Awkward lesson in the art of not going by the book

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 November, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 4:21pm


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APPLE Computer has been responsible for bringing some of the most interesting, innovative and even amusing things to the personal computer.

However, not everything Apple has done has been a runaway financial success. Newton is still just chugging along and the less said about Apple's first attempt to make a 'portable' the better.

People often get frustrated with Apple, but rarely do they exhibit the kind of animosity towards Apple that one sees, for example, exhibited towards Microsoft. This is due, perhaps, to a perception - right or wrong - that Apple tries to innovate and Microsoft tries to accumulate (our money, of course).

Whatever the truth may be, I was ready to rubbish Apple's eWorld in no uncertain terms when I ran into an old friend of mine at last week's MacWorld Expo '95.

A while ago I was given a beta membership to eWorld to test for a few months and was told at the time that I could continue it when it became official. It was also made clear to me that I might have to kill the membership I had and rejoin. All of this was understood.

The time came and, sure enough, I had to change my membership. Mou mantai. I installed the new disks, entered all the data they wanted, hit 'OK' and BEEP, I was told that my credit card was already registered. No big deal. My friend told me to kill the old membership, wait a couple of days, and then rejoin. This I did. I went through the same process and BEEP, I got the same message about my credit card already having been registered.

Now I was beginning to get a bit angry. What, I thought, about the kind husband who wants to give his wife an eWorld account for Christmas - how would he do it on one credit card? I was thinking this over when I bumped into my friend last week. He asked me if I had tried the 800 number. Of course not, I said, it's an 800 number, I can't use it from Hong Kong. Wrong, he said. Wrong? Yes. Apple, he informed me, gives out oodles of money to be able to provide this service and, I was told, the computer in California knows where the Hong Kong number comes from. That is, 800-3267, is recognised by the main computer and is automatically put at the head of the queue.

In other words, if some poor chap in New York has been waiting for ten minutes to get help and you dial the Hong Kong support number, you will jump to the head of the queue. This is because Apple is paying a lot more to talk to you than it would pay for the chap in New York. So he waits a little longer.

Right, so I tried the number. I got the standard voice message that gave me all the options there were, then pressed '3' for help with eWorld service and waited a few seconds. I was soon awarded with Mark. I explained the problem. He knew exactly what I wanted, looked me up in the database and changed my entry to allow for multiple logins on one credit card.

I then tried to log on again. I was able to zip through the entire login process without a hitch.

My friend is too polite to say anything rude to me, but it did occur to me that he could have used the old hacker exultation to those having simple problems. It is an acronym that encourages one to read the manual - RTFM.