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.