Dear Tim Cook: Instead of repairing my MacBook, Apple gave me back a Thanksgiving Turkey

A dear friend called to tell me that his holiday -- and his $3,000 laptop -- was ruined by incompetent bench technicians and customer reps playing the blame game at his local Apple retail store.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer
(Image: ZDNet)

While the holidays are supposed to be about relaxation and spending time with family, they can often be stressful -- and nothing is worse than having to deal with adverse customer satisfaction issues in retail during an extremely hectic time of year.

In particular, it really stinks when your computer dies during the holidays, and you have to bring it to a big box store for repair (especially when you have to go to the mall, when everyone is out shopping, and it's an utter madhouse having to deal with traffic and parking).

One of the retail stores that I have routinely had good support experiences with during the holidays has been Apple. Despite the fact that I have had my issues with the company over the decades, I have always valued their personal touch and their desire to do what is right for the customer within reason.

So, when my best friend of over 30 years, Mark, called me on the phone to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving holiday and describe his tale of woe to me, I was utterly stunned.

Mark, who lives in Long Island, N.Y., where we both grew up, had an issue with his 2013-era MacBook Pro. Specifically, he noticed the anti-glare coating on his screen was deteriorating.

After consulting with customer support on the phone, Apple acknowledged it was a known issue and instructed him to bring it to his local Apple retail location at the Walt Whitman Mall, where they would repair it free of charge.

Great. Right? Well, not so great.

The long and short of the story is that after five -- now going on six -- separate visits to the store, the laptop came back in worse condition than it arrived.

An incompetent bench technician fried the main logic board and the I/O board while re-assembling the machine, and the store blamed the problem on a third-party Broadcom Wi-Fi module that Mark had swapped out with the OEM original.

Keep in mind the original reason for the visit: The screen glass needed replacement due to a defective anti-glare coating. There was no reason to mess with the system logic.

He now has a computer that has no functioning Wi-Fi and is being asked to pay $134-plus in parts for a machine that Apple is going to refuse to service in two months time, because Apple only supports systems for five years.

Oh, and the icing on the cake? The case clamshell is no longer correctly aligned.

Also, after opening up the system to put back the OEM Wi-Fi card (as requested by his CSR before Apple could resume work on his computer), my friend discovered that the internal cabling was not re-installed correctly and that a short -- due to an incorrectly re-installed power supply by the bench technician -- may have damaged the system, which they are now asking him to pay additional money to repair.

As an authorized service center for any OEM, if you damage someone's system during the course of a repair, it is incumbent on the service center to return the system to good functioning order or to replace the system entirely -- regardless of the cost incurred by the service center.

You busted the thing on the operating table. It is now your problem. No blaming customer installed peripherals, etc., which are unrelated to the reason why the system is on the bench.

What happened to Mark is unconscionable. We're not talking about just any repair center here; this is an Apple retail location in a high-traffic mall.

I know you are probably asking for more details. So, I have asked Mark to write a detailed letter to CEO Tim Cook's office explaining the sequence of events, because no Apple store should provide such awful customer service in which the customer is being blamed for mistakes that were made by their own bench techs.

They should be ashamed of themselves. And, at a bare minimum, Apple should replace his computer.

Every person in management who made excuses to cover their asses and who was involved in this ridiculous blame game and the incompetent bench technician who damaged this system by putting it together so haphazardly should face consequences.

This is the freaking Apple store in a busy New York City suburb of 1.5 million people -- not a vintage TV repair shop in a one-stoplight town. Apple should be hiring the best bench techs they can find.

It is a long, complex tale that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, let alone someone who was the best man at my wedding. But I suggest you read it, because if anyone thinks that as a Mac owner they are immune to crappy customer service and tech support, think again. It could happen to you.

Here's an excerpt to get you started:

I received another call from Ryan, asking me how everything is going, and I explained to him that I received the computer back in poor condition. It is now overheating, and the clamshell is not fully aligned. The chassis is so hot above the function keys that if I leave my fingers there for more than a few seconds I'd burn my fingertips. (Please note: This is not an exaggeration, as I need to pull my fingers away almost immediately.) He made notes in the system and told me to make sure the store knows about it when I go back for the sixth time.

I feel like I brought in a perfectly working computer with only an external anti-reflective glass coating problem, and now I have a device that might not last any length of time, due to the overheating issue and the short from the loose connection on the power supply. The improper connection very well could have damaged the I/O board along with creating other problems internally that have not risen yet.

Read the rest of the letter here.

Update 1: As of Sunday, December 3, the Apple store at the Walt Whitman Mall still refuses to do additional work on Mark's system -- currently being held at the store -- unless he agrees to pay them for the repairs. This is despite the fact that since receipt of his letter, AppleCare and Apple's executive offices have instructed the store to fully restore the machine to working order at no additional cost to the customer.

Update 2: As of Wednesday, December 6, Apple corporate, the Walt Whitman store and Mark have resolved all of their issues to their mutual satisfaction. While I cannot disclose the details, he's once again happy to be an Apple customer.

Have you had a less than stellar support and repair experience at an Apple store recently? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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