A good friend of mine recently bought a new iPhone 4S from her local Apple Store. When presented with her new iPhone, the Apple Store salesperson tried to sell her on AppleCare+. It was a hard sell; in her opinion, the Apple Store salesperson went about it in all of the wrong ways. She’s a savvy consumer, reads Cult of Mac and other tech blogs, and has even read my new book. She did her own research before she bought the iPhone. She understood the differences between AppleCare and AppleCare+. She weighed risks of accidental damage against the price and limitations of AppleCare+, and decided the extra protection wasn’t for her.
She passed on AppleCare+, but believes that she might have been swayed if she hadn’t done her homework. She made a choice and, whether or not it turns out to be the right one, she was the one to make it. But not everyone is going to take the time to evaluate the pros and cons of AppleCare+ and will be confronted with this question at the time of purchase. Might you or someone you know fall victim to a hard sell on AppleCare+?
AppleCare+’s primary feature is that it offers limited protection against accidental damage. For obvious reasons, it must be purchased at the same time as the iPhone (though Apple had made a few exceptions to this requirement for some purchasers). There are limitations, such as the $49 service fee and the “up to” two incident limitation. For some, this may be a good deal. The fact AppleCare+ is being offered by Apple means that an established company with a great track record is backing the program. This doesn’t mean, however, that AppleCare+ is a good buy for everyone.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying AppleCare+ or other service contracts are a scam, but these plans are a waste of money if you never need to use them. For some people, AppleCare+ or other protection plans might make sense. For example, protection may be justified if you’re unusually accident-prone or plan on using your iPhone in a high-risk area. The peace of mind one gets from knowing their iPhone has extra protection does have some value to it. However, your iPhone’s One-Year Limited Warranty or AppleCare already provide adequate protection (i.e. protection from defects) from most things that will ever go wrong. If you do decide to purchase one of these plans, you should do so only after taking the time to understand what you’re actually purchasing.
I think it’s safe to say most people don’t spend hours upon hours pouring over product specifications or reviews when considering a purchase. Moreover, I doubt most people take more than a few moments to evaluate their specific needs while contemplating a new luxury acquisition like an iPhone. I think most people don’t understand AppleCare’s policies and procedures and probably couldn’t articulate precisely how AppleCare+ differs from AppleCare (of course many Cult of Mac readers may be exceptions to this, but what about their friends and family?). Look, we all love our iPhones and shudder to think about the cost of replacing them, but that doesn’t mean we should make our buying decisions higgledy-piggledy.
Let’s have a look at the exchange that allegedly took place. I admit, I was not there, and although I have spoken with my friend about it extensively, this is all hearsay. I’ve made reasonable efforts to ensure this conversation is being portrayed accurately. I think it may serve as an example of the types of things someone might say to you in order to convince you to buy AppleCare+ and, therefore, readers may benefit from the exchange in hopes it will help them understand how someone might try to effectuate a hard sell.
Representative: Do you know about AppleCare+?
iPhone 4S Buyer: Yes, I think I’ll pass on it.
Representative: Are you sure you understand it?
iPhone 4S Buyer: Yes, it’s for accidental damage. I don’t think I need it. If I break it, I’ll buy a new one. I’ve owned expensive phones in the past and I have always taken good care of them. Plus I bought a good case for it, so I think I’m protected.
Representative: But what happens if it breaks all by itself?
iPhone 4S Buyer: Like if it’s not my fault that it breaks or it’s defective?
iPhone 4S Buyer: Then I’ll bring it in and have Apple fix it. I don’t see how I need AppleCare+ to fix a defect.
Representative: Well, that’s only in the first year. If it breaks in its second year then you’re out of luck.
iPhone 4S Buyer: No, that’s what AppleCare is for, which I can buy anytime during the first year. If I buy AppleCare and something breaks in the second year then I’ll bring it in and have Apple fix it.
Representative: You’ve been really careful with your past iPhones?
iPhone 4S Buyer: This is my first iPhone.
Representative: (in apparent disbelief) So, this is your first iPhone and you’re not going to buy AppleCare+? Do you think that’s a good idea?
iPhone 4S Buyer: I’ve owned expensive phones in the past and I haven’t broken them. I think I’ll be just fine without it. Thank you though.
A simple “no thanks” wasn’t enough. When I hear stories like this, I immediately think of the not-so-hypothetical situation where an average consumer – like my parents or, perhaps, your parents – find themselves in a situation where they are being openly interrogated about their reasons for not wanting to buy something. How likely is it that some salesperson – one who is incentivized to improve his or her “attachment rate” by pushing extras such as AppleCare+ – will convince them to buy something they don’t need?
The above exchange illustrates what a hard sell on AppleCare+ might look like. The representative didn’t mention the limitations of the plan (i.e. $49 service fee, two-replacement limit). The representative was persistent and tried to harp on the customer’s fear of the unexpected and inexperience owning an iPhone. The representative even overtly suggested the customer buy AppleCare+ in order to protect against defects. This is simply not correct and is the type of statement that misleads average people. Your iPhone’s One-Year Limited Warranty already protects you against defects. If you want defect protection to last longer, you may purchase standard AppleCare anytime before your iPhone’s warranty expires. If your iPhone spontaneously breaks, it’s going to be due to a defect, which should be covered.
What’s the lesson here? Let cooler heads prevail. Research AppleCare+ and evaluate your needs before you purchase an iPhone, because there’s a good chance someone is going to try to sell you on AppleCare+.