Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Apple service

Here’s a reason not to buy a Mac: Apple’s service, at least how I’ve just experienced it.

On Friday afternoon, I closed my MacBook Pro and went out to run errands. When I got home and opened the computer’s cover, I found that it had not gone to sleep, and that, while it was still running, the screen was dark. That is, as we say, not good. I connected an external display, and nothing appeared there either.

Since the computer was still running, I connected the backup drive and gave Time Machine the time to take another backup. Then I forced a power down. When I powered it back up, I got the “happy chord”, and the computer appeared to start (judging from the sound of the disk drive), but still no video, either on the laptop’s screen or on the external display. Sigh.

On Saturday I made a Monday appointment with the Genius desk at the local Apple store.

My experience at the Apple store was a good one; it was very busy, of course, given the time of year, and I got there early and waited. They thought they might get me in early, and that didn’t happen, but someone was available to see me just a few minutes after my appointment time. Nice. That isn’t the problem — and I’ll stress that the folks at the store were all great.

The technician ran a test or two, and decided, as I expected, that the computer needed to be sent back for a logic-board replacement. It would be $300 — not bad, I thought — but it would take seven to ten business days. I’ll have to be without a computer for two weeks. No loaners nor rentals available. And, they might wipe the hard drive, even though that has nothing to do with the problem. (I have a backup, as I said, but it’ll still be inconvenient to have to use it, and there’s always the danger of problems with the backup. Of course, most likely they’re just covering themselves, and that the disk will not actually be messed with. But see below.)

I appear to have no better option, so I went with it. They’ll ship it back to the store or directly back to me, but they’ll use FedEx for the latter, so, given the problems I’ve had with FedEx delivery, I had them send it back to the store.

With IBM (now Lenovo) systems, I had much better service, with two options:

  1. They would express a refurbished replacement machine to me, without memory or hard drive. I would move the memory and hard drive from my broken machine into the replacement, put the old machine into the same box, and return it, using the pre-paid label they included. Perfect, and I’d get the box the day after I called, if I called in the morning. Almost no down time.
  2. For less expense, I could remove the hard drive from my laptop and express it to them. They’d repair or replace it, at their option (in the latter case, with a refurbished machine), and express it back, with a turnaround of three to five business days — twice as fast as Apple is offering.

And in both cases, the hard drive never leaves my hands, so it can’t be damaged, erased... or copied.

When you depend on a computer, as I do, the difference is significant, and will certainly matter when I’m looking for my next laptop.


ClumberKim said...

I've had nothing but trouble with Lenovo service. I don't let my department buy them under any circumstances. No company is perfect but Lenovo is consistently bad. I've had occasional issues with Apple, but many more good than bad, with the exception of the case on my personal MacBook that has now cracked for the fourth time. It's a design flaw and they replace it free every time. No muss, no fuss.

You should get a survey from Apple regarding your experience. I hope you will complete it. Nothing changes if no one knows there is a problem.

Barry Leiba said...

My experience with the ThinkPads is from when IBM was still managing it, so I haven't seen Lenovo's service first hand. I have heard good things about it, and now I've heard bad.

I'm sure the Apple service will work out in the end, getting me my computer back repaired. The problem I have is with no option for faster service, and no option to retain the hard drive when it's not part of the problem.

And you're right that the surveys are important. Yes, I'll be completing one if they offer it. Of course, I also told all this to the technician at the store, but that will accomplish nothing... he has no particular interest in seeing that it goes to the right place (or any place at all).

Thomas J. Brown said...

A friend of mine just bought a new 27-inch iMac, which promptly broke. A repairman determined that the screen died. The repairman ordered a new screen, but FedEx lost it, and now a second replacement screen is back ordered.

Apple is sending her a new iMac (which she says may be defective as apparently the screen issue is a fairly widespread problem), but they're sending it via FedEx, so we'll see if it even gets there.

On the plus side, they're also sending her a free iPod Nano as an apology for her not having a computer for almost 2 weeks.

Barry Leiba said...

I think an iPod Nano might make me feel a little better about missing my computer. Better still would be a 64 GB iPod Touch, in case anyone in Apple service is reading this....

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

My experience with 25-ish years of Apple service has always been spectacularly good. My experience with ThinkPad service has been acceptable as an IBM employee, and horrible as a private citizen. The real point is probably that we don't have an adequate sample size.

Jim Fenton said...

I was in a similar situation with my Mac a couple of years ago. It seemed like the whole point was to motivate me to spend $100 or so on their premium service. After I looked seriously unhappy, they pointed out an interesting option: I bought an additional MacBook Pro (refurbished unit) on my credit card, with the understanding that I could return it for full credit (not even a restocking charge) if it was returned within, I think, 2 weeks. This worked like a charm.

Another option to explore is the authorized Apple service shops. One of the ones in Palo Alto (ComputerCare) charges $75 for expedited service, which means while-you-wait. They changed a system board for me that way, and the charge was more than made up for by my additional productivity.

Barry Leiba said...

I'd have been perfectly happy to pay $75 or $100 for fast service, but no such option was offered, even when I asked. I didn't know that there were Apple service shops apart from the Apple stores (I see that, now that you've mentioned it, when I look at the Apple site), or I'd have tried one... and, again, the tech at the Apple store didn't mention that, though I made my distress about the timing clear.

I wish I'd thought about "buying" another MacBook. That's a nice idea. I'd still have had to send my hard drive back with the broken computer, but I could have restored my backup to the new machine and been running seamlessly.

[I'm now operating on an 8-year-old Windows 2000 machine, which is working out perfectly fine for what I need to do at the moment. I scrambled around and put it together on Tuesday... and I'm glad I neglected to sell it on eBay a few years ago, when I'd meant to.]