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Blind Faith: When AppleCare Doesn’t

Apple's Evolution

From happy little rainbow to ubiquitous slick silver droplet, a new, less friendly entity is emerging.

As one of the longest running Mac users in history, I think it’s safe to say I have some credibility in this arena. My first was the original beige toaster released in 1984, the 128K Macintosh. Steve Jobs’ and Woz’s signatures (along with several others) were embossed inside the case of this first edition. I used this machine for over 10 years and had occasion to view those signatures when bringing the computer in for service at a local computer store. Hey, when there’s no hard drive and you run and save everything with one floppy disk drive, that drive will wear out over time.

In 1994, I acquired one of the first Power PCs: a “Performa” with a built-in CD ROM and 14.4 kbps modem, 8 MB of RAM and 250 MB hard drive. It had a 15″ color monitor and a Color StyleWriter ink jet printer. I used RAM Doubler to squeeze every bit of computing power I could out of it. This Mac gave me true desktop publishing capability and entry into the “World Wide Web.”

In 1998, I got serious with a G3 desktop: the last beige tower before “Bondi Blue” domination. This rig still had SCSI and ADB ports along with USB. I got a 19″ CRT display with that bad boy. And a 56 kbps modem. This was an industrial strength computer.

In 2000, I got my first PowerBook: a G3 Pismo with USB, Firewire AND Airport Card. At that time, I also got an Airport Base Station (the one that looked like a great big Hershey’s Kiss). The smooth black plastic case was one of the most comfortable devices I have ever typed on. I taught with it, did many presentations and conducted lots of business on it. It still runs. My husband used it last, mostly as a “surfboard.”

When my G3 desktop could no longer keep up with me, I decided to replace it with the first 17″ PowerBook G4 in 2003. I maxed out the RAM and did everything on that great big cream puff, including video capture and editing.

In the midst of earning my Masters degree in 2006, my 17″ PowerBook died. Faced with a $1500 out-of-warranty motherboard repair, I opted instead to buy a new 15″ Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro for $1600 at the school computer store. It was smaller but much faster than my dear departed PowerBook.

In January 2007, to enable the efficient creation of my video Masters thesis project, I purchased a Mac Pro tower with 23″ Cinema display. Another significant step up, I endowed it with 5 GB of RAM (I couldn’t afford to max out its 16 GB capacity). The computer runs well for a five year old machine, but it is showing its age, particularly when tasked with video.

Just about every one of these machines had some kind of technical issue. I always purchased AppleCare (since its introduction). The wisdom of this decision was boldly underscored for the first time when I installed RAM on my Pismo PowerBook and couldn’t get the machine to turn on afterward. I received a padded box from AppleCare, placed my PowerBook in the box (with trembling hands), had the computer picked up by courier, and waited a day for it to get to the Repair Center. They reseated the Power button and sent the machine right back to me. I followed the process online. It was practically painless.

Since the advent of the Apple Store, we are now guided to those facilities when our Macs are ailing and the problem can’t be fixed by phone. I try all of the online resources first: the manual, the knowledge base, the user forums. And I search for any possible solutions through Google, too. After all, who wants to shlep out to the mall and/or leave their computer for days on end?

This time, I had to go to the Apple Store. More than once. And here’s where the story of my 17″ MacBook Pro begins and blind faith in AppleCare ends.

Return to Portability

In early 2012, I decided to purchase a 17″ MacBook Pro. With Core i7 processors, 750 GB hard drive, and RAM maxed out to 8 GB, I enjoyed greatly heightened productivity. After a couple of months, I relinquished my old 15″ MacBook to my husband. I continue to use my desktop for financial stuff, to run our MagicJack, to contain my iTunes library and iPhone backups. But all the heavy lifting, like video editing and retouching, moved to my new machine.

After a few months, the WiFi on the new MacBook Pro started dropping. I’d have problems connecting to networks when I traveled. Finally, I started seeing just an outline of the Airport icon in the menu bar. When clicked, it would say “WiFi Hardware Not Found.”

Research revealed many other users having similar problems. I tried all of the suggested remedies. Nothing worked for more than a day. I contacted AppleCare.

I was guided through a number of procedures, including resetting the PRAM and SMC, and reinstalling my operating system (Lion, the OS that came with the computer).

A senior tech was assigned to my case. He sent me a piece of software to run on my computer to generate a thorough diagnostic report. When nothing was found, I was sent to the Apple Store. They ran diagnostics. Everything looked fine. Delete a System Preference file. Go home.

I removed any software that I didn’t absolutely need. I monitored the activity on the computer to try to find the culprit. I erased, reinstalled and restored my OS and data. The computer ran well for a couple of months, but the issue resurfaced. When it happened during a presentation I was giving on social media, I was out of patience.

I called AppleCare again. They sent me back to the Apple Store on October 1. The Genius in the store told me that since resetting the SMC restored the WiFi, it was a good bet that the logic board was the culprit. They did not have that part in stock, but they would send the computer to the Repair Center and it would be replaced there. I had all of my stuff backed up on an external drive so my system could be restored if they determined that the hard drive might be involved.

Three days later, I got the call from the Apple Store. My Mac was ready to be picked up. I asked what was done. I was told the Airport Card was replaced.

Huh? That’s it? That didn’t sound right, but I went to the store.

Hey, Genius!

I presented my repair order and photo ID to “check in.” After a brief wait, a young woman brought my computer to me in a styrofoam wrapper and asked me to sign for the return. I unwrapped the computer and started it up. When I got to the log in screen, I could already see there was no WiFi icon, but I logged in and confirmed what I feared; “No WiFi Hardware Found.” Oh crap.

I waved down a Genius and showed him the screen. He furrowed his brow and looked up my case on his iPad. Huh boy. Looks like the Repair Center ignored the notes on the original order. The computer had to go back. But this time, they would return it directly to me upon completion. I live about 18 miles from the store, so it’s not a quick trip for me. Okay, let’s get this done. I was glad that I had started the computer in the store and that the issue was immediately apparent so it could be confirmed and addressed. Had I gone all the way home and then been greeted with this situation, I would have been a lot more irritated.

That was the evening of October 3. Each day I would eagerly check the online Repair Status. Over the weekend and each day thereafter, the status remained “Diagnosing Product.” Meanwhile, I worked on my old Mac Pro desktop. It isn’t nearly as fast as the machine in the shop.

The Hole

Here’s the hole

October 10, I got my MacBook Pro back by courier at my home. And there was a new problem. While they did replace the logic board, Airport Card and RAM chips, they also gouged a hole in my display. At first, I thought it was just dirt, but gently rubbing on the spot with a tissue, I could feel the hole in the anti-glare screen. This is unbelievable.

I immediately contacted AppleCare. The tech asked for a picture of the damage. I snapped it with my iPhone and sent it. The agent could see it. He apologized and said I would either have to send the computer back in a box or bring it to the Apple Store. Again.

I asked if they could find out whether the Apple Store had the part in stock and if they could do the repair while I waited. I have, after all, been without this machine for over a week. And now I’m sick. In bed. It’s nice to have my fast machine back so I can stay productive, even while laid low by a sinus infection.

The rep seemed surprised by this request, but he said he’d make some calls and find out. He called me back 20 minutes later and said the Apple Store would order the part and call me when they received it to schedule the repair with me directly.

So far, my computer is running fine, screen hole not withstanding. Hopefully, this repair will be done before too long and I’ll be able to resume happy, productive use with an intact screen, stable WiFi and all other components supporting my most processor-intensive habits.

I continue to advocate for the purchase of AppleCare. The ability to get through to an intelligent, courteous, helpful person on a 24/7 basis is a luxury few other companies offer in this age of outsourcing and lackluster customer experience. But even the best screw up. So don’t blindly accept what you’re told, by anyone. Read your manuals. Find solutions. And don’t be afraid to ask for reasonable treatment. Sometimes, you’ll actually get what you ask for, and you may even get some satisfaction. Here’s hoping you don’t have to ask.

P.S. Now my iPhone is going back. The receiver volume is too low, and none of the suggested troubleshooting steps (including complete restoration of the original settings) worked. I have a noon appointment at the Apple Store. Maybe I can check on the replacement of my MacBook display while I’m there. Stay tuned…

About traceysl

Author of the #1 bestselling book "Dementia Sucks", (Post Hill Press). Having cared for my father, who had vascular dementia and died in 2004, and my mother, who died on April 14, 2015 after a long fight with Alzheimer's disease, I have refocused professionally to helping others through my experience. My company, Grand Family Planning LLC, provides Coaching and Support Services. I am a professional speaker, offering programs for businesses seeking solutions to recruit and retain employees who care for loved ones. In this way, I share my knowledge and give meaning to the tragic turn of my parents' journey through the misery of dementia.


2 thoughts on “Blind Faith: When AppleCare Doesn’t

  1. Reblogged this on Coretan Daku.

    Posted by Coretan Daku | October 16, 2012, 5:13 am


  1. Pingback: GrrApple « Speaking Productionese - October 16, 2012

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