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Summary:

Count me yet another victim of MacBook Random Shutdown Syndrome. Apple is really testing my patience with this one. After enduring at least three crashes a day (with my only savior being Firefox 2’s awesome restore-last-session feature), I gave up and took my computer in to […]

Count me yet another victim of MacBook Random Shutdown Syndrome. Apple is really testing my patience with this one. After enduring at least three crashes a day (with my only savior being Firefox 2’s awesome restore-last-session feature), I gave up and took my computer in to the Palo Alto Apple Store today.

This is a known problem, as Apple somewhat reluctantly acknowledges. It is due to issues with the heatsink, I am told. Many others are dealing with the same problem. However, the company is not sympathetic in the least, making me come into the store to be formally told I had to hand over my laptop for 7 to 10 days. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, but from what I hear, it’s a good bet that the repairs will be delayed or ineffectual. “Is there any compensation for the inconvenience?” I asked. “Your compensation is your warranty,” was the service guy’s haughty response.

While the problem is a major chafe, it was made much more annoying by the surly Apple repair people. They were not particularly friendly to me, but they were downright rude to some of the other customers, condescending about their lack of technical knowledge, over-enunciating with non-native English speakers, and driving some to leave the store without being helped.

Apple is making bucketloads of selling these computers — taking in $1.3 billion, or 27 percent of its revenue, off 986,000 MacBooks and MacBook Pros sold during the last quarter.

I’ve been going to the Palo Alto Apple Store for repairs since it opened in 2001, and to be sure, dealing with broken computers has never put me in a good mood. But the service is definitely getting worse. A while back, when my 13-month-old first-generation iPod would only display text backwards and upside-down, the folks told me they’d never seen anything like and joked “this is what we call a “deadPod.” That was infuriating, but at least they were reasonably nice about it. Today…not so much.

Update: Now that my anger has cooled, I realize it’s not my god-given right to good service…but I expected better.

  1. I just recently resolved the RSD issue with my previous MacBook. I can agree with you in that customer service on Apple’s part seems to be going down the drain. It seems as though anytime service is required on one of these faulty books, Genius Bar reps almost play “stupid” or attempt to downplay the situation which often infuriates customers even more. I’d love to discuss my experiences with Apple and the ensuing outcome but my hands are tied. Let’s just say that Apple is indeed aware of customer dissatisfaction. The best route to go is straight to the top or customer relations.

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  2. I had an excellent experience when i visited my Apple Retail store in London.

    The staff were friendly, cheerful… and bent over backwards to help me out.

    I also noted that the Regent Street store deals with an unusually high number of passer-by tourists who need help configuring their iTunes or iPod.

    I noticed that the staff took extra steps to help them even though they had not booked in advance.

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  3. Liz,

    I am not sure if you want to make a big deal of bad service you experienced today. Come on, no service is perfect. Also, note that your bad experience in no way be a good indication of service degrade world wide..You probably realize that.. I would probably agree with you when you say Apple’s service in Palo Alto is degrading..

    But, why address such a narrow problem on this blog that has huge readership ?? Get the guys at Palo Alto fired ? or Throw some dirt on Apple ?

    my 2 cents..I have used dell,thinkpad and apple laptops.. had problems with all of them..

    pinky floyd

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  4. I have to agree with Pinky Floyd.

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  5. Hi Liz
    Sorry to hear about your MacBook delay…
    Next time you’re in Palo Alto, you should check out the We Fix Macs store on El Camino instead. Their website is http://www.allmac.com. On 2 ocassions, they’ve saved my bacon & fixed my iPod and iBook right on the spot. 1 time my iPod’s screen had smashed because I left it on my lap and got out of my car w/o realizing it was still there- they fixed it while I waited. The other time they were able to get me a replacement logic on my iBook from their head office the same day. I was pleased w the service and they have free diagnostics so there is nothing to lose.

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  6. Dear Liz,

    It’s a relief to read you. I do think you are totally right to write this post, and you should write it even more often, especially on this blog. I had the very same problem with a Powerbook, that I had to hand over for more than 5 weeks ! I do think there should be some kind of compensation for that, especially when Apple indicates – 2 years after the release – that batteries have problems. There is a huge hiatus between the coolness of Apple, their poor-quality products and their lame customer relations.
    This has nothing to do with local service quality. The problem is wider than that, and is all about producte quality and the way Apple should account for it. It is therefore a matter a responsabilty regarding the customers.

    Matthieu

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  7. Fortunately, there is a workaround.

    Don’t buy a Mac.

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  8. I realize it’s not my god-given right to good service

    Not your god-given right, perhaps…but Apple’s competing in a free market, and if it can’t or won’t provide a satisfactory level of service someone who does will eat their lunch.

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  9. this topic was covered by the BBC a few days ago and ironically it happened to one of their journalist’s mid-interview; his apple was on desk adjacent to him and just shut down as he was discussing the frustration … during the investigation apple came across very poorly in terms of managing this whole matter.

    i wouldn’t for one moment expect any manufacturer to be any better – in recent past various friends of mine had the notoriously poorly designed compaq presario with exactly the same problem and compaq/hp were utterly useless to deal with – in each case we got the heat-sink problem fixed by local pc engineers.

    trouble is, apple is still perceived as the cool good guy vendor who is your friend and partner – not just a supplier. they’ve become victims of their own success in recent years and this reflects that – they’re in the big boys club now and just stamping out boxes not really caring too much about quality. design, yes (unlike the rest), but quality? no.

    good luck!

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  10. Unfortunately the store in Durham, NC sounds like Palo Alto. Customers more knowledgeable than the “geniuses”. Poor turnaround. Ineffectual remedies. I wrote this comment on Winer’s blog about how my mother-in-law’s iMac had to start smouldering before Apple would fix it.

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