24 April 2007

Apple Lemon

I promise more knitting content within the next two days.

Want to read a long, long letter I wrote to Apple? It's below.
Want the short version? They don't want to replace my computer, two of their agents openly lied to me, they want to replace my logic board and power supply again.

Here's the long version:

Apple Computer Inc
ATTN: Customer Relations
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

Dear Customer Relations:

I am writing to express my frustration at my treatment by agents of Apple Computer Inc, through your AppleCare service. This letter will be long; I have chosen thoroughness in lieu of brevity.

My iMac G5 has never worked properly. Indeed, it has been plagued with issues since it came home with me. Purchased in 2004, it has gone through three major repairs. In 2004, the computer kept shutting down unexpectedly. Apple support staff didn’t seem to know what was wrong with the computer until I did some digging on my own and found that a number of iMacs were suffering with the same problems. I called support again and suggested that I could have a faulty power supply. The agent seemed unconvinced but agreed to send me a new power supply, warning me that when I sent the faulty power supply back if Apple found it to be good then I would be charged for the unnecessary replacement part. I had no doubt the power supply had burned out since I found ash inside the computer.

In 2005, my computer was again having problems. This time I made an appointment at a local Apple authorized service center where they discovered that I needed a new hard drive and a new logic board. At the time, the closest service center was a 45-minute drive away and I had to take time off work to both drop off and pick up my computer. In home service is not an option as the closest authorized in home tech is in New York.

In 2006 my computer had yet another problem. CDs and DVDs were failing to mount, failing to eject, launching out of the drive slot when they did eject and burning with heavy distortion (when I could get them to mount). I did not want to take the computer in yet again so I waited awhile before I called Apple support. When it became obvious that I would have to bring it in yet again, I just stopped using discs. In 2007, the problem became too disruptive to ignore and I broke down, called Apple service again, and brought it in for another repair. This time the local authorized service center had just opened a new, local, facility so I did not have as far to drive but I still had to take time off work to bring it in. The optical drive was replaced.
The computer was not home three days when I realized that it had more issues. I would shut down the computer at night and when I woke up in the morning, it would be on. At first, I thought that maybe I just thought I shut down when I in fact did not. So, I shut down during the evening when I was still awake and waited. Sure enough, the computer restarted itself within two hours. Over he next couple of days I realized that the computer would restart itself every time I shut down and twice I experienced kernel panics where I had to manually restart the computer.

I called Apple support on Thursday, 19 April and spoke to an unknown agent. The agent with whom I spoke (I don’t remember his name) was very helpful. He told me that I was eligible for a replacement computer and that he could not believe, after all I had been through, no one had offered a replacement sooner. I was told that I needed to take the computer to be examined and then, very firmly (his words were put on your “poker face and your John Wayne grimace”) ask for a new computer. He said that I might get some push back but that my AppleCare agreement clearly stated that I was eligible for a replacement computer, as the one I initially purchased clearly had never worked properly. When I hung up the phone I was so relieved, I thought that my computer troubles were finally over.

I spoke with someone at my local repair shop and some of the things I was told on the 19th came into question. I called Apple support again on Friday, 20 April and spoke with an agent who identified himself as Harley. Initially I spoke with a support agent who said that he was not authorized to talk replacement and that he would transfer me to a “product specialist.” I was transferred to Harley who identified himself as an Apple product specialist. Harley told me that the gentleman with whom I had spoken on the prior evening did not have the authority to offer me a replacement computer and that the notes in the system did not accurately reflect what I had been told.

Harley said it appeared that I did not qualify for a replacement computer and I should not have been told anything to the contrary. Initially Harley said that I did not qualify for replacement because I had not been through enough “major component” repairs. When I asked him what repairs he saw, he listed the logic board, hard drive and optical drive and told me that because the logic board and hard drive had been replaced at the same time they only constituted one repair. I then asked why the power supply did not factor into the equation and he explained that he did not see the repair listed. When I explained that I had replaced the part myself, he said that he did see it; he had not looked at the repair because most customer replacements were something simple like a mouse or keyboard. He also expressed surprise that the power supply was something that customers were allowed to replace as it was an easy task (“even my grandmother could do it” were his words) but that people who didn’t know what they were doing could really damage something and that he was surprised Apple would open itself to that kind of liability. Once we established the validity of my claim that the power supply had been replaced (he didn’t really believe me initially) then his story changed. Now I was not eligible for a replacement because the repairs that had already been made did not happen within a certain (unspecified) amount of time relative to each other. I could not get Harley to be any more specific about this.

So, now I was in the position of going through what was happening with my computer, as I never received a case number during the course of my call on the 19th. After I explained what was happening and what steps I had taken to remedy the problem (reset the SMU, restart with no peripherals attached, search the Apple knowledge base, post on the Apple support forum, etc.), Harley suggested that I chose restart from the Apple menu instead of shut down. I suggested that 1) I know the difference and 2) that did not explain why the computer would be shut down for as long as three hours at a stretch and 3) it didn’t explain the kernel panics. Harley then suggested that I try a different outlet; he seemed very reluctant to admit that it could possibly be a problem with the actual computer. Throughout our entire conversation of more than an hour, Harley was openly hostile and condescending. He finally told me to take it to a repair specialist and if it needed to be repaired (he wasn’t convinced) then AppleCare would cover the cost. I was assured that should I need another repair, I would qualify for a replacement computer.

Today, 24 April, I brought my iMac to an Apple certified repair center for some diagnostic tests. When I pick the computer up I was told that I need a new logic board and power supply. Because I live close to the repair center and because I am in the middle of finals they let me take the iMac home with the understanding that I will bring it to them the same day the replacement parts come in. This means that my options are to live without my computer until the parts come in from Apple or to bring my computer in twice as one of the parts is on back order and the two parts will not likely arrive together. I have to choose the latter option as I am a single parent with a small child at home who works full-time and attends college (half of which is online) part-time. The only time I can do homework is at night after my daughter goes to bed; I do not have the luxury of going to campus or the local library to use the computers there.

When I returned home on the 24th I called Apple support once again because I wanted to let them know what repairs had been suggested and make sure that I was still proceeding along the correct course of action. The agent with whom I spoke, Justin, informed me that Harley did not have the authority to deny or offer me a replacement iMac, that only someone from Customer Relations could do that. I asked Justin if he was saying that Harley, the agent with whom I last spoke, was not authorized to offer or deny a replacement computer to me. At this point, I wanted to make sure that I heard everything correctly. Justin confirmed that was indeed what he said.

At this point, I am beyond frustrated. I own a computer, for which I paid more than $2000 USD, that has never worked properly. I own a computer that had been plagued with malfunctions and repair needs almost from the day I brought it home. I own a computer that has contributed to my missing work and struggling to fulfill my collegiate obligations. I understand that no computer, no matter how stylish, is perfect; I expect to have some problems, but the number of problems I have had with this iMac is unacceptable.

People I know and others who read my blog have asked me why I stick with a computer that has become known as the Apple Lemon amongst my friends. I have been the constant cheerleader for Apple, defending and supporting you from day one. I consistently assure them that the latest issue is a fluke and that once the computer is repaired this time all will be well. I remind them that Apple computers are known for their reliability. I feel taken advantage of and I feel like a fool.

Not only have I been given the run around by agents at Apple support but also I have been openly lied to by two of you agents who misrepresented themselves. I do not think I am asking for a lot. I want a new computer, one that works as the first was supposed to; one that may have the occasional problem but one on which I can rely. The computer I purchased has never performed as represented by Apple; I just want one that does.

Emily Blah Blah

cc: Attorney General's Office
ATTN: Consumer Protection
109 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05609-1001