Apple – your warranty policies have lost you a customer

Thank you Apple, for all your glitz and glamor and style over substance, you’ve lost a potential customer, and I hope with this blog entry many more will be better informed about your policies when they choose a portable music device.
My wife bought me an iPod mini last year for my birthday, and within 2 months the click wheel started to fail. So, I sent it back to Apple and after a 10-12 week delay (for some reason they lost it) and many hours spent on the phone trying to sort it out it was replaced and a new unit was sent to me.
About 1 month ago, my replacement iPod mini started to exhibit exactly the same symptoms. The click wheel becomes unresponsive, and will start to act of it’s own accord (as I type this, my iPod is clicking happily to itself on the desk next to me). I was doing some tests and it appears to occur more under low battery conditions than otherwise.
So, I rang Apple today to see what can be done, and I’ve been informed that the device is 2 months out of warranty, so they’re not doing anything. What the fuck ? Nothing, nada. The device is still in perfect condition, there are no scratches, issues, anything with the device, and I only use it travelling on the train to-and-from work.
I explained that I didn’t want a replacement iPod mini anyway because there were obviously issues with the device, and I was willing to accept a discount on a Nano, or other iPod as a replacement.
The customer service operator went away “to discuss with colleagues”, and then came back with a “it’s 2 months out of warranty, we’re not doing anything”. When I questioned this I was told “no manufacturer would do anything outside the warranty period, and after talking with my colleagues there are no known issues with the click-wheel”.
Well, that’s funny, when my Subaru lunched a gearbox last year, it was nearly a year out of warranty, however the dealer was able to identify that it was a collapsed bearing in the gearbox, so even though it was out of warranty, Subaru replaced the gearbox for free as part of my service. (I paid for labour) So, my iPod clicking on the desk next to me reminding me of the difference between good customer service, and crap customer service.
Guess what ? I’m buying a Subaru Liberty next year when I get a new car. Yes, it’s a good car, but what really clinched it was the customer service I got when something went wrong.
So, I’ll be going out today to buy another portable music device, and it’s not an Apple. And it never will be. And neither will the presents for my wife, or children, or nieces and nephews. Oh, and my work colleagues who are standing next to me wondering why my iPod is clicking and flashing, I can’t imagine that they’ll be too interested in purchasing your products when they hear this story.
Gosh, that’s a lot of money Apple. All because you were unwilling to extend your customer service appropriately, just think if you’d been willing to give me a discount on a Nano (which is all I really was interested in) then this blog entry would never have taken place, and there would have been a different one, saying how great your service is.
Edit: My wife will be buying me a new MP3 player for Christmas. Any recommendations out there ? I’m leaning towards a Creative Zen of some form after having a great experience with my Creative Nomad for 5+ years.
Edit: Mine is an iPod mini – I’ve heard nothing but good things about the 20Gb+ iPods regarding reliability.


39 thoughts on “Apple – your warranty policies have lost you a customer

  1. Dude, seems like customer service for Australians is pretty consistently awful. Check it out – Apple Hates Australians, or Aussies just play too hard. Probably the former I suspect.

  2. You may be interested in hearing about similar complaints against Creative, Jon… Check out the reviews on Amazon.
    Personally, I wouldn’t be upset about poor service out of warranty – you get what you pay for (and you can buy extended warranties). Admittedly, good support out of warranty would be a plus for me (like your Subaru story), but the lack of a positive isn’t inherently a negative.

  3. I’m not overly sensitive about “out of warranty” issues, especially if the device has been poorly treated, or has lasted a reasonable amount of time. $400 to last a year ? Gimme a break. If it was $50 then I’d have nothing to complain about, but that’s fucking rediculous.
    Frankly, an MP3 player should last until the internal battery can hold no charge. No other consumer device that I’ve ever had, _ever_ has failed this quickly. And this has failed 2x with exactly the same problem. Clearly in my mind a failure with the device, when used as expected.
    Consumer devices that last 1 year is not acceptable in my mind, and my previous experiences with MP3 players show that at least some companies have been able to produce reliable, robust devices.

  4. My friend works at JB Hifi and he said that they get so many returns for iPods that they recommend to customers not to buy them. When JB do get people coming into the store with returns, they have to tell them to deal directly with Apple. I’ve noticed big signs at the counter explaining this. He recommended the iRiver.

  5. Thanks Joel. Great response. A cow-orker recommended the iRiver as well, as he’s been really happy with his.
    However, and ex-cow-orker didn’t like his iRiver much, had problems with it. (You reading Shane?)
    I must confess I do like the look of the iRiver over the Creative Zen Micro, however the Neeon (fucking lame name) is more what I like the look of. The replaceable battery is a key issue for me (which is why I would have never bought an iPod in the first place) Nothing worse than a 16 hour plane flight to the USA, with only 8 hours of music and no way to recharge.

  6. Jon, the non-replacable battery became a non-issue for me when I bought an external power source for my iPod.
    It looked like the iPod was fitted with rocket boosters when attached but the extra 4 AA batteries extended the playing time by a good 12 hours. Extra batteries would obviously take it further. Worked a treat when flying back to Oz from the UK.

  7. Well I think it’s bad luck personally. There is a chance that you’ll get a bum one (or two) and you happened to be that person.
    My brother bought an iRiver earlier in the year which was less than impressive–it kept locking up trying to play ripped CD’s–and then he bought a creative zen thingy which didn’t even get that far.
    So, in the end he did what he really didn’t want to do–join the cult of apple–and bought an iPod. I even tried to steer him away from it as I know you didn’t like yours so much but in the end he did and he loves it and he’s had no issuesl it works on his linux box just fine and my mac and my windows boxes.
    So I gotta say, I know you don’t like apple much and I appreciate that–it is getting a little (ok a lot) culty–but honestly, I think in this case it’s down to the numbers game and your’s came up, or down, whichever πŸ˜‰
    Honestly though, for the money you pay, they are a bit of a geek toy; that said, I’ll happily buy another πŸ˜‰
    My 2c worth.

  8. Oh and re the JB Hi-Fi thing: When my brother returned his creative zen, the dude at the JB store said exactly the same thing about them. I.e. they get lots of returns.
    So either they get lots of returns on _all_ stuff or they tel you that to make you feel better about returning it in the hope you’ll buy something else.
    Either way, I feel compelled to ask them why they sell things that get “a lot of returns” πŸ™‚

  9. Certainly – peeps who’ve bought the non-clickwheel iPod I’ve not heard a problem about – it seems to be a suspect design decision, which is why I was happy to try for a discount on a Nano – I would have happily bought one with a $100 discount. Seems fair to me. Apple would have kept a customer, I would have written a happy blog entry.
    After this entry, I’ve had a bunch of people who’v e said the same thing. iPod minis suck dead bunnies through a straw, other iPods are bulletproof. Maybe Apple decided to screw the mini customers by setting them adrift when they released the Nano.
    I did a bunch of research into the Creative Zen, and the iRiver and from the Amazon reviews it seems that the Zen had a lot of problems with the headphone jack, which seems to have been resolved, but maybe not.
    The other issues with both the Zen and iRiver H10 is that it requires more technical skills to get them working well with the PC, something that doesn’t overly bother me. After reading the forums it seems that once you patch the firmware on either, most of the lockup problems disappear.
    I’ll certainly wander to JB and ask them about the iRiver, Zen and iPod, see what they have to say.
    As for not liking Apple Simon, that’s mostly me stirring you cultists (hi James), I owned one of the original Apple ][‘s and then bought a Platinum Mac about 15 years ago.

  10. Oh, just to add – my mini would lock up as well, so it’s not like going to a player that locks up is a retrograde step. At least with a replaceable battery I can reboot it quickly, rather than wait until the battery goes flat or get to a recharger.

  11. Jon,
    Certainly in NSW consumer law states that flaws of design or manufacturing cannot be limited by time statutes in the warranty. That why they always put the thing at the end about applicable laws and limitations. Try mentioning the small claims tribunal.

  12. Jon, stop ya whinging! I have had a mini for over year and it has been fantastic. I guess you are just unlucky!

  13. Different batches, different countries ? Who knows ?
    All I know is that due to the reaction that I got from the customer service – that’s the end of my relationship with Apple.
    Responding to Scot – proving that would be more than worth my time, and a crusader I’m not.
    This blog entry was a vent, and also letting people know that Apple (in Australia) is very unlikely to be sympathetic at all to any issues with their products, and I have had a completely opposite experience with Subaru, which I wanted to highlight.
    Like I said, I felt the appropriate thing to do was to offer me a discount on another model, or something similar. Would have cost them $100. Now they miss out on a couple of thousand. No skin off my nose.

  14. Seeing as it is now out of warranty, why don’t you pop the case and take a look at yourself.
    Could be an issue of a tactile being worn out.
    Depending on how they have done it.
    I am tooling up to do SMD before long so if it stops completely I may be able to help you.
    Cheers Megan

  15. Jon, you’re not the first person to have problems with Apple’s warranty service – someone else in the office got very similar treatment recently (delays until the warranty expired) over their iPod.
    If the phantom clicking is only occuring when the battery runs low, it seems less likely that it will be a problem with the tact switch directly. The best explanation I can come up with for this one is that there is a pull up (or down) resistor on the line from the switch to the iPod’s cpu that has effectively gone open circuit – probably a failed solder joint. This means that the signal from the switch will be floating and pick up all sorts of electrical noise. At lower supply voltages the digital circuitry will be more susceptible to the incoming noise and could falsely interpret it as a switch closure.
    I could take a look for you, but might not get far. The small passives (i.e. components like resistors) on these boards are mostly 0402 size (thats 1mm by 0.5mm) so they’re very difficult to work with.

  16. I was thinking about it again today and I agree with Michael that the cause it probably noise due to a floating input or something similar.
    Could be worth an investigation all the same.

  17. My son’s Ipod hp just crapped out on us. We bought it from a friend last christmas. I wish it had lasted longer, but my son beat the daylights out of it and i really can’t complain.
    As far as apple goes, i’ve been using their equipment for twenty years and can say that out of 9 computors, and 3 laptops the only problems i have had is 1 bad hard drive (after 6 years) and 2 bad dvd rom drives.
    If i compare this ipod to a cell phone, it is clearly better built and more reliable. I ran through 3 treos in about 3 months. Small consumer electronics are always less reliable.

  18. All I can say is my warrany dealings with Apple have been a far sight better than dealing with Subaru Australia.
    Yes the iPod is a generally crappy piece of hardware. My iPod 20GB just crapped itself one day out of the blue. However Apple replaced it within 7 days no questions asked.
    Subaru, on the other hand, stuffed me around for three years with a faulty gearbox, which was identified in the first week I took ownership of the car. They did attempt to fix it, but after the fourth time they rebuilt the gearbox they simply told me that that the fact that I can’t shift into second gear “is normal operation of the gearbox”. The issue is still unresolved…
    I think the moral of the story is, if you go to warranty with a well-known problem, you get looked after. However, if you have a legitimate problem that hasn’t been reported before, you are shit out of luck!

  19. For what’s it worth, my parent’s Subaru, during the warranty period, developed a loud enough to be obnoxious ticking noise while running. They replaced a bunch of parts, problem went away for a few weeks, problem came back, etc. Went on until the car was out of warranty, Subaru stopped dealing with it, my parents paid for ongoing attempts to stop the noise, which we never successfully did.
    Moral? No company can be perfect every time. The only way to avoid getting lemons or having bad customer service experiences is to not buy anything, because every company will eventually disappoint you, especially if you work with them long enough. I’ve tried to stop worrying about it as much as possible, because I find myself happier overall. πŸ™‚

  20. I’m sure Subaru suck at times and places as well. I was not holding them up to be a holier than thou company, more just highlighting the difference between customer service I expect, and customer service I don’t expect.
    If Subaru had behaved in the same way as with Warner and you, then maybe I’d feel different (not knowing the circumstances of course).
    It was the “fuck you, you’re out of warranty even though it’s the same problem” attitude that I was offended by.
    If Apple had come 50%, 20% or some way towards a solution, then I would have been happier. As it is, I’ve got a nice shiny new iRiver for christmas, and Apple has nothing.

  21. I feel your frustration. My Hard Drive crapped out on my HP IPOD and I am 2 months out of warranty as well. What I found out tonight is both HP and IPOD do not stand behind their products. I had the exact same experience as you but since my ipod is an HP version, I had to deal with HP too. Both said too bad so sad- you’re out of warranty. APPLE and HP have lost me as a customer and anyone I can prevent from buying their crappy products.

  22. I’m with you on Apple being crap. My 40GB ipod was great for 13 months then the hard drive broke. They charged me another $150 to replace it and after the fourth replacement hard drive in 4 months broke last week i got my repair money back today. The battery has has gone as well.

  23. do you think it’s fair to compare a car company with a computer company in regards to how they handle warrantys? there is a big difference between a click wheel malfunction and, say, a gearbox.

  24. Yeah. They’re both offering me service. A new gearbox cost Subaru over $2k (or that’s the cost to me) and an offer of discount on a new iPod would have cost Apple $100.
    It’s not the value, it’s the attitude. The predominant attitude of monopolistic organisations (or oligopoly) is “screw you, we’ll get another customer cheaper than dealing with your crap”. You see it from places like telecommunications companies (Telstra, Optus) MMORPG providers (Blizzard) and dominant market players like Apple.
    Where there is competition and the cost of obtaining a customer is greater than the cost of fixing the issue, then it will be resolved.
    Personally, I don’t give a shit about the companies that operate in that way. It’s simple economics. However, I’m just making people aware that Apple _does_ behave in that way, so they can make informed decisions about purchasing alternative products if they so desire.

  25. aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggggg
    mine did the exact same thing but when i sent it to them, not only did they send it straight back but the charged me 20 bucks and said there was nothing wrong with it, and it was exactly the same as when i sent it! it started off bad but got worse. Firstly it would sometimes say “there is no batery power left….ect then turn itself off, you could them proceed to turn it straight back on again. This sucked but i wasnt that concered because atleast it still worked. Then… I charged it fully but it would only fuction for about 20 mins, this was when thing realy started to get realy, It would not work at all, all the trouble shooting would not work nothing.
    So im about to send it away again! for the second time in 4 weeks, if they charge me 20 bucks again im going to get realy angry, im going to get an iriver now, there is not a chance that i will ever even think about getting anything from apple ever again. Sorry about this long rant but i just needed to let out some steem.
    iv posted this on a few sites just to explain my loathing of apple, i just when along with everyone else who got one, i thought if everyone had one then the must be allright, how wrong i was, costomer service is awefull, i dont want to seem racist but sometimes it is hard to understand the indian cheap labour that apple australia must employ, and the least they could do is pay for this incredible hunk of dog excrement that they have been producing. I hope someone sues the bastards.
    Im never getting anything from apple again.My friend had the same problem and when anouther friend said he was going to get an ipod we told him everything i have said here and he then got an iriver (very good by the way, im getting one this weekend), see apple by running such a poor operation you are defeating any chance of selling your crap. If any one around someone with an ipod sees how bad they are do you think they will buy one? no of coarse not. Just me personaly have prevented about 7 of my friends from purchasing apple garbage and i will keep dong so until they get their act toghether (both in products and customer service)

  26. My experience is that it is not just the mini. I have (had!) a 20GB Ipod which stopped working while under warranty. That was replaced. Less than a year later (but outside the original warranty) IPod number 2 seizes up. I take it into a service centre to ask them to please fix it. The service dude has a look at it and says “there is no point fixing it” it will cost almost as much as a new one. “hang on” I say. $500 and it works for under a year and you can’t fix it????? “sorry” he says. I was a huge fan and told everyone how great the product was. I am now going out of my way to tell absolutely everyone I meet what a massive rip-off they are.

  27. I just had the same experience with HP +Apple ipod 20g. The hard drive died two months after warranty and HP and Apple will not do a thing. Too bad $300 gone. I will never buy another ipod until they really improve their post sales care and repair policies

  28. I can’t believe there are people sticking up for Apples decision to avoid warranty payouts based on what I have heard and experienced myself.
    I purchased an iPod 3G for $AUD560.00 which lasted exactly 1 year and 1 day before the USB port decided to give up on me. Of-course warranty wasn’t even considered by the vendor, nor Apple. One day out of warranty is a bit unfortunate for me. So I switched to Firewire and now the HDD has failed. And no I didnt drop it.
    All I can say is anyone that can afford to throw away in excess of $500 on Apple after that has no right to tell others that what they should be expecting for their money. Especially after all the hype of Apples quality products.
    And as for the morons who think everyone who has a failure with an iPod must be treating it poorly, think again dropkicks. You are probably spoilt litle teenagers who had their iPod paid for by their mums!
    These are not in the price range of disposable items. It would be nice if they weren’t treated as such.
    Steve Jobs, F@(& YOU!

  29. I bought an iPod 40GB about 2 years ago, since then it has been replaced 3 different times twice for software failure and once for hardware failure. Like Jon, I only use in to and from university on the train – there has been no ‘iPod abuse.’
    Again, the latest replacement has started acting up – it is no longer compatible with my computer and makes pathetic whirring noises if i try. Unfortunately it is now out of warranty and Apple won’t touch it.
    I personally don’tknow anyone that hasn’t had trouble with iPods, no matter what form they come in. It’s the last time I buy anything from Apple though, when I buy a product worth hundreds of dollars – I expect it to actually be worth hundreds of dollar.

  30. I found this blog, and happy to know i’m not alone.
    first IPOD mini died 5 weeks ago, go the replacement, found it wouldn’t charge from either the PC or Wall Adaptor. The little shit head at the apple store was taking calls on his bluetooth head set while trying to convince me there was nothing wrong with the Ipod. After he couldn’t keep it powered on for more than 30 sec’s or get it to charge he finally agreed to fix it. Another 2 week wait, got it tonight, this one keeps getting errors while syncing. So now i gotta go an see the littlw shit head at the apple store again.
    This Time I’m angry !!! Someone should warn the Hurstville store I’m coming.

  31. I would like to say that i will no longer purchase apple products! I agree with you Bob. My hard drive failed after a so called genius updated it at the apple store. I have had my harddrive replaced twice through a third party replacement company(who agrees with us about crappy quality of ipod products as well) who replaces ipod parts for people who refuse to buy a new one when apple refuses to help. It has still failed even with a new hardrive. Apple does not care that my ipod broke a few days out of warranty. A one year warranty is crap. On the phone they basically told me nobody in small electronics has longer than a year warranty athough i argued with her that everytime my cell phone breaks thay replace it at Sprint no questions even if it is out of warranty. Then she basically told me i should have bought the extended warranty and that i was lucky that they were not charging me for the phone call since those are only for people still under warranty! Then said for me to wait and see that everyone will begin to charge for customer service phone calls! I told her that was bullshit and you can’t treat people like that! I think we should start a class action suit against apple for claiming that the ipod is the best thing since elctricity or something! At least thats how they act, snobby bastards! I am not some stupid kid who dropped the ipod in a pool either. I am a 25 year old graduate student getting my masters in counseling and i graduated first in my class with a 4.0 in undergrad. I know how to take care of things and i have so far spent a total of $650 with all the repairs. I hate apple for making cool addictive products and software but having crappy products and customer service, they have brainwashed people into coming back for more, only to be let down over and over again. They know this and that is why they are billionares!

  32. Phew! Lots and lots of complaints – so i’m going to add mine.
    The battery in my mini started to randomly lose charge everytime I plugged my iTrip in (by Griffin, not Apple) to play in the car – this was around 10 months after I bought it. I put it down to the fact that the iTrip takes its power from the iPod, but then it started to do this when I plugged in my EARPHONES. So i quit with the iTrip for a while… the battery got worse and worse.
    But now, I need to recharge it everyday either through the dock or via usb on my laptop/work pc, otherwise I run out of battery on my way home on the train. This isn’t even going NEAR the iTrip on the drive the rest of the way home. Sometimes it’ll even tell me the battery is flat and turn itself off, and I can turn it on again and the charge magically reappears!
    I’ve also had a funny little issue with the battery being so flat that when I plug it in to charge, the screen freezes and all I get is beep, beep, beep, beep…
    Anyway, I figured out several ways to combat this, through trial and error, various click-wheel + button pushing combinations and I pretty much have it under control.
    The problem now is; i’ve invested heavily in the iPod that it’s going to cost me more money to switch to another brand of mp3 player (which admittedly i have no real past experience with) than it is to just put up with it.
    I’ve been doing so for so long that I really couldn’t be bothered changing, which is very, very sad. I also couldn’t be bothered getting the battery replaced because a) it’s out of warranty, and b) I can spend $150 on something that will last longer, and not necessarily electronic.
    I have a sneaking suspicion that using the iTunes music store is not the only way for the iPod to make Apple more money, aside from the initial purchase of the device… if you get what i mean.
    Of course, crappy service kinda throws that, but who knows…

  33. I saw this blog and i just had to add my story. I bought a 30gb ipod photo off ebay from a ‘certified apple reseller’ in march this year. Since then, the ipod has simply died. It acts as if the hold switch is continually on altho it isn’t, so i can’t do anything with it. I took it to an apple shop and asked them to fix it. They asked for a receipt which i was happy to give them and promptly said we don’t fix ipods bought on ebay. They didn’t give a f@$% whether it was a certified seller or not. This all happened only around 6 months after i had bought it. Apple refuses to help with anything. The customer service was terrible. They weren’t even friendly about saying get stuffed! completely useless. I’m still deciding whether its worth fixing or whether to get another non-apple unit. I really needed to vent that… haha

  34. i love my iriver and have had it for a about a year now without a problem. i’ve probably convinced at least 5 people not to get ipods and go the river instead without any complaints.
    unfotunatly i spilled a glass of water on it during the night and i’m having major withdrawals . does anyone knwo if i can just get it serviced locally????(melbourne,australia) i dont wanna send my baby away .

  35. ive had my ipod video 30gb, for 2 months! i dropped it for the first time today, and wam bam thanku mam, its stuffed! the screen doesnt work, i cant see what i am doing or anything. i advise anyone who buys an ipod, to look after them with superior care, dropping it once isnt worth it. especially when your 15 like me, and have to work for a few months to save enough money to buy a replacement!

  36. hey been reading through these posts and i noticed the JBHIFI comments,
    i myself work in the RePairs depratment of a jb hi fi and what you’re sayign about the apple players and the creative zen is completley correct.
    soniq – i understand their navigators are quite good but anything else ESPECIALLY the MP3 players and the portable DVD players…what a bomb. Every ten players sold i get 4 players returned.
    sansa – ANY sansa product save the memory cards is guaranteed to freeze. most likely within the first 3 months…they have these mp3 players which are so crap i used to call this guy in their company once a week and he’d give me a return authority number to ship them back to VME. Of course it’s CELLNET now and i’m not sure where they’re based so no doubt they’ll make it harder for us.
    Gigabeat – and if you do buy a Gigabeat and return it expect the already ridiculous 4- 6 week repair waiting period to stretch out to 8 weeks or so because it’s my job to contact Toshiba and book the player in for a repair. It takes days for anyone at Toshiba to contact the store and even then they’re very reluctant to take it… but usually the storeman lies through his teeth and by the time they’ve taken the unit it’s too late. they have to repair it
    just dont buy one. it’s powerful but it’ll cause you too much stress.
    the worst part of my job is the repairs. The first and foremost problem is toing the company line: Now let’s say you brought an apple ipod and it’s a day out of what we call a DOA period (10 days)- say you had it wrapped up for your son’s b’day and that was a week and a day after you brought it, you worked the next two days and finally get a chance to come in- we can’t swap it over for you and outside of those 10 days you have to contact apple and all this crap. all because of the terms stipulated to us by apple.
    if you buy an olympus camera and return it to us, once again outside of the DOA period we can only offer a repair, even if you brought it for a holiday, we have to say “Sorry, it’s going to take 4-6 weeks, if you’d like to speak to the manufacturer, we can give you their contact details”
    i know, evil…
    by the way the 4-6 weeks waiting period applies because of couriers and manufacturer/ repairers turn around time…. when you give us your goods we get them booked and ready to leave as soon as possible (except for the gigabeats which take forever) It IS quicker for the customer to deal with the manufacturer themselves but you shouldn’t have to.
    Finally, let me just say that it’s not all that bad. If you happen to catch the Storeman on his own, or a camera person when they’re not busy and away from the 2IC or Manager, we’ll more than happilly exchange it for you – d.o.a, warranty or not. (we can’t do refunds without the managers pin though, so if that’s your intention you’ll have to speak to him/her. And they’re given head office orders not to do so unless it’s absoloutley neccesary.) How is the manufacturer goign to know if we changed the dates on the recipets by a month or so??
    thank you everyone who read this comment. i’d tell you my name and the store number i work but that’s just stupid
    buy an iriver. therefore, if anything goes wrong the repairers are based in Chapel Street so you won’t have to worry about a ridiculous turn around time

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