So, you like living in Apple’s walled garden ecosystem, right? Let’s say you have a Mac, an iPhone and iPad, maybe even Watch and AirPods. You’re equipped with the best of Apple’s breed, maybe even an card carrying Apple Card user already, a long time member of iTunes, and in good standing. You have iCloud and Messages tied to your Apple ID.
Life is good. Except when it ain’t. What would you do if one day you could not log into anything, including iTunes, because you’ve been banned from Apple? Something similar happened recently to Luke Kurtis. It wasn’t pretty.
Apple locked me out of its walled garden. It was a nightmare
Did Luke get caught stealing from the Apple Store? Yeah, it was something like that. Something he did that I do and you probably do.
I purchased an iTunes gift card off of a popular discount website. This is something I’ve done for years to manage my spending on the platform—it also helps my partner and I buy things for one shared iTunes account. I’ve been buying gift cards every so often, particularly during sale periods, when retailers sell iTunes and App Store gift cards at a discount.
Yes, I have done the same thing many times. It’s a good way to reduce the monthly fee for Apple Music, too.
It took Luke a long time and many calls to Apple to figure out what was wrong and even longer to get it fixed.
What happened? The discount iTunes cards he bought had been stolen. Apple traced them back to Luke and locked him out.
When Apple locked my account, all of my devices became virtually unusable. At first, it seemed like a mild inconvenience, but I soon found out how many apps on my iOS and Mac devices couldn’t be updated, not to mention how I couldn’t download anything new. When I had to take a trip for a family emergency, the JetBlue app wouldn’t let me access my boarding pass, saying I had to update the app to use it.
It gets worse.
I was locked out of my account for roughly two months. Had I not taken advantage of my internal Apple contacts, I may not have gotten my account back. I spent a large part of those two months in a kind of grief, mourning not only the loss of a collection of media built up over a decade and a half, but also all the products I owned that no longer functioned as they were supposed to. The company I had given so much money to over the years could revoke my access to everything with just the press of a button.
Luke didn’t give up, kept pressing Apple and even sent an email to CEO Tim Cook. Not long afterwards his account was reinstated, Apple apologized and gave him some free Apple Music credit, the website where he bought the stolen iTunes cards apologized and refunded his purchase.
All is good, right?
This whole ordeal made me wonder if I want to continue using Apple products. The more I consider it, the more I realize it’s not just a question of choosing one product over another. The truth is that Google or Microsoft (or Nintendo, or Samsung, or Sony, the list goes on) could just as easily cut off a customer for no stated purpose and without recourse.
We can chalk it up to, “Well, that’s life. Things happen.” Yes, that’s true, but the whole idea of being an Apple customer is to see such inconveniences in life disappear. But the episode points to a different issue.
How much are we really buying, and how much are we just renting for a while?