"Dear Steve Jobs" Letter Hits Target And Gets Results

Matt has a 1-year-old Macbook that was having some serious issues which included a dead power supply, overheating and some strange burn marks on the computer itself which, incidentally, was out of warranty. Matt’s roommate David decided to draft a nicely written letter and fire it off to Steve Jobs at sjobs@apple.com. To David’s delight, Steve Jobs took the letter on his iPhone and forwarded it to one of his assistants. Acute customer satisfaction ensued. David’s letter inside…

Dear Mr. Jobs,
First off, I would like to applaud you for making the best computer I have ever used. Although your market share in the computer world isn’t as high as Windows-based PC’s, you and your company really make an effort to not only stand by your product, but stand by your customers in a way I never thought possible. People read online, all the time, about shortcomings of all companies, but I can safely say that I have read more positive reviews of Apple then negative. Even one of my friends, who was unlucky enough to have left his MacBook Pro in a taxi, was given a discount on Apple Care on his new MacBook on top of the education discount. That is proof that your company goes above and beyond what is expected.

It’s no question that you make a fine product, speaking specifically of the MacBook series. However, there is one problem I have read about, time and time again – sometimes, they get HOT (even hot enough to fry an egg on). My roommate experienced a similar issue. One evening, my roommate Matt was using his MacBook. He realized that the AC adapter (specifically where it plugs into the laptop) was getting hot. Very hot. Hot enough for him to be unable to touch it. After finishing up what was necessary for school, he closed his computer, putting it on standby. The next morning, his computer would not charge. After some testing with someone else’s AC adapter, we have diagnosed the issue as being a faulty AC adapter. Upon inspection of the computer, battery, and AC adapter, we have found a brown-looking stain that can only be identified as a small burn (it is clear that it isn’t dirt). Also, there is a point on the battery that has dark black spots (small, evenly spaced) that have appeared since this incident (most likely a burn as well). It is also apparent that these spots line up on the computer to a place where similar spots are located. I can provide pictures upon request, but it may take a week or so to borrow someone’s digital camera.

The problem is this – although it is not unlikely that an AC adapter go out, I have never heard of one getting unbearably hot, and making small, darkened burn spots on the underside of the computer and battery. This is why I’m contacting you.

You know the dangers associated with this problem. At worst, it could cause a fire. And, in a dorm room with hundreds and hundreds of residents, this makes the scenario even scarier. Basically, what we are asking for is this: At the very least, a new AC adapter. At most, a new MacBook with similar (exact) specifications. Let me explain why I believe it is fair for him to ask for this.

The AC adapter going out is a common problem in the notebook industry. However, when it gets unbearably hot to the touch, it tells me that the problem extends much further than a normal defective product. It says to me that the AC adapter could have continued working, but, due to some manufacture error, caused it to burn out, quite literally. Frankly, I don’t think that it is fair that a manufacturing error should be placed on our hands. I also suggested a new MacBook. Basically, because of the faulty AC adapter, the small burn spots that have formed scares us. What if this faulty AC adapter took out his entire computer, and is only a matter of time before some sort of electrical problem “bricks” his laptop? Even if you don’t agree to a new laptop, an expedited PC Check up seems fair.

There is one more bit of information that changes the status quo. Unfortunately, Matt’s MacBook is out of warranty (and no AppleCare was purchased). I know that you are under no obligation to do anything in this situation, but it would be greatly appreciated if you did.

As a side note (and more so a bribe than anything else) I have been looking for a new ultra-portable laptop for a few months. Since the MacBook AIR was introduced, I have been salivating for hours at a time. The only thing keeping me from it is the pricetag. I know I pay for quality, but I also pay for service. I can’t promise that this will make me decide to buy the AIR, but the way you handle this situation will influence my decision greatly. A necessity for me is great service, and I try to give my customers “above and beyond” service when possible. I would love to see that here.

Please contact me back with some sort of resolution; Matt and I both await your reply.

David [redacted]

Shortly after, David received a phone call from Apple. David writes,

Later on that day, I get a phone call from a gentleman named Matt Klinksick, in corporate executive relations. He told me that Mr. Jobs had forwarded the email to him from his iPhone. Whether or not that is actually true (I have no problem believing that), sending my problem to that email address prompted Matt, the #1 nicest customer relations person, to fix the problems. First thing he did was send me a new power supply. He also put me on the line with a tech support agent who asked me a bunch of questions, mainly making sure that they won’t be sued, but also seeing the extent of the damage, and how it could have been caused.

Anyway, my roommate Matt received his power supply within about 4 days, allowing him to start working. Matt the Apple employee contacted the Apple store, and said that the Apple genius would make sure everything was working fine, and fix anything that wasn’t, for no cost. Ends up – everything was a-ok but the battery. They charged him for the battery (since he’s not really one for confrontation, he didn’t bother sticking up for the free service that was promised). Once I learned about this, I called Matt from Apple, and, well, he called the Apple store and they voided out the entire cost of the battery that was charged to my room mate’s card.

The end-all, be-all of this entire situation is that Apple really cares about their customers. They will work with you, and make sure that everything is 100% to your satisfaction. I have to admit there were some snags in the entire process, but Matt from Apple would return every phone call within 24 hours, and hammer everything out.

Although I’m not lucky enough to have an Apple right now, I know what my next computer will be.

David’s letter was effective because it was articulate, detailed and had pleasant yet assertive tone. Naturally, Apple also deserves kudos for being so responsive to their customers’ problems. Because of this simple letter, David’s roommate received a free battery, a free power supply, and a free appointment with an Apple genius to confirm that his computer is working correctly, all out of warranty. In return, Apple gained a future customer in David and a happy feel-good story that gives us all the warm and fuzzies. Good job, David.

(Photo: whatcounts)


Edit Your Comment

  1. FreeMarketGravy says:

    “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” in action.

  2. JScott609 says:

    I had a similar experience with a different problem. Fired off a note to Steve Jobs and within 24 hours the manager of my local Apple store called to fix the problem.

  3. heavylee-again says:

    I find it interesting that the owner of the machine was too timid to contact Apple in the first place, and to not assert himself for the free battery that was promised.

    FTA: They charged him for the battery (since he’s not really one for confrontation, he didn’t bother sticking up for the free service that was promised).

  4. Tightlines says:

    Good job. Now, tell your roommate to grow a pair.

  5. RINO-Marty says:

    Nice story, kumbayah and so on, but I think the letter would have been even more effective if it was about 80% shorter. I’ve felt the intense frustration and need to vent in letters like these, but most senior executives have nowhere near the time or patience to read 2000-word novellas like these.

  6. highmodulus says:

    I think they gained more then one future customer. Given the death of customer service at Dell and the other big computer companies; Apple is a much more appealing option now for a pre-built computers, even if it does cost a bit more.

  7. blackmage439 says:

    More companies need to hire mathematicians to break through corporate BS and [ill] logic. Let’s look at the math, shall we?

    One MacBook power adapter: $79
    One MacBook battery: $129
    One Genius Bar appointment: ~$100?

    Securing a future customer to buy a $1,000+ computer?: 70% net gain in profit. ($300 vs. $1,000)

  8. dotcomrade says:

    RINO-Marty: Amen to that–not only is his letter too long, it just doesn’t seem right to kick Steve Jobs in the nuts with these zingers in the first paragraph and expect a favorable result:

    Although your market share in the computer world isn’t as high as Windows-based PC’s….People read online, all the time, about shortcomings of all companies, but I can safely say that I have read more positive reviews of Apple then negative.”

    Go on, small market share, negative reviews, anything else you wish to add about Apple products? Oh, and please throw in a MacBook AIR for my inconvenience!

    Ultimately, the facts in the case and not the ad hominem attacks prompted Apple’s immediate response. I think you had Steve Jobs with this statement:

    You know the dangers associated with this problem. At worst, it could cause a fire. And, in a dorm room with hundreds and hundreds of residents, this makes the scenario even scarier.”

    Imagine an Apple product taking out an entire dorm. There’s no way a company can survive that kind of disaster.

  9. levenhopper says:

    At least at my Apple Store, Genius Bar appointments are free

  10. IphtashuFitz says:

    @blackmage439: And that’s just the direct gain attributed to these two people. The publicity from this getting posted here, the word of mouth from David and his roommate, etc. are likely to result in even more profit for Apple in the long run.

  11. Asvetic says:

    @heavylee-again: It’s a shame that he should have to be assertive at all.

    In an ideal world, the customer could go into a store make there claim for service without yelling or screaming, and that store should fix it. No questions asked.

    But we don’t live in that world. We live in one where the CSRs berate us into thinking we have to yell and scream and dread the entire concept of “customer service”.

  12. katylostherart says:

    what i’d really like is for the applecare warrantee to be purchasable at any point in your ownership even if it entails a thorough inspection and cataloging of damage.

  13. Kajj says:

    @dotcomrade: I don’t think you read the letter accurately. The kid didn’t request a free computer for himself. He said he makes his purchasing decisions based on customer service and Apple’s response would influence his decision to get a Macbook Air. And I don’t think the beginning paragraph was an attack at all. It definitely wasn’t an ad hominem attack, because that’s not what those words mean.

    Giving a realistic compliment like “every company gets complaints, but you get less than the other guys,” contributed to the letter’s calm and rational voice. It was his way of showing that he’s a savvy technology consumer, informed about the industry, and thus someone Steve Jobs should take seriously.

  14. viqas says:

    even out of warranty?

    I know apple’s support and customer service is awesome.

    Though i did have one bad luck with their support. but a specialist did help me out with it.

  15. RINO-Marty says:

    I had a firmware update fail on an Apple wireless keyboard that was way out of warranty. I called Apple’s 800 number, punched 2 or 3 numbers, and got a tech immediately who asked for my serial number. I told him it was regarding an out-of-warranty keyboard firmware failure and that they keyboard was no longer working. He talked me through the fix anyway, free, no questions asked. Total time from beginning to end: about 6 minutes. Try that with Dell or Microsoft.

  16. shorty63136 says:

    Fantastic letter. I’m an “angry, yet articulate” letter writer myself, so I know that these things get results (and free stuff, depending on how pissed you are).

    Glad it all worked out in the end. :)

  17. FHJay says:

    @viqas Genius Bar appointments are free at any Apple Store. A diagnostic outside of warranty can cost money if you have them look at it but don’t opt for a repair, but it’s free just to see a genius, explain the problem, and get their opinion.

  18. lasciate says:

    Honestly, if he had called AppleCare with that issue they would have taken care of him, regardless of warranty. The letter was unnecessary.

  19. MadDog23 says:

    Counterpoint: Apple support for iPods has been horrible; not only have I suffered common product flaws such as touchwheels dying and iTunes corrupting files on my computer, but they have refused to fix the first issue due to an unrelated small dent on the back of the case, and have deleted posts on their support boards asking them to respond to and fix problems with the units. I don’t know what life for an Apple computer owner is like but my support experiences as an iPod owner have been pretty lousy

  20. lasciate says:

    @katylostherart: You can buy AppleCare any time in the first year of ownership.

  21. glass says:

    That’s like this one time where I emailed Bill Gates and he took care of my problem right away. Wait… no, that never happened. Damned senility.

  22. @Tightlines: my thoughts exactly. i know too many people who just suck it up and buy a new product w/o holding the mfg. accountable.

  23. dotcomrade says:

    @Kajj: In one paragraph, he asks for a new MacBook and yet in another he repeats that request and follows that with a “bribe,” that he was considering the MacBook Air.

    I read that as hint to Steve Jobs–if you’re going to replace it, please send a Mac Book Air.

    It was a good letter and it got the desired result.

    A better outcome would be Apple’s recall of these defective AC adapters before it causes fire damage.

    To that end, the OP may want to alert the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) [www.cpsc.gov] about this incident as they have the power to force a recall. I should note that when submitting a CPSC report, your name, address, and telephone number are optional and their statement that they cannot contact you without that information is pure BS–just create an email address for your report and if you want a follow-up, provide a fictitious name at your address.

    Previous Apple recalls:

    [www.cpsc.gov] [www.cpsc.gov]

    You can also search the CPSC database for any company name to see if your device has been recalled.


  24. theBIG says:

    @blackmage439: A genius bar appointment is actually free.

    I had a similar issue with my MacBook Pro. THe plug on the computer was looking scorched. I took it in out of warranty and they fixed the problem for free.

    Pretty good customer service.

  25. Rask says:

    Is anyone deluded enough to think that sjobs@apple.com actually goes to Steve’s e-mail, let alone his iPhone?

    They probably get thousands of e-mails a day on that address alone.

    My guess is that it got dropped in the “feel good” support queue that is designed to increase Mr. Job’s public image by giving the customer everything he wants as if Jobso had ordered it personally.

  26. Fadamor says:

    @dotcomrade: He asks for the MacBook as the high-end solution to his roommate’s problem. He clearly states that it is he (not the roommate) considering a MacBook Air purchase.

    The problem with fixing things out of warranty is… how far do you go? If John Q. Public had his widget repaired for free 6 months out of warranty, but Sally X. Public was denied a free repair of the same widget 6 months and a day after the warranty expired, Sally would have some interesting ammunition for legal action.

    You should set the warranty date and stick to it. Sometimes, if a design problem becomes apparent after the product’s release, you issue a blanket extension to the warranty for that product. Microsoft did this with their X-Boxes after the “red ring of death” became a common household term. (Granted, they denied the problem for a rediculously long time, but they finally got their thinking straight.)

  27. Kajj says:

    @dotcomrade: He was writing the letter on behalf of his friend. His friend needs his Macbook replaced, and he, the letter writer, is thinking of buying a Macbook Air soon. Two seperate people, two seperate computers. The writer very clearly explains that by “bribe” he means that Apple would get to sell one more Air in addition to keeping the unlucky friend’s business.

  28. pal003 says:

    A “good” customer service experience – this made me warm and fuzzy.

  29. mehtajr says:

    The whole thing was unnecessary. It had a burnt power adaptor. Walk into any Apple store, show it to the genius, get a new one, no questions asked. That’s exactly what Apple did with my MacBook.

  30. NoLongerInUse says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: But you catch more with a dead squirrel.

  31. ShorashiNemean says:

    Comment on “Dear Steve Jobs” Letter Hits Target And Gets Results @MadDog23: Not in my experience. I had an older 80 gig classic iPod
    that was out of warranty and one day it began to make the dreaded
    click of death. It refused to be read from or written to, so I
    figured the worst – hard drive failure. I took it to the Apple
    store, though I figured my odds weren’t good as the old iPod had a
    HUGE dent in it from being jostled around in my book bag. To my
    delight, the Mac Genius at the bar tested it, said pretty much, “Yep,
    you’re screwed,” and pulled a new, identical 80 gig iPod classic out
    from under the bar, asked me to sign a paper, handed me the new iPod
    and told me to have a nice day. All free of charge. And I had been
    all ready to shell out $300 for the new 160 gig iPod video. This is
    why I forever and always will buy Apple products.

  32. Ein2015 says:

    Beautiful! I’m happy to hear that Apple has top-notch customer service. I’m happy to own a MacBook Air! :D

  33. Tsubasa says:

    Good grief. He’s lucky anyone even bothered to read all that to find out what the problem is. He’s probably one of those people that leaves five-minute-long voicemail messages that boil down to “This is Joe. Please call me back.”

  34. LibertyReign says:

    Man..this story really got to me.. Apples really suck…REALLY REALLY suck.. and now I am considering buying one..

    It’s like paying extra for something that you never wanted, but I really think I will try one out after reading this.

  35. slrman says:

    As I tell my clients in customer satisfaction seminars, “It’s always cheaper to make a customer happy than it is to make him angry.” Here, Apple has made a customer ecstatic. This isn’t customer satisfaction, it’s customer delight.

    It seems hard to believe, but I often have problems convincing some clients of this.