The Den of Slack

Mac woe, followed by Mac wow

It’s easy to bitch about bad customer service experiences and even easier to forget to praise the good ones, so I thought I’d share my recent Apple Store experience. Spoiler: it has a happy ending.

A while back, my MacBook developed a crack in the plastic casing to the right of the track pad. I hadn’t dropped it or manhandled it in any obvious way, so I figured it was a fluke and fixed it with super glue. Several months later, the glue stopped sticking and part of the plastic broke off, leaving a little gap that you could actually see into the computer through. I wasn’t happy about it, but it didn’t occur to me to look into it. The laptop (which turns four years old this week) was well out of warranty and other than looking bad, it wasn’t really an issue.

Crack #1, to the right of the track pad. Gluing the cracked plastic worked for a few months.
Then part of it broke off, leaving a hole.

The Friday before last, I noticed a similar crack developing above the screen, in the upper left corner (not the same side as the first crack). Since I’m relatively careful with my laptop, I couldn’t understand why this was happening. Suspicious, I Googled “MacBook crack” and soon learned that this is a common problem with the 13″ MacBooks of this vintage. I saw pictures of cracks that looked exactly like mine.

Crack #2 developing in the upper left corner.

Based on the comments I read, it seems that responses to the issue vary and you’re at the mercy of the Apple Store employee you happen to talk to about it. Some comments did indicate that they’d fix the problem out of warranty, while others suggested that the cutoff for a free repair is four years—exactly the age of my MacBook. If this turned out to be true, I’d be kicking myself for not bringing it in two years ago when the first crack developed.

Last Monday, with trepidation, I brought the computer to the Genius Bar. The guy who helped me barely looked at it before saying they’d fix it, with no arguing or dickering at all. The part wasn’t in stock so they ordered it, I brought the computer back Thursday, and Friday I was typing away on a laptop that seems shiny and new… even though it’s four years old! They replaced the plastic surfaces, the keyboard, and the track pad and button. They even cleaned my smudgy screen. The receipt showed $101.14 for parts and $39 for labor, and my amount due was $0 thanks to what the invoice refers to as Apple’s “Quality Program.”

Look at that clean keyboard. Not bad for a four year old laptop!

The problem is apparently caused by the pressure that the magnets put on the plastic when the lid closes, so there’s no guarantee this won’t happen again. (And no guarantee they’ll fix it for free a second time if it does.) But at least for now my Mac’s plastic skin isn’t flaking off (**insert Mac OS X Leper joke here**) and it’s not covered with electrical tape (which was going to be my own version of the Quality Program, if this didn’t work out).

So thank you, Apple. Sometimes I worry that you’re getting too all-powerful for your own good. Like a few months ago, when it took seven emails to convince your customer service team to reverse an erroneous iTunes charge. But then you go and do something like this and I fall in love with you all over again.


  1. I don’t really have anything to say about Apple’s costumer service, but I just wanted to congratulate you on your fine taste in desktop backgrounds. Max to the Future!

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