Frustrations with Apple's tech support

Frustrations with Apple's tech support.

response to an irritating problem I'm having with my two new Mac
servers, I called Apple for support today, and have to say I'm less
than impressed.

First, to explain the problem: both of my machines are wired on a
network, and while the network has the capability of serving up IP
addresses via DHCP, I have to configure the addresses manually on these
two machines. (They both require specific addresses that are mapped to
specific hostnames, and the networking people currently don't provide a
way to make sure a certain machine gets a specific IP address via DHCP.
I know, it's stupid, but alas.) Since setting up the machines, I've
noticed that every attempt to resolve a DNS name takes between five and
ten seconds, which makes surfing the web painful. I debugged the
problem as best as I could, which included running tests using every
single nameserver that exists on our network, manipulating the Ethernet
link settings using every possible combination of options, and setting
up a packet sniffer to see what what happening at the network level,
all to no avail. The last thing I did was (temporarily) switch to DHCP
for getting an address, and lo and behold, everything worked beautifully.
I changed back to using a manual address and everything broke again; I
again switched to DHCP and the problem evaporated. I then switched to manually entering the exact same settings
that I obtained via DHCP, and name lookups took forever, and I was
stumped. (It turns out that a lot of people are stumped on this one —
just visit Apple's discussion forums and search for “slow DNS” to see what I mean.)

So, I called Apple and got a first-line support rep. He quickly —
within about 90 seconds — recognized that he had no idea what I was
talking about, and about five minutes into my call, he transferred me
to an “upper-level support rep” who would be able to further help me.
This upper-level support rep, though, turned out to know absolutely nothing about networking, and started to spout total fabrications at me faster than I could even write them down. My three favorites:

  • “It sounds like the problem is in looking up names from the
    network, and as you know, this is something that doesn't have anything
    to do with what an operating system does. We just provide the software
    that is on your computer.”
  • “When you use DHCP, you're using a technology that is much more
    complicated than 'regular' DNS, and you should expect things to work
  • “This behavior is by design, sir — looking up host names takes
    longer via DHCP because it uses an entirely different technology to do
    so.” (This was my #1 favorite, and led me to ask him if my car should
    drive any different when I fill it with gas versus when a station
    attendant does the filling. He didn't get it.)

Throughout the phone call, I kept trying to find ways to remind the
rep without being rude that I've been working with networking
technologies for almost 15 years and that he wasn't making any sense.
He just kept reiterating that it was “unfortunate” that I didn't like
his answers but that that “doesn't make them any less true.” I finally
asked to speak with the next level of support, and this is where he
sealed his fate — he said that there wasn't anything beyond him, and
that while he'd be happy to “note in my help ticket” that I was
dissatisfied with his answer, there was no further level of support
available to me. I suggested that that was unlikely to be true, and he
said that it was again unfortunate I didn't like his answer. At that
point, I verified my ticket number and said a polite goodbye.

Those of you who either know me or have read QDN for any length of time know what I did next — I promptly looked up Apple's corporate number in Cupertino
(it's (408) 996-1010) and called. It was immediately answered by a
polite woman who listened to my 20-second blurb and put me directly
into the “escalation department” queue, and under a minute later I was
speaking with someone who was quite apologetic. He took my information
and got me to a network support engineer who actually did
know what he was talking about, but didn't seem to believe that my
problem was an operating system-related thing until I pointed out all
the discussion forum threads about the issue. Even then, it wasn't
until I decided to disable IPv6 on one of the machines
— and saw a brief name resolution speed increase — that he was
willing to entertain the notion that OS X could be part of the problem.
We agreed that I'd continue to test things out over the weekend and
that we'd touch base again next week with an update.

In the end, it was only my willingness to continue to push (and to
make a long-distance call to Apple HQ) that put me in touch with a
support engineer who knew his ass from a hole in the wall. Given that
fact, I'm certain that for every person like me there are 50 others
that don't get beyond a clueless rep who's unable to admit his own
ignorance and unwilling to grant access to the next level of support.
In the end, it's sad, because Apple's left with customers who are
frustrated, tech reps who continue to dish out bad support, and
operating system bugs that remain unfixed — the worst of all possible
outcomes  [Q Daily News]

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