About 8 months ago I purchased a Macbook Pro for my lovely wife. She had been slaving away on my trusty [old] DELL Latitude. It was still running Windows 2000 and was essentially a boat anchor.
As the IT guy in our house, a role I hope to turn over to my 5 year old son [someday], I am supposed to fix her laptop when it breaks. It would break often for many reasons.
Using my snazzy ITIL skills, I applied meticulous problem management to the dozens of incidents. I figured out that Windows sucks for the home user. Way too many updates, way to fragile for anyone not trained in the Microsoft strategy of all-of-our-users-are-actually-part-of-our-QA-team.
I had admired Apple computers for a long time. I really began to use them at University, but I never owned one. They were usually too expensive. By the time I graduated and got my first software engineering job, I became enamored with Linux. I forgot about Apple and became a Linux wizard.
After spending about 5 hours de-worming my wife’s DELL, the next day something else broke. I think it was the network card. This laptop was built [gasp] before the days of in-built wireless. I went to get a new PCMCIA network card and instead dropped $2400 on the Macbook. My reasons were simple: she needed a new computer for work and I was sick of dealing with Windows.
One amazing thing about my wife is her ability to test the limits of any warranty. She is a normal person who doesn’t know the gruesome underbelly of Information Technology. I know that computers will break if you sneeze too hard. Especially fragile are those marketed and built for consumers. I am lucky to get the ‘business class’ laptops from DELL that [ahem] cost as much as a Macbook Pro.
Since she is not sensitized to the fragility of the machine, she is not extra, super careful like me and stuff breaks. This is an indictment on computer makers, not her…
In any case, I have learned to pay for the ‘extended warranty’. I used to resent it until I realized that she is acting rationally in her expectation that a) it should just work and b) she may break it by accident or whatever. But, I finally I realized that I would actually save money by paying for support up front. Apple’s extended warranty also had some other nice features in terms of priority support and response. I know this is the business model of computer manufacturers but that is probably a topic for another post.
A few months later, we began to have problems with her power adapter. It was heating up abnormally. I took it to a local Apple store for her. I was blown away at the friendliness of the staff. they replace the adapter with no cost to us, even though it was not covered under the extended warranty.
I convinced her to use OpenOffice for her legal documents – she’s a corporate attorney. It worked OK, but some of the features she uses such as ‘track changes’ were buggy when she would exchange files with colleagues running Microsoft Office. So, back to the Apple store [near my work] to purchase Office 2007 for the Mac. Again the store help was friendly and happy to help.
I have shopped at CompUSA, Best Buy, and MicroCenter. Never was the staff friendly or helpful. Mostly, they were not trained enough and usually my knowledge of IT equipment from work meant I was luckily self-sufficient. The Apple store help [two different stores] were all magnificently helpful and friendly.
Lately, the adapter was acting up again and we decided it was not the new cord, but something on the laptop itself. Then, my 11 month-old daughter grabbed the LCD and essentially short-circuited it. Ouch. No warranty will cover ‘acts of infants’.
So we took the laptop back to the Apple store and hoped for the best. The power adapter port was faulty and would be replaced for free. The LCD was on our dime [I will take it out of my 11 month-old daughter's allowance!] and it was $700 to replace. Ouch again!
The genius bar guy did not have a replacement LCD in his store and my wife pleaded to get one asap as she has a lot of work this week and cannot be sans laptop. We started making other plans to get an external monitor so she could at least work this week. We went back to the Apple store and the tech had already located another screen and it was on its way to the store now, about 15 minutes after she left it with a 2-3 day repair turn-around.
Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., no one should be working but most retail stores are open. So, the Apple people found a new LCD, had it driven to their store and installed it – in less than 4 hours. Try getting that kind of service from DELL or HP. Forget it because it won’t happen.
Oh yeah, one other item. The tech also determined that her keyboard was faulty [on it's way to a break] and replaced it as well. This would have cost another $500 as the keyboard is part of the shell of the laptop [the metal case] but thankfully was covered by the extended warranty.
My wife picked up the computer 4 hours later, happy as a clam that she would be ready for work this week. I am [relatively] happy that the $1200 repair bill was only $700 so the $350 extended warranty just paid for itself. I am sure there will be more uses of the extended warranty in the next 2.4 years.
Beyond the financials, my wife is satisfied that she can take her computer to the Apple store where the employees are genuine and do not talk down to her [since she's not an IT gal]. She feels capable that she can now deal with issues on the laptop without calling me in a panic at work.
Yes, the Macbook is expensive – more expensive than most Windows computers. Yes it costs more [a lot more] to repair. We are willing to pay a little extra to avoid the aggravation of getting repairs and the friendly Apple store employees sure help when things go awry.
Contrast that to the average experience of a Windows user. Case in point is our nanny, Kara. She has a nice Gateway laptop, running Windows XP. It’s one of those writing tablets. Sure enough, it needed a repair. She had to send it back to Gateway for repairs. She’s out for at least a week.
So, kudos to Apple for treating people like people, instead of unrealistically expecting them to understand IT. A lot of other computer companies could learn from Apple’s strategy.