Apple store, Applecare, Powerbook, and a near breakup

I took the Powerbook to the Genius Bar at the Newport Beach Apple Store on Sunday. The S key was popping off and clearly broken. This had happened previously to the space bar and they’d just replaced the thing.

My previous experiences there were uneven. There was one hard drive replacement under Applecare that they did beautifully, including additional buff-up repairs I hadn’t requested. The previous keyboard problem was also fixed in seconds. Another time, though, the power supply died on my previous Powerbook quite early in its career with the typical snap-and-short at the laptop end. That time they tried to tell me it was my “abuse” that had caused this, but since this one had been a floor model for a solid year before I got it, that wasn’t going to fly. I had to be really bitchy though. Then, that laptop really lost it; the case flexed and cracked and the hinge popped off so that it wouldn’t hold up the screen. This caused a full operating fight between me and the Genius Bar person because he simply declared that I had broken it and voided AppleCare. I was mad as hell and felt cheated. I did, however, purchase another Powerbook because I wanted both the hardware and the OS. The old one was given to Movie Guy Dan, who made mechanical repairs and continues to use it.

So this time I went in thinking “If they do this right they’re okay, but if they mess with me and try to bully me out of my warranty it will be ugly and I will never buy Apple anything again. I’ll just get a commodity x86 laptop, go back to Linux, and lose all this nice shiny consumer convenience.”

The guy looked at the keyboard and poked around. He told me he’d go in the back and try to find an S key, since they had lots of keycaps they pulled off dead keyboards and stored for this very purpose. “If I can’t find one, though, you’ll have to buy a new keyboard.”

“Oh, I have Applecare.” He looked back at the keyboard now with a more critical eye. He ran his fingers up and down the keys, looked at the bottom of the Powerbook and the outside, and then pointed to the spots to the right and left of the trackpad where my hands rest. “What’s up with this corrosion here?” he said in the tone Colombo might use with a murderer.

“That is due to sweat. From my hands. I sweat with them.” He said “Well I’ll see what I can find here.” I told him that I sincerely hoped he had an S key because otherwise it would be bad. He returned in about ten minutes with one and I was gone.

Dear Apple: Warranty cheats are one of the many reasons everyone hates car dealers. They’re legendary for redefining the warranty to classify failure due to their design errors as abuse. You have already done this with your horribly designed power supply, three of which have died on me at a cost of $80 each. Your currentidea of how to increase revenue and keep customers is to charge $350 for a service plan and then make sure that the service plan is always denied, and in the process insult your customers and force them into public arguments with tech support. This is a bad idea. Hugs, me.

13 thoughts on “Apple store, Applecare, Powerbook, and a near breakup

  1. wow, are powerbooks really that shoddy? i know a ton of people with ipods and zero people who have not had an ipod explode on them. does apple make fragile products all around or something?
    PREACHY – there are a number of ready-for-desktop end-user linux distros that are, well, very shiny and convenient. i stuck ubuntu on my toshiba satellite and seriously everything Just Worked. you need to apt-get a few things to get proprietary codecs for divx, mp3, whatever (i hear the latest release has a point’n’click utility that even handles this for you), but other than that, no problems. wireless, suspend to disk, widescreen display… all the traditional problem areas are covered. also my toshiba is almost 3 years old, has been all over the east coast, dropped a few times, banged into walls/car doors/humans, a hell of a lot of wear and tear, and i haven’t had a single problem with it. not even a dead pixel!

    1. I’m very comfortable with Linux, yeah, so that isn’t so much a problem. There’s so much good software for Mac OS X, though.
      Apple laptops aren’t shoddy, but there are some problems. The power supply one is the worst. It’s just a bad design and they won’t own up to it. Honda replaced my entire transmission for free becaus they made a mistake, for chrissakes.
      Laptops break more than desktops. If they can’t handle that, they should just charge more for the service policy in the first place instead of taking the free money and then angering the customer. It’s just… ca fait l’ennui.

      1. For what it’s worth, my powerbook’s only ever had a hard drive go bad on it, and they replaced it with no fuss.
        That said, I did take it to our local mac-friendly tech place, rather than to the apple store.
        I don’t mean to dismiss your concerns (I’ve certainly had a couple of iPod related issues), but overall, I’ve been pretty lucky with apple stuff. Maybe they know I’m a shareholder. 🙂

      2. Your anecdotal experience is worth exactly as much as mine. However, mine is what I’m going to go on. I haven’t broken up yet but I’m not happy.

      3. Understood. I’m just being a data point.
        To be honest, I’m kind of pissed off at them about your experience.

    2. i had a toshiba satellite that made it up past 5 years before the keyboard finally went out.
      plus isn’t there some osx86 crap floating around these days? best of both worlds right there.

      1. Toshiba Satellites are tanks. I don’t think I emphasized as much as I should above that I really like the actual PRODUCT. It doesn’t fall apart more or less often than other brand-name laptops. The only design or quality problem that pisses me off is the power adapter, which is just inexcusable.
        The real problem is the warranty that they now try to weasel out of at every occasion.

  2. Thank you for further cementing my decision to never have been and never to be (in the forseeable future, anyway) an Apple customer. It boggles my mind when I think of the kind of money folks drop on Apple products… and for what? Crappo customer service? Of course, not having touched an Apple since the Powermac, I’m sure I don’t know squat about what I’m missing and why people trade their firstborn for Apple products… but I think I’d rather keep it that way.

  3. Have you tried other Apple stores? The one in Mission Viejo mall has always been good to me, even when the issue was genuinely my fault.
    I’ve read enough horror stories like yours to know that warranty fraud is a company-wide unspoken policy, but there does appear to be variance between stores. I would assume the Fashionist Island staff would be among the worst offenders.

    1. The Fashion Island staff has included friends of mine over the years, although none of them are “Geniuses.” The problem I’ve noticed is that it depends way too much which “Genius” you get and how that person feels about you and about what the “Genius” had for breakfast and whether the “Genius” gave out too much service today maybe. I don’t like being in the absolute power of some petty geek tyrant who decides whether I’ve been bad or good and then whether I get service.

      1. That’s true. Basically the $350 enthralls you to a fickle and vengeful god. If it’s any consolation, many cults have a much higher initiation fee.

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