This Apple Store Sign Seems to be a Sign of Apple’s Broader Troubles
I've been at the Apple Store a lot recently. Four times in the past six weeks, to be precise. I've probably also spent at least 10 or 12 hours on the phone with AppleCare, including three or four hours Monday (on a holiday)… and I still have a 6-month old MacBook Pro that is crashing and rebooting all the time. It's useless.
So, I might not be blogging the rest of the week, as I am traveling and don't have a good backup computer (my home office iMac doesn't travel well, ha ha). Being my own boss means not having an IT department and owning (and paying a premium for) Macs has been troublefree… until now.
Windows has the infamous “blue screen of death.” I learned that Mac has an equivalent (in stylish Steve Jobs-turtleneck black). Rest In Peace, Steve. As it's become cliche to say, the company hasn't been the same since he passed).
During these repair and troubleshooting attempts, Apple seems more like they are trying random things instead of having a systematic approach to finding a root cause.
After the first Apple Store visit, they replaced the logic board (which meant them having my machine for a week). That repair attempt was in response to these weird video issues that I was having occasionally:
A second visit to the Apple Store led to them reseating the video cable internally (which they did while I waited). That was an attempt to solve the weird display distortion problems that I had before the system started rebooting (and then refusing to boot).
The last two visits to the store focused on running diagnostics and reinstalling the operating system (something I have done four times in different ways). We've done a totally clean install of the OS to try to rule out software issues and it still crashes.
The Sign That's a Bad Sign
The last two times I was at the Apple Store in area, I noticed something that seemed off. These visits were just over a week apart.
One of the two big beautiful glass doors had a ratty looking paper sign on it:
Again, that sign has been there for over a week. It normally isn't there, of course.
Is the door broken? Are they incapable of getting it fixed? Are they trying to save on air conditioning? It hasn't been that hot in Texas this year. I should have asked somebody.
That sign is such an inelegant, non-Apple bit of ugliness on a beautifully-designed store.
Apple can't figure out how to fix my laptop. They can't even figure out how to fix a door (or create a proper sign). It's a sign that Apple isn't the same company it used to be?
This laptop cost just under $2000 in November, 2016, including Apple”Care” and tax. I've never had such a bad experience with an Apple product before. If they hadn't set such high expectations in the past, I might not be as disappointed now.
I've begged and pleaded with them to just replace the hardware, but they refuse. People in the stores and on the phone say they'd want to, but can't… due to corporate policy. I've had it in to the store four times, but they only count “one repair” because it was only kept from me for a week one time… which seems like a very non-customer-friendly way to count such things.
When “Customer Relations” Makes Things Worse
I read online that Apple CEO Tim “Not Steve Jobs” Cook reads hundreds of customer emails each day and that can help get issues resolved. So, I wrote a very professional email to Cook. I tried to make the case that not replacing my laptop was wasting a ton of Apple time, in addition to my own. I tried playing the “what's the lifetime value of a customer who has bought six Macs in 10 years, along with many iPhones and iPads?” card in case that would help.
Yesterday, after that fourth trip to the Apple Store, I got a call from an executive customer relations staff member who wanted to talk. She called and left a message while I was on a conference call with a client. I was pleasantly surprised and that got my hopes up.
She gave me the same story about “wanting to help” and “taking ownership” of the situation. But, no they wouldn't replace my laptop.
As I told her, the phone call made me MORE upset. If they had just ignored my email, that would have been fine. I can't understand why they would take the time to call only to say they can't do anything other than getting me on the phone with another AppleCare support person who, guess what, wanted to run more diagnostics.
The customer relations person said, “We have to rule out that it's not a software issue.”
Um, what have they been doing all this time? It seemed, to me, that we ruled out software when a totally clean MacOS install still caused the system to crash. They replaced the logic board without ruling out a software problem.
She actually had the nerve to say, “We'd hate to have you get new hardware only to have the same problem once you restore your Time Machine backup.” Um, I hate having a totally bricked, non-functioning laptop. Thanks for saving me the hassle of getting a new computer that doesn't work. I'm willing to take the risk of trying new hardware… is Apple being stubborn or cheap?
I can't tell.
Last year, my wife and I had to get a new dishwasher for the house we bought. The KitchenAid model, which cost nearly as much as the MacBook Pro, had a problem where it would stop in the middle of its cycle. After one repair attempt, it wasn't better. So, the retailer and KitchenAid came and just replaced it. I'm guessing they considered that multiple repair trips and customer dissatisfaction were too expensive. They did the right thing by us and I'm happy, even though we had the initial problem. Why won't Apple do the same, even though the laptop is 6 months old instead of being 6 days old like the dishwasher? Remember, I paid for AppleCare (note to self: AppleCare is pretty worthless),
What To Do?
So, if I don't blog the rest of the week, that's why. I'm writing this on an iPad with my iMac's Bluetooth keyboard, which I brought with me as a backup plan. I don't like working on the iPad as much as the MacBook Pro.
I've been a loyal Apple customer for nine or ten years now. I'm seriously thinking of going back to Windows. I might not like the OS as much, but there is competition for the hardware, at least. Apple seems to be acting like a monopolist who likes using the “middle finger” emoji.
What would you recommend, tech wise? I can go buy a “backup” MacBook Pro and then sell this one when it's finally repaired. But, I refuse to do so out of principle. I feel like Apple has abandoned me, so I refuse to spend any more money with them.
Sorry for the rant. Do you see any parallels to other businesses or situations that you deal with?
Epilogue: I have a working laptop again. See my comment for more about their service recovery efforts.