By far the most common “Apple” complaint we get at Consumerist is about our readers being denied warranty repairs because of some sort of “damage”.
While we do understand that Apple’s warranty doesn’t cover throwing your laptop into a river or sitting on it, most of the complaints we get are from genuine-sounding people who are astounded and hurt by being called liars and denied warranty coverage under a plan they paid a lot of money for.
Louis is such a person. After getting the runaround from Apple he sat down and wrote a nice letter to Steve Jobs about the poor quality of service that Apple’s warranty repair team was giving him. He blind CC’d the complaint to us. You you can read it… and Louis’ follow-up email, inside.
Louis writes to Steve Jobs:
June 10, 2007
Steven P. Jobs
1 Infinite Loop Cupertino, CA 95014
My name is Louis [redacted], and I have been a loyal Macintosh user for a relatively long period of time. I am writing this letter to inform you about the horrible experience I have been recently having with both Apple, Inc. and its products. Taking my years of using Apple’s products and services into account, I cannot say that I have ever experienced a situation as disappointing as the situation I am detailing to you today. As such, I purchased my MacBook Pro (Serial number: [redacted]) on March 7, 2006, only to find its enclosure becoming extremely hot after some time of use and the battery beginning to fail after two months. I had called AppleCare to resolve the issue, and the battery was replaced under my AppleCare warranty. The MacBook Pro was relatively fine for eleven months, that is until its display failed.
The failure of the MacBook Pro’s display occurred on April 7, 2007, when I was using the computer at my desk. The laptop is always used on my desk, as I was instructed to do so by AppleCare when I initially complained about its intense heat. As such, the MacBook Pro is rarely handled, only to transport it to Apple for service. After I was finished with my work on the computer, I had put the computer to sleep by gently closing its lid. I have always closed the lid by putting a slight amount of pressure on it until the lid made contact with the bottom casing. This time, however, the hinges failed to prevent the lid from falling, and the lid subsequently made contact with the bezel much more quickly than ever before. At this point in time, I realized that I still required use of the computer, and I lifted the lid up to awake the MacBook Pro from its sleep. I did this only to find the display plagued by a series of vertical lines covering about 2/3 of the screen’s area. I was initially bewildered by this, as I had never seen it occur before on any of my previous computers with LCD displays. I rebooted the computer several times, reset the PRAM, and even reformatted the hard drive with a fresh copy of OS X, but none of these things worked. I had no choice but to call AppleCare for support.
My initial AppleCare call (Case ID:[redacted]) resulted in a troubleshooting session essentially similar to the steps I had already conducted. The support agent, Sue, determined that I would have to bring the computer into an Apple Store for service, as there was nothing more AppleCare could do for me over the phone. I explained that the Apple Store nearest my home was a bit of a drive away, but bringing it there was still suggested. I then brought the computer to the Sagemore Apple Store in Marlton, New Jersey as soon as physically possible. The problem occurred over Easter weekend, so the store was not open until Monday, April 9th. The employees there determined that the computer would have to be sent out for service, and subsequently arranged for an at-home pickup. The employee that assisted me, Eric, inspected my computer while on the phone with the AppleCare depot, noting that it was in flawless condition. The process was relatively fast, and I thanked the employees for their assistance. A box arrived at my home the next day, and I packed the MacBook Pro for it to be serviced (Repair ID: [redacted]).
Some days later, I decided to confirm my repair status via Apple Support’s online repair status service. I noticed that the status indicated something akin to “Apple needs more information before we can repair your product. Please contact AppleCare.” By this time, I was surprised, as I had ensured that the Apple Store employee had provided all of my contact information to the AppleCare depot agent when the service request was arranged. I then called AppleCare, and the representative presented with me of a charge for $1259.95, based on the repair depot’s claim that the MacBook Pro had experienced “physical damage.” She then noted that the depot claimed that the bottom casing was showing “warping.” I had taken pictures of the MacBook Pro immediately before I had packaged it for service, and I could not identify the damage that the the repair depot was claiming. I requested to speak with a supervisor so the charge for service would be removed, but the supervisor failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion at the time. She then arranged for the MacBook Pro to be shipped back to my home without repair, as I had no other options at the time. In the process, she assured me that all of the components aside from the display and lower bezel casing would remain covered by my AppleCare plan. I had called again some time after that call in hopes of speaking with a representative that would repair the computer, but the representative would not agree to do so. This representative also confirmed that the only components no longer covered by my AppleCare agreement were the bottom bezel and LCD display. The representative then suggested that I file a claim under my credit card company’s extended warranty plan. In attempt to minimize the amount of aggravation on my part, I filed a claim with Visa for this service and waited for Visa’s response.
About a month later, I had received a call from a Visa claims administrator, and he stated that my claim was denied based upon Apple’s claims of “physical damage” to my unit. The claims administrator stated that he had spoken with Aaron at Apple, and Aaron had noted that there was “corrosion in the hinges that caused them to fail and a cracked screen.” As I had no other options, I then called AppleCare again in an attempt to resolve the issue.
By this time it was May 15th, and I spoke with Crystal [redacted]. She further detailed the depot’s claimed problems with my MacBook Pro, and these included the “warping,” “physical damage,” and “bottom bezel damage.” I explained to her that I did not cause the damage myself, and that no other person had handled the machine while it was in my possession. That is, while it was not at Apple to be serviced. She explained that there were pictures that the depot had taken illustrating this claimed damage, and that she was able to send the entire set to me. I received these pictures, and to this day, I fail to see any significant abnormalities with the computer. Crystal then claimed that Apple’s images prove that the LCD screen was physically cracked, yet the images which were sent to me do not illustrate anything remotely close to proof that the screen is “cracked.” Moreover, she denied that my computer’s hinges were corroded when I stated that is what Apple told Visa. I asked her to verify the claims again, and she again denied the existence of such corrosion. I was beginning to become suspicious of Apple’s practices at this point, as the information given to either to me or my credit card company was incorrect. After about an hour of attempting to resolve the issue, I was yet again left without many options. One of these options was contacting the Better Business Bureau, and I filed a complaint with them later that day. When had filed the complaint, I had realized that Apple was not a BBB member, but still believed that Apple would at least respond to the complaint by the given deadline. Now, it seems that I was wrong about that belief.
Since the lines on my MacBook Pro’s display were progressively worsening, I was forced to connect an external monitor to the computer to continue my daily work. As I do not use the machine solely for work, I attempted to play the few modern, Mac-based games available (Call of Duty 2, Civilization IV), and found that the MacBook Pro would unexpectedly shutdown while playing these games. These shutdowns would not even prompt the infamous kernel panic message, the computer would just completely cease operation. Further use of the machine led me to realize that the problem was only apparent while using graphics or CPU-intensive applications, as well as Windows XP under BootCamp. The problem would never occur when just using web browsing or email applications under OS X, regardless of version. As I had been familiar with a similar problem on the MacBook line of computers, I called AppleCare for assistance (Case ID: [redacted]). After detailing to him the problems which Apple claimed were wrong with the computer, the support agent stated that it was a hardware issue, most commonly with the logic board, and that a box would be sent to my home for repair (Repair ID: [redacted]). With the assurance of the previous support agents that all components aside from the screen and bezel would be covered, I naturally expected that the repair would be covered. As it turned out, this was not the case.
Two days after I had shipped the computer, I checked Apple’s online support status site, only to see that Apple now needed more information about my product before it can be repaired. I then called AppleCare, and spoke with Obi. Obi claimed that the previous assessment of physical damage voided my computer’s entire warranty until the fee for repair of the screen and bezel was paid. I explained to him that was not in line with what was told to me by previous representatives, and that the problem was relatively common. This did not have any effect, so I requested to speak with a supervisor, Jennifer. Jennifer confirmed Obi’s statement that the entire warranty was voided because “our repair depot does not handle partial repairs.” She further explained that computers which Apple claims have experienced “physical damage” are “hard to warranty.” As any reasonable person would do, I responded that that was a ridiculous statement based upon the other representatives’ claims, and that I would have to complain about this issue to Apple directly. Jennifer confirmed that Apple had received a letter on my behalf, and that I was “not being ignored.” As it is past the initial deadline for Apple’s response, June 7th, is sure seems as if this is not the case. As Jennifer was a dead-end for what she could offer me, I called AppleCare back again.
This time, I had spoken with Louise, and she confirmed the statements of the previous two representatives, Obi and Jennifer. I asked to speak with a supervisor, and was transferred to Cathy [redacted], possibly the most helpful person I had ever spoken with at AppleCare. After explaining the whole situation to her, including the fact that the corroded hinges statement differs from what was given to Visa, and the fact that other examples similar to the problems my MacBook Pro was experiencing could be located on the internet, she performed an intensive search of any applicable information. After about fifteen minutes of searching, she failed to uncover any information about the intense heat, claimed case warping, hinge failure, or screen failure affecting a “significant number” of MacBook Pros. If needed, I will send links detailing these issues affecting other user’s machines. I informed her that I had viewed an image of a MacBook Pro in Germany with case warping almost exactly matching Crystal’s description of the warping affecting my MacBook Pro. Sadly, she could not take the information regarding how large of a user-base this issue is affecting, as Apple did not have a significant amount of similar reports in their support database. Disheartened by this, I thanked Cathy for her attempt in assisting me and ended the support call.
Although I have been told by several representatives that Apple’s CEO does not accept mail, I am now asking for your assistance with the issue. In all of my time spent dealing with the computer and electronics industries, I have never before experienced anything quite like my experience with Apple and its support services. Over the course of two months, I have invested a great amount of my time endeavoring to resolve this issue, but have miserably failed. I have since recalled the belief I once held when I had initially switched to the Mac platform several years ago, a belief that Apple was one of the few companies in the industry which actually cared about its customers. Taking my recent experience with Apple into account, this belief could not have been further removed from the truth. I now ask you both as the CEO of a multinational corporation, as well as a decent human being, to provide a working computer for me. I have spent a large amount of money on Apple products, with my MacBook Pro purchase alone totaling $2848.00. I believe that any customer spending any amount of money on a product should receive a product in working condition, not one which quickly fails and is then determined as ineligible for repair under the expensive extended service plan.
I realize that your time is greatly valuable, and as such, I am deeply grateful for your consideration regarding this issue. Given the truly troubling experience I have had with Apple’s products and support services, I hope you will agree that a remedy is in order. Once again, I thank you for your time and consideration regarding this matter.
Nice letter, Louis! Here’s what he wrote us next:
After sending my email to Steve Jobs, a representative from Apple’s corporate executive relations discussed the situation with my repair, and he stated that the support representatives I spoke with did not fully take the heat generated by the computer into account for the display’s failure. As such, he offered to repair or replace the machine free of charge, and I received the replacement computer on Tuesday. The representative is now working with me to transfer my AppleCare to the new machine.
I would like to thank the Consumerist for the wonderful service they provide to consumers in need. I apologize if my reply had not been the fastest, as I wanted to make sure all was well before I contacted you again. Thank you again for your time.
So if Apple is accusing you of damaging your computer, and you know you didn’t, take a few moments and write a letter like Louis’ to Mr. Jobs. It doesn’t cost you anything! If you know you’re right don’t back down. —MEGHANN MARCO