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01:23 pm: Laptop

So, I feel slightly, but not completely boned. I got my laptop back and ended up
I’m writing to tell you a story about a repair on my personal laptop. It’s resolved to my satisfaction now, but I feel that there is potential for Apple to improve on the repair experience, so I figured I’d let you know. FYI: All the apple personnel with whom I interacted were very professional and polite. My confusion and unhappiness came from aspects of the repair tracking and billing system itself, and not with any of the people.

On Sunday, I dropped my 15″ G4 powerbook on the floor of my garage. I dented the front left corner, and when I booted it up, the display was weird. There were patterns and colors and stuff…but it wasn’t my desktop. I took the machine to the Apple store at the Mall of America, and they bid the repair at Tier 3 ($1,000 for a cracked logic board, off warrantee because I dropped it) and off it went. Ouch, but such is life.

I monitored the process through Apple’s support web page, and yesterday, the machine arrived back in Bloomington. The status at that time was “billing discrepancy.” I asked a phone support person what that meant, and he said that he did not see any charges on the repair job. That turned out to be incorrect.

When I got to Bloomington, they presented me with my laptop, and it works. I’m very pleased with that. I’m writing this note on that very same laptop. Then they told me that the repair had included replacing the display (among other parts) which is a Tier 4 repair, and ought to cost $1,200. However, since they had bid it at $1,000, they were only charging me $1,000. Happy day for me. That was the source of the “billing discrepancy.”

While we were finishing up the transaction, I looked at the “Proof of Repair” sheet, and started trying to understand what it meant to have a part number listed on that Proof. I asked, and was told that if a part number is listed on the sheet, that meant it was replaced. The parts listed are:

Case #: 23012027
Dispatch: R2364212
620-2210 Top CS Mod ASSY, PB 15″
620-2518 Bot CS Mod ASSY, PB 15″
603-4550 DSPL HSG Subassy, PB 15″
603-1652 BZL Subassy, PB 15″
646-0212 Dspl, 15.2 XGA PB 15″ Sumsung

I then looked over my laptop and noticed that the bottom case is still dented in exactly the same place it was when I dropped it off. I asked the person at the desk about it and he said something about refurbished parts. On further inspection, the display housing (the part on the very top cover, with the apple on it) has my familiar dents and dings. Neither part was replaced.

At this point I was confused enough that I started pushing a little bit. To my mind, if the invoice indicates work was done, but that work was not done, I’m not comfortable paying that invoice. I agree that they did *something* to turn my broken laptop into a working one, but it wasn’t the work described on the invoice. The desk “genius” suggested that I call the repair line for further details. I did that.

I spoke with a first tier person named Allie about the repair for a while, and then with a specialist named David. They agreed that:

(a) if a part is listed on the invoice, that means it was replaced.
(b) There is no further information available about why a part was replaced. They were unable to provide information about which service center performed the repair, who the technicians were, why each part needed replacement, or any other sort of verification that the repairs were needed or that they were actually performed.
(c) Since my case is still dented, they were very sorry about that, and offered to have it shipped in at no charge to get the dent repaired.

What I kept trying to convey is that my concern is not so much with the fact of the dented case. I care very little about cosmetics. My concern is that the invoice I received, and for which I paid $1,000 (I had paid by this time, to close out the transaction and let the Apple store guy get back to his job) was clearly in error. I am further disturbed that there is no way that I can get any details about why the display needed to be replaced, nor (worse) could anyone demonstrate that it actually had been replaced. Clearly, some parts of the invoice are fraudulent. Everyone I spoke with agreed on that. Everyone also agreed that since it says on the invoice that the display was replaced, that certainly must have happened.

If I had been able to get to a person who was able to say “yes indeed, we took out display serial number X and replaced it with display serial number Y, and we did it based on tests X, Y, and Z,” I would have been totally happy. Every person I spoke with agreed that there is absolutely no way to get that information. They couldn’t even tell me the name of the shop which performed the repairs, much less the technician in question.

David (the phone support specialist) finally suggested that I go to “First Tech” on Hennepin Ave. because they would be able to tell if the display had been replaced or not. I drove up there, and they shook their heads and said that there is no easy way to figure it out.

I went back to the apple store and explained the story to the “genius” behind the bar. I told him that I saw two options:

(1) We ship my laptop back, and get the parts replaced that I paid for. I would, at this point, have had to mark on the old parts or something to verify that they were actually switched.
(2) We knock some money off the cost of the repair, since the invoice is flawed.

He read the entire case history and offered to refund $350 (the cost of a Tier II repair … which would have been the case parts). I was tired of pushing at this point and agreed. That’s where we are now.

My conclusions:
* I turned in a broken computer, I got back a working one. I’m pleased with that.
* I have no doubt that something was done. I’m happy to pay the cost of the repair that was done. I don’t want a free repair. I just want to pay for the work that was actually done, instead of “whatever happens to be on the invoice.”
* I was very unhappy with the fact that Apple has no way to verify that parts were actually replaced beyond the fact that it says so in the database.
* I was further unhappy with the fact that Apple does not retain notes on why it was necessary to replace a certain part.
* I am disturbed and confused that Apple does not retain information on what depot / technician did the work. It seems like this would be a vital part of defending the quality and honesty of the process.

The bottom line is, next time I will go to First Tech and ask that before they ship in the broken parts, they let me see them so I can feel comfortable about the fact that the repairs were completed. I ask the same of auto repair shops and furnace repair people. I’m no longer comfortable with Apple’s offsite repair process.

Thanks for listening, and if you have any thoughts on this, I would appreciate hearing them.

-Chris Dwan paying only $650 for the repairs. Ouch.

Still trying to nail this house thing down. We really want a clause or paragraph that says “as is, no more tomfoolery.” They want to just “remove the inspection contingency” and not mention any of the tomfoolery related to how we’re giving them enough money to replace the water heater. Then, there will be the fact that, according to how this amendment is written, my realtor still gets 6% of the total sale price, even though we ended up giving some of it back for “fees and expenses” (like, a new water heater). This is because, instead of changing the sale price, we’re giving some money back after the sale at the original price. I think she ought to get 6% of the final, real, negotiated price…not six percent of the very largest number in the whole system of equations. I may be wrong about this…but we’ll see. I’ve gone into full-on twerp mode about all the people latching on to my ever diminishing money-teats.

Still have to find a mover or something. Has anyone had an experience (good or bad) with the “Pod” or “City to City” people, who bring a container to your driveway and then ship it for you, leaving the loading and unloading to you? They bid about $5000 lower than the lowest moving company…and there seems to be much less chance of movers running off with the small and valuable stuff. On the other hand…there’s a lot to be said for not having to move the fold-out sofa ourselves. Plus, we still want movers to move the piano, so they’re involved anyway. I really need an accurate “pain in the ass” meter, and a good function for evaluating how much each unit of pain in the ass is worth, in terms of real dollars.

This process is putting a real dent in my ability to focus on my job.

Originally published at chris.dwan.org. You can comment here or there.

Originally published at chris.dwan.org. You can comment here or there.

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