Open Letter To Apple Australia

Dear Apple Australia,

I would like to complain about your product quality and customer support.

I’m an Apple convert. I worked at Microsoft for a long time and so my conversion to Apple was a bit like a religious conversion. I remember buying my first Apple product, an iPod, in 2004 just after I left Microsoft. I felt guilty even buying it, like I was doing something dirty. By the time I bought my first Mac in 2007, I owned a couple of iPods, and an iPod touch and my conversion was well and truly complete.

But the last couple of months have really tested my faith in Apple.

It started on Jan 2 this year when my barely-two-year-old Macbook Pro 17″ died on me. When I took it into the Apple store at Chermside (Brisbane), they told me that the logic board had died and would need a replacement – at the cost of $2500. I had evidence to show that it wasn’t the logic board, it was the Nvidia chip, but the Apple folks disagreed with my analysis. I left it with them for two weeks to examine it but all I heard back was “it’s the logic board”.

Unfortunately I had bought this Mac at a Myer Store in Melbourne and they hadn’t sold me on Applecare, so I was screwed. A two-year-old $4000 Macbook Pro, dead in the water. I wasn’t happy.

Anyway, as I’m an Apple convert, I ended up buying a brand new Macbook Pro 17″ towards the end of January. I bought it via Apple Finance and it cost me something like $5000 including Applecare. It’s tricked out with 8Gb RAM, a 500GB drive, the anti-glare screen, etc. And I love it.

UNTIL… about two weeks after I bought it, the logic board DIED. So, I took it into the Apple Store at Chermside. The “Genius” there confirmed that diagnosis and said they’d put a new logic board in – but it would take 3 – 5 days. Why? Because they didn’t carry any logic boards that fit my machine in stock and would have to order one in, which would take 3 days, then would take them another couple of days to swap them over. I explained to the Genius, whose name was Joel, that I was traveling overseas at the end of the week and I *really* needed may laptop to be fixed before I left. He said he’s try to get it done for me quickly, but this still means I’d have to live without my MBP for a few days – which means a few days of no productivity, a few days of not getting my work done. I edit video and audio on my Macbook and without it, I’m screwed. TOUGH SHIT.

When I told Joel about the problem I’d had with my old MBP, he suggested I bring it back in so he could look at it.

So about three days later, when the new logic board came in, I went all the way back to the Apple Store and Joel said if I could stick around an hour, he’d get one of the engineers out the back to put in the new logic board so I could take it with me on my trip that evening. Great.

He also looked at the OLD MBP and confirmed the logic board was FINE, it was the graphic chip – GRRRR. So he said he’d get it fixed for me also. That’s great but WHY DIDN’T THEY TELL ME THAT A MONTH AGO SO I DIDN’T HAVE TO SPEND $5000 ON A NEW MBP???

Anyway… I leave the old MBP with Joel and take the new one, with the new logic board, home with me. Later that night, just as I’m packing to go to Nicaragua for a week, I turn on my fixed, less-than-a-month-old MBP and discover:
1) it won’t sleep
2) it won’t shutdown
3) the left fan isn’t working
4) the microphone isn’t working
5) the right speaker isn’t working

As I was leaving the next morning, I couldn’t take it back to the Apple Store until after my 8-day trip. So I jumped on the Apple site to try to book a Genius appointment for my return. AHA! The Apple store only accepts booking for five days in advance. So it’s IMPOSSIBLE to book an appointment for 8 days in advance.

So I rang Applecare and explained to the guy on the phone my problem. He said that he too could only book an appointment five days and so “you’ll need to call back in a few days”. I explained I was going to be in the jungles of Nicaragua WITHOUT A PHONE OR INTERNET for the next week and I wouldn’t be able to call back. “Well.. I can’t help you”, he said.

I lost my temper then and said “listen, LEAVE A MESSAGE FOR THE APPLE STORE IN CHERMSIDE AND TELL THEM I’LL BE COMING IN AT 11AM ON SATURDAY FEB 6.” Jesus. What a moron this guy was.

Okay so… I go to Nicaragua, taking my half-working-less-than-a-month-old-$5000-Macbook-Pro with me. I come back, go straight to the Apple Store in Chermside again. This time I see a new “Genius” called Marc. Marc checks my new laptop and confirms – the logic board needs to be replaced – AGAIN.

Oh and guess what – they don’t have any of them in the store, so, yep, I’ll have to wait another three days for them to order a new logic board in. Then I’ll need to COME BACK to Chermside again, leave it with them while they fix it, then come back to pick it up. That will make five trips to the Apple Store in two weeks to get a less-than-a-month-old Macbook Pro working like it should.

I tell Marc I’m not happy about all this and I want to speak with the manager. So that’s when I meet JARROD.

Jarrod’s a scruffy looking guy, probably about 25 or 26. I explain to Jarrod my problem. I started by asking why they don’t have replacement logic boards in stock and he replied “well we only carry the older ones, because the new ones don’t fail”. Well that hasn’t been MY experience,

I went on to tell Jarrod: “I’m not happy. I paid $5000 for a top of the line Macbook and it’s still not working and I don’t want to keep coming back here.” He said they’d fix it. I said “Well I know you will, but that’s not the point. I’m not happy about having to keep coming back here. What are you going to do to make me happy?”, I asked.

Jarrod said they’d make me happy by fixing my laptop. I explained “That’s not going to make me happy. That’s the very LEAST you’re can do. That’s what you should have done THE FIRST TIME. I want you to make me happy.”

Jarrod asked what that would take and I told him I didn’t know. “Be creative,” I told him. But Jarrod didn’t want to be creative. All Jarrod could offer was to fix my Macbook. Again.

When I told him that’s fixing my Macbook isn’t really good enough, that’s just the basic level of what they SHOULD do, he replied “I think you’ll find our service is better than you’d get anywhere else.”

OH REALLY, JARROD?

I think if I bought a top-of-the-line laptop from Dell or HP and it failed TWICE IN THE FIRST MONTH, they would at least send a courier to pick it up from my office and then deliver a new one or a fixed one back to me. I wouldn’t have to visit their office FIVE TIMES IN A MONTH.

But Jarrod didn’t want to help. Jarrod didn’t want to make me happy. Jarrod let me leave the store MAJORLY pissed off that I’ll have to come back TWICE again in the next week just to get this problem resolved.

And all the while I was having this conversation with Jarrod, he was SMIRKING, like this was all some kind of big joke. I was NOT laughing. This is wasting my TIME and my ENERGY. And it means downtime, which costs me MONEY. And Jarrod seemed to think this was some huge joke.

One good note (kind of) – the old Macbook Pro that I took in on Jan 2? Fixed. It was the graphics chip after all. So I didn’t really need to buy the new one anyway.

As someone who extols the virtues of Apple all the time to friends and family and who has converted a few people to the Apple world, I have to say – while I love the products and the company, the Australian operation leaves a LOT to be desired. The quality control and customer support that I’ve experienced in the last couple of months has been terrible. Except for Joel. Joel’s a keeper. I think I might hire him.

Anyway Apple, you haven’t lost me as a customer – yet. I can’t go back to Windows. I guess I’ll wait to see what Google’s Chrome OS looks like.

I just thought you’d like feedback from a VERY unhappy customer. For what it’s worth.

Sincerely,
Cameron Reilly
twitter.com/cameronreilly
0400455334

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18 thoughts on “Open Letter To Apple Australia

  1. Ian Kath says:

    Just appalling.

    For a company that supposedly has quality “everything” and say that their happy, clappy staff are there to please you I’m shocked that they are not bending over backwards to help.

    They have been responsible for copy cat businesses because a very successful business model that has turned record profits in the last year during a recession but this treatment will make people wonder if Apple is now becoming like all big companies and just plain “evil”.

    The least they can do is build you a new MBP to your spec’s and courier it to you with an iPod thrown in as a sweetener. (The model is their choice)

    I look forward to seeing how they resolve this issue for you Cam :(

  2. trib says:

    This is what happens when there’s no incentive for in-store staff to make stuff happen. They’re disempowered drones on minimum wage. It’s not just Apple, though this is a particularly bad case of this issue.

    Conversely, I’ve rarely had a problem with the two MacBook Pros I’ve owned (or the MacBook, Mac Mini and iMac in the house) and on the rare occasions I have had issues, I’ve had quicker than expected turnaround from MAC1, the local Apple dealer. On one occasion, they even ensured I got a replacement from Apple rather than a repair.

    What needs to be fixed here is service culture, not just Apple.

  3. Gerd Schenkel says:

    Shame that good Apple product design isn’t backed up with the service its customers expect. Makes the company vulnerable I’d say

  4. Pam says:

    So Apple’s “customer care” hasn’t changed then Cameron? I have been an Apple customer since 1995, and somehow have put up with stuff like that with almost everything I have bought. Forget the Apple Care Plus thing – they screwed me around with that until the extended warranty was up, even though that machine failed ahead of the original warranty.

    My next computer will be a Hackintosh, unless Adobe goes to Linux. My Adobe investment is the only thing that is holding me.

  5. Cankles says:

    I agree, Apple’s service is rubbish in Australia. My laptop power cord broke under warranty (and they agreed it was a safety concern) and told me it would be 5 working days before they fixed it. I asked how I was supposed to charge my MBP until then and they told me I’d have to buy a new one. They couldn’t just give me a replacement one or a temporary one to loan.

    So I went in there to get a faulty and dangerous product fixed and ended up buying a new one because I can’t go 5 days without recharging my work computer….what a rort!

    The centre in Sydney was the same help also – they thought I was weird to ask how I was supposed to do work for the next week without a power cord. There was a total lack of respect for relying on their products for business use…

  6. reens says:

    This sounds more like a service issue with Dell, not the Mighty Mac…
    Empathy,
    rino

  7. Geoff McQueen says:

    Windows 7 is great mate… and for that kind of coin, you could by three laptops. Or spend the rest on another trip to the jungles.

  8. Alex Manchester says:

    That sounds like a pretty awful experience. I can’t believe they jibbed you on the original logic board/graphics chip issue too when those machines are well known and recognised by Apple to be flawed, and the chip and logic board are soldered to one another!

    We’ve had similar issues with two of our office MacBook Pros, one of which had almost every part replaced (including the screen) as they tried to fix the issue. Hours spent dealing with them and the related data transfers and BS.

    There’s two morals to this story:

    1. Buy Applecare. It’s worth it, especially on pricer hardware, although it won’t make up for typically sh*t service at the actual Apple stores (that’s pretty much universal by the way, from London to Sydney I’ve experience the same thing: ‘Dickhead wannabe hipsters phenomenon’ I think someone recently and accurately summed it up as).

    2. Find a decent Gold/Pro authorised reseller/ repair shop nearby and avoid the Apple Stores all together when it comes to hardware problems. Apple store employees basically seem trained to give you short shrift in these situations. A third party seller and repairer often has much better staff, faster turnaround times and in my experience gives you a much better service. I had great service with our machines from a local shop in Surry Hills (see the blog post here: http://bit.ly/baycaB). For some reason you also feel less like punching them because they don’t actually, directly, work for Apple and, conversely, they seem capable of helping.

    In Brisbane, the Mac Doctors seem to generate positive reports (check Whirlpool forums), with a store on Ipswich Road, Annerly. http://www.macdoctors.com.au/

    Geekworks also have a ‘next day’ turnaround promise: http://www.geekworks.com.au/?q=node/6

    Alex

  9. […] Open Letter To Apple Australia. I’ve lived this guys’ story many, many times with my dealings with Apple Australia. Heck, I have been waiting 4 weeks to get a Macbook Pro unibody battery replaced from these morons. Let alone have a brand new $5,000 Macbook Pro die 6 days after I bought it(!) […]

  10. Cameron says:

    Alex, I agree – Mac Doctors have always been excellent when I’ve visited them in the past. Unfotunately they are on the other side of town and it’s a long hike but, considering recent events, i’ll definitely be using them in the future.

  11. Cameron says:

    Geoff, I used a Windows 7 machine for the few weeks I was stuck without a Mac and, while it’s definitely an improvement on Vista, it’s not a Mac. I felt I was running at 50% productivity on Win7.

  12. Ian G says:

    This story sounds familiar. Had a 3-year-old MacBook Pro that “died” mysteriously just short of my Applecare expiring. The local Apple Store dicked me around so much that the expiry date for my Applecare arrived, and then they wouldn’t repair as I was “out of warranty”. No amount of complaining or arguing or appealing to higher authorities would help, despite the problem having occurred before my warranty ran out.

    I never expected my expensive MacBook Pro to only last for 3 years, I had thought Apple products were built better and lasted longer.

  13. Anonymous says:

    wahhh wahhhh wahhh.
    stop whining

  14. Alex Manchester says:

    Maybe it’s time to try an email to the special address.

  15. Phillip Molly Malone says:

    I think the moral of the story is buy Dell! 10 years as a home customer and never had an issue!

  16. brian_evans says:

    I have heard a similar story involving you guessed it, a 17″ MBP. Almost identical.

  17. Deane Williams says:

    Apple Australia and authorised Apple resellers here need to lift their game, I agree. Sadly, the malaise is more ‘Australian’ than it is ‘Apple’. That air of superiority emanating from many young retail sales staff. Some of us have been using Macs since their birthdate in 1984!

    The reality is that computers will fail, whether PCs or Macs. Or Crays, for that matter.

    Here’s a thought though. If your work is mission critical isn’t it wise to have a backup strategy for hardware, not just data? Owning more than one computer (ironically, you now do) is one way. Another is to hire one short term. Transfer your backed up data, and you’re on your way while the problem is sorted. Insurance, whether Applecare, third party or both, of course. By taking such precautions we’ll all be acting as responsibly as we’d like to see Apple Australia do.

  18. Arthur Dent says:

    All I can say is that going through Gates to find any amount of better Jobs doesn’t work (or vice versa). Better to just go for a Torvald you so in the first place…

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