Am I missing out on some rights as an Apple customer?
September 28, 2005 11:45 PM   Subscribe

LetTheBuyerBewareFilter: Do I have any rights as an Apple customer, or a customer in general, that I'm not aware of with regards to the Apple iBook Logic Board Repair Program?

I purchased an iBook in May of 2003 and have had problems due to the "Logic Board" issue three times in the past 12 months, the most recent happening just this past week. Each time I've shipped it off to Apple with no real hassle, but it's meant losing my laptop for a week or so. What I'm worried about most is that come next May, which at this rate will happen just after my fourth breakdown/repair, I am no longer eligible for the program. Is there anything that can be done before Apple starts ignoring my calls? Can I get into some sort of "customer dissatisfaction" grey area where I could get a different repair on this unit that will actually continue to work, or make them ship me an entirely new iBook or at the very least throw me some Apple Store credit?

When I worked in retail I always hated it when customers felt that they deserved special treatment, but I guess I'm just wondering if maybe there's some kind of normal, but better, procedure that you don't get unless you know about it.
posted by ckolderup to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
It's just a consequence of the bizzare way warranties work -- a defective widget from a consistently defective line of widgets is replaced over and over with identically defective widgets.

It costs Apple 3 iBook logic boards and lots of customer trouble. Many other manufacturers do this too, and it puzzles me as to why.

Apple's return policies get even stranger:

Apple policy for warranty replacement of defective parts, no matter how major, is to have you ship them your broken computer, and they ship the same exact computer back to you, with the part replaced.

Apple policy for computers that were shipped misconfigured (like wrong hard drives in an xServe) is to ship you a brand new one, and to have you ship them the misconfigured one on their bill.

Which of these policies make sense? Is there some sort of bizarre warranty law that makes sane corporate responses to bad hardware totally impossible?
posted by blasdelf at 12:39 AM on September 29, 2005

If you've had to have it replaced three times, I would've made a stink about it or mentioned that it was the third time. If you'd done some googling you'd see there's a few posts on apple discussion boards detailing instances where people got a ob out of the ordeal.
posted by angry modem at 1:11 AM on September 29, 2005

That said, otherwise you're hosed. FWIW the logic board issue for me when it happened to my g3 ibook was isolated to the video, so I was able to scp my files off of it and then send it in. So if you're up shit creek, here's a paddle!
posted by angry modem at 1:12 AM on September 29, 2005

I have had exactly the same problem. My guess is that Apple figures there is only a small subset of people who are into Macs enough to have an ibook but not into them enough to get a newer model edvery three years and/or to go off Macs entirely.

The third time I sent mine in to get the logic board replaced, the Apple tech on the phone gave me a long talk/song and dance about how they were going to really check the computer over this time, somehow implying that there might be some cause for my problems that wasn't just bad logic boards and strongly indicating that I might have done something to cause this. Needless to say, I doubt that this was done. They also mentioned that they would be unlikely to replace the board a fourth time [I have AppleCare and I said I was pretty sure they'd have to] and fortunately that hasn't happened yet.

On the other hand, when I have to send in my laptop, I send it out on, say, a Friday afternoon and I have it back by Tuesday morning generally. It's inconvenient, but it's not a whole week either. Keep in mind that Apple specifically says on the ibook repair page "Apple will continue to evaluate the repair data and will provide further repair extensions as needed." My guess is that more people continue to have problems with defective ibooks they will extend the repair program.
posted by jessamyn at 5:17 AM on September 29, 2005

I've had a similar problem with mine. I purchased my G3 iBook in November 2002, with AppleCare.

New battery in April 2003. New logic board in June 2003 (video issue). December 2003, needed new logic board again (battery not being recognized), sent it in and had it returned unrepaired and without a powercord so it was essentially useless (the tech was supposed to replace the logic board and somehow it got sent back before s/he did it and then I didn't have the time to send it back in until a year later). November 2004, 2 new logic boards within a week--I sent it in via the Apple Store and their policy is to check machines that come back in before releasing them to the customer and thank goodness, as the power supply for the monitor had gotten pinched in the case and the computer was smoking so back it went and they replaced pretty much all the internal parts except for the hard drive as well as the battery. A couple weeks ago, my battery went south again and they replaced it for me at the store because of the repair history of my machine. Again, I went to Apple Store for this; I suspect that if I'd called AppleCare that I would not have gotten a new battery (despite it working just fine one day and then not recognizable by the machine the next; they consider batteries consumables, so if they fail it's almost always the user's fault and not the battery's).

I wish I had more useful information for you other than to suggest sending it in via an Apple Store if possible. I've gotten slightly better warranty service that way than via sending it in myself.
posted by eilatan at 7:52 AM on September 29, 2005

I had the same problem. (Four logic boards in two years, the last one after only two months.) I am now typing this on my replacement G4, sent out for free from Apple.

Call this number: 800.275.2273. Ask to speak with customer relations. Be persistent. You may get one more repair, but you can get a new computer. (Faster! With Tiger!)
posted by dame at 8:23 AM on September 29, 2005

Depending on how stuck in your craw this is, you could look into what consumer protection laws exist in your state. Many have lemon laws for vehicles as well as explicit statements about being deveived about the overall quality of merchandise. For example, Virginia included in the prohibited activities "6. Misrepresenting that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, grade, style, or model; " (ยง 59.1-200 Prohibited practices )

You could make the argument that after three identical items have failed they have misrepresented the quality of that product. I don't know how much luck you'd actually have in pursuing this but you are likely at an amount that small claims court would be appropriate and with Apple opening stores in so many states they have a business presence and can't reasonably claim you'd have to sue them in CA.

If this is really a big deal to them, write them a letter expressing your annoyance and stating what you'd like them to do as a result - give you the next model up, refund 80% of your money, etc - and state that if they're unwilling to work with you that you'll pursue the matter in small claims court. Given how they took it on the chin in the iPod battery issue they might be inclined to compromise with you.
posted by phearlez at 8:40 AM on September 29, 2005

Call this number: 800.275.2273. Ask to speak with customer relations. Be persistent.

Please tell us more about your G4 wrangling technique. Was your laptop broken when you called them and succeeded in getting a replacement?
posted by jessamyn at 8:47 AM on September 29, 2005

I'm not sure which part of what I did was most useful, so I'll tell you the story, and you can take what you need from it.

I got my G3 iBook for Chistmas 2003. The logic board broke in May 2004 and then in December 04 or January 05. Then it broke again in June. I take my laptop to Tekserve for repair instead of sending it directly to Apple. (I would like to take a moment to sing the praises of Tekserve. If you are in New York, take your puter to them always--they are competent, quick, and always willing to go the extra distance.)

When I was at Tekserve, I was telling the guy how this was my third one. He said, "You know, other people have gotten replacement computers for this problem. You should call Apple."

I did so. First I called the basic help number, the one I gave you above. I explained the situation and noted that replacing a part once or twice can be coincidence, but at three it is obviously a more fundamental problem. I said I wanted a replacement machine. I was bumped up from the first level to the second. At the second level of customer service, I got a total dick: he claimed he could neither help nor pass me along to someone who could; I told him I wanted a new computer or to talk to someone helpful. He hung up on me.

(This is the part where I note that I am a bitch and have no problem whatsoever throwing a tantrum to get what I want. I will start off polite, but if you won't help me out of the kindness of your heart, then you can help me because dealing with me is so very unpleasant and you want me to go away. To get your new computer, you may want to channel this attitude. Rarely do you get to total craziness, because people can see it coming, but you have to be willing to go there.)

I called the Cupertino number (408.996.1010) next. The nice operator lady put me through to customer relations, the people who can actually help. I have since found out that you can get them through the basic number if you know they exist or if you get a competent operator. Now that I'm thinking this through, you may want to just call the Cupertino number first, hit 0 for the operator, and ask for customer relations, not just the basic technical help people. They may tell you to call the other number, they may not.

At this point, we have the people who have the power to give you a computer. I explained the situation, got a case number, argued a lot about how it was costing me money both in lost work and in data recovery (because the logic board gives no warning, I always need to safeguard the data before repair and that recovery costs $200). I got a case number and Apple paid for that data recovery as a good faith gesture.

This is where being persistent is the key. They will say something about wanting to try the repair. Reply that you have tried the repairs and it is obvious that there is something deeper wrong with the machine. Don't be afraid of repeating yourself or being a pain. Your goal is to make giving you a computer the easiest option. Don't say, "Or you could do X, Y, or Z." Don't take their offer to do X, Y, or Z . . .

. . . until you've been on the phone for a good long while and they promise you can revisit this question if it breaks again. If you are already past the fourth breakdown, you may have an easier time here.

When my logic board broke the fourth time, two months after this nonsense, I dropped the broken computer off at Tekserve, then called Apple with my case number ready. Because I already had this worked out, I got sent directly to customer relations. They looked at the history and didn't even give me any crap. They said, "Yes, you need a replacement." They had to call Tekserve to confirm it was the logic board again. They were supposed to call me back, but they did not. I called again two days later, finally got someone helpful and my computer was on its way.

Overall, it took about seven hours on the phone. That is nothing compared to a new computer. Remember, you are an immovable object with ovaries of steel and an iron will. You will be polite and thankful until you need to be difficult. And then you will be difficult.
posted by dame at 9:37 AM on September 29, 2005

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