Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The problem with apps...and why I love Apple

In these days of booming technology, it seems our kids are learning how to use the latest computers and mobile devices faster than we can keep up. The danger is they can also find ways to bypass our security measures. We're all supposed to be super alert for instances of our innocent/ignorant family members becoming victims of the internet revolution,and my friends, I have discovered a new victim: the iChallenged husband. Before I undermine his credibility any further (and don't worry, I still love him to bits but he has taken at least a year off my life in the past week), I will offer a full explanation.
If you know me, you know I love Apple products. When I was an editor at Reed Business Information I reluctantly agreed to work with an Apple Mac next to my p.c. in order to directly edit magazine pages. Within a week...I was hooked. Apples are smarter, more logical, and just downright sexier than p.c.'s. My next love was my iPhone; it's getting a bit senior in years by now but still going strong and still awesome technology and just lovely to work with. Next step, obviously, was the iPad. I restrained myself throughout the iPad 1 hysteria but thankfully by the time iPad 2 came out hubby was also intrigued and one day wandered back into the house nonchalently after returning from Aberdeen and plopped something into my lap with a casual "here you go".  It is a gorgeous piece of technology and I can't resist stroking it working on it every day.
If there's one thing that iPads are perfect for, it's playing games. You can download thousands of free games from the Apps (applications) Store online at iTunes. You have to have an account linked to a credit card for when you want to purchase items that cost real money, such as music etc, but the range of free products is awesome. The boys love to play the jet-fighter game where they're sitting the cockpit and 'fly' the plane through a stunningly real landscape by tilting the screen in every direction in their hands. Carl's favourite is 'Tiny Zoo' where you build your own zoo and spend 'credits' slowly built up over days to purchase and breed new animals. Although you can speed up the process by buying credits with real money, my policy is that games shouldn't cost cash so don't even ask.
Last Tuesday I was at work when the phone rang. "Hello, this is Jan from the fraud division of your bank. We are seeing suspicious activity on your credit card...are you using it at the moment?" Obviously not, it was safely tucked in my wallet beside me and hubby was at home, so clearly something fishy was going on. I wasn't too worried; the bank is responsible for fraud and I've been through this with my business credit card already; it was copied when I checked into a hotel in Brussels then used to purchase a truckload of things in Lithuania, of all places. About an hour later I was home and Carl raced up to me. "Look at my zoo, I've doubled the size and bought 20 magical creatures!!!"  Alarm bells started ringing...I raced upstairs to hubby and asked with a sickening feeling of dread "honey...did you buy credits for Carl from iTunes?"
Of course not was the answer....but when Carl had shown him a screen on the iPad that demanded a password that "Mummy always fills in" his response?  HE FILLED IN THE PASSWORD. He didn't realise it was for a real account with a real credit card attached.
This is the point where I'm going to stop giving a blow by blow account because it just got so bad, so quickly. Phone calls to the bank revealed it was our fault so tough shit, phone call to Apple led to the suggestion that I send an email to customer support. Yeah, right. We didn't know how much money Carl had spent except that it was "well over 100 euros".
I sent a desperate email to Apple and didn't expect any joy. The next morning I left for a business trip to France with a sickening feeling of dread in my stomach. For almost 24 hours I heard nothing. Finally, in the car with a colleague on the way back from Paris, an email from Apple. I've seen the terms and conditions. I know all transactions are final. I know Apple doesn't own the app that Carl spent the money in. Things looked grim. The opening sentences were all standard: Hello Joanne, my name is Judy, I'll be helping you with your enquiry..." blah blah blah.  My colleague is sending worrying glances my way as I groan through the first paragraph.  It continued:  "I understand your awesome son downloaded a lot of credits in Tiny Zoo. Being a parent I understand your concerns..."  WHAT? I hadn't expected that.

 "Your sons total purchases are in excess of SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY EIGHT EUROS".

Let's just revisit that figure: 658 euros.

I'm gonna say that again: 658 euros.

In less than 30 minutes. That's about 1400 New Zealand dollars.

...."I am pleased to say I have refunded the full amount to your credit card as this was an unintentional purchase...."

This is the point where my colleague thought I had seriously lost my mind. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, I couldn't believe that a massive company like Apple would be so HUMAN as to respond in this way. Let's just say it's reaffirmed my belief in human nature and the possibility for big business to have a big heart.
So thank you Apple, and thank you friendly support girl from iTunes. And let this be a lesson to all. When you choose your passwords it's obvious that your kids shouldn't know what they are: but under no circumstances, should you ever, ever tell them to your iChallenged husband.