It’s never a good thing when something you love betrays you — and when my less-than-90-days-old 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt display died — I felt as if I’d be down this long road before only a few months ago when my 24-inch Apple Cinema Display burned out.  I dutifully made a Genius Bar reservation at the 14th Street Apple Store in New York City for early this morning and hopped into an SUV and sped into the Meatpacking district and paid my $80.00USD fare to get me there — all with dead Thunderbolt display in hand and tucked under my arm.

I was beginning to think I was cursed with these defective Apple displays.  All my important computer stuff — including my MacBook Air and my displays — all run on conditioned power with battery backup, so it wasn’t my home environment causing these power failures.  It takes a ton of time and energy and money to get these massive displays serviced, and so I decided to look online to see if others were having problems with their Thunderbolt displays winking out and having all the ports die.

The power of the Internets is your friend.  I found all sorts of fascinating complaints about just the sort of problems I had with my Thunderbolt display.  One 16-page thread on the official Apple Discussion Forums made it clear I was not alone in my grief.  Apple knows there is a problem with early Thunderbolt displays like mine and it seemed like they are replacing them instead of making you wait two weeks to have them repaired — and that I loved.

As I headed into the Apple Store on 14th Street, I knew I might be in for a repair instead of a straight swap because it had been almost 90 days since I bought the Thunderbolt display.  However, if this were a known manufacturing problem, then I felt Apple should do the right thing and do a straight exchange for me.  I am a loyal Apple customer.  My support profile is packed with expensive computers and displays and iPhones and iPads across an arc of many years.  I write Apple books.  I bought both a MacBook Air and a Thunderbolt display as an act of faith — even after my Cinema Display died.

When I stepped out of the elevator on the third floor, I saw Mike.  He’s a manager.  Every time I’ve had a problem, and he’s been working, he’s helped me get all my problems solved.  He’s kind.  He’s a winner.  You can count on Mike.

Then a Genius named Halliday approached and asked me what was wrong with my computer.  He misidentified my Thunderbolt display as an iMac and I knew we weren’t off to a good start.  I told my story to Halliday and I showed him page 14 of the 16 page thread — that was six printed pages in my hand — about the known problems with the early Thunderbolt displays and how Apple was replacing them.  Halliday seemed disinterested and then disappeared.

As I stood there wondering what happened to Halliday, I did not feel confident or satisfied.  I just sort of moped there, deflated, and wanting, until another Genius named Matthew approached and brought me over to his station at the Genius Bar.  I repeated my story and Matthew was much kinder and more understanding than Halliday.  Matthew took my Thunderbolt display in the back to run some diagnostics.

After a short while, Matthew returned and told me the Thunderbolt display did have “manufacturing issues” and that he decided to give me a whole new Thunderbolt display and Mike approved his service action.  I was simply overjoyed.  I was getting a whole new display and I would not have to leave the defective display there to be repaired and picked up in two weeks.  I would be in and out and on my way back to my life!

Because I purchased the Thunderbolt display in October, Matthew and Mike had to do some paperwork to replace my Thunderbolt with one from sales stock and not repair stock.  That didn’t take long and Matthew told me Apple is embarrassed by these sorts of manufacturing issues and that’s why he decided to just start me over again from zero as if I’d just purchased the display today.  If I had any other troubles with the Thunderbolt display, Matthew said, “you know where to find us, and we’ll take care of it for you” and I was overjoyed a second time.

Matthew also warned me to get in touch with AppleCare to make sure my service plan gets transferred to the new serial number of my replacement Thunderbolt display.  He made a note on my account explaining everything that happened.

I was in and out of the Apple Store in 30 minutes and I had a whole new display tucked under my arm.

When I arrived home, I plugged in the new Thunderbolt display and it worked perfectly with my MacBook Air.  I’m burning in the display now and running the HD FaceTime Camera, a Billy Joel concert movie and some music through the display all at the same time.  The sound from the Thunderbolt display speakers sounds 50% clearer and better and thumpier to my ear than the original display.  I am overjoyed a third time.

Thank you, Mike and Matthew for taking care of me today.  I’m now yours forever.  I will happily buy a spec’d-out 15-inch MacBook Air and two iPad 3s and the iPhone 5 and an iTV and anything else you have in the pipeline.  I’ll buy with pleasure and confidence because I know I’m covered if anything goes wrong and I know Apple will make good and make it right because that’s how they became so beloved in the marketplace in the first place.


    1. Yes, we paid all our “to-and-‘fro” car service money in a single day! Ha! It’s great to have the display back, though. The Thunderbolt display is so much better than the Cinema display.

        1. That hot, burning, plastic smell is just the new Thunderbolt display warning up and heating up — it’s all natural and part of the “burning in” process.

  1. David,

    This is exactly why I love Apple sometimes. They really rise to the occasion. We haven’t taken our macbook in for service for the crack caused by defective manufacturing and when I brought it up casually at the Genius Bar the Genius told me that we could bring it in any time and they would absolutely fix it.

    1. Love that story, Gordon! There really isn’t a software/hardware vendor equivalent out there that can hold a candle to AppleCare, Apple Stores and the Genius Bars!

  2. I too have had a thunderbolt 27″ fail, in fact two of them. The first one was less than 60 days old. Smack dab in the middle it had subpixels fail with a line running vertically and horizontally and everything below the horizontal line was flickering really bad. Made an appointment with the gunnies bar and ended up with an exchange for a band new unit. I felt really good about how well they handled it. However, in less than one week the second monitor from the exchange died! This time no video, however, the display sound, ethernet, and other ports still worked. Again, made an appointment with genius bar. This time they didn’t even remove the monitor form the box to look at it. They just took my word and brought back another brand new monitor. I’m now on my second day on the third monitor and continuously have my fingers crossed. Yes, apple support was excellent and kodos to my local genus bar, but the reality is I’d just would like a monitor that works!

    1. I feel for you, Brian! I certainly hope the third try is the charm for you. Keep the monitor on and “burning in” for at least 72 hours. If it is going to fail, it should fail within that window. Let us know what happens!

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