Apple sets up Tsunami donation page on iTunes as Apple Store in Japan serves as communication hub for victims

Mon, Mar 14, 2011


In the wake of the tragic disaster that has befallen Japan, Apple over the weekend began supporting relief efforts by setting up a section on iTunes where users can donate money to the Red Cross and help the thousands of victims who now find themselves without homes, electricity, and tragically, often without loved ones. Donation amounts range from $5 to $200.

Apple won’t see a dime of the money and 100% of all contributions will go straight to the Red Cross. Apple set up a similar donation system last year to help out victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Those concerned with privacy should note that Apple will not share any personal information with the Red Cross.

Delving deeper into Apple’s efforts to help relief efforts out east, Digg founder Kevin Rose relays a heartwarming story from a manager at one of Apple’s retail outlets in Japan.

You know how in disaster movies, people on the street gather around electronic shops that have TVs in the display windows so they can stay informed with what is going on?  In this digital age, that’s what the Tokyo Apple stores became.  Staff brought out surge protectors and extension cords with 10s of iOS device adapters so people could charge their phones & pads and contact their loved ones.  Even after we finally had to close 10pm, crowds of people huddled in front of our stores to use the wifi into the night, as it was still the only way to get access to the outside world.

Furthermore, following an explosion at a Japanese nuclear plant, Apple game their corporate and retail staff in Tokyo permission to sleep at Apple stores – an important gesture due to the blocked up roads and booked up hotel rooms. Not only that, but junior managers at Apple retail had gone out to purchase food and drinks earlier in the day, something which came in handy later on when stores for miles on end were completely barren of supplies.

The head of Apple International HR and of Japan Retail happened to be in Japan that week. Both came and spent the night with us in the stores and told everyone that if anyone wanted to try their luck getting home on their own, Apple would pay for any food, drink, or transportation fees that that person incurred on the way. “Your safety is most important.”

If, on their way home the staff member realized they couldn’t make it, but they found an open hotel, Apple would pay for it.  Since many people lived 2-3 hours away, this ended up meaning 11 hour walks home, $300 taxi fares, and $800 hotel rooms (only the luxury hotels had vacancies).  Executives from Cupertino and London Facetimed with us, letting us know not to worry, they supported us, and that they would write off on it all.

Also lending a hand to relief efforts as best they can, AT&T announced that subscribers will be able to send free text messages and make free phone calls to Japanese numbers until the end of March. Moreover, AT&T customers with landlines can receive a 60-minute call credit to Japan if need be, though they will have to request a reimbursement at the end of the month.

“We want to help our customers connect with loved ones in Japan in anyway we can,” senior AT&T Vice President Mark Collins explained. “Connecting with family and friends is most important at times like this- we want to make it as easy and worry free as possible for our customers.”

It’s also worth mentioning that AT&T wireless customers can text “redcross” to the number 90999 to give a $10 donation help the Red Cross’ relief efforts.

Similarly, Verizon subscribers can also make free calls to Japan all the way up until April 10.


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