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Recent Apple Store experience has me rethinking whether I will remain in their ecosystem (1 Viewer)

Carlo Medina

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Apple did exactly what they should have done, and did nothing wrong. They owe me nothing as my 2015 Macbook Pro is 1 month out of AppleCare warranty.

I just wanted to put that front and center so people don't think I'm an entitled/disgruntled customer.

Now some brief history about my relationship with Apple products. In 2006 I made the switch from Wintel to Apple (at the same time Apple switched from Motorola to Intel CPUs). Windows was in a bad place then, and there was something sexy about the Apple ecosystem that didn't exist in Wintel's. Their products "just worked" in a way that Wintel machines often didn't. The Apple experience was just buttery smooth, even if you couldn't run all the programs that you could on the Windows side...there was just something about Apple that felt "premium" and you just put up with the trade-off. I bought 15" Macbook Pros in 2006, 2011 and 2015. All around that $2500 price-point. My 2006 MBP had a logic board problem, which I helped to diagnose with the Apple store (based on web research on the symptoms) and not long after that visit to the Genius Bar (level 2 support, not the blue shirt guy but the black shirt) I received a free invite into their developer program and have been testing beta Mac OS (and iOS) builds ever since. I also purchased iPhones pretty much from its inception and upgraded every 2 years. I owned several iPods and an iPad Air and iPad Pro. I even have a 3rd gen Apple TV and a HomePod.

I thought my Windows days were behind me. Despite using it for work, my workplace is a technological wasteland so I'm still running a 2011 Winblows 7 machine which only serves as a daily reminder at how awesome MacOS and associated hardware are, in comparison.

Today I went into an Apple Store because one of my 2015 MBP's rubber feet fell off. I didn't realize a couple of things. 1) my AppleCare was up last month (where does the time go?) and 2) according to the Genius, Apple doesn't sell just the rubber pad/feet. It's part of the whole bottom plate, for which I would have to pay $115 if I wanted to get a new one. I asked when AppleCare ran out, and he said "oh last month, otherwise I might have tried to go that route for you and get you a new bottom plate".

Again: to reiterate, he followed company policy and my AppleCare was up. He did the right thing.

But as someone who has spent $7500 on laptops, and who knows how much on iPhones and iPods/iPads, it kind of rubbed me the wrong way to get rejected on this, and by one month's expiration no less. I wasn't trying to "pull one over on them" in the sense that I baby my machines, and it's obvious when you see them. They look almost as good as the day I bought them despite thousands of hours of use. This foot fell off because their adhesive failed, not because of machine abuse. For a $2500 machine I would expect more attention to detail. Let's not even get into the keyboard fiasco.

Also Apple has, what, over $100 billion in cash overseas? They can afford to give their Geniuses a little leeway to make calls on exceptions. I oversee CSRs in my workplace and while we have rules, we also allow our staff to make judgment calls on things that won't break the bank, and where the customer does seem to have done nothing wrong.

Meanwhile, as you may have seen in another thread, I recently bought a Wintel gaming machine for $1600. A comparable modular Mac Pro (if they still built those) would likely have cost $1000 - $1500 more for similar specs. I can say this with some reasonable certainty as I used to ogle Mac Pro builds when they were still offered (and I couldn't afford both that and a MBP at the time).

Oh. My. Goodness.

Windows has come a long way. Windows 10 has been a pure pleasure to use. It's not perfect, no OS is. But it's no longer a subpar experience in comparison to MacOS. Judging Wintel by my aging work PC has been an egregious error on my part. It takes 11 seconds to get from pressing the power button to asking for my passcode. It takes 4 seconds from passcode to desktop readiness. This is even faster than my MBP with SSD. Programs are snappy. And the GTX 1080 card makes games absolutely fly, even in 4K with high or max settings. The gaming keyboard and mouse are super cool looking and offer a markedly different experience from Apple (not better or worse, that's in the eye of the beholder, but different in a good way for my experience). The only program I will miss from my Mac is Logic Pro. Everything else, like Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, etc. has Windows counterparts that are as good or better (especially in the case of Office) than their Apple counterparts. I can now use Visio again for work (no Mac counterpart). And my XBox One X plays very nicely with my new PC.

My MBP still works. I will see if I can hunt down a replacement adhesive pad on the web (iFixit save me, you're my only hope!). I'll still use it as my daily work driver because my Wintel work machine blows. I'll use it as my on-the-go obviously because I'm not lugging around my IBuyPower box.

But the subpar experience in the Apple Store now has me rethinking: what am I paying the price premium for now with regards to Apple computers/laptops? What loyalty do I owe them? What special treatment does that extra money give me? Judging by my experience today: the answer is nothing on all counts.

Apple isn't going to miss my $20K (or however much I've spent on them). They're well on their way to a trillion dollar valuation. But I will stop evangelizing for them. Over the years, I can't count the number of friends and family I've steered to their products. That ends today. Not that I have a vendetta, but rather my enthusiasm for their products has been tempered. I won't talk down their products, but I'm less likely to have their products be the first recommendation out of my mouth.

I've played with Android phones and I'm pretty sure I'll still stay in the iPhone ecosystem for the near future, but for computers...I'm thinking probably not. In 1-2 years, when my MBP is getting a little long in the tooth, I'll see where PC laptops are at and be sure to give them a long, hard look.

Which is something that just yesterday (or heck, even this morning!) I never thought I would say.
 

Sam Posten

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All the above is fair. 2 Qs.
1, did you ask them to elevate the service to a higher level? "Hey, I get that you guys have to make judgement calls on this stuff, can you ask a manager if it wouldn't be fair to cut the price on this repair since I don't need a whole bottom plate and the feet came off in normal use?"

2. have you tried waking a windows laptop from lid close lately? On brand new SSD machines I guarantee you it is going to be a lot longer than 4 seconds. I've got a new SCAR 2 laptop coming in later this week I will time right out the box to see, but every one I tried in store was 10 seconds or more. My MBA wakes in under 1 second. If your MBP is taking 4 seconds or more there is something wrong with it.

And yeah, I firmly believe you will be pretty miserable with an Android phone. I've still got a half dozen modern Android devices floating around, no way would I want one for my daily driver phone.
 

Carlo Medina

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Hey Sam.

Re: 1. no I didn't. It's such a relatively small problem for a laptop on the last 2 years of its useful life to me, my thinking was if they wouldn't take care of a customer for a relatively small problem, I wasn't going to waste either of our time pursuing it. It's not an experience-breaking problem, but rather a minor annoyance that a nearly-trillion-dollar company should take care of for people who have spent over $2K for a piece of equipment.

Re: 2. No I haven't. Luckily the Wintel community has 2 years to figure it out. Because barring an unforeseen early MBP death, it will take a while for me to be in the laptop market. Additionally, my MBP hasn't been awesome at waking up either. Most times it's great. Some times I have to repeatedly press keys and the mousepad before it wakes from close...and sometimes from sleep even when the lid's been open the entire time.

I have very little confidence in the phone market to catch up to Apple. In fact, much of my decision to potentially leave their computer ecosystem stems from my belief (and I know others share this) that their most talented staff have been moved to their most profitable revenue stream: iDevices. Macs and Macbooks make up a small percentage of their company revenue. So while once their hardware/software combo was their number one priority, developed by their top-tier engineers and programmers, I no longer believe that's the case and the current state of their products reflect that.

Their laptops, while still very good, are no longer 2 years ahead of the competition as they once were. The state of their desktops are a shambles. The iMacs have fantastic screens slapped on top of laptop parts. The Vader Garbage Can was, like the Touchbar discussion Dave and I are having in the other thread, a solution looking for a problem. Is it a technically impressive piece of hardware (at least at the time it was released)? Yes. Was anyone clamoring for it? No. Were pros willing to make the tradeoff of power for space savings? No.

And who knew it would take them years to even release (or rather, re-introduce) a modular Mac Pro? If Apple's top team were on the job, this should have been a one year project tops. But Apple's considerable resources are focused on their mobile devices.
 

Carlo Medina

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My mother's experience comes to mind here re: premium brand loyalty and customer service. Now I'll admit up front it's not a perfect analogy, because markup on luxury purses are way higher than even Apple's price premium (I assume, I don't know this for a fact).

My mom loves LV purses. She's worked hard her whole life to be able to indulge in her interest, so even though I don't understand it, I am fully supportive of her hobby and passion (as I have a fair few myself).

One time my parents traveled to a 3rd world country on vacation. Unbeknownst to my mother, someone cut into her purse from behind (while it was on her, she managed not to notice, they think it was during a time when there was perhaps a crush of people waiting for public transportation) to try and steal her valuables. Luckily she only had toilet paper in there (again, this was a third world country they were visiting).

Upon returning to the States, my mom brought her bag to the LV store. She expected to pay a hefty repair fee. The store manager came out, saw the damage and gave her the bad news. There was no way they were going to be able to repair that kind of damage.

He then grabbed a new bag form the back (this was a multi-thousand dollar purse) and handed it to my mom. The pure joy on my mom's face when she told me that story...let's just say if I'm ever in a relationship with a woman who loves LV...I'll be supporting that hobby. And don't ever badmouth LV to my mom. She'll punch you. :laugh:
 

Carlo Medina

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Just wanted to clarify, because I don't think I stated this clearly.

When I was talking about W10's quick boot up, I meant from complete power off mode. I'm one of those old-schoolers who, if my machine isn't going to be in use for a while I power it off. Both laptops and desktops. If I'm just going to another room or building for a meetings, then I close my laptop. But for example when I commute in to work, even though it only takes 30m, I turn it off. So for my W10 machine it's approx 10s from pressing the power button to asking for my passcode, and upon entering the passcode, 3-4 seconds until full use of desktop is available (i.e. no spinning circle, etc.). This is light years ahead of my Win7 and HDD experience.

For my Macbook Pro, it takes about 5 seconds from power button press to password login. But once I input the password it takes maybe 20-25 seconds until desktop readiness. This time can vary greatly, and perhaps it's a symptom of the fact that I beta test a lot of builds.

This was less a criticism of Apple, and more a statement of what a long way Windows have come since I left the platform many years ago.

My comment about my MBP waking from sleep unreliably (in terms of time) still stands. 4 out of 5 times it wakes up within a second. That fifth time...I have to spam keys until it wakes 4-5 seconds later. When I think on it, this only happens if the MBP entered sleep (or perhaps display power saving mode) while the laptop is left open. If it's closed, it has woken reliably within a second every time that I can recall.
 

JohnRice

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Carlo, why is Apple's valuation such a point of contention for you? You've mentioned it multiple times.

I'm kind of with Sam. You might have just gotten an employee who wasn't very problem solving minded. It happens. Obviously your mother came across a manager (remember, that was a manager) who was of the mind to solve problems. And yeah, that multi thousand dollar purse might only cost them $100. I don't know, but it's possible. Sometimes you have to talk to someone with more decision power.
 

Sam Posten

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I've been more than pleased with my experiences at the Genius bar. I do my best to have a jovial attitude when something I rely on every day goes wrong, and the workers seem to respond in kind. The plural of anecdotes is not data tho, so maybe they are slipping. All I can tell you is every time I go in there there are 50+ excited faces, even the ones sitting at the bar waiting on a fix...
 

Carlo Medina

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I've been more than pleased with my experiences at the Genius bar. I do my best to have a jovial attitude when something I rely on every day goes wrong, and the workers seem to respond in kind. The plural of anecdotes is not data tho, so maybe they are slipping. All I can tell you is every time I go in there there are 50+ excited faces, even the ones sitting at the bar waiting on a fix...
The good news is that I rarely have needed to go to the Genius Bar. Really not since the first time. And that went exceedingly well. As someone who manages a customer service operation, I try to be a "model" customer in whatever setting I'm in. I know that kindness and empathy often gets better results than being, as Star Lord says "100% a [email protected]#k".

Now the Genius in no way mistreated me. Nor did it take a negative turn at any point. He just in no way made any effort to go outside of the playbook. Which again, by letter of the law, is his right. It's totally on me, and my expectations for "above and beyond" customer service for a premium product like Apple. Maybe that expectation is unfounded and undeserved, I'm willing to accept that.

On a side note, I found a possible $3 replacement pad on Amazon. We'll see, it's a $3 risk so it won't be a big deal if it doesn't pan out. But again, if I want to kluge my own solutions, I'll save money and buy Wintel. I would hope for a relatively small, innocuous imperfection that should cost the company pennies, they'd find a way to offer a solution for a $2500 machine. And all my purchases are linked to my Apple account. I am a big believer in treating everyone with equal respect, dignity, etc. But someone should have taken note at the amount of money people spend and give "a little extra effort". That's what happened with my mom at the LV store, I'm sure. They don't just replace a bag for anyone. But they knew my mom was a regular customer throughout the years. Again, I realize my expectations do not conform to reality.

So I'm going to vote with my dollars moving forward. To be honest, if I were Apple, I wouldn't care too much about the lost revenue from me. What I'd be more concerned about is the loss of an evangelist.
 

Carlo Medina

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And their earnings call confirms my feelings about them. Most profitable quarter ever. Sold the least amount of computers since 2010. Their revenue stream just isn’t dependent on the Mac and their attention to the product line reflects that.
 

Mark Booth

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Just in case you want to fix it yourself:

https://amzn.to/2O4AqHG

There are multiple videos on YouTube explaining how to do it. Make sure the ones I linked are the correct ones for your model before ordering.

Mark
 

Carlo Medina

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Thanks Mark, I actually ordered a slightly different one from a different vendor, but I had also seen those. If this one doesn't pan out, I'll try the ones in your link. But that actually underscores that it's a $3 part that they were unwilling to budge on. A problem that they insist can only be remedied by replacing the whole bottom plate. It's a bad business decision in terms of customer friendliness and repairability when they don't stock those pads individually for a known problem. It's been a problem since the 2008 Macbook Pro lines, as evidenced by their own tech advisory.

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202450

So again, disappointing to know that
  1. it is a known problem since 2008
  2. they've not addressed it in the design stage (probably due to moving their most talented designers and engineers to iDevices)
  3. that they moved away from actually being able to provide the feet (see advisory link above, the kit you used to be able to order contained the feet and DIY instructions) to now saying "oh you can only buy the whole bottom plate for $115". The 3rd party vendors on Amazon prove that to be untrue.
But again, they did close with their largest profit ever in a quarter, so they're clearly doing things right. Or at least profitably correct. ;)
 

Thomas Newton

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"Known problem since 2008"? Or just with 2008 models? There's wording in that service advisory that makes it clear that the DIY kit is not applicable to Retina models.
 

Carlo Medina

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As someone who's owned a 2011 and now a 2015 MBP, it's a similar design. The type of feet have slightly changed but the loosening of it can still happen.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I wanted to throw in my two cents.

I don't think Apple customer service did anything wrong, but I also don't think they did the right thing, either.

Apple charges premium prices for a premium product, and with that comes the expectation of premium service, particularly for customers who have spent extra money for their AppleCare service. AppleCare is a good service, but it's also very expensive.

I would understand if you walked into the store with a laptop that was a month past the warranty expiration, that had visible damage all over, and had a cracked screen, that they would reasonably decline to give you a brand new computer for free. But you're a long time customer who has some minor cosmetic damage to a ten cent part. For all of the reasons stated in the original post about evangelizing for the brand, this is exactly the kind of repair that Apple should be jumping up to do, because it costs them almost nothing, and buys them much more in good will. If they had replaced your part out of warranty, you would have remembered that and told people about that, potentially winning them new customers. They should have also thought, "Well, if this guy is coming in here for a minor repair on a laptop that just went out of warranty, this means he might need to buy a new laptop in the not-so-distant future, and we want to keep him happy so he makes that next purchase with us."

By contrast, here's an experience I had with a different company earlier this year, with similar circumstances. I had a projection screen from Elite that developed a defect, which didn't become apparent to me until a couple weeks after the warranty expired. I wrote to the company, explained the situation, told them that I had been a long time customer, and that I was genuinely surprised that this would happen with one of their products and right after the warranty ended too. I got an email response and a phone call follow-up almost immediately, and they extended my warranty to cover the repair/replacement. They would have been well within their rights to apologize and say there was nothing they could do, but they instead decided to show that they valued me as a customer and went out of their way to make it right. I appreciated their efforts and I am very happy with how they handled the situation.

All major companies have a "secret" or "executive" level of customer support for people who speak up in the right direction. I know it seems silly, but if it were me, I would take a version of what you wrote in that original post, reformat it into a letter to Tim Cook, and send that letter out snail mail to the head corporate office addressed to him. I would bet you almost anything that if you do that, you'll get an email or phone call back from someone higher up at customer service who will arrange to repair or replace the broken part. Or maybe they won't, maybe they'll apologize but stand behind the actions of their customer service representative from the store. But I think they'd be interested to know that they're losing an evangelist over a ten cent part, and I think they'd probably want a chance at a do-over anyway.

When I was a retail manager at Blockbuster back in my college days, I'd use the posted company guidelines as a starting-off point for customer service, not as the end-all, be-all final ruling. When I was training for that position, my manager back then gave me a great piece of advice about that. He told me that my greatest tool towards customer satisfaction was the phrase "make an exception," as in, "I see your warranty just expired, but I'm going to make an exception and get this fixed up for you."
 

Carlo Medina

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Josh - you nailed my feelings exactly. They did nothing wrong. But they also didn't do anything right. And you are correct about me potentially getting a new laptop and a $2500 loss of revenue on their part.

When the new laptops dropped, I was thinking "I want one, but I'll just wait until my Apple Credit Card has an 18 month 0% financing option". Usually that happens several months after a new product release. Well I just got my email today. Before the Apple Care interaction, I'd be spec'ing it out right now and clicking Buy Now.

Instead, I'm writing this post. And not ordering.
 

Josh Steinberg

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That's why I would take the time to write to them. You've invested a lot of money, and more importantly, your time, in Apple devices over the years. For your own peace of mind, give them the chance to make it right.

I only had one experience with Apple's "top secret super duper executive customer service" but it went pretty well. This goes back to about 2006, and I had an iPod that was within the warranty period, and it just wouldn't work. I think the hard drive had developed a fault, because you could completely restore the thing to factory settings and reload music, and it would work for a little while, and then it would just completely die - it would act as if nothing were on it and wouldn't work again until it was restored again, and then it would work for even less time. Everything pointed to hard drive failure. I sent it in to Apple three different times, and three different times they sent it back to me and said there was nothing wrong with it, and then it would happen again. Three times of back and forth to Apple meant that I was without a functioning iPod for over a month, and it was really getting to me - and this was before iPhone and all of that, so it's not like I had a backup device I could use instead. So I wrote a letter to Steve Jobs, and within a week, I had a phone call from someone offering to send me a brand new iPod of the same make and model that I had. I wasn't looking for a handout or an upgrade or anything, I just wanted mine to work. But because my defective iPod would only stop working 24-48 hours after a factory reset, they just weren't seeing it fail because they weren't letting it run for long enough after resetting it on their end. They'd see that it turned on, and think it was fine, and I just couldn't break out of that loop that I was stuck in with the customer service folks until I wrote to Steve Jobs and got handled by super secret tech support.

Sometimes we fall through the cracks.

Maybe the person you dealt with at the store was new and wasn't authorized to go above and beyond. Maybe that store locally had been giving away what someone up high deemed "too many" freebies, so they were drawing the line somewhere with you. Who knows? I hope I'm not beating a dead horse here, but I'd say take a moment and write to Tim Cook, send it as snail mail if you can (they always seem to take that more seriously than an email), and see if they will get it right the second time.
 

Carlo Medina

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Interestingly enough Josh, the "super secret CSR" experience was my first with them back in 2006 with the faulty logic board. The first blue shirt couldn't replicate by kernel panics (because by nature they're random) so offered no repair option despite having AppleCare. I researched online and found that the logic boards had a bad batch and wrote down the knowledgebase number on the Apple database.

A few days after that encounter I got an email asking how my visit went. I wrote that the CSR was not able to solve my problem and that he probably was unaware of the KB that I just discovered. Not long after I got a call from someone asking me to come back in. They took a couple of days to swap the logic board (was helped by a black shirt guy). Gave me my machine back. And not long after that I got the invite to test their dev software. I didn't even ask for that invite but was intrigued. And I've been a fan since. If I get an email asking how my visit was, I'll answer in the same way. If I don't, I may consider doing what you suggest. But at this point, the Apple PC/laptop product line isn't as clearly superior as it once was over its Wintel counterparts. So I'm in no rush.

And at a trillion dollar valuation, they clearly don't need me on board. ;)
 

Carlo Medina

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So I've now been full-bore into my Windows 10 machine and have been growing to...dare I say...really like the experience? I even put in a new Samsung 500GB 970 EVO NVMe M.2 SSD, which I just benchmarked to have 3400 MBps read speed and 2400 MBps write speed (sequential). It reduced my bootup time from around 14-15 seconds to about 11. ;)

The original SSD that came with the IBP was a 250GB AData SATA 3 interface, so that one peaked at around 500MBps read/write. For gaming (which hits the hard drive very little) the upgrade will make no difference. But I'm about to start subscriptions to both Pro Tools and Creative Cloud, and that added speed will be welcome.

The Samsung cloning software (free, but only works with the authorized Samsung drive) took less than 5 minutes to clone and verify the roughly 70GB of system data from the AData to the Sammy. Also, it copied my authorizations for both Windows 10, all games and Office Suite, so I didn't have to reauthorize them like I feared. It's been a while since I was on the PC side but I remember around the time of Win XP/7 MS was so DRM heavy that if you changed a certain amount on your computer you had to re-authorize everything.

The above is my recent experience/thoughts from my Win10 gaming rig which I posted in the other thread.

After having lived in my Win10 skin for a while, I really am liking it. The one thing I will miss if I ever fully migrate back to Wintel from Apple...iMessage integration.

The only thing I find myself looking back on with fondness in MacOS is being able to respond to all my iMessages and texts without needing to grab my phone.
 

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