I Shake My Fist at the Apple Store

(Welcome, visitors from ifoAppleStore! Glad you could come visit. I encourage you to take a look around, and read the comments before posting one of your own. Thanks!)

I like Apple. I really do. Rachel and I have matching 15″ Powerbook G4s, we each have an iPod, our house has two Airport Expresses, and I badly covet an iPhone. So it pains me to be filled with such boiling rage at a company that I admire.

My laptop died: these things happen. The hard drive croaked about six weeks ago, but I was able to resurrect it with the help of DiskWarrior, which totally rocks, and is much better than the useless crap the Apple guys tried. So I’m back up and running, and feeling pretty good about myself, until last night when I remembered that I’d turned off Spotlight indexing a while back for performance reasons, but then was irritated that I couldn’t search my mail, and so turned it back on. Forty-five minutes later, blam-o. Hard drive dead again. This time, not even DiskWarrior could save it. (Edited to add: although DiskWarrior couldn’t repair the drive this time, it was still able to access the files on the disk, and I was able to retrieve the few things that had changed since my last backup.)

So, I reluctantly schlepped my laptop into the Apple Store to have the hard drive replaced. What I was nervous about is Apple’s repair policy: they take my computer, take out the broken hard drive, put a new one in, and give me back the laptop. It takes about five days, and that’s cool with me, since it’s covered under Apple Care. But! They keep the old drive. I understand why they keep the old drive from an inventory perspective, but I wasn’t crazy about the idea. I’ve got stuff on there! Personal stuff! Six years of email, not to mention 40 GB of photos, and all of my bank account numbers.

I asked the “genius” at the Apple Store what my options were. (And let me just say, if you’re going to refer to your employees as “geniuses,” you should expect some sarcastic quotation marks.) Could he, for instance, format the drive while I was there so I could have at least some confidence that my personal data wasn’t going to be easy for someone else to get? Sorry, no such luck, as the drive wouldn’t mount, and see above re: their crappy software. I was disappointed, but more or less resigned to the situation until I saw the release I had to sign before they’d replace the hard drive:

I acknowledge that service may be subject to a $100 USD diagnostic fee as described in the attached Repair Terms and Conditions, and agree that either I have made a backup copy of my data and removed any confidential, proprietary, or personal information and removable media such as floppy disks, CDs, or PC cards, or I have assumed the risk that such information or media may be lost, corrupted, or compromised during service and repair. I further acknowledge and agree that Apple cannot guarantee the safety, security or integrity of any data that remains on my computer while undergoing service or repair and that Apple shall not be liable for any loss, corruption or breach of such data, including any confidential, proprietary or personal information or removable data.

Emphasis added. Lack of serial commas: sic.

I understand why Apple doesn’t want to guarantee the security of my data, but there’s something really offensive about requiring me to sign a release that pretty much explicitly gives them permission to sell my credit card numbers to Ukranian mobsters.

But, if I didn’t initial the box and sign the form, they wouldn’t fix my computer. I asked how much it would cost for me to buy a replacement hard drive myself, and “genius” Brandon pretty much admitted that Apple jacks up the prices for parts they sell to the general public to encourage us to pay for the labor instead. But besides, I’d paid for Apple Care already. I was entitled to the free parts and labor, and I wanted it. So, being a chump and kinda broke, I signed the damn form.

This policy sucks even if, as Brandon from the Apple Store claims, it’s industry standard. The industry standard is stupid. I don’t expect the Apple Store to be able to do anything about a terrible corporate policy, but I would have liked a little more sympathy. I would have left feeling much better if Brandon had said, “For legal reasons, we can’t make any guarantees, but we’ve never had any complaints about data being misused, and here are the privacy and security policies we have in place to prevent anything like that from happening.” He didn’t say anything like that, and I’d like to know if that’s because he found me irritating, or because Apple has no such policies.

(I’m praying that just because I made a fuss over this policy, Brandon and his buddies don’t “accidentally” step on my poor defenseless laptop, or check the “please ruin this guy’s life” box on the work order. Please don’t ruin my life just because I hate your policy!)

I’ll get my computer back in 5 days with a brand new hard drive, and that’s great, but some of my love for this friendly corporate behemoth has been lost. Apple: try not to suck so hard in the future.

I Shake My Fist at the Apple Store

0 thoughts on “I Shake My Fist at the Apple Store

  1. Come on, honey, you’re being oversensitive. It’s not like identity theft is some kind of epidemic plaguing the country and that any of your information has ever been compromised and used for nefarious purposes before…oh, wait.


  2. LizardBreath says:

    I’m way, way untechy, and this is annoying as it’s ‘what you could have done’ rather than anything that will help now. But could you have found someway of getting your old hard-drive in a strong enough magnetic field to scramble it, before turning it in? (I don’t even know if that would work, or what you’d need magnet-wise.)


  3. LB: I think I would have needed to open the laptop case up in a warranty-voiding way. But I was sorely tempted.

    The Consumerist seems to suggest that I put a hold on the order, ask them to take the drive out and give it to me. Then I can try to wipe the drive and give it back to them in exchange for the new one. Seems like a pain in the ass.


  4. Hey, look! It’s Captain Reading Comprehension!

    My data is all backed up, thanks. My complaint isn’t that my data is lost; it isn’t! It’s all right here, safe at home! My complaint is that Apple technicians are now (also) in possession of my data.


  5. JC says:

    I say this as a former Mac Genius, and as the current owner of a Data Recovery company: They’re not really “in possession of your data”; they’re in possession of a device that once held your data.

    If it won’t mount, it’s pretty much gone. If the Geniuses or anyone else in the supply chain feels like spending $1000+ on your drive, there’s a chance that _maybe_ they could get at it, but … well, even when I was a Genius, and in a position to do something dastardly like that, I wouldn’t have had the cash to blow on the off chance it worked, nor would I have had the time to pursue the matter. And Apple sure as hell doesn’t have the equipment on hand at either the Store or their warehouses/disposal facilities….


  6. Sure, except: I, who am not a former Mac Genius, nor the owner of a data recovery company, was able to get the data off the drive using $99 software that I bought at the Apple Store. The barrier to mischief is really quite low here.

    “If it won’t mount, it’s pretty much gone” is just not true.


  7. JC says:

    Don’t be pedantic. When you went in the second time, DiskWarrior was no longer seeing the drive, and that’s the incident you’re twittering about here. When you handed them your drive, it was not in a state that a $99 piece of software could have recovered it.


  8. I’m not twittering! Nor am I being pedantic. You just don’t have the whole story but are weirdly angry about it. (I’ll admit I could have been clearer in the post.)

    I was able to access the drive with DiskWarrior, and to easily copy files off of it to an external FireWire drive. The only thing DiskWarrior couldn’t do (this second time) was repair the errors and get the drive to mount again.

    Fact is, the drive was and is in a state that a $99 piece of software can recover, and I stand firmly by my assertion that “if it won’t mount, it’s pretty much gone” is just not true. Not mounting puts the drive out of reach of the OS, but not of even minimally sophisticated tools like the $99 DiskWarrior.

    (Let me just once again plug the total awesomeness of DiskWarrior.)


  9. JC says:

    If that’s the case, that’s a different story all together, then, but that’s not how your initial post sounds. It’s all good, otherwise.

    We might be talking about different terms when we talk about “mounting” then … it’s actually possible for a drive to “mount” without it showing up on the desktop, a fact on which DiskWarrior usually relies. In the sense we use it in data recovery, we take it to mean that the device is seen by the OS and attaches to some point in the filesystem. The Finder, for better or worse, does things to the mountpoint that aren’t strictly necessary; at that point (which is fairly common), a drive can mount, and still not be seen in the Finder.


  10. JC says:

    > In the sense we use it in data recovery

    actually, that’s more just the generic “UNIX sense” moreso than anything Data Recovery specific.


  11. As far as I can tell, the drive wouldn’t mount in both senses: the Finder wouldn’t show it on the desktop, and Apple’s Disk Utility couldn’t see the drive. While at the Apple store, I didn’t think to fire up Terminal to see if I could mount the filesystem, but I’d be surprised if that’d worked. No idea what DiskWarrior was doing, but based on the errors it was spitting out, the drive seemed pretty unhappy.

    Anyway. Point is: drive is hosed from a standard user perspective, but the data is not inaccessible, which brings me back to being paranoid.


  12. leigh says:

    matt – that situation sucks. especially since you’ve had identity theft issues in the past. thanks for the head’s up though – maybe it’s time to get some of my important passwords/bank account info off my laptop and onto a piece of paper which i hide between the mattresses.


  13. Ti Ma says:

    For future readers of this thread.. Damn the service warranty! Parts for you “beloved” MAC are way cheaper then the $100 a pop fee to crack the machine open. Take some time watch a few youtube videos and do the work yourself… In the case above a new HD would be less then what the apple fix cost, takes less time then he could have taken the old HD tossed it, got it up to suitable external use or “shredded” it. Either way less expense and more piece of mind… and by the by for you iMAC users,,, don’t buy the suction cup for the screen cover, just use a Popsicle stick and leverage it out.


  14. Em says:

    “I have made a backup copy of my data and removed any confidential, proprietary, or personal information and removable media such as floppy disks, CDs, or PC cards, or I have assumed the risk that such information or media may be lost, corrupted, or compromised during service and repair.”

    Thats right, call someone else captain reading comprehension When you failed to bother to read the service terms “and removed any confidential, proprietary, or personal information and removable media””dont make others suffer for your own personal hatreds” and before you go complaining that “No one reads it” I do, Every one i know does, and If you’re gonna complain, Do it into your pillow, cause at this point, thats the only one who wants to hear it.


  15. Em says:

    If that was to me, actually there is no secondary issue, I just don’t like when people complain about companies for policys that are in place for the safety of their users, and Matt, honestly you’re complaining about something so small, they replaced your hard drive right? They TRIED to plug in your old hard drive and make it work Right? Than that’s the best they couldn’ve done, evey policy and term is in the contract for a reason, usually it’s beneficial to you. And dis you even think or read twice before signing the contract when they promised to repair you hard drive for free, saving you about $100? So I don’t see a legitimate reason for you to put your thoughts out other than to complain loud enough for others to hear. And just out of curiosity, what made you think that I have other problems? Because with all honesty I’ve actually been having a great month so far.


    1. Em, is someone holding a gun to your head and forcing you to read this blog?

      Also, your unconditional trust in the benevolence and goodwill of every corporate policy in every contract everywhere is… touching? No, not touching… what’s the word… horrifyingly naive.

      Also, also: the author of the post clearly indicated that he DID read the policy. His complaint was that he didn’t like it. If that difference is too fine for you to understand, perhaps I can act it out for you with sock puppets.


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