How do I escalate my AppleCare problem?
December 4, 2007 2:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm disappointed with the service I'm getting from an Apple authorised repair centre. Where do I go from here?

A month ago on AskMeFi I described a problem with my Mac Mini, 6 months old and still under warranty and AppleCare. As mumkin recommended on that thread, I took the Mac in for repair, especially as it was defeating the computer's main purpose of being a media centre.

I dropped the Mac off 3 weeks ago, with a video I took demonstrating the problem in action (using 2 different remotes and a clean install), and links to websites where 3 other Mac users describe the same problem (without reaching a resolution.)

The people at the repair shop keep telling me they are unable to recreate the problem. I admit it could be difficult: it usually only showed up after the Mac's been on for hours, and not every time. They say that until they can recreate it, they can't fix it. They are unmoved by the thought of me moaning about them, Mac servicing and Macs in general on the web.

Isn't it perhaps time for giving me some benefit of the doubt? It should be clear I'm not imagining the problem, nor doing without my media centre for laughs. If they can't find the problem, they can swap the machine for a new one. I'm just worried that this will drag on for weeks and weeks, I may never get it fixed, and my brand new Mac media centre will end up being a big waste of money. Or am I being unfair?
posted by snarfois to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Time to make a large stink. Write corporate headquarters, demand a new machine. I love Macs, but I bought a lemon a few years ago that went totally belly up in about 35 days of owning it. They weren't going to replace that one but after a few rounds I got a full refund. Don't be a chump. You don't have to be rude, you just have to demand what you want and not stop until you get it. Maybe it'd be easier for them just to replace it if they can't fix it.
posted by 45moore45 at 2:36 PM on December 4, 2007

I totally understand your frustration and very much doubt they think you're imagining it, but without an issue they can replicate or detect, your service provider will have a hard time knowing what's causing the issue and how to solve it. Even if they started throwing parts at it, it's hard for them to know if the issue has been resolved because, hey! They never saw it to begin with!

They've probably got a ton of other machines on their benches awaiting repair and they don't have a ton of time to spend watching your Mini. Even if you sent it to Apple for repairs, it might be returned to you unrepaired because their in-house service has even less time to spend on each machine they get. It sucks, but there you have it. Such is the way of the intermittent computer problem.
posted by hollisimo at 2:39 PM on December 4, 2007

Call Applecare directly — you do not necessarily need to bring your computer to the closest Apple Store, there are other options.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:40 PM on December 4, 2007

Apple has a very complicated process to determine what status the shops have, how they receive parts, and in general how good they are as a repair center. One of the biggest factors in this equation is how many 'good' parts they replace. I know for independent shops if they swap a part they think is bad, for a new one, even if it is warrantied, and that bad part ends up being perfectly fine (and they didn't fix the problem) they will have to eat the cost of the part involved, and take a hit in their stats / ranking.

Also, there is little if any parts they can swap in the mini, it is pretty much a solid logic board and maybe a part for the IR receiver (which appears to be a part in question).

Also, every service center (and the independent one associated with my last employer) has been swamped around the clock in the last 6 months, as Apple purchases have taken off, so the numbers of machines out there = more possible machines in service = less time for experienced service personnel to look at your mini.

You should be able to take the mini back from the service department, and get out of having to pay anything, if you say you want to try it at home.

Or ask them to leave the machine running overnight and test it in the morning, etc.

Where is the mini in your AV setup when you are using it? you mentioned it is appears to be related to heat, have you tried leaving the mini running out in the open on a table (with a longer cable plugging into your av setup) to see if the problem still happens?
posted by mrzarquon at 2:45 PM on December 4, 2007

(also, call Applecare directly, be nice and patient with them, they may be able to swap out or elevate your ticket / issue. In cases that were out of the service department I worked with control, we were able to help them work with Apple directly to resolve the issue).
posted by mrzarquon at 2:52 PM on December 4, 2007

I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but if all they have is a video, and they can't recreate what's in the video, there's not a whole lot that can be done. I'm pretty sure they don't think you're imagining it, because unexplainable problems are common in tech support, but at the end of the day, it's like going to a mechanic and saying "My car makes this noise all the time, but it's not making it now - fix it please!".

That said, 45moore's on to something. I have had repeated problems with my Ipod Nano, to the point I'm now on my 4th Apple-provided replacement (and it FINALLY works!).

So, from my long and tortured road to a functional Apple product, I can offer the following advice: make an appointment with the "genius bar" people at your local Apple store (Do NOT do this through an Apple reseller, you won't get anywhere), and on the day, do the following.

1. go in with a clear, concise narrative of the entire history of the problem, including the parameters of when it happens (what's running at the time, how long it's been on, etc). Do not be angry, do not get frustrated, just state what the problem is. Show the video, even.

2. Tell them what you bought the machine for, and tell them that you haven't been able to use it for that purpose and never have been.

3. Once this has been explained, the genius bar person will try to recreate the problem, much like the other shop person did. They will probably not be able to recreate it either. DO NOT GET ANGRY OR FRUSTRATED AT THIS. This is important.

4. This is where the negotiating begins. At the point where they say they can't really recreate it, that's when you say something like "Well, since I've had nothing but problems with this machine since day one, I'd like to see about doing a swap for a new machine".

They may put up a bit of half-hearted resistance, but they will no doubt know that you're still under warranty and have AppleCare, so you ultimately have the upper hand - as long as you're clear about what you want, don't ask for more than you've already got (you won't get a brand new PowerMac for your busted MacMini), and don't get angry, the Apple people are usually pretty amenable to a swap.

Good luck!
posted by pdb at 3:00 PM on December 4, 2007

The only problem with trying to have the machine replaced through an Apple store is that if you haven't had an extensive repair history up to this point with the machine without receiving resolution to the issue, they won't opt to replace it. They way they see it, if they can't replicate any problem, there is no reason to replace it-- it's the same to them as if someone came in without a problematic machine and asked for it to be replaced.

I am an Apple service provider, FWIW.
posted by hollisimo at 3:08 PM on December 4, 2007

Response by poster: mrzarquon: now you mention it AV setup might possibly be a factor. The Mini stands on a shelf about 10cm to the left of the amplifier it's plugged into (Marantz PM4001). It would be a shame if that's the issue since the setup looks good. I could perhaps increase the gap by another 10cm or so.
posted by snarfois at 3:17 PM on December 4, 2007

snarfois: that looks like a serious amp that probably generates a lot of heat. if you can bear to make your AV setup ugly for a few days, pull the mini out entirely (is it on a shelf next to the marantz?) and put it on top of the shelf, off to the side, wherever, so it is not around the other stuff (something like a foot stool would work perfect). The techs may not be seeing the problem because its probably sitting on their bench in the open, with nothing else around it, instead of in an AV cabinet next to a high quality amp.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:22 PM on December 4, 2007

Response by poster: Here's the video, showing the av setup. As you can see, the Mini is also standing on an external LaCie drive.

Considering I've given this video to the technicians, I'd have expected them to consider whether the setup could have an influence, but they haven't mentioned it. It should be pretty easy to put the Mini in a hot location in the repair shop.
posted by snarfois at 1:30 AM on December 5, 2007

Best answer: To anyone stumbling upon this thread, it's been answered here -- the culprit is a nearby CFL (energy-saving) lamp.
posted by snarfois at 2:15 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

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