iMagnify, the digital loupe
beware the fine print in Apple's promotions
by Joshua Daniel Thorpe

I was troubled recently by a Mac user's complaint to MacInTouch that Apple's Online Store contained a link to a promotion offering 75 free online photo prints for purchasing MacOSX v10.2 "Jaguar" while the offer was not valid for purchases of "Jaguar" made at the Online Store. He did not realise this until he had made such a purchase and attempted to claim his free prints, only to be rudely awakened to the fine print detailing his ineligibility. I have since looked into Apple's practices concerning promotional "give-aways" and the attendant limitations, and am disappointed in what I have found.

The most outrageous example has to be the Shake promotion. To encourage high-end video artists to use its recently acquired Shake compositing programs, Apple is offering users of Maya up to $3000 off the Shake products in a special promotion.

Before you get too excited, read the fine print. To qualify for the $2000 savings off Shake GUI, one must purchase the maintenance package, knocking $1200 off the savings. Nice. Furthermore, only single-user licenses may receive the discount. I guess "the most demanding compositing and visual effects" studios aren't interested in Shake, thus Apple sees no need to extend the offer to them. Freelance artists only need apply.

The restrictions for $1000 off Shake Render are even tighter. After buying Shake GUI and its maintenance package, one must then purchase a $500 maintenance package for Shake Render, which cuts the total savings for Shake Render in half. Multi-seat licenses again do not qualify. The worst part, however, is that Apple requires the purchaser to attend a Maya/Shake seminar before December 20, or the $1000 discount is null. Apple lists a grand total of 0 (read: zero) upcoming seminars, making it impossible to fulfill the requirements. The seminar link on the promo page is even incorrectly coded, to keep people from finding the listings and discovering this.

This is not the only "too good to be true" offer from Apple these days. Seems they are running many "gotcha" promotions...

To receive the Power Couple rebate on the purchase of an Apple LCD monitor, one must purchase both a PowerMac or PowerBook and a qualifying Apple display at the same time, listed on the same invoice. If you purchased a PowerMac one day, noticed the promo the next day, and then bought a Cinema Display, too bad for you...no rebate. The rebate seeker must also send in the original sales receipt, not a copy, and the UPC label cut from the packaging complete with the cardboard backing. Forget about keeping the original receipt for warranty, homeowners insurance, or other purposes, or reusing those boxes your Mac and monitor came in.

The Double Your Memory promotion exempts the iBook's base configuration (256MB), and limits the amount that can be doubled to 512MB. So despite Apple's claim that you can "double the standard configuration of memory for only $40, or upgrade to even more memory and save instantly when you buy online" you can forget any notion of doubling a PowerMac's RAM to 1GB, then doubling it again to 2GB and saving even more money, despite Apple's hint that going with 2GB is economical: "But why stop there? Upgrade to a whopping 2GB of SDRAM..."

The free 100 Kodak prints offered in the .Mac promotion as a reward for singing up for Apple's unpopular .Mac service sound like a great deal...until you realise all 100 print credits must be used by December 31 (yes, that's December 31, 2002). Be sure to snap plenty of digital pictures during the holidays, and get online to order your free prints immediately.

In Apple's Office Party promotion, they promise that if one buys "any Mac from October 1, 2002 through January 7, 2003" he will "get Microsoft Office v.X for only $199." Of course, the terms and conditions reveal that one must purchase these two products on the same invoice, and from Apple or a "participating" reseller. There is also a limit of one reduced-price copy of Office v.X per Mac purchased, and "items purchased as a promotionally bundled package cannot be returned separately" (so if your copy of Office is defective, too bad). Students and teachers need not apply either, as "this offer is not valid for Apple's Education Institutional, Individual, or Campus Reseller purchase programs."

In their Design Freely promotion, Apple says, "Buy a Power Mac G4 between September 10 and December 31, 2002, and Adobe InDesign 2.0 is yours for the asking." But it appears I'm not free to design on a Mac purchased at the Apple Store Online: "Apple products must be purchased from an Apple retail facility or a participating authorized Apple reseller."

One must also be wary of some "gotchas" that many of Apple's promotions share in common...

"The instant savings for qualifying purchases from the Apple Store, and Apple Store for Education individual are in lieu of all other promotions, including mail-in rebate promotions, as the instant savings already reflect promotional savings." In other words, instant savings promotions, such as Double Your Memory, nullify any other promotions like mail-in rebates.

"This offer is not valid in conjunction with any other Apple offer or promotion, except as otherwise specifically permitted by the terms and conditions of such other offer or promotion." One must be careful to scrutinize the terms of every promotional rebate for which he might apply before claiming any of them, lest he nullify a greater rebate by claiming a lesser one first.

"This offer is valid only while supplies last." So if I decide to make a purchase on the promise of a substantial rebate, then "supplies" mysteriously fail to "last," I am out all the money I would have saved by purchasing a different product.

"Items purchased as a promotionally bundled packaged cannot be returned separately." This applies to all bundles, not just Office, and is perhaps the most frightening "term and condition" of them all.

Apple has even started hiding the terms and conditions of their promotions in PDF documents, which many people will not bother to read, either because they don't want to wait for them to download or they don't want Adobe's terrible browser plugin to crash their browsers. Clever move, Apple.

Apple is certainly not the only business on earth running cleverly booby-trapped promotions, but that is no excuse for the practice. If Apple wants to lure more customers with the promise of saving money, they should simply reduce prices or offer the bundles or rebates in a simple across-the-board fashion. Gimmicky promotions with conditions that are difficult or impossible to satisfy are not becoming a corporation that bills itself as "different" from the rest of the pack.

©2002 Joshua Daniel Thorpe, all rights reserved, if you pirate this I will hunt you for sport


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