So far I’ve gone through 3 MacBook Pros in my quest to find one that’s up to my Quality Control (QC) standards. One was dirty and had glue on the screen, one had scratches and a mis-aligned lid, the last one had a defective piece of trim. Quality Control is not a difficult thing, but on the MacBook Pro Line it is clearly lacking. First I should explain that I’m an engineer. Specifically, I design safety systems for Nuclear Reactors. As such, I work in a delicate realm and have a very keen eye…afterall, it’s a NUCLEAR Reactor. For many years I was very anti-Apple. I viewed Apple products as a hippie computer, and as everyone knows hippies smell. Several years ago, however, Apple started using Intel CPU’s in their computers and shortly thereafter technically-savvy people started hacking their PC’s to run the Macintosh operating system (as opposed to Windows). We call this a “Hackintosh.” I built my first Hackintosh four years ago and I’ve been an Apple convert since. I love the speed, the fluidity, and how everything just operates and looks. Since that point I’ve purchased ipods, iPhones, iPads, and numerous other Apple products.
Around the middle of January I ordered my first MacBook Pro. My only upgrade was the high-resolution screen and the total price was just shy of $2,000. It was shipped straight to my door from Shanghai, and when I opened it up (to my dismay) it was dirty and part of the screen had glue smeared from where the seal was improperly applied. Now up to this point all of my Apple products had arrived perfect, so this was a bit of a shock. But no problem, I called Apple and the gentleman I spoke with advised me to take it to the local Apple store and have the ‘genius’ take a look…crap!
I’ve learned to absolutely dread the Apple ‘genius.’ In the engineering realm, the phrase, “You should work in an Apple Store” may lead to a fight. I actually saw a fight break out once because one engineer said to another, “Good going genius.” And the engineer in question thought he was being called an Apple ‘genius.’ That aside, the ‘geniuses’ in the Apple store always seem to refer to me as guy, or man, or dude even though I am purchasing some of the most expensive electronics available. Why am I being addressed in the familiar? Shouldn’t I be referred to as sir? But that’s not the real problem, the real problem is the ‘genius’ often ends up saying things I know not to be true and then it turns into a pissing contest. The contest ends when I explain that I’m an engineer and then proceed to explain exactly why the ‘genius’ is completely wrong. I therefore do my best not to use that card and therefore I do my best to NOT get involved with the ‘genius.’ You see the ‘genius’ is just a marketing ploy to make consumers think the Apple employees are smarter than they really are. After all, have you noticed that all the ‘geniuses’ look the same. Strange color hair, piercings, tattoos; some of them look like they haven’t shaved in days, not even the girls. The belief is that people who look like this know a lot about computers. Well I know a lot software engineers, and a host of electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, materials engineers, scientists and PhD’s, and I can assure you that none of us dress or look like that. We’d feel embarrassed going to work looking like a slob. But, I had to deal with the ‘genius’ and much to my surprise it worked out okay. He wrote a report detailing what he found and then said he’d repair the screen or I could just replace it. Since I had the laptop less than a day I opted for the replacement, but the Apple store didn’t have my configuration in stock. No problem, the ‘genius’ told me to call the toll-free number on the form he gave me and they would just cross-ship me a new one. This means I can keep the laptop I’ve got and when I receive the new one, just put the old one in that box and send it back.
So that’s what I did, I called the toll-free number and after being transferred to the wrong department a couple of times I was finally informed by a gentleman named Philip that Apple can’t cross ship a product. I asked why the Apple ‘genius’ told me they could, but Philip stood by his story that cross shipping is not an Apple policy. When I pushed him on it, Philip told me that it wouldn’t make sense to just send me a new laptop without me paying for another one because, “[I’d] have two laptops, but Apple would have only received payment for one.” I then asked Philip what he felt I should do, at which point he informed me that I should send the defective one back, and after Apple receives it, they will then send me another one. This caused me to pose the questions that if I do that, wouldn’t Apple have been paid for a laptop and I would have none? Philip was unsure how to respond to that kind of logic.
In the end, I decided that I’ll just return this first laptop and pay for a second. After I finished my order (total time on the phone: 1 hour and 20 minutes) I fired off an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Steve Jobs was known for reading customer messages sent to him and I wondered if Tim would read mine. Well, he didn’t, but my email did get Apple executive customer service involved. For those of you who don’t know, many companies have a higher tier of customer service specially dedicated to resolving problems. Most of the time these people are there just to make dissatisfied customers go away in lieu of hiring competent customer service reps.
At this point a gentleman named “John” (not his real name, but I don’t want to get him in trouble) contacts me and informs me that he’s researched the situation and there actually is a policy and Apple is more than happy to cross ship. The previous Apple rep I spoke to was wrong. I thanked him but informed him that I had already resolved the situation by paying for a second laptop. Well the second MacBook Pro arrived and suffered from scratches and a crooked lid. Oh well. A quick email to John and after speaking with him and receiving his assurance that I should expect a “perfect” Apple product just like the other Apple items I own, laptop #3 was on the way.
When this one arrived it was perfect…well almost. It was clean, had no scratches, no glue, the lid was aligned, but it had a piece of defective trim. Take a look at the picture. This was a huge issue for me. You see, with the lid opened the light in my office was being reflected back at me from the piece of metal which the trim is intended to cover. I figured I’ll go back to the Apple store and since they offered to replace my defective screen, they’ll gladly replace the defective trim. WRONG!
After showing the ‘genius’ the defective trim , the genius informs me that yes he sees what I’m talking about, but it’s “In spec.” Uh-Oh! Kindly allow me to explain what “in spec” means. In spec is when an item is measured to be within it’s manufacturer’s published tolerances. In other words, the specification for a certain part’s width may be (2 mm ±.02mm) which means if a part was 2.02 mm wide it would be accepted (in spec), if it was 2.03 mm wide it would not be accepted (out of spec). In order for you to determine whether an item is in spec it must be measured and unless the ‘genius’ had a calibrated eyeball I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen. The following is what the ‘genius’ said and what I heard.
|‘GENIUS’: Yes I see it, but that’s in spec||‘GENIUS’: Yeah I see it’s not right…who cares?|
|ME: So that’s good enough for you?||ME: What an idiot…I see why this guy’s working in an Apple store|
|‘GENIUS’: Yeah, so what do you want me to do about it?||‘GENIUS’: Gosh working in an Apple store sucks…this guy probably thinks I’m an idiot|
|ME: Well I’d like you to fix it||ME: I can’t believe this. This guys probably thinking about his next piercing|
|‘GENIUS’: I can fix it but I’ll have to charge you for it||
‘GENIUS’: I need to get my ass pierced
I, of course, balked at the idea of paying out of my own pocket for Apple’s lack of quality control and returned to my office. I did email John about the problem at the Apple store. He called the store and spoke with the ‘genius’ and the store manager and then called me back saying that the piece of trim was in spec and that there was nothing further Apple could do. I could keep one of the laptops and send the other two back, or he gave me the option of sending them all back. When I questioned John about how the ‘genius’ could determine that something is in spec without measuring anything, John couldn’t answer that. I decided at that point I’ll have a little fun. I asked John if he could send me the spec. He called a few days later and told me that the spec isn’t published. When I asked how the ‘genius’ was able to determine that a part is in spec without measuring it and when the specification is not available John couldn’t answer that saying he wasn’t privy to the conversation that occurred between the ‘genius’ and myself. Oh well, he was kind enough to send me a free hat…I guess something is better than nothing.
In the end I decided to keep the first MacBook Pro with the glue. I didn’t want to send them all back and start this process over again. I had one of my techs remove the glue for me proving the difference in quality of US labor vs. Chinese factory workers. My MacBook Pro looks good as new now…I should have done that at the beginning. Maybe the fault is mine for having such high quality standards. I take my job very seriously as nuclear reactors are a very serious business. I’ve rejected items for being one-thousandth of a millimeter out of spec. And yes, sometimes the project managers get a bit upset but at the end of the day we deliver a quality product and a safe product. Perhaps my thinking, therefore, about Apple is wrong. I’ve thought of Apple products as luxury items and that’s clearly not the case. Apple products are not luxury items. They are consumer-grade items sold at a premium price. As of the date of this posting it’s been over a month and I still haven’t received my refund from Apple for the two laptops I sent back (they received them Feb. 13). I finally had to file a dispute with AMEX. I’ll still continue to be an Apple customer, however, even after this. Apple’s engineering is superb and they really do put a lot of thought into their products. But I strongly suggest they work on both their quality control and their customer service. No one stays top dog forever. The last time Steve Jobs left Apple, the company fell apart. This time, unfortunately, he won’t be coming back.