How do you fight for your consumer rights when you are socially anxious?
July 3, 2014 8:54 AM   Subscribe

My Mac Air manifested damage within 6 weeks of purchase, but Apple refuses to take any responsibility (damage isn’t covered under warranty), insisting I caused it. My credit card doesn’t offer insurance. The only option they’ve given me is to pay $500+ to have it fixed. If you were me, what would you do?

I ordered a customized Mac Air in March. I'm in North America and the shipment came from China. Less than 6 weeks after purchase, there was a problem with the LCD screen. I simply closed it, took a nap, awoke, and opened it and noticed the problem (cracked lines in the LCD). I took it to my local "Genius" bar (sarcasm) telling them the computer never left the house and I never bumped anything on the screen, but they insisted it must have been something I did, or which happened while I wasn't around, refusing to entertain any explanation otherwise, though they were kind enough to quote me a $500+ LCD replacement charge (more sarcasm). I'm wondering if it got jostled pre- or during shipment, though am not sure that it would take weeks to manifest a problem. I’ve Googled my problem and it seems that some others have been in the same situation, though Apple says it’s not a “known” defect.

My computer has been languishing unused for 3 months now—I’ve been relying on my phone for internet. I can hook it up to a separate monitor, but that’s obviously not ideal as the point of a laptop is portability. I'm afraid to go back to their customer service as I'm not good at fighting for myself when it comes to consumer issues like this because of social anxiety, plus it seems like I'm up against a monolith that doesn’t care.

At this rate, I’ll probably end up paying for the replacement while being wary of purchasing directly from Apple in the future, and badmouthing them every chance I get. If you were me, what would you do?
posted by oceanview to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Former Fruit Stand employee here. I would print out whatever evidence you can get that there's been problems like this before with your model and then go to another Apple store if you can and try again at the Genius bar. Don't say a lot; I'd present the problem as, "In March, I ordered this MacBook Air, and less than 6 weeks after purchase and minimal daily use, these cracks appeared on my screen. It looks like I am not the only person who has had this occur. I am very frustrated and really need your help because I cannot afford to purchase another computer. What are the next steps I need to take to have this problem fixed under warranty?"

If you have to escalate to a manager, stay calm and ask for one. Keep repeating that minimal daily use does not and should not result in a "cracked" screen. Let the manager know that being told that it's your fault does not align with their warranty policies and that you need the manager to re-evaluate the situation. I think you'll have better success if you go about it that way. YMMV. Good luck.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:05 AM on July 3, 2014 [27 favorites]

Apple's Genius Bar care has been really hit-and-miss, partly based on location IME. I've had really great service some times, where they knew exactly what kind of questions to ask to nail down the problem quickly and accurately and a good handle on how to proceed. On the other end of the spectrum, I've had a guy patronizingly explain to me what Flash is when he couldn't immediately replicate the abnormal fan noise I'd come in about (to the credit of the store, after I asked that they take it overnight and check more thoroughly anyway, they found the problem and did the replacement in less than 24 hours, so.) Apple advises calling AppleCare for cases of defective merchandise, and you may be more likely to find someone who's aware of this if it's a problem with QC or shipping.
posted by kagredon at 9:22 AM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am never ever ever getting back together with Apple again, and had a similar recent problem with an Asus.

- Mac Airs have had TONS of problems, print out examples and try Hermione Granger's script above.

- Pay the $500 fix fee, then sell it on EBay.

- Pay a cheaper (maybe you can find one, $500 sounds pricey for a screen fix) somewhere else and sell the Mac Book Air.

- Next time you buy a laptop, get the warranty protection!!!! I'm doing this from now on, and because I have a three year old, I'm calling the extra fee a "Toddler Tax." Seriously. There is no avoiding this fee if you want decent protection and customer service in the future. Budget accordingly.

No matter what, I am not getting another Apple. The customer service is atrocious (been steadily heading downhill since 2006-ish, but is now truly rock bottom considering how expensive their products still are) and the functionality of their software is not what it used to be. The versatility is gone.

I'm really sorry you are going through this. I know it is emotionally challenging. A lot of companies are like this today, but Apple is very very high on that list. Nthing trying a different store....

You can also sell the laptop "As Is" on EBay.

I effing guarantee you someone like my husband (who has the skills to fix it) will buy it from you at near list price. Maybe knock off $250 to $400 from what you paid? Remember to wipe all your data back to factory settings before shipping!

And get the insurance when you do ship it!!

I'm sorry. The world has changed. Next time, budget for the extra warranty insurance. Get away from Apple as quick as you can. Yes, you will lose money. Mitigate the amount as best you can.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:28 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

That sucks. I would definitely keep fighting for your rights, especially because it's something that's particularly hard for you, and it's an important skill to have. Try a different Apple store, speak assertively and calmly as you explain the problem, and keep repeating what you need over and over. Ask for a manager if needed. Don't show any signs of giving up. I find that companies give me what I need in situations like this if I'm persistent, and generally that doesn't take too long, even if initially they say it's not possible.
posted by three_red_balloons at 9:39 AM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ugh, this happened to me with my very first Mac (an iBook). The dudes at the Genius Bar in Palo Alto called me a liar to my face and told me that I dropped it. I was in grad school at the time and there was so much going on that I just couldn't deal with it, and I eventually had Apple repair it. (They threw in a printer or something.)

Oh, and I *had* AppleCare (their extended warranty thing). It does not cover damage due to abuse, which is what they claimed it was.

I hope you stick with it and get them to repair it.
posted by wintersweet at 9:46 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

OP, I just want to add that I am, like, a customer service expert at making the impossible happen. In the past, I've gotten Apple to refurbish lap tops after Apple Care ran out for mere pennies ($200!) and recently, my customer service experience with them over my new iPhone (also ordered and directly shipped from China, I feel your pain there) was unsuccessful after throwing my considerable skills at the problem for 3 months.

Yes. You should give it one more sincere, well prepared for (do your homework online collecting complaint examples!!) effort at making them bear the cost of repair. But don't kick yourself if it doesn't work out.

It's not your social anxiety. Their policies have changed. The folks in the stores are mean and obnoxious. The folks over the telephone (even supervisors!!) don't have the expertise about the functionality of their own product line - I knew more about the specs and software of my new device than they did. Both are a "first" for me with Apple. Middling service, sure. But the way they disavow all responsibility over devices that cost 3x and 4x their competitors offer? I mean, that level of Guarantee and Excellent Service was 75% of the reason to pay the higher price tag.

Really OP, this is not about your social anxiety. Apple's policies have changed dramatically.

Please do give it your best shot. But don't take it personally if you don't get made whole on the deal.
posted by jbenben at 9:58 AM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

One other thing: do not mention anything about your belief that the laptop was damaged in transit. If they ask you what you think happened, repeat that you are not sure but that you're disappointed that the product would be rendered unusable after 6 weeks of minimal daily use. Don't bring up any other possibilities. The more you say, the more loopholes they will try to find.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:50 AM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Screens are not covered under Applecare, and though it would be nice if they were, it sounds like Apple is entirely in the right on this one. With that said, Genius bars do have a lot of flexibility. I would give it a few more shots before you give up.

1. Try several different Apple locations.
2. Make an appointment, and dress neatly. When I'm making big requests from customer service reps I like to dress like I'm going to an interview. Think of it as your armor, or your costume.
3. Treat your interaction as if you're there playing a role, and your role is a polite, friendly person who knows that they, being well-intentioned people with the best of motives, will resolve your issue. Practice being calm and patient and relatively taciturn with a friend ahead of time. Make it clear you're willing to camp out at the Genius Bar for a while.

But also know when to give up (this bar may be different for us, for me it is when I'm getting so peeved that it is not worth continuing). I wish you luck, but I'd advise going into this with hope but realistic knowing your chances aren't great (don't tell them this though).
posted by arnicae at 11:04 AM on July 3, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks or the great advice so far, everyone. It's giving me a confidence boost to try again.
posted by oceanview at 11:26 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

If Apple continues to refuse to pay for the repair, I wouldn't have them do it. You can get your screen replaced much cheaper by 'unofficial' repair places. I personally had my MacBook Pro screen replaced by Rossmann Group here in NYC for hundreds less than Apple wanted. I couldn't be happier with the work.
posted by dcjd at 11:43 AM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Take a friend to have your back.
posted by Good Brain at 11:55 AM on July 3, 2014

Just chiming in to say Hermione above has the right idea.

I had an extremely similar problem with the weird unibody white macbook model they only sold for year or two. I had barely owned the thing for longer than you. After lots of hemming and hawing and "you must have done it" and going back more than once, i finally spoke to a reasonable genius bar tech and the manager and they ended up giving me a full refund in store credit for the base model+the cost of upgrades and i just bought a new machine.

I was also, in searching online, not the only person who had weird cracking issues with that model. I didn't even end up bringing that up at the genius bar though, because i didn't see that until afterwards. Definitely print that out and bring it.

Also, i'm going to have to second that apple service has gotten noticeably worse even in just the past few years. There used to be a policy that was essentially "everyone gets one free iphone replacement even if it was their fault, if they're persistent" that they killed when they introduced applecare+(if you google around, you'll find lots of blog posts about this). They also seem less willing to actually work with me on laptop problems. It's to the point that i know i'm basically guaranteed to have to make more than one tiresome, out of my way trip to get stuff dealt with. Recently, i ended up paying $30 to get the vibrator replaced in my phone by them... and they broke my screen frame in the process. That never would have happened in the past. Years ago, i got stuff like that comped all the time.(they did end up eating the cost, but once again i had to make two trips. ugh)

The laptop thing took literally hours, to the point of me sitting in the store and watching the sunset, the day they finally just gave up and ate the cost. And i was at the genius bar with that damn thing maybe 5 times. They did do it though.
posted by emptythought at 4:17 PM on July 3, 2014

I hope it works out.

I have varying success working with customer service folks, however I find that the best option is usually to try and talk to them like they're your most helpful empathetic friend. Try explaining the situation in narrative form and include the way the situation made you feel. Eg. "I was so excited to receive my customized MacBook, I anticipated its customized features for so long and was willing to pay the extra money for a streamlined, sleek product...etc. and then it broke and I was devastated. I paid X for it, and now I can't even enjoy my beautiful apple product. etc." YMMV
posted by tenlives at 8:52 PM on July 3, 2014

My retina MBP (mid-2012; the first ones they issued) suffered from a severe image retention problem even after a second replacement.

In arguing with Apple and their 'geniuses' over it I had to point out that the screen I wanted had indeed a separate part number (they had said they couldn't tell me which screen they would have to install; something I had verified off their own forums as total bullshit) and had to pressure them for over 4 months.

In the end I had to threaten to dump the machine right then and there with my credit card company taking it out of their hides via a chargeback before I got the damn thing fixed. I'd be expecting this for about 3 weeks prior, so I had already cleared it with Visa the day before I went gladiator-style.

Keep in mind, this spat with the Apple Store douches came *after* I got called back by some higher-ups at Apple (see below) who were actually super-nice and tried to set things right.

Luckily I've had no issues with it since, it's even been a joy to work with the thing since it came back from the shop.

The advice above from others here is excellent. Your best defense is to be prepared.

• Don't focus on anything that could lend credence to their point of view - such as the possibility of it being damaged in transit. In future, wherever possible when buying their equipment, open it in the shop, as you can exchange it right there if it's obviously defective. (In my case I bought my Mac from a very reputable 3rd-party affiliated vendor - but for repairs, it was straight back to Apple when the IR started to appear 6 weeks after purchase)
• Marshal other users' evidence if you can (in my case, a Jerry Garcia wannabe implied other Mac users were just bitching for the sake of it. He ate his words when I showed him photographic proof of the damage, as well as the link to Apple's own forums).
• As above, get photo proof if you can. This helps bolster your case if there is any question of subjectivity.
• Get to know the various 3rd-party vendors in your area. If they are Apple-affiliated resellers, they will often have access to Apple's supply chain and can advise on parts, costs and policies from a neutral point of view (instead of from the mothership only). One 3rd-party vendor in Toronto (not the one I bought from) I spoke to confirmed that the part I needed was definitely different from the defective part I had, and gave me the exact part number, which was invaluable when arguing with not-so-jovial Garcia above. Don't mention that you spoke with these vendors when talking with Apple, however.
• Email Apple support, cc a copy to Tim Cook (really), and ask for Executive Relations to get involved. If someone from ER calls you back, approach them with the frame of mind that they're there to help you. They have powers over and above the regular support channels and can often intervene on your behalf to make things happen for you.
• As a last resort, describe the situation to your cc company, but focus on how you have only been using it minimally and that you are unsatisfied with the equipment. Get them to sign off on a chargeback, and be ready to fire away if needed.

Remember that you're just trying to get Apple to make it right. You obviously thought highly enough of the brand to buy one of their machines; the least they could do is fix the cracked screen.

Good luck!
posted by northtwilight at 8:56 PM on July 3, 2014

Response by poster: Wow, more great tips! Thanks guys. I think simply not knowing how to "make my case" is what's playing into most of my anxiety around this, but you have all offered some excellent elements for a game plan.

Chargebacks! I've never done one before but at my previous job (which involved handling customer service complaints of all things), I probably suggested chargebacks to customers several times a week. I will look into the possibility of doing one in my situation.

*throwing kisses*

Funny--my previous Mac from a few years ago had the widespread body cracking problem as mentioned by another mefi above. I got that fixed easily as it was considered a known issue...hmm, I wonder if mentioning that this is my second consecutive Mac with problems would help my case?
posted by oceanview at 9:07 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you have a great plan of action based on all the great ideas above.

One other thought:

If Apple still won't help you after you talk to them again, try filing a complaint with your state's consumer affairs department (might be the Attorney General's office, might not). I don't know where you're located, but just as an example, here's the consumer complaint page for the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Sometimes just raising an alert at a government agency can make a business more willing to do the right thing.

Good luck!
posted by kristi at 1:14 PM on July 5, 2014

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