Is The Genius System Broken?

by Tom Bridge

Recently, Chuck Goolsbee had an experience with Apple Support that had him steamed. He sums it up thusly:


1996 PowerBook Repair Time & Effort:
* 5 minutes of my time
* 2 days of Apple’s time

2006 PowerBook Repair Time & Effort:
* 4+ hours of my time (largely spent being actively ignored while in close proximity to Apple Store staff)
* 14 days of Apple’s time


The system surely is infuriating for anyone who has a broken mac that needs fixing. Show up to the Genius Bar, even just to drop off a repair, and you're often looking at a wait of more than an hour, or in some of Chuck's experience, upwards of 2. Worse, though, is the letter from Sam Crutsinger that he reprints as part of the same entry:

At first I thought it was cute. It was like they were trying to make computer repair seem like a shi-shi experience. Now it’s gotten out of hand. Today the system is so NOT cute that I very nearly made a very loud scene in the middle of the Apple Store about it. The only thing that kept me from going off was the fact that before things reached “absurd,” I’d already put in my name and email address to see when the next available reservation slot was open. If I could have gotten out of there anonymously I would have made a speech to the masses.


Have you had a lousy repair experience at an Apple Store? Tell us about it in the comments.

41 Comments

Josh
2006-03-26 12:06:37
When I wrote about problems getting a new iMac G5 fixed last winter the "Apple does nothing wrong" crowd showed up to tell me that I'm the only one having problems. While it's comforting to know I'm not alone, it is disheartening to know they seem to be getting worse not better.
Charles
2006-03-26 12:11:09
Well. There is a reservation list for a reason. The genius bar is in demand. If you make an appointment you won't have to wait four hours. I made one and only waited 10 minutes.
Tom Bridge
2006-03-26 12:12:27
This begs the question, Charles, how the >expletive< do you get a reservation if your computer is broken?
Sam Pullara
2006-03-26 12:50:06
I've had a Powerbook repaired several times by going to the Genius Bar. The most recent experience was right before the MacBook was released. I called around and found an Apple Store that wasn't mobbed with people, showed up, signed up on the list, got help in about 10 minutes, they took my machine and I got it back 4 days later completely fixed. It's not clear to me why this guy expected special treatment. You can sign up for a reservation on Apple's website if you don't want to wait in the store, e.g. http://genius.apple.com/customer/?store=R029 Or even better, you can just call Apple and they will send you a box to get your repair done without ever leaving your couch.
Rich
2006-03-26 13:11:34
Let it be said... I love my Macs... we are a 4 Mac household. I just bought a new Mac Mini and a MacBook Pro. It could be said that I'm a Mac Fanatic. But the Kool-aid can't cut through this...


I've unfortunately had to visit the Apple Geniusbar 5 times in the last year due to defective hardware. If the OS and the hardware design wasn't so incredible, I would be typing this on something other than a new MacBook, becase when it comes to 1) hardware reliability and 2) care after the sale, Apple is *desperately* lacking.


All 5 incidents were pure hardware failures. One DOA laptop (took OVER A MONTH to send me my "fixed" brand new laptop back), 2 set of worthless non-functional latches on 17" PowerBooks, DOA firewire port on a desktop, one DOA firewire port on a laptop. Other than the 5 week ordeal with my brand new laptop, most of these were fairly quick -- ranging from 3 to 7 days turn-around. Each also required between a 1 to 4 hour wait for a Genius (even with Pro Care).


Did I mention these were all under warranty or Applecare? Did I mention I'm a supposed "Pro Care" customer?


Everyone was plenty nice, cordial and the sort. Unfortunately, this type of service is grossly below what I would consider a "premium" level of support. Apple hardware, software, and the corresponding prices are generally targetted to consumer's who hold quality and useability as a premium over price. The level of support we receive as Apple customers falls below that which nearly the entire industry has standardized as the norm.


A Dell laptop will generally come with a 24-hour replacement warranty -- sometimes 1 yr, often
with an upgrade to 2 or 3 being fairly inexpensive.


All we get is a 90-day warranty with an expensive option for additional years with NO GUARANTEE on turnaround. It could be 3 days, it could be 3 weeks.


I can't go 3 days without a laptop. I would be out of a job or the company would be out of business. This means, in a corporate environment, I'm forced to keep a hot spare. I don't have a guarantee of 24-hour or EVEN 1 week turnaround. That's after I stand in line at an Apple store for 3 hours so the "Genius" can stare at it for a moment and tell me it has to be sent off for repair.


How can Apple be so short sighted on this? No business can rely on Apple computers unless they are willing to take the risk or buy a bunch of extra equipment. After a while, the consumers are going to get pretty peeved too - especially after the "cool" wears off and the hardware quality issues continue in the same direction they are today.


2006-03-26 13:28:27
Josh - I agree -- it's amazing... they are already coming out of the woodwork on this very thread. I love my Macs.... but the attitude is absolutely amazing.


Sam Pullara - special treatment? So, Tom wants to be treated like a respected customer with a defective product? That's supposed to be special treatment?


Charles -- kinda hard to check the reservation list if your computer is broken. Considering they WILL NOT take reservations over the phone, you're pretty much porked and have to wait til you get there. That is, if your lucky enough to live near a store.


Desktops -- when I had a problem, they basically told me to drive to my nearest Apple store -- 160 miles away (I lived in a fairly large city at the time). My only other option was to take it to CompUSA. CompUSA said they were so behind they wouldn't even look at it for a week.


Laptops -- doesn't matter what it is, geniuses appear to have been told not to touch them (aka anything requiring removing screws other than memory replacement) because it takes to much time and they'll get behind on the line of 15 other customers waiting for the one or two overworked Geniuses (even though they are trained and qualified).

Aaron
2006-03-26 14:14:18
The Genius Bar is the only place in the world where you can get face-to-face help from a living human being. Whenever you have a problem with a mac, you do have other options, such as the same AppleCare phone number used back in 1996 or other service providers. Nobody is forced to go to the genius bar.
Also worth mentioning is how much longer the line is made by people who need to a) drag out questions for hours abusing the system (why doesn't anybody get upset with them?) and b) people who have to make a stink and demand help.
Fixing computers isn't easy, and people have incredibly important and personal data that the NEVER EVER keep backed up fro some reason. So remember that geniuses are under INCREDIBLE pressure to move the line quickly, but customers--who always think they are the most important and need help the fastest...--are the ones who hold it up. I suggest you do everybody a favor, including yourself, a call India next time you want help.
James Bailey
2006-03-26 14:26:14
Hmm, he didn't learn any lessons for the first two times he was in the store. The second and third times he could have made a reservation before arriving. I understand the first time since he didn't understand the system but the next two visits and he still expected to be handled out of order? Odd.


To Tom Bridge. Yeah it sucks if your one and only computer is broken and you can't get access to the web but that is a very unusual circumstance. Most people have internet access at work or have friends and neighbors who would be more than willing to help out.

Tom Bridge
2006-03-26 14:30:06
The Genius Bar is certainly unique, Aaron, no one doubts that, but most of the repairs that have to be completed by Apple require disassembly of the unit itself which lends poorly to the Genius Bar format. While some help can certainly be given at the bar, simply handling the paperwork to check in or check out a machine into repair can be done by anyone, or it should be that way. But it's not. For reasons no one can really make clear.


I'm not going to get into the defects in machines that have come into the clear (though I was a victim of a dead HD on a brand new MacBook on day five of its life), but I do think the service experience at the Apple Stores is harder than it ought to be. Regarding phone service, things are very, very uneven at Apple, even within the warranty period. I've seen people goaded into paying $50 to talk with an Apple Rep, even when all parties absolutely knew the machine was within its warranty period, and broken beyond telephone repair.


Apple's got great ideas, but they need to refine them, or face losing some of their customers to sheer maddening frustration.

Tom Bridge
2006-03-26 14:33:09
I think the point is:


You shouldn't need a reservation to pick up your computer.


Ever. Even if it *is* a Mac.

Charles
2006-03-26 14:49:14
Rich: I have another computer but if I did not have one or did not live near an Apple Store I would have called Applecare and they would send a box out to ship it to them. You know folks Apple stores and genius bars are fairly recent developments. We managed to get repairs done without them but I would rather not go back to those days. With the reservation system, if you can't do it on your computer, you can make your reservation in the store go do other things if your appointment is a lot later. Every Apple store around here has got loads of other business around. You don't have to wait in the store.
Aaron
2006-03-26 14:51:36
You *don't* need a reservation to pickup your computer. Just tell somebody behind the bar you are there for a pickup.


Also, the repair itself may require a lot of work. But something that many intelligent oreilly readers do not realize is that more than half of the people who bring in their computer "because it's broken" don't actually have broken computers! Very few computers are actually checked in. Apple appeals to novice users, which brings in many false positives and frankly, stupid people. A dead hard drive will be diagnosed very quickly and checked in quickly. Convincing somebody their computer is not broken takes a lot longer, and slows down the whole process. This is sadly a necessary process. Geniuses often have to get and give a lot of information to people that don't understand computers.


Also, a sad fact of life is that everything breaks from time to time, even if it *is* a mac.

STeve
2006-03-26 14:53:59
You don't need a reservation to pick up a computer. Ever.


Just an FYI.


Also, Applecare has made a reservation for me over the phone for the genius bar. If you don't like the genius bar, why do you use it? All the places that you went to in "1996" are still there, doing the same thing. Get over yourself.

Tom Bridge
2006-03-26 15:47:35
Chuck would, I imagine, disagree, Aaron.


This doesn't change the fact that Apple doesn't have enough Geniuses to staff the stores they're opening. I've been contacted by recruiters several times to be a Genius, and frankly, with the pay they're offering, they're not going to get the best of the customer service market.


As for "STeve".... Many of the independent apple retailers that were on the market in 96 have left the market after Apple cut the legs out from under them.

Casey
2006-03-26 16:41:02
I agree with Aaron. Face to face help is rare. Also, a lack of planning on your part should not constitute an emergency on the genii part. Macs are man made items with moving parts, therefore prone to failure. Have a back-up machine to make the appt., & always backup your data!
Porkchop
2006-03-26 17:06:22
I have to agree the genius system seems to be getting slower as time goes on. Have they cut back on staffing or are they victims of their own success?


My last experience ended up well but began badly - I bought new memory for my first generation Al-book; they sold it to me, I installed it and my machine started crashing. After considerable research I discovered that the very first Al-books used an odd ball memory standard - and apparently even the "geniuses" needed convincing that, through no fault of my own, they had sold me the wrong RAM. What was really annoying was that they had to do the same kind of research I did - no one there had ever heard of "bus slewing memory" before.

Trevor
2006-03-26 18:36:55
I guess I'm in the minority here because I've had nothing but good experiences with the Genius Bar. I think that's because I know a trick: Never show up to the Apple Store on Saturday afternoon when it's full of people. Instead, wait until first thing in the morning and arrive soon after they open. You're likely to find hardly any customers there and can walk right up to the Genius Bar to get your problem looked at immediately.
Mactosix
2006-03-26 19:01:36
Having worked at an Apple Store in NJ, albeit not as a Genii, I have some insight into the back part of things as well as experience as a customer now that I no longer work there. Your laptops are not worked on by the Genii. They go in the back and get sent to a repair depot. What sucks for the Genii is that there are times they receive a "looper," which is a laptop to be sent out again because it was returned still defective.

In my view there are two major problems that slow down the GB Que and customers quality of repair. They are iPods and Retail. What? Retail, can that be a problem? You bet. As a retail store Apple set out to "change" and "think different" with how they would do retail. However, Apple didn't know a lot about the retail space. So, they brought in people who do. Ron Johnson, VP of operations or something, came from Target where he was a top level honcho. The look and the feel of the store comes from The Gap, who had another top level person come to work at Apple. Really what Apple did different in retail is to not sell t-shirts, as it were, that you can buy for $15 in Gap but $5 at Old Navy (of course they are owned by same company). I digress however on that part. As a retail store they are guided by Profit & Loss and just like other chains the best way for them to do that is operate on the fewest number of people (work hours) possible. This creates a lot of strain on the Genii staff especially. That and good number of Mac Specialists (the sales associates) probably have no more knowledge of Macs than what they learned after they were hired. Not that this makes those people "bad" but the stuff they are telling you is stuff they've been told to do. Look the big profits are made in .Mac and Applecare, which is why they try to bundle that into every computer sale. (FYI YOU GET 1 YR STANDARD, NOT 90 DAYS). Add to that managers who don't know Mac but only know dollars and sense you realize the Apple Store didn't change poop just found a different way of wrapping it up and selling it in a "lickable" pacakge. Sales Associates are measured on how many .Mac/Applecare attaches they get on a machine. They are tought to find the solution that fits a customer but oddly aren't measured on that. Genii are measured on turn around time, which does mean quicker repair, but not quality repair. You see the conflict of interest between what Apple stands for and what Retail has done to it.

Part 2: The iPod. You would not beleive the number of people who don't know how to operate an iPod. It's not the easiest thing in the world but if you have some basic computer knowledge then it should be usable. You also would not believe the number of iPods that people abuse and then waste your time in line because they couldn't take care of their $300 gadget. That is why the shuffle was made people! Last, and not least, there are a lot of defective iPods.

Essentially I feel that Apple Computer is still good and the OS is the reason I still use Macs in large part. Apple Retail, they are separate and not one in the same, has done a great job in broadening the Mac experience. After all, would iPod mania have been as huge if people couldn't walk into the "iPod Store" (yes, sacrilege I know but just stand in a store at holiday time and you'll hear it a lot). Their customer service is really good compared to most other retail stores and you don't see a Geek bar at Best Buy.

Apple used to say "rules like Profit & Loss be damned, people deserve the best! And they'll pay a little more for it." Which would mean more Genii and better service, well they would help at least. Now it seems that Apple Retail is damned to be ruled by P&L and you're still paying more for it. Don't believe me? Look how integrated .Mac is now and that doesn't down play the quality of it's service to those it serves but adds $100 to your purchase.

I am not disgruntled, just frustrated like other people here. Although this is cool I suggest people file their complaints at the "feedback" area for the stores. If there's one thing I've learned ... if someone at the top says move the people below amplify it until the person gets "satisfied." Now if only that could be amplified to help all people!
Christopher Smith
2006-03-26 19:57:59
All the really good geniuses have left Apple for better paying jobs. Apple does not pay enough for anyone with any real talent to work for them-at the retail Genius level. That said Apple should offer a better environment for it's employees if it wants to retain them. The fact is that Apple is crazy about paring back costs so there is worse quality of product and service as a result. Best to get an independent local guru to help with your Apple issues, someone like ME.
Shawn S.
2006-03-26 20:37:48
I've had nothing but excellent support from AppleCare. I had one PowerBook with a logic board problem. I called AppleCare, they gave me the option of going to the Genius bar or to overnight me a box to send it back to them for repair. I took the later, and received the box the next morning(Tuesday). Sent it overnight back to them that day. I received my repaired machine on Thursday. Now given the time just for travel I call that excellent service. I also had a problem with a bad board on an iMac G5, which Apple fixed by sending a person on-site to replace it. What more could your really ask for?
John
2006-03-26 22:06:18
My experiences at the Genius desk have been good. I schedule my visits ahead of time for before noon on a weekday. I try to have focused questions to ask. The results have been very good.
Matthew
2006-03-27 00:27:44
I've had no problems what so ever at the Genuis Bar. They have a system and I followed it and it worked. Plus I love the fact that I have someone to talk to and questions to ask about my computer or my iPod.
Dom M
2006-03-27 02:22:48
I had a Procare card for my Powerbook and iPod for the Regent St store. Being able to make appointments was the sole reason for it since otherwise it's almost impossible to get a slot at Regent St. There have been times that if you haven't got one by 11am, you won't get one that day.


It still didn't mean I got served any quicker. I once waited nearly an hour for an appointment to swap out some Apple headphones while the 'ad hoc' line for iPod queries moved much quicker. When I got to the head of the line, they said that they'd thought it was to do with the Powerbook so it would need more time - despite the appointment booking saying it was only to swap out headphones.


Don't get me wrong, I think the Genius Bar is a great concept and I appreciate the ability to see experts when I have a problem. But, the appointment system isn't great. There don't appear to be enough Genius slots available and Mac/iPod queries should be differentiated. There's nothing more frustrating that sitting there with your misbehaving £1500 Powerbook watching someone with a £49 iPod Shuffle being told that the flashing light means not to disconnect their device and restoring it would fix it.

MacNymph
2006-03-27 04:49:42
I've seen people wait as long as 3 hours to see a Genius in a store. But, that's not the worst of it. On at least 3 occassions I've heard an Apple Genius tell someone that they had to go to DriveSavers to get their valuable data off of their Macs. In each case, the machine was dead - or so it seemed. As two of the people were previous clients of mine, I took the machines, replaced the PRAM (or backup battery) and the machine was good as new.


THIS is a problem! Geniuses are not trained for any but the most recent Macs. If you go in with a Mac made prior to the stores opening, you may be told not only erroneous information, but blatently wrong information. Most 1998 to 2000 Macs that seem dead probably only need an internal battery - but these yokels don't even know that.


I'm not impressed with the Genius technical expertise, nor training. They only know the basics and how to run test CDs.


Also, many stores refuse to refer people, or ignore that they can be referred to local Mac consultants. If you're a pushy ASC member and visit a store regularly, you can get referrals, but otherwise forget it. Even the geniuses are only interested in selling you new stuff, not helping you with what you already own.

terrel
2006-03-27 06:20:47
I went to the apple store in albany NY with an ipod with a dead battery. The computer told us it would be an hour. I looked at the bar and there was no line: nobody. I said "you want me to wait an hour when there isn't even a line!? So he said "maybe 30 minutes". Still seeing my displeasure he added "maybe he (genius) stepped out for a little while". Needless to say I walked out.
matt
2006-03-27 07:03:50
Both of my Genius Bar experiences have been very positive. During my most recent trip, the guy in front of me was fuming about the fact that his visibly crushed iPod would not be covered. Good stuff!
rogerg
2006-03-27 08:07:46

In my experience, the Genius system is just the retail embodiment of Level 1 Technical Support - you can get the same brand of semi-skilled scepticism on the phone, the wait is shorter and you've no travel time.


As someone else has written, the salary and space constraints of a retail operation virtually guarantee this. Apple's equipment warranties, and the network they have in place to deliver warranty service, offer much greater cause for concern.


I've been a Mac systems integrator and developer, in the US and UK, for about twelve years; responsible for the specification and purchase of hundreds of thousands of dollars of Apple products and services, including XServe, and XRAID systems, and millions of dollars of IT equipment all told. I've been an ADC Select member now for a couple of years and, last October, I ordered a PowerMac Quad core through the ADC store.


I'd been using the machine for about two months when it started to shut down unexpectedly, and go into take off mode (fans blasting) in the middle of the night, for no apparent reason. Initially, I put this down to software issues, but one morning earlier this month, the machine refused to do anything other than circulate the air in my office, and so I called to arrange a repair.


After calling Technical Support, I was told that because I'd spent my $3K on a PowerMac instead of another PowerBook, my options were either to schlepp the machine to someplace twenty miles away (which would mean hiring a car), or fork over 200 Sterling to get onsite service (which, it turned out, simply involved having my machine picked up and shipped to Surrey) via the Applecare extended warranty. I paid the fee, although I thought it was a flat out hustle, and the courier showed up the next day. So, I was already very annoyed, but at least repair seemed imminent.


Next day, I had a polite call from the engineer (at Amsys), letting me know that it was a simple problem (CPU B had malfunctioned), and that he'd have the machine back to me in the next two days. Not great, but tolerable.


A week after pickup, however, not having heard from anyone, I called Technical Support again to find that the crucial part was/is on order, and that it had no estimated ship date. I was essentially told, "We don't know when we'll get 'round to fixing your machine, and we don't think taking an indefinite period (longer than a week) to fix it is unreasonable, so shut up and go wait in the corner." After I made clear that this was not reasonable, I was told, after the obligatory ten minutes on hold, that Customer Relations had said I was at the front of the line. That made me feel so much better that I filed a complaint.


After another week had passed without any an update, I called again. This time, at least someone apologised for the delay, but went off once again to talk to Customer Relations. When they came back, they told me that the parts might be arriving at the warehouse this weekend, and that my machine would therefore, probably, be back in my hands this Wednesday - THREE WEEKS after it left me.


One week: not great. Two weeks: really disruptive. But three weeks (probably): totally ludicrous, especially when you consider that it would take less than THREE DAYS to acquire a new machine from Apple (in the UK).


So three weeks without a top of the range machine which was barely out of its first quarter, no contact after the initial diagnosis, and a bit of high handedness from Technical Support, has me considering my options in this brave new, all Intel, world.


And this is not an isolated incident. I and my customers have had similar experiences in the past. If Apple's defect rate was very much lower than the rest of the industry, I'd care less. However, every other machine I have purchased from them in the last five years has required repair within the first year (I've bought a PowerBook and a PowerMac a year on average), and a number of the products certain clients of mine bought by the dozen (the 14" iBook G3, for example) ALL had to be repaired in the same timeframe (probably owing to a design flaw).


One firm I worked with owned 30 such iBooks and each had to go off twice (on average) in a three year period, to have the logic board replaced, and each repair took five working days or more. That amounted to about a machine-year of lost use, triggered countless hours of third party support and increased costs further because of the need for a fair-sized spares pool.


...


If I buy a Pro product, I should get Pro level support for at least the first year of ownership, whether it's a laptop or a desktop. That means, I shouldn't have to wait three weeks for a simple issue to be fixed, and I shouldn't be asked to pay for an extended warranty because Apple doesn't want to bear the cost of a few additional kilos of freight (especially when most other vendors pay shipping or have someone show up, and the service network is relatively sparse).


More generally, Apple should include (or at least offer) industry standard warranties with all their products, and ensure that their service network can deliver quality work, on time. If they don't, they'll find customers who would buy equipment in volume backing off, and the accumulation of once burned consumers spending fewer dollars with the company.


Cool doesn't cut it these systems go into failure mode.

nhmacusr
2006-03-27 08:11:22
It has been my experience at the Genius bar that the people working have been curteous and knowledgable. I made my appointment in advance of leaving my home. Being able to check the cue from anywhere is a plus. I avoid the Apple Store on weekends at all cost. I also found that doing a little homework and getting myself prepared before the trip helps speed things up. It is the people in line that dump the hardware on the counter and say 'broke. fix it.' that really slow up the cue. I alway have printouts of log files and screen shots handy before I go. Being able to explain the trouble concisely is a big help.


One thing they do at my local Apple Store is screen the walkins with the staff first. This helps weed out the real problems from user error and just plain questions. Especially with the iPods.



I do see some room for complaint, however, from the people with Pro Care cards. If I paid to have better service, I would expect it. Either Apple isn't clear with the terms explaining what you get with the Pro Care card or they aren't delivering.


chuck goolsbee
2006-03-27 10:50:07
I wasn't really "steamed"... so much as disappointed.


My point overall is that Apple going into direct retail did two things: Killed off a large percentage of the small regional service & support outlets. Replaced them with what is probably a better SALES channel, but a worse SERVICE (meaning repair) channel.


As for the person who commented that you don't need a reservation to pickup a repair, re-read my story. That is exactly what I was told when I informed a store employee that I was there to pick up my repaired powerbook.


--chuck goolsbee
seattle, wa


jason
2006-03-27 12:15:11
Yup, spent 3 hours in the chestnut hill apple store to drop off my g5. Despite all the effort I made before hand checking the system, printing out all the panic logs, etc. they had the machine for a week, claimed there wasn't anything wrong with it but would do me a favor by not charging me a diagnostic fee.... Unsatisfied, I submitted the daily panic logs to apple... escalated to the engineering team. They told me was certainly a hardware problem, bring it to the apple store for repair!!!
Long story short, call applecare, don't bother going to an applestore.
robb
2006-03-27 13:07:33
I only do applecare over the phone and through the mail. I live in Brooklyn and when the Apple Service person tells me to take it to the Genius Bar to get service I simply tell them that I will not due to a terrible experience I had previously. They will then send you a box (a la 1996.) The four times I've done this I had my powerbook back within a week.
Lekun
2006-03-30 16:31:30
First, you could just use the online/phone system for repair. That is your only option if you buy practically any other computer than an Apple. They put in these stores and provide genius bars where anyone can get their computer issues solved.


But obviously that has some drawbacks for speed and efficiency. That doesn't mean the system is broken. Dropping off a computer for repair doesn't require Genius Bar attention so call 1800 SOS APPL; if you want the luxury of dropping off your computer with a person, be prepared to put up with all the ineffecient reasons that lead to NO OTHER computer manufacturer making anything like the Genius Bar for their products.

Chris Mear
2006-03-30 16:47:09
Was the Genius Bar ever really supposed to be a first-line support desk for serious technical problems? When they first introduced, I got the impression that it was a tips and advice place, and if you had an actual fault with your machine you should take it up through the existing support channels.


As a lightweight tips and advice service, a walk-up bar is a good format. But as a primary support line for faulty products, it's a horrible idea.

David
2006-04-01 07:46:11
Upon reading all of the comments left here about Apple Genius Bar, I thought it important to add my own experience to it in the hopes that perhaps it might help to get Apple's attention. One would hope that someone in Apple monitors the Mac Dev Center, as it surely must be one of the best sources of feedback about all things Apple.


My experience falls largely into the category of 'zero feedback initiated by Apple' and 'very slow response time' in comparison to other prominent hardware manufacturers (such as Dell).


The experience started out with my discovery of the death of my 20" G5 iMac. Upon calling Apple Support, I was directed to the Genius Bar at one of my local stores. And I was told, I COULD NOT MAKE THE APPOINTMENT OVER THE PHONE (yes, caps intended, I AM shouting here!). Neither with the Apple Support person nor with someone at the store. I had to do it on-line!


I would imagine that most iMac houses are one-machine houses, which means that there would be no ability to go on-line and make such an appointment. Indeed, for a second, I panicked because I thought I couldn't do it either. Luckily, I still had an old PC running FreeBSD... but only after I had installed enough additional software on it to run a web browser!!! (i.e., installed X.org, xfce, firefox) What would I have done otherwise? Gone to the store itself to make an appointment using one of their demo machines, and then have to wait there for the appointment? It seemed to me that it was nearly impossible ever to get an appointment on the same day--and forget about scheduling and getting a weekend appointment on the same day.


Requiring this of customers simply cannot be a tenable long-term approach. If anything, perhaps this blog will convince Apple that they must provide customers who have dead machines with the ability to make Genius Bar appointments over the phone. (Perhaps they have in the mean time... thankfully I haven't needed to interface with the Genius Bar system since this first time.)


After making the appointment and dropping off the machine, of course I was given no assurance of a repair date or parts availability. This seems to be par for the course from all the postings I've read. My confidence in having a good warranty repair experience was steadily declining at this point.


One week later, with still no word from Apple, I called the Apple Store where I had left my machine for status. They could provide nothing more than than rogerg's, "We don't know when we'll get 'round to fixing your machine, and we don't think taking an indefinite period (longer than a week) to fix it is unreasonable, so shut up and go wait in the corner."


Of course, this wasn't acceptable to me and I demanded to speak with a manager (who turned out to be someone in Customer Relations). They said under official policy that I would have to wait *10 days* before I could escalate the issue--which seemed to me to be the only way to expedite the delivery of a needed part.


Indeed, the Genius Bar was unable (or perhaps unwilling) even to tell me what part was causing the delay. Only after long waits on hold and only after pressing the Customer Relations individual was I able to ascertain that what was originally supposed to be a power supply replacement had grown to include the main logic board that had been taken down by the faulty power supply.


Interestingly, the Customer Relations individual also offered to see what she could do "informally" to speed things up. She offered this to me as a choice: did I wish to proceed? "Well, of course!" I replied... who wouldn't take such an offer when desperately needing their computer back! My question no is, why wouldn't they just do this on their own as a matter of course? Didn't anyone at Apple realize that one week repair time is probably not acceptable? Was anyone using their common sense to figure out how to make any repair experience acceptable to a customer?


By the 11th day, July 28, I received my computer back... and it has remained faithful ever since.


After writing my experience and reading all the others to date, it seems to me that a number of issues are all combining to create such an abysmal customer service experience. The lack of personnel and conflicting priorities work to create a Genius Bar environment that seems to anger people more than it does solve their problems. The lack of information throughout the entire repair process reduces the experience down from the already lack-luster start to an adversarial one in which the customer has to demand from Apple the service which was so easily and glowingly promised up-front at purchase time. Finally, Apple's defect rate is far too high for the prices paid for hardware and service agreements. Indeed, customers are willing to pay more to obtain a supposedly "superior computing experience", but then reality hits and they feel betrayed.


I find myself in a very uncomfortable position. One the one hand, I love OS X, and I am addicted to the almost perfect integration between OS and hardware of all Apple computers. I can't imagine going back to Windows. On the other, I am very wary of Apple's high defect rate and poor post-sales customer service. It will make my next decision to buy Apple far more difficult.

David
2006-06-16 19:28:32
I have used the genius bar on 5 differnt occasion. 4 out 5 times the expierince has been bad. most recent, my ibook apparently would not read dvd-r.I was told repeatly that I should buy a new computer by the genius bar. I repeatly said I dont want to buy a new computer. My ibook was reading every other fromat except for DVD-r.I then asked about buying an external dvd burning(the Lacie that apple carrys in thier sotre). I guy went off on some holier than now tagent I CANT TALK ABOUT THAT, I ONLY KNOW ABOUT APPLE PRODUCTS,AND CANT GUARANTEE THE EXTERNAL BURNER WOULD EVEN WORK. and for the fourth time he said I should buy a new computer.


buy the way I bought the lacie external burner(not from apple and all the burnt dvd-r would perfect reading from my ibook.

Rich Bodo
2006-06-17 17:48:19
ProCare needs a little work.


I just purchased ProCare. Scheduling an appointment on the apple procare site is a pointless operation. The web app is completely broken. You have to go through a long flash menu system, entering in your id and email, only to find that every single appointment time fails. I went through thinking all the appointments I was looking at were booked. Must have been a couple dozen over half an hour. DON'T BOTHER!


Instead, call Apple tech support, wait the 15 minutes on hold (hope you have a headset!) and beg someone to set up an appointment. If you are lucky, you'll get someone who can do it. Took me half an hour on the phone going through menus and humans to get this done. Man, that was a pain!


Has anyone else had this much trouble? Do their web apps ever work? For now, I would have to say, save your money on ProCare and read books. Much better for your longetivity.


Pat
2006-09-06 13:46:56
You can't even make a reservation at the bar! I have been trying for three weeks to get a reservation at any store within driving range of DC - they all give the same error message that due to "unexpected" volume, they are unable to help me. Three weeks without internet because I did the recommended software update that for some reason cut off my internet access! I'm at my wits' end.
Eric
2006-09-12 11:15:08
I am also really frustrated and disappointed with the "Genius Bar". I had to drop off my PowerMac G5 there yesterday (which I purchased from them). I've been having problems with this system (It was Refurbished) since I bought it. I purchased AppleCare, so they seemed indifferent to the fact that my Hard Drive is completely screwed up and just suggested that I do a Clean Install (which I have already had to do a couple of times already). I practically had to plead with them to do a diagnostic test, run a 'tune-up', and reinstall the software themselves (In case the problem was caused from my software). Then, the 'genius' behind the bar started trying to push the 'Procare' service to me. This really got to me; they sell me a defective product and then try to push me into paying more money (Shoudn't AppleCare be sufficient), so that I'll be able to get my system back bfore people who didn't purchase it, and won't have to wait in line when I make an apaointment. Isn't that the purpose of making an apointment, so you don't have to wait in line?


I have been a loyal customer to Apple for the past eight years, and everytime I have the slightest problem and go to the 'Genius Bar' to get it resolved, I am told immediately that the product is too damaged (without even taking offering to thouroughly check it out, which I would have gladly paid for) and that they can give me a 10% discount to exchange it.


Instead of focussing so much on pushing 'Procare', maybe it's time to focus on what was originally intended: On solving issues with customers who purchased their products. Oh, and since they're so strict about us being on time for our appointments, how about practicing a bit of professionalism and be available to assist us for the time that we took to actually make the appointment. We shouldn't have to buy our way to the front of the line!

imparare
2007-04-15 00:58:53
Interesting comments.. :D
Brian
2007-07-13 00:38:03
I recently had a dvd drive replacement under warranty repair. It took them two tries to fix it, then on the 2nd try they broke my internal mic. Then they mis ordered they new part for the mic, and now its taking 5_ days to fix the mic. So after seven trips and many hours waiting, I still don't have a working computer. Apple store, you fail at customer service.
SS
2007-08-05 03:29:00
Went to a UK apple store last week, with a laptop where the keyboard was extremely slow and lagged behind typing. I myself am not no record breaking typist but feel I type at the average speed of most. However taking the Macbook Pro to the the genius bar I was old he could not see the problem so theres nothing he could do. Basically he had the full attitude of 'i don't believe you'. So he suggested I archive and install to solve the problem. Thanks to his marvellous knowledge and 'expert' advice the laptop keyboard is no longer in function. Spending an hour and a half on the phone to applecare who I must say was purely excellent... Regent Street need the people from the telephones working there. He suggested the laptop should have been taken in when it originally was taken to the genius bar as now it is a complete hardware fault as the keyboard no longer functions and the computer has the ongoing sound of a pressed key. Now the problem is so bad I am unable to backup the files I need on my laptop due to the same problem effecting mouse which no longer works, both trackpad and bluetooth accessories.