Apple’s Genius Bar Must Be Serving Stiff Cocktails

Because some of the employees behind it seem delirious.

My monitor is an Apple Cinema HD 23”. It’s on the fritz – when I try to wake it up in the morning (or after any downtime more than a few hours) it takes anywhere from several minutes to several hours to turn back on. It isn’t just the backlight – when it’s dead, USB and Firewire ports are inoperable, and even the power switch fails to react. Sometimes the caps lock light on the keyboard (attached to the USB in said monitor) blinks while the monitor is black. It’s got a lot of AppleCare warranty left on it, but I’m not sure that really matters.

I’ve called the service/support line several times. They moved me to a product specialist in each case, and we carefully outlined troubleshooting steps. They ruled out any trouble with the MacBook Pro it’s generally attached to, and a visit to one of Apple’s Genius Bars was the latest suggestion.

As it turns out, my visit to the Apple Store in Cherry Creek turned out to be a sheer and utter waste of time.

Some highlights:

– The kid helping me, Travis, was quick to point out that waiting around for a $900 monitor’s backlight to come on was pretty normal. Sure it is, kid. Either he’s staring at ten year old Compaq monochomes while playing Doom(-1) in his parents’ basement, or he was just exercising his “genius.” Likely the latter.

– The kid also noted that I couldn’t possibly “be trying to scam him out of a new monitor.” Nice. All I could think to myself was why the hell anyone would want to get a new monitor, of the exact same model, if their’s worked perfectly fine? Apple hasn’t updated these monitors in years and if someone has AppleCare there is a pretty good chance they’ve got more warranty left than they’d get with a new one. Maybe the kid was just being a “genius.” As an added point, this particular monitor is completely free of dead pixels and has only minor ghosting/bleeding, not something many owners of similar equipment can brag about (read the Apple reviews to find out more). Why would I want to give that up? Thanks…I wouldn’t.

– Also behind the Genius Bar was another gent, a bit older fellow named Craig, that was listening in on the conversation. When the kid asked him what he thought, this yabbo starts into a tirade, directed at me, about how if they couldn’t replicate the problem exactly as described they would be wasting their time and money shipping it back and forth for repair. Thanks. I guess I was already wasting my time packing the monitor up in it’s factory case, driving to the mall, hauling up two flights of stairs and into the Apple Store. And along with the Macbook Pro I was told by customer care to bring along, just in case. I was left wondering what kind of “genius” would blather in such a way to an existing customer who just hauled in equipment he’d paid roughly $4,000 for. Instantaneous answer – someone behind the Genius Bar.

Let’s note…the customer care people rocked, laying out plenty of troubleshooting ideas which we tried day after day. Their solution of last resort was visiting the store, and only because they knew I wasn’t interesting in waiting weeks for a resolution. Also, the phone folks were pretty specific – I should note my case number when I brought the equipment in so the people helping me could review the related case notes first. I asked the kid three times…”you need the case number?” He said no, twice, and then noted on the last inquiry that they could get the case notes via the serial number of the monitor. Of course, the Genius Bar Work Authorization had no “steps to reproduce” printed on it, and I left the store fairly certain that I’ll soon be back to square one.

And sure enough I was right. Apple called me just before closing the following day to tell me my monitor was ready for pickup. I ran down there only to find them claiming they couldn’t replicate the problem. Right. A quick discussion with ol’ Craig, who babbled incessantly about all the unsuccessful troubleshooting steps they had performed, uncovered the following:

– The geniuses plugged the monitor into a MacPro, not a MacBook Pro. Call me crazy, but one could surmise the two machines have different video cards. Someone who is completely insane might also think that MacPros and MacBook Pros behave different when a Cinema display is plugged into them, particular in laptop dual-video mode (seeing as MacPros don’t operated in laptop dual-video modes because they…uh…aren’t laptops).

– The geniuses stated they could not provide documentation of the troubleshooting steps performed, because they didn’t actually document the steps.

– The geniuses stated that they never looked up the case number customer care told me to give them. They said they produced a new case number when items come in – so much for continuity in troubleshooting.

– Master genius Craig was beligerent as ever, yapping (again) in no uncertain terms that if I couldn’t document the precise steps required to produce the problem, then there was nothing they could do. This of course came out of his trap after the grand admission that they didn’t review the existing case, and didn’t plug the display into a relevant machine. So much for precise troubleshooting.

I leave you with a lovely picture of my dead display. I’m not worried – it’ll come on sometime soon, as in maybe when I get back from lunch actually dinner (as the photo was taken immediately after returning from lunch – and the display did turn on again, roughly five minutes after awakening the laptop).


UPDATE: A few days later, I get a chance to call customer care again. They are once again quite helpful – the senior support person I talked with says this issue screams of “power board failure,” and the display is now on it’s way to repair.

UPDATE 2: The display came back – two parts wound up being replaced. All seems good again. As for the “genius” bar visit – confirmed – a sheer and utter waste of time.

UPDATE 3: But…I spoke too soon. Same problem still exists (and a problem that doesn’t exist with another monitor in its place). I now suspect it’s a power supply issue.

LAST UPDATE: Called customer care. Again. They sent a new power adapter. Plugged it in, and sent the old one back. Five days running, no problem. To think, Apple spent roughly three hours on the phone with me, sent me to the dummy bar, shipped me a box, paid for shipping out and back, and replaced two parts, with no resolution. Then, a stupid little white brick of a power adapter turns out to be the problem. I’ll bet they spent $650 to satisfy the warranty service on a monitor that retails for $900, when they could have just started with the most obvious issue…a power issue. I’m grateful it’s over, but there’s a bigger point at hand – I’d venture to guess that as Apple gains popularity, linearly, their warranty service issues are going to grow, multiplicatively (if not exponentially).

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