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So About Apple Coming After Accounts and Services Over Late Apple Card Payments

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If you are going to take a big swing at Apple, get your facts straight first.

I saw an interesting story yesterday about a person having some trouble with Apple. That isn’t too uncommon. The story often plays out the same- the little guy is unwittingly, but coldly stepped on by the Big Tech behemoth. It’s an easy sell as a story, and we all know that a negative story about Apple brings the clicks in droves.

Sometimes it’s a simple as that. Apple is a massive company and sometimes massive companies make ill-conceived or purely bureaucratic decisions that hurt their customers. Sometime Apple’s leaders knowingly take up positions that aren’t all that friendly to their users. But what happens when context arrives a day or two after the opening shots and it turns out that things didn’t play out that way?

The story in this case seemed simple and straightforward at first. It also looked like it might highlight a serious problem in how Apple handles issues with late payments on an Apple Card. In case you didn’t catch the original story yesterday, a designer named Dustin Curtis wrote a blog post about Apple locking all of his Apple ID accounts and services because of a simple late Apple Card payment, with little grace period before said action.

This story immediately made the Twitter and blog rounds, with most people expressing something between concern and outrage at Apple over their apparent handling of the matter. I understand that Apple behaving this way toward Apple Card holders would be cause for concern, if true. If this had been the full story with all context provided, then Apple frankly would have deserved the Internet bashing they took over it yesterday.

What a difference a day makes. Apple shared a statement with 9to5Mac revealing their side of the story, and the situation looks a lot different from their point of view.

We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience we may have caused for this customer. The issue in question involved a restriction on the customer’s Apple ID that disabled App Store and iTunes purchases and subscription services, excluding iCloud. Apple provided an instant credit for the purchase of a new MacBook Pro, and as part of that agreement, the customer was to return their current unit to us. No matter what payment method was used, the ability to transact on the associated Apple ID was disabled because Apple could not collect funds. This is entirely unrelated to Apple Card.

There are two key facts to focus on here. First, this mess was caused by the customer initiating a trade-in for credit arrangement with Apple that was never completed. Mr Curtis actually admitted to this in his blog post:

In mid-January, I bought an M1 MacBook Pro. The checkout flow offered a trade-in credit for an old MacBook Pro I had laying around. The Apple Store said I would receive a “trade-in kit” by mail and then have two weeks to send the old MacBook to Apple. Sounds easy, and definitely a very Apple-like experience.

But the trade-in kit never arrived. I had forgotten about it. When I received an email in mid-February asking about the trade-in, I responded (as it had invited me to do) explaining that I never received the kit and asked for another one. I didn’t get a response.

I’m sure the two sides will have differing opinions on who contacted who an adequate number of times, or what happened to the return box Mr Curtis should have received. However,how do you initiate a trade-in with Apple and just drop it? Of course, it also looks like Apple sent him one email talking about an iPhone payment when this was over an M1 Mac, so they weren’t crystal clear in all of their communication. But those issues aren’t the real key here. The critical point in Apple’s statement is that Mr Curtis’ Apple Card actually had nothing to do with this process.

While an Apple Card happened to be Mr Curtis’ payment on file with Apple for his account, their action had to do with a collection being associated with his Apple ID. This is evidently a long standing Apple policy that can be applied to any user who does not keep payments associated with their account current. If Apple can’t charge your card, they will reach out to you and then eventually take this step. However, this has nothing to do with Apple holding iCloud, Music, App Store or other accounts hostage to bleed credit card payments out of people.

As for Mr Curtis’ version of events where he gets an email or two and suddenly his Apple world goes dark, I’m having a hard time buying it. I say that because I had a similar situation with Apple a couple of years ago that was handled VERY differently than described here.

I have used the iPhone Upgrade Program for several years now and the process is typically silky smooth. You register for your upgrade, pre-order your iPhone, and it arrives several days later. Assuming you are doing the yearly upgrade like me, a small box arrives just before or after the new iPhone for you to ship your previous model back to Apple in. You pack it up, send it off with the return shipping label already attached, and Apple receives it in a couple of days. Simple and easy.

Well, a couple of years ago, I made a mistake in this process. The return shipping label on the iPhone return box was for FedEx, but I dropped the package off at the post office. You see, there is a FedEx option that uses the post office for the “last mile” of the delivery, but only that type of package can be handled by the post office.I didn’t realize that distinction until this little mess occurred.

First I got an email that my iPhone hadn’t arrived and to be sure I sent it, but didn’t think much about it. Then I got a call from Apple a few days later letting me know that if my iPhone wasn’t delivered soon that my card on file would be charged for half the value, which is far from insignificant. That got me thinking.

Then I realized my mistake. You can’t drop a regular FedEx package off at the post office. When I explained what I had done with lots of apologizing for the dumb mistake, the person on the phone was very understanding. They granted me an extension to give the package time to resurface. They reached out again several days later to see if I had heard anything, or if the package had been sent back to me. The man said they could do one more extension if needed, but thankfully my iPhone showed and all was cleared up a couple of days later. Boy was I relieved. I was also very grateful for how understanding Apple support was in this case.

I got two phone calls and at least two emails from Apple over just the possibility of being charged for not returning my device properly in the first place. This was all within an 18 day period before my issue was resolved. My situation doesn’t even cover Apple then trying to charge a card on file after the point of no return (because of no customer response), having that card be declined, and then reaching out to get the situation resolved after that. Based on my own experience, I have a feeling that Mr Curtis missed a LOT more calls and emails than he is admitting to and that this situation played out over a long period of time.

My intent here isn’t to heap praise Apple for being right and slam Mr Curtis for being wrong. It sounds like one of the company’s emails was factually incorrect and their support after the fact was clumsy and struggled to get Mr Curtis a clear answer as to what was going on. That poor response probably contributed to him writing about the situation out of frustration. It happens and Apple is far from perfect.

However, it’s also clear that a little context is in order before we start really throwing stones of outrage at Apple, or any other company, for that matter. One person complaining somewhere on the Internet that they’ve been done wrong and are the victim of an egregious corporate policy isn’t enough. Maybe they are right, but let a little time and a lot of context and additional facts bolster their arguments first.

Sometimes it’s worth dusting off the pitchforks and shaking them at Apple when they are proven to be legitimately out of line. But in this case, it looks like there is as much, if not more, blame to be placed on the customer. That, and the main thing people were getting worked up about turned out to be flat-out false. What’s the harm in waiting a few hours to a few days to let all the facts shake out before we blaze away? It might bring in fewer clicks, but there’s something to be said for getting both sides of the story.


James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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