REDBAND – Customer Service: One Bad “Apple” Can Spoil The Bunch by Ward Hails

Customer Service: One Bad “Apple” Can Spoil The Bunch by Ward Hails

About a month ago, my 15” 2008 MacBook Pro booted normally and I began my Sunday as I would any other. After briefly checking the headlines I closed the lid, and made myself a pot of coffee. Upon lifting the lid to write an email…

… a brief white flash, and then nothing. This was a first, and although I am quite capable around a computer, this was a different scenario altogether.

I held down the power button, and the machine seemed to power off. Yet no matter what I tried (PRAM, battery out, etc.), the laptop simply wouldn’t reboot. It seemed stuck in a zombie like state. Disheartened, I made an appointment online and prepared to haul my brick to the nearest Apple retail location (Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, Ontario).

In the interim, I did a little research – and what I found was encouraging. After viewing a forum on Apple’s main support site, I found a link that seemed to suggest a repair would be covered – free of charge! Apparently, Apple had been “investigating” problems with Nvidia’s GeForce 8600M series graphics chips, and they were found to be defective.

From the link, above:


In July 2008, NVIDIA publicly acknowledged a higher than normal failure rate for some of their graphics processors due to a packaging defect. At that same time, NVIDIA assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected. However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers with the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor may be affected. If the NVIDIA graphics processor in your MacBook Pro has failed, or fails within four years of the original date of purchase, a repair will be done free of charge, even if your MacBook Pro is out of warranty.

What to look for:

  • Distorted or scrambled video on the computer screen
  • No video on the computer screen (or external display) even though the computer is on

Specific products affected:

  • MacBook Pro 15-inch and 17-inch models with NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processors
    • MacBook Pro (17-Inch, 2.4GHz)
    • MacBook Pro (15-Inch, 2.4/2.2GHz)
    • MacBook Pro (Early 2008)
  • These computers were manufactured between approximately May 2007 and September 2008

I felt confident that Apple would help me sort out this unfortunate failure, and I’d be on my way in a couple of days. I had a bad chip, it was covered under an extended warranty (I was two months inside of the four-year date-of-purchase cutoff, and remain within the cutoff as of this writing), and there ought to be nothing to worry about. Apple’s service was renowned, after all.

Not so.

I arrived at the store, surrendered my laptop, and waited patiently for about ten minutes. The first “genius” to look at my computer determined that the logic board had failed, and that I’d need a new one, and it would be $600, plus taxes. I was a bit confused, given that a free warranty replacement had been offered to all customers experiencing this failure.

“Were you thinking of buying a new computer today?” he asked. Wait – what? I was totally stunned.

I attempted to explain what the problem was and how I was entitled to a free repair. I did this more than once, and short of drawing pictograms this “genius” seemed unable or unwilling to understand.

I left and fumed while I ate breakfast. I decided that my best option was to leave the computer with Apple, and speak to a manager when things were less hectic. Bad decision.

Apple Yorkdale held on to my laptop for a week, and despite numerous conversations with a manager, (who had no technical expertise, a point she admitted) the response was the same: I’d have to pay for a repair, and I’d have to pay a lot. The manager finally offered a discount, and although not much – I took her offer.

I had been stonewalled.

By now, I was more than a little frustrated. After doing a bit more research that evening, I became livid.

There were thousands of postings online, from literally all over the world, from users experiencing the exact same problem. One blogger had even resorted to a lawsuit – which he would eventually win - when his $5000 17” MacBook Pro failed due to a faulty Nvidia chip. There were plenty of customers (including friends of mine) who’d received the warranty replacement without so much as a second thought. Yet I was being told to pay, and pay full price. This whole process seemed to be totally arbitrary. What the hell was going on?

I cancelled my repair the next morning and accused the manager of running a scam. I have never experienced more dishonest service, anywhere, at any point in my life.

I reclaimed my bricked laptop from Apple, and took it to a third-party Apple repair centre. The tech quickly confirmed that the problem was related to the Nvidia chip issue and further – I didn’t require a new logic board, as Apple had so fervently insisted. I was furious.

I have already ordered a replacement for my MacBook Pro. It’s a Lenovo. And it was less than half the cost of a comparable MacBook. And I can upgrade it – not something that can be said for the new MacBook Pro.

With the near-constant hype surrounding Apple’s every move, I’m sure that quite a few breathless sycophants will continue to propel the company’s success. But there is no doubt things have changed. The stumbling release of FCPX, the lagging uncertainty surrounding the MacPro line-up, and articles like this one make me think that Apple is not the same company it was when I originally purchased my laptop.

Tim Cook’s focus as a CEO is fundamentally different than that of the late Steve Jobs. Where Jobs seemed willing to interact with (even angry) customers directly, Tim Cook is undoubtedly aloof. Jobs placed incredible emphasis on design, whereas Cook seems to find his strength in lowering the average cost-per-unit. Apple may continue to be a behemoth in personal electronics for years to come, but after the Kafkaesque experience I’ve had with the “new” Apple I feel pretty sure that the company has already abandoned the principles on which Steve Jobs re-built the company. The consequences of that decision may take years to play out, but if Apple has become arrogant enough to believe that customer service no longer matters, you can be sure that the consequences will be severe.

Ward Hails is a multimedia technician at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, in Toronto, Ontario. His role involves A/V system design, implementation and maintenance – in addition to videography, photography, post-production and motion graphics. Previously, he has worked in Marketing, IT, and Application Support, and has a strong background in music theory and the recording arts. You can check out his Linkedin profile HERE.

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