Getting A Custom Mac in Portugal Is Damn Nigh Impossible

Update: Please read this follow-up before, which may help to explain why several people sent me a link to an open letter from Servisoft to Interlog (Babelfish link, Portuguese original here) where Servisoft expresses concern over the way Interlog has been handling Apple representation in Portugal, following the bankrupcy of a local retailer that Servisoft stops short of denoting as "favored" by Interlog. I have in the meantime had enough of an explanation to consider those links as very biased indeed, since the English-language summary of the situation far from explained the whole thing. This was also covered in a local Mac news site, and in retrospect, it was interesting to see that I got pretty much the same links and text from three or four people.

Yes, this is an update to my ongoing saga. Please bear with me, and if you know someone in Apple Europe, please point them to this post and my contact details (see the bottom of that page, above the Disclaimer). If you would care to submit this to the usual news sites or blog about it and post a link back here, I would appreciate it - this has reached the point where it needs some sort of public exposure. Thanks.

In the meantime, of course, things have been largely settled, but it is interesting to note that this post has been getting a lot more traffic ever since I updated my blog with another perspective.

I went down to FNAC's Colombo store today. By accident or design, we were attended by the store manager, who (again) jotted down my name, contact and order details on yet another piece of paper. From our conversation, the following facts transpired:

  • FNAC does have an order management system, but it hasn't been rolled out to that store yet. And yes, they are aware that it is very difficult to call the Colombo store (I just realise I did not get an explanation for that, but I will let it pass for now).
  • The Apple distributor cannot supply enough stock to meed demand. Of anything. They are also supposed to be receiving fresh stock next week or the next, and then only a month or so afterward - maybe longer.
  • They cannot order from anyone else but the Portuguese distributor. Period. There is no alternate source of equipment.
  • In the meantime, the fact that I ordered a custom configuration means trouble. Essentially, the store manager will call up the distributor on Monday and then call me with an update.

And that's it, in a nutshell. I did not return home with a copy of my order details, or a reference number. I do, however, have the name of the store manager, plus a written record of the whole mess, which I am complementing with a little field work.

About The Local Distributor

So here is a summary of my notes on Apple IMC Portugal, née Interlog, obtained by doing a few phone calls and some social engineering (basically, chatting up a few of the smaller retailers and phoning a couple of friends who have, in the past, done business directly with them):

  • They provide relatively quick and efficient tech support, as far as I am told.
  • They not only fail to meet local demand, but they are also renowned for late delivery to retailers, forcing them, like FNAC, to order and retain as much stock as possible in order to satisfy demand.
  • They managed to completely miss the boat on things like the e-U Wi-Fi college initiative and a couple of similar deals, where, despite having managed to lobby enough to get Apple products listed, they consistently fail to deliver them (the source for this particular nugget of information tried to get an iBook in time for the new college year and will probably blog about his experience soon, so I'll link that in when it's published).
  • I got snide mentions of not all retailers getting stock every time a new shipment arrives in Portugal. It wasn't until I came across the Servisoft open letter that I thought this was fit to publish, but it appears that the usual mindless flocking induced several people to send me the link at once.
  • The average time for obtaining a custom configuration seems to be around 6 weeks, if you order directly from them. There are the usual rumors about friends of friends who got their equipment in under fifteen days and sad horror tales of three months of waiting for a custom PowerBook.

Most of this can, of course, be debunked as hearsay. And at least one of the smaller shops I spoke to was visibily annoyed at the distributor, so they might have a tendency to inflate things.

And, to their credit, they did call me and cast a lot of the issues above in a different light. Although having classified this as hearsay from the start, I will be the first to admit that I got caught up in things.

Nevertheless, when I mentioned the Mac mini, I was categorically told to "wait until Easter or so". And more than a few people have advised me to either order my iMac G5 from abroad (such as Spain, where I have relatives) and get a local keyboard or get in touch with someone who will ship the machine. Which is downright weird coming from people who would probably like to sell me the thing, if they had it in stock.

But, as I replied in a comment to an earlier post, that's not what buying a Mac is supposed to be about. There are tax and warranty issues to deal with, and it is absolutely ridiculous that I, a paying customer, cannot get a custom Mac configuration delivered in a decent amount of time. In the end, it looks like I have a better chance of popping to London next weekend and getting a Mac mini off the shelf than getting my custom iMac G5 order delivered in Portugal before Easter.

In case you missed that bit, it was ordered in November.

(Of course I don't really want a Mac mini, since my whole intent all along was to order an iMac G5 to sell my iMac G4 to a friend. And thankfully he seems to be willing to wait a bit more.)

Given the stock shortages, it comes as no surprise to me, of course, that there were dozens of Creative MP3 players on display on FNAC and not a single iPod. And FNAC is not your little mom and pop shop - in case you're reading this in the US, it is a behemoth retail chain for books, media and entertaining goods with outlets throughout Europe.