My Apple Customer Experience: how it turned sour and why I am not buying Apple products

Let’s set the context for this conversation

Before I dive into the heart of this post it is important that I take the time to set the context so that you can really listen to what I am speaking.  The taken for granted automatic way of existence for human beings can be captured by the following:

  • Right/Wrong – I am right, you are wrong;
  • Dominate/Avoid domination – I want to dominate you and I will resist your efforts to dominate me;
  • Justification/Invalidation – I will justify ‘myself’ and invalidate ‘you’;
  • Looking good/avoiding looking bad – I will strive to look good in your eyes and go to considerable lengths to avoid looking bad.

This is not the context for my writing this post – absolutely not. I am not seeking to look good.  I am not stating that I am right and someone else is wrong…… I simply wish to share my story and stand with you.

Some personal stuff that gives you an insight into me

Allow me to share two personal incidents with you that may help you to make sense of this post and the stand that I am taking.

Between the ages of sixteen and twenty two when I was in college and university I would go out frequently to nightclubs.  This was something that I did with my friends – the vast majority of who were male and my age.  I noticed something that disturbed me.  My friends treated the ‘other sex’ present in the nightclub as ‘prey’ to be hunted / toyed with or simply as ‘meat’.  I simply could not understand this.  Even today, I can remember thinking that the young women were someone’s daughter, someone’s sister.  And I remember asking myself the question: “How would I want my sister to be treated if she was at that night club?”  So at the nightclub I danced and sometimes I made friends – certainly I got plenty of compliments on my dancing.  My friends ‘hunted’ and I left them to it once I had shared my perspective on the situation – why I was refusing to play the game that so attracted to them.

I happened to be working and staying in Amsterdam – famous for its red light district.  I remember that the people I was working with got very excited about going to the Bannenbar (that is what I think it was called – it was a long time ago).  I was until I arrived at the front door and found out what went on inside.  Being young and male, one part of me was keen to go inside and see the spectacle (something I had never seen before).  The other part of me put the following to me: “It is the people who pay who make this kind of stuff possible.  Is this the kind of stuff that you want to see in the world?  Are you 100% sure that the people performing the acts have consented freely without ‘oppression’ to do this stuff?”  I could not be 100% sure and so I turned back much to the puzzlement of my work colleagues.

So you could say that I have a certain disposition when it comes to my fellow human beings and what I am willing and not willing to do.  I am not saying it is right nor am I saying it is wrong.  I am not saying it is good nor am I saying it is wrong.  I am simply saying that I noticed that which is so for me when it comes to what I am and am not prepared to do.

My relationship with Apple – customer and advocate until now

Here is who things stood until relatively recently as regards my ‘relationship’ with Apple:

  • I have written positively about Steve Jobs and Apple in this very blog;
  • I use an Apple iPhone 4 and have thoroughly enjoyed using it;
  • My brother has an Apple iPhone 4S and I played a big part in shaping his decision to buy the Apple iPhone – raving about how great it is;
  • I bought Apple iPods for my wife and children;
  • I influenced my nephews to buy Apple iPods and iPhones;
  • I enjoy using my brother-in-law’s Apple iPad;
  • I had set aside money to buy Apple’s iPad 3 expecting it to be released around the middle of this year – this is something me and my family have been looking forward to.

Why did I buy, use and recommend Apple products?   THe following quote from Jean-Dominique Bauby says it all for me and my relationship with Apple as it used to be:

“I need to feel strongly, to love and to admire, just as desperately as I need to breathe.” Jean-Dominique Bauby

All of that changed over the last 10 days or so.  Let’s look into that.

Why I Will Not Be Buying Apple Products

Now, every time I see and use my Apple iPhone4 I don’t love or admire Apple.  And I do not love and admire myself for buying Apple products!  Why not?  Because I care about my fellow human beings.  I care about my ‘brothers and sisters’) who are assembling these products.  Here is something that I read (amongst a lot of other stuff I read over the last two weeks) that has touched me deeply and turned delight into disgust and shame at being an Apple customer:

“On the other side of the world, a young girl is also swiping those screens. In fact, every day, during her 12+ hour shifts, six days a week, she repetitively swipes tens of thousands of them. She spends those hours inhaling n-hexane, a potent neurotoxin used to clean iPhone glass, because it dries a few seconds faster than a safe alternative. After just a few years on the line, she will be fired because the neurological damage from the n-hexane and the repetitive stress injuries to her wrists and hands make her unable to continue performing up to standard.”

Last weekend I went out to buy smartphones for my wife and my daughter.  I did not buy Apple.  I simply could not buy Apple.  I no longer see ‘beauty’ when I look at Apple products.  I see the ‘ugliness’ of human misery and the ‘spilling of blood’ for the sake of a few extra dollars of profit per Apple product.

Please understand that I am not making Apple wrong for this nor am I saying that Apple is the only company that contributes to this state of affairs.  I am not even saying this is ‘wrong’ – from a zen perspective everything is perfect just as it is and just as it is not.    So what am I saying?  I am saying that whilst Apple can play this game of ‘profits through human misery’ I have chosen to bring my part in that game to an end.  It is a game that does not leave me moved, touched, inspired, uplifted.  That is simply what is so for me.  If you are OK to continue to play the game that Apple has constructed and perpetuates (either through indifference, accident or deliberation) then that is perfectly ok – each of us has his/her own conscience to live with.

An invitation to put your humanity into action

If on the other hand you are more like more in that you do not want blood on your hands.  Or that you are moved, touched and inspired by the possibility of Apple being a brand that is great as it makes great products AND is a stand for the best of humanity (our caring, our reverence for life) then I invite you to sign the petition or learn more here.

I thank you for listening to my speaking.  And if you are one of ‘brothers and sisters’ in the Foxconn factories know that I am thinking of you and I care for you.  I know that I am not alone – there are many more of us who care about you and your humanity else there would be no articles by columnists, no posts by bloggers and no petitions.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

13 thoughts on “My Apple Customer Experience: how it turned sour and why I am not buying Apple products”

  1. Maz, I understand your concern, but I will paint a different picture

    I read once about a Foxconn factory that made products for apple. It had had 13 attempted suicides. It sounded shocking until I realised that it was a very (very) big factory and the suicide rate was slightly less than that in the USA.

    The factory that apple uses provides employment and a good wage in an area of the world where employment is scarce and good wages even scarcer.

    The newspaper you read this in is in the business of selling news.

    What you say no doubt has truth in it but I worry that you haven’t been shown the whole picture. Maybe we should go and see.

    James

    Like

    1. Hello James

      I thank you for taking the time to put forward a considered comment and sharing your perspective on the matter. My stand is not just that people do not die at Foxconn factories. My stand is wider: that Apple products not be made through human exploitation and suffering. Human dignity matters to me – that is simpy what is so.

      Now on the subject of wages, income and employment. I have heard this argument before. Do you have someone you love? Now imagine that they were in that situation – lack of access to the basics of life. Then I, Rich Mr Apple, come along and ‘take advantage’ of your loved one and his/her circumstances simply to make $10 extra profit per Apple product. Is that OK? I get that that may be ok for you and many others – clearly it is because we buy and Apple is successful. And until recently I was one of the people who closed my eyes and ears and thought it is ok. Then something changed and for me it is no longer acceptable.

      One last thought: as human beings we are great at decieving ourselves. How is it that Christians – Catholics butchered Protestants in France? Or the Spanish inquisition? Or the USA that wins freedom from the British over taxes and then goes on to build a nation on slavery? Where does killing fit in with Christian values? Yet is was justified by the Catholic Church. What does the American constitution say:

      “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..”

      And so how was the slavery of fellow human beingsjustified? Simple, the blacks were not men!

      That is exactly what is happening here except now the justification is that the folks get to have jobs and income where there no jobs and income. I’d go further and say that if I come across a sister who has fallen on hard times, is hungry and her clothes are dirty. I do not go and clean her then ask her to ‘sell herself’ to me in return for me feeding her! And James, I am absolutely certain you would not do that either!

      I thank you for taking the time to share your perspective.

      Maz

      Like

  2. Are saying no to Apple products specifically based on research that highlights their supplier factories have poorer working conditions than others or all such Far-East manufacturing.

    If it’s the latter I presume you don’t have many if any modern electronics in your home.

    Like

    1. Hello Adam
      That is exactly what I am saying. My focus and stand concerns Apple. And I totally get there are isses all over the place with many western companies that use Asian suppliers.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your perspective and reading the post. I look forward to hearing your voice again.

      Maz

      Like

  3. Hi Maz,
    I’m sorry that you saw the petition and it made you feel the way that you now do, especially when you have been such an advocate for Apple in the past.

    My concern is that the petition is not specific to any particular company given that Apple use third-parties for the manufacture of many, if not all, of its products – The petition does not mention any particular supplier of the 156 that Apple uses (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/faster-forward/post/who-makes-apples-products/2012/01/13/gIQAhYr4wP_blog.html also available here http://www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/)

    Whilst I am completely with you on corporate responsibility, I do have concerns about non-specific petitions.

    Adrian

    Like

    1. Hello Adrian
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I could have seen the petition and then taken action. I did not do that. For a little while now I have been following the concerns and coverage over the Apple supply chain and in particular the concerns over Foxconn. It simply happened that a tipping point occurred in me: one day I was proud of Apple, the next day I was ashamed. Before I got there I read quite a bit on Foxconn and what it does and does not do. It supplies Samsung, Dell, HP etc.

      As for the petition I get your concerns. Petitioners like me are unable to map and determine the Apple supply chain and practices. So we are not in a position to point a finger towards specific suppliers or specific practices. What we can say is to say that we need to know that Apple products are clean or human misery, exploitation and even blood. That is what it takes for us to buy Apple products. And the petition is asking for that assurance. In that it is no different to saying we want an excellently designed product and leave the details of that is done to Apple.

      Maz

      Like

      1. Hi Maz,
        That’s a fair point, I respect your position and commend your efforts to seek assurances from all companies, ones that are in the spotlight more than others and those that are not.

        We should demand the highest standards from everyone we deal with.

        Best wishes,

        Adrian

        Like

    1. HEllo Deb
      I am wondering the same thing. Since writing this post I have been following the press and the spotlight continues to fall on Apple and Foxconn. Some passionate souls are petitioning Apple as I understand it: the headquarters and some Apple stores. I do know that if enough of us petition and follow that up with not buying Apple products then Apple executives will have an incentive to change. Else they can simply wait for the media to get bored and onto some other story.

      I thank you for listening to what I wrote and for sharing your voice. Be well, be great. You are here so make it count – make a difference, make a contribution.

      With love
      Maz

      Like

    1. Hello David

      I thank you for reaching out and letting me know what is going on. Since you left this link for me I have looked at it – most interesting. Who can you trust today? What can you really count on?

      Reminds me of the days when I was running the London Arena and the FT wrote a piece and used the views of one of the cleaners – a disgruntled one and right so – to paint a picture that was not representatative of what was going on inside the company. Yet, whilst it is not the ‘truth’ it did contain ‘ingredients of truth’.

      I wonder if the same is happening here?

      Once again, I thank you for taking the time to share and educate me. I apologise for my delay in responding to your kindness. There is no excuse – I could have done better.

      Maz

      Like

  4. Hello Adrian
    Many thanks for passing these stories on to me, I did take a look.

    Who can you trust? What can you count on? What is the truth? Who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed? It seems to me that either you live your life out of a context of trust and that human beings are fundamentally decent and then you take what you get. Or you can live your life as out of a context of distrust and human beings are fundamentally ‘bad’ and then you live with that.

    Like

Comments are closed.