Exchanging A Defective iPhone 3G Is A Huge Pain In The Butt

Reader Joshua wants to warn everyone that exchanging your defective-out-of-the-box iPhone 3G is a huge pain the butt. His girlfriend got her iPhone on launch day but quickly discovered that the speaker was broken. She brought it into the Apple store to have it checked out and an employee accidentally dropped it. At that point, Apple told them they’d just replace to the phone. That’s where things got complicated.

Joshua writes:

My girlfriend was set on getting an 8GB iPhone 3G on launch day, and to make sure, we headed out to the closest mall location in San Jose, CA at 5am. We were the 20th person or so in line, and had no problems getting in.
She was transferring her service from T-Mobile, and surprisingly, it all went smoothly. We probably walked into the physical Apple Store at around 8:15am and were back out to our car by 9:15.

When we got home, we noticed a problem with our iPhone — the speaker wouldn’t work. No external sounds whatsoever, unless it was docked. We called the Apple Store and I have to say, Apple offers some awesome support. They took her name down and told her to come right back in past the line and they’d take care of us (sorry to everyone who was still waiting).

We rolled back in around 10:30am, and if the next five hours had been up to Apple, we’d have been gone by 10:45am. Funny thing, they were going to try to troubleshoot it, but then one of the Apple specialists accidentally dropped the phone, and said casually, “We’ll just go grab you a new one.”

Unfortunately, AT&T has a different take on iPhone exchanges. AT&T could not give her a phone exchange because she was no longer qualified for first-time purchase and activation, so they tried to charge her full price ($399 instead of $199, if I recall) for the iPhone because she’d already purchased and activated an iPhone. Then, since they already returned that previous iPhone, AT&T locked her phone number and said she couldn’t get it back for 48 hours because of that return. After that, it became a worry on both ours and Apple’s part if they were going to charge an early termination fee, and then a new activation fee for the second phone.

Our Apple concierge, Rosemarie, was wonderful in arguing with AT&T on our behalf. Four and a half hours later, Rosemarie was able to widdle it down so that they could get her new iPhone activated with her original number, but they refused to let her walk out of the store with an iPhone for $199. In the end, Rosemarie and the store manager (whose name I didn’t get, but she was also extremely helpful) decided that what they were going to do was charge us for the full price of an iPhone and issue themselves a gift card for the difference of what we would have had to pay. So we paid our part ($231 and some change) and they used their self-issued gift card to cover the rest. In other words, Apple chose to eat the cost on our behalf because of what AT&T was doing.

In the end, we couldn’t have asked for more exceptional service than what this Apple Store gave us. While we waited, specialists noticed us and offered us snacks and sodas and were generally really friendly and empathetic. We were also pretty chill about the whole thing, which I’m sure helped, and by the time we left, they made sure we weren’t screwed with by AT&T.

So, just a warning to anyone else that has to exchange their iPhone. I’m not even generally an Apple/Mac person, but this gives me great faith in the Apple Store’s customer service, and I would definitely say to have faith in them, but be wary of AT&T.

Kudos to the Apple Store for for spending so much time working this out for you. We hope that AT&T works out this glitch — there’s really no reason why a simple exchange of a defective phone should take 4.5 hours and require the Apple store to issue gift cards.

Is this happening to anyone else?

(Photo: qshio )