Bad Apples

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(Photo: A quality-control problem worth getting bent out of shape about?)

Now I’m about as virulent a Mac user as it gets. I’ve owned ten Macs in the past nine years and if someone doesn’t hold me back, I swear I’ll own more, I tell you, I will. Befriend me, PC user, and before long there’ll be a glowing Apple logo peeking out from behind the display of your new laptop, too. Power Windows user or novice, it doesn’t matter, I’ve converted them all. So it came as no surprise to me that, barely two hours after I reported to Devyn that I had bought a shiny new MacBook, the formerly rabidly PC-using boyfriend went online and bought his own shiny, new, albeit refurbished MacBook Pro.

What was disturbing, however, was the string of quality-control issues that quickly followed Devyn’s purchase of a new Mac.

Devyn was nervous about switching computing platforms, but he’d heard so many good things about Macs–and not just from me–that he figured he was making a wise decision. So three weeks ago, Devyn bought a refurbished MacBook Pro from the online Apple Store. It arrived bent. Yes, bent, by about 15 degrees in the lower right hand corner. Now some MacBook Pros have had this ominous little problem whereby the battery expands, literally plumps up like a Christmas goose for whatever reason, and cracks the computer case.

Frankenstein-ish as that problem is, I could have at least understood it. You know, perhaps the battery went all Mary Shelley in storage while nobody was looking. Some unsuspecting Apple Store clerk plops the laptop box in the mail, and the defective battery is finally spotted by some unlucky Mac buyer. But that wasn’t the case here. The battery was fine. The case was not. It was as if someone, somewhere, just bent the ‘book and Apple boxed it and sent it out that way.

Incredulous and obviously not wanting to keep a computer that seesawed when you typed on it, Devyn promptly bitched out an Apple toll-free telephone rep and sent the offending MacBook Pro back. A replacement computer arrived two days later. With an epileptic, obviously stuttering display. The kind of display problem that could easily go unnoticed. By a sight-impaired user operating their Mac exclusively with the aid of the built-in voice-recognition accessibility features. But, really, by no one else.

In disbelief at our string of bad luck, we took that computer to the North Michigan Avenue Apple Store for service. The technician at the Genius Bar told us it was probably a logic board problem, necessitating the replacement of most of the computer’s innards. What were we gonna do? Devyn said OK, and off the ‘book went, yet again, for service.

It arrived back a week later. All the service department had done was replace a display cable, not the logic board. As a result, the display problem was still there in all its glory–which would have been obvious if anyone had actually been doing quality control before the computer was sent back to us.

By this point, usually soft-spoken, unassuming, Central Valley-bred Devyn was well and truly angry. He made his displeasure known in no uncertain terms to the Apple Store’s manager. Three drop-dead glaring Mac problems ignored by, well, really whomever at Apple, while the same customer kept getting stuck with an unusable computer. The manager agreed that, by this point, the problem had reached critical mass. He decided to take back Devyn’s recidivistically faulty refurb and order, instead, a brand-new laptop for Devyn, with the difference to be paid on Apple’s dime.

Finally, a happy resolution, but it was a pretty sorry–and needless–chain of events leading up to it. A chain of events that left me wondering whether some midlevel manager at Apple has sent the word out for technicians to do as little work as possible on what have become known as the “problematic” new MacBook Pro laptops, in order to protect the profit margin.

Or I could be wrong. Maybe Apple’s just fired one too many talented technicians and the dingos and gila monsters now working in the service department are having a hard time getting much work done without those opposable thumbs.

Either way, the punch line is that Devyn started out in this story as a very eager Windows switcher buying his first Mac, and now he’s left wondering whether he’s made a very bad decision.

And that’s a switcher story you won’t see in an Apple commercial.

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(Read about a MacBook that arrived back from Apple’s service department similarly bent over at MacUser).

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