I still can't find the goddamned customer service number for iTunes. My sister Patsy spent half an hour phoning the various numbers listed in my last installment, and of course she got nowhere. Eventually she phoned her credit card company and told them they'd just have to take her word for it that she didn't buy the four iTunes she'd been charged $3.96 for.
A reader, Janet G. Sullivan, informs me via e-mail that she did, in fact, find a direct-dial "customer relations" number for Apple: 1-800-767-2775. But before you get too excited, here's what happened when she dialed it:
First, I got a creepy "real guy" recorded voice, who sounded a little like the Dell dude and used words like "okay," to let me know he was "down with me."
Then, in an automated version of "good cop/bad cop," I got a very prissy Marian-the-librarian recorded voice that said "Please wait," as if I'd just cut ahead of an old lady at the church pot-luck buffet.
Then a guy came on and said, "Hello, can you hear me?" I told him I had been charged wrongly for some iTunes purchases and needed iTunes customer service, and I was told they COULD NOT connect me to iTunes customer service at all. He suggested this:
1) Go to www.apple.com/support/itunes/musicstore
2) Click on "Get Help With Buying Music"
3) Scroll all the way down to a section called, ironically, "Still HavingTrouble?"
4) Click on "Credit Card Questions"
5) Fill out the form and someone will get back to you "today or tomorrow."
Janet decided to bag it.
I heard a similar story from Michael Kwadrans:
I was having security issues with the passwords that iTunes store files are encoded with and needed the whole thing reset. I figured a telephone call would quickly rectify the situation. I got a hold of the Apple technical support number and got fast, friendly service. Until I mentioned the word iTunes. Dead silence for two seconds. Then the techie instructed me on how to access tech support via iTunes. Ugh. It looks like Apple has cut the iTunes operations out of their much-vaunted all-in-one technical support system they are well known for.
In fairness, I should note that Kwadrans and one other reader informed me that filling out the form did solve their iTunes problems. Kwadrans said he heard back the next day. But that's hardly the point.
A national trade association staffer who prefers to remain anonymous (I'll call him Fred) tells me that he's been trying since mid-June to talk to somebody at iTunes about purchasing a minimum of 10,000 songs. He wants to offer a free iTunes song to every teenager who completes a free online course offered by his organization. According to Apple's "volume songs" Web page, 10,000 is the minimum volume purchase for "educational institutions." The Web page directs volume purchasers to an e-mail address, but Fred, understandably, does not feel comfortable spending this much money without actually talking to a human being. "So far," Fred writes, "I've gotten through to two people in Corporate Customer Relations who promised to expedite my request for information," but all he's gotten from them is a canned e-mail message ("This is an auto-acknowledgement verifying that your escalation was received by the Tier 2 iApps Escalation team") and a follow-up e-mail message providing some information, but not nearly enough to answer all his questions. The follow-up e-mail directed further questions to a particular e-mail address, but after Fred wrote to that address, he received no response at all. Somehow he managed to get an Apple salesman on the phone, but the salesman told him he wasn't authorized to sell iTunes. "At this point," Fred writes, "I'm less motivated by a desire to track down the information I wanted at first than I am to see to what lengths Apple will go to avoid a potential $10,000 sale."
Eventually, I decided to stop trying to simulate the experience of someone who isn't a journalist and I contacted Apple's media relations department. I got a woman named Carol. "I don't have it offhand, Tim," Carol said. "Can I get somebody to give you a call?" Carol said she'd pass my request along to the press contact for Apple's iTunes team, someone whose name I am not at liberty to reveal because, this press contact subsequently told me, she is not, in fact, a press contact for Apple's iTunes team. She is, instead, the "PR manager for iTunes." Whatever you do, do not look up her name on this Apple Web page(where she is identified as a "press contact"). Patrick Fitzgerald can throw me in jail with Judy Miller if he wants. I'll never tell.
Here is what my deepest-possible-background Apple PR manager source said: "We handle customer support questions via e-mail."
Yes, yes. But what's the customer service phone number?
"We do not have a direct customer service number for this support."
I regret to say that this conforms entirely with the following e-mail message, sent to me a couple of days ago:
I'm a recently-former Apple employee (I love the company, left on good terms, and would love to go back some day—so please don't print my name!). I can tell you definitively that, as of now, there is no phone support for the iTunes Music Store. The absolute only way to get support is to open iTunes, go to the Music Store, and click the "Support" link in the left-hand column.
That takes you to a web page for all kinds of questions. Click the link that's most relevant (in this case, probably the section on "Purchasing Information"). On every one of those pages, there's a form to get support.
But don't waste your time looking for anything else. There are no alternatives.
There is no Loch Ness Monster. Walt Disney has not been cryogenically preserved. And, apparently, there is no customer service number for iTunes.