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Why my love affair with Apple is about to end

I admit it. I have been an Apple fanboy for as long as I can remember. My first computer was a Mac, back in the days when screens were black and white and the smiling Mac icon stared you in the face. When I just graduated from college, and really shouldn't be splurging on expensive computers, I made do with a Mac clone (remember those?). In recent years, I have had three functioning Apple computers at the same time, plus ipods, iPhones, etc. While the prices are high, I have always appreciated the quality and the customer service.

Unfortunately, those two issues are now making me rethink my relationship with Apple. The situation is still developing. The short version is I'm trying to locate my old hard drive that was replaced during repairs (done three days ago and counting.) Anyone knows what I should do to make this happen, please let me know! If I don't get my drive back, a chunk of the history of Junk Charts will be gone, as I have only backed up portions of it... the sketches, notes, data sets, etc. that came before the posts here will be gone, forever.

***

The saga began with my MacBook Pro not booting up. The laptop serviced me well for five years. I never once had any repairs, except for buying new batteries. Last weekend, the screen went black but it still partially booted. This itself was curious as my prior iBook also had no issues for five years and then died. Given that Apple officially considers models as obsolete after five years (or did the "genius" say six years?), it is a little suspicious the timing of when these laptops got heart attacks. It's only a sample size of two. In any case, I wish the customer service rep could pull up a screen and see my collection of Apple computers and realize he didn't need to sell me a new laptop -- I already bought a new one a couple of years ago.

The "genius" did what he was supposed to do. Explain the legalese to wash Apple's hands after they wipe out all of your data. My choice was spending hundreds of dollars and time to extract a few months' of work that weren't backed up, or take a small chance that the hard drive would be replaced. The "genius" and I both heard the spinning of the hard drive, and felt it was unlikely to need fixing.

Of course, when the computer got sent back (after only 3 days!) to me, I saw the ominous note saying "the following parts were replaced: logic board, hard drive". The "symptom" that led to replacing the hard drive was listed as "hard drive not recognized/mount". That indicated to me the hard drive itself was fine, and maybe with luck I could get it back, plug it into a different device, and retrieve the lost data.

***

The day after I received the shipment, I called the number listed on the repair report. They told me to call the Soho store manager as that's where my request would be handled. I called them, they searched around a bit, and told me that the repair work was done elsewhere (Houston, TX, according to the report), and so I was asked to leave my phone number for a store manager to call me back.

Since time is of the essence, I just showed up at the store the next morning. In the intervening hours, I didn't get a call back. The people at the store were nice, and told me they had put in a request, and in a few days, I could call and check the result. I felt reasonably happy.

***

Oddly, within five minutes of walking out of the store, I got a call from another person from the store, who said she was calling about the message I left the previous day. She insisted on talking to me about the case even though I told her it's been taken care of by the people I just spoke to.

Then came a conversation that I'd remember in the future as the moment of my breakup with Apple. In many ways, it's typical customer service of most American companies today but I hold Apple to higher standards, since I'm a fanboy, I know they (used to) have better service, and I paid a lot of money for my computers.

Here are some highlights:

  • She claimed that her colleagues were completely wrong. According to some "notes" (which she later claimed came from an eCRM system), the technicians erased my hard drive, and therefore there was nothing they could do about my situation.
  • When I told her the repair report specifically said "the following parts were replaced", she said she wouldn't believe it. She wanted me to walk the sheet of paper over to her at the store to prove it.
  • She refused to put any of her various comments in writing.
  • She told me no one ever get hard drives retrieved whether or not they were erased or replaced. (Amusingly, no other Apple employee whom I spoke to during this saga mentioned this pertinent "fact".) She back-tracked when I told her I knew people who got their drives back.
  • I asked her then how she could figure out what happened just by reading "notes" without talking to anyone. She started reading the note to me. I did not hear the words "erase the hard drive". It just said "OS was clean installed"; you would have to do that if a new drive was plugged in anyway.
  • I asked her to forward the "notes" she's reading, she said she couldn't. She said she would give me her name. I asked how that was going to help if she later denied telling me any of the above.
  • I asked her if someone at the store has spoken to the person who did the repair work, she said they were not allowed to.

It didn't take her long to pull out the "terms and conditions" scam. Oh, the store warned us that there would be a chance the data would be wiped out. I explained to her that the chance was low and that's why I went ahead. In addition, the "genius" discussed replacing the hard drive, not erasing and writing over the old data. She lectured me on how I should never take any risk, even if it's a 1 percent chance. I asked her if she'd walk out of her home because there is a small chance you could get hit by a car. She said that was irrelevant.

Now, she was threatening to hang up on me. This was because I disrespected her. How did I disrespect her? I described the "terms and conditions" as "legal bullshit". She said the word was unacceptable, and she threatened to hang up again.

All this time, I don't understand why she would not let the process run its course. The other guy has already submitted a request. She called back one other time, again to convince me that the data is wiped out, and wanted to put an engineer on the phone to explain the reasoning they used to infer that.

She offered to waive the fees for my repair. But she completely misread the situation. I had even offered to pay for shipping to get my old drive back, in addition to paying for the repair work.

She now asserted that everyone else who have looked at this case was wrong. The repair report was wrong. Her interpretation of the "notes" was right. She apologized for all the other people who got it wrong.

***

I'll learn in a few days if my data will be forever lost. It's funny how it is: if this kind of thing happens, it erodes your relationship with the brand. When in the past I convinced myself that I'm paying for quality and better customer service, the next time I'm buying a new computer, my evaluation of Apple would have suffered in those respects.

Comments

emre

This is a case for having a backup plan, not dumping Apple. I trust you have one now. Best of luck.

G

I use Macs and pcs - pobably 50/50 and there are + and - to both.
However, possibly because pcs are cheaper when they die you just pull the hd out, put it in a $5 case (bin/ebay the rest) and use it as external; over the years this has only once failed to keep my data.
I now have a drawer with hds ranging in size from 80GB - once in a while I'm very glad of it.
Keeping my fingers crossed you get your drive back... and you can access the data.

Joe Crawford

It is so painful to lose data.

It seems the only way to learn to backup is to go through the painful process of realizing data recovery is much more expensive than a solid backup plan.

Best of luck.

dan l

Yeah, I don't think you should dump Apple over this.

You should probably develop your own back up plan. Use an external drive or us an online service like drop box. When bad things happen to your OS, have a live disk handy to see if you can get the stuff out. It's not that big of a deal and you'll find yourself far less concerned with your data if you have your own plan in place.

Now don't get me wrong: when I hear customer service horror tales, it makes me a little uncomfortable too. You have every right to be pissed and let that take away from your brand perception. I'm just saying switching OS's may be a little extreme.

The thing is this: OSX, in most cases, is a vastly superior user experience to the alternative. What are you going to do? Start using Windows? Install some over priced anti-malware, spyware, deal with infinite random crashes, and enjoy the mediocrity of win7? Or, just wait so you can use 'metro' - the long awaited advance of the OS that nobody actually wants? Good luck. And if you think the warranty support will be better from HP, or ASUS, or MSI - more good luck. Even their 'premium' support models couldn't have helped you in this situation.


Kaiser

I think the point might be lost. The hard drive was not broken. The data was not corrupted. If I get the drive back, it would be simple to get the stuff out. In other words, Apple has become PC. I used to brag to PC people that when there are any problems with a PC, no one can help you, you're told to reinstall the OS (thus wiping out all your data), and you'll not learn how to solve any problems. Well, seems like the same situation here.
If one walks into this repair assuming 100% data loss, there isn't any reason whatsoever to pay $400 to do it. You basically end up with a new computer in an old frame with an old battery and an old OS. The only reason to do it is because there is a chance that I don't have to reinstall every program, change every configuration, etc.
But I do get the point about whether I can find alternatives. So this story is still needing an ending.

Kaiser

Does anyone have a backup solution in which (a) I can pick and choose which folders to backup (as opposed to pick and choose which ones to exclude as in the case of Time Machine) and (b) it saves the applications and configuration files (such as the bookmarks on a browser) so they could be recognized in a new computer?

dan l

I'm not a mac guru, but there may be something in the below links?

http://lifehacker.com/248943/geek-to-live--complete-free-mac-backup
http://lifehacker.com/5816453/how-to-back-up-your-computer
http://lifehacker.com/5898366/the-best-online-backup-app-for-os-x

fwiw, I usually just get clever with drop box to facilitate backing up certain directories and let my browser get backed up by ffx's sync service.


"Apple has become PC"
That might be true. Have you been following mapgate?

Haresh

The data was not corrupted. If I get the drive back, it would be simple to get the stuff out. In other words, Apple has become PC. I used to brag to PC people that when there are any problems with a PC, no one can help you, you're told to reinstall the OS (thus wiping out all your data all data)

Yep

Rule #1: Always make backups
Rule #2: Never buy Apple products

Phil H

Your problem is that although you enjoy the quality of Apple products, you are not so well monied that you don't care about the cost. Apples are for people with lots of money; you can't buy a Ferrari and then skimp on the servicing or repairs.

If you think that's not a fair comparison because Ferraris are red-painted status symbols whose purpose is largely to be expensive, then I think you need to take another look at the Apple-buying demographic.

I would like to welcome you warmly to the world of PC, and point out the availability of Ubuntu and dropbox.

mp

I think people are really missing the point. The upside of going with Apple is that the customer service is usually better than when you go with a PC. In this case, the customer service was terrible. It sounds like the customer service rep was pretty much inventing a story to try to get him off the phone.

And the CSR saying one should never take any risk...wow. Basic biological necessities involve taking risks every day.

LM

Just start doing backups and stop complaining.

Zurita Picard

I certainly agree with Emre. We should always have back up files specially. I remember when all the files in my husband's PC was formatted by our 5 year old son...it really turned his world upside down - for a month. (oh my!)

Kaiser

I've been meaning to give an update to this post. Apple was able to locate my hard drive. The people at the store examined the hard drive before returning it to me, and pronounced it "functioning perfectly". So there was no need to swap it, nothing was ever erased from it, and most certainly no notes existed to say it was erased. I got a shell for the drive and it certainly is functioning perfectly.

If the original rep was handling my case, without interference from the other one, this whole experience could have been a major plus for Apple. I'd have been totally psyched to get my drive back in perfect shape, and telling everyone about it. All's well that ends well.

For those screaming backups, I don't see why I should condone horrible, dishonest customer interactions, especially on a high-end product that is double the price of equivalents.

Tessa

I just discovered this site and have been hungrily reading back through your posts, enjoyed it all until this post! I find it pretty confusing how inconsistent this post makes you seem.

1. for someone who seems to take data so seriously, it was a shame to know that you had a serious lack of a backup plan, even when you started having issues booting, that should've been the alarm bells you needed to back it up!

2. you of all people should be able to understand the misconceptions of judging something based on a single data point (maybe even an outlier), ie. your 1 bad experience with a certain customer service rep.

Anyway that's my two cents!

Richard Neva

Well, I am giving up on my Apple MacBook Air. The spinning wheel of death has got the best of me. It is on 80 percent of the time. I hate and it screws up what I have to do on it. I will never buy another!

Kaiser

Now that you revived this... I haven't abandoned Apple yet but here are another few things that have bugged me recently. (a) they keep removing useful ports from the Macbook (b) in Keynote, you no longer can open an old document and "Save As..." with a new name to start the workflow (c) in TextEdit, you no longer can save a file as *.txt, the lowest available option being *.rtf.
Especially with items (b) and (c), there is no reason to remove such options other than designer imperative.

Ken

It is a bit like a relationship. At times I'm not quite as in love with my Mac (actually an iMac, a MacBook Pro and two iPads) as I was. Then after a day with my no name Windows tower at work, a purely commercial arrangement where we are both in it just for the money, I come home to my Mac and it is love again. The software works beautifully in the main. Even the Microsoft stuff is better than on Windows. I use a lot of open source and it seems to work better than Windows equivalents. We won't even talk about my Android phone. She is cheap and not that easy, but I usually just use it to make phone calls or as a Wi-fi hotspot to use with an iPad.

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