The Ordeal of Repairing a MacBook Air without (Extended) Warranty!

I’m sooooo glad I finally managed to get my MacBook Air repaired! Oh gosh… The past month has been a HUGE nightmare. What happened was that the charging circuit in my laptop corroded due to daily use and Singapore’s ridiculous humidity levels. I suppose part of the problem is that I bring my laptop out with me everywhere I go, every single day. It reached a point where it refused to charge every now and then. By December, the laptop just wouldn’t charge anymore!

It’s really bad timing because I’m in the midst of rushing through my thesis and I’ve actually lost several days of productivity simply because my laptop won’t charge, the battery would go flat, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. And no, I don’t think sacrificing apples to the revered founder would do any good either.

To make matters worse, my laptop is only 15 months old – my one-year warranty just expired! I really regret not buying the 3-year extended warranty. I always take good care of my gadgets, and they can usually last me for as long as 3-5 years (my digital camera lasts me almost 8 years!) So I thought, why bother?

Haha… Well, now I know! Here’s why:

When my laptop problem got really bad, I went online to look for a third-party repair shop that would get the job done without destroying my laptop. I found one at Tannery Lane (Macpherson/Potong Pasir area). Their website said that they specialise in MacBook Air repairs and they even published many wonderful feedback from their customers. Looks reputable, right?

(UPDATE 16 Dec 2014: Another unfortunate customer got in touch with me to tell me about his ordeal. Turns out that stupid company changed its name. Anyway, be careful – if you find an Apple/iphone/Macbook repair shop there, avoid it like the plague!)

Wrong!

I sent in my laptop. The boss of the repair shop told me that they had to replace the corroded charging circuit. It’ll cost about $400+. Add labour, another $100. When I asked why does it cost so much, he said that the charging circuit belongs to the same BIG circuit board with several other components. To replace the corroded charging circuit, I had to replace everything on that board. Well, Apple does have a reputation of having expensive parts, and since I was told that the board was sooooo big and thus the price, I guess paying $500+ in total was justified.

Reluctantly, I agreed.

Several days later, I went back to the shop and was presented with a working laptop that could charge quite well.

They repair guys were nice enough to show me the circuit that they had replaced. It was about 2cm x 4cm. I asked the boss for an explanation. “Didn’t you tell me that the cost of replacement was $400+ because the circuit board was big?”

Oh my goodness, the idiot started trying to wiggle his way out by pretending not to have any idea about what I was talking about!

“Yeah! It’s a circuit board!”

“Yeah! It’s a component!”

“I don’t remember what I told you, but yeah! It’s a component of the motherboard! If you want, I can change your motherboard for you, but that will cost you another $1000!”

I didn’t even talk about changing the motherboard! He kept pretending not to know what I was talking about.

This irritated the hell out of me, and I kinda lost my cool, “HOW DO YOU JUSTIFY THAT THIS SMALL PIECE OF PLASTIC COSTS $400+?!?!?!?”

The idiot boss started cooking up stories about how he had to order the circuit direct from the US over the past few days. Very funny. I don’t believe that at all because (1) it was over Christmas and I don’t think he could have gotten the parts so quickly (and for that matter, been willing to pay an exorbitant freight cost for a one-day delivery from US to Singapore, and (2) for a shop that specialises in MacBook Air repairs, it doesn’t make sense that they constantly order parts from the US each time a customer comes in with a repair request.

I told him that if that’s the case, he could easily show me some black-and-white evidence of the price of the parts and the delivery cost. If he could show me proof, then I wouldn’t mind paying the high cost of repair.

Guess what? The boss refused. He said, “I cannot show it to you.”

So I told him, “If you cannot show me any proof, how do I know that you’re not lying? How do I know that you’re not overcharging me and all your other customers?”

At that point, the boss realised that I saw through his lies. He lost his cool and started yelling too. “YOU SAY ‘LIE’ ONE MORE TIME AND I WILL SUE YOU FOR DEFAMATION!!!”

Anyway, he started to change the entire story. Now it’s not about the price of parts and over-charging. Now, he’s rhetoric was about how much do you value the service. “When you signed the agreement contract, you saw value in our work and you were willing to pay that much for the value we give.”

What nonsense! The only reason why I agreed was because he conned me into believing that I had to pay for a huge board replacement. I took his word for it since he said that his company serviced so many MacBook Air customers. If that’s the case, he should be pretty familiar with how the parts look, right?

Apparently not.

As our heated argument continued, he repeatedly threatened to sue me again and again when I pointed out that his story was inconsistent.

Anyway, his ultimatum was – you either take it and pay up, or we’ll put back the problematic parts and you’ll get a refund (minus the $100 deposit). He then tried to con me into taking it and paying it up – because that little 2cm x 4cm circuit is, apparently, in high demand by other MacBook Air customers. LIES! Once again. If it’s so high in demand, he would have ordered in bulk and not made a special order during the Christmas period just for me. And for that matter, he wouldn’t have said that my refusal to pay the unjustified price (and have a refund) would cost his company a huge loss. That makes absolutely no sense!

In the end, the idiot boss realised that I saw through all of his lies and he refunded me entirely (probably to shut me up), while he got his men to put back my corroded circuit.

One thing I noticed while waiting and observing how they serviced the other customers, was this – not a single one of their staff knew the prices of parts. Whenever a price quotation was required, the boss will come out (not even holding a file) and he’ll just throw out some numbers. This is VERY problematic! Where’s the transparency. So what if you hired really nice customer service staff, and your shop can repair products? If you over-price every single thing at ridiculous levels, it’s not an ethical business! They’re already charging for labour separately. So they have absolutely no right to increase the price of parts to ridiculously high levels.

I actually told the boss off that what he was doing was unethical. Again, he threatened to sue me for using that word. “Say that one more time and I’ll sue you!” Gosh… So touchy! What an idiot. I’m disgusted by this person.

Anyway, I got back my laptop in its previous condition. Thankfully, they weren’t that evil as to sabotage my laptop.

How did I survive and blog without a working laptop?

With this!

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Despite my misgivings with Samsung and how they handled my case (and other people’s cases), they finally replaced my defective Galaxy Tab 2 with a working one. The good news is that after I waged a PR campaign against their horrendous after-sales care online, Samsung made it a point to improve the way they handled customers (a marked improvement – they’re more responsive now). That’s nice.

Anyway, I got a bluetooth keyboard for my Tab, and I’ve been using it almost like a laptop for the past few days.

In the mean time, I was painfully trying to weigh the options – buy a new one, buy a second-hand one, or try to repair it elsewhere?

Yesterday, I went down to Sim Lim Square hoping to find some answers.

Lo and behold! I did! There’s a shop on the 6th floor called, “PCPRO” and they were selling MacBooks both unopened sets (but old editions) and refurbished ones. I soon discovered that they do repairs as well! In fact, the lady was very nice. She said that I can leave my laptop with them and within 2 hours, I can get it back with the corroded circuit replaced.

Best of all, the thing only costs $100+! Add the cost of labour and everything, it amounted to $230. I told her the ridiculous price that the idiot boss quoted me, and she was startled! “Since when was the part so expensive?!?!?!?”

Sure, MacBook parts are costly, but not THAT costly!

There’s a website that sells replacement parts for MacBook Air. As it turns out, the thing costs only USD$99.95 (approx. SGD$140) (You can see it here: http://www.ifixit.com/MacBook-Parts/MacBook-Air-11-Inch-Mid-2011-I-O-Board/IF108-024)

It’s a far cry from the $400+ price that the idiot boss quoted me. He’s charging me double, almost triple the cost of the part!

Well, it’s confirmed – that idiot boss is clearly a cheat! It’s disgusting that such people exist!

In a few hours, I returned and received a laptop that could charge up once again. Oh gosh… A huuuuuge relief! That’s one place I’ll recommend my friends to go if their MacBook has problems. Avoid the one in the Potong Pasir/MacPherson area. They do the job, but they con you at the same time!

Anyway, I’m glad I’ve got my beloved MacBook Air back. Now I can finally work in peace!

The lessons learnt – buy AppleCare so you don’t have to go through such an ordeal. And, just go to PCPRO at Sim Lim. They’re really nice and honest people!

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