Apple’s Genius Bar rips off my daughter for thousands of dollars

Back in March my daughter called to tell me her 2012 MacBook Pro would only boot so far before powering down. After running the usual tests like booting into Recovery Mode and using Disk Utility to try to repair the disk, which said it couldn’t, it became clear that more extensive intervention was required. Since she’s 3600 km away I told her to take it to the Genius Bar.

They told her the disk was not repairable and that she had to buy a new one. Apple charged her $250 for a 1 TB drive including installation. A 1 TB bare drive is about $100 so Apple was charging $150 for a 10 minute job. Well, there was nothing I could do about it so she had to accept it. Fortunately, she had a recent Time Machine backup and could restore to the new drive. They originally kept the old drive but I told her to retrieve it because it had sensitive information and I didn’t trust Apple’s disposal procedures.

About three months later she spilled water on the laptop and she called again. I told her not to turn it on as lithium ion batteries can be very dangerous if shorted and if they come in contact with water. She removed as much water as possible and tried to dry it off.

Once again I told her to take it to Apple and let them deal with it safely. They opened the laptop and found it was too badly damaged to repair. The screen was gone and there was corrosion. I found that last part strange. How could there be corrosion in just one day? They showed her pictures and told her it would cost a small fortune to replace the screen and motherboard (I don’t remember the quote). For a 4-year old laptop, it didn’t make sense. So they sold her a brand new laptop.

On a recent visit here she brought the old disk drive and laptop and I offered to try to recover the disk, or at least destroy it so the sensitive information could not be recovered. I didn’t have any hope for the laptop because of all the damage Apple told her about.

But, what the hell, I turned on her laptop and it booted just fine. The screen was fine. The only things wrong were that the battery was not charging and the keys were a bit sticky. I opened the laptop and reseated the battery connector but it didn’t help. Nowhere could I see any signs of corrosion.

After popping the keycaps and cleaning them with alcohol and a bit of silicone lubricant, they work fine. Without a working battery, I now have a reasonably nice desktop.

Now, I don’t expect Apple to clean the keyboard at the Genius Bar, but I’m very suspicious about their claim that the laptop was damaged beyond repair. Some compressed air should have dried out any residual water. Without any sign of this corrosion I’m led to believe Apple showed her pictures from another laptop (or who knows what) to convince her to buy a new laptop. Perhaps they didn’t consider that anyone else would boot it later, or maybe they didn’t care as long as they had the sale.

I doubt that I will attempt to replace the battery in this old laptop because of Apple’s high prices. I don’t want to risk ordering a 3rd-party battery to find out that it’s actually some circuit on the motherboard that got damaged. So yup, it’s a desktop now.

So what about that disk drive they removed. I popped it into another laptop and sure enough, Disk Utility said it was unrepairable. I formatted the drive, and ran another test. It worked fine. I installed OS X El Capitan on it and it worked fine. I ran a script to write and read back every byte on the disk until it was full. It passed with flying colours. There was nothing permanently wrong with the disk. So why didn’t Apple do this? Because it’s more lucrative to sell a new disk than repair an old one.

The combined cost of her new disk drive and laptop was over $3000 dollars (I don’t have an exact figure). The cost should have been just for a new battery (assuming the motherboard is fine).

I’m not at all impressed with how Apple handled these repair procedures. They took advantage of my daughter’s lack of technical knowledge to unnecessarily pad their sales. That’s shameful.

Author: Tom

Destroyer of software. If I haven't tested it, it hasn't been tested.

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