Open Letter to Tim Cook: Burned by iPhone Upgrade Program

Hey Tim,

Loyal customer of 10 years and iPhone Upgrade Program customer here. Last night I tried pre-ordering my 7th iPhone under the iPhone Upgrade Program...and now I feel cheated.

Not getting it on launch day doesn't bother me; I completely understand supply & demand.

But what bothers me is that once reservation units ran out, the site/app merely said "try again on the 17th at 8am" and offered ZERO options. I was led into a dead end.

Meanwhile, customers who are not in the Upgrade Program were able to get their orders in and get a shipping ETA. Many in Oct/Nov, but they at least got their orders in.

As an iPhone Upgrade Program customer, I feel like I had a significant disadvantage compared to non-Upgrade Program customers. Isn't that backwards? Shouldn't the loyal customers — especially customers who are committing directly to Apple instead of their carriers — feel rewarded for their loyalty?

I feel like a reasonable solution would have been:

  • let Upgrade Program customers get their pre-orders into the system. Orders ship to the store, even if that's not until Oct/Nov.
  • when a customer's phone arrives, notify by email, let them set up an appointment.
  • finish transaction in store.

This way, at least your most loyal customers have an order attached to their name in the system. The backordered ship date isn't the's the feeling that we ended last night COMPLETELY empty-handed while less loyal customers continue to get their orders in.

I hope you consider solving this problem.

For me personally, I've been recommending all my friends and family to get on the iPhone Upgrade Program...and now I have to explain to them why we came up empty-handed last night.


Update: Tim Cook's people called me the next day and made things right.

Tim Cook Ashley Gilbertson, Bloomberg Businessweek

Tim Cook Speaks Up →

Tim Cook in Businessweek:

Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy. I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them.

At the same time, I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. That’s what has led me to today.

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.

The world has changed so much since I was a kid. America is moving toward marriage equality, and the public figures who have bravely come out have helped change perceptions and made our culture more tolerant. Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation.

I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.

I’ll admit that this wasn’t an easy choice. Privacy remains important to me, and I’d like to hold on to a small amount of it. I’ve made Apple my life’s work, and I will continue to spend virtually all of my waking time focused on being the best CEO I can be. That’s what our employees deserve—and our customers, developers, shareholders, and supplier partners deserve it, too. Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one’s sexuality, race, or gender. I’m an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things. I hope that people will respect my desire to focus on the things I’m best suited for and the work that brings me joy.

The company I am so fortunate to lead has long advocated for human rights and equality for all. We’ve taken a strong stand in support of a workplace equality bill before Congress, just as we stood for marriage equality in our home state of California. And we spoke up in Arizona when that state’s legislature passed a discriminatory bill targeting the gay community. We’ll continue to fight for our values, and I believe that any CEO of this incredible company, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, would do the same. And I will personally continue to advocate for equality for all people until my toes point up.

When I arrive in my office each morning, I’m greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league. All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I’m doing my part, however small, to help others. We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.

— Tim Cook

Inside Apple’s Internal Training Program →

NY Times:

Steven P. Jobs established Apple University as a way to inculcate employees into Apple’s business culture and educate them about its history, particularly as the company grew and the tech business changed. Courses are not required, only recommended, but getting new employees to enroll is rarely a problem. [...]

Unlike many corporations, Apple runs its training in-house, year round. The full-time faculty — including instructors, writers and editors — create and teach the courses. Some faculty members come from universities like Yale; Harvard; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; and M.I.T., and some continue to hold positions at their schools while working for Apple.

The program was devised by Joel Podolny, then the dean of Yale School of Management. Mr. Jobs selected him when the program was founded, in 2008, and he remains head of the effort. He is also a vice president of human resources at Apple.

This is why Apple will continue to live on long after Steve Jobs.

Sure, the company lost their master decision maker that took the company from rags to riches. But Jobs' greatest invention wasn't any one single Apple product; it was Apple itself. The company's mission, values, and corporate culture were all refined over 30 years by Jobs to grow Apple into what it is today.

While Steve is no longer around to give orders, he did something even better — he left the company with a winning formula so his generals could come up with their own answers. (Which is exactly what we're seeing now, with Tim Cook making un-Steve-Jobs-like decisions but still staying true to The Apple Way.)

Not only did he leave a winning formula; he established a year-round university staffed with professors from the prestigious colleges around to ensure his legacy will be firmly embedded into the hearts and minds each and every employee.

As the saying goes: "The goal isn't to live forever. The goal is to create something that will."