Apple Distribution in Portugal, Revisited

In case you missed out on my earlier rant, I ordered an iMac G5 on November. It was intended to be my birthday/Xmas present, and I would not have placed the order if an opportunity to sell my 20" G4 hadn't come up.

Today I went back to FNAC to check on things (last time I was there I was assured of delivery by "mid-January", so I guessed it was about time), and it's not looking that much better.

This may come as a surprise for people buying custom Apple configurations in more "civilized" nations, but realistically I never did expect to get it on Xmas. I have often dropped subtle hints that the local distributor is less than efficient at both keeping stock and fulfilling orders (for years now), and here in Portugal resellers complain of perfectly standard orders taking over 5 weeks to fulfill. Just ask around - nobody likes to do business that way, but it's the only game in town.

What really bugged me this time, though, was FNAC's handling of the order.

Again, everyone I spoke with was curteous and clearly uncomfortable with the situation. It is interesting to note that, on a store with at least half a dozen attendants for computers alone (in case you're not familiar with them, FNAC sells anything from books to cameras), every single person I spoke to mentioned a recent meeting where FNAC had pressured the distributor - a clear sign of recurring issues, or at least a well-rehearsed excuse.

But there are a couple of things that you simply cannot accept when ordering a Eur. 2000 computer, and one of them is being told that "we don't have order details on the counter system", and that orders were tracked "on a separate folder". A paper one, I was led to believe. In the back office. Which was off-limits today.

Thanks to living in Portugal for most of my adult life (or despite being a native), I can almost understand their inability to staff the phone lines (I have waited as much as a full twenty minutes to call the Colombo store) and the week-long delays in replies to e-mail (a hallmark of Portuguese online presence).

This sort of thing is completely beyond me, however. They cannot even provide me with an order tracking number, for chrissakes.

Still, as I pointed out earlier, I would rather buy from FNAC and encourage them to keep Macs on display than order from obscure little companies that provide the brand with zero visibility. That's my only concession to Apple brand loyalty - their hardware deserves exposure. (Not that they're getting much of it here, but hey, it's not my advertising budget).

So I gave out my name, contact number and order details (a 20" G5 iMac, with 1GB of RAM, AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth module).


Which, again, got written down on a piece of paper.

Since the attendant this time around (the third time) was a young woman, I have hope of being contacted about my order soon - if only because women are, by and large, more organized and responsible than men.

Nevertheless, I would rather have something more formal to rely upon.

In the end, however, I wonder. I'm not the only one waiting for a similar order, and I bet that this inefficiency (at all levels) costs FNAC more than a couple of canceled orders.

I can understand that they might be as annoyed at the situation as I am, though, and wonder what they could do if the local distributor wasn't the only game in town - there's no "real" Apple presence here, and retailers can't import Macs from other countries.

More to the point, it's been a month and a half. Will I still be able to sell my G4 when my order arrives?

And what if the LCD has a defect? It's happened before (I had to swap my 20" G4), and 20" is a lot of pixels. At this rate, how long until I get a replacement if the need arises?

Update: In the meantime, Nuno has been having some trouble with the display on his brand new 20" G5 (see the forum - he has the brightness drop after a few minutes of use). He has decided to put up with it until the next batch of stock arrives and try a direct swap. As to Apple's purported "user-serviceable" approach to the G5, none of us think it will fly here. Remember, we don't have an Apple office in Portugal - just a distributor, who operates a service center and the local online store.

I shudder to think what I will do if I happen to have a similar issue.

Hey Cupertino, we still have a problem. Care to help us?