936 words on iTunes
I have complained about the deficiencies of iTMS before. But those critiques were mostly about things like the low quality of their metadata (be it typos or inconsistencies), the slow speed of their servers (for browsing not for downloads), their lack of skill in handling classical music or the obvious points about DRM which still haunts the vast majority of songs on offer.
A recent problem I ran into might directly hurt their business: The store seems to be buggy in a way that it didn’t let me add a certain piece of music to my shopping basket. What happened then? I tracked down their feedback form and had to categorise my problem using a popup menu that didn’t contain any applicable words. Finally I could enter my question and submit it.
I didn’t hear back from them for almost a week, not even receiving an automated confirmation that my request arrived. Then I received an apology for the late reply and was told that they could try deleting my shopping basked if I wanted that. That wasn’t the greatest thing as I quite like using the shopping basket to store things I find interesting and which might buy in the future. But if it solved the problem, so be it. Their reply even contained the obvious, yet helpful, recommendation to take a screenshot of the shopping basket so you can remember its contents later on. [Interestingly, this came with links telling you how to take a screenshot for Windows, Vista and Mac – in that order and using those names.] The presence of such a well prepared answer suggests that similar problems aren’t uncommon.
I replied immediately, asking them to delete my shopping basket and a mere six days later I received an answer telling me that they deleted my shopping basket now. So I tried putting the work in question into my empty shopping basket again a few days later and things just kept failing, the work didn’t appear there. What a bummer. Thus I was back to writing an e-mail, telling them about the continued problems and three days later I received another detailed reply. And that reply offered a ‘workaround’ for the problem, telling me to switch iTunes to use ‘1-Click’ shopping and get the piece in that way.
Which in turn I didn’t want to do because ‘1-Click’ feels creepy to me. I don’t want a single click between my careless finger and my money vanishing, I want as many security questions and password question as reasonably possible. I also want to be able to compare two recordings of the same work. The only convenient way to do that in iTMS with its slow and clumsy navigation is by putting both of them into the shopping cart. So, no sell for iTMS this was. Thanks to their software being buggy and their support being extremely slow. In a brick and mortar record store such problems wouldn’t arise or be solved in a minute. At amazon (when I last had a problem with them a few years back) the replies from customer support were within a day.
And then another problem happened: A friend sent me some album gift certificates. Which I can appreciate. It’s a really neat feature of iTMS. In theory anyway. Because my problem here was that I already own both of the albums (one of them even coming from iTMS). So, knowing that Apple are real bastards and won’t let you exchange pieces you already downloaded and fearing that iTunes will immediately start downloading the albums from the gift certificates after I clicked the link in the e-mail message, I avoided clicking those links (that’s the paranoia that e-commerce and DRM drives you into!) and looked for the place in iTMS for ‘returning’ such gift vouchers. I was pretty sure that after billions of sold and ‘gifted’ songs I wasn’t the first one running into this problem.
I didn’t find a link for such a return or exchange and hence I was back to the iTunes support form, explaining the problem and asking for instructions to solve it. It took a number of days (I think about a week, but Apple not sending confirmation mails for submitted questions and not putting the date next to my request in their answer makes this hard to figure out now) for them to get back to me. They sent me an e-mail carrying the subject ‘Re: Gift’ (which in German means poison), pointing me to their terms of service and telling me that such an exchange is not possible. It’s like not being able to return a shrink wrapped CD that hasn’t even been delivered yet. That’s just ridiculous. And it also means that giving friends anything other than gift vouchers of a certain value is a very bad idea on iTMS. Essentially my friend payed for gift vouchers which I have now. Both him and me have the gift vouchers’ albums already and, thanks, neither of us needs nor wants a second non-transferable copy.
This plainly sucks and it’s a complete rip off. Apple could turn the gift vouchers into store credit for me (which might be tricky due to their album pricing not being as ‘simple’ these days as it used to be) or they could simply refund my friend his money and invalidate the gift vouchers. That should be fairly easy.
Otherwise, if you have a German iTMS account and you are interested in Feist’s Let it Die album (iTMS price €6,99) or the Phil Ochs in Concert album (iTMS price €9,99), I have some spare gift vouchers…
One of my friends also recently encountered problems with his Shopping Cart, which got corrupted and had to be reset.
A much better tip than taking a screenshot of your Shopping Cart to remember its contents: simply drag previews from the iTMS to a regular, non-smart playlist. When you do that, you can double-click to preview songs directly from the playlist, and you can even purchase directly from the playlist (if you have one-click enabled, but you don’t, so I don’t know how this is handled). I have been doing this for years.
The advantage is that since the Shopping Cart is stored on the iTMS servers, the playlist of song previews won’t get lost or reset when your Shopping Cart gets corrupted or needs to be reset. You should also be able to transfer them to other computers by exporting the playlist.
I also want to be able to compare two recordings of the same work. The only convenient way to do that in iTMS with its slow and clumsy navigation is by putting both of them into the shopping cart.
It occurs to me that you could also use the drag-previews-to-regular-playlist trick to compare two recordings without the shopping cart.
That’s great tip Simone. It will certainly simplify certain aspects.
It doesn’t seem to be perfect, though, as you can only store songs (rather than works or albums) in a playlists. I could imagine that Apple recommend the screenshot method for that reason.
Received data seems to be invalid. The wanted file does probably not exist or the guys at last.fm changed something.