An Apple a Day??? Crazy experiences in the Apple Store…

I’ve had my issues with Apple, but broadly speaking I’m a fan.  Quick recap:  I find the hardware reliable, the UI/design ahead of most other vendors and some of the software tools impressive.  But their nickel and dime approach and reliance on closed/proprietary systems does drive me a little nuts.

Having bitched about a negative experience, I figured I should blog (blitch?) about a positive experience.  About a month ago, when running on battery power, my MacBook started shutting down when the battery still showed 20-30% charge left.  In the past two weeks, the shut off point has climbed to 70%.  That gives me about 20-30 minutes of non-plugged-in usage before the laptop does a hard shutdown.  And I mean hard — no graceful hibernation, just a full system stop.

I was in the Apple store in Durham the other week and I asked one of their tech guys if he had any suggestions.  I saw a similar issue once that was actually a software issue.  He suggested I bring the thing in for a “Genius” consultation.

Not the answer I was looking for, but such is life.

Earlier today I was heading back to Durham with my family, so I decided to see if I could get a Genius appointment.  It took a second to find the right link on the Apple site, but it turned out they had availability this afternoon.  I punched in some details and was all set.

Skepticism engaged, I rolled into the store.  Lo and behold, my name was already on the plasma screen — number 3 on the list.  I waited a few minutes (less than 10) and got called up to the Genius Bar.

A guy who actually knew what he was talking about took about 1 minute to check the laptop serial number and check the battery stats in the System Profiler. The quirky thing was, he actually read the notes I submitted through the website, so I didn’t need to explain a thing.

He disappeared into the back of the store to see if they had any replacement batteries in stock.  They didn’t, so he printed out an order form.  What’s more he apologized for the inconvenience.

At no point did he ask when I bought the laptop, or whether it had Applecare (it doesn’t).  The data was actually in the system he was using to provide support.  Crazy!

For the record, I bought the laptop on April 21, 2007, so it was out of warranty.  I didn’t buy Applecare because I used to work retail (looong time ago) and know exactly how much of a profit center/scam extended warranties usually are.

As I looked at the order, I saw a $99 dollar charge on the order form.  Before I could even ask, Genius bar guy explained that the system showed the cost, but they were not going to charge me because I was only just out of warranty.

I’m guessing they’ve had some battery issues.  I’ve been too busy to Google it and find out.  But still, the whole consultation took less than 15 minutes.  Yes, I have to go back to pick up the battery, but that’s really not a big deal.

In short I was treated like a valued customer by a knowledgeable and competent employee who actually gave a damn about his job and about my satisfaction.  In a retail environment?  On a technical product?  Now that’s some kind of special event worth noting.

Crazy stuff!