If Your Apple Is A Lemon, Try Emailing Steve Jobs

Yep, it’s another one of those “email Steve Jobs” posts.

Reader Stephen wrote us a nice lengthy complaint email and cc’d Steve Jobs:

Hi Consumerist!

I purchased a MacBook Pro in November of 2006. Prior to the expiration of my one year warranty, I’ve had several component failures. Since being without the laptop affects my work productivity, I put the repairs off and figured I’d just bring it in with a laundry list of items just before the warranty expired.

On October 15th, I asked my wife to drop the laptop off at the Apple Store in Raleigh, NC for a display-related buzzing sound, a top case replacement (the coating was peeling off) and a SuperDrive replacement (an Apple firmware upgrade killed it). The Genius at the store said the buzzing noise was a known issue and that it was caused by a capacitor on the logic board. He then said they would not be replacing the logic board. They did agree to replace the top case and SuperDrive.

My wife called me immediately after dropping the laptop off and told me about the refusal. Knowing solid-state electronics should not make mechanical noises, I called Apple and the representative suggested I either mail it off to the Repair Depot or take it to another Apple Store. Not wanting to mail the laptop to some distant repair depot, I asked my wife to run back to the Apple store, retrieve the laptop, and bring it by the other Apple store in Durham, NC.

Upon arrival at the Durham store, my wife was informed the Geniuses were all booked up for the day, and was asked to schedule an appointment or come back another time.

Frustrated, I called Apple back and arranged to have the MacBook Pro returned to their Repair Depot. I sent the laptop off and got it back with a new top case, new logic board and a new SuperDrive a couple of days later. Immediately after powering the laptop up, the buzzing noise returned. I escalated this to Dina in Apple’s Executive Customer Care group at which point I was asked to drop the laptop back in the mail or drive down to the Apple store again. Not wanting to go through the hassle of reformatting and re-installing all of my software (I am covered by an NDA), I said I’d think about it and get back to her. At this point, I had decided the extra hassle for the buzzing noise wasn’t worth the effort.

A few days later, I noticed the mouse button was sticking and made popping sounds when pressed. I called Dina back and she made me an appointment at the Raleigh store for them to look at this new problem and resolve the buzzing sound while I was there. I arrived on time and had to wait an additional 45 minutes after my appointed time for a Genius to become available. The technician determined the noise was coming from the display inverter (as I had originally suggested) and that the mouse button was defective. The mouse button and trackpad are part of the top case, so Apple would need to replace the top case yet again.

The top case and display inverter were ordered, and I was told I’d receive a telephone call when the parts arrived, at which point I’d need to drop the laptop off again.

For those of us who are counting, I’ve had to bring the laptop into either an Apple store or a Repair Depot 4 times thus far and have driven over 200 miles to the two Apple stores. All of these repairs and trips are in the past month. What do I have to show for it? My laptop still needs a top case and a display inverter. If Apple gets this next repair right, it will have taken them a total of 5 tries to fix a couple of common problems.

I expressed these concerns to Dina on the phone today and told her I didn’t feel it was acceptable to require so many trips, escalations and telephone calls to get some simple warranty repairs accomplished. Given the situation, I asked Dina if she would be willing to arrange for a replacement laptop and she declined.

I made it excruciatingly clear that I will not be purchasing any additional Apple products.

This is my first experience with Apple’s warranty program. Needless to say, I am not impressed with their troubleshooting and repair abilities. I am even less impressed with their refusal to address these shortcomings by simply replacing a machine they obviously have no interest in fixing. Please keep my tale of woe in mind if you’re contemplating an Apple purchase.

Repair History.. in the past 30 days and four tries:

SuperDrive Replacement (dead)
Battery Replacement (dead)
Top Case Replacement (peeling/cracking)
Mainboard Replacement (mis-diagnosis of noisy Display Inverter)

The Fifth try (when parts arrive, hopefully on 11/12)
Display Inverter (noise)
Top Case Replacement (to replace the failing trackpad assembly on the new part)

Before we got around to posting the letter, we received another email letting us know that Stephen “had a new laptop less than 48 hours after sending in that email.”

So if you’re having problems getting your issue escalated, why not write us an email like Stephen’s and cc it to Steve Jobs? We don’t know who or what mysterious entity reads sjobs@apple.com, but something is out there.



Edit Your Comment

  1. C2D says:

    Ugh, that is just way to long for me to care.

  2. DallasDMD says:

    @C2D: ADHD strikes again.

  3. SaveMeJeebus says:

    tl;dr, but I’m glad whatever went on got resolved. I’m anxiously awaiting an unresolvable problem with something so I can try this EECB stuff out.

  4. Macroy says:

    @DallasDMD: More like a case of TL;DR (probably NSFW).

  5. mgyqmb says:

    @Macroy: I am so glad that someone with a mudkipz icon linked to ED. My day is complete!

  6. canerican says:

    I emailed the Cosumerist about a similar experience with Apple, except they flat out refuse to me, my DC in board was scheduled to be fixed, and they just didn’t do the repair, the top bezel has a broken clip causing the screen to separate (they broke it while replacing the screen). My bottom bezel has about a 2mm gap in it (between the bezel and the clamshell).
    I escalated and asked for a new laptop because it was so defective, I kid you not this is the answer I got from executive customer service, “You already have gotten 2 new laptops (note: I had 2 laptops that APPLE said were beyond repair because they were so defective) I have never heard of a anyone going through this many, I’m sure its frustrating, but your repairs will be done soon.”
    The thing is I won’t even go to my local Apple store in Buffalo because they have already been extremely rude and I don’t feel comfortable going back.

  7. BigNutty says:

    I read the last paragraph. I’m glad he got a new laptop.

  8. themanishere says:

    FYI: ED stand for erectile dysfunction.

    I’m glad I have a Sony. Nuff’ said.

  9. themanishere says:

    I just tried to post a comment here and it did not occur…hmmm. What is consumerist’s email?

  10. themanishere says:

    wait–now they both appeared….emailing really works!

  11. lesbiansayswhat says:

    Same experience, tech exec extended my warranty a week and got the defective items replaced for free (casing for Macbook, melting adapter). But since stores in the midwest are so spread out it took my an hour total for each trip made (3) to get my stuff done. They messed up my screen and it required another trip to fix but in the end they were ridiculously nice and helpful. The store was the Old Orchard one in Skokie, IL. I brought in other old broke Macs while I was there, prepared to pay for extensive diagnosing and it was done for free. I had never heard of any company diagnosing electronic stuff for free while acting like it was no big deal and looking like they wanted more. Some of these geniuses are really into this.

  12. pauljunk says:

    Lesson to all. Don’t buy from apple. They lock consumers into proprietary hardware and software and then they screw you. They are no different than verizon wireless or any other mobile company. Build your own PC.

  13. trillium says:

    I’m really concerned that Apple’s quality (hence their support) is going down the tubes fast. At the dawn of the iMac I had troubles with a sage green. Since it was pre-Apple store, after spending some time on the phone with them, they ended up cross shipping a new one. I never had a problem with it after that. I’ve had a G3 iBook, a MacBook Pro and a mini that have all been pretty unscathed by issues.

    This years aluminum iMac – whole other story though. Compound that by the fact that there are alot of issues surrounding the new operating system and Apple has set themselves up for a support disaster. I’ve all but given up trying to get support for my perodically freezing iMacs (yes there are two in the house with identical problems) since the issue I have pales in comparison to some of the other support threads I’ve read over on Apple’s forums.

    I did try calling and getting an idea if Apple has any fix in the wings. They wanted me to pack up both 24″ monsters and lug them to the local Apple store. I took a raincheck since I cant reliable recreate the freeze issue. It’s definately not a year for new Mac users, no matter what the numbers say.

  14. ParkerTheDog says:

    Wow. I thought Apples were supposed to be high quality and reliable. However, I’d never buy one myself, and the stories in this thread reinforce that opinion.

    As far as building your own PC, that’s great for desktops. However, this story is concerning a laptop, and as far as I know, building your own laptop is close to impossible (new business model anyone?). Where can you buy laptop specific parts? Why hasn’t anyone (NewEgg) started something like this yet??

  15. floydianslip6 says:

    I’ve been an mac user for a long time but lately quality is definitely going down. Ever since the iPod explosion of 2003 I’ve seen a steady decline in quality.

    It sucks. Oh well.

  16. omniomi says:

    Reading your email I am suprised that they replaced your computer. I own an Apple and I know that the regular repair process for a portable computer is for them to mail it in as I have had to do this before. The fact that you drove “200 miles” in the process is not Apple’s fault. Had you phoned AppleCare and let them mail it in you would have had to walk to 20 feet to the door to give it to the currier and no more.

    Furthermore the fact that you took it to an Apple Store and then to another Apple Store without having it repaired at either because you were not happy with the extent of the repair that they were offering you does not qualify in my mind as “an attempt to fix it”.

    Also, if I remember back to when then display buzzing first became an issue I believe I heard something about if you turned down the display brightness and the buzzing went away it was a problem with some sort of board in the computer (not the main logic board) and that replacing that component would fix it. Chances are had you spoken to a Sr. Technician or Product Specialist at Apple instead of wasting the time of some executive you would have had your computer fixed properly the first time without any driving – but then again it seems all anyone ever wants is a new one – shame really that *you* wasted so much of your own time.

    People really do not realize that Sr. Techs for many IT companies have many of the same powers that Executive Relations type groups have – the only difference is they have to justify their actions more strongly (however if you don’t think a sr. tech could justify replacing your computer so you skip them and goto an executive group – then sub-conciously you know you dont deserve a new computer).

    I am a Sr. Tech for large IT company and infact our Executive Assistants have to call us before they replace a customers computer in some cases to ensure that nothing has been overlooked and that replacement is a viable option to correct the issue – not sure if that is true for Apple but I wouldn’t doubt it. If customer didn’t waste their time and came straight to me instead I would have been happy to help them. Instead the customer now has an executive case on their record and when techs look at it they are going to wonder if the customer is going to try and trick something out of them.

  17. Smd75 says:

    My girlfriend had a horrible lemon of a macbook. It had a heat sink issue, which was obnoxious and finally solved by the SoHo Apple Store, where she took it. Then something else died. Her Harddrive died, finally her Logic board died. I told her to ask for a brand newone since she had 4 things die on her current laptop. They were reluctant, “normally we dont, but in your case we can.” And she got a new one. I was also preparing to write Steve Jobs an email if the Apple store failed. Her parents are now discouraged with mac because my girlfriend has had so many problems, and I have never had a problem.

  18. m0unds says:

    Wow, wonderful customer service yet again..

  19. It’s a shame to hear that story. My iBook G4’s “Delete” key randomly fell off days before my one-year warranty expired. I called Apple, asked them to just send me a new key, and instead they sent me an entirely new keyboard.

    As an Apple fan, it’s sad to see so many folks have problems with their Macs, but it could be that they’re selling more, so the average failure rate goes up. Back when Apple made all their own parts, it doesn’t seem like this was that big of an issue (excusing fun examples like the HindenBook).

    Apple should bend over backward to help customers out – especially now that they’re flush with cash. They can afford it. The point is to offer the best computer experience around. Stories like this make that harder to achieve.

  20. bkraus says:

    My last 12″ powerbook had 3 logic boards, lit on fire (and was even a replacement after the first one had 4 repairs back to back on it), had the display replaced twice, and the casing bent after my last repair with Apple. They said it was fine. It wasn’t perfect, which isn’t fine, especially after all the issues it’s had. I am an Apple Developer, I have an 8 Core Mac Pro as my primary box, an Xserve, 3 more Mac Pros, 4 MacBook Pro’s, 4 iMacs, and a bunch of Mac Minis (all testing stuff). I am also a certified Apple repair technician, I think I can tell if something that was repaired by them was not fixed properly. I won’t buy another box for my own use again, and I have major issues with justifying buying anymore hardware from them at work too. The last purchase was over 20K. Service has gone downhill greatly in the last few years.

  21. xgenius says:

    As an ex Mac Genius, I can tell you that every email sent to Steve Jobs is definitely read by someone. My store performed a few repairs after the customer emailed Steve. All of these repairs were either units with physical damage or units out of warranty. I’ve seen iPods replaced that were completely smashed because someone emailed Steve and complained about being refused warranty service at the retail store. So if you have a faulty product, whether it is damaged or not, just email Steve and you will either get a free repair or a new unit.

  22. bkraus says:

    Also, to clarify, I dealt with Executive Relations after emailing sjobs@apple.com for my latest issue. They were of absolutely no help, and an Apple Store manager told me one thing and completely lied to them about it. Their products look great, but they are not always willing to stand behind them. The flaws are often great, unfortunately.

  23. Hackoff says:

    I sent an email to sjobs@apple.com a few days ago and I was shocked to get an email back from “Steve”. It was short and somewhat curt, but could it really have been the Stevemeister?

  24. trillium says:

    I haven’t reached out to Executive Relations..yet. I’m giving the Apple Store one shot and one shot only at fixing what has become the plague of any early adopter of the aluminum iMacs. I’m disheartened that after spending hours on the phone with Apple support they said to take the machines to the Apple Store. We took the one that has the highest percentage of freeze issues and was told that they would need to keep it 3-5 days for diagnosis (as if they dont believe the documented freeze issue and the times that I’ve presented). Problem is its the only system my husband utilizes, so both machines are going back to the Apple Store Wed. night so they can “cook” and hopefully freeze while at the store. Apple isn’t willing to write it off as a hardware issue, but it is pretty darn coincidental when identical machines exhibit the same freeze issue.

    Wish me luck… it could get ugly as I’ve gone from singing the praises of Apple to limping along with an embarrased frown while I dragging my 24″ iMac to a retail store.