Dear Apple: My Macbook Keeps Trying To Light My House On Fire, Please Replace It

This poor guy is named Steve. Steve’s Macbook keeps trying to light his house on fire, so Steve would like replacement. He’s already sent the computer for repair several times, gotten it back, at which time it tried to light his house on fire again.

The machine in question (which is not pictured here because Steve sent it to Apple to be repaired) likes to shoot off sparks that land on his copy of the New York Times. The NYT is not only the paper of record, but it also functions rather effectively as tinder.

Steve would like his Macbook replaced, Apple. He’s written to Steve Jobs and dealt with Apple’s executive customer service people and is still being denied a replacement. He does not want another (this will be the 4th) repair. He wants a new Macbook that does not double as an infernal device.

Here’s Steve’s letter:

Dear Mr. Jobs,

I hate to write you about this as opposed to going through the normal channels of communication w/ costumer service but my Macbook laptop has been in for repair 3 times and has had the battery replaced once and the power cable replaced once after sparking violently and singing my desk.

Now it’s happened again! I was going to plug in the power adapter to the computer and it sparked violently at the connection and toasted the newspaper next to my laptop!

On top of this my screen is still not quite right (I’ve had it replaced 2x due to a yellowish hue of the screen) – I work in graphics & color correction and this is a big issue for me! (Yes I’ve calibrated it several times – the issue seems to be with the hardware). I’m not sure if macbook screens are just yellow by design or what, but the person who sold me the laptop a year and a half ago said the screen would be perfect for my work, and so far it’s been anything but.

I have apple care, so it hasn’t been too expensive getting the work done, but it has cost me a LOT in time and due to the fact that it’s nearly set my room on fire twice now, I’m really at the end of my rope. I want to file the highest kind of appeal at this point! It seems every time I appeal the service department on the phone they tell me to just wait it out for the new parts – and every time I take the laptop into the store to have them check out the screen discoloration they say there’s nothing wrong with it, even if I A/B the screen next to one that looks pristine.

Please know, I am a big fan of your operating system and software – and I was under the impression that your hardware was top notch, but the pro-dell notebook I had before I bought my mac only ever had one issue, and as soon as there was a hardware problem they issued me an entirely new notebook that was a gigantic upgrade in return for my patience and inconvenience at work (they upgraded my single to dual core and added an amazing graphics card, which I never imagined a computer company would do for someone).

Consider my case. My name is Steve [redacted]and my macbook’s serial number is [redacted]. If you could help me out here I would be very grateful. I want to write an article for the tech blog I occasionally write for, documenting my experience with the laptop over the last year and a half and the subsequent dealings w/ tech support/replacements/etc – I think this would be a really great chance for you to help a poor mac user out and let there be a happy ending to his story.


Three days later we got an update from Steve:

Hi Alex –

The problem is still in flux. I’ve been speaking with Dina @ Apple Executive relations regarding the issue. They sent me to the apple store yesterday who stayed open late to repair my laptop because I had expressed that time was a big factor – this was really awesome of them, and the guy who helped me out (Derek, at the 14th St. Apple Store in NYC) was really helpful.

BUT! Alas, my problems just got worse. I got the computer back to my house and plugged it in to my external HD which I run the Apple backup program Time Machine on. It wasn’t until it began backing up my system that I realized that the repair to my laptop had totally hosed my OS. The HD is gone from the finder, my DVD drive no longer works consistently (perhaps a side effect of the original shock), and now my backed up HD image has been totally corrupted since I (stupidly) allowed it to do a nightly backup before testing out the machine.

Dina called me back, and I explained what happened and she put me in touch with a specialist who was also very courteous and helpful but also ruled that the issue (at least with the DVD drive) was hardware based, not a result of the software I have on the machine. Dina was gone for the day, but I feel like at this point, after I was mis-led on the quality of the macbook display LCD, the 2 fires it nearly started, the DVD issue, and now the hosing of my essential files, I shouldn’t have to go back in to the store and wait for yet another repair. I don’t trust the process! It will have been my 5th time in for a repair on this 1.5 year old machine!

My reasoning is, I was mis-sold on the quality of the glossy macbook screen, which the salesman assured me was of adequate quality to do basic color correction work in graphics – it turns out, it’s far from that. I can live with being a sucker to some degree, but now that the computer has put me and my home in danger twice, and still isn’t working after all of these repairs; I either want my money back or a Macbook Pro with a matte screen which is actually acceptable for the work I intended the computer for in the first place. If that’s asking too much I would settle for a refund for the computer and the apple care and apple software I bought for the computer since it’s been a giant loss now that I have no computer and my files have been corrupted as far as I can tell.

Let me know if you think this is a reasonable request – I feel like after a computer nearly lights your house on fire you should be considered a special case and I honestly kind of feel like regardless of dealing with the executive level of support at Apple, I’m still jumping through the normal front-line tech support hoops.


Yesterday, another update from Steve:

I asked for a refund and was denied. I also mentioned how much personal and business data I lost – the plea fell on deaf ears.

I mentioned I heard apple had the best support, she was unmoved even by stories of others getting replacement computers from apple for less severe issues than this one.

I think my plan is this: Im going to try and cut my losses, get the computer repaired at the shop as many times as it takes to get it back in pristine condition and then put it up on eBay. I can’t possibly make back what I lost but I can get this white beacon of despair out of my life and move on to a company who gives a crap about their customers.


Here is a picture of the scorch & melted paint on the desk and the toasted newspaper I had next to the DC in & one photo showing how they were aligned on the desk when it happened. I wish the desk wasn’t painted black either, it would make the burn easier to pick out but you should be able to see it without any trouble.

I’m sure if I wasn’t sitting there when the spark occurred to extinguish the newspaper the house may well have gone up.



Edit Your Comment

  1. stre says:

    steve looks creepy

  2. bob9 says:

    Poor Steve the MAC user, why does he keep trying to get another one?

  3. Meg Marco says:

    @stre: Aw, leave Steve alone. He’s sad.

  4. SchecterShredder says:

    You know, I was actually considering purchasing my first ever Apple MacBook. The new $3,100 Air. I was mortified when I found out it cost that much but was still willing to spend that and give Apple a shot. Not anymore. This story made me realize I could get one hec of a Windows based laptop with top-of-the-line graphics and better support/warranty service somewhere else. Way to go Apple. Sorry Steve. Thanks for the heads up. Good luck ditching that thing…*shudders* so close…

  5. m4ximusprim3 says:

    Steve has been infinitely more patient than I would have been. The second time it tried to set my house on fire, I would have returned it and demanded a refund. Had they refused, I would have offered to plug it in in their back room :)

    @stre: And yeah, he does. Kind of a ted kazinski meets adam corolla vibe.

  6. stre says:

    @Meg Marco: oh i feel for the guy, he just looks creepy in this pic. hope things work out for you, steve.

    @bob9: he claims he’s forgoing Macs and moving onto a company “who gives a crap about their customers”. where he’s going to find one of those, i have no idea, but he’s gonna try!

  7. Crymson_77 says:

    Wouldn’t this fall under the category of “Potentially EXCEPTIONALLY FUCKING BAD PRESS”?

  8. sickofthis says:

    It would be highly irresponsible of him to sell a hazardous laptop on Ebay. He needs to sue Apple in small claims court for breach of contract.

  9. Hanke says:

    Gee, with all the problems people have getting their Macs to work right, and getting then repaired when they don’t, I’m so glad I use Windows.

  10. @stre: Helpful and germane. It’s always nice when you participate.

  11. apotheosis says:

    “Apple Firebook” is its own tag now?


  12. Darkwish says:

    Yet another reason I refuse to buy Apple products.

    While I agree that it should be replaced at this point, I doubt he’s ever going to get a refund. Maybe next time it starts a fire, let the thing burn for a bit so they have to replace it. (And keep a fire extinguisher handy of course.)

  13. deserthiker says:

    Is it the MacBook that is trying to set Steve’s house on fire or is it sparks overflowing the bowl of his crack pipe?

  14. MDSasquatch says:

    Wait for the next small fire, then call the fire department. Tell them you had a small computer fire and you are worried that it may have spread to places you might not think of, you want the fireman (experts) to check the place out for you. Get your report, contact Apple, if you get no help, call the news media, on a slow day, they will air something like this.

    I had a house in Florida a few years ago that was struck by lightning, left a huge hole in the roof, fried all the electronics, but by the Grace of God, didn’t start a fire. We called 911 anyways and the fire department came out and inspected the entire house for us just to be sure we didn’t have any smoldering flame issues.

    Fireman are great citizens, we all need to help them out whenever possible.

  15. Typhoid says:

    “Apple Firebook!” I love it!

    Would a Lemon Law apply here?

    On the bright side, if it DOES light his house on fire he would win hands-down if he sued Apple (as long as he documented this entire battle).

  16. Murph1908 says:

    I lost all sympathy for this guy when he said he would sell it on eBay.

  17. AaronZ says:

    I’ll second the issue of suing them in small claims court. Is there a case for buying a lemon computer?

    Another option is to buy fire insurance for your apartment and let the mother burn! Then sue apple. (Though that is particularly irrisponsible to the people in adjacent aparements.) :)

  18. Falconfire says:

    I have to wonder, how the hell is it sparking? The only way I could see it happening is through something metal making a connection thats shorting something… I could understand a frayed power cord but at the magsafe connector? There is something he’s not telling us.

  19. Typhoid says:

    @Murph1908: Agreed. It’s bad enough that it happend to him, but you don’t make it someone else’s problem. However in all fairness, he did say he would do it AFTER it was completely and finally repaired. Hopefully he meant after he got a full replacement. It sounded like he just never wanted to deal with Apple again after this.

    Who knows, he might get extra if he tags it “Apple Firebook” :) Or he might get some money selling it to a TV station and they can do a special “investigation” on it, after letting it light a set on fire.

  20. ElizabethD says:


    … And by “creepy” I assume you mean “hot.”

  21. UpsetPanda says:

    In no way is this one incident of the firebook an example that the rest of us should quarantine our macbooks. Mine has functioned perfectly fine since I bought it in July. Is it lying in wait, ready to shoot deadly fire sparks? Maybe, maybe not. But this story shouldn’t be the end all to make people go “I’m never buying an apple ever!” because technology can either perform well or be crap, and defective. Looks like Steve got a defective laptop, and the problem just hasn’t been fixed at all, despite his tries. It doesn’t mean macbooks are all defective, he just got a bad lemon.

  22. FLConsumer says:

    Consumer Products Safety Commission — give ’em a call. That obviously is a DANGEROUS product that needs to be RECALLED. :) That might get Apple’s attention.

  23. Hiphopopotamus says:

    Apple has the best computer support **if you go to an Apple Store**. Considering its hundreds and thousands of dollars to repair, if you have an Apple store within a 3-4 hour drive, its normally worth it to go in person.

    Go when its crowded, and make sure you say clearly and loudly enough for store customers to hear ‘I would not have bought this product had I known it was going to cause such problems and you would be so hesitant to help out a customer.’

    Trust me… problem gets taken care of very quickly.

  24. Hiphopopotamus says:

    I also think theres a lesson to be learned here about keeping flammable materials next to power outlets, but thats another article in itself.

  25. TMurphy says:

    If the Apple ignition device did serious damage, is it on Steve’s hands, or would Apple be liable? I know I won’t trust anything that has a known risk of fire unless I know I’m not the one putting money at risk (and in the meantime I’ll have a fire extinguisher on hand to protect myself).

  26. FLConsumer says:

    @UpsetPanda: I’ve run both platforms (Mac & PC), easily spent >$100k on Macs and PCs. Also have had plenty of bad hardware on both sides of the fence. HOWEVER, I’ve put my PCs through far more hell (let’s call it what it really is, running PCs @ 140F room temperatures = abuse) and never had one of them catch fire or spark. Plenty of components fail from the abuse, but never anything dangerous.

  27. Megladon says:

    @bob9: I dont see why he doesnt just let it burn his house down. He’s a mac user, its believable that its possible even after all these repairs. Thats some press apple would love “POS apple product burns house down!”

    Or do what was suggested over the past few weeks and take them to small claims court.

  28. stre says:

    @Maude Buttons: right back at you, maude. look, no one complains about your “captain pedantic” ravings or the other lovely jabs at comments, which are obviously great fun for you and yet rarely apropos to the discussion. if you’ve got nothing better to do than police the comments, fine, but don’t pretend to be sitting on a golden throne high atop a marble pedestal. if you get to have your fun, don’t rain on our parade. and if you continue reading the comments you’ll see i do wish the guy luck. it’s just not a great picture.

  29. Megladon says:

    @Murph1908: would it help if he said he was listing it as a door stop? its intended use.

  30. Jim says:

    @Falconfire: I’m wondering too. Maybe it’s a problem with the wiring in the home, not the compy? I am assuming part of the failure to repair the problem is the inability to re-create the issue. If the connector was sparking such to start a fire, surely a repair tech would be able to find a big burn mark on the side of the machine and start diagnosing there.

    Steve should try a different outlet in his place, fire extinguisher at the ready just in case.

    My MacBook Pro is a year and a half old as well, gets pretty warm sitting on my knees, but never sparked or created fire.

  31. DoubleEcho says:

    @Falconfire: And the “Consumerist Blame The Consumer” game has started!

    Next up – “Best Buy employee punches customer in face for not buying and extended warranty on a toaster. Post creative ideas on how this is the customer’s fault”.

  32. Beerad says:

    I think Steve’s a downright handsome fella. Sorry about the runaround with Apple. It seems that generally Apple is really, really great about coming through (especially with AppleCare) but sometimes they just face plant hard. You would think they’d be a bit more proactive about fixing a ‘puter with pyromaniacal tendancies.

  33. John Whorfin says:

    It’s either high or low tide with Apple. My iBook doesn’t have the best record, but my 1st gen mac mini is still kicking as my media server and my new iMac works wonderfully.

    My best to Steve. Please don’t take no for an answer.

  34. rewinditback says:

    isnt there a lemon law for repairs? like… 3 major repairs for the same issue = replacement?

  35. zentec says:

    I’m sorry, but this story is very suspect.

    I can’t imagine there’s enough current in the Macbook power adapter to cause sufficient amounts of metal to be blown off the power plug or receptacle. And even if there were, not enough to light a newspaper on fire and damage the table. I suspect that’s 24 volts at less than 5 amps. Sure, you can create sparks with that, lots of them. But you’ll spend all day trying to blow off enough metal to light something on fire. And forget about trying to use the arc as your ignition point.

    I’m not about to dispute Apple computers are beyond being problems. They, like everyone else, has computers that are just lemons. But this assertion that the power adapter set that newspaper on fire and damaged his table is absurd. Maybe this computer has the famous Macbook heating problems? Is the computer heating on the exterior enough to cause newspaper to ignite? I believe that a lot more than the power adapter story.

    I’m more inclined to believe this guy doesn’t like his computer for whatever reason and wants Apple to give him a matte screen. Apple said no, and now he’s pissed off about it.

    I hope for his sake that I’m wrong and indeed the power adapter *did* do this. Fabricating these types of events didn’t work out too well for NBC and the people who put a finger in Wendy’s chili.

  36. sp00nix says:

    @MDSasquatch: Yes it would, There is a lemon law even on electronics, if deemed in need of a 4th repair the unit should be replaced.

  37. apotheosis says:


    “Best Buy employee punches customer in face for not buying and extended warranty on a toaster. Post creative ideas on how this is the customer’s fault”.

    Obviously, he shouldn’t have been shopping for a kitchen appliance at a store that specializes in forcible sodomy.

  38. STrRedWolf says:

    It he gets it back again and it still sparks, I’d consult a lawyer. It’s past the point of “It’s not worth my time and effort to get it repaired” and “They’re giving me a refund, no if’s and’s or but’s.”

  39. sir_eccles says:

    Pfft, most people would be grateful for a nice roaring fire on a cold day like this!

  40. MercuryPDX says:

    He’s already sent the computer for repair several times, gotten it back, at which time it tried to light his house on fire again.

    Fool me once… shame on you. Fool me twice… CHARGEBACK!!! :)

    I’ve never had a computer or a peripheral attempt to kill me before, and I will second the poster above who said selling it on eBay so it can potentially set someone elses house on fire is reckless.

    Anyone want to take guesses on the eBay Headline? Mine is:
    “LQQK! Arsonist Mac Book! Tried to Kill me! No Reserve!”

  41. MyPetFly says:

    I’d backup all my data and heave the damned thing through the door of the nearest Apple Store from outside. If it wouldn’t be considered arson, I’d smear it with something flammable and light it on fire too, but that would certainly result in an arrest. But more bad press for Apple too, so maybe it’s a trade-off.

  42. Murph1908 says:

    [sarcasm aimed at Steve, not you]
    Oh, right. The NEXT time he gets it fixed, it’ll be fine, because it’ll be done by someone he paid.

    Only if he really plans to sell it as a farce and not as a real, dependable product will his eBaying it be acceptable.

  43. glecko says:

    If he’s got Apple Care, how is it that he’s not getting a replacement laptop? I thought that was why we all pay the $$ for Apple Care?

    That being said …

    Do this happen everywhere – can Steve reproduce the sparking at in the Apple Store or anywhere else for that matter? Is it only Steve’s house, at his desk, on a particular outlet?

    The yellow screen thing should be enough to get a replacement … the sparking would push me over the edge.

    Memo to Steve … do one of two things … become a ROYAL pain in the arse by calling/visiting at least once a day asking for a new laptop. Or … call your local TV station’s “consumer action line” and sell them on the fact that you have been “wronged by a faceless corporate giant”.

    Sorry man – I’d have to say that you’re in the small percentage of people that are having a bad experience with Apple. I’m a recent convert to a Macbook and while it hasn’t been problem free, I’m happy with the service I have recieved. (I do have Apple Care as well._

  44. sp00nix says:

    He has a firewire cable there! FIRE!

  45. Laffy Daffy says:

    Yeah, put it on Ebay. Make sure you sell it to the guy who wants you to ship it to Haiti after he sends you a money order for double the winning bid.

  46. FLConsumer says:

    @zentec: 24vDC @ 5amps is more than enough to start a good fire. There’s cigarette lighters out there which use 2 AA batteries (3.0v, 4A at most).

    All it takes is getting a wire or solder trace to heat up to a high enough temperature to ignite something. Doesn’t take much to make that happen with the small wires and traces inside laptops.

  47. MercuryPDX says:

    @DoubleEcho: Some people need the benefits of an ESP pounded into them? ;)

  48. HawkWolf says:

    @zentec: When I plug in my Toshiba Satellite’s switching power adapter, it goes “SNAP!” and I can see a blue spark in the outlet.

    You’ll often notice a similar thing when you plug in a desktop computer’s power cord.

    I’m not really sure why that happens, though, and the spark does not spray material all over the place to light fires.

    Oh, and I’m talking about the mains end of the plug, not the part that goes into the laptop. Then again… I tried a Ubuntu live CD on the laptop and it warned me that the battery had been recalled and that my laptop could pose a danger.

  49. emilayohead says:

    His real problem is that he’s been going through “costumer service” which, as we all know, can only help when the spangles fall off of your showgirl outfit.

  50. FLConsumer says:

    @HawkWolf: That’s called inrush current and is normal. Put the plug in faster or clean off the oxidation on the plug and it’ll go away. Not really a problem, unlike Steve’s problem.

  51. evilcharity says:

    I had Apple replace an iBook several years ago. It wasn’t trying to set my house on fire, but the screen did stop working suddenly. I took it in and they sent it off to wherever and fixed something that wasn’t wrong with it, returned it to me and I had the same problem days later. I took it back, followed it’s progress online to discover that it sat in the Apple store for several days with no activity. I was LIVID as I had the machine for about a month and it spent more time with Apple than with me.

    I called the store, explained the situation and expressed my utter dissatisfaction. I also became irate and demanded contact information for their district manager. I was refused this info, put on hold and viola…told to come by and get my new machine. I suspect they just wanted to make the crazy lady go away. I’ve since upgraded to a Mac Book Pro and I haven’t had any problems with it at all.

  52. MDSasquatch says:

    you think that just because the power adapter convert household current to “laptop” current that it doesn’t still possess the potential to do harm?

    Try this: go to the store and buy a disposable camera with built in flash, take all the pictures, dismantle the camera, take out the film, charge the flash, use your finger to complete the circuit across the flash’s capacitor . You will be “shocked” at just how much energy a capacitor can derive from a double-A battery.

    I had a friend shock the $hit of himself this way, I don’t recommend.

  53. wellfleet says:

    Get a personal property rider and/or renter’s insurance, “get it stolen”, get some money back.

  54. Xkeeper says:

    @Murph1908: I guess you missed the point where he mentioned getting it repaired as many times as it takes to make it fixed, then selling it.

    He’s not going to sell a fucking bomb on e-bay. Hell, I’d think he’d add some sort of information about its past history.

    To that end, uh… I’d really be amazed if e-bay prohibited hazardous objects. Since, you know. Everything’s hazardous. It’s the common sense thing.

  55. Shadowmist says:

    You know, I would’ve ditched anything that tried to set my house on fire the first time… I dunno, I kinda have a thing about personal safety and whatnot…

    And way to go Apple! You probably lost a whole buncha customers here.

  56. The Marionette says:

    @SchecterShredder: My friend had got the recent macbook pro (not the airbook) and he spent(according to him) $3,500 on it, plus extra on some expenses for it. For $3,500 you can get a beast of a windows-based machine. A friend of mine has a computer he purchased somewhat recently from best buy, it was $1,200 (less that 1/2 the price of the macbook) and it has a quad-core processor, 3 gigs of ram, decent video card and a very good amount of hd space. The point i’m getting at is that friend A bought a macbook for $3,500 which (looking at this story) can have some problems while friend B bought a pc for less than 1/2 the price, is more powerful and i haven’t heard any complaints as far as hardware goes for his.

  57. cheera says:

    @emilayohead: Ha!

    I think its time to lawyer up. Now if only I was Single Female Lawyer, I’d totally take on Steves case. Woooooo!

    “Single Female Lawyer
    Fighting for her clients
    Wearing sexy mini skirts
    And being self-reliant
    …Single Female Lawyer
    Having lots of sex…”

  58. katylostherart says:

    i’m so glad my macbook doesn’t try to set me aflame. they should at minimum replace it or refund the cost of purchase for hardware (but not software). i so wouldn’t have replugged in something that threw sparks. that’s an extremely odd malfunction for a computer to have and it would freak me out to the extent of demanding a new one on the first try. something that may kill you when it breaks is best being replaced not repaired.

  59. Phipps6505 says:

    @Falconfire: Take a look at the comments on the magsafe powersupply for MacBooks on Apple’s website. The 400+ negative comments can give you a pretty good picture of what can and will go wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I have a MacBook Pro and a 24″ iMac. Love both, but was ticked when the cable on that powersupply shorted out and had to shell out $75 for something Apple should have replaced gratis.

  60. ludwigk says:

    @FLConsumer: Right, but this isn’t occurring internally in the solder traces, its happening at the big, heavy contacts that make up the magsafe adapter, and the DC-in plug. You *would* have to be blowing up large bits of metal to get sparking here. Plus, you would have to destroy some of the bottom case bezel because the mag-safe connection is a recessed port with about 2.5 mm of polycarbonate around the magsafe connector. It’s not like the metal grounding ring that can be exposed in a normal laptop charger if its not inserted all the way. The mag-safe has several spring loaded contacts and a grounding plate that attach firmly due to its various magnets, or not at all.

    So the issue here is that there probably isn’t any physical evidence to corroborate his story. It is exceedingly rare, but a short in the DC-in board which causes sparking will leave scorch marks on the plastics and leave evident damage to the internal DC board. Apple probably took it apart and found nothing out of the ordinary, which would probably rule out parts of his claim.

    The screen issues could also just as easily been customer service replacements, where Apple found no fault with the display, but replaced it to appease this fellow, eating the cost each time. Yellowish hue? sounds like he needs to stop messing with his color temperature. But either way, his screen issues are just plain bogus. Yes, the MacBook uses a cheaper screen than the MacBook Pro, that’s partly why the MBP COSTS MORE! And *of course* you CAN’T do color accurate work on a glossy screen, but EVERYONE knows this, especially anyone who does any color-sensitive design work. Some mac sales geek told him otherwise, but he should have already known.

    Then, he claims that the repair ‘hosed his OS’? What’s that supposed to mean? Time Machine runs from the computer being backed up, so that doesn’t really make any sense. If he initiated Time Machine backups after having his drive wiped (as if making a new user account, and having no personal data/apps on there wasn’t a clue), instead of *restoring* his data from his backup, then really he is just a menace to himself. If the HDD isn’t visible from the finder, what OS is he booting from? Either way, its his responsibility, not Apple’s.

    Then his DVD drive broke. Probably a loose ribbon cable when reassembling the MacBook, and that’s a legitimate repair.

    That puts his repair count at 2 (one minor, one major), with 3 additional that could be appeasement or genuine. One can clearly see why Apple might not jump to attention to get this guy a new MacBook Pro.

    Regarding the Lemon Laws, these vary by state, but in California, it only says that a produt is a lemon if it doesn’t work after a ‘reasonable’ number of repair attempts, which allows people to go back and forth arguing over what is ‘reasonable’ or not. For minor items, such as keyboards, power adapters, etc. where the failure can be partly attributed to wear, they usually don’t count at all.

  61. billin says:

    @Falconfire: I agree, there’s something funny going on here. I’m not saying it’s definitely not something with the hardware after all, but I think it’s wise to check all the possibilities. It sounds like this guy lives in NYC, and if he’s living in an old apartment building, the electrical wiring could be crap (I know from experience). Perhaps it’s worth a call to the super to ask for a test of the outlet. Or, he could just pay $10 for an outlet tester: [] . Worth a try.

  62. thesuperpet says:

    step 1) build hut in middle of huge sand pit.
    step 2) call local news crews
    step 3) use computer in hut
    step 4) run away when hut catches on fire.
    step 5) profit.

  63. kbarrett says:


    He could sell it in Ebay’s sporting goods section as a fire starting device.

  64. Falconfire says:

    @Phipps6505: Oh no I know the magsafe problems, and have had them replaced mine once before (didnt have a issue getting AppleCare to cover it either) But what he is describing doesnt make sense to be a similar problem as to what most people are experiencing. Its not the connector shorting out by what he says, its the powerboard its self, which shouldnt happen unless something is making a jump between the connectors.

    Basically what I am wondering is does this guy happen to work around metal and are there shavings around.

  65. kc2idf says:

    I have seen the word “insurance” mentioned here twice in situations that might constitute fraud, but none that actually get to the point….

    If you already have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, perhaps you might want to raise the issue with them and let them take it up with Apple. The insurance company will have bigger lawyers than you.

  66. eeh857 says:

    Steve may be able to file a claim under The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act against Apple. The act states that consumer products that are sold for over $15 (I’m sure his laptop did) are covered. As long as the problems he has incurred fall under the warranty coverage and the laptop is still under warranty, I think he has a case. The act states “if the product, or a component part, contains a defect or malfunction, must permit the consumer to elect either a refund or replacement without charge, after a reasonable number of repair attempts.” 4 or more attempts is considered a reasonable number of attempts.

    I just recently went through this process with my car and it was settled through this act. If apple refuses to replace his laptop, they may sing a different tune after a lawsuit is filed. Just a thought on one way to receive a new laptop. Obviously this method involves finding a lawyer and going through that process. One more note though, is that all the attorney fees had to be paid for by the manufacturer and therefore I paid nothing in my lawsuit. Hope that helps.

  67. Techguy1138 says:

    I had an issue with my ibook many years ago. Fortunately it was out of warranty so all I could do is throw it out.

    FYI- Now that Steve is very aware that this is a defective product may start a house fire he is liable in the event it causes his house to burn down. If he gives it to someone else and doesn’t tell them it starts fires he is liable for THAT fire also.

    He needs to sue Apple. Plain and simple the product is not simply not working, aka lemon law. It is dangerous . As in it causes him and those who live near him mortal danger.

    It was defective and he turned it to them for a fix. It was returned in a similar dangerous state. Thats IT at that point he should have been given a complete refund and they should have taken the notebook away.

    Its causing a FIRE. Apple should at the least be taking an INTEREST in determining why one of their products is causing the potential for fatalities. A fire situation happening twice should get Apples attention without a blog like this.

  68. AD8BC says:

    Burning the New York Times?

    The conservative in me is silently cheering the laptop.

  69. Instigator says:

    Steve’s Macbook sounds more like a Matchbook. Apple evidently is not taking his situation very seriously.

  70. Michael Belisle says:

    @SchecterShredder: The $3100 dollar Air? If you’re mortified at the price, why not the $1800 Air? Perhaps you don’t need the $1000 solid-state drive.

    Or did I miss <sarcasm></sarcasm>? Steve’s story, while unfortunate and I hope he gets it resolved, is not the norm.

    Maybe Steve just needs to let it simmer into a full-out inferno. That worked after warranty and got Jimm an upgrade.

  71. xgenius says:

    Apple quality is in the shitter. It’s been headed that way since 2003. I’d demand a new Macbook, otherwise contact your local TV stations and see if they can help. Sounds like “FireBook” would make a good story.

  72. FLConsumer says:

    @ludwigk: What circuitry lies behind the plug? Most likely the power supply and charger for the laptop itself. It’s entirely plausible that the circuit board inside has a problem and is capable of overheating and shorting out, which could easily cause sparks and other described symptoms. I wouldn’t think the connector itself would be the problem.

  73. FLConsumer says:

    @AD8BC: c’mon down to Florida — the NY Times seems like a very conservative rag in comparison to what’s available in these parts.

  74. zentec says:


    Certainly, an abnormal amount of resistance at 24 volts at an amp or two will create heat. Put a one watt resistor across 24 volts at 5 amps and you’ll have plenty of smoke. But the claim is that the power connector sparked causing a fire and I’ll reiterate that in my experience, it seems dubious.

    The photo doesn’t show the Macbook power connector, and it doesn’t show the magsafe connector on the power supply either. One would think he’d have photos of those too, with the damage being readily visible if it’s able to throw enough sparks to cause a fire. What we are offered is a toasty New York Times and a vague divot in the table with what appears to be something other than the magsafe power cord.

    I’m not trying to defend Apple here. But knowing what I do about electronics, if you cause enough sparks to light a fire, there’s going to be obvious pitting or puddling of the metal, so much so that the tiny magsafe connector probably won’t work. Even the most casual of Apple Geniuses should be able to see it.

    If the problem is internal, heat radiated to the chassis sufficient to light newspapers is *going* to discolor the circuit boards and the component markings. I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t apparent on the exterior as well. If this is the case, then the guy has a very good gripe against Apple and its very apparent shoddy technicians.

    Assuming the computer is a dud and the claim is genuine, my opinion is the fire was started not by sparking, but by heat from faulty DC/DC regulators next to the magsafe inside the computers.

    Consumerist needs to keep on top of this story. I’m sorry, but I have a faint yet nagging suspicion this one might end up with a “Bad Consumer” tag. I hope I’m wrong.

  75. xgenius says:

    I know of a school district who had a whole cart of macbooks catch fire and burn part of their library down. I personally don’t trust Apple’s hardware anymore and would never leave one of their laptops plugged in and unattended for a very long time, and certainly not leave the house or go to sleep while one is.

  76. Optimus says:

    @Hanke: And with all the problems that people are having with Windows Vista and forced “up”grades I’m glad I use Linux.

  77. matto says:

    Every experience I’ve had with Applecare and/or Apple support has been miserable. Its like dealing with the DMV. If you manage to induce them to do anything, they act as if they’re doing you a huge favor. I love their products, but their support, and especially Applecare administration, is like a giant festering tumor on the testicles of their success.

  78. FLConsumer says:

    @zentec: I’m definitely thinking the case of the laptop should be discoloured as well. Even if it’s made of aluminium, that type of heat should be visible.

  79. FLConsumer says:

    @Optimus: If only Linux had the hardware & software support for high-end computing… I have a few linux machines around and they do their thing, but still are no match for the tried & true OS’ when it comes to my desktop system. They’re getting there… but Apple’s OS X shows a huge point — it can be done, just a matter of the linux community getting it in gear and coming out with a stronger product (and GUI) than they have had thus far.

  80. Kilotonne says:

    Steve looks a little bit like actor Freddy Rodríguez.

    Air, Fire, Water, Earth – Apple Elements.

  81. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    THis story is suspicious. When my Mac mini just smelled like it was burning, Apple replaced it right away. You’d think if this was seriously happening the guy would catch it on video.

    Plus, there is probably something wrong with the wiring in his house.

  82. m4nea says:

    @sp00nix: what universe are you living in?

  83. Phipps6505 says:

    @Falconfire: I see your point. I didn’t have AppleCare on my MacBook Pro (yes, I know that’s dumb). Given all the complaints, I felt like they should have issued a recall on the powersupply. I guess reading his comments and reading over the comments on Apple, some of that rang true. I see your point, tho.

  84. UnnamedUser says:

    Heh,heh. Oh! My!

    I hate to say it, but that’s what you get for buying an Apple.

  85. shadow735 says:

    I think Steve is pretty Fired up!!!

  86. weakdome says:

    That laptop should try and light his hoodie on fire. Damn, that thing is ugly.

  87. MatthewBay says:

    Steve’s not creepy, I think he looks pretty cute!

  88. Steve needs to get grounded outlets and shut the hell up. He’s calibrating by eye, which is the most unreliable way to characterize a display. His non-grounded outlets are causing discharge when he plugs in his FireWire cable – despite explicit guidance that both peripherals and the MacBook be plugged into GROUNDED outlets.

    This guy is too stupid for his own good. There’s absolutely no reason his MacBook would cause these problems if it was being used CORRECTLY. You’ll find any laptop, when used with ungrounded peripherals like this will behave the same way.

    This guy also is in apparent need of an education about what characterization of a display is all about. If he keeps arriving at a “yellow” screen, then he’s doing something wrong, whether he’s using software and a device or just his eyes.

  89. yesteryear says:

    man. this is a sad story. i have had nothing but great experiences with apple. especially if there was data loss. yikes. my worst nightmare. just last week the apple store folks replaced my DVD drive, logic board, and reinstalled my OS for me, at no charge, after my applecare had expired. i guess it just depends on who you’re dealing with. i hope this is resolved soon!

    but i do think its important to note that apple gets an above average amount of negative coverage here on consumerist because i’ll bet that most people who read/know about this blog are using an apple computer. we’re just cool that way.

  90. 1. No one here managed to figure out that it’s not the power cord causing the “sparking”. The cord pictured is a Firewire connector for some other device, which may or may not be grounded properly. This is not Apple’s fault.

    2. There’s a lot that’s probably not being divulged here by the creepy-cute Steve. Why don’t we act like a real consumer advocacy site and actually contact Apple about this? Oh wait – the Consumerist doesn’t work that way.

    Ever wonder why Consumerist runs so many “bad Apple” stories? It’s not because Apple gets the highest marks for support and repair from PC Magazine (which they do) – it’s because Apple stories are high visibility and drive ad revenue.

  91. ClankBoomSteam says:

    @SchecterShredder: Another reason not to buy the Macbook Air is that it’s a crappy computer to begin with. The computer I’m typing this on is a 3-year old Toshiba laptop with a better processor, more memory and a bigger hard drive than Apple’s latest Shiny Object. To top it off, the Macbook will cost you $1800 minimum, but the unit I’m using will set you back around $300 on eBay. Why would ANYONE buy such a lousy computer for so much money?

  92. picshereplz says:

    I guess conspiracy theorists really are everywhere.

  93. yesteryear says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: yeah this is an excellent point. the other reason more people send emails complaining about their apples is that folks who are using PCs cant get into their email programs because their crappy OS is bogged down with spyware and porn advertisements.

  94. shadow735 says:

    @ClankBoomSteam: You buy computers on Ebay? istn that asking for problems, I am sure you made out but I would take that as luck. I never buy expensive electronic items on ebay, there are just too many ways of getting ripped off.

  95. cecilsaxon says:

    I know this is a isolated instance- but I was looking to buy new PCs and laptops for the family and was considering strongly a 100% cutover to Apple. I have to say that I have rethought my decision in part because of this stroy- I won’t be making the switch. PC based products may not be “cool” but they do tend to work and have (as of yet) not threatend to burn my children alive.


    I am sure Apple folks read these things- hope they listen.

  96. junkmail says:

    @yesteryear: Really? That’s the best you could come up with?

  97. sibertater says:

    Every company has the Aunt Edna story of crappy customer service….it happens. Couldn’t Steve file attempted murder charges, or arson charges or something? That’d show ’em. Apparently they keep returning the computer that they know is defective and starts fires. Steve just needs to let it burn something down or kill someone. THEN he’ll get a new machine.

  98. dannyry says:

    Thank you Steve. I was considering getting a macbook once they started to ship with the new chips they’re rumored to be shipping with, but no longer. Thanks Apple for making this such a black and white case I don’t even have to consider buying one.

  99. ecwis says:

    Add me to the list of people who think you should sue Apple. They’ll likely provide you with a settlement before you even have to go to court.

    I took Apple to small claims and I got what I wanted. :-)

  100. says:

    It’s not a bug, it’s a feature… unfortunately useful only for arsonists.

    And it’s not like all non-Apple products are immune from starting fires. What should trouble you about the story is not that one laptop plays with matches — it’s that the company behind the product is incapable of competently dealing with the naughty laptop. Bad Apple service is what is discouraging me. (And I WILL be buying a snazzy new laptop in a few months, Apple, so better be wowing me if YOU want my money.)

  101. Ken.c says:

    Sorry to hear of such a terrible experience.

    I would just point out that if someone is in the graphics/color correction industry, very few laptops cut the mustard. Laptop screens have far more limited color gamuts than do desktop monitors. Having said that, the new Macbook Pro 15″ with the LED backlit screen, matte, is probably one of the best laptops to do color correction with. It can be calibrated successfully, and has a far wider color gamut than older laptop screens. Go to Rob Galbraith’s website, a wellknown photographic technologist, who has done careful testing.

    I don’t want to be critical, but I’m shocked that you would take a storeclerk’s opinion, even if he was a “Genius”, before checking with others in your own industry, because the above info, is not exactly a secret.

  102. lasciate says:

    Until I see some pictures proving his Macbook actually sparked or caught fire, I don’t believe a word of it. The first thing Apple would have done if he called in with a complaint like this is ask for photos.

  103. Ken.c says:

    Also, this bit about your backup image being hosed, sounds a bit overwrought. Okay, you are overwrought, given what you have gone through, but still, I strongly doubt that Time Machine hosed your backup. It copies incremental changes to a new file. It doesn’t change older backups.

    The HD may be gone from your Finder, because it could be one of the Finder Preferences was changed, so that you don’t see mounted Hard Disks.

    Actually, the more I read Steve’s messages, the more puzzled I become. If you “calibrated” your screen, why is it showing a yellowish hue? It’s calibrated, right? And, if the uncalibrated screen of the laptop in the store looks pristine, has it ever occurred to you that perhaps you are not calibrating your LCD properly? Maybe, it’s the operator and not the tool. I mean, how do 3 screens all have the same yellow-ish hue, when you say the ones in the store are “pristine”. This starts to sound a bit Munchausenish. Are you sure you aren’t creating these problems?

    And, blaming an unnamed salesperson seems just so lame, for a work-critical component. Why would you trust some kid? Why not ask someone you work with in your industry?

    If you have Applecare, it shouldn’t have cost anything to get the repairs done. Implying that you actually paid something, sounds rather odd.

    And then the whole, I’m a tech blogger, and I’m going to write about your great service, is just so lame as a threat. And, the Dell gave me a better computer for one little problem. Now, if you think Apple is going to be moved because Dell did so well by you, think again. What you’ve done is indicate that you have a history of trying to extract higher-end equipment by complaining.

    I’m sorry, but I have come to the conclusion that this story is a sham. Even the scorched newspaper looks a bit phony. Having you considered videotaping the sparking episodes and putting it up on Youtube?

    Oh, the DVD problem, try booting your Install disk and hold down the D key, it’ll run a Hardware Test.

  104. ClankBoomSteam says:


    My point wasn’t where I bought the computer (in fact, I purchased my computer NEW at a brick-and-mortar retailer, it’s just that NOW you can find them for next to nothing on eBay). My point was that there are much better computers to be had for MUCH less than what Apple’s charging for their exciting new, er, “thinness” feature.

    If eBay’s not your thing, buy a good system from last year’s (discounted) models at a place like Fry’s for a reasonable price, rather than shelling out two grand or more for one of Apple’s Macbook Air “computers”.

    There are computers that are a smart buy, and then there are computers that are just designed to sell a few million units based on flashiness. Guess which category the Macbook Air falls into.

  105. bobosgirl says:

    Yeah, that is by far the ugliest hoodie I have ever seen on a decent looking guy.@weakdome:

  106. NoStyle says:

    This would make a kick ass Anti-mac commercial for Intel or something, the Mac and PC guys are in that white place and the PC guy is trying to talk to the Mac guy, and the Mac guy doesn’t say anything, he just walks around with a lighter and burns whatever is around.

  107. @ecwis: I took Apple to small claims and I got what I wanted. :-)

    Simply because the cost of sending a lawyer or establishing precedent in your case was far lower than sending a lawyer.

    You got off lucky.

  108. Oh. Crap. SHOULD READ:

    Simply because the cost of giving you what you wanted or establishing precedent in your case was far lower than sending a lawyer.

    You got off lucky.

  109. Vanster says:

    I guess you’re bound by the EULA too. “any damage or loss of property isn’t our fault lol”
    Under Australian law they’d be required to fix the desk and laptop and recall the entire line. That’s probably why they’re unwilling to admit that it’s even happened. one pissed off user is easier to handle than recalling an entire product line.

  110. nerdette314159 says:

    @ElizabethD: seconded!

  111. mermaidshoes says:

    i don’t understand why people feel so entitled to replacements of computers and electronics. read your warranty and know what kind of service you’re entitled to before you enter into a big purchase like this. just because your computer problem is slightly more dramatic than others doesn’t mean you’re automatically entitled to a replacement. applecare extends your warranty to 3 years instead of one. it does not promise replacement products. it is not magic. it sounds like apple is trying really hard to repair the laptop. they’re not really under any obligation to replace it according to applecare terms ([]). pretty much everything in the terms makes it clear that apple will repair OR replace items at its discretion, and there’s no guarantee of replacement if repair is unsuccessful. it also specifically says apple’s not responsible for data loss during repair. it does suck for steve, but it doesn’t mean apple is a terrible company. it just means steve doesn’t know what he bought.

  112. mermaidshoes says:

    also, how many dell laptops have caught fire? a bit more dramatic than a singed NYT…






  113. Dancing Milkcarton says:

    It tried to catch the NYT on fire? The Macbook isn’t a malfunctioning computer, it’s a hero.

  114. GrandizerGo says:

    It seems to me that he should get it repaired and plug it in at someplace else…
    Example a cyber cafe. I bet it doesn’t cause a problem there…

    Someone a few posts up hit it right on the head…

    It IS a GROUNDING problem, My Dell Inspiron 8000, 7 years old and still working! Developed the same problem ~the same time as their recall on their power supply bricks…
    The ground goes bad in them. Normally you don’t see this, or know there is a problem until you go to plug a GROUNDED external device into the system through any port. YOU GET SPARKS!!! Enough to light up a dark room! Holding the plug near the connector is enough to cause the sparks to jump a few millimeters!

    As soon as it is plugged in though, the system is grounded and it works again. pulling the plug causes the same problem…

    I would be willing to bet that that is the problem, and when HE plugged in his EXTERNAL drive to do backups, he fried something which caused the bad transfers…

    So something in the chain of power from where he is plugged in from the mains to the computer is where the grounding problem has occurred.

    Maybe he used a 3 to 2 prong adapter? Or maybe the extension cord plug is failing and the ground nub is loose???

    In any case, they make CHEAP wiring checkers you can get at radio shack for like 6 bucks. Plug it into your home wiring in various places… I am betting you will see the problem on there…

  115. Colleen says:

    @ElizabethD: … And by “creepy” I assume you mean “hot.”


  116. DeeHaney says:

    Film it baby. One sided stories…yeah, whatever.

  117. tikkachicken says:

    I’m an IT technician at a school with over 600 MacBooks and we’ve had an occasional lemon (especially due to a batch with faulty Seagate hard drives which Apple quickly rectified). I’ve seen a few power cords short where it connects to the computer…it’s not the computer but the cord, and usually after taking some abuse. There’s nothing inside that can shoot sparks out without tripping thermal shutoffs in the adapter and on the logic board. The charred newspaper looks like a fabrication.

    I mean seriously…video or it isn’t real. I don’t believe this for a minute, and actually think this guy is trying to get publicity, $$$ or something. It doesn’t quite feel right and with someone high up at Apple handling it, I’d say Apple is being very responsive to something they probably know is B.S.

    Also, it makes me laugh when people say that this post made them change their mind. Those posts seem trollish.

    When supporting many computers, you see a pattern where the same people seem to always have problems….even when they are given new computers. It almost defies common sense. You can’t help but assume that they are abusing their hardware. Every company in the world has to deal with these people. The problem is

  118. jwissick says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: I know I am necroing this post, but just FYI, lawyers are not allowed in small claims court in most states. Apple would have to send a non lawyer representative.