Round 13: Apple Vs SallieMae

Apple is beloved by many, but is known for denying warranty coverage (a lot), laptops that catch fire, hassling you when you want to use lots and lots of gift cards in one transaction, and for getting into bed with AT&T with the much-anticipated iPhone.

SallieMae is a private student lender that has a reputation for nasty debt collecting tactics and other various and sundry atrocities.

This is a post in our Worst Company In America 2008 series. The companies nominated for this honor were chosen by you, the readers. Keep track of all the goings on at
(Screen Grab:Daniel Rutter)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Angryrider says:

    That picture is ZA BESUTO!

  2. Truthie says:

    I think this comparison is sort of ridiculous. Apple may not be perfect, but why put them in the same bracket as SallieMae? Why not at least Apple vs BMW or some other cult-y but imperfect company?

  3. krose says:

    Sallie Mae has a program with my univeristy where they let you divide your tuition for a semester up into monthly payments. But they charge you a $14 service charge for any payment made with a credit card! The only free way to pay is to have it automatically taken from a bank account… and we all know how reliable that is.

    Needless to say, I don’t use this payment plan anymore.

  4. Zombilina says:

    Sallie Mae by a landslide of biblical scale, as far as I’m concerned.

  5. AaronZ says:

    Apple, really.. Apple? As “The worst company in America”?
    (BTW, Apple vs Target would have been a great matchup, since mostly nobody hates either.)

    Oh, and great pic from They Live! :)

  6. ARP says:

    This may be a bit of an unfair comparison as many more people have student loans than Apples.

  7. Moosehawk says:

    @truthie: Because if they’re bad enough, they’ll match up near the end. This is just the first tier my good friend.

    I’ve recently had a run-in with Apple. My friend’s iPod was acting up and he took it in to the Apple store at MoA and they told him his hard drive crashed. I told him to bring it over and I’d confirm it and I told him I’d help him replace it if he wanted to do so. So he brought his iPod over, I did a simple restore on it through iTunes and it works perfectly. gg

    That being said, I vote SallieMae. Apple may be bad, but SallieMae is worse.

  8. aybara says:

    I recently had to change my home phone number due to harassment by SallieMae and the collection agencies they sold a debt to.

    Someone has a similar name to mine (only the middle name is different), and they have been bugging me for 6 months. Once I finally got SallieMax to stop calling, they sold the debt to someone, and now THEY won’t stop calling.

    Problem is, the new collector does not show up on Caller ID (shows up as Name Unavailable 000-000-0000) and they refuse to tell me which company they work for.

  9. @aybara: I think that is illegal. Anyone know if I’m right? I know telemarketers have to. Might be worth the time and annoyance to get a few recordings of the calls(please comply w/ local laws) to use just in case. There might be some $$$$ in it.

  10. aybara says:

    @Git Em SteveDave:

    Oh I know it is illegal. After the SIXTH call yesterday they stopped. I’m hoping they will try again today (before my number change goes into effect), so I can tell them I am recording the call. But the phone company stated there wasn’t anything they could do if I couldn’t give them a phone number. Plus, you can’t lodge a complaint or police report if all you have is a ‘Collection Agency on behalf of Sallie Mae’

  11. Anitra says:

    I’ve had problems (although minor) with Apple, and never had problems with Sallie Mae. That said, I still voted for Sallie Mae, as they have ruined the lives of many of my friends. They use scummy debt collectors, and are more than willing to garnish paychecks that are already too small to live on.

    Basically, they’re tolerable, unless you ever have a problem where you can’t pay, for ANY reason.

  12. royal72 says:

    awesome pic meg! haven’t seen “they live” in ages!

  13. bonzombiekitty says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Yes, I’m fairly sure it’s illegal. But it’s hard to get them for illegal practices if you don’t know who they are.

  14. Sherryness says:

    @aybara: Just ask them where you should mail the payment to – then send a summons instead!

  15. They Live reference! Meg, you know how to make me happy, happy man! [Marry me, please?]

  16. Carencey says:

    @aybara: does your phone company give you the option to reject calls (or require that they identify themselves) for calls that block their phone number? It can be a little inconvenient but the most you would have to hear was them saying that they were calling on behalf of Sallie Mae and you could reject the call without talking to them.
    I am thinking there must be something more the phone company should be able to do regarding finding out who is actually placing the calls, but I don’t know what.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    To be fair, Apple is also known for fixing Macs out of warrantee, replacing exploding batteries that Sony makes, and going, hat in hand, to every danged phone provider offering the same deal as AT&T accepted (by the gods, I wish someone else besides AT&T had the wisdom to take the deal).
    And, were it not for Apple, the record execs would STILL be selling us DRM-shackled tunes, if offering them at all.
    They’re not perfect by any means, but generally when they make a mistake, they try to fix things, even if they need to be smacked around a bit every so often.
    Versus Dell running Vista, which if the paragon of warm, fuzzy, consumer responsiveness and satisfaction. That’s the more apt comparison.

    Was SallyMae also the one that paid bounties to schools that steered loans their way? I’m sort of underwhelmed by their listed sins… Help?

  18. picshereplz says:

    Eh, I’m not too bothered by either of these companies.

    SallyMae is pretty much the bedrock of a lot of lending in this country, which drives much of our credit-driven economy, so I can’t say I really dislike them. I understand people don’t like debt collectors, but really, there’s pretty much no other way to collect debts from a lot of deadbeats.

    Apple makes good products for the most part and gives consumer another option in the computer market. Who cares.

  19. pestie says:

    I’m voting for Apple simply out of spite. Take that, fanboys! Hahahaha…

    Yes, I know, I’m lame. >sigh<

  20. britne says:

    Was SallyMae also the one that paid bounties to schools that steered loans their way?

    @Trai_Dep: yeah. my young naive freshman self didn’t know there was any other way to get a student loan except through Sallie Mae… that was all my school’s financial aid office offered. bastards.

  21. JeffM says:

    Compared to the interest rates I’m paying on my private loans from another company (Prime + 1%) Sallie Mae looks like a student-loan god (Prime – 1%). Somehow getting through college is a bit more important than having a computer. (Regardless how cool it could make me look)

    Point being Sallie Mae provides an important service (hell, taking hard money would be worth it to get through college) and Apple makes commodity computers. I don’t own an Apple computer, but believe Sallie Mae’s mission is more redeeming than Apple’s.

    Scummy debt collection doesn’t bother me too much- it is illegal often, and I don’t agree with their tactics, but I generally don’t have loads of sympathy for people who don’t/can’t pay their bills. If consumers were aware of their rights they can avoid/melee some of the harassment.

    Apple +1 (can you tell I’ve had my feelings hurt by Apple elitists too many times? ;) )

  22. B says:

    I’m kinda shocked Sallie Mae gets so much hate. Without Sallie Mae, a lot of people wouldn’t be able to go to college.

  23. crackblind says:

    I’m all out of chewing gum.

  24. jwissick says:

    @B: Bah…. Community College is DIRT cheap… Anyone can go. If you can’t afford to go, you can get grants and other assistance. There is NO way anyone can use the “I can’t afford to go” excuse when it comes to college.

    Now a 4 year school is a different story.

  25. chrisfromnl says:

    I had no idea who/what Sallie Mae was before I voted for them. Apple can do no evil. And no, I don’t own a Mac.

  26. That70sHeidi says:

    That’s new. It says it had already counted my vote… Maybe I shouldn’t vote at noon when my security stuff is down. :(

  27. zingbot says:

    Without Sallie Mae I wouldn’t be where I am today, both for their flexibility in repayment and patience when I’ve infrequently run late.

    And Apple makes my life easier with the Genius Bars and mostly fantastic service.

    I can’t vote against either.

  28. femmeknitzi1 says:

    I pay my student loans on time but I still have a horrible time dealing with Sallie Mae for consolidations and other regular issues.

    They outsource their customer service overseas. Financial aid is a complicated business that doesn’t need to be further complicated by adding cultural barriers. I have no problem with accents, but I have a problem when the person on the other end doesn’t understand the concept of “half time grad student in thesis hours.”

    They also cheated me out of my grace period, refused to tell me why and instead, just threw some economic hardship deferment forms at me to get me to stop asking.

    Also, their marketing is insane. I was receiving consolidation offers even after I called to find out I couldn’t consolidate until after I graduated!

    Now that I’m in repayment I get bombarded by emails about their special programs and services. It’s difficult to sift through the crap to figure out what is important.

    They don’t have to worry about customer service because once they’ve got us we can’t go anywhere else and the government subsidizes them.

  29. Buran says:

    @aybara: You can turn in a report to the phone company. They know who is placing those calls and can block them, and if you file a john doe lawsuit you can subpoena the phone company for the info, too.

  30. Buran says:

    @picshereplz: If I were you I’d talk to people who actually have loans from them and have needed help from their customer service. They’re earning every vote they get.

  31. @aybara: I think *59 or 57 generates a trace which only the police or phone company has access to. It’s for when *69 doesn’t work. I believe it flags the connection, so it’s easier to locate. I’m not sure the details.

  32. That picture is ZA BESUTO!

    Weirdly, it’s actually a frame I grabbed from the film for this blog post. I’m sure it’s exactly that same grab not just because it’s the same frame but because it was rather drab, so I punched up the brightness and colour saturation. Unless someone else punched up the same frame in exactly the same way, it’d look different.

    From John Carpenter, to my blog, to Google Image Search, to all of you.

  33. toiletduck says:


    Agreed, I had a loan through them because I was stupid enough to go to UoP. I quit before the first semester because I didnt feel like I was learning anything. I asked if I could continue to make the payments they so kindly set up because UoP charges more than my loan from my bank could cover. Of course they said yes. Four months later I get a collections call from SallieMae stating that I had to pay the full amount. I told them that I was making payments to the school and that they had no reason to be calling me. The man on the phone told me it wasn’t his fault I couldnt pay my bills and that I had two weeks to pay it off before it was sent to their legal department. I really wish I had known about this site back then.

  34. aybara says:


    For some weird reason, Name Unavailable 000-000-0000 doesn’t get caught by Cox’s Unidentified Caller Feature.

    I changed my number after a bunch of failures to help on behalf of Cox. Although, since they are still much cheaper than QWest in my area, I am willing to put up with a new number, which is unlisted.

    If SallieMae finds it and starts harassing me, I will try some of the other suggestions (call traces etc), then I will just cancel my land line.

  35. sleze69 says:

    “I’ve come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubble gum.”

    Apple, FTW.

  36. Meg Marco says:

    @Daniel Rutter: Yes! Thank you for grabbing that image. I didn’t know you were a reader. Small world.

  37. scootinger says:

    Meg, you forgot about Apple screwing us iPod Touch owners by charging $20 for a “Software Upgrade” that consisted of iPhone apps that should have been included in the first place. Plus they recently announced that they will also charge us for the 2.0 firmware update, which will be given to iPhone owners for free.

  38. unclescrooge says:

    There is only one company in the history of humanity that is worse than Sallie Mae and that’s Citi.

    In 1995 Citi refused to process my in-school student loan deferment. When I called to ask why they never would process and claim never to receive it, they would say that “if I had continued to take out new loans with them this wouldn’t be a problem.”

    While they claimed to be investigating, they bypassed the collections period and went straight to garnishment. For one (1) year, they garnished my check until I finally got the DOE involved and they worked with me to get my loans transferred to Sallie Mae.

    I wish students today would understand how evil and twisted the companies are that issue student loans. To this day, none of my friends, family, or co-workers have knowingly signed up for anything from Citi, credit cards, banking, or loans.

    I tell everyone I know what Citi did to me and I am not ashamed to let the world know how badly I was treated by them. I figure that I have cost them at least 100K in business by now not considering the mortgages, and other loans that they have missed out on.

  39. bjarmson says:

    Way back when I was going to grad school, I decided to take the minimum amount of credits (all credit requirements already met) while working on my dissertation. Sallie Mae (or one of its progenitors) promptly started requiring me to repay my student loan. I called and asked how I could get it postponed. Their rep told me I had to become at least a half-time student. So I added a few more credits (at several hundred dollars a credit). The notices for repayment continued to arrive. I called again and was told being a half-time student didn’t entitle me to receive a postponement. I told them I had been told otherwise by one of their reps. They said tough, they couldn’t be held responsible for misinformation by their reps. Ended up my paying some $500 (a nice chunk some 20 years ago for a grad student) more than I should have. A really great organization. We’re not responsible for any information we might give you.

  40. trujunglist says:

    Well, the reason Sallie Mae is going up against Apple, rather than Apple going up against say, Target, or some other company that relatively few people hate, is because this is seeded like a NCAA tournament. I’d assume in this case that Apple is a really high seed and Sallie Mae is a really low seed. But, since they didn’t fill out the seeding, it’s kind of hard to tell, other than the fact that the 4 most complained about companies all got #1 seeds.
    Anyway, I think the obvious winner here is Sallie Mae. They don’t really bring any joy to people’s lives. At least Apple, even if they say don’t honor a warranty (which is bullshit as far as I can tell based on my 16+ years using Apple products) or have flammable laptops (related to exploding batteries obviously not manufactured by Apple since Apple doesn’t manufacture anything) or not letting you use 7 gift cards at a time (which was basically bullshit as well, because the dude/chick just pointed out that they couldn’t do it rather than ask Apple to address the issue.. which they did once it was brought to their attention!) or using AT&T (because no other carrier was willing to provide the services Apple wanted to offer), they at least offer products that generally bring joy to their users, rather than the pain of remembering that the loan you got for your schooling was a complete waste because you spent the entire time getting drunk.

  41. rmz says:

    At least Sallie Mae doesn’t make twenty-somethings everything feel smugly superior to the mouth-breathers that won’t pay out the butt for an iPhone or a MacBook Air as a fashion statement, am I right?

    Sallie Mae is still worse, though.

  42. Trai_Dep says:

    @rmz: A plain MacBook runs under a grand, while a pimped out Alienware runs easily over $4,000. PCs are overpriced rip-offs!
    You’re making the same error comparing a very niche MacBook Air to, well, anything. C’mon, you’re better than that. :)

  43. Plankton420 says:

    You know, if you had just put on the damn sunglasses, we could have been finished here a half hour ago!

    (Damn, I’m all outta bubblegum!)

  44. rmz says:

    @Trai_Dep: Very true, but I dislike Alienware for the very same reason. You can get an equally-powerful PC for $1,000 (and that’s being generous), just like you can get a decent MacBook for a much lower price than the Air. But, I was referring to the fashion-conscious that flock to Apple to show off how much better they are than the rest of us by spending thousands more for a laptop that doesn’t have a DVD drive :)

  45. Apple is too expensive and may have a few customer relations problems, but most companies do. They probably have to draw the line on warranties because customers will abuse products and try to take advantage of them. I do think Apple makes great products and in the end that matters more than a few blunders in customer service.

    SallieMae on the other hand is just plain evil. They’re in the same category as Visa and Mastercard. Trying to get rich off of irresponsible people. Needless to say people should make better choices, but in any case they’re gaining money off of people failing to meet payment deadlines.

  46. @rmz:

    Yeah, Alienware is extremely overrated.

  47. SOhp101 says:

    @AaronZ: I would vote for Apple in the apple vs. target case… after all they charge a premium for their products but their customer service leaves a lot to be desired.

  48. wwwhitney says:

    Sallie Mae is terrible. My wife has student loans through them and while she was still in school, she was constantly bombarded by credit card offers, “deals” on MP3 players and TV’s, car ads and freaking LIFE INSURANCE offers.

    Now that my wife is out of school, I have begun repaying the loans. The latest thing Sallie Mae emails us constantly about is this thing called UPromise. Basically it supposedly helps you save to pay off your loans by automatically putting aside the change on debit card purchases (so if you spend $2.48, it would put $0.52 in your UPromise account). For me, totally unnecessary, but it would seem on face that this is a genuine program. That is until you really check it out and see that it’s just another way to expose you to more ads imploring you to blow your money on anything BUT student loans.

    On top of that, Sallie Mae will not automatically withdraw monthly payments from my bank account in excess of their preset payment plans. Surprise, surprise, all of their plans are as close to the minimum payment as possible with no indication that this will end up costing you thousands of dollars during the lifetime of the loan.

    I understand they are running a business not a charity, but I just think it’s sick the way they prey upon college students and recent college graduates. I would never consider them for any loan of any type ever again.

  49. shortcake says:

    I’ve never had any trouble from Sallie Mae – they have my undergrad and grad loans. I consolidated without any trouble and their people are always friendly and get the job done. The “10-day Payoff” feature on the website freaks me out a bit, but otherwise no complaints. Then again, I haven’t had my loans go to collection.

    Also – I’m not sure that the link for
    “other various and sundry atrocities”
    is all that accurate. Aren’t loans from Sallie Mae federal loans and not applicable to the article that is linked to regarding the dangers of private loans?

  50. Custom Reality says:

    @B: That’s such a false statement. There are a million and one lenders including your local bank. Not to mention there are a bunch of government subsidized and unsubsidized loans to choose from. Hell, some people borrow from family or work three jobs to go through school. SallieMae is not the only option, let alone a – good – option.

  51. hypochondriac says:

    So when does a competition featuring Microsoft happen? Also isn’t this round kind of weighted against salliemae?

  52. MoustacheRiders says:

    I’m an employee of Apple, in my early twenties. I grew up with a strong sense of work ethic, passed down from my parents. Thus, I’ve been working since the day I turned 14. The pay at Apple is just, better than many places hiring comparable workers. The employee perks are better than any I’ve encountered at my other jobs (I’m just graduating college, so I’ve yet to enter the salaried world). Further, they paid for a portion of my gym membership, they reimburse employees who wish to quit smoking, and their turnover rate is among the lowest of any computer company.

    I’m far from a chest-thumping employee, just someone who is earnest when he says he’s impressed with the efforts of his employer. They do honestly care, and always offer new ways to learn and advance. Whether we convey ourselves with a sense of smug self-importance, I’ve never meant to be. I’m one of the tech guys (I’ll refrain from using the actual term, because its one I think could be changed–see last sentence!) As far as the early poster with iPod mis-diagnosis, that’s unfortunate, but I think you’ll find a majority will get that restore right the first time. It’s one of the first steps we’re supposed to take.

    Also… I hate Sallie May, especially right now.

  53. uberbucket says:

    Apple. For all the painfully obvious reasons.

  54. TechnoDestructo says:

    @Custom Reality:

    The problem is other lenders sell loans to Sallie Mae. So even if you were careful to avoid them, you can still end up under their thumb.

    I intend to get my grad school loans through Wells Fargo, because regardless of any other faults they may have (less than most banks), they have a reputation for holding on to their loans. (Which is why my dad’s mortgage is with them) But it’s still possible…

    Oh, and hooray for people who can borrow from family, or find jobs that pay enough for school that can actually be worked while in school. Good for them. That has fuck-all to do with most people, though.

  55. JustaConsumer says:

    Apple should not be on this list. They have always honored warranties for me, even when they did not have to. Replace Apple with

  56. bjarmson says:

    @hypochondriac: I agree. Where’s Microsoft? Have they been retired to the Worst Company Ever Hall of Fame?

  57. shadowsurfr1 says:

    @scootinger: Don’t forget, AT&T gives a portion (I think it’s 10-20%) of each monthly bill back to Apple, which funds the development. There’s no funding coming from the users of the iPod touch so therefore, it comes directly out of the user’s wallet, as opposed to indirectly through your AT&T bill.

    So either way, Apple receives money from iPod touch or iPhone users to keep development going.

  58. Two reasons to vote for Apple: 1. They made a groundbreaking product, the iPhone, then ruined it by locking it to the Death Star telcom and crippling it. 2. Annoying fanboys.

  59. boston515 says:

    I disklike Sallie Mae for the simple fact that they send me TONS of junk mail, even after changing my accounting settings and submitting a request in writing.

  60. jeffbone says:

    @postnocomments: Excellent points. I wish I could vote for both but having had personal experience with Sallie Mae’s abusive policies, I’ll have to go with them.

  61. Mr. Gunn says:

    pestie: I did too, just because I’m tired of hearing about how “groundbreaking” their shitty phone is when it doesn’t have a file system, can’t send SMS to more than one person, doesn’t have 3G, requires an expensive contract that better phones don’t, has a years late, crippled, monopolized SDK, and on and on.

    And why no mention of the bricking of thousands of phones by a forced firmware update?

  62. woot says:

    I really can’t say one bad word about Apple. When things have gone wrong, they’ve not only gone the extra mile to make things right, they’re always quick to offer an apology (which counts for a lot in my book).