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i was working on my computer one night during last month's sabbatical. the software updates notifier appeared. i'd been putting these off the last few weeks so decided to finally install the updates and restart my computer. i ran the updates and after the reboot continued to work for several more hours before going to bed. when i awoke in the morning, i went to my office, lifted the laptop screen and nothing. the power light was on, but no screen. i messed with it for a few hours but could not get anything other than the black screen.

later that day i made an appointment at one of our city's two apple stores. within seven minutes the technician concluded that my machine was part of a lot that went out with bad video boards. the repair was totally under warranty and would be taken care of without expense. he asked if i wanted to leave my machine with them now. i said no. i needed to back up a few things. as the guy wrote up the ticket one of the things he asked for was my machine's password. i was hesitant because it seemed as though they wouldn't need direct access to machine's files for this repair. i got the sense they wouldn't work on the machine without having it though, so i reluctantly told him. he turned back to his computer, typed it in and then printed a status page for me that had my password written in plain text right next to a bold-faced label reading USER PASSWORD. this left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

they called the next day saying the part was in. the person on the phone warned me that the new iphone upgrade was tomorrow and everyone would be working crowd control for that and my machine wouldn't be dealt with until monday. i said i'd bring it in on monday. when i dropped it off a piece of paper was slid across the counter and i was asked to initial three statements and then sign at the bottom. one of the initialed lines said i acknowledged that my data could be lost, corrupted, or compromised during servicing. the second initial requested my understanding that apple was not responsible if the data on my machine was stolen or compromised by one of their employees. while i didn't care for the wording of either of these, i had ridiculous objections to this second one, especially since they had my password. but i again got the sense my cooperation was not optional and my very expensive laptop was currently quite invaluable without this bit of service. i had also looked up instructions on doing this repair and it was six kinds of daunting and i was apprehensive to try it myself. i initialed and signed the document and gave the young man the paper and my machine. he thanked me and said it would be ready in two to three days.

at the end of the third day i called. i got a perky girl who after having me hold for a minute came back on the line to tell me the machine was not done, had not been started, and because of the back to school rush an estimated date for completion could not be given. i commented that this was odd in that service should be on a first come, first serve basis and that it should then be quite simple to see where i was in the queue. i was told this was not entirely true because of people with preferred status accounts (which can be yours for $100) and other such unknowns.

i was trying to be polite. i was trying to be understanding. i was trying to be civil, but the more this girl talked, the more i got a sense for how screwed and helpless i was. at the height of this realization and on the tail of another irksome comment made by her, i began speaking and found i couldn't stop, "ok. first of all it is the end of june. why i would be waiting in line behind a student of any stripe is beyond me. school doesn't start for two months. secondly, i'm not looking to learn how to have music installed on my ipod. you sold me a $3,500 machine that had a defective part in it. and you knew you sold me a $3,500 machine with a defective part in it, yet you chose not to tell me about it so i could have brought the machine in for repair at my leisure and convenience instead of having a $3,500 machine shoot craps in the middle of the night while i'm working on it. so in regard to the queue of humans you just mentioned, i didn't hear of anyone who has any business being in front of me on this occasion." my measured diatribe was met with complete stillness on the other end. i let her off the hook by saying i knew she didn't care and i know she couldn't do anything should she wish to. she nodded i think. i said goodbye and vibed that bad taste in my mouth, again.

as soon as i hung up the phone i pictured this pert young woman walking into the back of the store to vent to the guy she's sleeping with (or who is trying to sleep with her). he would notice her pout and ask what was wrong and she would recount the call she just endured with this self-important ass who just chewed her out on the phone because he couldn't have his precious computer right now, today. the pierced and t-shirted youth would ask what it was about and she would say a computer repair and he would look to his right at the stack of computers waiting for him to fix. then he would ask what the guys name was. that taste in my mouth grew more acerbic.

after my behavioral episode i told myself i was going to wait one week (!!!) before calling back. i dropped the machine off on a monday. i yelled at the girl on a wednesday. it was now tuesday of the following week and the eighth day they had my computer. i called before lunch. in an already defeated tone i said i was calling to check on the status of a repair. i was told the machine wasn't ready because they were waiting on a part. already lifting a bit out of my chair i said we already waited on the part and they had it. i was told they were waiting on a different part. i asked what part. they said a hard drive. my frenetic imagination seemed to be more insightful than i gave it credit for.

i explained that the hard drive was fine when i took it in. the guy flatly said, "now it's not." i asked if after putting the new drive in if i would get the old one. he said i did not. i asked why and he said something about it being a swap. i said i didn't want a swap and i needed my old hard drive. he asked if my data was backed up because by initialing the paper before service i acknowledged that the data could be lost. i said i understood that but didn't really expect this to be an issue since i brought it in for a completely different reason and was having no issues with the hard drive. he said this sort of thing happens all the time. i said i was not comfortable with losing the physical hard drive, didn't want it replaced, and wanted my computer back as soon as possible. after putting me on hold he said they could have it back together in an hour. i said i'd be there at the top of the hour to retrieve it.

(to expound upon my neurosis about getting the supposedly broken drive back, the conspiracy scenario playing through my head was this. with the password in hand, what was preventing a technician from pulling the drive out, claiming it was bad, putting a new one in, and taking the original drive home, putting it in an external enclosure and going through the data at their leisure and convenience. this particular machine belongs to my employer and has a great amount of private information on it, information that if in the wrong hands could cause a few bad days in my and my employers life.)

when i arrived to pick the machine up, a lady brought it out from the back wrapped in a foam sleeve, handed me a piece of paper and asked me to sign. i held my hand up and said i wanted to start it before i would sign anything. i pulled it from the sleeve and turned it on. the screen came to life, my spirits rose. than after a longer than usual wait, a folder flashed on the screen, signaling the operating system could not be found.

twenty seconds into the subsequent conversation the lady excused herself to grab one of the genius bar guys. to him i explained the past week. he reviewed the spottily documented file. at this point i said all i wanted was to confirm that the hard drive in the machine was the hard drive that was in the machine when i brought it in. he used some diagnostic tools but could not get the drive to respond at all. i asked him if we could verify it from the serial number. he said he could but wasn't able to share that information with me because it was private company information (how lovely is that). i asked him what they did with the bad/swapped drives. he said they were collectively shipped to some facility en masse to be destroyed. getting frustrated with my persistence and adamance about verifying that my drive was in the machine, he said, "sir, why do you think someone is trying to do this to you? this is a professional operation."

now let me start by saying that i was wearing a shirt, tie, dress shoes and work pants. the guy i was talking to had a nose ring. i guess i could describe him further but i'm thinking the nose-ring settles the point i'm trying to make. and at the precise moment, after he told me how i was dealing with a professional, it took every molecule in my being responsible for fortitude to not say, "dude, you have an earring in your nose - don't ever call yourself professional" but instead i said, "when i dropped my computer off for repair i was made to initial a piece of paper that said if the data on my machine was stolen or compromised, i could not hold apple accountable. so my question is this, if your employer doesn't trust you, why should i?" i think that is what is meant when we're told not to go for the cheap, easy, dorm-room blow and dig for something more meaningful and insightful. amazingly this point won my apple guy over because where moments before our pissing match was rapidly moving towards an irreconcilable stalemate, he suddenly became helpful and empathetic.

in the end, i left with my broken computer. a guy that works with me commented that it was odd that the technician couldn't raise the drive in any way with the diagnostic tools. he went on to say it was almost as if the drive wasn't even plugged in. and based on my colleagues thought, i pulled the machine apart, re-seated the plugs and fired it back up. the startup chime sounded and moments later the logon screen asked that i, troy dearmitt, log into my machine. i did so and found all of my stuff in present and in tact. i ran diagnostics on the the drive and it reported some OS parity file issues but did not report any hardware malfunctions.

i'd like to finish this by saying that i've been using apple computers for over eight years now and i've never received anything other than exceptional service. really, the service was beyond expectation and surely leagues beyond anything any industry competitor was offering. this was my first bad experience but it was galactically bad and possibly one of the worst showings of customer service i've ever been subject to. given this, i'll leave this dissertation with the advice to not use the saint louis apple store in the dove mall, known by some as the saint louis, west county apple store. and if you do use it, invest in heart medicine beforehand.

JUL2009

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