Customer Refuses To Give Up, Convinces Apple To Give Him What He Paid For

James almost got cheated out of CS4, the suite of graphics software sold by Adobe, when he bought a new Macbook Pro recently. He kept pressing the issue though, and his persistence and level-headedness finally, after several near misses, convinced Apple to do the right thing and send him what he paid for. Congrats to James!

Here’s his story in his own words:

When I got my Macbook Pro, I also wanted to buy CS4. They didn’t have enough copies for people seeking student discounts, so they said that they’d send me CS3 so that I could go to class, and that they would automatically send me CS4 as soon as possible. That was the deal they made with me. I was told that it was an automatic program, and that I’d be sent the CS4 discs in the mail as soon as possible.

Apple never sent me CS4 like they explicitly said they would on the phone, and Adobe wouldn’t provide it either when I called them. Adobe even said that it had been a limited time deal that required me to call during a certain time, and that it would have been a download anyway. When I tried to explain what I had been told to the guy at Adobe and asked for a manager, he transferred me to a recorded voice message saying I could enter the number for the mailbox I wanted to connect to, and then it hung up on me. After looking into it, I found that Adobe was treating everybody else that way.

Apple made the deal though, and I had paid, so I wasn’t going to give up.

After talking to Apple again today and telling them what they said, and that they could listen to the recording and that there were notes on file and everything…

They flat out agreed that I had been provided misinformation and that I had been mislead. Their words, even.

Their solution? Offer me a discount if I buy CS4 now! Obviously not good enough.

I talked to a manager for like an hour, and it went something like this.

Her: Yes, I can see that our salesperson made a mistake about how the free upgrade deal worked. But we can’t just give you CS4 for free.

Me: I’m not asking for you to “just give it” to me for free. I already paid for it. I made a deal, I paid, and I want you to send it to me now, please.

Her: But we gave you CS3.

Me: Yes, but I did not pay for just CS3. I wanted CS4, and the deal was that you would get me CS4 as soon as possible, but I get CS3 for now so that I could go to my classes. Buying CS3 with a guarantee of being sent CS4 is not the same as just buying CS4.

Her: Yes, I realize that. You were given misinformation, and I’m sorry about that, but I can’t just give you CS4. But since you were mislead, I’m going to give you a big discount on buying CS4. How about you just pay $150? That’s $200 off on top of all the other discounts you would have gotten.

Me: I don’t see why I should have to pay anything more.

Her: We made a mistake. That deal shouldn’t have been made. So I’ll make the discount $250, but I can’t go further than that.

Me: But the deal was made, and I paid, so I expect you to honor it.

Her: Yes, and we sent you CS3. You bought CS3, and we sent it to you.

After going in circles with her acknolwedging that I had been given misinformation and mislead and then just trying to offer me a discount on a new purchase, eventually I asked to speak to her manager too, and she said that Apple Corporate would call me within an hour.

Well, Apple Corporate just called.

They said they had reviewed the situation, and that they were very sorry, and that they would promptly ship me CS4 with expedited shipping at no charge to me. All I had to say was my name when I picked up the phone. No more arguing or anything.

And I almost took the deal, too. Glad I didn’t give up!


Edit Your Comment

  1. Warll says:

    Apple just works!*
    *Provided to dedicate a whole lot of time to fixing any problems that come up.

  2. Ninja Tree says:

    man Adobe looks like the fools here.

  3. acknight says:

    Adobe had a buy CS3 -> get CS4 when it comes out promo while CS4 copies were unavailable/hard to get – perhaps the original salesperson meant this program?

    • joe18521 says:


      That’s more than likely what happened. I don’t see how a third party retailer – Apple – would offer to sell two versions of the software for the price of one.

      The OP got one hell of a deal. Could easily turn around a sell his CS3 package at the academic price and cover what he paid for both.

  4. Anonymous says:

    When will companies finally realize when something like this happens to just acquiesce to the customer because I’m sure the bad PR costs a lot more than the $350 they would have had to eat to just “give CS4 away” to this guy. Stupid service policies cost companies their life blood: customers. Circuit City anyone?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have to deal with Adobe regularly at work and let me tell you they are HORRIBLE. They don’t realize that companies buy the licenses and the end-user at work doesn’t get the receipt or any paperwork that goes with the software. God forbid, you, as an end-user, have to call them and need support. We spent 90 minutes on the phone once because the guy in India didn’t understand a simple clause from a link he sent us.

  6. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s nice to see that, when confronted with a mistake in a somewhat confusing promo done by a third-party developer, Apple goes the extra mile in making their customers whole. Even if it involves an item that goes for over $800.00 which they don’t make (thus have to cut a check for).

    No one ever said anyone is perfect, though they drop the ball less often than the other computer makers. But when they do mess up, it’s heartening how far they go to make their customers happy.

    I guess it’s a good thing the original poster didn’t buy a NetBook from Radio Shack – or worse, a Dell.

    • Hyman Decent says:

      @Trai_Dep: I assume James was sent an upgrade version of CS4, not a full version. Does the upgrade version really go for $800?

      • SarcasticDwarf says:

        @Hyman Decent: I think it costs a good $400. I got CS2 for ~$200 while in school about 2-3 years ago. I am still in school now but I can’t get a new copy of it (one per student) and the upgrade last I checked was a good $400. Considering the ONLY thing I need in the upgrade is proper Vista compatibility…

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        @Hyman Decent: Adobe Suite is ridiculously overpriced. Which is why a large percentage of the college population pirates it.

    • Hyman Decent says:

      @Trai_Dep: Or, he was sent CS4 with an academic license.

    • Cupajo says:

      @Trai_Dep: I think it’s interesting that you toss so many kudos at Apple when, in fact, they’re first (and second and third) response was to try and weasel out of the deal. Only through this guy’s persistence did they do the right thing.

      And as long as you brought up Dell, I’ll share one of my experiences. About 7 years ago, we had a massive ice storm here in Kentucky. Phone lines and power lines for out for most of the city (Lexington) for several weeks and everyone was advised to stay home unless they absolutely had to go out. I was lucky in that I didn’t lose power but my phone was out and I was left with only my cell phone (like most everyone else). I was trying to get some work done at home when the hard drive on my (two-year old and technically out of warranty) Dell PC died on me. Wouldn’t boot up at all.
      So, I called Dell tech support and (of course) got someone in Bangladesh (or where-the-hell-ever). I was having a hard time understanding her and making myself understood. To make matters worse, since I was on my cell phone and the cell phone circuits were so stressed at that time (no one had land lines, remember), the call kept dropping. So I had to keep calling back and re-explaining the problem. Three or four times, in fact. I was getting pretty hot. It wasn’t their fault. They weren’t telling me they couldn’t help. I was just irritated that I had to keep going through the same over-the-phone diagnostic steps over and over.
      Once we finally established that it was the hard drive, the woman I was talking to said not to worry, they would take care of it. I resigned myself to being computer-less for a while.
      The very next day, a local Dell-approved technician showed up at my door with a replacement hard drive. He installed it and helped me restore from my back up. Understand that this is while most of the city is still without power and there’s 2 inches of solid is one many of the side-roads. All for a computer that was technically out of warranty.
      In the years since then, my technical proficiency has increased and I build most of my computers myself now, but on the rare occasion when I do buy a computer, I have no qualms about buying Dell (just bought a mini 9 last week, in fact). I hear a lot of people complaining about them and making “Dell from hell” comments, and just like to share that experience.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @Cupajo: In fairness to the stereotypes, I’ve heard that if you do Dell Business, with Gold Support, it’s not too bad.
        But then, you’re pushing up the price point, which annoys since the main point of the PC-people is that they’re SO much cheaper. So it’s apples/oranges.
        But I can see, if you’re going the Business/Gold route, and if you prefer Windows, Dell can be a good thing.

        I think it’s different when a manufacturer has to cut a check to a third party, though. That’s pretty hard for companies to do, so wanted to point that out. :)

    • nakedscience says:

      @Trai_Dep: Kudos to Apple for what? Giving misinformation and then making the customer go through a million hoops to get what he was PROMISED? Really?! Wow.

    • joe18521 says:

      @Trai_Dep: @Hyman Decent:

      The thing is, we don’t know which CS4 product he bought – CS4 is the name of the current VERSION of the Adobe lineup, not a particular software title. So, the price could vary significantly, depending on what he purchased.

      • Zapfino_the_Magnificent says:

        @oranges: The Adobe Suite isn’t overpriced. It’s a necessity for doing any sort of design work. And considering that, until the recession, a skilled freelance designer could make between 40k-80k per year, it’s a freaking bargain.

      • targaryen says:

        @joe18521: He bought the entire suite. Presumably with the educational license. Around three to five hundred bucks, depending on whether he got the Standard, Premium or Master edition.

  7. Zclyh3 says:

    Sometimes I feel like it’s best to record a conversation or even take my camcorder with a friend and have them record their statements.

  8. sleze69 says:

    So the moral of these stories seems to be that Apple will try to get out of delivering the software they sold or the warranty they provide. I have never had these sorts of problems with Dell Small Business.

  9. DaddyMagicBritches says:

    Wanna sell the CS3?

  10. Ezra Ekman says:

    When caught in catch-22 circles like this, I usually just try to outline it in simple terms. It’s a little rude, and I try to only trot it out when honey hasn’t worked and it’s time for vinegar.

    Warning: this can easily backfire and just end up upsetting the customer service representative because you are constantly interrupting them and driving/controlling the conversation completely. But when faced with no other options, I find that it can work as a last resort.

    1. “I paid $X for Y product, correct?”

    Don’t let them beat around the bush. Get them to say “yes” before moving on.

    2. “I did not receive Y product, correct?”

    Again, don’t let them change the phrasing of the question. Either they gave you what they paid for, or they didn’t. Get them to admit it and then move on before they can elaborate.

    3. “So you admit that I paid $X for Y product, but you never actually gave me Y product. Thus, you have not honored your part of the bargain. This is not about what you did that somehow makes up for it. The fact of the matter is that I paid for something that I have yet to receive. Either give me what I paid for, or give me a refund.”

    (Of course, sometimes a refund isn’t what you’re after, especially when it’s for a heavily discounted item that you couldn’t get for the same price elsewhere. But it sometimes applies, particularly if a partial/full refund is more than whatever you’re asking for as a resolution.)

    What it boils down to is that you have to FORCE them to admit that they haven’t honored the bargain. Out loud. So they can hear it themselves. Don’t let them change the phrasing, and don’t let them continue their yes/no answer with an explanation. Pretend you’re in court, and they’re the witness. Control the witness so the jury only hears what you want them to. This is made more difficult by the fact that they’re also the jury, so you have to make it explicitly obvious to them that what they’re saying is ridiculous. Get them to say, out loud, the exact paradox that they’re putting you through, then ask them if they would accept that offer if they were placed in that position.

    I’ve had conversations like this with customer service before (usually with cell phone providers, interestingly enough), and when you finally reach the point where you’re able to a] get them to see how stupid what they’re saying sounds and then b] ask them what they would do if placed in your position, they are often able to see it from the other side.

    It sounds to me like this is more or less what the OP did, but the end result was more luck than persistence, since Apple made the decision after he hung up with the last representative, but before having a chance to finish the conversation. Still, good job, James.

    • calchip says:

      My experience is that often, this method, while it *should* work, doesn’t, simply because, when confronted with unassailable logic, the phone rep — and sometimes the managers too — simply dodge your conclusion entirely and simply point back to their original point.

      It’s simply amazing how people are trained to lie, avoid, dodge, whatever they have to do to avoid providing the service customers expect and deserve.

      • courtarro says:

        @calchip: Case in point the video documenting Verizon’s 0.01 cent = 0.01 dollar problem. He goes through this logical step process only to have them revert to their original argument as soon as he puts the final link in the logical chain.

    • Dashrashi says:

      @Ezra Ekman: Out of curiosity, are you a lawyer? That’s exactly how they teach us to cross-examine hostile witnesses–with hard leading questions that require a yes or no, and no explaining or weaseling.

      Although, as with the 0.01 cents and 0.01 dollars, it’s not always foolproof. In court, too.

      • Ezra Ekman says:

        @Dashrashi: Nope! I just happen to have dealt with these kinds of problems quite a bit for friends and family over the years. You know how it is when you’re the one in the family that has a skill… you end up being the one to clean it up for everyone else. *shrug*

        I also happened to read Fight Your Ticket and Win in California to deal with one of those infamous unsafe lane change tickets a while back. I believe that kind of witness is called “non-responsive”, yes? *chuckle* By the way, fellow readers, I *highly* recommend that you read this book if you opt to fight a ticket. The information in it is pure gold, and was invaluable in helping me… well, “fight my ticket and win”. ;-)

        As you and other folks have pointed out, the method I’ve described above doesn’t always work. That’s why I said it is made more difficult by the fact that they’re not just the witness; they’re also the jury. You WILL piss them off at first by doing it, so I only use this method when I’m unable to make progress by being nice. Still, it *does* work sometimes. It’s just one more weapon in the “dealing with customer service” arsenal if all else fails.

        That said however, a modified version of it can also help in other situations when you are trying to get a customer service representative to understand a complicated situation that they aren’t quite “getting”. Creating a logical progression of events, such as “Well, A] this happened. Then B] that happened. So A and B mean that C must be true.” can really make something clear to a phone representative who isn’t making the connection that you already have.

        It’s important to remember that we all think about things differently, and what is obvious to one of us may not be to another. This problem is compounded by the fact that a HUGE amount of information is conveyed through body language and facial expression. You often have to go out of your way to communicate tones and feelings, beyond just tone of voice, and ensure that the overall impression you are making is the one you intend. That’s what makes the difference between confusing and/or upsetting the person on the other end of the phone. And if we can avoid doing the latter (sometimes merely by avoiding the former), they’re more likely to help you. Remember: you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

        My, but I seem to repeat that phrase a lot around here. *grin*

    • Alessar says:

      @Ezra Ekman: Right. Basically what it comes down to is this: the consumer did not actually buy CS3. The consumer bought CS4 and was sent the previous version’s medium as a temporary downgrade. That would be the point I made in this situation: I did not ask to buy CS3, I paid for CS4, I was given the previous version as a temporary item. See also: buying a new laptop that comes with both an XP and a Vista license, or buying vista 32 bit version and finding out that the same license also covers 64 bit.

  11. Neo-Senku: The World's Finest Pervert says:

    It’s a damn Shame you have to convince people to give you what you paid for. Good for him though.

  12. maynard says:

    It’s time to stop calling these so-called customer service call centers and just send registered return-receipt-request letters to corporate offices. It’s time for more class action lawsuits.

    While I commend Apple – who has been good to me in the past as well – the conduct of Adobe’s CSR was reprehensible, and further, if it is Adobe Corporate’s policy to send people to voicemail when requesting additional assistance, that company needs a legal wake-up call.

    • frodolives35 says:

      @maynard: You should allways start an escalation process with ” and what is the supervisors name and extention in case I am cut off. Also all csr calls should be started with hi this is xxx calling whats your name and extention or id number in case we are cut off so I don’t have to go through this story again. You would be surprised how much better service becomes if the csr is not a nameless wont ever have to talk to you again person. If they hang up on you call that csr back hold if you have to.

  13. TrueBlue63 says:

    It is hard to understand Apples CS persons insistence on selling the product. With the purchasing power that Apple has, I would think that one call to Adobe by an Apple exec would have taken care of the whole problem. It is a little disturbing that they tried so hard to re-sell a product they already sold.

  14. ohwevad says:

    It’s Apple’s fault for not just sending you here:

    Apple wasn’t trying to do you a favor; they were letting you know what Adobe would do for you. Unfortunately, this is a customer-, not reseller-,initiated process.

  15. Xerloq says:

    Adobe did the same thing to me when I bought the academic software a few years ago. The deal was buy CS, get CS2 free upon release if you purchased within a 5-day window. I did, but Adobe wanted to back-out of the deal because I already had CS.

    Good on Apple for making Adobe’s mistake right.

    • penuspenuspenus says:

      @Xerloq: You should read the exchange again. An Apple rep made a mistake, and Apple tried to weasel out of honoring their promise. Adobe wasn’t trying to back out of anything.

    • nakedscience says:

      @Xerloq: Good on Apple for giving misinformation and trying to weasle out of the agreement and only giving in after the customer spends forever on the phone with them?

      What is UP with you Apple whores?

  16. durkzilla says:

    I hear a lot of praise for Apple here for “doing the right thing”.

    I know others in this thread have made the same observation, but I think it bears repeating:

    Apple deserves no kudos here. They attempted to rip off a customer and lied repeatedly to try and avoid delivering what they promised. If not for the persistence of the OP they would have succeeded in being an evil corporation.

    Apple is a drug, and you, all you fan boys, are addicts.

    • ohwevad says:

      @durkzilla: Adobe does post-announce upgrades for nearly every major release. Apple didn’t attempt to rip anyone off; the rep was mis-informed and it just got further screwed up from there because the customer sat there waiting for it (as instructed) and no one knew exactly what to do. I agree that Apple “deserves no kudos”, but the rest of your post is complete nonsense.

      • Yossarian says:

        @ohwevad: If it were any company but Apple, several CSRs trying to make the customer pay again for something he already paid for would, indeed, be seen as attempting to rip off someone.

    • nakedscience says:

      @Yossarian: Except Apple Can Do No Wrong, even when they do wrong.

  17. Alexander Saites says:

    After the first try I would have just boot-legged it. Kudos for sticking it out.

  18. Kevin Goetz says:

    If you complain enough and are persistent Apple will pretty much do what ever you want. It must be some filter to find out if someone legitimately has a real problem.

    If you buy Apple Care, and have 3 or more service repairs (hardware) within the Apple Care agreement; Apple will replace your “lemon” with the same or equal level computer they are selling at the time. So, you can essentially get a free upgrade if Apple upgraded their current sales line up since you’ve purchased the computer. They won’t just pass out free computers, you must have a legitimate complaint (or a friend who works at the Apple store) and be persistent.

    • ionerox says:

      @Kevin Goetz: This is not an absolute truth.

      If you have over 3 *major* hardware failures of the same type (say, the logic board goes out repeatedly) then maybe they’ll replace the machine completely (if you ask for it or are persistent).

      If it’s a fairly minor hardware issue (USB port failures, optical drive failure)- you might not get very far trying this route.

  19. redkamel says:

    I had the same thing happen when I accidentally shipped a laptop to my old address on the address selector. You really have to break it down for them. UPS said if apple called, they could change it mid route. I called Apple, they said no. I explained to him: “Look, I screwed up. My laptop is going to LA, I dont live there anymore. An apple laptop will not be “saved” for me. Someone, anyone will sign (its college) and the 2500 laptop will be gone. All you have to do is call this number XXXXXX and talk to Jane F. The package will be reouted.” Thats it. She still had to ask her manager. And I had to ask hime a few times. “Let me get this straight. You will not make one phonecall for a customer to possibly prevent loss of a brand new laptop?”

  20. Casandra Bollings says:

    Easy solution: Just request for the recorded tapes. Threaten suing. Then if that gets you no where: steal it. Its not real theft when you already purchased it.

    • chenry says:

      @Casandra Bollings: Except you can’t prove you own it, so you kind of are stealing it regardless.

      Buying a watch on backorder, and then stealing the store’s display model is still stealing.

  21. jswilson64 says:

    Good job by the consumer!

    Tips from the school of hard knocks: Always get the name of CSRs you deal with, and the date/time of your call. Take copious notes. Confirm what they’re telling you – get them to say it several times so there’s no question what’s being agreed to. Better yet, get a device to record calls yourself.
    Better still, only make deals in writing…

  22. ajlei says:

    I just about shit my pants when I was last at the Apple store and saw that CS4 was somewhere around $1800. Then again, if I had the money to be buying a Macbook then I guess it wouldn’t be as much of a difference. Plus, I’m hoping the OP got student pricing on it.

    • joe18521 says:


      Okay, would you please explain which product(s) you refer to when you say CS4? Adobe has dozens of software titles with the CS4 version tag. If you’re talking about the CS4 “Master Collection,” which basically includes everything Adobe sells, $1800 is quite a steal.

  23. Anonymous says:

    FYI – This is more Adobe’s fault, Apple wasn’t 100% right here either, but Adobe is a notorious bitch about releasing student licenses.

    You have to sign an AFFIDAVIT if you buy it from a University (which is even more ridiculous), so I’m not surprised they were awkward.

    Who made this situation right? Apple. Who didn’t? Adobe. I love both companies, but one clearly did the right thing here and the other didn’t.

  24. fatcop says:

    $2500 retail for the Windows version.

  25. WeAre138 says:

    That’s when you say “Go F yourself, I’m downloading a pirated version and I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it because I already paid for it. While I’m on the *bad* site I might see what other adobe/apple products are available since you wasted my precious time.”

    • admiral_stabbin says:

      @WeAre138: While you may not feel guilty for downloading a pirated version of something you paid for, you should feel a bit uncomfortable. Getting hacks & cracks for products like CS4 from something you find in a Google search is a straight path (most of the time) to malware getting on your computer. Yes, even Macs can get malware…

  26. arl84 says:

    Well yeah, you’d be amazed at what you could get if you just have more patience than the rep you’re talking to. Good job :-)

  27. kwsventures says:

    A case of the squeaky wheel getting the oil first.

  28. Spencer Gardner says:

    if you paid for CS4 and then adobe screws you out of it, why not just feel good about visiting your favorite torrent website?

    • sprocket79 says:

      @Spencer Gardner: How about, if your paid for your MacBook and Apple screws up part of the total transaction, you walk into the Apple store and steal something off their shelves? That’s stupid. Adobe didn’t screw the OP out of anything. It was Apple. Apple was the reseller, therefore it was their responsibility to sell their customer the proper product.

  29. ZekeSulastin says:

    @WeAre138: @Spencer Gardner: … because if you took the time and money to get a retail NIB version of the software, you’re damned-well entitled to it and the benefits thereof, including the license, the physical media, whatever support is included, updates, not having to crack the damn thing to block the activation, taking much less risk of malware infection, etc.

    Situations like this lend precisely zero legitimacy to software pirating sites. This doesn’t even involve the DRM usually trumpeted around as an excuse by those few who care enough to justify themselves – just problems with Apple not getting you the program itself. Besides, even the usual excuse that he had a license to CS4 and just wanted to circumvent x restriction/SecuROM/etc. (quite understandable for personal use, but it won’t hold up for a business) wouldn’t be sustained if it ever came into question because before Apple made good on their deal all he had was CS3!

    Congrats to James for beating his way through stupid customer service and getting what he paid for, rather than letting them beat him into extra payment.

  30. InThrees says:

    @Trai_Dep: It’s also nice to see retailers make good on the promises they make in regards to sales of products they don’t actually make.

    See how that works?

  31. bmwloco says:

    Apple has given me now one, but two replacement Powerbooks “back in the day”. It was over 15 years ago, but I won’t forget. I still use Macs daily, and that’s one of the reasons.

    They stand behind their product and services better than about any other computer company.

  32. Harry Pujols says:

    What were those CS4 offers? $150? $250? Are you sure they don’t have another zero in them? The whole CS4 package normally costs as much as a new laptop.

  33. Anonymous says:

    It is likely that the CSR had no authority to simply give away CS4. Apple Corporate does. It’s as simple as that. And for those who say that Apple was trying to rip someone off, I say they are ignorant of corporate hierarchies and how little leeway CSR’s really have.

  34. aedude01 says:

    After the third call I’ll call my credit card company and try to get the charges reversed. I’ve done it a couple of times, and it’s AMAZING how much better customer service gets when the company’s getting a charge back.

  35. ZekeSulastin says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese: Uhm … given the power of the program and its status in the industry, the student price is actually pretty decent. Even the Super Special Most Magical Pretty Pretty Premium suite with Photoshop, InDesign, Flash, Acrobat, Illustrator, Fireworks, and Dreamweaver is only $400 for a student. (in b4 “USE GIMP”)

    If you think $400 for the Student Edition of all that ($57/program) or even $200 straight for just Photoshop (or $600/$300 for the NON-student version) …

    … you have no clue, I’ll leave it at that. There’s a reason I have to be connected to our school’s network to use some of the engineering software I use.

  36. irish_stickman says:

    Mac doesnt come with bloatware like our competitors, but if you want it…tough shit

  37. BillyDee_CT says:

    Sadly it seems that this sort of problem is becoming the norm instead of the exception. Is American customer service actually getting worse as time goes on? I’m glad Apple decided to man-up and do the right thing. It sort of restores my faith in them. Now if they would only lower the price of their tower computers so I don’t have to stick with this crappy Mac Mini.