Apple Computer Customer Support - How to Weasel Out of a Warranty

Editor's Update: Apple Computer representatives contacted me after seeing this posting on NASA Watch. My computer will soon be fixed at no charge to me. My interactions with Apple staff since my unfortunate experiences at their Tyson's Corner store - as well as the emails from other loyal Apple customers - have convinced me that the folks at that store were an isolated anomaly - and that Apple customer service is indeed still the epitome of the old saying " the customer is always right". Ignore all of my earlier comments below.

I love my Mac computers - all of them. Lots of people at NASA love them too. My business partner Marc recently converted to Mac for his day to day chores. As great as these computers are, Apple's customer service leaves a lot to be desired. Marc recently purchased a dual processor G5 and has had a string of headaches involving hardware and software - all exacerbated (not resolved) by Apple personnel. But I will let Marc tell that story.

My story concerns my new 17" Powerbook laptop which I bought exactly one month ago. Yesterday, my wife and I were staying in a hotel in Pennsylvania. As I went to close my computer I noticed that the cover would not close all the way. I opened it to see if there was something obstructing it. Not noticing anything I opened it further. This time a new sort of obstruction became evident and caused the top to open in an odd way. The hinge felt rather weird.

Rotating the computer I could see that a small screw had come loose from the lower left hand side of the display. It had wedged one way - causing the lid not to close - and then another as I opened and tried to close the cover. In the process, the screw had acted like a wedge and had dented the corresponding rear corner of the computer. It also caused a slight buckling in a thin strip of metal around the side of the computer. My wife and I eventually managed to get the screw out with some tweezers and close the computer.

When I took the computer to the "Genius Bar" at the Tysons Corner Apple store this evening, the first woman to help me told me that I had violated my warranty and had "dropped the computer" before she would discuss anything else. Nonsense.

Background: I have babied this machine since I got it - wrapping it in material to keep it free from scratches and adding extra padding to protect it. This machine has never been dropped. Indeed, only an idiot would drop a computer and then take it into a store of experts and say "I dunno what happened".

After trying in vain to explain what happened to her I asked for a manager. The woman who managed the store then came out. She listened to my story and said she thought I had dropped it and the warranty was violated. Neither woman, however, would discount the possibility that a screw came loose - for an unknown reason - and damaged the computer. The store manager, now sporting a snicker on her face, took the machine in the back room and came back a rather short period of time later to tell me that they did not understand what happened but that they thought I had dropped it.

In summary: a screw comes loose from my one month old computer and causes damage. Apple then cites the damage as violation of my warranty - even though a flaw in the machine caused the damage in the first place. Neat trick.

Now Marc and I are pondering a Apple Xserve purchase. Given the crappy customer service Apple has been providing, we may re-evaluate that decision.

Lesson learned: Like I said, I love my Macs, but when Apple can find a way to get out of a warranty situation - however slimy - they will do so. As such I would caution anyone owning a 17" Powerbook (and all other recent Powerbooks) to pay careful attention to the screws on the lower part of their display. If they are loose take the computer to an Apple store - but do not touch anything - otherwise Apple will tell you that your warranty has been voided. Indeed, since these machines had display problems last year, it might be wise to pass on them until Apple gets all the bugs ironed out. NASA's ODIN computer support group would be similarly advised to be careful about these laptops.

Apple used to be a paragon of customer service excellence. Not any more. Indeed when they do something like this to a long time Mac user (or any computer customer) you have to wonder whether they care for Mac users any more - and worry more about iPod users instead.

I am still hopeful that they will restore my confidence in their interest in making their customers happy - however, given our recent experience, I am not really expecting them to do anything.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on October 18, 2004 9:42 PM.

Heads Up ! was the previous entry in this blog.

Images and Ideas for the Final Frontier is the next entry in this blog.

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