dysfunctional product design: Apple MagSafe Airline Adapter

I bought a new Macbook and ordered the Apple MagSafe Airline Adapter with it since none of my other airline plugs would work. When i opened it, i was horrified to see that it was a two-part thing: the cord and the cigarette plug part. I knew this was going to be a disaster. Sure enough, FIRST flight, the damn cigarette part gets stuck in the power plug on the plane and i have to leave it behind. I grumble the whole way off the plane about dysfunctional design. Who thinks it wise to make such a thing two-part when the entire structure of a cigarette lighter is to get stuck? ::grumble::

So i call Apple. They don’t know what i’m talking about when i talk about the airline power adapter, let alone the two parts. (They of course don’t sell a replacement head on the website.) I send them to their own product page. They promise to send me a new one. I get a regular power adapter in the mail (not the airplane one). I call them back and we go through rounds and rounds. After 25 minutes, i have to hang up to go to a meeting. I call them back a third time and we had to start completely over. Once again, the guy doesn’t know what i’m talking about. On hold, talking to manager, on hold. Just another minute. 15 minutes go by. 45 minutes later i’m livid and he asks me to hold again and the guy tells me that’s not covered under my warantee and i want to bite his head off. I tell him that it’s a poorly designed product destined to fail. He tells me no one has ever had this problem before. I tell him to read the blogs and the frequent flyer bulletin boards where there’s lots of bitching. He tells me he can’t do anything for me but he will tell his manager about the blogs. I ask him if i can just order just the head of the damn thing and finally, he tells me that’s possible but not through the site and i’m like i don’t care, just send it.

I realize that i’m just whining but i need to vent (and isn’t that what blogs are for?). I live on airplanes. 20,000+ miles this month. I _need_ my power adapters to work or i go batty, stressed because i can’t get work done. And my least favorite part of this “modern” world is having to call tech support for anything. They increase the likelihood of me getting a blood clot or ulcer by a very large percentage. Plus, it gives me unbelievable amounts of pain to watch humans become robots taught to follow scripts infinitely. Tech support structures seem stricter than even the military. And i want to be nice to them because it seems like a sucky job, but boy do they get my blood boiling. Must go do yoga. In the meantime, i ordered an extra battery and an extra airline adapter, all the meanwhile feeling cranky about how their fuckup is making me by more product rather than less.

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6 thoughts on “dysfunctional product design: Apple MagSafe Airline Adapter

  1. Erica

    Check out Post Secret..There’s a secret on there this week that illustrates your point. 🙂

  2. johnmallencommunications

    Danah: My best story is having forgotten my aircraft power pack (lame anyway), I saw one advertised in American Airlines duty free, purchased it, worked all across the Atlantic, with the unit smoking, melting and nearly causing a fire, then got a refund. Mission accomplished and a little consumer justice! Alas on a recent trip abroad, I noticed the power adapter was no longer in the catalog.

    Oh – your blog is great!

  3. Sablunous Gué

    I hope you don’t mind, but we have just opened the Museum of Dysfunctional Design and we thought your Apple Adapter was a good example of the type of object we are looking for, so we have made a short quote from your article and linked it to your blog. Obviously we will remove the quotation if you wish.

    link to object in the Museum

    The museum has only just opened and we are still building the galleries and the basic instructions. We have only collected a very few exhibits so far. It is a wiki so we welcome contributions from others raging about dysfunctional design.

  4. Ram Pattisapu

    I have been desperately trying to even find the words to describe the two parts that go into the power receptacle..I was searching for my “missing piece” through all my luggage for hours and going bonkers when I suddenly realized what happened, that the damn thing was left on the flight, stuck in the hole!…as I look lustingly at brand new packages in the stores at 60 bucks a pop, containing the very piece I am missing inside the transparent packages, makes me wanna risk being a shoplifter….except, those plastick packages are indestructible, can’t just tear into them and grab what you want… can’t believe that a fully grown, adult, highly successful international businessman like me has been reduced to designing petty thievery to solve this incredible mystery of how to replace this ridiculous piece!!
    If anyone has an answer, I am about to travel around the world the next 30 days, and don’t know where to get one!

  5. Sil

    Same thing happened to me: cigarette liter adapter remained on a plane. Needless to say how frustrating it is to see that Apple stores only sell the whole thing for $50!?!?! I just need the freaking adapter. Which brings me to my question: how/where did you order just the cigarette liter adapter? And how much was it? Thx in advance.

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