GIVING A SISTER A BREAK: Apples' Classist policies

Tiny - Posted on 21 February 2011

Friday, July 16, 2010;



Part 1:  It Ain’t Easy Carryin’ Green



Diane Campbell, an African American woman living in Palo Alto, CA (south of San Francisco), carefully saved $600 hard-earned dollars to buy an iPAD, only to be denied service. Apple may have combined poor training of some employees with class indifference to the grim economic reality of life for many poor people all the time, and most certainly the uncertainties of life for many people of all ethnicities for the past several years; their employee’s stated reasoning was that the no-cash-accepted policy was to prevent participants in the world-wide underground economy from buying too many iPADs and selling them on the international black market.


The basic lack of access, for people of color in Amerikkka, to a good education, health care, home ownership, housing, jobs, legal representation and justice, and nutrition, extends to access to computer education, skills and (affordable) equipment.  Apple Computers found itself extremely visibly on the wrong side of the Digital Divide when Campbell called ABC News consumer watchdog Michael Finney (“7 On Your Side”) to see if he could help her.


Apple was forced, by high demand for the iPAD in this country, to halt marketing and shipping of it to Europe.  Customers here are officially allowed to buy only two for that stated reason.  The ease and speed of using credit and debit cards to restrict the number of iPADs any one person could buy was the best solution Apple could come up with, according to the company’s Senior Vice President, Ron Johnson. 


Johnson looked and sounded like a deer in the headlights talking to Finney on the Tuesday, May 18, 2010 news broadcast.  His explanation sounded weak, though there are elements of it that also sounded reasonable.  How hard can it be for someone with access to a great deal of money to create multiple identities so they could buy more than 2 iPADS with credit cards?


Apple was, at first, unmoved by Finney’s inquiry into their apparent policy—until the story hit the air (two POOR writers, Vivian Hain and I, saw the initial broadcast) and pissed a lot of people off.  Campbell charmed many with her on-air request to Steve Jobs to “…give a sister a break.”  She got one.  A free iPAD.


As far as I can tell the closest Michael Finney and “7 On Your Side” gets to helping poor people is when they are limited income elders or folks getting some form of disability assistance, middle to upper middle class folks seem to be his favorite victims to help.  Diane Campbell’s dilemma may have cracked that wall, but Channel 7 was very careful to not get into the Digital Divide aspect of her story.


Part 2:  Apple, Tip O’ The Iceberg



Amazon has no stores, E-Bay and Craigslist are virtually the same, forcing anyone buying something from those sites to use credit, debit or gift cards—or break a sweat to make arrangements for a face-to-face meeting (Craigslist) that isn’t a set-up for a car-jacking or worse.


The book publishing and selling industry (the magazines and newspapers industries too) is under attack and siege from amazon, its peers and competitors, its Kindle e-book, the iPAD’s e-book function and all the other e-books competing for customers.  There is an apparently endless supply of new cool gadgets (iPAd, iPhone, digital tv, 3-D tv, blah blah blah…) tempting us and changing how we do things.


This is a 25-years-old chapter, beginning with the Apple Computer personal computer, of an old story, technology offering whomever was on top of the economic heap whenever it came to their attention the opportunity to change the lives of everyone else in the world—whether they wanted that change or not.  The Industrial Revolution was Chapter One.


Did Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and others know what they were doing when they began their campaigns to create new products nobody knew they wanted, to change the world through the back door? 


The Digital Divide is expanding in lock-step with the vast wealth gap between rich and poor.  Virtually everyone in this country who isn’t homeless has a television, and virtually everyone who isn’t homeless has a phone, if not a cellphone (and homeless folks can own cellphones if they can come up with the money), but the new cool gadgets require knowledge, skill, and commitment to pay attention to the need to upgrade to something better and faster and more capable than the last generation of the same thing or the next thing that can do all that the other things can do--like the iPAD--with a calm gosh-wow smoothness we all want in our pockets or on our laps.


We can vote yes or no for things we want/don’t want politicians, et al, to do, but sometimes it seems like we can only vote with withheld dollars to say no to social change by means of technology, and poor folks don’t have enough of those votes unless we unite to make a lot of noise about it.


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