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Caveat Emptor, or What’s Weak This Week

You want to complain, complain here. In some discussions on Usenet, I was falsely accused of being continually upbeat because I live in California. That’s not true – I live in Seattle, where it rains all the time (or so we’re supposed to tell people from California). I explained that TidBITS is generally positive because I write about what interests me, and garbage doesn’t interest me. I have limited space, and never have trouble filling it, so why rely on bad news and negativity? The Macintosh world and the Internet world are, in my opinion, inherently good, so that’s what I like to emphasize in this day and age of news stories that consider grisly murders halfway across the world to be news. Tragedy, yes; news, no.

It appears that some our readers feel somewhat differently, and I try to respond to suggestions. The specific suggestion that caught my attention was that I establish a consumer protection column that wouldn’t necessarily rake muck, but which would attempt to point out injustice so that (a) others could learn from the experience, and (b) the company in question might improve its practices.

Since it’s difficult to accurately relate another’s experiences, I invite submissions for this column from disgruntled readers. However, I ask that you do a few things before sending an article. First, make sure that your article will fit the requirements above – that it will inform others in the same spot and that it stands a chance of eliciting a positive response from the company in question. Thus, an article that flames on about how the writer bought a lemon Mac and was stiffed by his dealer is not appropriate since it won’t help others or change any long-standing policy by a company that many people deal with. However, articles like our Quicken "stealth upgrade" article in TidBITS #205 that point out a bad situation (users not being able to get an upgrade without knowing the secret bug, and not being able to easily identify the version number) and have a chance at prompting the company to address it (Eric Tilenius of Intuit sent me an updater application to post to the nets) are more in line with what I’m looking for.

Second, I ask that you contact the company in question to get an official response to your complaint and to ensure that you have an email address to include with the article. It’s always good to get both sides of the story, or at least to attempt to, and email is the best way for others in the same situation to express opinions to the company. Finally, I hope that going through the process will enable you to see both sides and perhaps cool down if you’re being unreasonable. (Me? Unreasonable? It couldn’t happen. Sure.) The process may also provide great material for the story – "When I asked if they had plans to offer a bug fix, the tech support person just about died laughing."

So that’s about the sum of it. I haven’t been jerked around by any companies recently, but send me your ideas and I’ll tell you if I think it’s worth writing them up.

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