When companies’ hot products are stolen

by Walter Olson on January 24, 2012

Toronto lawyer Michael Deverett thinks a bad guy must have followed him home from the Apple Store; at least someone smashed his hatchback car window when he stepped away for a couple of minutes and made off with what he said was a well concealed bag of new electronics purchases worth C$2,200. The company — which gave him a store credit plus a small extra for legal fees — is also facing criticism from theft victims who say it should do more to help owners retrieve stolen cellphones. [Toronto Star](& welcome Elie Mystal, Above the Law readers)

{ 8 comments }

1 Hugo S. Cunningham 01.24.12 at 2:29 pm

It is inexcusable that Apple does not cooperate to disable stolen equipment and/or pinpoint its location. Apparently they figure that forcing the same honest customer to buy their product twice increases their profit margin. If they were required to replace the product free of charge, they would start to cooperative in reducing the incentives for theft.

2 Patrick 01.24.12 at 9:01 pm

Well, if we amputated the hands of Apple board members whenever iphones are stolen, Apple would start to cooperate in reducing incentives for theft too. That doesn’t mean my plan is any better than yours.

I suspect that if Apple were required to replace iphones whenever they’re reported stolen, we’d see a lot more reports of stolen iphones. Especially whenever an upgrade is near. Do you support requiring Dell to replace stolen laptops? Microsoft to replace stolen xboxes? Nike to replace stolen Air Jordans?

I don’t know how you’d disable the shoes, but it would be just as practicable, and just as foolish, to require laptop and game system manufacturers to disable stolen products as it would be to require Apple to disable stolen phones.

3 Bumper 01.24.12 at 10:54 pm

Hugo, I take it you know very little about Apple or there practices. Not long after the iPhone was released they created an app, “Find My Phone.” A couple of years ago they made it free to everyone who had an iPhone, all you have to do is download it to another Apple product.

The Houston police department was quoted in an article a couple of months ago about how they routinely recover five or more iPhones a week for victims of theft using this app.

In my less than humble opinion, the lawyer in this case was every bit as much a thief as the perps who stole his phone, he just did it under the cover of his profession. Most people would be upset and then file with their insurance company.

4 Hugo S. Cunningham 01.24.12 at 11:31 pm

@Patrick–
Did you read the whole article? It sounds like Britain has good countermeasures in place. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Unlike Air Jordans, Iphones have to connect to the Internet and/or the phone system to be useful. That offers numerous opportunities for manufacturer and/or police intervention with stolen instruments, once the theft is reported.

5 Richard Nieporent 01.25.12 at 8:15 am

There is so much wrong with this story that it is hard to know where to begin. First of all, we have only the attorney’s word (and you know what that is worth) that the items were not in plain view from the outside of the car. After all the car was a hatchback. Second, if someone breaks into your car, then your insurance (minus the deductible of course) will cover it. That is why you have insurance. Third, the idea that a gang of thieves are tracking customers who leave the apple store and are just waiting the the moment when they stop for a soda to break into the car is shall we say farfetched, especially when he claims he was only away from the car for two minutes. After all they had no way of knowing that he would stop somewhere before he went home. Even if you believe the dubious theory that a store has a duty to protect its customers from being robbed (with the exception of the store or the parking lot), unless there had been a rash of thefts of this type from this store previously how was the store to know about it? And what does the fact that supposedly thefts of this type took place in the US have to do with Canada? Is there an international ring of Apple store thieves preying on customers at every apple store? His claim is preposterous.

6 Walter Olson 01.25.12 at 8:24 am

I would note that insurance coverage for theft of valuables from a car is not an automatically included part of an auto insurance policy, but a rider that can be purchased optionally. Some people buy it, others don’t. At least such is the case in the US, and I would guess that Canada has a similar practice.

7 mikee 01.25.12 at 11:21 am

In some places, the cost to Apple of replacing his phone and paying some legal fees would be deductible for “customer goodwill” purposes. So they have that going for them.

And it is not at all preposterous that thieves target individual customers in stores and follow them from the store to their car, or to their homes, to relieve the owner of their newly purchased items. While not every apple store may not have its quota of thugs, in this case it looks like either one apple store had at least one thug, or a random thieving of a parked car netted somebody a new phone.

8 Richard Nieporent 01.25.12 at 12:37 pm

mikee, it is not preposterous that thieves would attempt to steal something valuable. It is what thieves do. The preposterous part is that Apple should be held liable for this.

Comments on this entry are closed.