Help! Apple is Holding My Computer Hostage!
August 28, 2007 9:53 PM   Subscribe

How should I proceed in these dealings with Apple? I paid $310 for service on my computer and now they want $900!!!!

OK, here's my story:

A few months ago, I started getting the dreaded Verticle Lines of Death on my two-year-old PowerBook G4*. I dealt with it for a while, but they got so bad that I could only see about half the screen, then only 1/3.

I had been reluctant to take it to the Apple Store, because I'd heard that this problem came from the logic board and would cost $800 to fix. I'd also heard that Apple was in the habit of refusing to fix computers with so much as a dent in the casing. I have one of the PBs with titanium casing (never again!) which dent if you give them a really dirty look. And I used this computer while I was in grad school, meaning I took it with me everywhere, so it definitely had a few dings.

But I finally bit the bullet and took it in last week. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it would cost the standard flat fee of $310 to fix, and they would even fix the battery, which was always falling out. It would be sent to a remote service center for these repairs.

However, I got a call yesterday saying that they had placed the computer "on hold" due to external damage. Now the charge for fixing it will be over $900. Apparently the $310 fee is only for undamaged Macs.

This seems ridiculous for a few reasons:

- $900 is such a high fee.

- This is a common problem among Macs and thus cannot be blamed on a few dings to the casing.

- If there was "pre-existing" damage to the computer, shouldn't the Genius at the store have notified me, recorded the damage, and told me it would cost more? As it stands, I don't know if the damage was the stuff that was there when I came into the store or if it's new.

- Even leaving aside the argument that the computer might have been damaged further in transit, it really seems wrong to quote someon one price, have them pay that price, send their computer away, and then call them 5 days later to tell them the price is now arbitrarily $600 more.

This last point is what really sticks with me. I paid the $300 with the understanding that it was a flat fee, and was not told that there might be further costs. Now I feel like the whole thing is sort of a scam - they're holding my computer hostage! This is something I might expect from a shady auto body shop, not Apple!

Anyway, what I really want to know is: has anyone else here dealt with such a situation with Apple? I so, do you have tips about the best way to proceed?

* I know there was a batch of PowerBooks that had this problem that Apple is being pressured to fix for free. Sadly, my computer is not part of that batch.
posted by lunasol to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Keep escalating. If you run into a brick wall, there's always the folks who answer sjobs@apple.com.
posted by mrbill at 10:12 PM on August 28, 2007


Did you sign anything the first time, a receipt for the service or anything? Find it, and then hit the phone book under "legal services".
posted by Myself at 10:16 PM on August 28, 2007


$900 is such a high fee.

Parts availability for older PBs can be iffy. Scarcity drives the cost here, as well as the fact that this is a laptop repair. Laptop parts, particularly LCD panels and related components, are not cheap.

If there was "pre-existing" damage to the computer, shouldn't the Genius at the store have notified me, recorded the damage, and told me it would cost more? As it stands, I don't know if the damage was the stuff that was there when I came into the store or if it's new.

The Apple Store employs retail staff, not repair technicians. The retail staff is probably not qualified to made that determination.

You'd have to be able to establish the damage was caused by the Apple Store's shipment procedure. Their shipping cases and packaging are standard and the procedure is pretty well established.

Anyway, what I really want to know is: has anyone else here dealt with such a situation with Apple? I so, do you have tips about the best way to proceed?

Your flat-fee "contract" likely contains numerous exceptions in the situation where there is case or other "user"-caused damage. It's unlikely you have much legal recourse.

Consider an example where your car needs hard-to-reach headlight bulbs replaced, the shop quotes you a flat price, and then their staff find other, major, legitimate problems, like engine trouble (let's assume, for sake of argument, that you are dealing with an honest repair shop). Would it be honest of you to expect them to repair the engine for the cost of replacing the headlight bulbs?

You could contact Applecare directly, but I advise that it's unlikely you'll get far with a machine that is no longer in warranty.

I know there was a batch of PowerBooks that had this problem that Apple is being pressured to fix for free. Sadly, my computer is not part of that batch.

The symptoms you describe do not seem to match the repair extension conditions.

I hate to bear bad news, but unless you can establish that the damage was caused by their handing, you may not have much luck here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:17 PM on August 28, 2007


You could go all cause of action on 'em. It might even work.
posted by mlis at 10:24 PM on August 28, 2007


Now I feel like the whole thing is sort of a scam - they're holding my computer hostage!

Wait, have you actually asked for your computer back with no additional repairs and had this request refused?
posted by scottreynen at 10:26 PM on August 28, 2007


First mistake was going to the Genius Bar. They will tell you the warranty is void if there's even a fleck of dust on it. Supposedly, that's "company policy".

That said, I echo what mrbill said. Keep going up that ladder until you have to send a letter to Steve himself. From what I have heard, if no one else will resolve it, Steve and/or his team will. Always try to be as courteous as you can while you do this. Even if you feel like you'd like to reach through the phone and strangle the pleb on the other end, you'll probably get results quicker this way.
posted by arishaun at 10:26 PM on August 28, 2007


The last time I sent something to Apple I had a similar experience with them raising the rate after they had my computer. But in my case, I declined the repairs, they returned my computer, and I didn't pay anything (beyond wasted time). Before you spend too much time and energy investigating legal recourse or escalation, you should probably make sure the ransom price for your computer is actually more than a simple request that it be returned without repairs.
posted by scottreynen at 10:34 PM on August 28, 2007


I am sure you can get the money and the laptop back if you ask.

Otherwise, you will most likely have to pay for full repairs. I don't think there's much else you can do with this. The "Genius" was wrong, and that's the part that sucks. Sadly, they are very often wrong.
posted by blacklite at 12:03 AM on August 29, 2007


First mistake was going to the Genius Bar. They will tell you the warranty is void if there's even a fleck of dust on it. Supposedly, that's "company policy".

You see, that's completely against my experience. My girlfriend has worked her way through a series of video iPods, with damage that could justifiably be blamed on her. (A dent in the case resulting from a drop. A second drop that landed the iPod in the toilet.) They've replaced her iPod three times without question, sometimes after pointing out the damage. I've been in to swap a battery from a very worn and battered MacBook. They didn't even argue.

Maybe it's the individual Apple Centre?
posted by outlier at 1:17 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


From personal experience I was able to argue that the case damage was not related to the requested repair, and they agreed. I had to escalate it to customer service at Apple. Funny thing is they fixed the problem AND the case. go figure.
posted by Gungho at 4:10 AM on August 29, 2007


Have you established what these additional costs are for? It could be that they're wanting to replace the case. I know when I've sent things away to be repaired they've always come back looking shiny and new (non-apple stuff)
Try telling them you don't want the external damage fixed and see what they say.
posted by missmagenta at 5:41 AM on August 29, 2007


outlier, the guidelines for iPods are significantly different than the guidelines for laptops.
posted by arimathea at 6:11 AM on August 29, 2007


I agree with the "bitch to a higher power" folks. Set aside about 45 minutes pick up the phone and call Apple. Plead your case and let them know that you definitely want to purchase another machine sometime in the future but right now you need your trusty Tibook fixed for the agreed upon price.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:01 AM on August 29, 2007


Thanks for all the responses. I will set aside a couple of hours tomorrow for dealing with this issue and will report back later...

I love the idea of emailing Steve Jobs' team! ;)
posted by lunasol at 8:57 AM on August 29, 2007


The $300 is standard charge for basic (not physically damaged) mail-in repair for apple. The $900 charge is for Tier 3 accidental damage repair. The decision to try and have it fixed at the basic mail-in rate was made by the know-nothing clerk at the store you took it to. The decision to re-quote the repair based on physical damage was made by a technician in Memphis or Houston. The Teir 3 diagnosis doesn't make much sense to me. And I quote, "Tier 3 Accidental Damage for any DVD, Combo, or Hard drive failure. If more than one component needs repair, select the higher tier billing part for the initial quote." You might want to ask them for more specifics about what tier they're claiming this repair falls under and what parts are in need of being replaced.

The re-quote is an option. It is not a ransom. You do not have to pay it and while you should have never been asked to pay the $300 before the repair, you now have the opportunity to decline the repair altogether and get your money back. They may still make you pay shipping, which is only $6.95.

The best option for you is to decline the repair, get your money back, and take your computer to an Apple Authorized Service Provider other than an actual apple store. Take it to a place that does the repairs in-house. Be nice to them. Bring them cookies. If the parts in need of replacement are physically damaged then the AASP has no choice but to charge a lot of money for the parts. Apple must receive all old parts back. If the part is damaged then they will make the AASP pay more for it. If the part is not physically damaged then the AASP can treat it as a normal repair that has nothing to do with whatever dings and scratches exist on the case.

Good luck. If I can help feel free to send me an email.
posted by J-Garr at 1:13 PM on August 29, 2007


I had this same thing happen to my G4 Powerbook in June. It cost me just under $400 to fix and was back from Apple in no time flat.

But I didn't go though a Genius, I took it to a local authorized repair place. And they sent it in for me.

I can't help you with your problem but I can commiserate.
posted by fenriq at 1:54 PM on August 29, 2007


J-Garr and fenriq - thanks a ton for the insight into the process. This helps a lot...
posted by lunasol at 5:01 PM on August 29, 2007


Update: after three hours on the phone with various Apple facilities and hotlines, I discovered that this was essentially a misunderstanding.

It turned out that when the folks at the repair facility inspected the laptop, they found that the hard drive had been damaged. The additional cost was to fix the hard drive, which is a separate fix from the screen problem.

I decided not to have the hard drive fixed because I haven't had any hard drive problems, and if I want to pay Apple $600, it'll be towards a shiny new laptop, not a new hard drive.

The screen will still cost the flat fee of $310, which I'll still do. Hopefully the hard drive doesn't crap out 6 months from now!
posted by lunasol at 3:59 PM on August 30, 2007


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