The Mobile Mac

MacBook Repair Saga: Botched and Botched Again, but Third Time's the Charm

- 2006.08.07 - Tip Jar

Well, my MacBook came back from Apple service last week as expected, but sadly, my two week wait was for nothing. The repair sheet stated that they had replaced the main logic board and the hard drive (the latter item quite puzzling), but I was hopeful that the new logic board would solve the heat and mooing problems.


I had also complained of the palm rest not fitting the case on the right side, with a gap at the front right corner large enough to stick my fingernail under. Apple chose to ignore that complaint and sent it back in the same condition.

To make matters worse, when they took the machine apart to swap logic boards, they didn't put it back together properly, resulting in a trackpad button that only worked intermittently.

I understand that sometimes a replacement part can share the same defect or have a different one from the original. What I don't understand is why nobody bothered to turn the machine on and measure the temperature when it was running. My primary complaint was about heat, but the MacBook ran hotter after the repair than it did before.

My MacBook was one of the very first, so I figured that sending it in for a logic board swap would get me a newer revision logic board with the heat issues fixed (as was the case with the MacBook Pro recently). What I got instead was another early logic board with the same issues.

Okay, the repair was seriously botched. The problem is, when I sent the MacBook in it was within the 14 day return period at the Apple Store where I'd purchased it, but after more than two weeks at the Apple Depot, I was no longer entitled to an exchange or refund.

My choices were simple, send it back again, or fight the corporation.

I chose the second option.

Problems with Customer Relations

Customer Relations is the division of Apple that steps in when things go wrong. I'd been dealing with them for most of the second week that my MacBook was away in the vain hope they could get it rushed (the replacement logic board was on backorder).

When I found out the condition my MacBook was returned in, I called them back and was quite disgusted to hear them suggest that my MacBook was not completely repaired because I had asked that it be rushed. Come on, people, two weeks is not a rush - and one of those weeks was after the part arrived.

Long story short, after much arguing and mention of the fact that this 13-year Mac user with a Mac-based law office would move to another vendor if this was not resolved to my satisfaction, we made some progress. I was offered a brand new MacBook ordered fresh from the online Apple Store, which arrived on Tuesday.

That wasn't enough. I mentioned the fact that I had bought the computer over a month before and only been able to use it for about a week, and that I expected some compensation for the inept handling of my repair and the continued delays. I was offered either an additional battery or AC adapter. I took the battery.

The story was not yet over. During that same conversation, I was told that I would receive a FedEx label for my old MacBook in a few hours, and that as soon as they saw it picked up by FedEx, my new MacBook would ship overnight to me. This was on Thursday morning, so the plan was for me to have my new MacBook on Friday afternoon so as not to lose another weekend with no computer.

I waited until 3:00 p.m., and when there was still no FedEx email, I called back and got stuck in voice mail hell. I left a message with both reps I'd spoken to and spoke to a third rep, who told me that the original rep placed a hold on the order, that the FedEx label could not be issued until she cleared the hold, and that she had already gone home for the day.

Next day (Friday), I found that the rep who held my order had the day off, so I was escalated to a manager who apologized profusely for the mysterious hold and issued the FedEx return email to get the process started. Of course, it was now Friday, and that meant that I couldn't have the new computer until Monday.

I complained again about how this whole mess was because of their error, and she apologized as expected. Finally, I demanded compensation for the second delay.

The manager was quick to point out that I was already being compensated, but I corrected her that that was for the 3 weeks without my laptop; this is a new matter based entirely on their error.

She asked me what I wanted. This delay was worth a copy of Apple Remote Desktop, which is something I've always thought would be very useful in the office, but not worth $300 for the convenience it would give. (I was wrong; it's worth every penny of its normal cost, but that is a subject for a future article.)

A New MacBook

When the new MacBook arrived, I immediately got busy evaluating it. The build quality appears much better than on my first one, with no uneven surfaces or other cosmetic defects of any kind. Functionally, it's also much improved, running a full 10° Celsius cooler than the first one. I know it's not a matter of software, as I am running from the same after-market 120 GB Seagate Momentus hard drive that I bought for the first MacBook.

MacBookSadly, all is not perfect. The new MacBook moos. It's not very loud, but it is noticeable when working in the office. The screen is also quite washed out, as though the contrast was set too low on a CRT. It's incredibly bright and clear, as all MacBook screens are, but the colors are weak.

Third Time's the Charm?

Back to Customer Relations, and then on to Executive Relations, where I was able to obtain a third MacBook that same day. This is the way it should have been from the beginning.

The manager I spoke with called my local Apple Store (the same one where I bought the first MacBook) and arranged not only for them to replace the one with the washed-out screen, but for me to be able to open and evaluate the computer in the store.

Sitting in the car while driving to the store, I wasn't sure whether to expect "Three Strikes Your Out" or "Third Time's a Charm" - and I'm very pleased to report it was the latter. My third MacBook still moos a bit (they all do, right at 64° Celsius), but the screen is to die for. It runs hot, but not as hot as the first one. And finally, the case fits perfect with no cosmetic or functional defects that I was able to see.

Promise Fulfilled

I spent most of that night and the next day configuring it with my software and data, and I must say that the original promise of the MacBook has finally been fulfilled.

What the MacBook offers is just about the best combination of speed, price, and style on the market today. Except for high-end graphics applications and the latest and most demanding games, there's no appreciable performance difference between the $1,100 white MacBook and the $2,000 MacBook Pro.

For the $1,500 price of the black one that I have, it can even be argued that it is better looking than its more expensive big brother. No bad at all, now that it works. LEM

Andrew J Fishkin, Esq, is a laptop using attorney in Los Angeles, CA.

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