This Apple CSR Wants You To Learn By Doing

This chat transcript from “Yet Another Girl”‘s blog is an example of how sometimes you can find exactly the answer you’re looking for on a customer service chat. Unfortunately, in this case, you’ll do all of the work yourself while the chat agent stares numbly at the screen, wondering how did I end up here? I don’t even know what this “apple” thing is!

You are chatting with {Name Withheld to Protect… Something}, an Apple Expert:

Hi, my name is {Name Withheld to Protect… Something}. Welcome to Apple!

{Me}: I need a new doohickey; TSA lost my old one.
{Me}: I need the thingy that you use to connect a mac laptop to a pc projctor/monitor
{Me}: obviously i dont know what it’s called
{Me}: thus I can’t find it.
{Me}: and then once I know what it is, I need to know if the apple store by the mall by my house has it

*** 60 second pause ***

{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: Good afternoon.
{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: I’m happy to assist with that.
{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: Would you like a link to the local Apple STore.

{Me}: I need to know what the thing is called firsty

{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: One moment while I research that for you.
{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: Are you trying to hook your Mac to a projector? Explain to me exactly what you are doing.

{Me}: yes
{Me}: i have a mac laptop and we have projectors for pc
{Me}: the connector for the projector is the same as if I was hooking the mac laptop up to a pc monitor

{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: Did you have a plug that you previously attached?
{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: What type of prong was on the projector for input or output?

{Me}: i don’t know what you mean by plug. I had a small white cable, one end hooked up to my laptop on the mac side and one end hooked up to the monitor/projector
{Me}: the pc end looked like pc monitor connectors have always looked. the mac side has a bunch of square looking slots at one end
{Me}: that cable fell out of my bag at airport security
{Me}: or my dog ate it. anyway, it’s gone and now I can’t hook up to anything.

{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: One moment while I research that for you.

*** several minutes go by***

{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: Thank you for your patience.

****several more minutes go by, I stop sending emails and try some more searches***

{Me}: i think i found it.
{Me}: On my own.

***60 second pause***

{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: Perfect.
{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: Would you like me to place it in a cart for you?

(this is one of the stupider offers of help ever, I just found something faster than you did, I think I can click the “add to cart button”.)

{Me}: No, I need the phone number for the Mac store in South Pointe mall in Durham, NC.
{Me}: I don’t want to pay shipping.

{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: I will gladly send you a link so that you may contact them directly, one moment
{Name Withheld to Protect… Something}: Click Here

(Thanks for nothing. A link to the site I’m ALREADY ON. Way to go.)

You will note I never got what I wanted — them to check the inventory without me calling the store and find out if they had it in stock.

I think I’m going to order the $1.94 knock-off on Amazon, instead. It’s got $2.95 shipping, but that’s a net of $15.00 less than Apple…

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sndtrkman says:

    Anyone else having issues with the new iTunes? For some reason I can’t get mine to load properly.

  2. VA_White says:

    Good afternoon
    I’m happy to assist you absolutely nothing
    Would you like a link that displays a funny picture of a cat at a mac with text that says “im n ur mac, stealin ur cabelz?”

  3. junip says:

    She’d have done better to call the store directly and asked for the “doohickey that connects my mac to a pc monitor.” The person who answers the phone at the store is almost always in the stock room, so they will know exactly what she is talking about and whether it is in stock. If you need the number for your local apple store, each store has it’s own page which you can find through (they’ve moved the “find a store” bar to the bottom of the page, it’s in black)
    If I remember correctly, #5 gets you a real person.

  4. edosan says:

    I can’t say I’m too shocked by this…yet another step toward the “go figure it out yourself” attitude most manufacturers take toward the public.

  5. AtomikB says:

    For future reference, you can call that a “DVI to VGA” cable. Your descriptions were pretty good — the Apple CSR should have been able to figure it out!

  6. Ajh says:

    The best thing about owning a mac…is that you can call your local store and talk with someone that generally knows what they’re talking about. It’s why my father won’t buy another pc ever. No matter how inept he is and doesn’t know what he’s talking about the guy at the store can figure it out with him. And they do in house repairs.

    (I’m chained to windows. Gamer.)

    • junip says:

      @Ajh: are you at least running windows on a mac? :p

    • ionerox says:

      @Ajh: Exactly.

      If the OP can figure out how to use the chat help system, she should also be able to find the store phone number (on the Apple website!) and call the store. Although, I image over the phone if someone says “I need a thingy”, the person on the other end of the line would be a bit confused as well. At least say what kind of laptop it is.

  7. blb says:

    All your base are belong to a CSR in India

  8. Tristan Smith says:

    I can kind of understand this. There are several different connectors that do this. There is a Mini DVI to DVI, A Mini DVI to VGA, DVI to VGA, and then the standard DVI. Depending on what type of Mac you have and what type of projector you have it could practically be anything. The rep still should have been able to ask questions to narrow down the search.

    • bairdwallace says:

      @Hockeypuck: Yeah, I was just thinking that. I wouldn’t have known what she was looking for with that description. Presumably the chat guy was just searching for whatever he could think of, just like she was, but since she at least knew what it looked like, she could pick it out when the image flashed up.

      She seems to feel pretty smug when he offered to place the order for her. Meanwhile, the CSR is wondering what she wanted his help for…

    • @rndmideas: Yeah, I know all about that. I work in a university A/V department and I have to deal with that all the time. *I* know the difference between the DVI and Mini DVI adapters, but barely any of the Mac users on campus do. They just got their Mac because they “heard it’s easy to use”…and then they expect the rest of us to figure out how to use it for them (despite the fact that this is a PC campus).


  9. Nick says:

    See, the problem with this is that the person who was chatting also doesn’t know what’s going on. Does she need a minivga->vga (ibook), minidvi->vga or minidvi->dvi (macbook)? She may have purchased the wrong connector, not knowing there are different types.

    • closed_account says:

      @schwnj: Um, the problem is if they person didn’t know then they should have ASKED. Online customer support falls short 90% of the time. HP is the only company that I will chat with anymore.

  10. vladthepaler says:

    I used the same feature on Apple’s site to ask a question, about the new iPods… the person who I got answered my question just fine. There were some weird delays/lags, which made me think she was probably chatting with several customers at once. But overall I think it worked well, and I got an answer to my question much faster than if I’d had to phone.

  11. samurailynn says:

    OP: I’ve done your job for you.
    CSR: Perfect!

  12. ThickSkinned says:

    This reminds me of a video editing class I taught in college. Before a question could be asked in lab, the students had to first check the help file, then do a quick search online for the answer. Before you start telling me what a mean, horrible instructor I was, keep reading. I had students tell me after finishing the class what a help it was being able to find their own answers. Others still thought I was a bad person. The newly self sufficient students went on to do much better work than the lazy ones expecting to be spoonfed material. At certain times, there won’t always be a teacher or CSR available to answer your questions. Besides, being able to find answers on your own cuts down on the time spent arguing with CSR’s.

  13. coren says:

    I will note that I didn’t actually see the OP ask them to check stock in the store near them, or even indicate that’s what they wanted.

    Yes, the CSR wasn’t helpful, but they’re also not a mindreader.

  14. Snockered says:

    i think she might have had more success if she avoided the words “doohickey,” “thingy,” and um, “firsty.”

  15. shadowkahn says:

    I’m sorry. If your first line is ” I need a new doohickey; TSA lost my old one.” the CSR automatically going to assume you’re a dink. Therefore they will require very detailed explanations of what you want, and will probably (if they’re good) double check that there isn’t anything similar to what you’re describing, because we all know that if the CSR told you to go get the cable you described, and it turns out you meant a slightly different cable, you’ll be here on the Consumerist howling about how crappy Apple is for selling you the wrong thing, hmm? ;)

    • mmmsoap says:

      @shadowkahn: I’m sorry. If your first line is ” I need a new doohickey; TSA lost my old one.” the CSR automatically going to assume you’re a dink.

      I disagree. The word “doohickey” made me think it was one of three things (the exact item the OP was talking about, the AC adaptor, or a network adaptor) and I knew for sure as soon as I read “pc projector”. Network adaptors have the semi-official designation of “dongle” (but the video adaptor could easily be referred to it similarly). You talk about a “dongle” to anyone knowledgable with computers, they’ll know what you’re talking about (unless their first computer used wireless…then they may be too young). “Doohickey” and “thingy” are not too far off from those, and the words “pc projector/monitor” should have sent a (knowledgable) CSR scurrying to ask questions that would narrow down the specific type of “doohickey”.

      @y2julio: Apple didn’t invent DVI to VGA converters, but they may have invented miniDVI-to-VGA converters, as they seem to be the only ones who use miniDVI. In fact, the OP likely didn’t find the right part on Amazon, as the only non-Apple branded ones I found are regularDVI-to-VGA (ie-probably not what (s)he needed.)

      • ludwigk says:

        @mmmsoap: not if they are a truly old school computer user the use of “dongle” to mean adapter is wrong, or at bed a bastardization. Singles were originally hardware authentication devices. Some are still used for high end audio video software.

        Csr wasn’t helpful but customer was pretty much an idiot.

      • shadowkahn says:

        @mmmsoap: The word “doohickey” made me think it was one of three things (the exact item the OP was talking about, the AC adaptor, or a network adaptor) and I knew for sure as soon as I read “pc projector”. Network adaptors have the semi-official designation of “dongle” (but the video adaptor could easily be referred to it similarly).

        You’re just messing with me, right? A dongle is a device that authenticates software. Old antipiracy trick. Whatever the kids are saying it means today, is wrong.

        And that’s not even getting into the “dongle and doohickey are the same word” argument you seem to be putting forth. Aside from the fact that they both start with “d” they resemble each other not at all.

        At any rate, if you truly claim you can narrow the list of computer parts to three simply from hearing the word “doohickey,” I think there’s a spot on the Psychic Friends Network for you.

  16. emax4 says:

    As a CSR working with Point of Sale systems, it’s sometimes best to start at the lowest common denominator and assume that the customer doesn’t know as much as you want them to know. When the customer calls the part they need a “doohickey”; ’nuff said.

  17. y2julio says:

    knock-off? I didn’t know DVI to VGA cables were invented by Apple and that all non-Apple DVI to VGA cables are knock-offs.

  18. mac-phisto says:

    i see where the problem is. that’s not a doohickey. it’s a goesinta. please get your terminology correct.

    that is all.

  19. Landru says:

    It’s sad that nobody blinked at the idea that the TSA stole it.

  20. Chongo says:

    At least the OP took the extra step of asking a chat rep, instead of calling me every day and asking… Mom, please, just click “CHECK EMAIL” to check your email… QUIT CALLING ME!

  21. redhelix says:

    “{Me}: the pc end looked like pc monitor connectors have always looked. the mac side has a bunch of square looking slots at one end”

    I can see why the apple rep was confused. The poster is referring to DVI versus VGA connectors, which have NOTHING to do with Macs versus PCs. Basically the poster approached apple support without knowing what on earth to ask for when a simple google search of “mac projector cable” would have yielded an instantaneous answer without wasting another person’s time

    • mmmsoap says:

      @redhelix: They do have to do with Mac vs. PCs, in that one end is a miniDVI (yes, with square looking slots in it), compared to the traditional VGA. That is a “special” part that most with MacBooks will be familiar with, as they need them to talk to presentation hardware.

      Clearly, the OP couldn’t remember what it was, and decided to ask for help. Why is that wrong? Unfortunately, help wasn’t helpful, and the OP ended up figuring it out solo. If someone’s going to ask for help, they shouldn’t be required to know the answer ahead of time.

      That being said, I have generally found Apple’s CSRs to be quite helpful and knowledgable, so I’m choosing to believe that the OP just got one bad apple.

  22. mackjaz says:

    I have had this type of conversation before with coworkers, friends, etc. where they really have no idea what they are doing on their computer and want you to miraculously figure out something that is way too complex to do over the phone. This frustrating call invariably ends with “Never mind, I’ll just {return it to the store/have somebody else fix it/Oh, here it is!}”.

  23. strictmachine says:

    Err, headline’s kind of misleading. At no point did the CSR ask the consumer to look it up themselves.

    Additionally, the consumer didn’t even bother specifying what model laptop she had, and the CSR asked pretty relevant questions to help find the right part. The consumer just found it first through no fault of the CSR’s. Then, the consumer asks for the store’s phone number, and gets it. I imagine if she’d just mentioned the stock thing again the CSR would’ve checked, but seeing as how she already had the phone number..

    I’m not an Apple fanboy by any stretch, nor am I one to blame the victim, but uh, I don’t really see the bad service here at all. Even the CSR’s grasp of the english language puts the consumer’s to shame.

    • bdgw7 says:

      @strictmachine: You make some good points.

      I spent a few years as a CSR for a proprietary online system (oof, I’m getting old). One of the challenges of being a computer CSR doing tech support over the phone is that there are so many variables in what could be going wrong, so unless it was blindingly obvious what was being asked/wrong, my technique was to “set the scene”. That meant asking some basic questions about what computer set-up the person had. The sort of questions that could sound stupidly basic to ask. But every time you skipped that step, it would come back to bite you.

      For example, one time I forgot to ask a customer with connection problems, “are you having any other connection problems with your phone or other programs you dial into?” Had I done that, then I could have found out earlier that the customer’s telephone service had been spotty lately. Spotty because after much angst and bad tech support on my part I finally demanded the customer call the telephone company. The problem? Squirrels chewing into the telephone wires. Sigh.

      • facingtraffic says:

        @epd: I can relate with that bigtime. I’m a CSR/Tech Support jockey at a company that sells audio networking equipment. Our main market is houses of worship, so I get anyone from audio veteran with 30 years of experience under his belt to 15 year old volunteer who doesn’t know anything. The most frustrating part of the job is that after an hour long phone call with either side of the spectrum they’ll come at you with some little piece of information like “yeah, the unit was hit by lightning three times” that explains the whole situation. Most of my time is spent trying to dig for the information that the customer isn’t telling me.

  24. TheDude06 says:

    BEWARE! those generic adapters are crap, depending on which mac you use.

  25. josephbloseph says:

    CSR can’t fix stupid for you. “I want a cable that adapts and industry standard video interface with a previous industry standard video interface. Since my only experience with the current generation of video interface is with apple computers, I’m going to assume that it is a proprietary connector.” Manuals, the apple website, wikipedia, 9 out of 10 people I pass by in a given walk to the restroom could get you this information, but you waste a CSR’s time with words like “doohicky”, and have the gall to call them out on the consumerist. If I didn’t think they’d get fired for it, I’d hope that they are posting your exact problem on another board for the amusement your technical worth and patience brought to myself and my roommate.

  26. niteflytes says:

    I think all those customer service chats are just fancy chat bots.

  27. krispykrink says:

    I usually hang up or walk away when I hear someone call something a “doohickey”. But that’s just me.

  28. nsv says:

    You (and 49 other people) are chatting with {Name Withheld to Protect… Something}, an Apple Expert:

  29. Hockeypuck says:

    Come on consumerist, you have better judgment than this. There are actually 4 “doohickys” the customer could have been talking about.

    Mini DVI -> DVI (Macbook, iMac…)
    Mini DVI -> VGA (Macbook, iMac…)
    DVI -> VGA (Macbook Pro, Mac Pro, Mac Mini…)
    Mini VGA -> VGA (iBook G4, iBook G3, iMac G4/G5…)

    The customer didn’t even ask a coherent question, never bothered to give the CSR ANY information about his laptop besides that he hooked it up to projectors. This is really a non-story.

  30. unpolloloco says:

    ummmm….the CS rep was trying to figure out which “doohicky” it was, and the OP found it before the CS rep did because of knowledge of what it looked like.

    How is that worthy of the home page?

  31. redkamel says:

    well I meand she DID find it on her own anyways..and the description wasnt enough really..basically, I think he/she just called the CSR too early. If she was really stuck, the CSR could have done it after awhile, since there are so many connectors.

    I used to make my kids (I was in charge of a daycare camp) think about their question for 10 seconds before they asked. This prevented a lot of “where are my shoes? (in your backpack)” “what time is it?(look at your friends watch)” type questions.

  32. 3eyes says:

    Oh, I don’t know. If I go to the online Apple Store where could a possible connector for a mac to a display be. Hmm, I think I’ll go to the Displays section. O wow the exact thing I’m looking for is the first thing listed! I guess I might be retarded.

  33. coloradogray says:

    The truly sad thing about all that is I knew what she was talking about and I haven’t touched a mac since 1998.

  34. You will note I never got what I wanted – them to check the inventory without me calling the store and find out if they had it in stock.

    The customer never asked them to check the store’s inventory for them (if the CSR even could). The customer said they needed to find out if the store had them, so the CSR offered the telephone number for the store so they could call the people who knew best.

    When confronted with someone who is asking for a “doohickey/thingy,” and wanting to know if they could find one at their local store, it seems the CSR did the best that they could.

  35. SegamanXero says:

    there are two types… one for older macs, like ibook G4s, G3 etc…

    they would be miniVGA to VGA, and i think miniVGA to DVI (not sure if that existed though)

    and ones for newer macs, like my Powerbook G4 12″ (and other late model powerbooks, that where released just before the x86 switch) and macbooks and macbook pros… which use miniDVI to DVI or miniDVI to VGA.

    dynex actully make (crappy) knock offs of these. i suggest not buying those, as i had to return two to get a working one

  36. I don’t understand why people keep expecting these automated csr’s to do anything more than offer answers generated by the keywords the customer entered.

    In all of the chat transcripts I’ve ever read, it seems abundantly clear that the answers are keyword generated.

  37. GundamAC197 says:

    Having done tech support, the user is not at fault here. That’s kind of the point of support, to help users who don’t know what they’re doing.

    The rep might have had no idea which of the many display dongles the user needed, but there were two easy questions to ask to figure it out. “What model laptop do you have?” and “What color is the adapter on the projector?” VGAs are blue, DVIs are white.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      @GundamAC197: I don’t think you can always go by the color of the connector; I myself have a video card where the DVI connector is bright lime green.

  38. Fist-o™ says:

    What’s the difference between a Doohickey and a Don’t-hickey?

    about 5 inches.


  39. kairi2 says:

    should have asked on yahoo answers. duh!

  40. AccaliaAncaeus says:

    For future reference try calling apple TECHNICAL support. Customer service
    is useless when it comes to figuring out what parts/software you need. They
    are the “I am so sorry to hear about that hear is an iTunes store gift card
    people”. I used to work for Apple and I can almost promise you that you were
    speaking with an underpaid CSR in the Philippines who’s department is a
    dumping ground for other Apple departments when they don’t want to deal with
    jerks (you seem like a polite nice type of customer)

    Write a wise saying and your name will live forever.
    – Anonymous

  41. krispykrink says:

    Now that I’ve walked away, and have come back…

    This lady could have also found her local Apple Store on the Apple web site very easy. She could have typed in her Zip Code, if that’s also a doohickey for her, she can look by State/City. Found the direct telephone number and called to ask “do you have any mini-DVI to VGA/DVI adapter’s in stock?”.

    All done, in less than 2 minutes. Something tells me there’s just way too much drama revolving in this woman’s life the way she went about the whole thing.

    One more thing, it’s NOT a “pc” projector or monitor. It’s just a straight up standard projector. Just because Apple didn’t make it doesn’t mean it’s somehow lumped into the “pc” pool.

    • strictmachine says:

      @krispykrink: Something tells me there’s just way too much drama revolving in this woman’s life the way she went about the whole thing.

      Word. I’m usually a pretty big fan of the Consumerist, but wow, less stories about the equivalent of some girl’s Livejournal post, please.

  42. Pandrogas says:

    Something tells me that if I need to identify a specific part or cable, other than an internet search, I could probably take the laptop down to almost any electronics store and get a better idea of what I need.

    It’s always harder to explain hardware to someone rather than just show them.

  43. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

    This must be that vaunted Apple service I’m always hearing so much about.

  44. lasciate says:

    I don’t know how she expected the CSR to check a store’s stock levels without, oh, asking them to? At which point the CSR would have told her to call the store because *shock* that’s the only way to find out. A chat rep doesn’t have a phone to call stores, and if that’s what the customer wanted she could have just called the store to begin with and saved both of them some time.

    Also, any tech support worth using wants their customers to learn how to fix simple issues on their own because it cuts down on call volume.

  45. EdnaLegume says:

    I give the csr credit for staying with her and trying. I’m trying to avoid blaming the OP but I can’t imagine the CSR not needing more information to help her find a “doohickey”….

    given that the OP knew what the part she was after looked like and all the CSR had to go on was a vague description and “doohickey” reference, sure she found it first.

    I mean come on, she used the word “stupider” too.

  46. jbohanon says:

    Gateway also has atrocious chat support.

  47. res1i3js says:

    That was so stupid. The CSR did what she could with what she was given, there’s at least 6 possible connections between a laptop and a projector. Good job blowing things out of porportion, she’s a human being. >.<