Never buy the warranty: Repairing is cheap

Well done Magnum Mac Wellington

My MacBook Pro 17 died on Friday.

It failed to restart after running the software upgrade for the magic mouse. I tried the usual tricks (Apple has a good knowledgebase) and then twittered the failure and headed for Magnum Mac, Mac in hand.

I’ve been there plenty of times, but never to the service department. The wait was short, but painful – any wait when you have a broken computer in hand is painful. Meanwhile the lazyweb (Twitter) was responding, and I not only did I have a likely diagnosis (thanks @johnclegg – dead main logic board) but also a pointer to someone that could replace it for cheaper than the apparently $2,000 I was up for (thanks to @gnat).

I paid Magnum Mac $60 for the mac to be looked at, and another total of $120 (all +GST) for priority service. I fully support the ability to jump the queue by paying more – it’s a simple way to both price discriminate and to differentiate those customers that really are in a hurry from those who can make do. It’s also under-used by everyone. Why can’t I pay more through an 0900 number to get an immediate and local answer to my customer service calls to Telecom or Vodafone?

Priority service meant my mac would get looked at within the hour – important on a Friday at 12:56pm. The tech suspected it was a stuffed board, and put me onto their text service, whatever that was.

I soon found out – with the first text at 1:19pm – the repair status was “in Progress” apparently. That was good.

At 14:25 the next text came in – the repair status was now “waiting on parts”. I called immediately – not wanting to drop $2,000 on parts.

It was great news – as it turns out that my computer was one of those affected by the NVIDIA graphics chipset issues, and the replacement main logic board would be for free. Even better, the part would arrive on Monday.

At 10:57 today, Monday,  I received another text – “in Progress”, and at 12:00 I got the “Completed” text. I picked it up and was up and running immediately.

Total elapsed time was less than a working day. That is simply stunning, and a huge turnaround from the service levels of the past.

Total cost – $202.50 – less than the Applecare cost, of which more shortly.

Lessons for service providers

Offer a premium service to customers in a hurry and/or with more money. Why can’t I pay more through an 0900 number to get an immediate and local answer to my customer service calls to Telecom or Vodafone?

Deal with repairs quickly – get your systems and processes right and you’ll get the fixed products back to customers within the day. That makes your costs low, customers happy and for a happy work environment.

Find a way to make it free – or at least cheap. That means working the claims for the customer, sourcing better parts for cheaper and employing technical staff that are great at what they do so they can do it efficiently.

Lessons for customers

Go to the professionals. Just as with my BMW motorcycles I went to a service center that specialises in the products. For BMW that might mean an aging guy in a tiny garage in Mendoza, Argentina, or the Auckland’s Experience BMW. For Apple it meant first trying the local dealer.

Know your rights. In New Zealand it is simple – the Consumer Guarantees Act states:

Goods must be:

  • fit for the purpose they are made for
  • safe
  • durable – last for a reasonable time
  • have no minor defects
  • acceptable in look and finish.

It was well past the purchase date, but it turns out that Apple sold a product that was not fit for purpose or durable  – it didn’t do what it said it would on the box for long enough. That meant they were liable under New Zealand law, and under the US system of lawsuits, and that customers would not have to pay for a fix.

Check the manufacturer warranty. Apple covers all of their computers for a year – for free. For me, and from what I observe, for others, computers either work out of the box or they fail fast. If they work for the first month or two then, viruses and dropping accidents aside, they are likely to keep going forever. (This does not apply to media drives, but then you should be replacing those regularly anyway.) So you can take your computer home with confidence, knowing that under NZ law and probably the standard, free, warranty you can return it for repair.

Make noises. The NVIDIA issue was ignored by Apple for a while, but eventually the sheer weight of dissatisfied customers forced their hand, and they settled with NVIDIA and offered the free replacement program. Similarly you can make noise – either by adding your voice to the others, by twittering, blogging and doing wharever people do on Facebook, or by getting a little more personal in store. Be reasonable and polite, and give the vendor the chance to make amends.

So I was lucky – the main logic board was covered by the settlement and replacement was free. As a mac fanboi I’m obliged to say that it was only the high quality of Apple’s product that kept it going for so long in spite of NVIDIA’s flaw, but then that would be asking for another failure. So instead I’ll mention that I did have an alternative, non-official, service provider. I didn’t use him, so my next Never buy the warranty post will be about another experience that I had – in Mendoza, Argentina.

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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13 Responses to Never buy the warranty: Repairing is cheap

  1. Miraz Jordan says:

    So glad to know they’ve discovered customer service. Last time I dealt with them was a few years ago when my MacBook Pro had a severe problem. All they could offer was to add it to the repair queue with a potential wait of 3 weeks before they even looked at it.

    No way for me to keep using it till the day they would attend to it; no way to schedule a repair.

    Another company handled the problem pretty much overnight.

    MM haven’t had my business since.

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  2. Ben Lilley says:

    I have to say the Apple Care warranty has saved me recently. I sold my old White MacBook to a friend about a year ago after I’d used it for for 1 ½ years.

    A month ago the logic board failed due to heat and stress.A s you mentioned above the board isn’t cheap to repair. My friend came to me to ask for help and luckily I had bought an extended 3 year warranty.

    So 2 ½ years after purchasing the MacBook the logic board got replaced under warranty and they also replaced the keyboard/top cover due to a small crack that I said had been caused by the way the lid closed. I’d say in a case like that, the warranty was worth it and saved my friend $2000+.

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    • Lance Wiggs says:

      Thanks for the comment Ben – the question is whether someone else, as with Miraz, could have repaired the MacBook for far cheaper?

      Meanwhile a new MacBook goes for $1,699 – well under the repair cost – so your friend saved a lot less (and ended up with the same old MacBook).

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      • Ben Lilley says:

        Good points Lance and I agree in some cases the warranty isn’t worth the money, that said I think in this case it worked out better for him for a few reasons:

        1) 3 year warranty cost me $400. The repair of the laptop would have been around the $2000 mark.
        2) While the current White MacBook is $1699, upgrading the RAM to match his model (4GB) bumps the price to $1899.
        3) He’s a student, dropping $1,6999 is completely out of the question. I mean I sold him the laptop for $900.

        So potentially yes, for somebody employed full time or has their own business, the warranty can be an unnecessary expense but for students or people who can’t afford $1000+ products or repairs the warranty can be a smart investment — especially as it works out over less than $140 per year for full cover (except water/drop damage).

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        • Lance Wiggs says:

          More to come on this Ben. I contend that $400/$1899 is a pretty poor cost of insurance. For you it was a waste of money as it didn’t break down.
          For Ben – well he could have spent another $900 instead of $2000/$1899 – so the $400 saved him $900. Poor odds.

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  3. Kim Johannessen says:

    Check out the fiasco Apple are having with their 3.0 Apple TV upgrade .. luckily I haven’t had time to upgrade mine yet!

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  4. Bill Bennett says:

    I used to run New Zealand Reseller News, which is the trade newspaper for people who sell (and repair) computers at all levels.

    We once had a story about a company providing consumer warranties, it’s message to resellers was along the lines of “warranties have profit margins of 70 percent or better”.

    While this might sound like greed, the truth is resellers make such a small margin on PCs and laptops and the prices are low anyway so the first time an unhappy customer returns to the store and asks for advice they are already losing money.

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  5. sue says:

    Lovely to hear magnum mac have gotten better, this is the complete opposite of my experience with them, despite paying the premium charges for fast service.

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  6. Pingback: Never buy the Warranty: Repair it yourself « Lance Wiggs

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