Is the Mac App Store Too Scammer-Friendly?

business_ethics_highlights_2Deception in sales is as old as commerce itself. It’s also alive and well in the Mac App Store.

Apple’s Mac App Store has transformed the way we pay for, download, install, and upgrade software on Apple’s Macintosh computers. What was once a gotcha-laden process requiring a high degree of computer savvy to navigate successfully can now be accomplished in a single click of a mouse or tap on a trackpad. One of the fallouts of this ease of use is that the average Mac App Store customer is quite a bit less street smart about software than was the average Mac user who downloaded, installed, upgraded, and paid for software online in the pre-App Store world. This, in turn, has attracted software merchants who seek to take advantage of and profit from some App Store customers’ lack of sophistication.

The linked blogpost details some potentially misleading ways in which some software merchants market their wares on the Mac App Store—for example, marketing Microsoft Office templates as if they are actual Microsoft Office applications. The author calls on Apple to “clean up” the App Store (presumably by blocking sellers who engage in deceptive practices or at least dropping deceptively-marketed wares from the App Store). This post could be used in a classroom environment to provide a fresh, relevant, 21st-century backdrop for discussing ethical issues surrounding deception in sales and marketing. >>>

LINK: Don’t Be Fooled: The Mac App Store Is Full of Scams (by Justin Pot for How-To Geek)

Try to put yourself into the mental state of a novice computer user. You have a brand new iMac, and you want to edit some Excel spreadsheets. In the dock you find that App Store you’ve heard so much about, so you open it. You find the search bar, then type “Microsoft Excel.”

The top result is something called “Office Bundle,” and costs $30. You click the result to read more.

Look at that! This is the “easiest way to create high-quality Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations.” That’s exactly what you need! Let’s read a little more.

Reading that block of text, what do you suppose this download offers? Go ahead and guess.

Seriously: guess. I’ll wait.

It’s…templates. A $30, 293MB collection of templates, all of which are useless without Microsoft Office.

It’s possible for a collection of templates to be worth $30, and for all I know these are really great. But let’s review:

This is the top result if you search for “Microsoft Excel.”

• The word “template” is not in the name of the product.
• The word “template” is not in the product’s description.
• The product’s description outlines several functions that are specific to Microsoft Office, and have nothing to do with what customers will acquire by purchasing a collection of templates.
• It’s literally impossible to find this product by searching for “templates.”

It’s easy to see that users could be deceived by this, and it’s hard to imagine that it’s not intentional on the developer’s part.

What do you think?


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One comment

  1. Michael Kotrous

    This is surprising considering Apple assumes a greater “gatekeeper” role in what content it allows on its app stores than competitors like Google Play. Google Play requires no review before an app can be publicly listed in its store. I recently went through Apple’s app review process with an iOS application, and Apple’s documentation lists inaccurate metadata among the top reasons apps are rejected [1]. Apple’s relevant guideline states: “Customers should know what they’re getting when they download or buy your app, so make sure your app description, screenshots, and previews accurately reflect the app’s core experience” [2]. Improvements to ex ante review and ex post feedback (e.g., responding when a paid app is consistently reviewed poorly) appear to be in order.

    [1] https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/rejections/
    [2] https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#accurate-metadata

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