Thursday, July 8, 2010

MacBook (Rep)Air


As a friendly face behind the Genius Bar, you’ll be able to take the thorniest questions and answer them in plain old English. Do hardware and software troubleshooting. Provide basic customer training. And perform timely repairs. All of which make for some very happy customers.

From the "Jobs at Apple" page on


Dear Apple Person

I am writing to you on my blog because you don't seem to put e-mail addresses for store managers on your websites. And yes, I know from your web site that they are actually called Apple Store Leaders. ("Store Leader may be the official job title, but Visionary is more like it.") I looked for that name, too, and didn't find it. Otherwise, I would be writing to that person. But I've got to say, for such a friendly "Can I call you Don?" sort of company, it is a little surprising you don't make it easy to get in touch when there's a problem.

I should also tell you that I am writing on my wife's computer because my 2-year-old MacBook Air isn't working. For the second time in two years. Yep, it's the one that stopped working two weeks after I bought it. And then it stopped working a few weeks ago. And now, most interesting, it's still not working even though I got it back from your service department yesterday.

It took two weeks to replace a faulty hard drive, but when you returned my MacBook Air to me, the woman in the store apologized for the delay and said the store wanted to give me a 50 percent discount. I was most impressed. So impressed, in fact, that I started telling anyone who would listen how I had been wrong earlier and you really are a kind and caring company. Of course, you were just teasing me.

For when I went to boot the computer, all I could get was an icon of a folder with a question mark on it. And while the icon was perfectly apt in describing my feelings, I really would have preferred seeing the icons on my desktop appear on the screen.

Obviously I should return it to the service department - oh, excuse me, I forgot you call it the Genius Bar - but that can't happen. We are now far away from your store and in a couple of weeks we will be back in Australia. Maybe it's my fault for not testing the laptop when I picked it up, but I honestly didn't think I would need to. And now I'm five hours away in Vermont and there's no Apple store anywhere around here.

I spent several hours this morning following your online guides to solving this problem. I hit the start button along with the C key; I hit the start button along with the X key. I hit the start button and held down the Command-Option-P and R keys. Still that little question mark kept blinking at me and the computer would do no more.

So I went the major, heavy techie, super-geek solution route. I decided to reinstall the operating system, as your website suggested. That, of course, posed its own challenge since my Macbook Air doesn't have a disk drive. Two years ago I paid extra for it because I loved its trim proportions and the fact that it was so light. It only dawned on me today that it's so trim and light because you took most of the stuff out of it, like Ethernet ports and disk drives. And only today have I begun to wonder why a stripped-down laptop costs half again as much as a fully loaded one. But let's save that question for another day. Like when we discuss my wife's new iPad.

Back to my immediate problem I did see on your site, though, that I could attempt something called "Remote Installation of OS X (the Operating System)". I put on my white socks and sandals, tucked the plastic pen holder in my pocket and set to work. I used my wife's MacBook Pro and my sister-in-law's copy of the operating system.

And for once in my life, I followed instructions carefully. That's miracle No 1. Then I actually was able to start running the software in LK's laptop on my laptop. Big miracle No 2. It was a slow process, maybe 10 minutes or more, but finally I got the message. "Unable to Install OS X on this computer." As miracles go, 2 out of 3 ain't bad, but it left me back where I started.

So, giving up on solving my own problems I called the store that had failed to fix the computer. Oh, excuse me, they called it fixing the computer.

I was put on hold for more than five minutes when I was finally told I was being transferred to AppleCare, your national pay-for-support help line. Listening to the mechanical voice as it began to tell me which button to push for which option, I chose the big red button and hung up.

Which is when LK stepped in. She called the store back, and whereas I got the runaround and a quick transfer, she proved her mettle. I was in awe of her skills and must really try to remember such lines as "No, no, that's not what I need and won't help solve anything;" "That would be nice if you hadn't already taken two weeks to fix a simple problem, but it won't do now;" and the clincher, "What I really don't understand is how you people could tell a customer that you have fixed their computer and you obviously didn't even turn it on to see if it worked. What is the matter with you?"

No transfer to the AppleCare number for my sweetie. She was put straight through to a repair guy at the store. Her task completed, she handed the phone back to me.

As so often happens, this techie - oh excuse me, this Genius - was really nice and really pleasant and seemed to be trying to help. I almost started to forget that he was probably the one who did the initial "repair". He explained that I had basically done everything they would do first and it probably needed to go back to the shop. He checked for nearby stores and confirmed what we knew. None are close.

Then in a sudden flash of illumination, he said, "Wait a minute. The OS X version you're trying to install remotely. Is that for a MacBook Air?" When I explained that it was a MacBook Pro, he had an "Ah!" moment. Apparently the OS X disk is different from one type of Mac to another.

"Funny, they don't seem to mention that on the web site," I said.

"No, they don't, do they?" he said.

Anyhow, he's shipping me a MacBook Air OS X disk and I will try to fix it all again one more time.

But, Apple Store Leader Whom I Would Have Written To if I Knew How, I've gotta say - I would gladly have paid full price for the repair to get the job done right. I had not understood that it was half price because you didn't bother to complete the work.



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