Inert Detritus The Internet's dust bunnies

2 October 2007 @ 1pm

Bad Hardware and Good Customer Service

In the fall of 2003, I made my first computer purchase, buying a used iBook G3 from eBay. No sooner had I bought the AppleCare extended warranty (with a student discount, thankfully, making it affordable for a high school student) than the backlight cut out when I opened the screen. I took it in for a repair to an authorized center in Chantilly, and researched the issue extensively. It turned out that the backlight cable was being pinched in the hinge, a known problem with this model.

However, I would be foolish to think that my problems would end there. The iBook came back, only to have the video scramble after about 15 minutes of use, and the machine locked up. I took it back immediately, and went back to Google to find out more.

I discovered I had one of the dreaded “Logic Board” iBooks: the logic board, either in the way it was designed or manufactured, was prone to failure, scrambling the video output and making the hardware all but useless. In addition, the models also had known issues with backlight cables, as I had found out earlier.

The repair center called a few days later, saying that the logic board had been replaced, and everything was all set. But instead of coming back in working order, my dear iBook now had no wireless reception (the antenna wasn’t reconnected properly), and the logic board died on boot. This time, I took it back to the Apple Store for another round of repairs.

The iBook came back from the Apple Store working in fine order once more, with a functioning backlight, no scrambling video output, and normal AirPort reception. It chugged happily along for a few months, until…

Another logic board failed. Back to the Tysons Apple Store for another round with the Genius Bar and another week for the repair to be finished. This was around June of 2004, as I’m preparing to leave for my freshman year at Virginia Tech, and so I was beginning to get nervous about this recurring problem: if it happens while I’m at school, what will I do?

The iBook worked properly again after that repair. I used it as my primary machine (despite having a brand-new Dell Latitude that was required for the College of Engineering) through the entire fall semester. After a couple of software update issues and issues that I thought were hardware but turned out to be software, life was good, and the laptop worked fine.

In the spring semester, in March, the backlight went out once more. Since there are no Apple Stores within hundreds of miles, I had to call AppleCare Tech Support to get a repair set up and get the machine taken care of. While I was on the line with the tech support guy, I casually asked if I could talk to someone in Customer Service about the machine’s repair history. After the Shortest Transferred Call Wait Ever (the music usually never even starts playing when you call Apple), I spoke to a guy named Andrew. No sooner did I verify that, yes, I was Christopher, and yes, I had been transferred regarding an iBook G3, than he offered to send me a brand-new iBook G4 to replace the machine. After hashing out credit card information (in case the G3 didn’t make it back), and shipping information, I had a new computer in my hands to use.

Customer Service That Kicks Ass: if the customer even makes the slightest hint that they want something more than just a stopgap repair, offer to replace the thing right off the bat. Don’t fight with them, don’t make them beg or prove their point. Just take care of the problem, do it with a smile, and you’ll win a customer for life.