My Last Mac: Maybe Not

1999: Walter writes, “I have used Macs since 1993. I have three at home. My first one was a Performa 200 (Classic II). I have always loved the Mac, and I have actively encouraged people to buy them. I have ‘forced’ one on my wife who works in a PC environment – with all the inevitable problems of file sharing (Office 98 files are not read by Word 7, and it’s a pain swapping files between her home & office computers).

“Well, I could go on filling page upon page as to the reasons why I love the Mac, both as a machine and as an OS.

Performa 5300“But today I am in no mood to do that: my old Performa 5320 is in for repairs. I bought it two years ago and paid £600 for it. The power unit has gone. I checked it inside, and it is only a tiny switch that needs replacing. It is really just a stupid switch of the kind you have in a thousand electrical items in the home. Value? Probably £3.

“My local Apple Centre is charging me £202 to fix it (£122 for the power unit, plus labour and VAT).

“That is the equivalent of buying a car worth £10,000 and having to replace the ignition key after two years, and being asked £3,300 for the pleasure.

“Now, it is clearly a design fault – there were lots of similar machines in for repair when I took my Mac at the Apple Centre.

“Macs are supposed to be more reliable than PCs. That a switch should break down after two years is something that I find unacceptable. Not even the cheapest electrical item that you buy in a shady market would have lasted that little. But what really infuriates me is that Apple should charge £122 for a flaming switch.

“I have stuck with Apple through thick and thin, I have endured the misery that was System 7.5, I have restarted my Mac more times than I care to remember to fix software problems caused by poor code engineering.

“I am sorry, my heart bleeds at the thought, but I am getting out of Apple. I planned to buy myself a PowerBook in September and an iMac at Christmas. No way.

“Apple have lost two faithful customer in a most stupid way. What company rewards the loyalty of faithful customers by charging extortionate rates for sorting our their design failures? It is shortsighted and arrogant of Apple to think that they can inflict all they like on its customers because somehow we love Apple. Not any more.

“PCs are beastly things, but a switch costs £10 to replace, and I know of no PC that has needed to replace a silly switch after two years’ use.

“So, I am sending you a ‘my last Mac’ story, I am afraid, rather than a tear-eyed account of my first encounter with Apple.

“If you want to know, I find it a very sad story altogether, but in all honesty, Apple deserves every bit of bad luck it has had over the years. They have made colossal mistakes right across the board at crucial times in their history. Had they been better business people, we would have a Mac dominated world, rather than a Windoze one. I knew about the rotten repairs policy they had, but now that I have experienced it first hand, they have no right to my loyalty, none whatsoever.”

Update #1

I received an email from Walter with some very good news – Apple agrees that the repair charges were excessive and has reimbursed him £60, which covers half the price of the replacement power supply.

Walter notes that he’s still unsure how he feels about the whole thing, but that this gesture may get him to consider another Macintosh.

Although Apple makes some nice hardware that runs a great operating system, they do need to improve customer service. Let’s hope this is a sign that Apple is working on more than just great computers and operating systems.

 – Dan Knight, publisher, Low End Mac

Update #2

In December 2001, Walter wrote:

“Despite Apple’s offer to halve the charge for the switch replacement, my rage went on for quite a while. I know Apple has this modular replacement policy for a variety of reasons, but there is something very fishy about charging a customer £200 for a simple switch because they can only replace big modules. And there is more: They get the faulty part back, replace the switch, then the next customer in need of a replacement will be charged the full amount of the module, despite the fact that Apple only replaced the switch – the rest of the board was paid by me when I had bought the original Performa! Suppose the switch had broken a second time. In theory, I could have been charged another £200 for buying my original module (that I had already paid first time round), and once again, I would have paid twice for the same module, the only difference being a £2 switch!

“Whichever way you look at it, it’s pretty ugly.

“My rage went away slowly, mostly because I started looking at PCs, and they were so unbearably unattractive….

“Eventually, the time came to buy a new computer for some heavy duty Web design. We went to PC World and tried out a few PCs. They all felt flimsy, boring, and uninspiring. There must have been hundreds of different models – all equally run-of-the-mill.

lime green iMac DV“Then we spotted the Apple corner and saw an iMac DV SE. Ten minutes later we were out of the shop with a big smiling box.

“The iMac was a joy to use, so much faster than the old Performa, and work on our websites (academic ones) went like a dream.

“But love is not always rewarded. The iMac developed a logic board problem (the screen went all funny). But this time, everything was under guarantee, so the pain was not too bad. However, and probably because of Apple’s policy of using refurbished parts to repair new computers, we went through a couple of boards before the computer was well again.

“Now the year is almost up, and I am going to buy AppleCare, just to be on the safe side.

indigo iBook“We also got an iBook, a 366 MHz indigo model.

“This is my favourite computer ever, the best design Apple ever did, I think. Wonderful keyboard, sharp little screen, breathtaking to look at, quite simply a masterpiece of ergonomic wonder. Tremendously inspiring stuff. When I first took it out of the box and started it up, I thought, ‘What a sad day when I will have to give it up because of wear and tear!’ I hope that by that time Apple will have come up with some other wondrous machine.

“In short: Apple repair policy still stinks. Get AppleCare and pray that after the three years nothing goes wrong.”