A.Lab @ Changi Point – Appalling Service

Before I begin my rant I am a middle age middle class digital manager. I am no stranger to poor customer service but generally I am very tolerant towards poor service in this part of the world.

Now, a little background.

I brought the family to a local attraction called the Snow City where artificial snow is created and the indoor temperature controlled at -5ºC. And the typical outdoor temperature here is about 30ºC. While snapping my children with my iPhone 6 Plus, we found that after a few photographs the iPhone camera no longer takes sharp and clear photos. Instead the photographs appeared blur and hazy.

So the normal reaction was to clean the lens on the iPhone camera, which was what I did. However, to my horror the protective lens cover was cracked! How the hell can the lens crack? I have owned all sorts of phones and these things do not crack so easily.

After some pondering the thought that the transition between two extreme ambience temperature may force the metal ring around the lens to contract much more than the glass due to the thermal expansion coefficient. Or it could be the the extreme changes in temperature alone could cause the glass to crack.


Technician as Customer Service Staff

A few days later when I was more free the following week I thought I odd to visit the Apple appointed service center as soon as possible. So I looked up Service Center on Apple website. I had sent my previous few iPhones for servicing before and the experiences were all pleasant, efficient, and quick. However, there were only 4 official appointed service centers listed on Apple website and I am not familiar with anyone of them.

Then this center caught my eyes A.Lab@CCP. It has a “PREMIUM” icon beside it, which stands for Apple Premium Service Providers. Wow! It must be good to be given PREMIUM status by Apple, knowing how anal Apple is to their vendors. And I was in the area!

I took the train down as it was just two stops away from where I was. After some searching and looking around I managed to find the place. To my surprise, it was quite a small shop. Most service centers I have visited in the past were quite large in size.

The A.Lab@CCP has one row of bench seat on each side of the shop. And all the seats were taken when I arrived and there were half a dozen of people standing around. The first thing I notice was the staff was calling out queue numbers instead of the usual buzzer. Anyway, no big deal.

There were about 6 person ahead of me and 3 counters out of 6 were manned. Yeah! I should be out of this place in no time. Nope. 40 minutes later I became one of those zombies standing outside the shop, shifting our body weights time to time from one leg to the other. Apparently there were people collecting their phones, macbook, and other stuffs. No problem.

Then I started to get a grim picture. Some how customers are not happy to collect their devices. I mean, one should be beaming with smile when your device is ready for collection right? And some how customers are not smiling with words of thanks to the support staffs when they send in their devices for servicing or repairs. In my experiences with Apple service centers, most customers are busing thanking the support staffs with big smile on their face when they leave. But Hey! This place is definitely weird.

I quickly check to confirm again if this is the GENUINE Apple appointed service center. And yes! It is.

 

Sarah Conner?

Then the only guy on duty caught my eyes. This guy is a Cyberdyne System Model T105. He speaks with no facial expression in a typical monotonous tone synonymous with those typical technician you would find in car workshops. He spent more time on his Macbook and iPad then face the customers. Strange guy too. He likes to use the LED flash on his iPhone as a torch light to inspect customers’ devices than to purchase and use a proper torch light.

Customers served by him were either pissed off or erupted into fury. The old lady before me had tears in her eyes when leaving. I was like, “poor lady didn’t get her iPhone 5 fixed.”

And when my number was called by Mr Terminator, I almost cried “Do not terminate me please”. As it turned out Mr Terminator is called Pete.

Pete took over my phone and asked what was wrong with it and he began fiddling with it for its serial number.

“The camera lens cracked.” I said. “And the phone is slightly bent and twisted…”

And before I can finished my whole story Pete cocked and started spooling his mini-gun.

“Apple calls this Accidental Damage.” And he went on to give me a lecture on what Accidental Damage is, and the various kind of Accidental Damage like “If you place your phone in your rear pocket and sat on it, that is Accidental Damage.”

At this point in time I was furious at being accused to be careless with my iPhone. And honestly speaking, no one places their phone in their rear pocket. Not since the days of Nokia candy bar phones. And definitely not a 6 Plus due to its size. Not even an idiot would place their 6 Plus in the rear pocket.

Before I can explain myself, Mr Terminator began to give me another lecture in Moral Hazard. “You dropped it, we wouldn’t know right? You sat on it we wouldn’t have know right?” And he continued with a handful of examples before throwing a stack of A4 printed APPLE LIMITED WARRANTY. And two of the paragraphs were in bold and ticked with black ink. Mr Terminator tabbed his index finger on the two paragraphs with a tum tum tum. “read here… Apple stated this is considered Accidental Damage”.

“I need a lawyer to help me decipher these contract terms…” I told him sarcastically but he did not get it.

And all these while I was expecting him to use his iPhone 6 Plus Torch Light to inspect my phone, but NO! He never even bothered to!

At this moment he brandished from underneath his table an Iphone 6 Plus. “See! I am also using an iPhone 6 Plus. No problem. No bending!”. As if that was not enough as an insult, he reached underneath his table and brandished another iPhone, a 6 this time. “I also have a iPhone 6. Also no problem. Also no bending.”

That was a pure show off. CB Hao Lian.

“How much will it cost to just repair the lens on the camera?”

“Apple don’t repair iPhones. $600 we give you new phone.”

“What?”

“$600 we give you new phone”

I was prepared to go without getting it repaired. Pissed.

“Give me back my phone please I need to go back for work.”

“Wait.”

After 5 seconds he is still fiddling with my phone.

“What are you doing? Give me back my phone.” I raised my voice to show my insistence.

“I am running diagnostic on your phone.”

“Why do you need to diagnose if I am not going to get it repaired here? You said Apple don’t repair iPhones so what’s the point of running a diagnosis?”

“Apple states that we must run diagnosis for all iPhones when come in. Even no repair.”

“GIVE ME BACK MY PHOOOOOOONE!!!!!” Still he refused to give back my phone.

Mr Terminator then proceed to tab tab tab on his iPad and made me fill in some personal data while holding on to my phone. At this point in time he made me believe he must be one of Jover Chew’s ex-employeee. GANGSTER!

“Why do you need my phone number? You even want my home address?”

“Apple wants this information. Please fill.”

“Where’s your personal data protection policy? I want to see them.” I am involved in my company’s PDPA compliant training so I knew in great detail about collecting of personal data. But well, apparently he did not understand what personal data protection is and most likely he did not realise how serious it is NOW that the Personal Data Protection Act has taken effect.

After filling in my personal data reluctantly, Terminator returned me my phone. And before leaving, he said in a sarcastic tone, “Have A Nice Day sir”.

I returned to office fuming. I told my staffs what happened. And one of them pointed out that there was a Apple service center called A.Lab as well at another location, and it had created quite a stir for having next to zero customer service.

Damn it! How can this kind of company be the official appointed Service Center by Apple? What a joke it must have been if Tim Cook can come experience it first hand. Even Samsung has better after sales support than this. I also remember HTC replaced my camera with the bluish tint even after the warranty has expired, without question asked! The queue time at HTC service center is a breeze compared to this and they even serve ice cold water and provide charging cable for customers to charge their devices while waiting. And there were plenty of chairs and seats available. Yet they only have 3 counters with all 3 counters constantly manned.

Updates

In Touch With Apple

I contacted Apple via online chat. I was quickly in touch with Bre at first. After hearing my problems with my iphone I was quickly and immediately offered to be contacted by an Apple staff by phone. In less than 3 minutes from typing my first chat line, I was talking to Apple support in no time! And my case was escalated to Australia’s online support.

Now that is the kind of efficiency one can expect from Apple.

Update: After several rounds of email correspondence and phone calls from Apple Australia, my phone was deemed accidental damaged. However, (ahem, since I recently ditched PC for Mac; as well as having purchased almost every single piece of product Apple has to offer) Apple has decided to grant an one-off exception to replace my iPhone 6+!

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Chi Siang Written by:

Hi! I am a Singaporean who used to work and live in Saigon for 6 years. I am married to my Vietnamese wife and we travel back to Saigon regularly. My years living amongst the Vietnamese and not amongst the expats community, gave me an unique insight into Vietnamese people, their culture, and their way of life.

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