Saturday, December 29, 2007

Another Reason to Use a Mac

I think that part of being a satisfied owner of a car is how well you're treated by the dealer. If the car is terrific but the service is awful, the ownership experience will be awful as well.

Based on a recent service incident with my laptop, Apple proved why they are number one as my choice of computer vendor.

I own a few Macs, including a black MacBook. I've had it about 18 months and live on the thing. I travel extensively with it and use it daily for business. Unfortunately, from a hardware standpoint, it hasn't been the most reliable machine I've ever owned. It needed a new motherboard within the first year, a new Bluetooth antenna, and a battery replacement. The other day, it started to freeze up on me and its behavior became erratic, forcing constant reboots.

Luckily, I have Apple Care on this machine, and took it to the Apple Store in Boca Raton. The store was mobbed with post-Christmas shoppers, but they took me at the Genius bar as a standby customer and I was waited on promptly. Rob Allan, who was my Genius, diagnosed it as needing yet another new motherboard and an Airport card. When I received it back several days later, I was told that it also looked like my hard drive was going bad because the machine wouldn't boot from the internal hard drive after they had installed the new motherboard and Airport card.

I was really skeptical about the hard drive as I'd just upgraded it to a new Hitachi 200 gb 7200 rpm drive just a couple months before, and it was operating perfectly and not suspected as part of my problem when the machine was first diagnosed. When I got the machine home, I booted it from an external drive which contained a backup and noticed two things. First, the computer was showing that no Airport card was installed at all, and the internal hard drive wasn't even showing up as an installed piece of hardware. Even a bad hard drive should show up under System Profiler, and the Airport card was supposed to have been replaced.

So, back to the Apple Store, which was still mobbed with customers. I quickly found my Genius, who immediately dropped what he was doing, took my computer into the back, and ten minutes later told me that rather than trying to keep repairing my MacBook, Apple was going to give me a new one.

Here's the important part. The MacBook they replaced it with was the current shipping model, new (not refurbished), and with the same amount of RAM I had in my old MacBook, even though the original MacBook had third party memory from CDW—where the computer was purchased—and not Apple OEM RAM. After a short time to complete the paperwork, I had my new computer and old hard drive. I went home, installed the drive that they told me might be bad, and voila, the drive was just fine and all of my data was alive and well.

While I'm certainly not enthusiastic about how unreliable my original MacBook was, I'm really impressed with Apple's behavior during this problem, as well as with the professionalism of Rob Allan, the Genius I dealt with. After being given a chance to fix the computer, there wasn't any hesitation about replacing it when the repair was unsuccessful, and the computer I received from Apple was a brand new MacBook that was equal to or better than what I had. I also didn't have to wait for it to be shipped to me. It was replaced on the spot, at the Apple Store, even though my company originally purchased it through CDW. This is a work computer, and it was critical that I get back up and running asap since I was scheduled to start traveling again shortly after the holidays. I really couldn't wait for the computer to be shipped to me.

Of all the Macs, iPods and the iPhone I've owned, this is the only troublesome piece of equipment I've had. To their credit, Apple always promptly repaired it when required, and when it finally became obvious that this computer wasn't going to be easy to fix, they replaced it under the Apple Care agreement, and at their suggestion. Based on this behavior, I can guarantee two things. First, I'll remain a loyal Apple customer. Second, I'd advise everyone to invest in Apple Care for their computer. While it might not make sense for a Nano, it absolutely makes sense for an expensive computer, and from my recent experience, Apple lives up to their end of the bargain.

Thanks, Apple, for living up to your repair/replacement agreement, and thanks Rob for the professionalism and understanding you showed during this transaction. I'm now busily back at work on my MacBook, and you can count on me to be a Mac customer moving forward!