A MacBook Burned My Boss's Skin

Miriam says her boss had her skin blistered by a MacBook. Apparently the computer ran hot, but not uncomfortably so. The next thing the MacBook attack victim knew her skin, pictured, was blistered.

She writes:

My boss uses a Macbook Pro 2007. A three year old computer. She uses it both at work and at home – on the desk with a fan at work, and on her lap at home. One day, it felt a little warm, but she didn’t mind – it felt nice! She was just happily doing some accounting for work – in other words, running very small programs that shouldn’t be affecting how hot or slow the Macbook was running. After a couple hours, she realized she was developing a blister. This picture was taken the next morning in the office. She called Apple and did some research online, and found that there have been similar problems – but Apple’s stance is that Macbooks are NOT laptops and should not be used on the lap. However, on their own website they show users with the Macbook in their lap, and they claim “you can throw it in your briefcase or messenger bag and pull it out at an airport, at school, at the office, or on location without a second thought.” – but only if there is a flat surface, according to the user manual. Isn’t that a pretty steep limitation to a computer that is designed to portable and easy to use? You can’t use it on your lap? Does it get any LESS portable? There is not health hazard warning affixed to the Macbook – as there would and should be on other appliances that pose a risk to a user’s health.

So, she realized they weren’t going to admit fault due to legal issues that could arise, she just wanted it fixed. She has been using Macs for 10 years and wasn’t ready to give up on them just yet (in the meantime, my work laptop, an HP that cost about $600 at Costco, had the led light behind the screen go out – we sent it in, and when it returned 2 days later, they had replaced the processor, battery, and even the keyboard. Pretty awesome service for such a cheap laptop).

She spoke with several customer service representatives, who said that basically they would look at it and replace whatever was the problem – they NEVER mentioned replacing the hard drive, probably because they had just replaced it in February. They mentioned replacing her OS with Snow Leopard, but that they would call her to let her know what they were doing while it was in for repair. They never called, and when the laptop returned this morning, she looked at the paperwork. They replaced the hard drive (symptom: hard drive not recognized / does not mount), the thermal module (symptom: thermal module issue), and two fans (symptom: noise / hum / vibration issue). Now, the last time she sent the Macbook in for repair (in February when she was having problems with her screen) they told her to make sure she did a backup because it was probably something to do with the hard drive. So this time, when she sent it in, she did one just in case, even though NO ONE warned her to. She sent the laptop in on Saturday, April 24th. Then, when they replaced the hard drive without warning, there was no phone call, even offering to backup her data.

Now, we’re not blaming Apple for losing her data. Her WD Passport clearly didn’t work properly, and that is another issue. The issue we’re complaining about is the fact that a computer, purchased for over $1000, with an AppleCare support plan, was not working properly, burned her leg (scarring will definitely be an issue), was sent in for repair, and parts were replaced that were not estimated.

And of course, the Macbook is running hot again. With virtually no programs running. Her blisters looked like this only a few days later. Pretty intense.

Obviously, she should have read the manual and remembered, but as any nurse (my boss is an RN) knows, prolonged exposure to heat that may seem “comfortable” can still cause burns – and that is something that should be warned about with a label affixed to the computer. Sure, it’s not great marketing, but then maybe people would stop getting burns! Your computer should NOT physically harm you! Especially when the biggest software you are running is Quicken.

Miriam’s boss is not alone. If you use a laptop, what do you do to stop it from blistering you?