As I'm sure many of you have seen, there has been quite a bit of controversy in the iWorld over Apple's recent announcement that they were dropping the iPhone's price. Although it is true that this price cut comes not too long after the iPhone's debut, I'm also having trouble believing that people didn't "expect" a price cut. Yet, to read some of the reactions to the news, you'd think Apple had pulled off the biggest swindle since Springfield bought a Monorail.
After initially taking a hard line against the iWhiners, Apple has since loosened up a bit and offered to try to make things "right." I find myself agreeing with Steve Job's views that, while it is important to be considerate of one's existing customers, the technology game is played fast and being an early adopter of technology should not be for those with weak stomachs, small wallets, and giant tear ducts.
So, while I think that Jobs and Co. devised a brilliant apology package (store credit instead of a rebate) that shows why Apple is still at the top of their game, I believe the early adopter iWhiners should still be ashamed of themselves, and take a moment to think about the impact of their complaining.
To be fair, I fully acknowledge that not everyone who bought an iPhone at the original price has complained or is whining. One of my best friends purchased an iPhone right when it came out. As a savvy consumer, he is happy for the store credit gift, but he also went into his purchase with eyes wide open. These are the kinds of consumers that the iWhiners should look up to.
My biggest problem with their complaint is that it valorizes their own impatience and greed, yet seeks to shift the burden of those compulsions onto someone else. It's greed squared. They want everything right now, and then they want even more in the future. But where does this sense of entitlement come from? You had plenty of opportunity, when you were standing in line outside the Apple store for hours and hours, to see all the signs saying how much the iPhone cost. Where is the sense that you were "cheated," or that someone got a better deal? Apple sold you the iPhone at a price you were willing to pay. You got the iPhone, it worked as advertised, and you were incredibly happy. Those who weren't willing to pay, waited. And now they can get the iPhone at the price they are willing to pay. But you want to be both -- willing and unwilling -- and yet responsible for neither.
I'm curious, iWhiners, as to how far you are willing to take this logic. When a movie you have seen comes to the dollar theater, do you go back to the cineplex and demand the price difference from when you saw it on opening night? I bought some donuts this morning; when those donuts show up on the discount rack this evening, should I demand the price difference? Will you go to your car dealership and demand some cash back because now they're now discounted so as to clear the lot for next year's model? I see these questions as being no more absurd than the situation you have created yourselves. It's not price protection you are crying for, it's protection against your own inanity. But I don't know if even Visa can protect you against that.
I think the psychology at play here is quite obvious. You iWhiners were all kinds of happy to gloat and flaunt your iPhones in the faces of your friends who didn't/wouldn't/couldn't rush out and get one. Believe me, I know, because I was in one of those lines at an Apple store, too, on the day the iPhone came out. I saw how excited we all were. I heard the snide comments and the boasting that is typical of tech launches (and part of the fun). But now the tables have turned. Your gloating now looks a lot more like foolishness, and you can't handle that. But that's on you, not Apple. You didn't over-pay, you over-brayed. How's that echo sounding now?
But the consequence I'm concerned about is the potential harm this whiny subgroup of early adopters can do. Obviously, tech companies like Apple need early adopters, and they certainly need the buzz that comes with it. And Apple should consider them as a special category of consumers, and treat them appropriately. But that's also why it seems that there has always been a tacit understanding that being an early adopter comes at a premium. And many sensible consumers understand this. I continue to applaud those iPhone early adopters who recgonize the ethos. But those who do not do a disservice to companies like Apple, by trying to make it appear as though it is Apple, not the whiny early adopters, who made a bad decision. Believe me, I'm no great defender of corporations, but fair's fair. Caveat emptor.
But this is also why I think Apple devised a great strategy for handling this mess -- giving store credit instead of cash back. Clearly, the iWhiners have demonstrated that they are more than willing to buy first and think second. For Apple, the store credit deal isn't so much of a give-back as it is a bit of an inventory swap. (Given that not many things in the Apple store cost just $100, I have a feeling that Apple will still come out ahead on this deal.) Jobs apologized without really saying he was sorry, which I think is entirely appropriate in this instance. After all, he's talking to a group of customers who are crying without having been hurt. Why should a company have to apologize for selling a product which consumers clearly wanted and were willing to buy?
In my view, it is the iWhiners who should be apologizing to Apple.