Technology FAIL

After the weekend’s high of singing Mahler, it was down to Earth with a bump today, as I found myself doing battle with the Macbook and Apple’s UK operations.

It started when it didn’t start, so to speak.  That is to say, the laptop screen remained resolutely blank, no matter what I did.  In other matters the machine seemed OK: turning it off and then powering up gave the characteristic startup sound and the disc spun into motion, but nothing on the screen.

Shining a bike light on it close up revealed the faint apple logo, indicating that it is in fact the backlight that failed (dammit, why can’t I get a laptop with e-ink screen?)  And given that for a few days I’ve had intermittent issues with it going blank when adjusting the screen angle, it seems likely to be a connection that’s at fault.

In a desktop context I would of course expect to identify and fix or replace the faulty component fairly easily.  In a laptop, my reaction is to take it to the professionals and hope they can do something within the bounds of my bank balance.  So I googled for Apple UK store.  That got me their online store, but no hint of a store locator!  I know there’s a store in Exeter, but even typing “Exeter” into Apple UK’s search box drew a blank.

Come on Apple.  What’s the use of physical shops if you won’t tell us how to find or contact them?

Phoning Apple UK’s number from the site got me eventually to a human.  He started by insisting on my serial number, then told me in accusatory terms that the computer belonged to someone completely different.  A nasty moment was resolved when it turned out he’d misheard a single “B” as “D”, and Apple’s database does indeed list me as owner of my macbook.  But isn’t it alarming that valid serial numbers should differ only by something so easily confusable?  If the other machine had been reported lost/stolen, they could’ve been accusing me of theft!

Having got through that, the man was friendly and helpful enough, but couldn’t answer my question: whether it would be worth my while to take it to an apple store.  I mean, if they can fix it for £50 then great – well worth the time and trouble of taking it in.  But if they charge £50 to tell me they can’t do anything – or that they would charge a further £500 – I should be well p***ed off.  Of course he wasn’t going to diagnose it on the phone, but I’d hoped he’d at least have a feel for whether this class of problem could usually be fixed or whether I was wasting my time.

He did give me a phone number for a Plymouth store called Stormfront, which is my nearest Apple dealer.  Phoning that number got altogether more bizarre.  Their menu tells me to select one of just two options, but after selecting either option, nothing happens.  Until, after about a minute, a tone indicates the call has died.  Googling the Plymouth store found a second ‘phone number, but that got me exactly the same thing.  Seems the Plymouth store isn’t contactable: so much for their technology!  I’ve emailed them, but no great expectation of that going anywhere more productive than the ‘phone.

Should I just try and fix it myself?  If it’s anything like a loose connection, I’m in contention for the world’s worst person with a soldering iron.  Unfortunately I don’t know how much I’ve got to lose (or rather, to gain compared to writing it off by taking it to someone competent).  Bah, Humbug.

Posted on September 17, 2012, in apple. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Reading your unfortunate tale has just prompted me to do a full backup of my own MacBook before it does something similar!

  2. Pro tip: googling ‘apple store exeter’ turns up the address, phone number, and a map, without having to click on any of the links. It’s important to leave out the ‘uk’, apparently, because that triggers Google to go into its oh-so-helpful “THIS is what you need” mode.

    As a workaround, is it feasible to use an external monitor?

    I fully sympathise about the support call experience. I’ve been pretty much accused of theft and piracy more than once by c**ts like that over the phone when I’ve been desperate enough to call for help. Experiences like that are, I think, built into the system on purpose, to train users that helplines are a very last resort, and a completely pointless trip to Exeter to have the same conversation face to face is a preferable option.

  3. vet, yes, the story is actually incomplete. I had already phoned the exeter number when I made the call to the national number. Gave up on the Exeter one after some time queueing, with no indication of time-to-queue. The decision was helped by the fact that the national line was freephone, while the Exeter call was at my expense.

    Yet another technology fail seems to be my ‘phone line, which has become seriously noisy – as one might perhaps expect if calling a war zone on another continent. Since I get the noise in both phones, I naturally suspect the line, but a BT line check says no. I guess my ADSL kit could be another suspect: will investigate further if necessary.

  4. Just an aside on phone numbers, if I use my mobile, the Exeter Apple store is free (or, rather, included in the tariff) but I pay to use “freephone” numbers – the precise opposite to my (and your) land line. That’s why I tend to phone most folks on my mobile (unless there’s an 08xx or similar involved). Why do they make life so complicated? Maybe this is deliberate too, so that people don’t know whether their call is “free” or not, but just phone anyway in the hope that it might be!

  1. Pingback: New laptop | niq's soapbox

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