A Rare Nickel Allergy Proves Apple Cares About Customer Satisfaction

3 minute read
| Analysis

When you plop down several hundred dollars on an Apple Watch, the last thing you want is to have an allergic reaction to the wearable device. That’s exactly what happened to Ervin A., though. His struggles with the smartwatch didn’t end in the best way for Apple, but the outcome proves how much Apple cares about customer satisfaction.

Apple Watch customer satisfaction

A rare allergy to nickel might have proven that Cupertino is more interested in customer satisfaction than sales numbers (Image Credit: fancycrave1)

A Match Made Down Below

Ervin was delighted to join the ranks of Apple Watch owners. He already has (and loves) an iPhone SE, iPad Mini 4, 13-inch MacBook and 11-inch MacBook Air. His favorite Cupertino product, though, is his pair of Airpods. With all of that delicious Apple goodness, he was ready to enjoy the convenience of the Apple Watch.

Almost as soon as he began wearing the wearable device, Ervin noticed a problem. His wrist, under the band and the Watch itself, became red and itchy. Determined to continue wearing his Watch, Ervin needed to find a solution. So, he called Apple’s customer service center, and who quickly transferred him to a senior analyst. That representative worked with Ervin for the next month and a half, trying to find an answer.

First Step, Try a Different Band

Ervin had purchased an aluminum Apple Watch Series 2 Sport, with the silicone band. Thinking there might be an allergic reaction to the silicone, the senior analyst sent Ervin a nylon watchband to try instead. That’s when the hapless Apple fan realized the reaction was happening under the Watch itself.

The senior analyst checked in with Ervin periodically as they tried different solutions and researched the problem. Ervin even went so far as to wear an adhesive bandage under the Watch, but that became too troublesome. As much as he loved being able to quickly check text messages and phone calls without pulling out his iPhone, Ervin realized something had to be done.

The Ultimate Sacrifice in the Name of Customer Satisfaction

When the nylon band didn’t help the problem and Ervin realized a Band-Aid was just that, and not a real solution, he called the senior analyst again. Unfortunately, that representative must have gotten tied up with other issues, so Ervin called Apple support one more time.

Passed quickly to another senior analyst, the two began trying to work out a solution. Ervin made his frustration clear, so the analyst offered to refund the man his money in the name of customer satisfaction. All Ervin had to do was return the Apple Watch, and the senior analyst would make sure the refund went smoothly.

Ervin’s fear, of course, was that he would get to the Apple Store and have to tell his tale all over again. That wasn’t the case; the senior analyst reached out to the manager of that Apple Store and shared the details. Thanks to the diligence of the senior analyst, Ervin was able to quickly and smoothly return his Apple Watch. He even received a full refund, no restocking fee — almost two full months after he purchased the device.

Isn’t That a Normal Warranty Claim?

No, it isn’t. Warranties cover purchases against defects in manufacturing. There was no defect here, just a normal Apple Watch doing what it was supposed to do. Ervin did some research, however. He learned that in some rare cases, Apple Watch wearers suffer an allergic reaction to nickel in 7000-Series aluminum. That’s the material Apple uses in the Sport edition’s casing.

According to MatWeb’s property listing for 7000-Series aluminum, the alloy only contains between 0.0300 and 0.160 percent nickel. That’s a trace amount of the heavy metal, but surprisingly, enough to cause a chemical reaction. This is especially true of people with a mutated MTHFR gene, but there’s no indication of Ervin having such a condition. He doesn’t wear much jewelry, but he has never had such a reaction before in his life.

Customer Satisfaction Was the Name of the Game

It doesn’t matter why Ervin had the dermatological reaction to the Watch. Apple proved itself more interested in customer satisfaction than keeping a sale. The actions of both senior analysts showed Ervin that Cupertino cared about his well-being and satisfaction. In Ervin’s words, “Apple handled it perfectly on the [customer service] part.” It’s not really much of a surprise that Cupertino’s smartwatch has been in JD Power’s top spot for smartwatch satisfaction.

6 Comments Add a comment

  1. aardman

    From the headline, I thought Apple did something really amazing like make a one-off nickel-free watch just for him. 🙂

  2. …although I do remember reading about the possibility of Nickel allergic reactions, so it’s not like Apple did not put it out there. They could have been jerks about it, but they weren’t.

  3. A clear coat on the underside of the watch would’ve worked just fine. $1 for a bottle of clear nail polish would’ve done the trick. Yes, he may need to reapply, but he would still have his watch.

  4. I had a totally opposite customer experience with my Apple Watch. I had a series 1 sport and the screen popped off the case. I later discovered (from Apple’s own customer support forums) that this is a relatively common occurrence due to battery swelling in warm temps and popping out the screen. Anyway, Genius Bar in Portland OR never mentioned this at time I brought it in. Then, two weeks later, I get notification to come pick up my watch. I was then informed it would be $200 to get my watch back–with no band and a 90 day warranty. I pointed out to the mgr that the swelling battery is a common issue, and also pointed out the irony that literally next door at the Target I could buy a NEW series 1 with band and full warranty for $225. At the end of the conversation the mgr basically told me “tough luck” after attempting to argue with me about the weather conditions! Whatever.

    After owning literally dozens of apple products dating back to the Mac Plus, this was the absolute worst customer service I have ever had with Apple. Seems like since Ahrends took over things have gone WAY downhill with the in-store experience.

  5. As a long time nickel allergy sufferer, I knew better than to even think about the stainless steel version. I was not aware that the aluminum case contained any nickel, so it is my good fortune that I chose the rose gold case for my series 1 watch. The silicone band caused some issues, but an inexpensive third party mesh band electroplated in rose gold fixed that.

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