Spider Strategies Blog RSS Feed

Apple: Please Design Better Serial Numbers

Matt Sgarlata, October 10, 2012

Apple consistently gets high marks for customer service, so when I visit an Apple store my expectations are high. Very high. Maybe even too high, because each time I go I feel my experience could have been better. On my last visit, there was one thing in particular that I felt they could improve on: their serial numbers.

Let me explain. When I visited the store, I was immediately greeted by an Apple employee. I told him that my laptop's power cord had died. I expected he would tell me I needed an appointment to see a genius, but instead he started working with me right away to verify my power cord was the issue. Awesome! Once we established that, he went to selfsolve.apple.com to check on my warranty status. He typed in the serial number for my laptop and the system said my laptop was not under warranty, even though I knew that it was.

Fortunately, I knew what to do because I had been through this exact same situation a year earlier. I typed in the serial number myself. After several tries we discovered that, yep, he had swapped an S and a 5 in the serial number. Once we figured out the error, he gave me a new power cord with no charge and no paperwork.

On my way home, I thought about how my experience could have been better, and I realized it would have been totally different if the serial number was entered correctly from the start. I would have been in and out of the store in just a few minutes with no hassles and no paperwork. Humans make mistakes, so you can't really expect every serial number to be typed in correctly every time. But you could change your serial numbers so that they avoid characters that can be confused for one another. So, skip the letter S, the number 5, the letter O and the number 0. Actually, skip all of the letters and numbers in this great knowledge base article I found for iTunes.

Apple prides itself on the design of its products, down to the smallest detail. I hope serial numbers are a detail Apple considers improving!