Extreme Mac Makeover

Several months ago, the buzz surrounding the Mac O/S was palpable. Just talk to any Apple retail store salesperson (or ponder store sales of $4500 per sq-ft. – five times that of Best Buy).

This blogger inched out on a limb in October to predict that Apple’s computers would set company sales records in Q4 ’07. The world learned this week just how well the Mac fared — 2.3 million units sold, a healthy 6.1 percent market share at year-end. And there’s more.

From Computerworld: “Mac sales were up 44% over the same quarter the year before, and beat the previous record, set during 2007’s third calendar quarter, by 155,000 units, according to numbers Apple released prior to a conference call with financial analysts and reporters Tuesday. Apple sold 977,000 desktop Macs and 1.34 million notebooks during the quarter, with the former showing the strongest growth. Desktop sales, for example, were up 53% year-to-year, while notebook sales increased 38%.”

David Pogue reasoned:

There are all kinds of theories to explain the sudden resurgence: the lack of viruses, the iPod halo effect, the critical mass of Apple stores, the disappointing debut of Windows Vista, all those Apple TV ads, the switch to Intel chips (meaning that Windows programs run on a Mac) — or maybe all of it together.

Now to the dark side of robust Mac sales: customer service. If you thought Jeff Jarvis took it to Dell, I bet there are a myriad horror stories emerging as Apple struggles to deal with the sudden success of its Leopard-fired Mac line.

Take my Friday afternoon. At about 3pm, after burning some client files onto a CD, my iMac simply refused to eject the CD from the optical drive. I called Apple Care (for which I paid $149). After 45 minutes on the phone with someone from Bangalore, I was told to unplug the machine and bring it to an Apple Store. The closest store, 20 minutes away, didn’t have an opening for three days, so I made a reservation with another mall-based Apple Store 45 minutes away.

I arrived at the appointed hour and the “genius” at the Genius Bar said he couldn’t guarantee that the computer would be fixed today. They’re “short” on geniuses today and I’d have to leave the computer. I said I really didn’t mind waiting. He walked away and came back and said no dice. When will you have it back? “Three-to-five days, but there’s no guarantee.” Huh?!

I left the store not feeling too cared for. Sitting on the bench outside of Macy’s with computer-in-bag, I called back Apple Care. A “concierge” put me on with a “supervisor” who instructed me to take the iMac home and call a “senior product specialist.” Why I didn’t do this the first time, who knows. After 75 minutes on hold for “level 2,” I used my cell phone in frustration to reach another supervisor. She warned me not to hang up on the first call “as long as I hear music.”

The second supervisor tried herself to reach level 2,. Two hours had now passed and suddenly the music stopped on the first call. Fortunately, I still had the second supervisor who succeeded in commandeered a senior product specialist named Ty” whom I prayed could pull an extreme Mac makeover…quick. He couldn’t, after suggesting I shake the iMac sideways to try to dislodge the CD. Nonetheless, he promised a home visit on Monday. We’ll see. (I’ve tagged a few of the Mac PR folks, just in case.)

Update (Monday 1.28) – Received a phone message today postponing home visit since the optical drive is not in stock until tomorrow. News to me that I’m destined for an optical drive replacement to remedy a stuck CD.

Update (Tuesday, 1.29) – Bob, the Apple technician, arrived this morning bearing a new Matsushita optical drive. Two hours later, it swallowed his test CD and now tries to spit it out every 30 seconds or so. Apple Care thinks both drives are defective. Awaiting a call back.

Update (Wednesday, 1.30) — Feeling abandoned. No word from Apple or Apple’s local techs. Still, every 30 seconds optical drive attempts to disgorge CD. Most annoying.

Update (Thursday, 1.31) – iMac still sputtering every 30 seconds. Received a call from the techs midday promising the installation tomorrow of another optical drive.

Update (Friday, 2.1) – Issue resolved. The tech came by with a new optical drive, but without the required tools. He dashed off to Home Depot and returned to put my iMac back to new.

Apple, my faith in you is restored.

Update (Monday, 2.4) – Issue unresolved. Optical drive now makes a whirring sound after the machine boots up. Apple’s outside tech support company sends me back to Apple Care. Apple Care has disconnected me three times thus far this morning. Argh!