Monday, September 11, 2017

An Apple Support Experience

John Risby:

Ultimately the fault lies with them, their generally terrible customer service policies and a design/manufacturing fault with the late 2016 15" Macbook Pro touch bar model. A fault that I’ve yet to see them publicly accept despite the fact it is accepted internally, has a fault code, and internet forums and youtube are full of people reporting the same problems.

Many of these people are being forced to pay out of their own pockets for expensive repairs even though there is, what seems to be a secret, repair programme in place.


The short version of this story is if you have a late 2016 15" touch bar model and you have problems with noises or the screen, go to Apple and, unless you know you’ve done something stupid like dropped it or put a hammer through the screen, demand they fix it or replace it.


Sadly Apple seem to have stopped trying to be the Porsche or Ferrari of computers, while keeping the same prices — or, in the case of this Macbook range, actually putting the prices up — but decided to adopt the customer services policies of a dodgy used car lot.

I’m not sure how much can be generalized from one experience. My own have been mixed and not frequent enough to infer a trend. Many interactions have been really great, exactly what you would expect from a reputable company that cares about its customers. Some were positive in the sense that multiple levels of advisors were caring and motivated to help, but the problems were left unresolved due to software bugs out of their control. With a few, the advisors seemed to want to help but didn’t have much knowledge of the product or seemingly any way of looking it up.

On the whole, the support from Apple seems to be worse than nearly all the small companies I deal with but better than nearly all the big companies (except Amazon).

Two paragraphs that resonated with me:

They immediately told me it was my fault. They claimed it had to be. They said once a screen leaves the factory, if it breaks, it is always the users fault.

When my father tried to return an iPhone 4 that had no cell signal at his home or work (with or without a bumper), despite an iPhone 3GS working great in both locations, Apple Store employees kept saying that it was somehow his fault, the phone was perfect, and he was an idiot for not wanting to keep it.

They only had to look at Mac forums or Youtube to see it being reported but that’s one thing I learned through this experience. Even senior advisors at Apple have very limited access to the internet at work, which doesn’t just show a shocking level of trust in their staff, but is a genuine hinderance to their ability to do their job. It’s less surprising they haven’t heard about problems from customers if they can’t read the forums their customers post on.

Almost every hardware issue I’ve encountered has a thread in Apple’s own forum with hundreds or thousands of posts. Advisors are always surprised to hear this and never seem to have a way of looking up other instances of the same issue.

One constant is that, despite every case having a number, it’s rare for someone to look up notes from previous interactions on that case, and I’ve been told it’s impossible when the case is transferred between different departments.

Via Wojtek Pietrusiewicz:

I had two 13″ MacBook Pro Touch Bar devices and returned them both, but not because there was something wrong with them — I just didn’t like the Touch Bar and short battery life.

Update (2017-09-11): See also: Nick Heer. Previously: Apple’s Support Gap.

Update (2017-09-13): See also: Seattle Rex (via Nathan).

Update (2017-09-20): Peter Steinberger:

It took >3 months, but Apple finally replaced the logic board on both MacBooks and also refunded the money for the failed repairs.

Update (2017-11-07): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2018-01-28): See also: project_2501 (via Nick Heer).

Update (2018-02-20): Nolan O’Brien:

I am spitting mad at the horrible support @Apple store provided my mother in law today.


Her 9 month old laptop won’t boot (folder with flashing exclamation mark flashing) and Apple refused to get the data off her laptop before doing a restore. Some malarky about customer privacy. She doesnt care if they see what she has, just that it’s saved - but they refuse!

On top of that they would not replace her battery to her iphone 6 that doesnt keep more than a 3 hour charge anymore without filling out a tonne of paperwork and she’d have to come back in several weeks to get it done.

Dan Masters:

This is reminiscent of the “customer support” my friend received when trying to get Apple to swap her barely used PowerBeats Wireless, which suddenly split due to a known manufacturing fault.

She ended up having to glue them herself.

Apple even refuses to replace frayed Lightning Cables now – for devices under warranty.

Sarah Perez:

It is unbelievable that @AppleSupport refuses to repair my Apple Watch when all it needs is glue for a loose screen. (Just confirmed in person. They expect me to pay to replace it with a new Watch.) I will never buy another Apple Watch again. I will buy a pretty watch that lasts.

Update (2018-03-01): Peter Steinberger:

I just tried to buy a replacement power cable for the iMac at the Vienna Apple Store. After 5 minute discussion and confusion I was sent up to the genius floor, and then sent away because there’s a 40 minute wait line for appointments.


Update (2018-03-07): Daniel Jalkut:

Pushback at Apple store about having MBP keyboard replaced under warranty for key wear.

Update (2018-10-15): Pye Jirsa (via Rory Prior):

What you are about to read is not doctored or manipulated to get more views — it’s simply my experience this past year with Apple products.

In the past, I respected and held Apple in high regard. However, I am by no means a “fanboy” of anything. I will use whatever it takes to get the job done, and I will tell you the pros and the cons of the tools I use. This is not a sponsored article, nor would Apple pay me to write this. They’d probably pay me not to. But that’s exactly why I feel it is important to share my experience using the new iMac Pro, MacBook Pro, and iPhone X.

Update (2022-08-29): thepoet:

The most recent case was that of my friend who upgraded to a 14 inch Macbook Pro that stopped booting in 7 days. Since there is no return option in 30 days like in other geographies, he took it to Apple’s authorised service centre (there are no Apple owned service centres in my country), and they put a big scratch right across the Apple logo. To add to this, Apple’s customer support final response after more than a week of wasting his time was they would not be able to replace the display even when my friend sent clear voice recordings of the service centre employees accepting their mistake. He had to take the help of the local police who went with him to the shop to get a written statement that they would be replacing the display too along with the mainboard to fix the primary issue of dead laptop.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter

[…] Michael Tsai wrote, I’m not sure that it’s fair to treat this admittedly terrible experience as the […]

Years ago there was a saying among Apple Retail employees: Apple products don't break; people break our products. I've never forgotten this, and nearly every customer support experience I've had with Apple retail since around 2007 has started with blame the customer.

Ten years of similar experiences between two local stores has led to me to only deal with Apple's phone support going forward—a au rprisingly better experience overall.

I've owned five different retina MacBook Pros since the original retina MacBook Pro came out. Every single one of them had some kind of screen problem (some worse than others; the one I'm using right now has a really weird pixelated ghosting problem). When my first retina had ghosting, I returned it. The one I got as a replacement was even worse, so I've kinda given up on that.

The MacBook Pro I owned two generations before the first Retina had a manufacturing defect with the graphics card, and, one day, just started showing gibberish. It was out of warranty, so I disassembled it, and bought a new one. I later found out that Apple had a secret replacement program for out-of-warranty devices of that type with that (known!) issue.

This kind of stuff has been going on for a while, as far as I can tell.

My father has experienced problems with cracking MacBooks (the old plastic kind), weirdly not covered because Apple claimed a separate problem preempted coverage....also had a 2011 MBP die, GPU problem I think....not covered at first, so he bought a new MBPr and then of course the old system was covered by an official extended repair later....

There's definitely a history here, anecdotal as it may seem. Seattle Rex has an eye opening article of Apple's relatively consistent attitude with customer service in his NVIDIA MBP small claims trial:

[…] Apple Sued an Independent iPhone Repair Shop Owner and Lost, An Apple Support Experience, The iMac […]

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