk about buying the iPhone. Okay, I’m a closet geek, she’s not, so I understand the response. But then music rains down from the heavens as she states seven, wonderful magic words,
“You know you get a discount, right?”
OMG! She’s right. We have a business plan discount (with AT&T) through her work that gives us 50% OFF all phones. FIFTY PERCENT OFF!
I could almost cry.
Granted, the discount only applies if you order over the phone through AT&T, but fifty percent off is fifty percent off! My brain heaves into overdrive thinking about how I can now get two iPhones for the price of one. This is too good to be true. Then I think, “This really must be too god to be true.”
Ten digits later, I’m talking with AT&T customer service. They verify the info, I do get fifty percent off, but since they aren’t selling them yet, I’m told I can get the discount in-store. Sweet!
But wait. This wouldn’t be the first time I was ever given disinformation, so I call the local corporate store directly and ask them the same questions. Lo and behold it’s actually true.
Flash forward, four hours ago.
Too many reports about the truly cool-aid induced camping out overnight. But given that I live a little bit further out, I figure I have a better than average chance of getting my iPhone tonight without subjecting my body to the cold, hard cement.
Just to be safe, I called the store to get a live status update. One hour before the official launch and, although there are people waiting in line, there is only about ten. Great news.
Then it happens.
Being the Boy Scout that I was, I ask one more time about my business discount. I can feel the blood running out of my ears when she says,
“No, they’re not allowing the discounts for the iPhone.”
And, (like that wasn’t bad enough) I will also no longer get a discount on my phone plan.
No discount? Those greedy %(*)(*#^&* !
Pain is now shooting down my left arm and a thought suddenly flashes through my mind that I don’t have 9-1-1 programmed into speed dial.
I think the long silence either alarmed her that I was dead or that she was wishing she was wearing a flack jacket to protect herself from the flood of expletives she thought were about to be loaded upon her.
Having been the messenger myself too many times to count, I’ve learned to politely disagree, smile, and try to be as nice as possible as messengers can be great allies. This was one of those times.
I call the store and the status is 20+ people, busy, but not crazy. All the press releases and reports state that the AT&T stores will be open till midnight. Don’t believe the press. I’m told they’re closing at 10pm. I wasn’t given a reason, just that light are out at ten.
The Beetles “ONE”, Track 10, “HELP” kicks in just as I’m rolling into the strip mall.
Minus the no discount, life is good.
A warm, friendly smile greets me with the requisite, “Good evening. How can I help you?”. Being that it’s been a frenzy build up of TV spots featuring slick integration of Pirates of the Caribbean, sushi, and Google maps, not to mention the 10 foot iPhone banner beside me, I revert with “I’ll give you one guess and it has 8 GB.”
She’s not smiling anymore.
At this point, I fear a severe case of P.T.S.D. is keeping me from even repeating what came out of her mouth next. But I’ll cowboy up.
“We’re sold out.”
Although my inner geek-laden child was lying in a fetal position weeping for it’s mother board, I somehow remained standing.
“Sold out? You’re kidding, right?” She must be kidding.
I’m now told that they sold out after an hour and a half.
Okay, maybe I underestimated living in an outer rural area. Had the hype grown so out of proportion that even the non-technophiles had to have one and beat me there? I guess so. I then decided to ask how many iPhones the store was given.
Break out the trauma dressings, this wound is going deep.
She tells me, now get this, 20. The store was shipped only 20 iPhones. You have got to be kidding me? One hundred, okay. Fifty, tough but I can handle it. But 20? TWENTY IPHONES?
I chuckle to myself as her words take truth.
That has to be one of the biggest marketing blunders I have ever heard. Apple builds up the iPhone release to the point where people are camping outside the stores and they only ship 20 phones.
From the Apple marketing side, I can just see the spin. Tomorrow morning, newspapers all across this great country will be reporting about the most successful product launch of out time, “Apple iPhone sells out everywhere!”
When you only ship twenty phones, of course you’re going to sell out. And let’s not even talk about how the hype has launched the price of iPhones on eBay into the stratosphere.
The AT&T representative was nice enough to suggest that I can buy one from them now. But when I asked about when I would actually get it, she couldn’t tell me. The best she could offer was,
“We don’t know. They’ll ship whenever they have them ready.”
The drive home was quiet. Not even my favorite tunes could perk me up. But I’m not so much upset about not getting an iPhone as I am about how I feel like I’ve been had.
Apple dropped the preverbal carrot in front of me and pulled it away at every chance. Now all that’s left are wilted stems and a 2-4 week shipping date if you order online. Of course, that carrot also has an asterix of “Quantities are limited online. iPhone is also available at Apple retail and AT&T stores.” Which, as we all know, means, “you’ll get it when you get it”.
The bottom line is that Apple did a great job promoting the iPhone but then completely blew it on delivery, or lack thereof. Either Apple purposely planned to limit the number of iPhones released in order to A) make their stated release date (after already being delayed) B) To pull in enough pre-order cash to cover unforeseen or last minute production changes (such as switching to a glass screen) or C) They just blundered the whole premier release.
Whatever the reason, there will be a lot of unhappy people. Unhappy to the point where, once the hype has washed off, they’ll just decide it’s not worth the money—and you can count me number one.
For me, iPhone, that number is no longer in service.
The calmer, logical mind has prevailed and I’ve decided to wait this one out. My life will be just fine with the phone I have now. And in another few months, the prices will drop and I bet there will be some nice competitors to ponder over.
The iPhone fiasco just goes to show the importance of delivering on the services and products you offer your customers.
The public has become so jaded by the lack of service and delivering on promises that they’re actually happy when they get even the simplest of service that should have come as standard. And when you make an effort to deliver more than you said you would, your business will grow in leaps and bounds. iGuaranteed.
Update: Sure enough. Yesterday (Sept. 5, 2007), Apple announced a significant price drop for the iPhone — down from $599 to $399. Looks like the only thing the early birds ate was $200.