Saturday, January 11, 2014

Apple Refuses Out-of-Warranty Repair Despite My Willingness to Pay $703

I write this because I want to share my experience with everyone especially Apple Fans. I will admit I’ve been an Apple faithful for many years and my house is a an Apple shrine with gadgets of all sizes. Since making the switch to Mac, it seems my house has proliferated with Apple products. At this time I do not own a Windows machine nor planned to; however recent events have made me reflect upon my decision to live in Apple’s walled garden. I may be ready to peek over the fence at other non Apple products once more. But dare I?

My story begins late December 2013 after Christmas, while off work over the holidays I decided my (Mid-2010) 27” iMac hard drive being 95% full needed an upgrade. Unfortunately an Apple  branded hard drive upgrade was twice the cost of off-the-shelf drives available at a local computer store. Being a savvy consumer armed with Google and the Internet I researched other Mac user experiences with same model and performing similar upgrades. It seemed as long as I purchased the same make  drive as shipped with my iMac I should have no problems. My particular iMac came with a 1TB Western Digital hard drive.  I found a great price on a 2TB Western Digital hard drive. Online research showed others reported great results with this drive in their iMacs; therefore I was satisfied with my decision and moved ahead.

I should also mention my iMac was out of warranty at this point no longer covered by Apple's one year warranty nor did I purchase Applecare. Given this fact I truly believed I was in a good position to perform the upgrade myself.  I started by following iFixit and YouTube videos.  The upgrade was completed  flawlessly thanks to these do it yourself tutorials. However, while researching the upgrade I came across forum posts indicating Mid-2010 iMac's have a second SATA port on the logic board. Since I had a 240GB SSD laying around (collecting dust) I thought perfect. I’ll add the SSD, boot from it and use the 2TB drive for storage. Again the upgrade process went flawlessly; I reinstalled OSX on the SSD and moved all pictures, documents and iTunes, iPhoto libraries to the 2TB drive. Life was good; except one of the 3 fans in the iMac began to spin up to 3500 rpm. Thus begun my FAN troubleshooting battle.

I won’t get into all the steps (which included hardware and software) but in the end through what I believe to be Apple’s design flaw, the display cable connector on the logic board was forcefully detached breaking one of the connector pins. (In case you haven’t seen it, the display connector socket is extremely fragile and from what I’m told breaks very often.) Needless to say I have a working computer with a working LCD panel but no way of attaching the panel to the logic board.

Thus begun my Apple store service adventure. Being the savvy consumer; again I turned to Google and other various sites looking for options. While by far the cheapest option was to purchase a board from Hong Kong; on eBay but It may not be the best choice. You never know what you’re getting. Is it a legitimate Apple part or a Chinese knock-off. Who knows? The best option was to service my Mac through an Apple store; luckily we have one where I live. Being a converted and faithful Apple fan I promptly scheduled an appointment with a Mac Genius. At the Apple store I explained to the Genius what had happened and asked for pricing on the logic board, labour charges and how long it would take. The Genius presented me with a quote of over $790 dollars (with tax). I agreed and signed on the dotted line authorizing the repair as quoted. Life was good. I left the store feeling happy.

The following day I get a voicemail message from the same Genius informing me that the repair is denied/cancelled because there are too many 3rd party modifications to the iMac. I’m to come pickup my iMac at my earliest convenience and arrange repair somewhere else.

At this point I was furious, angry and disappointed Apple rejected me and my money. I thought how could this be. I’m a faithful Apple customer, I’ve got their products coming out my wazoo and Apple won’t repair their product even when I’m paying for the repair. Over the next 2 days I tried to get In touch with the Genius by phone. Needless to say his customer service skills need improvement because he never called back despite leaving multiple messages. Finally on the third day I drove down to the Apple store and asked for a manager. I spoke with the manager about my case and he explained there was nothing he could do. According to him Apple has a policy whereby any Apple product so much as opened by you or a 3rd party; not authorized by Apple to do so, automatically disqualifies that product for service by Apple in one of its Apple Stores. What’s worse is the serial number of your device is blacklisted and will not be touched by any Apple Store worldwide. It’s flagged as a non-serviceable device. That includes any part; cosmetic or hardware. With my tail between my legs I took my iMac and went home.

I didn’t realize upgrading a hard drive (which is done at home by computer enthusiasts) all over the world constituted too many 3rd party modifications. Secondly I would 100% agree with Apple’s policy had my iMac been under warranty or Applecare support. Honestly the thought of performing such an upgrade during the warranty or Applecare period would not even enter my mind. But because it was out-of-warranty I did not believe, for a second that Apple would deny billable repair service. At this point as I write this my iMac is sitting in the corner broken. I’m still looking at other options. One of which is an authorized Apple service depot. However that option is more expensive than the Apple store. Of course I could still go the Hong Kong route and replace the board myself. I’ve put together many PC’s in my day and feel quite comfortable doing it. However, one thought lingering in my mind is the authenticity of the part I’m buying.

The other day (thanks to Google) I came across a Mac service vendor that specializes in repairing the display connector; the very part I broke. I called their 1-888 number and spoke with a gentlemen (very pleasant fellow) and we chatted about my experience. He told me this service is very popular and does it often, even for authorized Mac dealers. I guess a few of them have broken this connector from time to time. Funny enough he also said he believes this connector to be a design flaw. Both him and I agreed the connector is too fragile and should have a more rugged design. In the end I’m still looking at options. I have not decided what to do. However I’m leaning towards keeping my existing logic board and having the display connector replaced rather than buying a refurbished logic board through an Apple authorized service vendor.

As a consumer I’m appalled  at Apple’s arrogance in having such a policy for out-of-warranty devices. As an Apple Fanboy I’m simply shocked and heartbroken my beloved Apple would treat its devoted in such a manner. The pedestal on which Apple rested in my eyes has forever been cut down to eye level. My image of Apple has been shattered. I no longer believe its hype of superior customer experience. Apple is just another corporation with an overshadowing ego that has fallen victim to its own distortion field believing trust, integrity and customer service do not apply. It believes it can do anything. While I may be small with shallow pockets future purchasing decisions for my household may no longer involve Apple products.