When I was eight years old I convinced my parents to buy me a tamagotchi. All my friends had one or several, but my parents couldn’t afford much at the time so I was tamagotchi-less until I memorized the entire multiplication table and earned a reward.
We went to choose the toy together. The tamagotchis on the shop shelf were nothing like my friends’ toys. Theirs had been bruised and battered, but I was looking at brand new, shiny, and scratch-free electronic, waiting to be adopted. Waiting to be mine.
I took home a green dinosaur and I fell in love. Not only did it have a tiny animated screen (the type I only thought were possible on bulky computers), it needed me to survive. It was like the puppy I was never allowed to have. I would feed it and pet it and it would look at me adoringly with its pixelated eyes.
The happiness lasted three hours. Excited to show my parents that my dinosaur had grown, I ran to their bedroom. My woolen socks glided on the slippery floor and I fell. I badly hit my arm. Worse, the tamagotchi screen smashed on the floor and all I could see were moving black lines. I stayed up listening to the dinosaur trapped inside, crying myself to sleep.
My parents said I should learn to take better care of things of value. Nearly two decades later, I still haven’t. When I got a new iPhone last fall, I dropped it on the floor within an hour. Since then, it’s been the victim of numerous slides off the tables, tumbles down the underground station steps, and near misses in the loo.
Sometime in the last week, my iPhone rebelled against my neglect and stopped working. I thought that was it. I had finally broken it.
This morning I got a new iPhone. It was given to me for no additional payment by the folks at the Apple store Genius Bar. Simply because my previous iPhone was acting up. They checked it (and must have found something more seriously wrong with it other than the countless scratches) and handed me a brand new phone to take home. I quickly restored a backup onto the new device, leaving its suddenly pristine appearance as the only reminder of today’s visit to the Apple store*.
Only I will always remember.
I remember when I could no longer watch DVDs and my three-years-old MacBook Pro optical drive was replaced by Apple, also free of charge. I remember when my housemate lost all her photos from her exchange program in Hungary and received a new hard drive from Apple, even though it was no longer under warranty.
I also remember the countless times I lost work and had to pay to replace parts of my older HP laptop, the time my external hard drive stopped working and I lost memories as well as a considerable amount of my money, and the time my Braun epilator’s warranty mocked me with the information that only the part that breaks most frequently could not be replaced.
I never got a new tamagotchi. My parents took pity on me after some time and bought me a cheaper replacement. But it wasn’t the same. As a child, it broke my heart.
As an adult, I know better. Accidents happen and it is the choice of the companies who serve us to decide what experience we should have when things don’t go as planned. They can decide to tell us we need to have behaved differently and have us pay the price. We might not argue with their logic but it leaves a bitter tastes in our mouths.
Apple chooses to consider its service. And I choose to spend my money buying from companies that choose to add relief, joy, calm, and reassurance to my life.
This is not a love letter to Apple or my dinasaur tamagotchi. It is a deep acknowledgment that customer and user experience span wider and run deeper than just sexy hardware or clever interface design. We have the ability to put smiles on people’s faces but also to cause them grief. We can’t be sure we’ll always succeed but with careful consideration, we can at least try to help our customers find a moment of joy in our products and services.
Here’s to never breaking hearts when we can heal them instead.
*Thank you, Ruth, for taking my phone in for me. You’re an angel!
If you also care about considerate user experience, come chat with me on twitter.