[Back story: Chelsea [pictured below] was working on an article for class when Steve Jobs got lippy with her. Here's her response.]
Dear Mr. Jobs,
The last time we spoke, I was on the train coming home from school, typing away on my Blackberry to you. It was the end of the week, a Thursday night, and I was very, very nervous.
School had just started a week before, and my first journalism assignment was due: an article about the new iPad program on campus
at Long Island University, where I'm a journalism student. It's a program that lets students buy iPads at a discount for use in the classroom. I wanted to write about how my college's agreement with your company might impact our academics.
In order to get a credible statement for my article, I called Apple's media relations department, but no one picked up. I called again and left messages day after day, but did not receive a response. My deadline was fast approaching. I tried desperately to find other Apple employees to speak to, but couldn't get in touch with anyone who could answer my questions.
Good journalists never want to give up before they get the story, the truth, the answers their readers want and need to hear. So, even though I was becoming tired of calling, not to mention frustrated, I decided to give it one last shot.
I Googled your email address, and contacted you personally.
Mr. Jobs (I'm going to call you Steve from now on, if you don't mind. I mean, we're practically pen pals by now), I told you in my first email, as you will recall, that I am very fond of Apple products, especially the iPod.
I am actually a music fanatic. And by the way, to all those bloggers out there who have called me a "spoiled brat" and my actions "typical of my problematic generation," I have no clue what's on the radio, TV or what's going on with my generation. Actually, there's a generational gap between me and my generation. So, next time you criticize a complete stranger, maybe you should take a step back and wonder why you feel so compelled to spew hatred at a person you know nothing about. I think it's a problem you may need to explore deeply, because having a hardened heart can't be an easy way to live your life.
Steve, I admit that I was frustrated and upset that your media relations team did not respond once to my urgent voicemails, but as a journalist, I completely understand that no one is obligated to give me answers, and I might go home empty-handed sometimes.
With that aside, I know that you, being the CEO of Apple, can't possibly have too much time available to respond to requests; I didn't expect you to make any for me. But I did feel that there was an aspect of your company that needed some fine-tuning, so I decided to file a complaint with you directly about your unresponsive media relations team.
What's the big deal? People file complaints every day. We're consumers, we buy products, and we're essentially responsible for a company's existence in the first place. Therefore, we deserve to complain when we are dissatisfied -- and be treated with courtesy and professionalism when we do.
After composing my endlessly long email, I didn't think you'd EVER respond, not in a million years! But, to my shock, your name popped up in my inbox just shortly after ... and I was absolutely delighted to see it!
Honestly, my first thought was, This has got to be a joke. Steve Jobs can't possibly have the time to respond to me!
I was incredibly flattered, and I just stared with admiration at your name in my inbox for a few moments. I couldn't even open the letter itself, I was so excited.
And then I did. And my face just dropped.
"Our goals do not include helping you to get a good grade. Sorry."
Come on, Steve, are you kidding me? I never asked you to help me get a good grade, which is exactly what I wrote back to you. Where in my letter did I ask you to help me to get a good grade? Please, point it out to me. In reality, my main question was, "Why is your media relations team so unresponsive?"
Steve, I'm a nice girl. I really am. I play fair. I wanted to like Apple, and I didn't want to tarnish my image of you, whom I've always considered to be a brilliant mind. But, how am I supposed to do that when you answer me sarcastically and rudely, with no regard for common courtesy OR the fact that no matter how you interpreted my emails, you are speaking with a customer and a journalist ASKING FOR YOUR HELP.
After one or two more back-and-forth emails, you decided to sever our correspondence entirely.
"Please leave us alone," you wrote.
You got it, Steve. That's just what I did.
But I felt compelled to write this, because here's what I thought when you sent me that reply: You should never speak to a customer that way. If you're a high-profile CEO, either ignore my request and give it to someone else who can handle it, or answer my request -- anyone's request -- in a professional manner.
Even if a customer says something absolutely horrific, like cursing you out or harassing you, you shouldn't get involved on a personal level, initiating a battle with the person that involves jabbing back at them as if you're on the same playing field. That's the crux of the issue: You're the CEO, she is the customer. You're NOT on the same playing field. You must handle customer inquiries in a businesslike way. The way you handle your customers is a reflection of how you handle your employees and manage your company overall.
In the end, the primary reason I reached out to you was to let you know that Apple's media relations department failed to respond to media inquiries. As I said, I didn't think you'd get back to me, but I did hope in the back of my mind that someone would see my email, and maybe alert the media relations team of their unresponsiveness, so future journalists could possibly benefit from it.
I thought that the way you reacted was unjust, and with so many customers internationally who buy and cherish your products, I thought it would be unfair to let this slide. I wanted to let other people know that this is the way you treat customers, just as a precaution.
Your email address is public: email@example.com. There are even Web sites dedicated to publishing your email exchanges with customers
. Now, our exchange is one of them.
I hope you don't despise me. I just had to do the right thing.
Chelsea Kate Isaacs
P.S. Dinner tonight? Email is the fastest way to reach me, as you know. I love my Blackberry.
Chelsea Kate Isaacs is a journalism major at Long Island University, where she will graduate this spring. She loves journalism because it incorporates her three favorites things: storytelling, adventure and people. Chelsea blogs for The Huffington Post. She can also be reached via Facebook.