When Apple misunderstands the assignment
I’m not an Apple fanboy by any stretch of the imagination. I run PCs, not MACs, and I used to have an Android phone and tablet. I switched to an iPhone for three reasons. First, I wanted to do some astrophotography through my telescope, and the best app to do that with is only on iOS (NightCap, for those who are interested). Second, Andrea and Jacob were moving into the world of such tools, and since I provide tech support to them, I wanted things to work as seamlessly as possible without being complicated…which is definitely an Apple selling point since they lock everything down within an inch of its life.
But the third reason, and it isn’t me being a fanboy, just admiring when something is done well, their phones and tablets are slick as anything. There’s a reason why they have such huge market share, they just work. Relatively well too, with a lot of time and effort put into how consumers interact. They may not be able to customize anything for you, but if you want it in the base colours they have, great.
So it surprised me when I had an issue with the way they did something recently that shouldn’t happen in a relatively well-run company.
Let’s start with the simple scenario — we have Apple Music as the family subscription. Andrea, Jacob and I are all on the plan, we all get unlimited Apple Music play. Which I use extensively for music at times. On top of that, I have iCloud (as does Andrea) for backups, AND I also use Apple Arcade. It adds a few dollars a month, under $20 in total with Apple Music family.
But we also have VMedia, Netflix, Prime and Disney+. I sometimes add on specialty channels like BBC Canada to watch a specific show I want for a month or two, or in this case, I decided to add Apple+ TV.
Which SEEMED like a relatively simple idea. I browsed on the TV, it gave me an option to bundle the four services together — Music, TV, iCloud and Arcade — all in Famly mode, and while it would individually run $22+, you save a few bucks bundling, it comes out to $20 or so. Great. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, I click, it does its bit, it synchs everything, adds it to my service, sends me a confirmation, and I watch Slow Horses, a new show on Apple + TV with Gary Oldman as a grouchy old spy running some screwups in MI5.
Then, the next morning, I get a confirmation from Apple saying, “Thanks for subscribing, here’s your bill for the first month”. $20. Wait a minute. I already PAID to May 12 for Family Music. Now I’m paying for Apple TV to overlap that for $20 INCLUDING Music / iCloud / Arcade. If I had just got Apple Music, it would have been only $5.99. Nothing in the email indicates that there’s anything existing already on my account for the same time frame. In fact, when I go to the subscription services, it has bundled everything (as it should have), and it is showing, yes indeed, I’m paying $20 to get to May 15th or so.
So I go in, go to the subscription, ask to cancel the charge and that the reason is “it didn’t work the way I thought it would” (a wonderfully lovely way that would also capture every user error option too), and I look for where I can type in my explanation of double billing. Nada. Okay, it must be on the next screen? Nope, it submits it with no option to explain. Frak.
On to the help chat. Daniel was very helpful, but could do nothing. He explained that although I received nothing ANYWHERE that would have told me this, I would have (supposedly) received another email later this month that refunded the prorated portion for the other services. Uh huh. I mean, it makes SENSE, sort of, but why wouldn’t the original click buttons tell me that OR the confirmation email OR the invoice? A simple note to say, “Oh, btw, there’s a good chance this looks like we double-billed you, but well, we didn’t, not really, stay tuned.”
Sooooo, I ask Daniel to cancel my refund request. Oh, no, he can’t do that, he doesn’t have that power. Which means the solution is:
a. I wait for the refund to come through;
b. I go back in, resubscribe to the bundled option (Apple One Family) because it not only took OUT Apple One Family, it also didn’t put the others BACK because my initial subscription/bundle would have cancelled them being separate and the refund didn’t undo that; and,
c. Wait for a future email with my refunded difference.
I waited. This morning, I got the refund notification. Great, go back in, yep, all the other subscriptions are “gone” (without any refund notification for those, btw), and I choose Apple One Family. And it tells me THIS time, oh, btw, there’s a free month with it. Well, great, then I don’t care if they refund me. Perfect, let’s do it.
Click, click, click.
Confirmation. All good.
Three hours later? I get a receipt from Apple. They charged me for the full month again anyway. Sigh.
I saved the chat log from the help desk exchange. It VERY clearly says I will get another refund. I don’t care HOW they do it. I just want to pay only once. Why is Apple making that difficult? They are, generally speaking, WAY better at these interfaces and exchanges than this would appear.
So why are they screwing up this simple combo that likely applies to just about EVERY customer they have?