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Owner finds stolen iPhone, store won’t give it back

Surrey’s Nicolette Olson contacted The Richmond Review this week, at wit’s end after learning four months ago that the iPhone4 that was stolen from her home last October, was in the hands of a manager at the Apple Store in Richmond. - Seung-Chul Baik photo
Surrey’s Nicolette Olson contacted The Richmond Review this week, at wit’s end after learning four months ago that the iPhone4 that was stolen from her home last October, was in the hands of a manager at the Apple Store in Richmond.
— image credit: Seung-Chul Baik photo

A Surrey woman’s four-month battle to reclaim her stolen iPhone4 from the Apple Store at Richmond Centre appears to be nearing a positive conclusion.

But her frustrating experience involving a stonewalled Richmond Mountie and an unco-operative Apple Store manager has exposed a potential headache for all other owners of Apple products who are victimized by thieves.

Surrey’s Nicolette Olson contacted The Richmond Review this week, at wit’s end after learning four months ago that the iPhone4 that was stolen from her home last October, was in the hands of a manager at the Apple Store in Richmond.

Despite turning to police, which attempted to retrieve the stolen item to no avail, and pleading her case directly to Apple, she found herself no closer to reclaiming what was rightfully hers.

Olson’s roller coaster ride began during her 19-year-old son’s birthday party held at her home in October. She set down her iPhone on a tray of food she’d been carrying, then forgot about it, only to return a half hour later to find that it had disappeared.

She had her suspicions of who took the phone, along with some other missing electronics, but had no proof.

She reported the theft to Surrey RCMP and Telus, her cellphone service provider, and that seemed to be the end of the story.

That was until the afternoon of Feb. 7, when she checked her e-mail and found one message from Apple’s warranty department, indicating her phone repair was done at the Richmond store.

Puzzled, she called the store, and an employee confirmed the phone was there.

Someone had apparently brought the iPhone in because it wasn’t working, but the store didn’t check identification.

What’s more, not only was the stolen phone collected for repair, but a new iPhone was handed to the thief. No questions asked.

Olson then turned to the Richmond RCMP, but an officer who attempted to retrieve the stolen iPhone was stonewalled by the store manager who refused to turn it over.

That was four months ago, with still no progress until after she contacted The Richmond Review and fired off yet another e-mail to Apple, declaring: “It is a crime to be in possession of stolen property. Your prompt attention is much appreciated.”

She heard Friday morning from Steve Perry, senior manager of loss prevention for Apple, who assured her he would get to the bottom of the situation by Monday at the latest.

“This is the first he’s heard of it,” Olson said.

According to Olson, Perry said that Apple doesn’t check identification when a customer brings in an item, and as long as it’s under warranty, will repair and/or replace the item.

“That’s just crazy,” Olson said of Apple’s policy. Considering the amount of expensive, highly-sought-after Apple electronics that are out there, this sends the wrong message to thieves and robbers.

For Apple’s part, spokesperson Tara Hendela said: “Apple will be declining to comment on this story.”

Meanwhile, Olson had to shell out another $500 to get another iPhone, and is hoping Apple will step up and do the right thing.

Simon Fraser University marketing professor Lindsay Meredith said it appears that Apple has dropped the ball on this issue.

People who pay a premium to purchase Apple products expect premium service and safeguards.

“It certainly sounds like somebody ought to have a talk with head office in the states. It certainly sounds like a hole in the policy there. All the crooks know that the Apple stuff is the premium priced stuff.”

By not checking identification and confirming ownership, Apple is creating a “great thieving opportunity,” he said, adding that it’s unusual for Apple to drop the ball in this fashion.

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