Luke Curtis, the IT manager for Quartz, recently bought an iTunes gift card from a “popular discount website” and loaded into into his iTunes account. A few days later he received a message from Apple that read “You cannot login because your account has been locked.” He called Apple’s customer service and was told that the card he’d used had been stolen but that they understood that Luke was the victim, not the perpetrator, and that his account would be reactivated in 24 hours. After 24 hours had elapsed and Luke was still locked out he called back. This time, the customer service rep he was connected to was a less friendly. He told Luke, “Your account has been permanently disabled. There is nothing else you can do, there is no escalation path.” When Luke asked why, the agent said only, “See the terms and conditions.”
It turned out that getting locked out of his Apple account made all of Luke’s Apple hardware almost useless. From his article on Quartz:
I started to realize just how far-reaching the effects of Apple disabling my account were. One of the things I love about Apple’s ecosystem is that I’ve built my media collection on iTunes, and can access it from any of my Apple devices. My partner and I have owned numerous iPods, iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, iMacs, Apple Watches, Apple TVs, and even a HomePod, over the years. Apple plays a big part in my professional life too: As the IT manager for Quartz, we use Apple hardware and publish on Apple platforms.
But 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 was the first time I’d flown with a paper boarding pass in years. I couldn’t even pass time on the flight playing Animal Crossing on my phone, because I got a similar error message when I opened the game.
I couldn’t use my HomePod to stream anything from my vast music collection I’d spent 15 years building; I couldn’t watch purchased movies or shows on my Apple TV; and I couldn’t download apps needed for my work at Quartz. As we anticipated the July 4th holiday in a team meeting, a manager recommended we all uninstall Slack for the holiday to truly disconnect and enjoy some time away from work. I wanted to, but I knew that if I did, I wouldn’t be able to reinstall it.
To add insult to injury, Apple even sent an email saying my pre-order of Madonna’s Madame X album was available for download.
After a lot of time and trouble (and an email to Tim Cook) Luke got his account back. He says he has invested $15k into the Apple ecosystem over the years with the assumption that he would be treated fairly for loyalty. “This whole ordeal made me wonder if I want to continue using Apple products,” he wrote. “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.”
Image: Shutterstock/Angela Kotsel
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