I just accidentally broke my friend's ridiculously fragile brand new laptop. Please help me fix it.
October 24, 2009 2:14 AM   Subscribe

My good friend just purchased a $3k Apple laptop, which she received today. I spent four hours this afternoon installing software and setting it up for her. Once we were all done, and ready to go out and celebrate good times, new laptops, and Friday nights, we high fived, and I shut the laptop gently...with the tiny, clear, flexible, plastic charger cap unknowingly inside. Now the screen is completely cracked, fractalled, damaged, and very sadly colorful. What can I do?

I am planning on going to the Apple store first thing tomorrow morning. What should I say? How can I make this right?

Additional info: I have been a loooong time Apple customer and purchaser. I am also currently extremely poor, but I will do whatever it takes to make sure my friend is good to go and happy. Please help me!

WHYOHWHY aren't the charger caps, A) fluorescent-colored, and B) attached to the cord!?!?
posted by iamkimiam to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First thing I would say to the Genius: "I am so screwed."

Then just show him the display. This is going to take several hundred dollars to repair. With $25B+ in the bank and AAPL near its all-time high, there's an outside chance you will find pity, but I was just in the Apple store on Wednesday and got the impression that the Genius doesn't have the last say on what happens to the laptop during the repair process.
posted by mokuba at 2:23 AM on October 24, 2009

Can you claim that's how it was when you received it? (Not to the friend, to Apple.)
posted by Netzapper at 2:25 AM on October 24, 2009

No I cannot claim that, nor would I feel right doing so. I have spent four hours installing software and customizing the laptop – all of the data is fully recoverable, but the top half of the laptop (the monitor) is completely destroyed. This whole situation is truly an unfortunate accident, but I am willing to take full responsibility for what happened. The issue is more that the cost (emotional, financial, and otherwise) are much higher than what I can handle. And it certainly isn't commensurate with the ease of breakage.

I guess I'm trying to get a sense of what my options are, what I can expect as far as coverage/warranty/genius-bar-compassion, as well as seek information about how common this stupid, stupid situation is.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:37 AM on October 24, 2009

You can still use it, just plug it into an external monitor.

From there, you could restore the disk to factory condition, then take it in and say it came like that.
posted by delmoi at 2:46 AM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

If she paid with American Express, they may reimburse her for the full price of the laptop (even with them aware that it was broken accidentally). This (among other great things they do for their customers) is why they are a great credit card company.

I know they do this for Platinum Card holders, probably Gold, and possibly for other levels as well.

If not AmEx and it was purchased on a credit card, check to see if there is an accident provision for that card.
posted by paperzach at 2:56 AM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you are unwilling to claim it arrived damaged (I would!), and she has indeed just received it, aren't you still within the window to buy CompleteCare? While not cheap, I would imagine that it would be less expensive than outright repair.
posted by biggity at 3:29 AM on October 24, 2009

Something similar happened to me when I first bought my Powerbook laptop.

Until I was able to save enough to get it repaired, I went to the cheap-o computer store and bought a monitor for $50 that worked fine.

There is a good chance that your friend bought the Apple Care coverage when she bought the computer - check and see if it is covered by that.

I was always told NEVER to buy the extended warranty and was kicking myself as soon as I realized what had happened. In my case, it would have been covered.

It is going to cost you about $700 or a bit more to replace the screen, but my total for repair came to about $1200 because the hinge was bent by the force and a couple of other things were busted.

You may also want to see if this is covered by her home owner's insurance. It just may be, but the deductible may be too high for it to help.

Yes, it sucks, but this kind of thing happens. Hopefully she bought the warranty.

As far as saying it came like that from the factory or trying to get a credit card company to reverse charges: you can do what you want, but I have always gone through life with the idea that when you lie to one person you lie to everyone and we all suffer a little for it. But that is just me. If I had had the option I would have had to think long and hard about it, but it would have been a temptation.
posted by Tchad at 3:45 AM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

On topic: Genius Bar plea for mercy / compassion is the quickest route, but don't expect much. Personally the Genius will no doubt be sympathetic, however since a display is close to if not THE single most expensive part of a notebook, their options will be very limited as someone, somewhere will have to pay.

Charge / credit card advise is spot on, but I'd also suggest widening to checking against home owners / renters insurance, both your friends as well as your own. My mortgage, for example, comes with a remarkably wide personal liability cover.

But try to work with Apple on this. You're not the first person to do trash a display this way, and they'll do the best they can by you.

Off topic: Its seriously commendable you're accepting responsibility. Nothing good will come of lying, in fact these things have a way of coming back at you in the most unexpected and damaging way possible. Apple does indeed check these things before they are shipped, it will be obvious to the trained eye just how the display was damaged, and your word alone won't be sufficient to get a new display free.

If you sign an affidavit or statement claiming the computer was received in damaged condition that opens up a whole can of worms when an insurance company somewhere has to pay.
posted by Mutant at 3:49 AM on October 24, 2009 [8 favorites]

Just yesterday, I took a macbook pro into an Apple service provider (in France, sadly, we have no Apple Store just yet) where a very nice technician looked at my problem. The metal case, the "lid" I would call it, had sort of separated from the display screen. He immediately said "tombé?" to ask if it had fallen, which was his first thought, and when I said no, his next thought was that I had done exactly what you had and shut the screen on something. As this was a laptop functioning as a desktop (never carried around, almost never even closed), I tried to assure him that it had "just happened" and was not at all related to anything I had done. He told me that it was unlikely that Apple would reimburse him for the repair as it looked like something I had caused myself. But then he suggested that I email photos to Apple and get them to pre-authorize the repair. I'm mentioning all this because when I called the US Apple 800 number via skype, they were very solicitous and happy to put in a pre-authorization on the repair, even without photos being sent, and I got the strong impression that there is a "known issue" with the display/hinge mechanism. I'm not sure at all whether this would apply in your case, but it might be worth your while to go to a non-Apple Store repair outlet, i.e. an authorized service provider, and talk to someone there about what your options are. They can give you advice about how to deal with Apple, and would be more frank about "known issues" if any. Also, once you go to an Apple Store and have a Genius look at it, it's then "known" to Apple that your friend's machine is in this state, whereas if you go to a nice third party technician you're still hedging your bets.
posted by tractorfeed at 4:00 AM on October 24, 2009

From personal experience: AppleCare does not cover this. Neither does homeowner's insurance property coverage. If you have renter's insurance or homeowner's liability, your personal liability coverage may apply. (This is the kind of thing it's for.) Cost to repair is pretty high.

Credit card insurance is much better, and will often cover this kind of stuff, if you have it. They'll make you get turned down by other insurances, first, probably, but they cover loss, flood, theft, fire... it's actually one of the few good reasons to have a credit card.

Sorry about the misfortune. I know how it feels, though in my case, everything worked out OK. I hope yours does, too.
posted by FauxScot at 4:12 AM on October 24, 2009

You broke it. You're out $500. Give or take.

Apple is not going to fix this for you, and it would be dishonest as hell to claim it came in this condition, as you recognize.

And there is no way you can reliably return the machine to a pre-first-boot state such that it could not possibly be detected by a qualified technician. You might get away with it, or you might get caught. And that would be fraud, misdemeanor fraud, but fraud.

Poor or not, you owe your friend a new screen. The part can be had for about $250 (if it's a 15"). The installation should only be done by someone experienced, especially on a brand new machine, unless you want to end up owing your friend a whole new machine.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:12 AM on October 24, 2009 [12 favorites]

BTW, PowerBook Medic and TechRestore both do this work overnight for less than Apple will charge, using factory parts, and Apple certified.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:20 AM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

My only experience with Apple Care was a broken Mac Book which suffered a known issue with cracking on the hand-rest. Both the places I called wanted to take two weeks over repairing it, despite my protestations. I eventually convinced the guy at the Genius Bar to do it there and then, but it took plenty of cajoling, begging, etc, etc.

Use phrases like "Is there any way you can help me with this?" "Look, what are my options? It was an accident and I feel really bad about it." "Surely, this must have happened to other people?" "It was my mistake and I'll pay, but can you help me get the cost right down?" "I was just helping out a friend and you can imagine how awful I feel now." I did have to call three stores about my problem, and I don't think I would have persuaded him over the phone -- face-to-face is critical. Try to make him or her engage on a personal level with your problems.

(FWIW, this thing about wanting to take two weeks over repairing my primary work machine is why I went back to PCs, which also break but are much cheaper to replace.)
posted by BrokenEnglish at 4:33 AM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Do you have friends (yours, hers, or mutual) to appeal to to help you cover the costs? This is something I would be completely willing to help a friend with--you were so kind to help your friend with her computer.
posted by kathrineg at 6:55 AM on October 24, 2009

WHYOHWHY aren't the charger caps, A) fluorescent-colored, and B) attached to the cord!?!?

You should file a bug report about that, so hopefully they can change in the future.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:04 AM on October 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry this happened to you.

I've been there -- just last summer I backed my friend's new Jetta into a rock at a campground to the tune of $1000 in bodywork (I didn't want my or their insurance to go up, so paid in cash). And, like you, I've also done this while poor. I totaled a friend's Ducati motorcycle while working at a $6/hr Kinko's job, barely scraping by and with shit credit in the early 90s -- $6,000 in payments over two years. It sucked, but I felt sooo much better in both cases upon making my friends whole. Both were totally my mistakes.

I do feel a little better about my cheap, virus-laden PC.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:26 AM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am so sorry it happened to you. I spilled coffee on my keyboard last year and my Mac stopped working. I have Apple Care but it was not covered. I pleaded my case to the Genius Bar. They quoted me US$400-$500. My husband and the Genius chatted about how dangerous it is drink while at the computer, I apologized, they traded stories etc and then my husband said, OK, just get it repaired. The Genius went off to get a receipt and when he returned, he told us that they will do it for free just because. Just because it was Valentine's Day (even though it was not exactly) and I guess he was joking and called out to the nearest celebration. But I was so relieved.

On the another note, I would advise to always get Apple Care. My previous Mac was a workhorse, traveled everywhere with me and never gave me any problems. My current one had lots of problems - the hard disk had to be replaced because it crashed and the charger stopped working for no reason. Both occurred through no fault of my own and were replaced without questions.

Good luck!
posted by serunding at 8:38 AM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Same thing happened to me: I bought the most expensive MacBook and the screen broke in the first week! I didn't find Apple customer service to be very helpful (they had me go to two different stores and had a long wait) and couldn't get any help from them or from VISA (which often offers a warranty on products you buy from them).
posted by johnasdf at 10:14 AM on October 24, 2009

Everybody: THANK YOU. If it wasn't for your advice and perspectives, I don't think I would have been able to walk into the Apple Store with the right information and attitude, and have something magical happen. We were able to work something out that was both quick and not outrageously annihilatory to my budget situation. I figured what the hell at this point, and bought my friend a $100 gift certificate as well, so she can pick out some nice protective goodies for her new new laptop, which I will be delivering to her soon.

Followup AskMe: Suggestions for an appropriate gift/basket/token-of-appreciation for the two kind, compassionate souls that took care of me at the Bay Street Emeryville Apple Store?
Preferably something that CAN'T be bought at the mall or any of the nearby Emeryville shops and is less than $30.

I used to say that I'd never met a genius in a bar. I stand doubly corrected.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:39 AM on October 24, 2009

No - come on, you have to tell us more about how this was resolved!
posted by A189Nut at 11:47 AM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Preferably something that CAN'T be bought at the mall or any of the nearby Emeryville shops and is less than $30.

Find out how many managers the store has. Then hand write a letter praising the help and service they gave you and personally deliver that letter to every manager.

Then send a copy of it to the Regional manager.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:09 PM on October 24, 2009 [12 favorites]

Haha, I was hesitant to just publicly share what they did, but basically they swapped out the old new laptop for a new new one for a price that was as small as they could legally/policy-adhering charge. I also bought the ProCare, because the store was slammed and I needed to work my way up the queue. So all tolled, I spent less than $500.

Brandon, I really like your idea. Do you know of any easy way to find out who the managers are for a particular store? I'll look into it either way, but if you had a suggestion, that'd be great - my brain is a little frazzled from the rollercoaster ride at this point.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:44 PM on October 24, 2009

Also, extremely hungover, as I spent the evening lining up Woodford Reserve for my friend and I. What other solution is there at 10pm on Friday night?
posted by iamkimiam at 12:48 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

i believe you can buy apple care up to a month after having purchased the computer

i bought applecare, and they've replaced my battery twice, the whole harddrive, and half the casing. no guarantees on any of this- but emphasizing poorness, how excited you were b/c you heard macs were great, how you tell all your friends to buy macs, and smiling a lot and the person helping you out seem to help the process work.

good luck
posted by saraindc at 1:00 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

ok, should've finished reading before replying. congrats!!!!!
posted by saraindc at 1:03 PM on October 24, 2009

Do you know of any easy way to find out who the managers are for a particular store?

Just calling and asking should work. If the store is nearby, you can probably duck in and ask.

What other solution is there at 10pm on Friday night?

It doesn't need to be solved RIGHT NOW, the store will be open tomorrow and you'll be all sobered up, which I find helps a lot when doing these sorts of things.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:05 PM on October 24, 2009


The AppleCare Protection Plan can be purchased only while your Mac is still covered under the standard one-year limited warranty. See AppleCare Protection Plan Terms and Conditions for complete product details.
posted by mokuba at 1:45 PM on October 24, 2009

I would think (for future reference) that AppleCare probably has a clause saying you can't buy it after the thing breaks.
posted by delmoi at 5:10 AM on October 25, 2009

AppleCare doesn't cover user damage.
posted by mokuba at 9:48 AM on October 25, 2009

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