Not so "genius", Apple

I wanted to be writing about ♥♡♥ THE PULSE POUNDING HEART STOPPING DATING SIM JAM ♥♡♥ tonight, but instead I am writing about this. It is entirely possible — quite likely, even — you should go and play Jurassic Heart instead of reading it.

Made your choice? Okay.

There’s a first time for everything. Before this weekend I had never cracked an Apple screen of any sort, had never explored the marina around the Rosie the Riveter museum (beautiful, btw), and — at least in my relatively recent acquisition of the term ‘mansplaining’, I had never been talked down to by a nerd on a matter of technology.

The experience has made me realize that I have a relatively insulated life insofar as women, technology, and mansplaining go. I’ve been in the upper bracket of design salaries for awhile now, so I’m very accustomed to being respected and heard when speaking about my work. I’m very fortunate to have worked overwhelmingly with men and women who value my views and skill. There have been outlier experiences, but in every case the individuals in question have been received with shock and disgust by my colleagues, so even in uglier moments I had a network of support from my peers.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve seen enough crap that everything in this tumblr is deeply hilarious, sad, and identifiable — but I can still recognize that I’ve been really, really lucky. Although I also wonder how much of that is my bad behavior filter, and I’ll get to that in a second.

I posted on facebook yesterday when this happened. My bike and a hill were involved. It sucked. The internet was consulted. An appointment with the local Apple store was made.

The 80 was heinous, so I was ten minutes late to the appointment. Which meant of course that I needed a new appointment an hour from then. I didn’t feel like doing all of this over again, so I agreed to wait. The store was quite busy. The time for the appointment came and went. Ten minutes after it was scheduled (Apple being late doesn’t appear to incur repercussions) I was introduced to an Apple “genius”. Let’s call him Rupert.

Rupert was your standard issue tech nerd, Apple style (reasonably well groomed). His voice was slightly too loud (even for the busy store), he had a very self-assured smile, and he was deft with his iPad.

I should pause to explain that all of my many interactions with the workers at this store over the past three years have been pretty positive. I don’t expect a lot from them, and for the most part they’re affable and reasonable. They listen to what I say and generally treat me like a grown-up. I was expecting the same from Rupert.

He entered my device’s information into his iPad, checking diagnostics as a matter of procedure. He explained that even though my AppleCare was still active, it didn’t cover physical damage, so the replacement would be treated as an out-of-warranty replacement. Which would mean $250.

Yikes. Up until then I had heard two prices: $50 and $200, depending on level of AppleCare. I had not ever heard $250. So I paused the process and asked for more details. Rupert explained that Apple doesn’t repair screens, it just does device replacement, so I would be getting a new iPad for $250, which he thought was a great deal. And maybe it was, but I wasn’t interested in paying that much for a two-year-old device whose further support, if it needed any, would not be covered by Apple.

“Okay,” I said. “Explain to me why I shouldn’t have this repaired by a third party.”

That was when the fiasco started.

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I knew I was asking a tricky question, but none of the other associates had had difficulty with it. The first person I spoke with — as I explained to Rupert — even suggested that it was possible to get the screen repaired by a third party service. It’s possible he wasn’t supposed to divulge this, but I appreciated the openness and respect for my intelligence (because of course I had googled and researched not only where to get such a repair but how to do it myself if I were so inclined). The associate who introduced me to Rupert had also acknowledged that third party screen replacement did, in fact, exist.

But I would have been fine with a “we can’t recommend or comment on third party modification of Apple products, and we don’t support devices that have been so modified”.

Instead, what I got was a ton of bluster, and a tortured explanation of how “screen replacement is impossible” because “you’re opening something that was never meant to be opened”, and “it’s not just the screen”, and it would be “severing connections that were never meant to be severed”, all of this with the longsuffering tone of someone who knows just so much about technology that he couldn’t possibly convey all its myriad complexities. I understood that he probably felt he was in a difficult spot, so I was patient and tried to keep my questions simple.

When I described that I had seen numerous services that offered third party screen replacement, so clearly it was possible, he pivoted: “they’ll do it,” then many very disapproving noises about the dirty, dirty people who would dare to touch the sacred insides of an Apple device, “but it’ll work for a week and then you’ll be back in here and we’ll see that it has been modified and we won’t be able to replace it”. In case I wasn’t understanding, “It’s a terrible idea,” he added.

Okay, that’s almost reasonable. It voids the warranty. But as I pointed out, I had less than a month left on the warranty as it was, and the “new” iPad Apple would provide as a replacement would only be covered for 90 days. It didn’t seem cost effective, considering they were charging more than half the price of a full replacement. I told him that if the cost were prohibitive I was considering upgrading to a Mini for myself, getting the device repaired inexpensively, then giving it to my nephews for the variable remainder of its lifetime.

Rupert dug in. He seemed okay with the idea of my buying a Mini, but said “if you’re going to do that, you might as well just recycle it”, pointing to my cracked screen. I was aware at this point that the tone I was getting had no small correlation with my lack of external genitalia.

“But the whole rest of the device still works,” I said. “There’s a lot of value in it still.” I told him that I wasn’t considering turfing the device — I was just trying to decide whether to repair with Apple or to take a risk on a third party solution.

Eventually, the nearby associate jumped in and tried to bail Rupert out — by explaining that “those third party places aren’t electrostatic safe”, indicating the static band on his arm and saying “we all have to wear these special armbands because the electronics are so sensitive. Those third party places don’t have them.”

This associate had been very reasonable previously, and I looked at him for a second, trying to suss out whether he actually knew nearly nothing about computer hardware or just assumed I didn’t. I did not say “listen Biebershorts, I was wearing a static bracelet in 1994, overclocking home-built PCs with my dad when you were probably shitting your diapers”. I said “but that’s true for all computer work, right?” He nodded and shrugged politely. I realized that I was dumbing myself down because of how they were treating me, and that was when I quietly tipped over from annoyed to livid.

I’m a pretty controlled person, but there must have been a look in my eye that Rupert saw said “caution”, because he pivoted then into a still-blustery “look, it’s totally your call,” and “I don’t want to talk you into something you’re not comfortable with. It’s your call.” My call to make a clearly terrible, terrible decision.

Oh, Hallelujah. Thank you for reassuring me that whether I hand you my credit card or not for this transaction is actually within my control. My delicate feminine sensibilities would otherwise be only too susceptible to bending to your manly will.

Rupert went on to heartily elaborate that “this option isn’t going away,” giving my battered iPad a fatherly pat, “you don’t have to decide right this second.

I didn’t, at that point, feel like explaining to him that the broken iPad had been so deeply integrated into my life that I wasn’t keen on omitting it for however long it would take to repair. And I wanted the interaction to be over. “I’ll go with one of the Minis — Verizon, slate, 32gb. Can you do that?”

“I’m going to introduce you to a man named *****,” Rupert said. “***** will walk you through all the options.”

“I don’t need him to do that,” I said. I had had plenty of time to review specs during the hour I was waiting for this rescheduled appointment. “I just need him to sell me the device. Can he do that?” Rupert nodded and retreated.

I didn’t realize until the drive home that I was wearing an RPI sweatshirt. (Not something I would normally wear out of the house, because it’s old and chunky, but it was just the Apple store, and IDGAF.) And sure, it’s California, nerdbro probably had no idea what Rensselaer was (hint: #7 engineering school in the US). But it said ‘polytechnic institute’ right on the sweatshirt. I’m sure he thought it belonged to my boyfriend.

During the actual interaction, I felt numb — it didn’t quite occur to me all of what was happening and why. I only knew I was irritated (and, because I’m me, I was irritated with myself for being irritated and going out of my way to be polite and friendly).

But afterward, I felt sick.

It wasn’t mere aggravation, or the frustration of dealing with a couple of well-intentioned but ill-equipped technicians. I’ve done that lots of times before. It was how they assumed that I couldn’t possibly know what they were talking about, that my questions couldn’t possibly be reasonable — I was a (sensitive, stupid, irrational) situation to be managed, not a person — to say nothing of a technology professional who has been working with computers intensively, every day, for nearly twenty years. It was the way that I, because I am a social person, altered my behavior and language according to their expectations of what I was capable of. And that I did it without thinking, without realizing what was happening.

This is what this environment can do. This is what I am very lucky to experience only exceptionally rarely, because of the insulated places where I work. I have the privilege of being able to select from many, many employers and peers who go out of their way to get the best out of my talent and skills. So many women I know are nowhere near so lucky. Some of them choose to seek the uphill battles. I will always have tremendous respect for their bravery. (Not to mention how straight-up awesome every single female engineer I know is.)

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Anyway, meet my new Mini. Her name is Cassandra.

We are working on a Twine dating sim called “Nine Boys”.

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