August 31, 2006
Apple Battery Exchange
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I found myself caught up in the now-infamous battery exchange program when I checked the latest range of serial numbers Apple put out and mine fell into the range. Or at least it appeared to, so I called them up and they asked for the serial number of the battery and the computer. I'm not sure, but I have the feeling that the computer serial number was not needed to identify the problem, but rather they wanted to know who I was before alerting me so they could cover their liabilities. Despite good marks in general for their customer support, Apple's legal department can be less warm and fuzzy.
You see, despite battery explosions being a relatively rare event, Apple doesn't want to be liable for any damages that might be caused by a battery eruption to the computer, or more significantly, to surrounding property or persons. So when you identify yourself as having a suspect battery, the support person immediately tells you to remove the battery and not to use it until a replacement arrives. Which will be four to six weeks. And if, in that time, you are forced to use the battery and it explodes, Apple won't pay for a penny of the damages. They told me that in no uncertain terms. Not that I accept those terms, of course.
Now, a lot of the time I use my computer, it's plugged in, but a lot of the time, it's not plugged in. For example, when I move from my office to my classroom every day, I work on my computer in the office and then move it to class where I will use it. If I can't use the battery, then I have to shut down and restart the OS and all the software for each move--a pain in the ass. And I also use the computer where there aren't any power outlets. After all, it's a portable computer, that's why I got the Powerbook in the first place. It's got a battery because the users need that battery. Not being able to use the battery for six weeks is effectively taking away a $2500 computer for a certain chunk of the month and a half it will take to get the battery replacement.
To be fair, they did try to offer an alternative, though the alternative was unworkable for me and did not make sense. They said that if I packed up the whole computer and sent it in to their repair people, they could have it sent back to me in two weeks with a new battery. Later, they shaved that time down to one week. But I had to send the whole computer, not just the battery alone.
Now, that was unworkable for me because my school starts next week Tuesday and I have to have the computer for all kinds of preparation for the course I teach. But it did beg the question: why was it necessary to send the whole computer to Apple? Undoubtedly so that it could fit into a repair paradigm. Which means that in reality, Apple does have batteries sitting around the repair center, and they could send one to me within a week, but they won't do it unless I conform to the repair paradigm which would make me send a perfectly healthy computer in to the repair shop, where absolutely nothing would be done to it, and that would take a week.
Now, I understand that Apple is now deluged with exchange claims. I understand that batteries must be in short supply (the tech support guy said they aren't even selling batteries at the Apple stores). I understand that the repair route is probably offered specially to those who put up a fuss and they probably keep it difficult so that everyone won't see that as a shortcut and start demanding it. And I understand that Apple wants to avoid liability for any battery fires which may result. And I would not expect anything more (and probably I'd expect a lot less, in fact) from Dell or any other manufacturer.
But what it amounts to is semi-crippling my computer for the next month and a half, and if anything does happen with the battery, they expect me to pay for every cent of damages--in other words, Apple truly is liable here, but they want the customer to shoulder the liability burden. Like I said, Apple legal can be just as warm and fuzzy as the next pack of lawyers.