Apple Secrets Lead to "The Great iPhone Chase"

Apple's notorious secrecy leads one iPhone owner on a 120-mile wild goose chase around Los Angeles county in search of a new iPhone 3GS that doesn't overheat and that holds a charge. The paces through which Apple put this customer would have made Franz Kafka turn in his grave.

Apple loves secrets: They create suspense and excitement around cool new products. After all, who doesn't relish a good mystery? Well, some of Apple's customers, in fact.

Aron Lasky, a manager of engineering design at LA ProPoint, which builds stages for the entertainment industry, tries to avoid Los Angeles traffic as much as possible. Recently, he found himself stuck in mental gridlock for hours thanks to Apple's notorious secrecy. This is his story of his great 120-mile iPhone chase.

Lasky became the proud owner of a 32 GB iPhone 3GS on the very first day the smartphone hit stores, June 19. Yet within hours, Lasky noticed his new iPhone was heating up. "After five minutes of use, the glass often would get so hot that it made using the phone uncomfortable to hold to the ear," he says. When fully charged, the much maligned iPhone battery would last only ten hours, even when the phone wasn't being used.

Lasky feared he had an iPhone lemon in his hand, so he called Apple technical support. They told him it was indeed a bad Apple. They said he could ship the defective iPhone to Apple, and Apple will send him a replacement. If he wanted a replacement sooner, he could head to the nearest Apple Store, which was in the city of Northridge some 30 miles away.

Not wanting to be without a phone for days or weeks, Lasky decided to hit the road. He called the Northridge Apple Store and made an appointment with an Apple Genius. "Since I was traveling such a great distance, I wanted to verify they'd have one in stock," Lasky says. "I was informed that they could not divulge that kind of information ... but was assured that, surely, they would have several of my model."

Leaving work early to beat traffic, Lasky jumped in his car and made the 30 mile trek—only to find out that the store didn't have an iPhone 3GS in stock.

Not to worry, the Genius told him, the Apple Store in Canoga Park 15 miles further down the road will probably have an iPhone available. "Can you call to verify that?" Lasky asked. Sorry, the Genius replied, adding that the Canoga Park store wouldn't even tell the Genius. Apple secrecy had spread between Apple stores.

Fifteen miles later, Lasky got the bad news: nothing in stock. But the Apple Store in Sherman Oaks is only 15 miles away, another Genius told him. "Figuring that a third time would be the charm, I stupidly drove to the store," Lasky says.

The unlucky Lasky was disappointed again.

Lasky decided to return to the Northridge store and order a new iPhone to be delivered there. For Apple to ship an iPhone to Lasky's home, Lasky would have had to turn in his defective iPhone, which would leave him without a phone.

On his drive back, he contemplated the question of the day: Why on earth is it against policy to inform a customer if you have a product in stock?

At the Northridge store, Lasky placed the order and casually asked if the store could call him when the iPhone arrives. Can't do that, the Genius replied, because it's against Apple retail store policy. "He told me that I could call every day to see if it was in," Lasky says.

Incredible. Moronic. Arrogant. An Apple rep took pity on the beaten-down Lasky, offering to give him a free product from the Apple Store under $50. Lasky grabbed the cheapest Bluetooth headset. "As insulting as it was, I guess it was better than a sharp stick in the eye," Lasky says.

Today, Lasky has his new iPhone 3GS replacement. This one doesn't heat up at all, and the battery life is better but not by much—lasting about 12 hours on a charge with minimal usage. "I still have to recharge it nightly," Lasky says. "I feel like I'm driving a Hummer and needing to refuel all the time while making trips around town."

Has Apple secrecy been a blessing or a curse? Send me an email at tkaneshige@cio.com. Or follow me on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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