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Another Rotten Apple

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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.

43 Responses to “Another Rotten Apple”

  1. Genuis Bar – hardly. While I have met some genuis bar members who do belong there, most do not. Our local Apple store actually has a few that are quite good, and I usually refer friends and family members to them directly, the rest are pretty much a waste of time. I have had several give me suggestions/instructions that made no sense at all, I am sure it was something they heard someone else say, so they thought it sounded good and could get rid of me.

    Overall, I have had great experience with my apple products, and the service at my local apple store and apple resellers has been fantastic. Do the heatsink repair, it will fix your problem. My guess is they get the macbook back to you sooner than you think.

  2. What we have found is when buying any Apple intel laptop you must install the full 2GB of Ram in exact matching pairs. This will reduce some the heat and save component wear and make the system run better. Only install Samsung factory original ram modules to reduce freezing.

  3. Personally, I’ve not had a problem with the service from Apple. However, it’s been my experience that poor service is not confined to any particular company. Nor is it confined to this industry. When I encounter poor service, then I complain to someone who is in a position to change things. Did you seek out and complain to a manager?

    I also agree with Kevin Murphy – there is always a choice. If you are truly unhappy then try your luck with another company.

    DW, if everyone had that attitude there wouldn’t be a second generation…


    as a former genius I can attest to the fact that there is a siginificant difference in the genius of today in comparison to my early days in the Apple Store. Paid less, trained less, a glorified sales rep. Apple should pull the title and just call them data input technicians.

  5. I really hate to say it, but as a LONG time Mac user, stock holder, startup member whose company was funded by Apple and guy who codeveloped several software projects with Apple… N E V E R buy the first release of anything they put out, seriously, that V1 machine would have to be 10x whatever you are hanging onto to make it even slightly worth the effort… V2 almost always work well.. V1… not so much :(

    I’ve been burned many a time but I still love my Macs, we made a big purchase of PPC chip machines just before each model (ibook, mini and G5) went out of production to hold us through the next year of revisions to the Intel machines just so we didn’t have to deal with random issues like this.

  6. Gigak00l

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

    Yes, you do – you have a GigaRight, because you’re GigaOm. Someone at Apple is reading this. I hope those petulant little dweebs get fired. Go Om!

  7. Yes, but the same can be said for all these news sites as well, that do a very poor job of reporting. They are reluctant to admit fault with their reporting as well.

    I love Apple, but its not for everyone. On the other hand if 1%-3% of people have a problem with service it should not be extended out as a problem with Apple. How else can you explain Consumer reports survey which measure some 57,000 consumer report members, which shows satisfaction with Apple service is very high.

    I think these types of reports are partly written to drive hits to these websites so we should probably discount the severity of the problem.

  8. Paul Toennis

    Seems a little premature to say the replacement of the heatsink will not work. I had it done on my Macbook about a month ago and the problem has disappeared. And for the fools that say that not buying a Mac and instead a PC means no problems I’ve got a deal for them to make 5000 dollars a month without working.

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

    I think you’re right to be upset. Everyone suffers when we all come to expect and accept bad service. If we tolerate it then we have no one to blame but ourselves when it happens. Apples aren’t cheap. Part of what you’re paying for is service. Yes, all hardware has problems (even if the commercials claim otherwise), but when you’re forced to eat crow you should do it with a little humility.

  10. I’ve had the logicboard on my iBook changed 4 times in 3 years. I’ve raised this issue with Apple – over the phone and by writing to them. No response other than being told on the phone that they’ve been good to me by replacing the logic board this many times.

    There is a known issue with the logic board failing so I don’t see how they’re doing me a favour by replacing it for free. After the 3 year period the board is no longer replaced for free, and it costs almost as much as a new Macbook to replace just the board.

    Apple needs to get this part of their act in order, or else there will be a tipping point and lots of folks will abandon ship.

  11. I understand Om coming down from his rather hot feeling when he blogged this upon his return from the Apple Store. Nonetheless, I have to ask if any of these responses/attitudes are surprising. If one looks at the company’s marketing strategy–the PC and Mac ads–and the statement released by Apple the other day blaming Windows for their shipment–and faulty production processes–of iPods with a virus on them, this is not that surprising.

    As I said the other day, the amazing amount of hubris displayed by Apple is comparable to that of the famous Greek tragedies. How long before a fate similar to Antigone or Oedipus befalls Apple?

  12. Random shutdowns are a major problem, and they appear to happen with some regularity. Apple needs to acknowledge it, fix it, and move on.

    I had to deal with the second-to-last battery issue, where my MacBook Pro would no longer keep the computer running for more than 5-10 minutes even on a full charge, and the problem reared its ugly head on a day-long business trip for a major presentation and no time to get a new battery. Subsequently, the rep at the Apple Store in Knoxville, Tennessee was incredbily helpful, giving me a replacement out of new packaging, which was against company policy (they were out of their replacement/repair stock and only had new retail boxed versions).

    In the past, I’ve also sent Powerbooks for repair using their ~$400 guaranteed repair program (out of warranty). Typically, the shipping box arrives to me from Airborne the day I place the service call (if I call early enough in the day), and I’ve boxed the Powerbook up and had it shipped the same day. In two separate instances, I had my fully repaired Powerbook back the second day. (Call on Tuesday, ship out Tuesday afternoon, have computer back Thursday morning). So I’ve only been without it for one full day. Pretty impressive.

    Apple consistently rates very, very highly in customer satisfaction surveys. If they are smart, however, they will use report’s like Liz’s and other anecdotal evidence to catch potential negative trends early and head them off, so they can keep a very high position.

  13. sorry to hear it – my own macbook story: bought one for my boys and myself for all things media, thing kicks ass for months on end, run a huge backup of all music, pics, etc…then one random weekend, my son’s friend is sleeping over, they’re playing with movie sw filming themselves…macbook freezes – not a shutdown, just totally frozen – go through a million ways to fix, nothing works, bring it to apple and they determine it’s hardware (likely the logicboard) and send it back to apple, then within 10 days a brand new one arrives at my front door, completely erased – so great that it’s new, but i had to reinstall and reload everything…however, i paid ZERO and they were ridiculously nice and fast (burlington store in massachusetts)

  14. “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.”

    Hey everyone, it’s Matthew from Macbook Random Shutdown, you can see the video coverage from Sky News on our site here


  15. Welcome to the wonderful world of Apple. I love the way their products look. But really they are no different than Dell and Windows in their capacity to create exasperating problems. You’ve just been sold the same lie that somehow this time your comoputer experience will be better. Unfortunately that is not the case. But it will look good on the table in Starbucks!

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. Anonymous

    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.


  20. Maria Consunji

    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 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.

  21. pinky floyd


    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

  22. 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.

  23. 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.