We all have our unnecessary demons. For the past three days I have relentlessly been dealing the “pros” at AppleCare technical repair over getting a bulging battery replaced on my MacBook Pro 17-inch machine. The reputation of AppleCare is that, for around $300 USD, you are supposed to get the most incredible and kind service. I did not have that experience.

I found the experience rather rotten as I felt AppleCare were giving me the runaround on the bulging battery. It’s as if they hadn’t ever heard of the problem before, but doing a simple search on the problem reveals scads of complaints and images like this one:

When Sony and IBM/Lenovo had their battery recalls, you simply called up and they sent you a replacement battery. No problem. Not so with AppleCare. Troy at AppleCare wanted me to put the bulging battery back in the computer so he could get some readings on the battery. When I told him I’d have to force the battery back in the machine to make it fit, he told me to “go ahead.”

When I asked him if that forcing would damage the machine — he hung up on me. Calling AppleCare back I was hooked up with Jason who also told me to put the battery back in the machine so he could write down some readings about the status of the battery “to help make future batteries better.” When I expressed the concern I previously expressed to Troy about damaging the machine further, Jason told me if I didn’t do that then “it’s going to take a lot longer because I can’t fill in the forms that will take me to the next screen.”

I did as instructed and forced the battery back into the machine and gave Jason his readings. It took forever. Then Jason told me he’d need a credit card to guarantee I would ship back the bad battery. When I told him I didn’t want to give over a credit card, Jason said he would not ship me a replacement battery. “But IBM and Sony didn’t hold my credit card captive to get a defective battery cross-shipped!” “We’re Apple.” Jason said with stones in his voice.

I was transferred to Leah — “Supervisor for AppleCare Management Response Team” — who was even more unfriendly than Troy and Jason if that’s possible. She told me if I didn’t give her a credit card, she wouldn’t ship my battery and if I didn’t like that then I could “schedule an appointment to replace the battery in an Apple store.” It would’ve been cheaper, and less of a hassle, if I never paid $300 USD for AppleCare coverage and just shelled out the $129.00 myself for a new battery.

I was forced to give up my credit card number and, after I did, Leah told me my card would be penalty charged “a late fee” in 10 days if I didn’t hand over the bulging battery and, after 20 days of not handing over the battery, “the full price of the battery would be charged.”

When I asked Leah what if there is a mistake and I never get the battery or what if the return was lost in transit — are you going to charge my card anyway? She answered me by not answering me. “We include a return shipping label when we send you the battery. All you have to do is call DHL to come pick it up.” The next day I checked the status of my “DIY Return” online and found my battery was not being sent to me in Jersey City, but rather to another “David Boles” in Georgia!

When I called AppleCare to alert them to this problem, Kurt blamed me for giving them the wrong Ship To: address — it took 20 minutes to explain I had nothing to do with Georgia. Kurt finally ended up blaming it on DHL.

When I brought up the matter of NOT getting my credit card charged for a battery that was shipped to the wrong David Boles — Kurt told me AppleCare “would take care of it and remove the Dispatch Order” for the “pending return” from my account. I just got off the phone with Caitlin in AppleCare to ask why the Dispatch Order expecting the returned battery was still active on my account.

She didn’t know why the order was still active, but she said she “didn’t think” my credit card would be charged for the return of a battery that was never sent to me in the first place. It’s an amazing realization that I paid $300 USD for this sort of “special AppleCare” treatment. I should’ve stayed with Windows!

25 Comments

  1. Is there such a thing as having a lifelong bad customer service curse?
    I can’t help but notice that you seem to get a lot of bad customer service – FedEx, LL Bean, FTD, AppleCare… maybe I’m just “lucky” but somehow whenever I call customer service things “magically” get done!

  2. I have hundreds of positive customer service experiences, Gordon, but when things go as they should — it doesn’t make for a very good story because expectation is met.
    Other middling experiences don’t warrant an article.
    Only the truly rotten happenings deserve a public dissection and airing — and it is the banding together in the intolerance of poor service that gets changes to happen.

  3. I do prefer to challenge basic customer service unfairness and policies that I feel are wrong or punishing — and when I do that it takes them off their usual script and they have to talk to me as a person and not a robot and that makes things happen that are not alway easy on their part.

  4. Thank you for taking my point, Nicola!
    Three days wasted dealing with AppleCare and they still didn’t get it right and I still don’t have a replacement battery that they know is their fault and not mine.
    We didn’t used to have an internet to express consumer outrage. Follow the search link I provide in the article to show how many other people are experiencing this same problem — yet Apple made me feel as if I were alone and crazy. If enough of us stand together we can bend them to the will of the people and not to the Gods of commerce.
    We need to be counted and shout out even against those who want us to simmer down and shut up.

  5. Hey arin!
    Thanks for the support. I appreciate you understanding the method behind the madness of going on-the-record to stand up and fight against these intolerable processes that modern companies expect us to wrongly accept.
    This sort of discussion should not be ridiculed or shut down or negated with anecdotal evidence instead of an empirical process of discovery and proof. Don’t judge the experience. Accept the greater lesson from the issue even if you own experience is perfect and limited.

  6. Keep the stories coming. I for one am glad you take the hard way around instead of just giving in to them. You knew in your gut it was bad to give them a credit card and you were right. Keep fighting.

  7. I will definitely keep it up, arin, thanks! You’re right it takes longer to fight and demand the right thing be done. I’m not an Apple Fanboy. I don’t care about helping them improve their future batteries. I just want Apple to stand behind their brand and support their product and live up to their presumed reputation and send me a new battery all in the scope of a five minute phone call.

  8. Nicola!
    It’s disappointing when a big company won’t own up to their woes and Apple seems to be one of those companies that prefers to blame the end user for its product defects in my experience and from reading their newsgroups. They have a narrow brand to protect and they will do anything they can do to place blame beyond them.
    When Apple blamed DHL for sending the battery to the wrong address I actually laughed out loud over the phone with them. I’m sure DHL didn’t provide the “Ship To:” information! Do they think we’re that stupid? Yes, they do.
    Apple also told me they had “four David Boles” people in their database and, despite my email address and other means of identification they shipped the battery to the wrong guy. Harumph! 😀 But it’s all DHL’s fault. Ha!
    We cannot abide or give in to this bad behavior. We must fight for fair treatment as consumers in every interaction even if that determination is unappreciated by some and sullied by others.
    How much do you want to bet that in 20 days they charge my credit card $129.00 for the battery they sent to a guy in Georgia and this whole Mobius strip existence begins anew?

  9. The words customer service and customer care no longer mean anything much do they?
    I wouldn’t take that bet David ……….. looking at their track record I would think it is a certainty.
    Just think of the poor souls who do not have your acumen in dealing with such matters – they will be far more confused than you are.

  10. You got that right, Katha!
    I think they think their core consumers are so desperate to see the Apple brand survive that they will put up with anything. The problem with that philosophy is that when you bring in Windows users over to your platform through advertising and mouth buzz — but who don’t “drink the Kool-Aid” branding — you have a problem because we just want the stuff to work without any fandom involved.

  11. Nicola —
    Companies are cruel now and consumers are numb to the brutality. I refuse to be treated unfairly and asking for a credit card to return a bulging dangerous battery is too much to ask and I wanted that fact known. Apple are not used to that sort of insistence on fair treatment and humanity when it comes to their end users. Apple dictates. The fans follow without question.
    You’re right that I’ll be trying to fight them to get my $129.00 back. It is inevitable and presumed. (BIG SIGH!)
    Most people would just give in and give up instead of standing up for consumer rights. We all need to stand up and demand a return to “the customer comes first” mantra of selling and buying.

  12. Hi David,
    I’m sad to hear about Apple. I would have assumed that they’d be cool to deal with — based on their commercials, of course.
    However, I must say that I’ve never bought an Apple computer product because I’m not a fan of closed-architecture systems because it seems that they are always more expensive than systems that are open for all vendors to compete for consumers.
    It also doesn’t seem like it would be their style to not give their customer service folks some discretion to make the customer happy in these days when people can — and will — file a lawsuit in their local small claims court or worse get together with other angry consumers and get a class action suit filed.

  13. Hi David,
    I read a post someone wrote about the battery swelling and the first comment was “I wonder if the swelling is ego related.”
    Ouch.
    I don’t think a report about some problem with a PC would result in that type of comment.

  14. Chris!
    You’re right about closed systems — in many ways that’s the big selling point for Apple because they make the entire machine and OS and so they will be able to fix the entire machine and software.
    I have discovered, though, that once you’re locked in by buying a machine — you have no choice but to become an Apple Fanboy because you have cut off all your other access points.

  15. Ha! I love that link and the comment, Chris! 😀 I thought I was one of the lucky ones — I’ve had this machine for a year and never had one problem until now. I thought my battery was not one of the bad ones…

  16. I have a 17 inch Mac Book Pro. One morning a couple of weeks ago, I discovered the battery had suddenly swollen. It had literally bulged out of the chassis of the computer. I removed it. I then read a number of articles on the internet and found that in 2006 Apple had a replacement programme for this problem Quote “affected batteries will be replaced free of charge, regardless of whether the associated computer is out of warranty” (Article from AppleSnatch.com)

    I took my computer to an authorized dealer in Hong Kong called CASE. They told me they would have to take photographs of the battery and send them to Apple. After two weeks I returned to the store (27 October 2010) The technicians told me Apple had declined my request but did not say why. The technicians said in their opinion it was clearly a design fault and Apple should replace it. I

    I was put on the phone to Apple who said that when the battery starts to lose its charge this can sometimes happen. I believe this is absurd. It means that when a battery runs out it could swell and damage the computer. Do Apple seriously think we are to believe a story like this. The technician advised me to dispose of the battery immediately. I asked him why, he said because it wasn’t working. I suggested it could also be that the battery is in fact a health hazard. He declined to comment.

    This is a known design fault that Apple have admitted to in the past.

    I have started a Facebook Campaign to expose this issue to all Apple users now and in the future. Search for “Mac Batteries” on Facebook. If you have a similar story post it on the site.

    To those who might be thinking of buying an Apple computer, be warned the batteries sometimes bulge and if they do it could damage your computer and possibly your health

    This is a known design fault. I believe Apple should replace my battery free of charge. I also think the battery is a health hazard