On Apple, misbehaving laptops and poor service

Along with travelling for two months and moving to another country, one of the main reasons this blog has been quiet for the past few months is that I have been having ongoing problems with my MacBook Pro. I’ve frequently toyed with writing about them here, but decided to wait and see if Apple could redeem the experience. The saga seems to be reaching a conclusion, but Apple don’t emerge from it looking very good.

Ever since I got my MacBook Pro last May I’ve had issues with it. The logic board was replaced a month after I got the machine, the battery was replaced, the screen developed strange grey blobs and had to be replaced, the top-case was replaced and the inverter board under the screen was replaced. But still it proved unreliable and kernel panics, random freezing and spontaneous reboots became more and more common.

Finally, having been advised to do so by staff at two different Apple Stores in the US, I decided it was time to ask Apple to replace the machine. After all, I’d been without it for over a month during the short time I’d owned it and it had begun to seem unlikely that any further part replacements were going to solve the problem.

When we arrived in London last month I went into the Apple Store to ask the “Genius Bar” staff if they could arrange a replacement. They looked over my records and told me they couldn’t find details of all the repairs I claimed had taken place. Since all my physical documentation of those repairs was sitting in customs, I wasn’t able to provide that very quickly.

By calling the store back in Grand Rapids I was able to get repair IDs for most of the work, and it turned out those repair records had been spread between multiple customer records. Even then, the Apple Store staff weren’t able to authorize a new machine and wanted to take it in for yet another repair. It was time to contact Apple directly to complain.

Apple don’t make it easy to work out how to make these sorts of complaints, but Customer Relations turned out to be the people to speak to and a couple of weeks ago I finally got through to a guy there who said he’d explore the case. A few days later he called back and told me that they would indeed replace the laptop with the latest and greatest model.

Naturally I was relieved that it looked like I might finally have a new laptop, but the sting was that they would need my existing laptop to be picked up before they could dispatch the new one. So that’s more time without it; more time working on borrowed computers without full access to my usual range of tools; and more time lost making extra backups and installing software on other computers so I could be somewhere close to productive.

I asked if it would be possible to simply swap the machine at the local Apple Store, or whether they’d be willing to take my credit card number as security to ship out the new machine before I’d returned the old one (which they have done with other replacement parts) but was told that neither of those was a possibility. So left with little other choice, I packaged up the new machine with assurances that it would only be a few days before I had a new laptop in my hands.

And now, a week later, I do. A full week. Not the couple of days that I was initially offered, not the five that they later revised that to, but the full week that the shipping company tells me had been the planned delivery date all along.

Every manufacturer ends up with some number of bad products. Good manufacturers not only work on their quality assurance processes to keep that number as small as possible, but respond quickly when customers complain. Apple may eventually have replaced my laptop, but I’m left feeling that they handled the case very poorly

Low level staff were keenly aware of the problem and encouraged me to request a replacement, but weren’t given the authority to direct that request appropriately; information was poorly stored and it was down to me as the customer to collect what should have been available from a central database; and they failed to make use of their impressive network of retail stores to ensure a smooth customer experience.

Much as I love the experience of using Apple computers, the experience leaves me wondering if I should be looking elsewhere for my next computer, or at the very least transitioning away from mac-only tools so it’s easier to move away if I need to.

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  1. Hi,

    I been a Mac user for the last 10 years. Not a single one of my MAC every broke down. The recent MacBook Pro which I just bought, have the same problems as yours. I already went through 2 Logic Board. I took it on my drive from London to Singapore, and along the way in Pakistan, the MacBOOK pro misbehave and the firewire port died when I was doing my daily backup of digital pictures. After I got it fix in Sep when I got back, I had the same screen blobs problem, and it cannot even boot at times. This was less than a week.

    Now I am dealing with very BAD Apple support staff. I am faced with the same problem of getting someone to seriously fix my problem. Are you abel to help provide a contact point? I don’t mind calling Long DIstance from Singapore if it will fix my problem.


  2. Since apple have a Singapore office I doubt any other countries’ offices would help you. The best thing is probably to try and get the main apple switchboard and ask for ‘Customer Relations’.

    Customer Relations seems to have a little more power than their general support staff.