More on Apple and customer service

About 2 years ago, I wrote a story about getting my PowerBook G4 fixed as a result of a hinge problem. At the time, I was indignant that Apple had a known defect in their product and wouldn’t repair it for me. I spent some time in the AppleStore in Durham, NC (this was before the one in Raleigh opened) trying to see if they would assist under warranty… and they didn’t. So my post was a result of my frustration at trying to get help for something I thought Apple should’ve taken care of, yet didn’t.

However, I didn’t lose my cool at the AppleStore, on the phone with Apple or anywhere else. If anything, I was mostly upset with myself and sad that I was going to have to pay a few hundred dollars for something I knew I was going to replace relatively soon.

Today I saw a post on Gizmodo about another guy who “Lost his S#?!” at the AppleStore in DC. It linked to a comic he wrote about the experience. (The comic is safe, but the comments afterwards are a little NSFW, so view this at home and away from young eyes).

Essentially, the guy had a very similar machine that I used to have… and he wanted to install a wireless card in it after purchase. He was upset that the screws on the machine weren’t “standard” (they’re TORX, which are, as you’ll see from reading the comments, standard) and that he says he had trouble finding them at various stores (which people in the comments refute). He was upset that Apple wouldn’t give him a screwdriver in the AppleStore to fix his own machine (for the same reasons that your auto mechanic won’t let you use their tools to fix your car).

He ultimately lost his cool at the AppleStore and wrote the comic as a way to vent.

Now, per my other missives above, I do understand venting. I also understand being frustrated by a situation that I believe is somehow unfair.

But I do NOT take it out on others (Tina may disagree, since she hears me at home). So let me clarify… I don’t take it out on the customer service person who really doesn’t have much control over the situation.

[Update – about 3 seconds after hitting Publish]: OK… so I realize that by posting this little story, I’m probably perpetuating something that should just die. And, as Tina reminds me (man, I really love this girl) arguing with everyone I ever disagreed with isn’t productive. Which, in turn, reminded me of one of my favorite comic artists of all time. So I’m converting this post from a semi-rant to a positive suggestion for you all to read on a regular basis. Here’s one of Randall’s drawings, completely on point.

Stolen Credit Card

I hate opening the credit card bill. Yeah, I know what’s in there – we’re pretty good about keeping track of that stuff. But I don’t like the REMINDER of what we’ve spent our money on each month. So I, in true guy fashion, let Tina open it. I rationalize that since she pays the bills, she can review it – besides, if I charged something I didn’t tell her about, she’ll come to me, never worry about that.

But I knew this month was going to be unusually bad – vacations and work trips, etc. So I hesitantly opened it when I got home tonight. I saw all the suspects. But then a few I wasn’t expecting.

Hmmm. Ok, so the first thing I do is try to think if there was something I ordered online that I just wasn’t remembering. But I happened to also glance another line down and fail to recognize FIVE OTHER charges.

Crap. Someone’s using our card.

I’m on the phone with our credit card company in a matter of seconds. By “on the phone” I really mean “on hold”… where I sat for 20 minutes – long enough for Tina to arrive home and find me fuming on the couch.

When a customer “service” rep finally answered, it was like talking to someone who was on their first night on the phones. Now, I’m sorry, but you should know better than to put that new of a person (or that untrained of a person) on the fraud line. Not to mention the 20 minutes where I was sitting there wondering if this was the quickest response they could possibly muster for calls coming in to tell them about stolen credit cards.

So my short fuse bottomed out and I asked for a supervisor. Another 10 minutes on hold and I got a pleasant woman – who now wanted to REVERIFY my personal information. [I’ve written before about the problem I have with call processing systems and the fact that they should EASILY pass along my “personal information” to the rep… and even if they have to verify it once, they shouldn’t have to do it again.]

But I gave them the info and then explained that I had six charges that weren’t ours. I said I knew approximately where and when the card numbers were swiped based on the locations of the charges. So we systematically went through them all. Then we canceled the current card and had a new set express shipped.

Next up? Calling the police in the location where the cards were used. Long story short, I have a feeling that the thief is getting a visit from the local PD tonight. Serves them right – for being so stupid as to use the credit cards to pay their bills – charges that have their name associated with each charge. Phone, electricity, cable, insurance, and the obligatory Rent-A-Center charge. What a dumbass.

But hey, at least the credit card company has already credited our account. And yes, for those of you paying attention, Apple now knows to bill another account so that I still get my MBP on time. 😉

However, all of this is a real pain. I still have at least 2 other recurring charges I have to manage to track down and change. I still have to follow up with the po-po in the next few days… and I have to research the civil laws of the state where the fraud actually happened to see if I have any recourse other than to assist their prosecutor in a criminal case.

What a waste of a Friday night.

Time to make the ‘puter

I’m lucky that I have the type of career that lends itself to consulting. I’m also lucky enough to have a full-time gig that allows me to consult on the side (with some constraints). And I’m lucky enough that I have some folks that seek out my assistance on a pretty regular basis.

I say that I’m lucky because without the added income, I wouldn’t be able to pay for many of my entertainment habits. Things like traveling, scuba diving, music/concerts, my guilty pleasure (PSP)… oh, and definitely not be able to afford a new computer.

Now, I’m not wasteful and I’m not always on the bleeding edge (as much as I would like to be). My existing laptop is a 5-year old Mac PowerBook G4, the so-called “TiBook.” It’s served me very well, aged well, traveled well… and has even survived hard drive replacement surgery about 8 months ago. But to be fair, that’s a long time for a laptop (any laptop, for that matter).

I tend to be pretty good at making use of my computers. My first one was given to me as a gift in 1990 upon HS graduation. An IBM PS/2 Model 50Z (yep, that’s it on the left). The thing was a real clunker about 6 months after it was purchased, it was outdated at the time of purchase as a result of IBM’s own change in computer architecture (similar to the difference between having a leaded and unleaded automobile). But I made it last for three years.

I convinced my father to buy me a Compaq 850. A mini-tower (early in mini-tower designs), the Compaq seemed to scream compared to the IBM. I had the machine for about 2 years – when my love affair with Apple began.

Now, I’ve been an Apple fan for a long time. My dad bought us an Apple II back in the late 70s/early 80s, my brother had an SE/FDHD and then an LCII.

But I had never owned one. But I was working for the Valpo School District setting up hundreds of machines the summer before law school started and I simply fell head-over-heels with the intuitive user interface, the elegant design (keeping in mind that we’re still talk about machines made in 1994) and the overall ease of use.

That year, Apple released the PowerBook 520c. From an industrial design perspective, many feel that the 520 was incredible. I was in love as soon as I got my hands on a school-owned one to set-up for the Superintendent. I didn’t want to give it back. But at $2500, they weren’t cheap and I didn’t have that kind of cash.

A little begging and a written agreement later, a great friend agreed to loan me the money to buy it (thanks, Katherine A.). Man was I happy. A graphite body with a 9″ color TFT (I believe) screen, two battery bays (which could be “exchanged” for other things), and a host of ports (SCSI, AppleTalk, Ethernet – which was relatively new at the time, serial, modem)… wow, I felt like I was the king!

Throughout law school, I plugged away on my 520. My classmates thought it was a joke, but I was able to do everything they were (perhaps with a little more effort). Even Lexis and Westlaw had Mac versions. As law school came to an end, the new WallStreet edition PowerBooks were out – HUGE (back then) screens at 12.1″ and 14″, sleek black designs with a large white apple etched in the lid… lust set in again, 3.5 (almost 4) years after I brought the 520 into my home.

Begging and pleading weren’t necessary this time. I was about to start a job in 1998 which was going to require me to have a more powerful machine. The entire office was Mac-based, so it was easy to justify. I managed to use the machine through two full operating system upgrades (starting with System 8 then on to 9). I almost replaced it a few times along the way when Apple would release minor updates to the design.

First they made it thinner and more lightweight. They also “bronzed” the keyboard, which looked really cool. They added more memory, better processors, larger harddrives. Everything told me to buy one, but as had happened so many times in the past, I simply didn’t have the cash.

In response, I added memory to my WallStreet. I bought a new battery or two (as it, like the 520, had two battery bays located under the keyboard – one of which would also accommodate an optical drive). I had started with the CD-ROM drive addon… and eventually got the DVD drive (and PCMCIA video processing card) instead. I maxed it out so to speak, but was devastated to learn that I wouldn’t be able to install OSX on it when released by Apple… it just didn’t have the power to run it well.

In late 2001, just as I felt I couldn’t stand it any longer (since Apple had released the new TiBook design about a year earlier), I decided to take out an AppleLoan to buy myself one. The WallStreet was fading fast. Software was coming out for OSX instead of OS9 and I started feeling left behind far too much.

I selected a 500MHz TiBook with 512M of RAM and a 30GB harddrive. After a few hiccups with Apple, I eventually wound up with a 667MHz machine – and after spending a few more bucks, upped the RAM to a full Gig. Holy cow did this thing ROCK! It was beautiful, slippery almost. The apple on the lid even lit up (and was correctly oriented this time, as opposed to the logo on the WallStreet that was upside down when the lid was open and viewed from the back).

I vividly remember having to go to the UPS dropoff location to pick it up (as they wouldn’t leave it at my house). I was so pissed – I could’ve had it a day earlier… but now I was going to get it on my way to an appointment. I grabbed it at the UPS location, immediately drove to BestBuy to get the additional RAM – and did a RAM swap in the front seat of my car! [Note: DO NOT DO THIS yourself. It was stupid of me to do – you can short out the memory via static buildup… I was just impatient and I knew better, but couldn’t control myself. Don’t be me.]

God I love that computer. But like it’s predecessors, it’s getting a bit long in the tooth and starting to show its age. The harddrive has just been the latest in a long list of things to be swapped, patched or replaced. It’s needed new hinges, and on more than one occasion, I use Tina’s clear nail polish to prevent more paint from wearing off from where my wrists rub the plastic repeatedly in front of the keyboard.

And oh, the lust. It began about a year ago. 17″ screens on laptops! Can you believe it? Virtually double what I first had. Glossy displays that look almost fluid, combined with 2.4GHz Core2Duo processors (more than 8x faster than the TiBook).


I want one. I’ve wanted one for so long that Tina’s virtually immune to my sighs. But she let on that if I had money that wasn’t otherwise allocated to paying our budgeted bills (ie: from book sales, speaking or consulting engagements), I could save up and get a new computer. We even created a separate bank account to manage the “computer fund.”

As you might imagine, every spare penny has been going into that account. As of a month ago, I was ready to buy. But now I can’t.

See, Apple has a history of how they release machines. And in late May, early June, they released a “speed bump” to the current design (now called the MacBook Pro). Which indicates an interim patch until new designs are most likely expected to come out in January. If I were to buy a computer today and see a new design, or even faster ANYTHING in January, I’d cry – but only have myself to blame.

So I’m waiting. As patiently as I can.

Until then, if you see me with my TiBook (whose fan whines loudly when the processor is being overtaxed by all that I do on it), give it a small loving pat. It knows that the end is near, and I think it’s crying. A little bit of me is, too. As it has for each of the hard-working Apples that have supported me.


I think all of the people who have been saying that they predicted the iPhone are pretty funny. It’s one of those things that, if you’re a geek like me, can kinda’ foresee simply by watching the available technology and wondering aloud “gee, I really think it would be cool for me to have my phone and mp3 player in one converged device”. In fact, it’s exactly what happened a few years ago right before the Treo and Blackberry devices came out – “It would be so cool to have my calendar and phone on one converged device.” Bingo.

So I went looking for anything that *I* had predicted on my blog. On 1/22/05, I predicted that someone was going to make an iPod-based media player for TiVo’d shows. I was right. Happened about six months later with the video iPod.


(there are times I really wish I knew how to program so I could self-fulfill some of my ideas)

Anyways… if there’s anyone reading this who has a lot of money to burn and wants to make a guy REALLY happy in the middle of the year, I would love an iPhone.

While I love Apple…

… I’m really kinda’ sad about a recent experience I had with getting a repair on my PowerBook.

I own a Titanium G4 PowerBook – initially released in 2000/2001 and I purchased it brand new, directly from Apple.

I’ve used it every day since then and have had virtually no problems with it. In fact, I like to boast that I’ve very rarely even had to reboot the machine (which is a credit to the stability of the operating system) except when new software so demanded. I even frequently don’t even close the lid, preferring to just leave it open overnight so that e-mail is waiting for me when I get up in the morning.

But just the other day, I needed to close the lid. And as I did, using an even amount of pressure (not forcing anything or feeling any feedback that anything wasn’t 100% “right”), the right-side hinge simply snapped. It looked like this:

Holy crap! I almost started crying. Tina just looked at me and started to comfort me. But then I got pissed. Why did the hinge snap? How did this happen? Why didn’t I feel any feedback or resistance? The portion of the hinge that was still attached to the base was frozen in place. It’s like the hinge seized up mid-close, and I simply pulled it beyond it’s means.

OK. I took a deep breath. The machine still worked… the screen still worked… it was just a broken hinge. Apple, I was SURE, would cover this even though the machine was out of warranty. You could tell, just by looking at the machine, that it was in pristine condition – well maintained by someone who took VERY good care of their equipment. I knew, based on past history with AppleCare that I would need to send the laptop into their facility for support. I figured, however, that I could start at our local Apple Retail Store to see if they could at least handle many of the details.

I scheduled time at the store using the online scheduler – really slick, actually. And after only waiting for a few minutes after I got there, a Mac Genius was ready to listen to my problem. It didn’t take much listening, however, for him to understand the problem. But after a conference or two outside of my earshot, he “regrets to inform me that there was nothing that Apple could do as this was out of warranty.”

WHAT? I’ve got a GREAT machine… in almost PERFECT condition. It wasn’t dropped, hit, mistreated or otherwise abused to cause the hinge to snap. For what other reason than a manufacturing or design defect could this have happened? The Mac Genius wasn’t sure about that, only that he couldn’t actually help me.

What he offered to do was to type my problem into their system so that when/if I called AppleCare’s 800#, they would have a case number and would be able to read about the problem from someone who actually saw the machine firsthand. He was actually kind enough to include a comment that the machine WAS in perfect condition. But again, there was nothing they could do because there was no longer a valid warranty.

OK. I figured I could call the 800# and get to someone who had the power to make an exception. I called. No luck. I called again and asked for someone a bit higher. Still no luck. In fact, they told me that they had NO RECORD of these types of problems with this model PowerBook but that the repair would run me about $700!

At this point, I went online. It didn’t take me long to find And in about 30 seconds, my eyes settled on the link that led me here. (Yes, that’s where I got the picture used above.)

I couldn’t believe it! Not only was this a KNOWN problem, Apple would also have to know about it because they, at some point, MAKE THE FRIGGIN’ HINGE used by powerbookresq to fix other Powerbooks! Not to mention the fact that PBresQ fixes this problem for $269, including shipping. WAY less than what Apple would charge to fix a problem that should NEVER have happened!

Now, I need to fully disclose that I absolutely love the company and love the products. This experience, while frustrating and possibly not very cool, won’t change any of that. And I’m guessing that Apple knows this, too, if by no other means than my purchase history. But I would have hoped that this would increase the probability of a little rule bending to fix a problem with a product that they made and wasn’t caused by me.

About two weeks ago, I found this little blog, After Apple. As you can see from this article, Adam clearly details Apple’s intimate knowledge of the problem I had: “The PowerBook Titanium was the king of the road, until you opened it the 333rd time and the hinge decided it was time to move on in life.”

So now I am doubly sad… first that my PB sputtered and second that its creator knew it would and didn’t care.


But I forked over the money to PBResQ. They fixed my baby up and I was back using it in no time. According to them, the glue used by Apple during the manufacturing process isn’t that great. So they use an epoxy that should outlast the rest of machine. So far, so good. Thanks, PowerbookResQ!