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How Apple tricked me into buying a new MacBook Air Featured

I have been using MacBook Air laptops for several years now and I like them much better than anything in the Windows space. However, my experience has been far from problem-free and I am angry at what I believe is a deceptive business practice designed to screw money out of loyal users.

It all started back in 2014 with my first MacBook Air – prior to that I had been using MacBooks with hard drives. A few months after using my new machine, I notice that the return key was splitting apart (see pic below).

Broken MacBook Key 2

I got on the phone to Apple support, explained the problem and at the support person’s request snapped a pic on my iPhone and sent it to him. The computer was just out of warranty but he said Apple would fix it if I took it into a designated Apple Store for service. He made the appointment, I took it in and it was fixed.

Then about a year later, a series of progressively worse things happened.

A key popped off my keyboard. I made my own appointment and took it to an Apple store. Apparently it was only a minor problem – a little latch that holds the key in place had come loose or something, and anyway the “genius” who served me was able to fix it in the back room on the spot.

Then I noticed that the letters were starting to wear off the keys, after which one of the keys only worked every second or third time I hit it, one key sometimes printed a letter twice, and finally another key started to split apart – even more badly than the first time. I made another appointment with the Apple Store and took my computer in.

This time I got a different reaction. The genius asked me if I was a heavy keyboard user. I replied yes, I am heavy on the keys. He told me that they would have to replace the entire keyboard array as well as the top of the housing. Then if there was damage to the circuitry under the keys and any other components, they would have to be replaced as well.

Apparently my heavy-handed keyboard bashing was capable of inflicting quite a bit of damage. I wondered why that had not happened with other computers I had owned over the years, but no matter. I needed my computer and I was willing to pay for the repair – until I found out how much it would cost.

According to the “genius”, in a best case scenario the cost of parts and labour would be not much less than buying a new machine!

Needless to say, I was shocked. Never once questioning the wisdom of the Apple “genius” behind the counter, I was actually angry with myself for hitting the keys too hard. However, I wondered if it was possible that my MacBook Air could still be salvaged with a new keyboard.

The “genius” suggested that I could try an Authorised Apple repairer so I did, and got much the same response. Labour alone would cost $180 an hour and the job could take as much as three hours or more, plus the cost of an Apple keyboard, front housing and any damaged circuitry. He said I might as well buy a new MacBook.

I actually toyed with the idea of sourcing a keyboard online and attempting to do the repair myself. However, a little research put paid to that as MacBook Air repairs are difficult jobs and not for novice tinkerers.

As I could not function in my job without a fully operational computer, in the end I admitted defeat, put my damaged computer aside and wore the pain of spending about $2000 on a new MacBook Air, which was not much different from the old one.

A few weeks later, I was strolling through the streets of Melbourne when I passed a large computer repairs store. On impulse I wandered in and spoke to a nice gentleman behind the counter, asking if by any chance he was an authorised Apple repairer. He said no, but the store had repaired hundreds of MacBooks. I asked if he could replace a broken keyboard and he said sure. Provided there was nothing else wrong with the computer, the cost of a new keyboard would be $175.

Once again I was shocked. The next day I took my old computer in to the shop, left it for a couple of days, and when I returned I got it back with a new keyboard fitted and thoroughly cleaned inside and out. Apparently mounds of dust had accumulated inside the machine between the keyboard and the circuitry underneath.

So for $175 I got my computer completely fixed after being told by both Apple and an Authorised Apple repairer that it could not be salvaged. Furthermore, I subsequently discovered through online inquiry that this particular keyboard had a design fault and that I was not to blame at all for the damage. I had been tricked into buying a new computer needlessly.

My story is by no means unique. Last month, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation did an undercover exposé on Apple’s reprehensible business practices in which, through outright deception, arguably the richest company in the world actively discourages loyal users from repairing their devices when they bring them in to be fixed.

A CBC reporter with a hidden camera took a malfunctioning MacBook Pro into a local Apple Store in Canada. He was told that by the “genius” serving him that the computer had liquid damage, the cost of repair would be at least $1200 and possibly as much as $1980. Furthermore, he was reminded by the “genius” that the cost of repair was “close to the cost of buying a new computer”. Well gosh, does that sound familiar?

The CBC reporter then took the computer in to independent celebrity activist tech repairer Louis Rossmann, who has a shop in New York. He opened the malfunctioning computer, discovered that a connection pin had come loose and performed a repair in less than two minutes. So what was the cost for the repair? Nothing.

The full video of the CBC’s exposé is below or you can watch it on YouTube here.

Rossman is an active member of a lobby group called Right to Repair, a subsection of the Repair Association in the US. IT OEMs are a major focus of the group who want legislation to force manufacturers like Apple to act ethically and make repair manuals, parts and tools available to third party repairers.

As bad as Apple’s unethical behaviour is, its unquestioningly loyal user base must shoulder a large part of the blame. Many of them suffer from something akin to Stockholm Syndrome and make excuses for the company’s shoddy business practices and sometimes faulty devices, allowing themselves to be continually fleeced rather than hold to account this unbelievably rich corporation built on the back of just a few premium priced discretionary products.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

 

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