The hard drive on our MacBook died Monday night. Every time we buy a new computer, I dread the day the drive goes kaput. Fortunately, I back up our data pretty regularly so at least the loss was minimal.
I made an appointment to take the thing to the genius bar at the nearest Apple store to let the technician there check it out and tell me what my options were.
I got there and waded through the mess of hipness to find the guy supposed to help me. He ran some tests and told me the drive was irreparable.
Replacing the drive would cost a couple hundred dollars, he said. Not good, but significantly less expensive than buying a replacement computer. I told him to go ahead.
Because I was unsure if the process of restoring our files from the backup would be smooth, I asked him if I could keep the old hard drive after the new one was installed in case I needed to try recovering data directly from it.
He had to check about this with someone in the back. When he returned, he said I could.
Our family walked around the mall where the store is located for an hour and came back.
A different guy came out to help me. He brought my computer out, but not the old hard drive. I sent him back to get it.
This time, when he returned, he had my old hard drive in his hand. He gave me both the drive and a lecture. They were supposed to charge me, he said, to get the drive back, but the clerk had not set up my order that way.
See, he explained, the store sends the old hard drives back to Apple and gets some kind of credit for them. When a customer asks to keep their old hard drive, the store charges that person a fee to make up for the loss of the credit they would get from Apple. In this case, the clerk had forgotten to charge me. The guy talking to me wanted me to know that I was getting off easy, I guess.
And, this is why people hate corporations.
For all their sleek design and “think different” rhetoric, Apple is just another corporation out to bilk families for every possible dollar. That old hard drive was mine. I purchased it when I purchased the computer. In essence, the Apple guy wanted to charge me to return to me something that was mine. He seemed to expect me to feel sorry for Apple, Inc. for the loss that returning my property to me without charge supposedly creates for them.
I don’t feel sorry for them. I have pictures of my children stored on that hard drive. I have important documents on there. Apple has no right to that material.
Now, I am sure that hidden in their terms and conditions somewhere, they have some verbiage intended to cover them legally if anyone should object to their practice of selling consumers property they already own. It may be legally allowed, but that doesn’t make people hate them any less.
This is what free-market fanatics don’t get. By allowing huge corporations freedom to cheat consumers in these ways, they undermine families and the general trust level of society. Free-market hardliners are not really conservative. Allowing corporations to get away with obviously underhanded, if legal, tactics in pursuit of ever greater wealth is a policy that leads not to stability but to upheaval at both the familial and cultural levels.
The real conservative move here would be for government to aid individual consumers in challenging such policies. Doing so would even the playing field a little and diminish the massive power differential present whenever a responsible father must go up against such a corporation just to hang on to a few pictures of his kids. That would send the message that it is families not corporations that matter, and that message is ultimately the truly conservative one.