Apple: Sorry We Wrote On Your Macbook Screen With Pen And Then Lost It, Here's A New Laptop

Reader Brandon’s Macbook had some cracks and stuck pixels, so he sent it in to be repaired. When he got it back the cracks were fixed, but someone had written on his screen with pen. So, naturally, he sent it back. This time, they lost it. Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending.

Brandon writes:

I’ll try to keep it short. Last month I went to my local Apple Store to get some cracks on my Macbook casing fixed and the LCD checked out because of the huge amounts of stuck pixels on it. They agreed to send it out for repairs, at no cost to me (I have Apple Care).

It came back half repaired, the cracks were fixed, however, someone WROTE ARROWS WITH A PEN on my LCD. They sent it back to replace the LCD, that was last month on the 7th. Since then Apple has no idea where my Macbook is, they keep basically telling me it’s in two places at once or they give me the run around and say “just a few more days”. I don’t know what to do anymore, I’ve lost around $400 due to me not being able to work, without my Macbook I can’t work. So now I’m writing you, asking for help, if you can spare it. If you have any advice it would be greatly appreciated.

We suggested that Brandon send an email to Steve Jobs. He agreed, and we waited. A few days later we received this:

The email worked! Got a call from my local Apple Store yesterday morning, told me to come pick up a brand new Macbook, so I did!

Hooray! For more information about launching your own EECB, click here.

(Photo: C. Barr )


Edit Your Comment

  1. zigziggityzoo says:

    Sucks when they lose stuff like that. Glad it worked out in the end.

  2. CaliCheeseSucks says:

    What are they doing writing on the screen in the first place? Glad it worked out, though.

  3. B says:

    I guess the Genius forgot you’re supposed to use white-out to cover up the pen marks.

  4. Ringl says:

    When I read stuff like this it reminds me to make another backup to external storage. I can always work on another machine, but data loss could cost me weeks of work.

  5. CaliCheeseSucks says:

    What are they doing writing on the screen in the first place? Glad it worked out, though.

    (sorry if this is a repost. Don’t think the first one went through.)

  6. Ringl says:

    @CaliCheeseSucks: The comment system is acting a little funny for me too.

  7. BoomerFive says:

    @CaliCheeseSucks: I would assume they were writing on the screen to point out the stuck pixels. Though that still makes no sense, why not use adhesive arrows of some kind?

  8. zigziggityzoo says:

    @BoomerFive: I would assume that one person checks and the next guy down the line does the replacing. My guess? The guy doing the replacing got in a fight with taco bell fast food and lost, thus missing this MacBook on the assembly line.

  9. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @CaliCheeseSucks: It could be because they meant to use an overhead projector marker or something which could be wiped off, but oops, picked up the Sharpie instead.

  10. Edward Lionheart says:

    New Mac but what about what was on it? I’m assuming because there’s no mention that the customer backed up his data with Time Machine or some such… I write this to encourage EVERYONE to invest in a back-up drive and never bring a computer in for repair without making sure you have everything vital stored somewhere else.

  11. levenhopper says:

    I have two questions on this post…

    1) I always thought that when you have dead pixels, they replace the whole screen. Maybe I’m just mistaken, but that’s how it’s been explained to me multiple times. If that’s the case, then there’d be no reason for Apple techs to write on his screen.

    2) Why do people keep emailing Comsumerist asking for advice on how to get help with major companies that have already been posted on? They always reply to the email with a link to the EECB page revelant to the company. Why waste the editors’ time when you can do a simple search from the top of any page?

  12. SkokieGuy says:

    Since computers have become essential to most of our lives, I think the whole model of repair must change.

    When you repair your car under warranty, you are provided a loaner vehicle at no charge. When you’re car is out of warranty, you can still obtain a loaner for a charge.

    Perhaps stores begin to stock loaner PCs with all the common hardware. Perhaps mfg. offer an opt-in for automated online secure back-up. When you call in with a problem, your back up is downloaded to a loaner PC, you’re notified when ready, and sign an agreement, just like when you are given a loaner at a car dealer. If the problem turns out to not be warranty, you are charged a set amount for the loaner.

    Hey, if you’re on home oxygen and the unit malfuctiions, you don’t just ship it off and wait 3 – 4 weeks to get the repair returned.

    Steve Jobs: I’m available as a paid consultant. I work cheap!

  13. ionerox says:

    @CaliCheeseSucks: Well, the arrows were probably pointing out the bad pixels so the repair depot would see them. (They probably are supposed to verify problems before fixing them, tho I don’t know why the store didn’t do it themselves, they should have the parts.)

    A post-it note would have been a better idea, but at least it was more obvious then to Brandon and whoever received the machine back at the store that the LCD wasn’t fixed.

  14. linoth says:

    This seems to happen with unfortunate frequency over all, and I can’t help but wonder what companies are doing to address the issue. I like the solution of “come pick up a new laptop” in this instance, since at this point it has cost Apple pretty much as much in man-hours as the laptop would’ve cost anyway. But the data is irrevocably lost, and in some cases that’s going to be a major issue.

    A solution that has occured to me is that when a laptop or PC comes in for work and it’s determined that it needs to be shipped out, the contents of the hard drive are immediately backed up on-site and stored until the repairs are completed and the computer is returned to the customer. More than likely, a “retention” period of a few days might be desirable, as well.

    While it might seem like this would place a massive burden of storage on “the shop,” in an era of terabyte hard drives it shouldn’t be too devastating. Perhaps only a guarantee to back up a certain amount of data (200-320 gigs, maybe?) would be a legal fail-safe, as you really should have your own backup solution at that kind of storage point. The average laptop isn’t even storing 200gb, so a single 1tb drive could back up 6-8 laptops with ease. And that’s assuming people fill the hard drive of their laptop.

    Or maybe that’s just an unnecessary measure because only 0.1% of laptops are being lost and of that amount only 0.01% absolutely must have their data returned to them. Without knowing the figures, I can’t determine that myself.

  15. palookapalooza says:

    @SkokieGuy: There’s a few flaws in the loaner PC scenario… Some software must be activated and can only be activated on a limited number of machines, for a limited time. (I’m looking at you, Adobe!) Plus, all the time it would take to load up specialized software, not to mention the difficulty of transporting software preferences.

  16. SkokieGuy says:

    @palookapalooza: Problems, yes, but not insurmountable. When you get a loaner from the car dealer, it doesn’t always have the same features as your car, but it still does it’s basic function, namely transporting you to your destination.

    If the loaner provides functional internet, email, wordprocessing and spreadsheets, I suspect a lot of people would jump at the chance. If your PC profile were auto-ghosted to an online secure server, perhaps the entire HD could be downloaded to a loaner. Some infrastructure and licensing policies would have to be created and adjusted.

    Would some customers pay a premium for warranty coverage with a loaner provided? I think so. The proof is that the public is started to purchase and maintain back-up computers specifically to protect against the eventuality of having to give up their main unit for service, repair, upgrades and such.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    @B: I’m quite in awe of your quip. Just thought that I’d let you know. :)
    Apple’s a big ship and mistakes are made, but it’s heartening that they deliver when it’s pointed out to them. Especially compared to the other computer mfr’s. I’d imagine Gateway, Dell, etc would simply snicker then blame you for not buying the $300/yr extra service plan to do the right thing.

  18. joebobfunguy says:

    Why doesn’t Steve Jobs just give the CSR’s the authority to take care of this stuff on their own? I’m so sick of customer service having no authority to do anything.

  19. lasciate says:

    @ionerox: Apple does portable repairs at three central repair depots in the US, most stores do not have techs that are portable-repair certified and they only keep desktop parts on hand.

  20. lasciate says:

    @joebobfunguy: Front-line support doesn’t have the authority to take care of an issue like this, but the upper-level support does. All Brandon would have had to do is phone in and ask for a supervisor or product specialist and it would have been handled. The story doesn’t state if he phoned in at all or if he just kept talking to the store.

  21. synergy says:

    Hopefully he didn’t have anything important, irreplaceable, or sensitive on that lost computer…

  22. weakdome says:

    @Trai_Dep: Except he did buy the apple care plan, which I believe is at least $250. So he got the service he deserved. Your comment would be appropriate if apple had done this WITHOUT him having apple care.

  23. Noris159 says:

    I just had a reasonable experience with Applecare on my work Macbook. I expected them to try to dodge trying to fix my LCD screen because one of the backlights went out, and my case cracked.

    Aside from having to listen to the Pod Person Mac guy go on and on about what a value Macs are (lol $400 of parts with a $1500 price tag with 0 games available), he was very helpful in outlining the problem and I received my computer back in 5 business days.

  24. Noris159 says:

    @SkokieGuy: I’m surprised people only own one computer these days. I have a desktop for gaming and real computing, and I have a Macbook for the living room/bedroom for guests. I probably even have enough parts laying around to build a crappy internet-only machine just from computers I’ve had over the last decade.

    @linoth: Consumers who don’t back up their computers deserve to lose everything. You can find an external HD on sale for less than $200, and I’d estimate that 95% of computers come with DVD burners. You seriously have to try to screw yourself over. Doing the right thing and backing up is practically forced upon you by ease and availability.

  25. Phreggs says:


    Cell Phone companies have adopted that practice as well, of providing a loaner inbetween either getting a phone fixed, or replaced.

    Granted, its not the nicest thing in the world, but they work.

  26. Breach says:

    Nice to see a CEO that cares enough to respond that way!

  27. ludwigk says:

    @SkokieGuy: The features issue IS an insurmountable problem. Some people will need just the internet/email, and others will require specialized hardware, workstations, multiple monitors, and licensed software.

    In terms of a car for transportation, they are “essentially” one size fits all. For any given car model, its day-to-day functionality can be 99%+ filled by virtually any other car of the same size. The car can hold the same number of people safely, and transport a similar amount of cargo. It can travel safely on roads, and go at highways speeds. It can be refueled at a standard gas station, and that is about all (99%+) we need from a car.

    Computing needs are not at all like this. The capabilities of a low-end macbook is about 1/8 that of the high-end Mac Pro towers. The customer could be using their mac with a specific version of ProTools, and need to use Tiger instead of the current Leopard. Current mac hardware doesn’t support Tiger. Customer may “feel” that the MacBook loaner does not provide the system resources of their beefed up MacBook Pro. The loaner may not have sufficient storage for the customer’s personal data. The complaints and exceptions are too numerous to consider.

    The backup/ghosting process to roll out “useful” loaners not only creates a monster of data/software license liability (i.e., it violates pretty much all EULAs), but increases work load tremendously for a repair, and then creates even more work for secure erasing and re-restoring these units.

    Each Apple store can have up to hundreds of in-flight repairs. To offer such a service, Apple would need to maintain a fleet of thousands of additional rapidly depreciating computers, adding thousands of necessary man-hours to their retail store operating budget.

    And lastly, this is something that you might not consider being in your position, but they don’t even have a place to physically store these additional machines. Yes, placing a few dozen extra computers in some stores would be crippling in terms of the storage space currently available. Every possible inch of their back of house is already bulging with computers, products, and parts stacked to the ceiling.

    @lasciate: A lot of what you said isn’t true any more for almost all Apple stores. They do a huge % of portable repair in-house now.

  28. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @linoth: BestBuy’s Geek Squad already does this… except they only backup your porn… and they’ll store it for you indefinitely… and they won’t bother telling this you unless they get caught.

    Now that’s customer service you can count on!

  29. coolkiwilivin says:

    Once again, a real computer company with real hardware warranties would have taken care of this immediately. Dell in spite of all their various problems with a complete care warranty makes Apple look like a complete total bunch of garage store operators. With complete care, the tech comes out to where I want to meet them, my house, my office, the panera around the corner, what’s convenient for me to fix my problem. Seriously, you Mac Kool Aid Drinkers need to demand a real hardware warranty support not this crap that’s currently being peddled off to you. Once again Dell is far from a perfect company but the crap that I’ve read here for what Mac users have had to go through for Hardware support, makes me very glad anytime I’ve had to call in for HW support for myself or any of my co workers.

  30. Trai_Dep says:

    @weakdome: Ah, well I’ve had superb service (out-of-warrantee, even), so needing an extended plan isn’t necessarily an issue. Although, if I had a laptop rather than a desktop, I’d definitely have bought one.

  31. ShadowFalls says:

    For the “losing money” because the person is unable to work without their “Macbook” I blame the OP. You should know that electronics can not be relied on 100%, and if you need one to do your work, you should have a backup in line just in case of such a potential problem.

    Apparently the data was not important since there was no complaint about that. But for that, backup is the key to less stress in your life.

    But to point out, there is no excuse for just losing a computer at all and not being able to tell someone where it was lost at. I mean, it is either lost at where you dropped it off, in transit, or at the facility it was supposed to go to. If you can’t figure out one of those three, you got bigger problems. If it was lost where the person dropped it off, where the hell did it go? I mean really…

    Still at a loss on why someone would write on a screen either… You would think this would be noticed when a person checked to make sure it was operational…

  32. lasciate says:

    @ludwigk: Like I said, it depends on the store. A lot of them will do cracked case replacements and other minor repairs, very few will do anything as complex as an LCD or logic board replacement.

  33. mizike says:

    Just want to chime in that I had an excellent resolution to some problems I was having with an out of warranty ibook by sending the infamous email to steve jobs (cc’ed to consumerist of course). The person from executive customer relations who took over my case was polite, well informed, and kept in almost daily contact with me. One thing I would say is that make sure you have exhausted EVERY possible resolution before going to the EECB. By the time I emailed steve jobs, I had taken the machine to two separate apple authorized service providers (closest apple store is ~5 hours away), neither of which could figure out what was wrong with it, and had spoken to a representative from apple corporate about a resolution. When the Executive CSR got ahold of me, he knew EVERYTHING that had happened including all relevant dates and the amount of money I had spent. I’m sure if I had contacted him right away, he would have been far less helpful that he ultimately was.

  34. TVarmy says:

    @SkokieGuy: I do like that idea. And it’ll be a better idea as technology continues to go more and more online (or into the cloud, as tech people say). Apple’s planning on implementing Mobile Me in about a week, Steam (the game distribution system) is planning on storing game saves on their servers, and Google has been encouraging people to keep their stuff online with their services pretty much since Gmail.

    Also, if the hard drive is okay, Apple machines work great booting off of extra or external drives. You couldn’t cram a second drive into an apple laptop, but a cheap drive enclosure would let the user boot off of their old machine on the loaner. And it doesn’t need to be the same model, either. I’ve heard about MacBook Pro users loading their drives on Mac Minis.

    Of course, it’s expensive to loan out such a big-ticket item. I guess the plan could be to hold the original hostage, but thanks to rapid obsolecense in the computer world, a scammer could make out with a pricey machine if he brings in something old. I know that there are laws available to prevent this, but it’s probably what the tech companies are worried about.