Learning Empowerment- part 1

April 7, 2009

The message was not one I particularly wanted to hear. “You have a faulty logic board and it is not worth fixing.” I have owned my iMac G5 for about four years; it is long outside its warranty period however I am not ready to let it go. For most of its life it has performed faultlessly. I have backed up all my files so I have no fear of lost data but I felt quite devastated that after only four years I had to condemn it to the scrap heap. The voice went on to say that it would cost $800 for a new logic board and $160 for labour so by the time I paid taxes I would be out almost $1100 and a new computer would only be $1500. (My mind tangents on a rant about why the sum of the parts has to so dramatically exceed the whole. I swear my VW Camper which cost $30,000 has cost me at least $80,000 in parts replacement.) I listen to the message again and observe that the technician strongly recommends that I call Apple and complain that a major component should fail so soon. A logic board (or motherboard if it is for a PC) can easily last more than 15 years. I sit for a moment and recognize the pattern that this problem contains. I have faced this type of situation many times; facing a conflict with an authority figure where I feel I am being unfairly treated. For much of my life I believed that the more upset I became the more likely I was to get a result – “the squeaky wheel theory”. My strategy would be to become more and more demanding, at times angry and attempt to shame or humiliate my opponent into giving me what I wanted. However I had realized that this type of behaviour was not consistent with my current self-image. I knew it was not necessary to get angry to feel empowered. That type of response was a reaction of a child facing an authoritative period. I needed a measured response. I noticed my resistance to facing up to this challenge. The arguments building in my head like bricks stacked in a wall: “it’s an old computer, it’s time for a change, the new ones have more features and even a camera!” Yet I also sensed that this was a test from my soul and not to be denied; it would only reappear in another disguise if I walked away. I prepared myself by calling the technician who was very helpful. He had opened up the machine and had observed bulging capacitors in the logic board. (I had no idea what they were or what they did but it sounded serious) I asked him what causes that and he said it was an original manufacturing problem. I inquired whether I should ask for a replacement and he said he thought that was reasonable. Armed with this information I called Apple and after the familiar battle with the telephone menu I found myself talking to a very empathetic (I suspect young) customer service person, who seemed totally sympathetic to my problem. I calmly and good humouredly explained my dilemma and he seemed so willing to resolve things in my favour that I sensed it was going to be a slam dunk. Then as we conversed further I realized that he actually had no power to do anything other than move my call up the chain of command and soon I found myself conversing with the product specialist. He too seemed entirely amiable and empathetic. (I sense Apple do a wonderful job of training in empathy but empathy does not mean any positive action). Sergio, as his name was, did his research, and then explained he could do absolutely nothing for me. “It is outside warranty” he reiterated, “and there is no contingency to allow me to cover your repair.” I sensed a certain testiness creeping into my voice; the slam-dunk had deteriorated into a fumble. He even admitted that up until last year they were fixing this problem but not anymore – I was too late. He did not deny it was a manufacturing defect; he just wasn’t able to make an exception. I pressed my case “So because my logic board lasted for a year longer than most I get penalized.” He was unimpressed. I played my final card “But I have been a loyal Apple customer for 17 years, doesn’t that count for anything?” I pleaded. He remained unmoved. Finally I told him I was very unhappy and was there anyone else I could talk to. He responded by saying that he had managerial status and was empowered to rule on these decisions. “Then I am powerless in this situation,” I observed. “However, I am very unhappy to be forced to junk a perfectly good computer before its time because of a manufacturing defect by Apple. There was a moment’s pause then he asked if he could put me on hold. “Before I let you go I will ensure that this is the final answer.” I sat feeling no hope for a positive outcome, and then I went through an amazing perspective shift. I could detach from the outcome. I had done my best. It did not matter if I had to buy a new computer. I had known all along this was about the experience. I felt a sense of relief flooding my body; it was over and I could let go of the stress and anxiety that I had been holding. I had done the best I could; I had stayed relatively calm and held my power and now it was complete. Then a strange thing occurred. Sergio came back and told me that Hilary from customer relations would like to speak to me. Hilary came on the phone. She had a sweet manner and asked me how I was feeling. I knew that Sergio would have apprised her of my challenge so I responded, “How do you think I am feeling?” Her reply surprised me, “you have come to the right place.” My tired brain tried to grasp what that may mean as she asked me some questions about whether I had previously had  a major claim from Apple, where my computer was at the moment and who was working on it. Suddenly she asked if she could put me on hold. After a couple of minutes she came back and told me that she had authorized the repair and I should call the service technician and check on the status in a couple of days. I felt tears of relief, joy and gratitude start to choke my response. Finally I stammered out my gratitude and told her that she had made my day. I sat and reflected on the past hour; it was as though I needed to let go in order to achieve a positive resolution. I thanked my soul for this amazing journey.