Two days ago my MacBook Pro’s screen turned black. Following what I assume was an unsuccessful firmware upgrade, my laptop stopped displaying anything on its LCD. It would boot, greet me with a chime and I could even login and adjust the volume, all without seeing a thing. After researching the issue online, I ended up trying many possible solutions all to no avail. Some people managed to resolve what seemed to be a similar issue with a Firmware Restore CD (but a second Mac is required to burn such a disk).
After way too much tinkering, I decided it was time to schedule an appointment at the Apple Store. Luckily for me, they opened a new store in Toronto at the Fairview Mall, which happens to be within walking distance from my apartment. The reservation process was done online quickly and easily.
When I arrived at the store with my laptop, I was greeted by a couple of happy folks and then directed towards the Genius Bar. I was asked to wait and sit at the bar, but I don’t think it was more than a couple of minutes before my turn came along. Rachel, the Genius assigned to my case, was very empathic and friendly, and in the 40 minutes I was there, she pretty much tried everything possible to get my laptop back on its feet. It was a hard nut to crack though, so she asked if it would be OK for her to help another customer while my computer was doing some processing. While she didn’t really need to ask, it was a nice thing to do on her part.
Part of the reason why my laptop was hard to fix was that its internal optical drive doesn’t work. This makes a simple “use a restore CD” operation much harder because it requires convincing my Mac, with a blank display, that another CD device should be used to boot and restore the firmware (in this particular case a MacBook connected via Firewire).
Despite the fact that my laptop has outlived its warranty and doesn’t have Apple Care, I was never made feel like I was wasting their time, and the Genius definitely attempted as many approaches as possible to get the screen to work again. We started talking about the possibility of getting the optical drive fixed and how much would it cost me.
As we neared the end of exploring the possible solutions to my computer’s issue, I calmly mentioned in chit-chat, how I was somewhat disappointed that my first MacBook Pro gave a number of problems in its short life span. In particular, I casually mentioned that I had to replace the MagSafe because it melted and how the battery health became rather low in the span of just a few months. In fact, after little more than a year, its health was so bad that my Mac would shutdown in a couple of minutes if not connected to a power outlet.
Guess what? Rachel popped my battery out of the laptop and placed in a different one to check it out. It turned out that my battery was part of a problematic batch and as such I was entitled to a brand new battery (it costs $159 otherwise). So she proceeded to replace the battery on the spot, free of charge. I didn’t ask for the battery, but she paid attention to what I was saying and figured out that she could offer me a replacement battery given that the original was defective. Long story short, we couldn’t get the laptop to work, but she gave me a restore CD, just in case I wanted to try out a few more things once home (I own a USB CD drive).
In theory I could have been disappointed. After all, my visit didn’t fix the problem at hand, my expensive laptop seemed to be good as a door stopper, and repairing this thing could potentially be less advantageous than just buying a newer unit. Yet, as I arrived home, I told my wife that my next laptop would definitely be an Apple.
The reason for this is that I saw a genuine effort to help me out, an unheard level of care for the customer and an willingness to do what’s right, even if it costs the company some money. The whole experience was very positive and I felt that the premium cost of Apple’s products is easily justified by this kind of support.
For the record, between knowing rEFIt menu’s by heart, the restore CD, and the external drive, once home again I managed to somehow roll back the old firmware and reinstall the new one. So the end result is that I have a new battery that I desperately needed and a working laptop that I need even more.
This is just an anecdote, but it helps to explain the loyalty of an increasing number of Mac users. Perhaps I’m easy to please, but in my opinion, Apple Stores are a textbook example of how retail outlets should be run and I now feel much more confident about purchasing Apple products in the future.
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Antonio Cangiano is a Software Developer and AI Evangelist at IBM. He authored Ruby on Rails for Microsoft Developers (Wrox, 2009) and Technical Blogging ( The Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2012, 2019). He is also the Marketing Lead for Cognitive Class, an educational initiative which he helped grow from zero to over 1 Million students. You can follow him on Twitter.