Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Apple Support

1026 words on

Huh, another wonderful experience with Apple’s ‘fantastic’ support today. And, as usual, it sucked. Like any portable Apple product I (or most of my friends) bought and owned for more than a few weeks, the iBook is starting to show problems. And by that I don’t mean the dark stains that started being visible where my (washed) hands rest after a week or two of using the machine, but the charger or PMU starting to be broken.

The phenomenon is the following: I plug in the charger and the little light on its computer-side plug turns itself on – to green or orange depending on whether the battery is being charged. Just as it should. Unfortunately, the light occasionally goes off after a random amount of time; The charging stops, the charger cools down and the iBook starts running on battery. That has happened all the way from the beginning, by the way, but it happened like once in a fortnight, so I thought I just didn’t plug things in correctly at first.

Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case but the problem reoccurs with different wall sockets and unfortunately on an almost daily basis now. Which of course means that at times the iBook ends up not being charged properly or even having drained its battery when I take it with me. My first idea was that there may be some flaky connection in the charger. I’ve had those in my old UFO charger. But the new white charge just feels so solid and inflexible that I couldn’t see any exterior problem or even imagine how one could appear.

So I decided it was time to call Apple and ask about the problem. My guess was that I’d eventually get a replacement charger and that I might have to fight their phone lines for a while. The first thing you’ll observe when wanting customer support from Apple is that it’s really hard to get hold of it. They do have a web page on their standard support mentioning that they’re available for questions via phone, e-mail and chat. Just that they don’t give any contact details. No phone number, no e-mail address no Chat ID. Holy crap! What’s that supposed to be about? Can I reach these people or can’t I?

Of course I could and I suspect their service phone number might be with the iBook’s manuals… somewhere in the iBook’s box stowed away in the basement. But ‘luckily’ I still had their phone number in my address book from my Powerbook’s support odyssee anyway. So I called there. And after a surprisingly short but still annoying automatised dispatch system I got to speak to real person quite soon. After explaining the problem and giving my serial number he started rambling about certain checks I should make.

Actually my first impression was a good one! The guy was friendly as usual and even capable to find out that I had mis-read an ‘S’ for a ‘5’ in the machine’s serial number which I had jotted down on a piece of paper for the occasion. Of course it remains an unsolved mystery why exactly they need a few odd letters in the serial number or why they aren’t able to just design serial numbers in a way that avoids any potentially ambiguous characters.

Like resetting the PMU (which of course I had already tried) and possibly others. And then he started saying that I’m out of the 90-day time frame for free technical support. WTF?! To begin with their product isn’t working and I paid for a one year warranty. And I don’t consider this paid-for technical support. I don’t actually want to know about any of these test. All I want to do is charge the machine. Considering it ‘support’ to tell me the things they want me to do is just absurd.

Later on, I realised that even the suggestion that I’m out of the 90-day time frame was wrong. I ordered the machine more than 90 days ago but thanks to Apple’s generous delivery time frame of two weeks or so I haven’t had the machine for that long. And for sure Apple will have the shipping information to know that.

Ironically, being out of that 90 day time frame allegedly means that the support guy wasn’t ‘allowed’ to do high-tech tasks like tell me how to reset the PMU (and he actually didn’t even send the e-mail he said he’d send just because I didn’t remember at that moment that a PMU reset on current iBooks – because they amusingly change these things every few generations of computers – is done by holding the Command, Option and Shift modifiers while turning the machine on). While I expected to have to go through all this, I thought those ‘procedures’ were a bit too much hassle and just an attempt to put me off.

As the only remaining problem was that he had to be sure the charger is broken rather than something in the computer – doing which would’ve required a number of additional tests with the computer which he didn’t name or point to as that would’ve been ‘technical support’ – I decided to just ask whether it’d be enough if I can reproduce the problem with another computer as I had other things to do.

So, for the weekend, I’ve swapped chargers with a friend to see whether he’ll experience the same problems I see and whether my iBook charges fine with his charger… But to be honest, I would’ve much preferred to just get the list of tests they want you to make, so I can do them at a time when it’s convenient to me and without having to pay for the call to Apple’s ‘service’ at the same time. As the problem often takes half an hour or so to appear, nobody in their right mind would want to try and reproduce or test this while on the phone.

As usual, I don’t feel particularly well-served. Time was wasted and very little progress was made…

Luckily everything worked out reasonably in the end.

November 26, 2005, 2:40

Tagged as apple, apple defect, broken.


Comment by Dave2: User icon

This is utterly bizarre. Here in the US, I’ve had numerous dealings with Apple Support and have always been treated incredibly well… with PowerBooks and iBooks alike. Service has been a one-day turn-around, and the phone staff couldn’t be friendlier.

I contrast this with Dell, which is atrocious in every sense of the word, and it makes me all that much happier to be an Mac fanatic. Sorry to hear that things aren’t so great with your experience.

November 26, 2005, 5:22

Comment by Sebastian: User icon

I had exactly the same problem with my PowerBook. I called Apple support and found out the following: The charger has some kind of heat protection. If it gets too hot, it just shuts down. You have to plug it out and in again (in the outlet) and it will work again.

Apple Support suggested that there were fluctuations in the current in my apartment, and that only the electronics of my charger were sensitive enough to react to that, and not a lamp etc.

Since it costs me 1000 Euros if I have my electricity checked and they don’t find anything, I didn’t consider that option any further.

Apple Support reassured me that the heat-shutdown wouldn’t ruin the charger and promised to send me more information about the issue by email.

Well, they didn’t. But started to live with the problem, and the shut-downs have happened increasingly seldom.

November 27, 2005, 13:11

Comment by ssp: User icon

I hope I’ll get a better response out of them.

Not only do I think that their claim about ‘strange electricity’ sounds rather bogus, I’ve also been using other Apple chargers in the very same wall sockets without any problems in the past.

Thanks for the info though, I’ll be sure to have a laugh ready when they suggest this analysis to me…

November 27, 2005, 21:32

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