Friday, July 21, 2006

While I love Apple...

... I'm really kinda' sad about a recent experience I had with getting a repair on my PowerBook.

I own a Titanium G4 PowerBook - initially released in 2000/2001 and I purchased it brand new, directly from Apple.

I've used it every day since then and have had virtually no problems with it. In fact, I like to boast that I've very rarely even had to reboot the machine (which is a credit to the stability of the operating system) except when new software so demanded. I even frequently don't even close the lid, preferring to just leave it open overnight so that e-mail is waiting for me when I get up in the morning.

But just the other day, I needed to close the lid. And as I did, using an even amount of pressure (not forcing anything or feeling any feedback that anything wasn't 100% "right"), the right-side hinge simply snapped. It looked like this:



Holy crap! I almost started crying. Tina just looked at me and started to comfort me. But then I got pissed. Why did the hinge snap? How did this happen? Why didn't I feel any feedback or resistance? The portion of the hinge that was still attached to the base was frozen in place. It's like the hinge seized up mid-close, and I simply pulled it beyond it's means.

OK. I took a deep breath. The machine still worked... the screen still worked... it was just a broken hinge. Apple, I was SURE, would cover this even though the machine was out of warranty. You could tell, just by looking at the machine, that it was in pristine condition - well maintained by someone who took VERY good care of their equipment. I knew, based on past history with AppleCare that I would need to send the laptop into their facility for support. I figured, however, that I could start at our local Apple Retail Store to see if they could at least handle many of the details.

I scheduled time at the store using the online scheduler - really slick, actually. And after only waiting for a few minutes after I got there, a Mac Genius was ready to listen to my problem. It didn't take much listening, however, for him to understand the problem. But after a conference or two outside of my earshot, he "regrets to inform me that there was nothing that Apple could do as this was out of warranty."

WHAT? I've got a GREAT machine... in almost PERFECT condition. It wasn't dropped, hit, mistreated or otherwise abused to cause the hinge to snap. For what other reason than a manufacturing or design defect could this have happened? The Mac Genius wasn't sure about that, only that he couldn't actually help me.

What he offered to do was to type my problem into their system so that when/if I called AppleCare's 800#, they would have a case number and would be able to read about the problem from someone who actually saw the machine firsthand. He was actually kind enough to include a comment that the machine WAS in perfect condition. But again, there was nothing they could do because there was no longer a valid warranty.

OK. I figured I could call the 800# and get to someone who had the power to make an exception. I called. No luck. I called again and asked for someone a bit higher. Still no luck. In fact, they told me that they had NO RECORD of these types of problems with this model PowerBook but that the repair would run me about $700!

At this point, I went online. It didn't take me long to find www.powerbookresq.com. And in about 30 seconds, my eyes settled on the link that led me here. (Yes, that's where I got the picture used above.)

I couldn't believe it! Not only was this a KNOWN problem, Apple would also have to know about it because they, at some point, MAKE THE FRIGGIN' HINGE used by powerbookresq to fix other Powerbooks! Not to mention the fact that PBresQ fixes this problem for $269, including shipping. WAY less than what Apple would charge to fix a problem that should NEVER have happened!

Now, I need to fully disclose that I absolutely love the company and love the products. This experience, while frustrating and possibly not very cool, won't change any of that. And I'm guessing that Apple knows this, too, if by no other means than my purchase history. But I would have hoped that this would increase the probability of a little rule bending to fix a problem with a product that they made and wasn't caused by me.

About two weeks ago, I found this little blog, After Apple. As you can see from this article, Adam clearly details Apple's intimate knowledge of the problem I had: "The PowerBook Titanium was the king of the road, until you opened it the 333rd time and the hinge decided it was time to move on in life."

So now I am doubly sad... first that my PB sputtered and second that its creator knew it would and didn't care.

Sigh.

But I forked over the money to PBResQ. They fixed my baby up and I was back using it in no time. According to them, the glue used by Apple during the manufacturing process isn't that great. So they use an epoxy that should outlast the rest of machine. So far, so good. Thanks, PowerbookResQ!

3 comments:

krylonultraflat said...

Happened to me about a month ago. Seemingly, happens to everyone at some point. I'm now wondering whether to suck it up and buy a macbook or settle for having a desktop-laptop (i currently have a weight behind the screen supporting it in an effort to prevent the other hinge from snapping too)

I was incredibly frustrated as well given that I never intended to buy another laptop, and wanted to just have a desktop from now on and a laptop when I really needed it. The truth is, Apple is in the business of selling more laptops every 3 years. This type of approach is REALLY making me doubt whether I want to plunk money down on a new apple.

Tom said...

Honestly, what makes you think that you're able to get warranty repair on a laptop that is presumably several years out of warranty? What, it's in perfect condition... so?

It's out of warranty, period. You're not going to find a drop of sympathy from the beancounters at Apple. Apple is--just like Microsoft, just like Dell, just like every other company in the world--interested in their financials over a customer trying to mooch free repairs after the warranty expired years ago. Their time, and their labor, and their parts aren't free. Sure, the price is sky-high, it may be extortion, but it's the price they charge and I don't think they are going to knowingly turn down several hundred dollars because some CSR got a soft heart.

I'm not defending the industry, and I wouldn't be caught dead defending or promoting Apple in any way, but I work in computer support and own my own consulting business. Cases like yours are the very reason I refuse to build systems for my clients and instead refer them to someone else... the last thing I want is customers trying to get free repairs out of me for something that is out of my hands.

Jeff said...

Tom: I don't expect anything for free. What I expect is a certain level of quality. I also expect that when a company knows of a defect, they'll fix it. In other words, I expect a manufacturer to support what they create (yes, the warranty expired years ago, but Apple knew of the defect within the warranty period).

I also may have even been willing to accept the idea that I would be asked to pay a nominal charge for parts or labor. But when Apple wants to charge $700+ for a repair that others will do for $269 is a sign that there's something else going on.

Oh, and I'm glad that you refuse to build systems that you don't want to support. That at least tells me that you're honest. And that's the most I usually ask from folks.