And I was asked to pay to fix them. Here is how.

Eric NG

  1. Apple refused to repair the 2 manufacturing defects on my MacBook Pro for free (which they said they would on their website), claiming there was corrosion found on the logic board. There is no option for only paying for the part they purportedly said you are responsible for. You have to pay for their malfunctioning parts if they say you should.
  2. Apple refused to send me the photo of the corrosion found, nor letting me take a picture of the photo, claiming it was an internal document. But it was a picture of an opened up MacBook that I paid for.
  3. The parts of a MacBook Pro is so bundled together when it comes to repairing, that it seldom makes economical sense to repair if there is an issue (vs buying a new MacBook).
  4. There are no proper channels to appeal/escalate Apple repair resolution. Only via a general feedback form, or a general hotline.

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Photo by Gustavo Espíndola on Unsplash

Two “rare” defects

Around 2 weeks ago I found the camera on my MacBook Pro suddenly stopped working. I tried resetting the SMC as Apple’s support docs suggested, but still getting “No video capture devices were found” in the system report. So I decided to visit the Genius bar to see if they can help.

The Apple rep (i.e. Genius) ran some diagnosis program on my MacBook. His iPad was showing the diagnosis results, which had a few green ticks (the camera component got one of the ticks), but the battery got a red “X”. He said even though we saw there was a green tick for the camera, it could still be a hardware issue of the camera. I was a bit confused by the green tick, but he said he could help me open up my MacBook and try replugging the wires for the camera. After 10–15 mins, he was back and we tested the camera again, but it was still not working. Since this model (MacBook Pro 2016) has the camera bundled into the screen, fixing the camera means the entire screen has to be replaced, which would not make economical sense.

But then this time the Genius rep noticed that my MacBook’s screen has some “stage light” [0] around the bottom of the screen, which I also noticed some time ago, but didn’t really pay too much attention to it. He said it was a known manufacturing defect for this model of MacBook Pro, and Apple would replace the screen affected, for free as per Apple’s website.

From their wordings, it sounds like a rare defect

Apple has determined that a very small percentage of 13-inch MacBook Pro displays may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:

Display backlight continuously or intermittently shows vertical bright areas along the entire bottom of the screen

The Apple rep also said that the battery problem was also a known issue for this model, and Apple would replace it for free again. At that time, he was literally a genius to me.

Again, the wordings on the issue description make it sound like an uncommon defect.

Apple has determined that, in a limited number of 13-inch MacBook Pro (non Touch Bar) units, a component may fail causing the built-in battery to expand

What does it mean when Apple says a manufacturing defect affects a “very small percentage” of MacBook users, a “limited number” of them? I was fine to skip the math as Apple took the responsibility to fix it for free.

“Corrosion found, pay for our malfunctioning parts please”

I didn’t leave me MacBook there at that time because it was a Saturday and I still want to use it for my side project during the weekend. I went back on Monday afternoon to pass my MacBook to them, they said it would take 2 to 3 days. I was very happy with Apple’s customer service.

But then at night on the same day, I got a call from the Apple store, and it turned the whole experience into a nightmare.

“We saw some corrosion on the logic board, meaning it was subjected to liquid damage before, and the warranty for this MacBook would be void. You would need to pay for the full cost of the screen, the battery, and the logic board if you want to have it fixed.” the Apple rep said.

I was in an Uber after a long day, and what he said was a total surprise to me. I had no memory of spilling water or any liquid on my MacBook Pro, but he insisted that corrosion will happen only if there is liquid spill onto it. Since I didn’t have much information about the “liquid damage”, it wouldn’t be too meaningful for me to dispute if the liquid damage is valid. So I asked him to take some photos of the corroded area as I would like to know what “liquid damage” he was referring to, and apparently he had done that before my request.

He suggested that the cost of repair would be close to buying a new one, and if he were me he would not fix it. I told him that I would like to need some time to think about the situation, given that it was too dramatic — from free replacement of the screen and the battery, to paying for both of them plus a logic board replacement that I didn’t ask for.

After dropping off the half-confusing-half-frustrating call, an argument came up in my mind — EVEN IF the “liquid damage” was my responsibility, why would I need to pay for the faulty screen and faulty battery which Apple admitted they were original malfunctioning? So I called back and brought this up, the same Apple rep said he would further discuss with his colleagues. After a while, he called again and said they understood and agreed with my point, so they offered to fix the screen for free, but I would still need to pay for the battery and the logic board since they are bundled together (if I understood what he said correctly). I didn’t take the offer as it wasn’t worth the price.

I came here to fix the camera, and they found some other known issues with the screen and battery which could be replaced for free, with my camera fixed? Of course; “You need to buy a new logic board first, although you didn’t ask for it.” No thanks.

“No photo please, because that is your computer”

The next day, I went back to the Apple store to pick up my unfixed MacBook. I asked the Apple rep to show me pictures of the corroded area. From what I saw in the photo, the “corroded area” was around 0.5cm * 0.5cm big, which I doubted was due to a liquid spill given how small the area is affected. I asked the Apple rep whether they could send me the photo, or let me take a picture of the photo, but she refused, saying the photo was an internal document. But then it was a photo of an opened up MacBook which I bought.

I told the Apple rep what I said over the phone the day before, that if Apple publicly said that they would fix these manufacturing defects for free, it should do so but not picking on these dubious flaws and transfer the cost of their quality problem onto the user. She basically repeated what the guy told me in the phone, “liquid damage”, “would make more sense to buy a new one instead of fixing” etc. I understood that it was Apple’s policy that led to this frustrating result, not these Genius reps (in fact if they didn’t help me identified these known defects, I probably wouldn’t have noticed). But obviously, I wasn’t very happy with the resolution, so I asked if she could help me first escalate the issue (not because of the service from her or the previous reps, but Apple’s policy/decision on my repair case).

“Dispute? Sure, come fill a feedback form”

She referred me to the online feedback form, which is a general form not designed for a dispute like mine case, as it doesn’t have the field to fill my Repair case id. And she also suggested I could call Apple’s hotline, which I believe I would be talking to similar Apple reps repeating the same conversations. After I went back home, I spent some time drafting my repair experience and my argument mentioned above and trying to paste back to this “Comments:” text box. My paragraphs got truncated, and only up to the first one or two paragraphs was visible. That hadn’t even reached the part describing the Apple store visit.

With the whole passage there unsent, what else can I do? Then I saw some stories of someone emailing Apple CEOs about their good/bad Apple experience and got replied quite responsively. So I gave it a try to tcook@apple.com, which is easily available on google. And of course, no reply after 4+ days of sending. (What was I smoking when I think Apple CEO Tim Cook would reply to my email? Why don’t I believe Santa Claus exists as well?)

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MacBook Pro feedback form

Macbook User Feedback

As a user who has been using Apple laptops for 10+ years, I can’t believe I am writing this, but sadly I am. I bought my first Apple laptop (MacBook Pro) in 2010, via Apple’s back to school program. That MacBook Pro had been working quite well for 6 years, and it was a pleasant experience to use. In fact, it was my first laptop owned, so I never thought of switching to other laptop brands when it started getting a bit slow. So in late 2016, few months after the first “touch bar” MacBook Pro was announced, I bought a new MacBook Pro with add-on RAM and CPU as my old MacBook Pro was working so well, so I thought it would be a good investment. And I added AppleCare+ for the same logic. But then all the hardware issues (camera, screen backlight, battery) all emerged within less than 1 year the AppleCare+ expired, what a coincidence? And why would Apple sell a laptop where the majority of its visible parts[0] have defects? Why the defects were not spotted in testing/quality checks, if there is any? Given the poor hardware quality and the questionable quality checking standard of this batch of MacBook Pro, should the customers be given the benefits of the doubts when there are other hardware flaws found inside it?

“Fill a form or call the hotline, or buy a new MacBook.”

Note:

[0] I later researched this stage light defect more, and the defect is actually a famous one so it has its own name — Flexgate. It is famous because there is a class action against Apple on this.

“According to the complaint, Apple is accused of knowingly selling and marketing a defective product it claimed was groundbreaking, of selling an extended warranty plan which at best covers only a portion of the repair costs (and more often covering none of the repairs), and creating a deeply flawed repair program that failed to fix countless damaged laptops.”

Ref: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/parris-law-firm-apple-hit-with-nationwide-class-action-lawsuit-over-macbook-pros-flexgate-scandal-301055528.html

[1] by visible parts I mean screen & keyboard, keyboard is here because the battery is bundled together with the keyboard, according to Apple’s rep

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