I am not an attorney. The views expressed in this article are based on both opinion and my own interpretations of the facts as they were presented to and observed by me. This is my story, and your experience and interpretations may differ. If anything is sufficiently demonstrated to be inaccurate in this article, I will correct it.
- The Incident
- Refusing to Return My Equipment
- Additional Facts, Observations and Admissions
- Status Updates
On Friday, August 9th, 2019, I brought in two of my eligible MacBook Pro laptops for keyboard repair under Apple’s Keyboard Service Program, which are both suffering from the notorious defective butterfly keyboard issue. You may read copies of the lawsuit from Girard Sharp, LLP and Girard Law Group, LLP.
Have you been denied service for a defective keyboard eligible under Apple’s Keyboard Service Program? Share your story.
I am a smoker. I am ashamed of it, and have made various attempts at quitting, including abstinence, nicotine lozenges, and vapes. It has been a difficult addiction for me to kick, and I have so far been unsuccessful. I also understand that everyone hates smokers, but I feel like that’s a poor reason to void warranties. It is also a slippery slope – what if I had worn a MAGA hat to the Apple Store?
I am a web developer. I use and depend on my MacBook Pros daily, and lose money for every hour that I am without them. They are very important to me.
I was a fanboy. I have owned 9 MacBook Pros in the last 12 years alone and currently have 4 (2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018 models). I also own an iPad Mini and have owned several iPhone models (currently, an iPhone XS). Prior to this incident, I was a cheerleader who would recommend Apple products to anyone and everyone who would listen. I still believe that macOS and iOS are the greatest desktop and mobile operating systems ever made, but since around 2015, it is clear to me that they have gone down a path of aggressively integrating planned obsolescence in their products in various forms.
I still believe that macOS (10.0+) and iOS are the best operating systems created to date, however, their new-to-me policy of refusing to honor warranties is the last straw, and I can no longer recommend Apple hardware. Since I can no longer count on service, I will not be buying any new Apple equipment in the future.
I made two appointments for Friday, August 9th at the nearest Apple Store (Apple Bayshore, Glendale, WI) because I had three laptops that needed service – two for defective butterfly keyboards (both eligible models under the Keyboard Service Program), and another for accidental damage (covered under my AppleCare+ plan).
It should be noted that I currently live about 1 hour and 45 minutes from the nearest Apple Store, so to minimize work downtime and inconvenience, I planned ahead and brought all three units in at the same time. I would eventually end up spending roughly 9 hours in driving and inside the Apple Bayshore Store during this process.
I arrived on time for my appointments, did the usual check in process, and handed over my units to Apple for repair, signing their required liability waivers in the process. So far, everything went smoothly and as anticipated. I left the store and headed back home.
When I was about 1 hour away, I received a call from one of the Apple Bayshore employees who stated that they were refusing to service my MacBook Pro 2016 and MacBook Pro 2017 due to extensive “nicotine damage” that they discovered in the units. Baffled and not wanting to repeat the drive on a later day, I turned around and headed back to Glendale (during Friday rush hour).
When I arrived, I was initially told that they were unwilling to work on my equipment because the “nicotine damage” would prevent them being able to “verify their repairs,” since malfunction could be a result of said “damage.” After I pointed out that both laptops were in perfect working order and that only the keyboards were defective, she/they changed the reasoning for the refusal, now being due to Apple having a strict policy against working on equipment that could cause harm to their employees, as defined by OSHA guidelines. (In a cursory search, the only reference to OSHA recommendations related to nicotine that I found involved those who handle tobacco plants.)
I asked for a printout or electronic copy of any terms of service that I violated as a smoker which would void my warranty, and was refused. I asked for a copy of anything that made note of this policy and was also refused.
To be fair, Apple does claim the following on their web site: “Note: If your MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro has any damage which impairs the service, that issue will need to be repaired first. In some cases, there may be a cost associated with the repair.”
Of course, it is non-specific, “damage which impairs the service” is both incredibly subjective and vague, allowing them to refuse service, at their discretion, for pretty much any reason that they can come up with. It further states that, the “issue will need to be repaired first,” so I asked if that was an option. They said that it did not apply in this situation because their technicians could not do any work on the devices due to “health concerns.”
I attempted to point out that Apple now acknowledges that they are actively and knowingly selling defective keyboards by the very fact that their new 2019 models were added to the defective models list shortly after their release, and that the issue of me being a smoker would never have been a problem if they had not sold me defective equipment in the first place. I failed in this appeal.
Bonus: Extortion and Refusing to Return My Equipment
On a side note, they refused to return my MacBook Pros until I signed an electronic document (which I received no copy) agreeing to “accept” the “service” (or lack thereof) that was done.
I initially refused, stating that they declined to repair my equipment under warranty, and I absolutely do not accept that. I told the manager that I would agree to “acknowledge” what was done (or in this case, not done), but I by no means “accept” it. I also pointed out that “signing things is partially what got me into this mess in the first place.” I was ultimately given two options:
- I could leave the store without my equipment.
- I could sign the documents and would be allowed to leave with my equipment.
I reluctantly chose to sign the release documents because I wanted my equipment back, and the eventual 9-hour process made me too tired to involve the police.
Additional Facts, Observations and Admissions
- It is my understanding that smoking is still a legal activity for adults in the United States, with vape devices being advertised on television and other media.
- I was never aware that smoking would void my warranty.
- To my knowledge, it was never mentioned in the marketing material when I was shopping for equipment.
- To my recollection, it was never mentioned at the times of purchase.
- It was not mentioned by the CSR when I called to schedule both appointments.
- They could have told me in person when I dropped them off and inspected them for “damage,” rather than making me drive back and forth for an additional 2 hours.
- As of this posting, I see nothing in their Repair Terms & Conditions that would qualify smoking as a valid reason for rendering warranties as void.
- As such, I maintain that they committed fraud by omission with each unit sold.
- I smoke in a separate room from where my equipment is (sometimes outside, but Wisconsin winters are brutal), but naturally, smoke is in the air.
- The 2016 model had the defective keyboard already repaired once at the same store. It began to start malfunctioning again approximately 5 months after service. I stopped using this unit for awhile after that because it was out of warranty by then (and this was before the Keyboard Service Program), so I was told that it would be about ~$700 to repair again. Rather than spend another $700 on a presumed lemon, I purchased a new MacBook Pro 2018 (going so far as to spend an additional $379 for AppleCare+ in an effort to mitigate this chronic issue in the future) and the older model sat idle until recently. I find it difficult to believe that it went from serviceable to being a biohazard after only an additional 5 months of use.
- I’d like to highlight the fact that this ominous warning about the cost to repair it again greatly contributed to my decision to spend another $3,880.80 on a 2018 unit+warranty. Some may suggest that I only have myself to blame, but I was blinded by my faith in Apple and hoped that they might have fixed the issue. My faith was clearly misplaced. (see Status Updates)
- I personally obtained the 2017 model in December 2018, having only used it for about 8 months. I believe that this is a rather short amount of time for it too to become a biohazard, but that is subjective.
- When I purchased the 2018 model, why was I offered to add AppleCare+ coverage as a smoker? I should have been asked if I smoke, and accordingly disallowed to purchase a warranty that they refuse to honor. At the very least, I should have been notified that my coverage would be void, and I would not have chosen to purchase it. (see Status Updates)
- Their use of OSHA guidelines as reasoning behind the policy is dubious to me. It would suggest that dry cleaners and laundry facilities should refuse to clean clothes that were worn by a smoker, for safety concerns.
Out of curiosity, I asked the manager, “If someone brought in a unit for repair that was used in a building that contained asbestos, would you also refuse service?” He replied, “Yes, if we knew about it.” I thought that was an interesting admission, and made me realize that they may deny service for any number of reasons that are not disclosed to the consumer.
Having purchased a new MacBook Pro every 1-1½ years as well as numerous iPhones, I asked the same manager, “So as a smoker, I should discontinue purchasing Apple products in the future if I want them to be covered under warranty?” He confirmed this, an astonishing admission from a company that continues to have declining sales.
- August 13, 2019 – Apple has repaired my MacBook Pro 2018 model that had accidental damage (the one with AppleCare+ coverage, of course), which is good news. The 2016 and 2017 models with the defective butterfly keyboards remain unfixed due to biohazards.
- September 1, 2019 – I was able to get the keyboard replaced through a third party, who did a spectacular job. It looks like new! (Evidently, they didn’t read the alleged OSHA memo.) I would give them a shout out, but Apple has a history of threatening independent repair shops.
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