luke kurtis: qz.com

kurtis innocently bought a fraudulent iTunes gift card and was locked out of his Apple account for two months. He lost access to $15,000 worth of media and apps amassed over 15 years.

At first, it seemed like a mild inconvenience, but I soon found out how many apps on my iOS and Mac devices couldn’t be updated, not to mention how I couldn’t download anything new. When I had to take a trip for a family emergency, the JetBlue app wouldn’t let me access my boarding pass, saying I had to update the app to use it. It was the first time I’d flown with a paper boarding pass in years. I couldn’t even pass time on the flight playing Animal Crossing on my phone, because I got a similar error message when I opened the game.

I couldn’t use my HomePod to stream anything from my vast music collection I’d spent 15 years building; I couldn’t watch purchased movies or shows on my Apple TV; and I couldn’t download apps needed for my work at Quartz. As we anticipated the July 4th holiday in a team meeting, a manager recommended we all uninstall Slack for the holiday to truly disconnect and enjoy some time away from work. I wanted to, but I knew that if I did, I wouldn’t be able to reinstall it.

Several customer service representatives seemed friendly at first and said they’d help, but then they shut him down without explanation. Finally, after writing to Tim Cook, he got his access restored.

This whole ordeal made me wonder if I want to continue using Apple products. The more I consider it, the more I realize it’s not just a question of choosing one product over another. The truth is that Google or Microsoft (or Nintendo, or Samsung, or Sony, the list goes on) could just as easily cut off a customer for no stated purpose and without recourse.

Do we think enough about the rights we as consumers have when skimming over those long, unwieldy terms and conditions documents we sign to get access to the gadgets and products we buy every day? How much are we really buying, and how much are we just renting for a while?