A computer company that refuses to do email. That’s what you deal with when you buy from Apple. After a fiasco involving Apple’s AirPods spanning nearly half of a year, I think it’s worth sharing this story as a fair warning to readers.

Not knowing if and when I would return to the United States this year, I purchased a set of AirPods from a reseller in Eastern Europe at the end of July. Of course, no refunds whatsoever was the store policy. I knew it when I bought it, so no big deal—-though one might question why Apple continues to allow resellers to have these policies in foreign countries as opposed to opening their own stores.

Over the next month of using the AirPods, within ten minutes of use, I had a splitting headache. My head would feel full of pressure, like a bubble about to burst. I’d have spells of dizziness and a feeling of being jetlagged, like I’d just gotten off a plane.

At first, I chalked it up to illness. I saw a doctor who told me everything was all and well. I just couldn’t figure out why every day I felt so terrible. It wasn’t until I was working in a coffee shop one day. I put my AirPods in, and within a few minutes later, the pressure in my head started. I realized what was ailing me. I pulled them out. The relief wasn’t instant, and the headache didn’t continue to get worse.

Naturally, I turned to Google and typed in, “Apple Airpods causing pain”. I stumbled upon this thread (and various others). I made it a point to not use my AirPods for the next week.

The pressure and splitting headache that had been ailing me for the last month never returned (and still hasn’t as of December 2017).

What Could I Do With My AirPods Causing Pain?

I was in a better situation than an actual Eastern European citizen would have been, that’s for sure. I didn’t even bother trying to go to the reselling store and explain my issue. Instead, I hit up Apple Support on Twitter and asked what I should do.

It was then that the phone tag hell started. You see, Apple specifically trains each and every one of their agents that they are not supposed to write anything down. This gives them plausible deniability to screw the customers over when it becomes convenient.

So every time I got bumped up the chain (the case ended up with Quality Service Engineering), I was forced to get on the phone. I asked repeatedly to just send me an email with what I needed, and instead was always met with the standard, “This would be best handled over a phone call.”

Sending Them Back

Turns out that sending them back to Apple from Europe was a nightmare. It wasn’t possible for me to just walk them back into the store and have the reseller ship it—-no, Apple wanted me to trek all the way out to DHL in the middle of nowhere (I’ve written about it before here) to mail them myself. Naturally I told them to pound sand.

Then I’d go a week without getting a reply, until finally I was told, in writing (gasp!) that I would be issued a full refund for my problems. Then, that agent had some health issues pop up, and ghosted me for a week. I decided enough was enough, and opened up a credit card dispute for a faulty product.


Said credit card company decided in this case that there was nothing they could do. They sent me back to Apple. By then, I’d booked a flight home to California for the holidays. I figured I’d be able to walk into the nearest Apple store there and just wash my hands of them, and get my money back.

Of Course It’s Not That Easy

Since I was crossing a border, I was informed my case would need to go to a new department—-“Customer Relations”. Except, Customer Relations decided to light a torch to our relationship.

Despite having, in writing, that I’d be issued a full refund, that team told me it would no longer be possible. Instead, I’d be offered:

1. A store credit of the retail US price of the AirPods. They refused to give me a credit for the price I paid in Europe (the difference is about $75), on the spot.

2. An appeasement “gift”—-basically, Apple would ship me a new pair of headphones of my choice, I could then “return” those headphones for a store credit. This would require me to hand them in to the store, wait 3-5 business days, and then go back to the store to return them.

3. If I was willing to wait several weeks, a refund—-again, for the US price.

I was unable to get any of this in actual writing because of Apple’s phone call policy, so you’ll just have to take my word on it.

The Finale

Long story short: I went into the store, and actually met a couple of very helpful Apple employees who sent me home with a store credit for $300—more than the $225 I paid for the AirPods originally. I turned around and sold that gift card for $284.

Now, let me admit something: I was an idiot. I should have just chucked them in the trash many months ago.

The most frustrating thing is that every step along the way, it seemed to me that we were just “one step away” from getting it resolved. In hindsight, I can easily see that this was not worth my time at all. I would have been better off using the AirPods as extra firewood this holiday season.

I don’t think my AirPods were actually defective—-I simply think that the fit of them caused me some serious problems. I also think I’m probably not alone in this, but in any case, what’s done is done. It’ll be the last pair of Apple headphones I ever use, and I’m rueing having bought an iPad earlier in the year.

What’s done is done. Just heed this as a warning if you ever have to deal with Apple on a higher level than basic customer support. It’s probably not worth the headache.

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