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May 25, 2004

Rotten to the Core? (Updated)

Posted by Mike on May 25, 2004 8:45 PM

A visit to the Mac store support desk:

Me: This is a G3/800 iBook. I bought it two months ago. Two nights ago, I was typing and I noticed the screen going crazy on the right side. Sort of flickery. I noticed it did it when my ....

Clerk: When your left hand was resting over the hard drive. Mmhm.

Me: It did seem to echo the behavior I've read about a logic ...

Clerk: the logic board problem. Mmhm.

Me: Funny thing is, I looked up the serial numbers when I first heard about this, and ...

Clerk: There are more numbers now. Yours is one of them.

And that's about that. My second iBook, and the second one to be plagued with some sort of stupid, widespread quality control/design issue. The repair people are very friendly about the matter, in a blase "yeah, so your iBook's fucked, what's new?" sort of way, but I'm left wondering what the hell is up with Apple. My first iBook was an early snow G3/500. They had some glitches but I thought "ok, newish series... sometimes there are bugs." I took it back twice for those bugs.

The latest is many, many revs down the line, and it's hosed, too.

No big theme here. Just noting that I've bought two Apples in three years, and they've both fallen victim to mass flaws.

Related Pudding:

and as a special bonus, a harrowing tale of Dell's eeeevil support phone people from my LinuxPlanet days:


I have also wondered about the quality assurance over at Apple as of late. My snow iBook had its video fail shortly after warranty expired because of a pinched backlit cable. From what I have read online this is far from uncommon for their portables. I ended up paying $140 to have it fixed before selling it off. I am unhappy to have spent the money fixing what sounds like a design flaw, but I also came away from the experience with a new admiration for Apple Support. In the last few years I have had painful... no, wait, make that excruciatingly painful experiences dealing with utterly inept, uncaring, unknowledgeable 'customer support' representatives form Qwest, Linksys and Dell (Linksys was by far the worst, they would actually hang up on me when I asked questions they did not know the answer to). Two weeks ago I called 1-800-APL-CARE twice and both times: * The phone tree made sense and was quick to navigate * A live person answered the call with less than a minute hold time * Both people I talked to were friendly, and with friendly I don't just mean platitudes, they were actually nice to me and understanding of my needs. * After asking for my serial number they immediately had my information including purchase history and previous calls * The people I talked to were knowledgeable, understood my questions and were able to offer me answers without having to pass me to someone else/put me in another wait queue

Now I know that two calls is a small sample size, but after recent experiences I must say that Apple has restored my fait in customer support as business of supporting customers instead of seeing how much money you can save while pissing off customers just enough to not impact sales.

Posted by: Leopoldo at May 26, 2004 8:25 AM

I haven't dealt with Apple support directly during any of my three or four visits to authorized repair shops. One thing that does impress me about their support channel is the fact that none of the shops I've dealt with have cared about who I purchased the computer from (my first iBook was from Smalldog, in Vermont), and they handled everything efficiently. An Apple is an Apple is an Apple as far as the support channel goes.

On the flipside, my last x86 laptop was a Dell Inspiron. When something (finally) went wrong with it after a year of use, I called Dell, dealt with a real idiot for a first-line support person, got myself escalated after only a little carrying on, and had a technician in my house with a new logic board the next morning.

Apple has refused to ship logic boards, according to the guy I talked to last night, to any of their authorized repair centers, which forces the unit to be returned to Cupertino. Each time so far this has taken four or five days.

Posted by: mph at May 26, 2004 8:39 AM

We've bene talking in my strategic management class about companies who increased output at the cost of quality. Harley-Davidson was the primary example, where showrooms would have carboard under each H-D because they just leaked that much oil. It created a pretty nasty feedback loop with H-D attempting to deal with bad produts being shipped back and returned while rolling out new units.

I wonder what sort of systematic problems are possibly creeping into Apple's production facilities as they have up-revved in the last handfull of years...

Posted by: Michael Burton at May 26, 2004 8:46 AM

MY ibook will be just fine now, thank you very much! denial is a lovely place to live. ;)

as long as we're talking tech support stories, though, apple was very good at handling my original airport buzzing and flashing in alarming ways (i had one of the first batch which apparently would overheat); a quick call and a new airport arrived within days. and i called easystreet once and they were quite nice, too (i can't say i was confident they understood my question, but the answer worked, so i'm not complaining). i actually have worse stories about netbank and my credit card companies.

Posted by: gl. at May 26, 2004 10:37 AM

Yeah, well, Gretchin, I've never seen your alleged iBook. :-)

Posted by: mph at May 26, 2004 10:41 AM

yes, you have, actually; it's leopoldo's! :D

because my current laptop, a bronze-keyed pismo powerbook, is a state computer, michaelmas wants her back, so i was in the market for a used computer. this is why i'm not letting ibook horror stories rattle me; now that it's -mine-, it will be fine, just -fine-, i tell you! nods furiously

Posted by: gl. at May 26, 2004 11:33 AM

Ah! Well, if it's LEOPOLDO'S...

In all fairness to Apple, once I took my older iBook in (it was of about the same generation as Leopoldo's, but slower and without the combo drive), and they fixed the problems, it stayed fixed for the next year. So I bet you'll be fine. I even mean it when I say that. :-)

I recently sold my older one to Ed, and he seems to still be digging it.

Posted by: mph at May 26, 2004 11:39 AM