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


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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.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


  1. Maz, the working conditions of Foxconn employees is indeed troubling. Reported in the NY Times at In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad.

    Here’s a telling quote from that article, which implies Apple execs don’t take the issue seriously:

    "If you see the same pattern of problems, year after year, that means the company's ignoring the issue rather than solving it,” said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. "Noncompliance is tolerated, as long as the suppliers promise to try harder next time. If we meant business, core violations would disappear.”

    I’ve thought about this many times. What if the people that like the cheap goods purchased at Wal-Mart, Target, etc. really understood what the ‘supply chain’ really looks like? Would they be so excited about their purchase of a T-shirt, shoes or electronics?

    Or, do they understand that in exchange for the low prices, jobs had to exported elsewhere… which means some in their local community won’t be able to afford to buy anything?

    But, most consumers don’t think about these things. Out of sight, out of mind.

    It remains to be seen whether Apple will suffer from the bad PR associated with Foxconn. Until consumers vote with their wallets, or Apple leadership decides to pursue something other then great products and high profits, nothing will change.

    I admire Apple as a business and innovator, but wonder how Apple consumers can be happy knowing how people in China suffered to make their shiny gadgets. Tim Cook, are you listening?

  2. Maz –

    As Bob notes, the bad press and word-of-mouth associated with Foxconn and Apple are building. Readers might be interested in a one-man show, by monologist Mike Daisey, on this very subject. The show, and the Dark Ages employee practices of Foxconn, are well covered in a recent PBS program: Bill Maher had Daisey as the lead interview on his weekly television show last evening (February 3).


  3. Apple is surely a company that is to be respected for what they have accomplished, but their attitudes about everything besides their wallets clearly exposes a very ugly side of corporations that should not be tolerated.

    The only way Apple will ever change is when the costs of lost business outweighs the increased costs of being a good corporate citizen. Sad that they will need accountants to run the numbers rather than just finding and using their moral compass.

    As Bob said, if people care they must vote with their wallets. I hope that people do just that, including the “me” generation who seems to be most concerned with attention and being good to themselves.


  4. Hello Bob
    I acknowledge and thank you for another thoughtful comment. Your sharing of your personal viewpoint I found ‘human’ and I welcome it.

    I noted with interest your point that most consumers don’t think about thes things: out of sight, out of mind. Cannot agree more with you.

    How did Gandhi ultimately triumph:

    He was totally convinced that at the heart of the human being is a core that recognises nobility and inhumanity. That it reaches towards/aspires towards nobility and given enough exposure (face to face) of inhumanity ultimately recoils from it; and

    He set about taking noble actions (actions many human beings would recognise as noble at a subconscious level if not a conscious level) that he knew would bring out the brutality of the British as a colonial power and also made sure that the media was there to capture what occurred and reported it so that the ordinary person in the world could ‘see’ what was going on.

    I’d say that ‘dirt’ only occurs as ‘dirt’ if it is out in the open – on display. And when there is enough of it, it smells and we can smell it then we tend to take action.

    There was a time when slavery was normal in the UK and the USA. And the vast majority of people accepted that it was right and just. Today we no longer have slavery because one or more human beings took a stand.

    You and I may not be able to change others yet we can take a stand that touches, moves, inspires and leaves us uplifted. Or as Gandhi said:

    “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

    Finally: I find it moving (and want to share with you) that I have had more people reach out to me as result of this post then any other post. That affirms my faith in the best of our humanity. And when I say OUR I mean of the human race as a whole.

    Thank you Bob, I am grateful you exist and that we are in conversation on/about something that matters – at least to me!


  5. Hello Michael

    First and foremost I thank you for taking the time to contribute to the conversation. It matters to me that you have shared kind words and thoughts rather than ridicule me. Actually, I have been moved to tears at how many people have reached out to me as a result of this post.

    I also thank you for pointing me towards the program on Youtube – I was not aware of its existence and I am looking forward to watching it.

    Please know that I am grateful that you exist and that you have entered into a conversation with me on something that really matters to me. I can tell that it matters to you. And it matters to me that I am not alone.


  6. Hello Chuck

    We have not come across each other – at least I have not come across you. So the first thing I want you to know is that I am grateful that you took the time to comment on the post and that you did so with kind words. Thank you.

    I am in agree with your sentiments and with those of Bob. Yes, I also hope that many of us will vote with our wallets. As you point out the nature of big corporates (like any organism that is isolated from pain/suffering) is to simply look after itself – to feed itself, to grow, to dominate.

    Everything starts with a human being who takes a stand. Whilst you and I may not be able to change the world we can take that stand. As Gandhi said “BE the change you wish to see in the world.”

    I thank you and I want you to know that I am grateful that you exist. Through your existence you have contributed to my existence – I do not feel like a lonely or stupid voice.


  7. Good post/discussion here:

    Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

    Jason Perlow says “Yes” (and 60% of voters agree)

    Any incremental cost of improving the lives of the Chinese workers will inevitably result in in increased costs in components and manufacturing outsourcing, which will be passed down to you, the consumer. It absolutely will not be absorbed by business from the purity of their conscience.

    David Gewirtz says “No”

    So rest easy. America’s “Me” generation will still be able to get their never-ending supply of cheap “i”-toys, built on the backs of an enormous populous so destitute that thousands of hopefuls will stand in line for jobs we would never accept, even with improved working conditions.

    Personally, I think business leaders will continue to seek the lowest cost globally, tempered by the realization that the Social Web will put a spotlight on unacceptable treatment of workers in their supply chain.

  8. Hello Bob

    Thanks for sharing that link, I read it. I can get where both of the guys are coming from. What I find interesting is that both of the guys are describing the situation. What neither of them seems to get is that the future is to be invented and it is always being invented by us.

    The Berlin Wall was there every day and then one day it was not. What changed? WE changed, we decided that we wanted a future without a Berlin Wall.

    Nokia owned the mobile phone market day after day, month after month, year after year. Then one day Apple invented a new future – the future of the easy to use, beautifully designed, smartphone.

    Kodak was king of the hill until someone invented digital photography and so forth.

    I agree with your viewpoint that business leaders will continue to seek the lowest cost supply chain and accept whatever goes with it as long as they hide it. Have you read The Corporation by Joel Bakan. It is subtitled “The pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power”. That was the News International approach to the rampant and illegal phone hacking. Then the Berlin Wall moment came and now News International is in a right mess.

    So it falls to us the consumers to take a stand and influence companies and executives to do the right thing: balance people, profits, planet. We have made a difference – Apple has taken the first steps.


  9. Apple is finally taking steps to address the working condition at Foxconn. Or so the news reports say. Time will tell whether anything really changes, or if this just a PR campaign to placate the market.

    It would be nice to think that a company has a soul and a conscience. But that’s not part of the company by-laws (perhaps with the exception of Google’s “do no evil.” Companies are beholden to shareholders, so we shouldn’t beat them up for trying to maximize their owner’s value.

    That’s why consumers must “vote with their wallets.” Because when we like something and buy it, it sends a signal. When we don’t buy, another signal.

    Companies need to understand that the complete package of value that we’re buying is not just the product, not just the experience and not just the price. It also includes our feeling about the way the company conducts itself in the market.

    So bad behavior should be a penalty that we the consumers assess. Buy less and the company will change its behavior, it’s as simple as that.

    We can’t expect companies to change if the consumers they want to please won’t change. So as you say, it does indeed fall upon us to take down the Berlin wall.


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