Apple: If We've Never Seen It Break Before, It's Not Covered By Your Warranty

Reader JB is a big Apple fan, but he doesn’t understand why his wife’s defective power cord isn’t covered by her warranty. He writes:

The center pin from her power brick BROKE OFF in the computer. Now, Apple’s infamous for power-cords that fray and break, but this is a totally new failure in my 18 years as a sysadmin. NEVER have I seen the pin of a power adapter break off in its computer.

She took it to an Apple store in the metro DC area (I’m not sure where. She’s living down there for school right now, while I’m home in Boston) and it seems they told her – 3 times: the local Genius, the Genius’ manager, and the regional service supervisor – that since they’ve never seen anything like this before (which isn’t surprising), they’re not going to cover it and instead she needs to pay them $300 for a new power board and for a new adapter.

In the mean time, she’s SOL.

We’re going to give JB’s wife the benefit of the doubt that she didn’t purposefully mangle her power cord or try to rope cattle with it. JB says they did not mistreat the machine. With that in mind, is “We’ve never seen anything like this before” a good enough reason to give someone when turning down their warranty coverage? Read JB’s letter inside.

JB writes:

Sadly, this report will be short on details for 2 reasons, which will become apparent as we go.

I’ve been a fan of Apple’s since the late 70′s, when I 1st got an Apple ][+. Over the years, I've owned exactly 4 brand-new computers (as opposed to various used/trash-picked boxes, or the ones work has given me.) 3 of them have been from Apple (The above mentioned A][+, a Mac Plus, and my current Mac Book Pro, and 1 was an Apple ][ clone (a Basis 128!).

Sadly, they’re REALLY getting on my nerves when it comes to my wife’s iBook.

She has not had good luck with Apple’s hardware over the years, and her current machine has been, while better than her previous one, still problematic – 2-3 new hard drives, a board or 2, and a couple of keyboards, at least. Apple has, mostly, dealt with reasonably good grace, but have been difficult from time to time, and we all know how the dumbing of the Genius Bar has gone.

The latest problem is a cake-taker, though. The center pin from her power brick BROKE OFF in the computer. Now, Apple’s infamous for power-cords that fray and break, but this is a totally new failure in my 18 years as a sysadmin. NEVER have I seen the pin of a power adapter break off in its computer.

She took it to an Apple store in the metro DC area (I’m not sure where. She’s living down there for school right now, while I’m home in Boston) and it seems they told her – 3 times: the local Genius, the Genius’ manager, and the regional service supervisor – that since they’ve never seen anything like this before (which isn’t surprising), they’re not going to cover it and instead she needs to pay them $300 for a new power board and for a new adapter.

In the mean time, she’s SOL. She has no computer. She has no school notes. She has none of the records of her previous discussions and issues with Apple about this and past machines. (Yes. I know. I’m a sysadmin. Where are her backups? The Cobbler’s Barefoot Children syndrome strikes again.)

I’ve suggested that she try to borrow a battery from said store and use Firewire Target Disk mode to get files off, and I’ll be forwarding her the exec CC contact info in http://www.consumerist.com/consumer/executive-customer-service/get-applecare-executive-customer-service-2 10715.php but really, this is, in my EVER so humble opinion, a joke! Just because the failure isn’t common, if it isn’t obviously (or even likely) a case of malfeasance on the part of the warranted (which I’d think would be obvious. The power adapter’s shield would have to be mangled if my wife, for some weird reason, had broken the pin off herself.) then it should be covered, or at LEAST much more carefully investigated before being rejected.

I’m… miffed.

Thanks for listening,
JB

From what we can tell, JB’s wife’s machine is a lemon, or maybe her computer is just cursed. Anyone out there got suggestions for JB? Exorcism? Crystals? —MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: CB Photography)

Comments

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  1. Falconfire says:

    BULL SHIT.

    Thats under warranty, trust me as I have had 2 of ours repaired for it in district, my personal iBook where it broke off inside somehow, and one used for presentations that the pin broke off on and Apple took it in no questions asked (well other than the normal ones)

    Either the poster is lying or there is a crew of fuckups working in the DC area Apple Stores.

    The only other thing I can think of, is its out of Apple Care, otherwise its completely and totally under warranty.

  2. snazz says:

    thats acutally a very common problem with old iBooks and Powerbooks, im really surprised that they said theyve never seen it before. we used to see it all the time when i worked for an apple authorized reseller/repair shop.

    It was never a repair covered under warranty because apple always deemed it user abuse. lame, in my opinion, but we had no footing to argue it. the cost of the repair they quoted her sounds about right. we would do a similiar job for maybe $100 less and sell her a more durable third party power adapter.

  3. kenposan says:

    now there’s a Win/PC advantage. Everything breaks so it’s all covered! LOL

  4. FishingCrue says:

    If they’ve never seen something and they deny coverage for it, do they keep a record of the denial so that when it happens a second time it will be covered? Otherwise they could keep saying they’ve never seen anything like that before for pretty much any problem and never have to cover anything!

  5. dbeahn says:

    What??? Apple PCs are the EASIEST to upgrade, ever! With a PC, you have to open the case, remove old parts, put in now parts – lots of problems.

    Not with a Mac. With a Mac, when you want to upgrade, you just pick the whole thing up, throw it away, and buy a new one. Easy.

  6. davere says:

    Actually I thought this was the reason why the new Macbooks have a magnet-based power adaptor that does not force any pins into the laptop and disconnects from the computer whenever anything or anyone pulls on the powercord.

  7. ShadowFalls says:

    The only way I could see that snap off is if a person over time was wiggling it back and forth over and over again, it is an odd thing, but not improbable if a power adapter gets stuck because of a tight fit. If this is the case, it is a flaw in the design and not user abuse.

  8. kirschey says:

    I just had and old iBook repaired by these guys in California. It took a little while, but was worth the wait. http://www.laptoprescuers.com They actually fix the motherboard with a soldering iron rather than replacing parts, which works out in your favor ($$$).

  9. Ticonderoga says:

    She is not SOL. This is the purpose of Small Claims Courts. Go there, pay the fee and Apple will probably pay you. If they do choose to defend, tell it to the Judge. It costs you little.

  10. djanes1 says:

    Long-time reader, first-time writer. This is a pretty common problem with Mac laptops, and a few minutes of google work will turn up quite a few stories about this happening to people and their attempts to fix it themselves. This happened to my girlfriend’s Mac, and the repair shop (not a ‘genius’ bar) she took it to said they would charge for the labor to remove it. However, when she picked it up they said it was covered by the warranty, which is surprising because I think it was out of warranty.

    http://blog.wired.com/cultofmac/2005/10/fixing_a_broken.ht

  11. BillyShears says:

    It’s stories like this that absolutely, positively put the fear of God into me when I entertain – even for a moment – the idea of buying a laptop. If my desktop breaks, it’s easy to swap out the components; if it’s my laptop, the whole magilla needs to take a roadtrip via UPS/FedEx/Whatever Ground and at worst I’ll never see it again.

  12. MentalDisconnect says:

    Weren’t you aware? All customers are lying cheats and will try to claim warranty for damage to their computer when they’re actually using their laptop as a skateboard and their powercord for towing cars!

  13. mac-phisto says:

    it sucks if they’re not covering this…it’s a pretty common issue on many consumer electronics. it’s also fairly easy to repair assuming you can get the case open & know how to operate a soldering iron.

  14. scats says:

    I work at an Apple repair store and Snazz is right. We see that problem all the time on those models and it isn’t covered by warranty or Applecare because Apple deems it user abuse.

    They probably offered up the lame excuse of “its not covered because we haven’t seen it before” as a measly and vague way out of telling the customer that it was her fault and thus avoiding an even more heated confrontation. Better to blame the arcane fine print of the Warranty policy than blame the customer to her face.

    Not a very satisfying explanation, but that’s my guess anyway. Either that or they’re idiots.

    At any rate, considering all the repairs she’s already had on that machine, and considering that the power adapter breakage is a very common issue they should’ve had some grace and made an exception.

  15. wenhaver says:

    I had this exact thing happen to me. I was told they’d cover the board, but not the adapter. I called bullsh*t on that, and eventually got the adapter and the board replaced for free.

    Of course, when they fixed that, they broke my keyboard. And when they didn’t install the new one correctly, my machine came back with no keyboard plugged in, the airport card sliding around inside the machine, screws rattling inside the machine, and friggin CHEETO DUST on the case. Not to mention the crack in the corner where it was dropped, the cracked bezel, and the pry marks where their “tech” tried to get the case open and failed. This was not covered, and Apple cried “user abuse”. I lost because I didn’t have pictures of the machine taken seconds before I put it in the box.

    I have a PC laptop, now.

    Apple can suck it, and this is from a Cult of Mac member of 12 years. But, you know, I’m not bitter or anything.

  16. Seth_Went_to_the_Bank says:

    Yup, “We’ve never seen anything like this before” is in the Apple Warranty handbook right after:

    - “We heard about this but have never seen it.”
    - “We heard about this and we won’t cover it.”

    And

    “Too many people have heard about this. We will cover it.”

  17. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    She has not had good luck with Apple’s hardware over the years, and her current machine has been, while better than her previous one, still problematic- 2-3 new hard drives, a board or 2, and a couple of keyboards, at least.

    Um.. What the heck is she doing to her Mac? Using it as punching bag?

    Or is she really that unlucky and every Mac she purchased in her lifetime was a lemon?

    I think there’s more to the story here.

  18. brattpowered says:

    This sounds like what I experienced with Verizon Wireless. A part of the hinge holding my new Chocolate flip phone together fell out, but since this was not a “known handset isssue,” they would not cover it under warrantee.

    Two days later I dropped the phone by accident, causing the screen to go blank. This was apparently a “known handset issue” so they replaced it.

  19. master_wombat says:

    This falls under the category of escalate, escalate, escalate – call Apple Customer Relations, they should take care of you.

    A couple years back, talking to them got the entire screen assembly replaced on my 12″ PB.

    In regard to your issue – I’ve seen this a fair bit, and its not actually that difficult a repair; yes, its a very annoying one – the DC in board is basically buried in that case, but it is doable.

    So, bug apple without mercy – and failing all else, just get the part and DIY.

  20. Shutterman says:

    I had a very similar experience with Kodak. I had a fairly expensive SLR camera and the focusing screen just fell out one day while I was changing lenses on a shoot. They insisted since they’d never seen that happen I obviously did something to it.

    I spent three months yelling back and forth with a supervisor while they held my camera hostage. Finally, I threatened legal action and the supervisor says “well, I went and took a look at it and it didn’t seem like a big deal to me so we fixed it for you.” Nice.

    So yeah, long story short, be polite but keep arguing. My grandfather always said “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

  21. JustThisGuy says:

    @LatherRinseRepeat:

    There might be more to the story here. But it is perfectly possible that every Mac she purchased has been a lemon, especially if it’s all been first (or even second) gen hardware. I’m sure we’ve all heard (and perhaps experienced) the horror stories before.

  22. Optimistic Prime says:

    I’ve never seen a Lamborghini, but I know they exist.

  23. kracer22 says:

    Doctor to patient “We’ve never seen that before so we can’t help you.” WTF? Better to take short term lost, than lose a customer for life.

  24. LAGirl says:

    same exact thing happened to me with my iBook! pin broke off, which meant i needed the port repaired and a new power adapter. what did the ‘Geniuses’ tell me? that it was customer abuse and they weren’t going to cover it under my AppleCare plan. i argued back + forth with the guy, telling him i don’t abuse my computer and they needed to cover it under warranty. they refused. i finally gave in and paid for the repair.

    before, i have never would have considered anything other than a MAC. but now? i won’t be ruling out a PC for my next computer purchase.

  25. She should call Apple’s corporate number (408) 996-1010 and ask to speak with Jeanne Toulouse’s office. That’ll get her to executive relations, a group that is largely competent and is charged with getting people out of Apple’s hair.

    She should mention the Consumerist post when she’s put into “Jeanne’s” voicemail. Of course, if Apple examines the part and it is broken due to abuse, she may get nothing. Often, that’s what the E.R. reps do; have folks bring questionable warranty items into an Apple store or other Apple service provider to check for obvious signs of abuse, and chances are that if this happens, she’s going to get what she’s asking for anyway.

    In my experience at Apple and as an Apple tech, I can say with certainty that this (A) is a common problem that is (B) most often due to unintentional abuse.

  26. @CaliforniaCajun: In my experience at Apple and as an Apple tech, I can say with certainty that this (A) is a common problem that is (B) most often due to unintentional abuse.

    “I only tripped over it once” was my favorite excuse for this kind of unintentional abuse.

    The new power adapters on MacBooks don’t have pins, but for earlier machines (and anything with a pin-socket A/C adapter), this is a very sore spot. It only takes 10-25 lbs of lateral pressure on the pin to shear it off inside of the computer.

  27. Wormfather says:

    @dbeahn:

    Best! Comment! Ever!!!

  28. lewsmind says:

    I would suggest going to a local Apple-authorized repair place. Often they will go the extra mile to make a customer happy when the Apple store can’t or just won’t.

    Personally I’ve seen broken-off pins be extricated by some needle-nose pliers. Then you’re out just the cost of a replacement AC adapter.

  29. MotherFury says:

    All of this talk of Apple becoming evil is scaring me. I gave up on PC’s because Dell made me crazy with their support issues and now I can’t TRUST Apple?

    Now what do I do???

  30. FLConsumer says:

    $300?!? You can buy a decent used Dell laptop off eBay for that and it might still be under warranty.

  31. FLConsumer says:

    @MotherFury: next time buy a “corporate” grade Dell. Excellent tech support (they’d probably even wipe your ass if you ask politely), solid machines. Their consumer-grade stuff (XPS/Inspiron/Dimension) suck.

  32. esquilax says:

    this is a good time for support agent surfing. don’t like the answer one gives you? try again with another. this holds true with any type of customer service.

    if that doesn’t work, you might try taking it to an authorized repair facility. they might have more leeway with what they determine to be a warranty repair.

    that being said, since the pin is *designed* to be removed under ordinary circumstances, you might have luck putting a really small amount of superglue on the end of a toothpick and sticking it in there and getting it attached to the broken off piece of pin, letting it dry, and pulling it out. then all you need is a replacement power adapter.

    all THAT being said, Apple really does need to get on the ball w/r/t warranty coverage. i’ve had several run-ins with them, and none of them are what i’ve considered to be flawless experiences.

  33. absolutgenius says:

    If this was the Tyson’s Corner Apple Store, it is completely understandable. The Tyson’s store is known for its deceitful demeanor when dealing with customers.

    I brought my Macbook Pro in for a bottom case replacement as authorized by a product specialist. They ordered the part and when it arrived to the store, I dropped of my computer.

    The next day they called and said my computer was fixed. I later found out (and they admitted) that then never actually fixed my computer or replaced the bottom case. The merely tried to “straighten” it.

    That is only part of the story, but Tyson’s lies. I was lied to by multiple Geniuses, and two managers. The best part was, I called them out on their lies and the Product Specialist did too!

  34. Buran says:

    @snazz: They’ll always deny even when a problem is a known problem. I took a machine in for a bad logic board issue (known to the extent of there being a recall out for it) and I got it back with a new logic board …

    … and a reformatted hard drive.

    WTF?

  35. AdamJacobMuller says:

    Identical thing happened to me, several years ago though. This was before apple was “huge” and before you even needed an appointment at the apple SoHo store!.
    The genius at the SoHo store used some super glue and a toothpick to pluck the center pin from the laptop, he replaced the power brick, I was in-and-out a very satisfied apple customer in under an hour.

  36. snrub says:

    Happened to me, twice.
    Much as I love apple, it pissed me off to drop 140EUR on a shoddy product

  37. pestie says:

    Maybe Apple just knows that the drooling, fashion-obsessed fanboy crowd will keep buying their overpriced crap no matter how badly they’re treated in the process?

  38. AcidReign says:

    …..The whole power cord thing with laptops scares me to death, as folks in this house are always walking by, tripping over the cord, and snatching it viciously apart. Fortunately, our Acer power thingie comes apart easily in several places. The Lenovo one looks a lot more fragile, and does have a tiny center pin. I’m figuring it will get broken off sooner or later. Hopefully, I’ll be able to extract the pin, or blow it out with compressed air!

  39. Techguy1138 says:

    Falconfire et al.

    This is a consumer based web board. Just becasue you happen to love apple doen’t mean that people with hardware troubles are abusing their machines.

    LAY OFF THE USERS. Yes sometimes people do abuse their equipment. However sometimes people simply USE the equipment and it fails.

    Apple make VERY substandard hardware. From about the year 1999 on I have had nothing but trouble with their laptops. I needed a mac laptop for work and wound up with a new one each year. There was no point in apple care since the machines were usually so messed up Apple would ship a new one after 4-5 repair attempts.

    I have had 4x mother boards fail, 4x display hinges, 2 dvd drives that damaged disks, a display failure,a processor daughter card fail, a case failure. keyboard failure, speaker failure and maybe some others.

    Sometimes it was simply a failure to reassemble my machine correctly, or the use of refurbished parts from different macs. There were times that apple sent me back a non-booting machine, sometime it simply had different problems then when I sent it in. I think sometimes they replaced parts just for fun.

    20x repairs on 3 computers in 4 years with a 1-2 month turnaround time.

    I recommend that you get the NYS attorney general involved pronto. That was the only way to get Apple to help me out.

  40. cephalopodcast says:

    This happened to me. Basically, I followed the manual when it came to cord management for my Powerbook G4 power adapter. When the cord frayed and shorted out, Apple would not cover it. The Genius said it was my fault. I purchased a third-party adapter from CompUSA because the Apple Store did not have any branded ones in stock. Shortly thereafter, the pin broke off inside.

    For anyone who owns a Powerbook or MacBook, I recommend you wrap your cord loosely using this illustration. This is the technique recommend by the Genius. Seems to have worked so far with the new MacBook I had to buy.

  41. radioboy says:

    This happened to mine once. Just the tip of the center pin broke off in the hole. I ponied up $99 for a new adapter since I was out of warranty anyway.

    Soon after my DC-in jack stopped working (shocking) and I had to replace it. I went to a local Apple service center, the part was like $50 and I could either buy the part and do it myself (not impossible since I’ve taken the 12″ PowerBook apart to replace the HD) but I decided to pay the $250 for them to do it.

  42. shdwsclan says:

    Standardization is the key.
    With my thinkpad, its built so everything is replaceable and interchangeable.
    If the keyboard messes up, there are screws on the bottom that release is.
    Thats what i really like for thinkpads, they provide you their company repair manual for it when you buy it, all the part number, even step by step instructions on how to take it apart…

  43. AcidReign says:

    @shdwsclan: Yep, after dealing with Acer, that’s why I went to Lenovodirect.com when I needed a laptop that worked! I did finally get some good info and schematics, and get the Acer back running, but it’s a real pain to work on!

  44. heligoland says:

    I can’t comment on her other Apple hardware problems, but I think some important details got left out of this story.

    As several others have commented, it’s not too hard to accidentally damage the power connector on these machines, if you (or your friend/child/dog/whatever) ever pull the cord the wrong way, step on it, etc. So, it’s conceivable that JB’s wife doesn’t know what happened to the machine, yet something caused it to break.

    (If you wake up in the morning and there’s a huge dent in the side of your car, do you go and expect the dealer to fix it for free because it was fine the last time you drove it?)

    I’d wager money that she went to the Apple store and said “The pin just randomly fell out of the connector and got stuck in the computer, and I swear that I always took perfect care of it and never abused it!” If that’s the case, then what the Apple store people were saying was “We’ve never seen these break without being abused” — meaning, it has to have been damaged by someone.

    They’re not going to accuse you of lying, because they know that you may not have seen someone drop it — but they’re still not going to replace it for free.

  45. rworne says:

    Add me to the “broken pin” list.

    I was still under the 1 year warranty when the center pin broke on the “yo-yo” power adaptor. This was back in 2002.

    The local Apple store looked at it and replaced it over the counter. While they were at it, they replaced some of the loose rubber “feet” under the laptop as well.

  46. Dag says:

    Wow, and I thought Macs were supposed to have quality hardware. In the decade or more that I’ve been using PCs, I’ve had a grand total of two hardware failures, one of which was entirely my fault because I failed to install adequate cooling.

    I have more than half a dozen PCs in my house at any given time – some made by various manufacturers (Dell, HP/Compaq), some built by NCIX.com, and some custom built from parts by me.

  47. Legodude522 says:

    Apple sucks… as in customer support. Call them on a daily basis for a few weeks. You will eventually find someone who cares. Took me around 40 calls. Will never let that happen again.(not buying from them again)

  48. laurion says:

    I had the same thing happen to me one time. I’d bough a new power adapter to replace one that died (frayed at the plug…), and three weeks later this happened. The TRS pin just came out. I called Apple and got them to replace it under the 90 day. Fortunately, it was just the very tip, and it just fell into the case, which I was able to get out.

    Sorry you had such a poor experience, because typically I have had very good experience with apple support, but I suppose when you’re dealing with regional operations like the Apple Stores, service can and will vary from individual to individual.

  49. cflury says:

    I am not sure what you are doing to your laptop to have that many issues with it. Your wife might need to re-examin how she treats her electronics. Put the laptop in a bag, and try not to drop it so much.

  50. swalve says:

    This is the sort of trouble you get calling retail monkeys “apple geniuses”. The geek squad has a better idea- sadly, the exact type of person who’d work for them are the types who’d think ‘geek’ is a compliment.

    I’ve NEVER seen a warranty claim denied by Dell, HP/Compaq or IBM/Lenovo, in 8 years in the warranty provider industry, over probably thousands of machines. Never. But the trick is, you have to buy their professional/business product. You get what you pay for, you know?

  51. dissolution says:

    Meh. You only ever hear about the bad stuff. What you don’t hear about is the millions of people who happily use their Apple hardware every day without fail. Plus people who love Windows are always looking for an opportunity to point at Apple and claim they’re inferior. I have a G4 ibook. I’ve never had any kind of problem with the power adapter or anything else. I even had the keyboard replaced under Applecare when I spilled half a litre of water on it. I’m perfectly happy and I got more than I paid for as far as I’m concerned.

  52. deatherm says:

    My first laptop was an eMachines M6809 purchased from Best Buy with extended warranty and the power adapter failed several times. The laptop would get so hot that it would melt the pin off the cord. The first time, the insertion point melted around the pin and that section of the laptop had to be replaced to remove it. However, the Geeks did not initially agree it was a warranty repair. They said it could be deemed abuse. The laptop would have to be sent to their repair facility and a determination made. They’d let me know. I was adamant that the melted plastic at the end of the power cord and the pin welded into the laptop was not of my doing. It’s is on its third or fourth power adapter now no questions asked.

    If the pin is stuck in the laptop, something else is probably going on. If not, power adapters may legitimately not be covered for wear. In any case, I wouldn’t deal with store lackies. Call the support line and ship it back.

  53. wearelegion says:

    I am having the same problem and then some. My machine no longer wanted to turn on, I left it off with the battery out for a few days in hopes that maybe it would resolve itself. When I went to charge it back up I inserted the power adapter normally and it felt weird, so I pulled it straight back out only to have the tip break off. I am being quoted somewhere around $250 to fix a faulty desing issue. I cant afford this, I thought I had bought a relible well built machine, not one where a little pin from the power adapter would cost me $250. I have attempted to contact the number listed earlier in this thread. The first person I spoke to said it was accidental damage and would not be covered by my warranty, but accident to me would mean pure chance, this is happening to too many people to be chance. I left a message with Jean and I truly hope Apple steps up and helps me out by replacing a part that does not cost them very much. I will continue to be a loyal Apple customer if they do, if not, well, just wait and see how many people I can convince not to buy from them.

  54. wearelegion says:

    After calling Jean another gentleman named Allen called me back. They still deny that it is an issue and will not help me in any way. Thank you Apple, I will not be buying your products ever again, and Im spreading the word wherever I can.