Apple Gift Cards in Canada = FAIL
Tuesday, July 26, 2011, by Sebastian Dwornik
You would never suspect a company the likes of Apple to get in the way of wanting me to buy a shiny, new Macbook Pro from them. But in Canada, when you're armed with an Apple Gift Card, there could be some hurdles.
I returned some Christmas gifts last December (2010) and their cost was transferred to an Apple Gift Card (not an iTunes Gift Card) totaling about $1000.
With a refresh of Apple's new laptop models recently, my next step was to then simply go to Apple's online store, build up my Macbook Pro (2.2GHz i7, 4GB DRAM, 750GB HDD, 15-inch Hi-Res Antiglare Widescreen Display), and use the money on the Apple Gift Card to help subsidize the cost when paying for it.
It's a simple process I presumed. Something I've done many times at other online vendors.
But after countless minutes of scanning the online checkout screen and reading the FAQ, I still could not find any place to input my Gift Card number. So I then called the 1-800-MY-APPLE hotline to ask for help on this issue.
"This shouldn't be complicated", I thought to myself.
The kind operator cleared this up very simply by responding, "I'm sorry, but Apple Gift Cards are not supported in the online store in Canada".
"Why!?", I asked.
She replied, "due to your various tax laws, we find it hard to keep up with them and so we just don't support it. You can only use the Apple Gift Card inside an Apple Retail Store".
So the next day I traveled downtown to the Toronto Eaton Centre Apple Retail Store and was met at the door with a cheerful store manager, named Jason. I explained my bewildering online experience and his offer to help was to push me off to one of the floor techies (Eddie) in the hopes that we could work this out.
The Fun Never Ends
I then repeated my story about the online store challenge to Eddie at which point we looked at some Macbook Pro's.
I explained to him the Macbook Pro spec's I wanted and the conversation went downhill when I mentioned my request to include the '15-inch Hi-Res Antiglare Widescreen Display' option.
Eddie: "We don't offer customized builds in the Retail Store. I'm sorry but such features are only available in the online store"
me: "But I can't use my Apple Gift Card in the online store"
Eddie: "I'm sorry."
me: "Can we perhaps just order it right here, right now, and have it shipped to your store, so that I can pay for it here with my Gift Card?"
Eddie: "I'm sorry. The Apple online store and the Apple Retail store are two separate entities and we operate as such"
me: "So I can't use the Apple Gift card online, and I can't get what I want in the Apple Retail Store from what's online, just so that I can use this damn Gift Card, what should I do with it?"
Eddie: "Maybe you can sell it? On kijiji?"
Eddie: "I'm sorry."
I walked out amazed, shaking my head in disbelief, thinking that maybe I'm not meant to own a Macbook Pro.
So here I am ...
... stuck with an Apple Gift Card in Canada, and shocked by the policies and business practices that Apple uses to inhibit potential customers from buying their products using their own Gift Cards. Something that many other companies have figured out to do quite well.
And I'm not the only one with this experience.
Stubborn Perseverance Is Your Only Hope
So the next morning I called the Apple Customer Support Line (1-800-676-2775), connected with Blaine (in Canada), and once again explained my story about the online store issue with Gift Cards.
After he confirmed the Gift Card failure on his own terminal, he put me on hold for 15 minutes while he discussed this problem with the Customer Relations department.
Upon return the only two options he provided were:
1. Contact the Apple Corporate office in Canada.
2. Go back to the Apple retail store that issued this card and talk to the manager about a special order.
Having doubts that the Apple Corporate office would be effective and possibly lose me in their bureaucracy, I decided to try option #2, and called the Square One Apple Retail Store where the Store Manager, Kathleen, heard my desperate plea and took it upon herself to investigate the Gift Card and how to extract money from it.
After a few more telephone conversations with her, she finally permitted the transfer of the Gift Card balance to my VISA. So, once again I traveled down to the Square One Apple Retail Store, where a regular Apple employee performed the transfer.
Later that afternoon I returned home to ultimately complete my online order.
3 days, many phone calls, car trips, and added frustration, I was at long last able to complete the transaction with the Gift Card money.
But it shouldn't have been this difficult.
Apple, if you're reading this, you really need to improve your communication about this issue in Canada, or better yet, get your online store in Canada to accept your Gift Cards!