Should I advocate for myself?

Am I allowed to help myself?

That might seem like an easy question to answer, but it isn’t, and I could use your help.

Here’s the problem: About three months ago, my MacBook Air began to develop a little screen problem. A black vertical stripe appeared whenever I fired up the computer, and it remained there (see photo, right).

You should know a few things about this laptop. I bought it on Oct. 21, 2010, a day after Apple released it. For me, it was the perfect travel companion; lightweight, fast and easy to use.

I didn’t go for the optional warranty, but as it turns out, that wouldn’t have been an issue — my problem developed after the warranty would have expired, according to a “genius” at the Apple store in Longwood, Fla., where I took my computer after it started feeling sick. (And I don’t use the word “genius” facetiously; that’s what they call themselves.)

The black stripe didn’t bother me at first. It came and went, and I’d heard that it was a firmware problem that could easily be fixed with a software update. But the next OS version didn’t do anything to my MacBook Air.

If anything, the problem got worse. Instead of fading in and out, the black line went stubbornly solid. It turns out I wasn’t alone.

I took the PC to the Apple store and a technician ran a few tests. He confirmed that it wasn’t damaged and that it probably was a software problem that could go away with a future system update. But it might not.

Then things got a little interesting. He noted in my file that I’d appealed a previous case to Apple, and that it had bent its rules for me. That problem involved a peripheral screen that stopped working after about a year of use. (No warranty had been offered on it, and Apple’s suggested solution was to simply buy another monitor. I sent an email directly to Apple’s chief legal counsel, and it changed its mind.)

The Apple genius suggested I appeal to an executive again.

But I have a few ethical misgivings about doing that. It takes about half a second to Google me and figure out that I’m a consumer advocate and that I’ve written a book called Scammed.

When your grievance is appealed to the executive level, a company typically reviews your file, and mine will show that 1) I’m a loyal Apple customer (I bought an iPad 3 the day it came out) and; 2) I have a history of taking my complaint to a higher level; and 3) probably, that I’m a media guy.

I have colleagues who wouldn’t think twice about leveraging their names to squeeze a concession out of a company, even one that is unwarranted. In my case, I probably don’t deserve to have the stripe fixed. The MacBook air is out of warranty. Apple would probably replace a processor, which would cost it money.

At the same time, the stripe is annoying and affects my productivity. It’s not that big of a deal when I’m at home, since I connect another monitor to the laptop. But one the road (I’m currently on assignment in Georgia) it’s a huge problem.

A flight attendant I recently met, who happens to own the same Mac, suggested that I have it all wrong: As a consumer advocate, I have a duty to bring this to Apple’s attention, and at the highest level. How else can they fix this problem or prevent it from happening again?

At the very least, I should write something about this, she said. I promised her I would.

Yet I’m conflicted. On the one hand, I want to avoid even the perception that I could be pressuring Apple to help me because of who I am. I’ve seen other consumer advocates leverage their position for personal gain, and it’s wrong on so many levels. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s right to pay Apple to repair something that should have never broken.

If this were a reader asking me to help fix a PC, I probably wouldn’t hesitate. But I don’t know if I should do it for myself.

Is it OK to use your own power if it benefits you? Or am I limiting my options because of a high-minded — but ultimately misplaced — sense of ethics?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Marco Martinez

    I think you ought to send that email. Here is why: You are not the only one with the same issue, the fact that the same thing happens to others means it isn’t an isolated, “you broke it” kind of thing. I think it is a hardware issue (yes, which can probably be corrected with firmware) but which lucky for you (or unluckily) didn’t express itself until after a year. The problem however exists for a lot of people and therefore unlikely you did something to cause it, thus it is a manufacturer defect… Anyway, I have done Mac support for 15 years, and think you have a case here…

  • Jeremy

    I agree that you should use your platform to expose a product that appears to be shoddy (same problem affecting many) and not handled very well.  Just because it’s out of the official warranty doesn’t mean there isn’t an implied warranty of fitness for purpose, general merchantability, etc (details depend on your state).  Apple is famous for its short warranties and you should help put pressure on them given their immense profitability; it seems they should stand behind their products a bit better.  However, I am a little confused as how you think that writing an email to Apple would somehow be less use of your “power” than writing this post, which will be seen by many and available to search engines.    Won’t posting here actually attract much more attention from Apple (positive or negative), compared to a private conversation?

  • Reporter1

    As a journalist myself, I think it’s unethical to use the “do you know who I am” approach for personal gain. And, as unfortunate as it is, I don’t think you can advocate for yourself in this case because of that “perception” issue you were talking about. However, you can advocate for that flight attendant as well as everyone else who has the same problem. Then, if there’s a fix, you can take advantage of it the same way any other consumer would. You shouldn’t have to be penalized because you’re a consumer advocate. But I don’t think you should take advantage of that fact, either.

  • lorcha

    How hard is it to state in your appeal that you don’t want special treatment as a consumer advocate, but that they should know that this defect is causing a negative experience for many users? 

    Anyway, what harm could you possibly do to Apple at this point? Threaten to publicize the stripe issue? Looks like you’ve already done that. :P

  • backprop

    You claim that they will find out “who you are” when you appeal to the executive level.  But, disregarding the fact that this story is on your blog, how would they know unless you tell them?  Your name certainly isn’t that uncommon (a Google search pegs you at the top, but there are other Christopher Elliotts on the first results page as well). 

    I say you have every right to appeal to Apple as a consumer, but would stop short of ‘mediating’ your case.


     @Chris – another idea is check with the credit card you paid with. Many, like my Delta AMEX Reserve card, automatically give 1 year extra warranty on all things you buy! Worth a quick call to see. (I know not the point of your post but still many do not think of this)

  • lost_in_travel

    Very good point !  I made a purchase for my school on a business AMEX card and when I checked to see that the purchase would be processed, the AMEX agent reminded me that the warranty would be extended for a year longer than the mfgr warranty, plus AppleCare, if it was less than four years.  So you many still be in warranty.  And as much as I object to “extended warranties” at various stores, I always purchase Apple Care and my items (and my teen age son’s) have always been repaired, usually with an on the spot software reload or a hardware replacement.  It may be expensive but it is foolproof.  And some of those “Geniuses” with spikey hair and too many painful looking piercings really are Geniuses at Customer Service.

    (My iPad 3 was delivered on the first day, bought first iPad in the first two hours they were offered, so yes, I am a major fan.)

  • Crissy

    I voted no, because in your own words – you probably don’t deserve to have the stripe fixed.  

    But in terms of your ethics, I do not think that writing a letter to an executive about a problem is unethical.  Assuming you write the letter as a consumer.  If the company chooses to google you and make a decision based on that information, instead of the facts of the case, that is their ethical problem.  You can’t change the way people think and act and you shouldn’t do less for yourself today, because of your status, then you would have done before you were an consumer advocate.

  • Jay Edwardson

    I might be inclined to self-mediate, BUT make it clear that you want and expect to be treated nor worse- OR– nor better than anyone else in the same position.. and that the results of your case will remain a private matter.

    To me, I think you can and should be your own advocate, but I think you need to be clear to all parties, in what capacity are you acting?  personal consumer, or public-figure consumer advocate?

    To me if you don’t make that part clear, I could easily see Apple saying “yeah, sure, he wants us to treat him like average Joe, but if we do and he doesn’t like our answer, he’ll use that against us somewhere else down the line”.. true or not, I see that opinion as being plausible.

    It’s like my friend who happens to be a food and drink columnist for a regional Asia publication.. His face is known, his name is known more, so when he dines out personally, as he even suspects he’s ‘found out’ he lets the management know that he wants no special treatment either way AND that his private dining experience will not be included in any future columns or be a part of his professional analysis..

    If he still does get preferential treatment– as he see it– he will either recuse himself and not write about that place for a period of time, or, if he does will make clear disclosure that he ate there before on a personal basis and feels he may have received preferential treatment.

  • absherlock

    Don’t think of it as advocating for yourself, think of it as advocating for everyone else experiencing the same problem. And the way that I’d personally get around the ethical dilemma would be to not accept any “fix” (whether it’s a software upgrade or replaced hardware) unless that same “fix” is offered to everyone else in the same situation. That way you aren’t advocating for a personal gain but for the gain of a group of which you just happen to be a part.

  • John Frenaye

    I say go for it but don’t ask for anything special. Identify who you are at the outset and tell them you are simply following your own rules to resolve a problem—you spoke to a genius without satisfactory results, and now you are simply escalating it.

    It is a little lat now, but I might even go as far as saying, “Hey this is who I am and what I do. I am not planning on writing about this because I am conflicted if it is right or wrong….BUT….this is an issue that needs to be resolved and an exception made.”

  • darksideblues42

    This also may be a defect in the LCD module itself, or in the internal signal cable that runs from the main board to the LCD module.  There are components called Row and Column drivers which tell the display what pixel elements to turn on and make a certain color.  I have seen this issue on a ton of different LCD modules due to a defective Row and Column driver.  This sort of failure typically starts small, then grows as the defective part heats up through use, then cools off again.  It can also indicated a failure in the register on the LCD module driver board (part of the LCD panel) for the particular Row and Column driver that controls that portion of the screen.

    I have also seen this issue in Laptops when the signal cable becomes damaged (mainly from opening/closing a ton)  If a single pair of the many pairs that are part of the cable become damaged, then you can have symptoms ranging from fuzzy snow like digital noise, to scrambled video, to all sorts of oddities. (Even things like your display looking like you are seeing it through a mirror or upside down)

    At any rate, I say go ahead and mediate your case, but start lower in the proverbial food chain.  See how far you end up having to go before someone recognizes your professional reputation, then if you are still unsure if it was ethical, buy a new Macbook and donate this one to a worthy cause.

  • Kip Hartwell

    I find it funny that someone who advocates not getting scammed still buys apple incremental scams ;)

    If you can do good by fixing the problem for many then do so.  If you get special privileges refuse them until the right thing is done for all people.  Feel free to use this advice next time Apple “just works” for you.

  • LadySiren

    Chris, you should absolutely advocate on your own behalf. If you have an ethical problem, consider it this way: you’re doing field research based on the consumer’s, rather than the advocate’s point of view.

    If you, an experienced ombudsman, doesn’t know what we consumers are put through (sometimes), you may not be as effective as you could possibly be. In fact, I’d love to see a step-by-step case study of your experience.

  • Randy Busch

    You helping yourself could help others.

  • kimber

    I have no problem with you advocating for yourself in general, but if your computer is out of warranty, then I guess that I don’t see why it is Apple’s problem. That’s what makes it seem wrong to use your position to me.

  • phil55

    “I’ve seen other consumer advocates leverage their position for personal gain, and it’s wrong on so many levels.”  A few months ago you took a free flight from Virgin America and then wrote a stellar review of them without specifically saying the company had paid for the flight directly as a result of your position. Taking freebies is a big no-no when trying to write objective reviews that mean something to your readers.

    I definitely think you should contact Apple, but I don’t think you should try to advertise that using your position for personal gain is wrong if you don’t have a problem doing it in other situations.

  • Jason Hanna

    At the end of the day.. It’s out of warranty.. As the Russians say, toughski shitski. A common failure does not mean that products are faulty. It just means that part is the weak link. The internet makes it alot easier to search and find that a specific part is a weak link. Some will fail in the warranty period, some will fail within 2 years, some will last 10 years. If this had happened 10 years after purchase, would there be any question?

    Black lines in a monitor are likely never going away with a software or firmware update. You probably either have a failing screen or more likely, a failing flat cable that connects the screen to the motherboard. A failing flat cable can NORMALLY be self-diagnosed, if moving the screen, or gently ‘flexing’ it causes the problem to come and go, or DID cause the problem to come and go, as once the cable totally breaks, the problem will be permanent until the cable is replaced.. That’s a pretty common failure to ANY laptop and not very difficult or expensive to have repaired. If it’s a failed screen, you just buy a new laptop. Cheaper to replace the laptop than the screen. It’s POSSIBLE that it’s a firmware/software problem, but, I would be quite surprised at that.

    What I’d recommend, assuming you’ve talked to the ‘repair line’ at Apple, would be to get a proper diagnosis on the problem. If it’s the flat cable that is the problem.. You’re out a hundred bucks or so. If it’s a failing screen.. Then send the ‘brief, polite email’ you’re so fond of. Technically, you’re up a creek, because Apple has provided everything it agreed to. The product worked through the warranty (guarantee) period. Apple is under no obligation to repair the product on their dime. BUT.. At times, on common problems like this, companies will do a ‘courtesy’ repair. I briefly worked for Samsung, and they often did this. One particular laptop model had much the same problem you are describing, it was found to be a flex cable that would rather quickly wear out, and they would repair it at no cost, even if the product was out of warranty, though they didn’t advertise this. So, it makes sense to at least talk to support to see if any such program exists.

    You’re at 18 months out on the warranty.. When does it stop? I mean, if this happened 2 days after the warranty expired, then there’s a solid case for arguing it. At 18 months out.. You’re well past any ‘grace period’. I assume that it has a 1 year warranty. There is no ‘duty’ on your part. If the problem is common, they’re  well aware of it. They have had to repair a large number of them under warranty no doubt, and are probably getting blasted with people who are out of warranty demanding that it be fixed. There’s no question they know about it.

    I don’t think that you’re wrong to be disappointed that it hasn’t lasted. I don’t think sending an email asking for reconsideration is out of line, though, I don’t really expect it to do alot of good. Assuming you send the email as a consumer and not as “Don’t you know who I am?”, I don’t see a problem with it.

  • Jason Hanna

    Purchased October, 2010.. Assuming a 1 year manufacturer warranty, and add in the extra year… Wait.. it’s still 2012.. Yeah, it would in warranty.. lol. TIME MACHINE! Somehow I started thinking it was 2013 already.

  • MarkKelling

    Appeal to the higher powers at Apple about getting this fixed.  Anyone else would do so.  Apple does bend its rules for people who are not special.

    The extended warranty is good for 3 years from date of purchase and covers everything.  It has not been three years since you bought it.  So the “genius” was wrong if he told you that this would not have been covered if you had bought the coverage.  You might use that in your appeal to Apple to get it fixed.  
    I had good luck with the extended warranty when one of the memory modules in my Apple computer went out at 2 1/2 years after purchase.  Although it took nearly a month for the fix, when my computer was returned it had a new video card, DVD drive and memory boards.  Total extra cost: zero.  So sometimes the extended warranty is worth the purchase price.

  • john4868

    Chris …. What’s old adage … “He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client” …

    Consumer advocacy works because the perception is that the advocate is unbiased. If the advocate has taken the case, there must be something there. Find a friend to take the case for you.

    Having said that… Its out of warranty. Why should Apple cover your repair? Your argument seems to be that they made an exception before in a different case in a different situation so they should do it again. That would be an argument to make sure that they didn’t make exceptions in the future

  • Chasmosaur

    Apple has, in actuality, crap customer service.  They are very much “You bought it, and that’s that.”  What other company has laptops and gadgets with batteries that can’t be swapped out?

    Advocate away.

  • TonyA_says

    By writing this article, you [probably] already got Apple’s attention; and, more importantly, the public’s attention. Thanks for telling me since I was thinking of getting the Macbook Air and running Windows 7 on it (since my office applications are on Windows). Not anymore.

  • jerryatric

    I think a simple trade in for a new & better model is the way to go.
    Your past warranty & that’s the key.
    In Canada, Apple Stores are great at looking after my questions. They go FAR beyond what Samsung does in the way of Customer Service. I own I Pad 2 my wife has Samsung tablet 9510.

  • len

    Chris, why not give me your MacBook?  Then I’ll ask you to mediate for me.  Perhaps after they fix it I’ll give it back to you.

  • NakinaAce

    You are beyond the pale on this one. Writing about it and then wondering if you should do something about it. You should be in politics! Your use of the word ‘genius’ may not have been facetious but neither is my use of the word ‘politician’ to describe you. I am not trying to be mean spirited here to quote Jerry Jeff Walker.

    I have always found the Apple people, even at the lowest level, more than willing to go the distance for a customer. Next time you call support just ask for a supervisor and escalate that way. I bet you that they come up with a reasonable solution.

    I have been an Apple guy for a long time and own virtually all their products and like you am waiting for the new iPad to be delivered. Their culture is so different than the airlines and rental car companies you typically write about is the difference between night and day.

    Good luck but break out a few books and buy a MacBook Air like I am writing this on and you will be miles ahead. Go ahead, you media types can afford it (now I am being facetious).

  • ClaireWalter

    There is an argument to be made both for mediating for yourself and not doing so. Flip a coin? Or find the Christopher Elliott of computers. FWIW, get out of the Apple orchard. They are brilliant marketers and merchandisers, but people in the biz believe that they intentionally design their products to be difficult/impossible even for people who know computers and other electronics to open, repair or modify. The company wants customers to return to the Apple store, and while waiting to be served, they hope people will wander around and be tempted to buy another (expensive) Apple product. Good luck.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I’m glad you mentioned that story, which happened a few years ago. Looking back, I probably could have been clearer about being a media guest on that flight. And you’ll notice that I also got a couple of critical comments, including, I believe, yours. These incidents are learning experiences, and they are why I now ask my readers when something looks ethically questionable.

  • jkeahey

    I appreciate your sense of ethics. But you should do for yourself what you advise your readers to do. If you would give them the e-dress to the Apple exec, then you should use it for yourself as well.  If you would not give that e-dress to a reader with a problem, … .

  • Lou Ruh

    As others have said, such a problem sounds more like a hardware problem to me … a video card failure or a cabling issue or the screen itself (when I have had such problems with laptops, it was the video card).  But, since the Apple geniuses have said otherwise, I guess they know better than me.

    At any rate, do not confuse an OS upgrade with a firmware upgrade … they are two entirely different things (but, then again, I am not an Apple expert, so, maybe they do things differently). Just because you get an OS upgrade does not mean you got a firmware upgrade (you probably didn’t).

  • Alan Gore

    Instead of using the “do you know who I am” argument, I would explain the problem to them, and describe what kind of work you do (all manufacturers would kill for detailed information on how their products are used in the field). If enough people report the same issue, Apple may recall even for laptops that are out of warranty.

    By handling it this way, you are also likely to get better technical feedback than from a casual Genius Bar visit. Even if you do have to pay for a fix, better a loose cable than a new graphics chip.

  • Amy Alkon

    “As a consumer advocate, I have a duty to bring this to Apple’s attention, and at the highest level. How else can they fix this problem or prevent it from happening again?” Agree with her. And Marco Martinez explains my thoughts — you aren’t the only one with the same issue. 

    My boyfriend and I have lives just packed with Macs. I’ve had them since 1984/85 when I got one on the University of Michigan student discount. They’re mostly wonderful — and we expect that for the price, and because of the way Apple promotes itself. When they aren’t, he looks for them to be fair with us. And when it’s our fault, we pay (like if Mr. Manpaws has dropped his laptop!).

    Because you’re a consumer advocate, you shouldn’t be forced to pay what others in your position would not. 

  • Mel65

    I think as long as you approach this as an unhappy customer and not as a media consultant/consumer advocate, then go for it.  Write your email the way you’d advise us to and stick to the facts.  If they google you or check your file, well *shrug* then it’s THEM who will decide on special treatment or not, rather than you asking for it.  On the plus side, once they decided in your favor, you’ve perhaps set a precedent for others to follow ;)

  • marie3656

    Come on, Chris. If you were truly interested in not receiving special treatment, and you think it would be unethical to use your position to get the results you want, you wouldn’t have written this post. This is using your position in a much more significant way than if you had quietly advocated for yourself. You admit that it would be easy for Apple to Google you and realize who you are, and this is what they’ll find. Of course they’d have to respond to you now. In much the same way that you itemize how consumers could have avoided the problem, let’s do the same.

    The warranty was for one year. You knew that when you purchased the laptop. That means that they’ll guarantee that it functions for a year. If you wanted a guarantee for a longer period of time, you should have purchased that guarantee. Much like with non-refundable flights–if you wanted flexibility, you should have paid more. In this case, Apple fulfilled their obligation to you.

    Should a laptop function for longer than a year? Of course. But if you wanted that guarantee, it would cost more. The same is true for cars. I have made many repairs to my car after the warranty expired, and the best I can do is hope that there has been a recall for the parts in question. Being that many people have the same problem with their laptops as you do, perhaps that will be the case with Apple.

    Here are a few things that you could have done to separate yourself from the process. 1) You could have advocated for people who have the black line problem without including your case in the mix. 2) You could have submitted an inquiry through your wife’s name. Although I don’t know the details about how Apple’s registration process works, I imagine that it’s the laptops ID that is the identifier and not the name of the consumer. That could have avoided some of the ethical gray area you’re talking about.

    But it’s too late for that now because the cat’s out of the bag. How will you handle it if Apple approaches you, because of this post, and offers you a new laptop?

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Chris, I don’t believe your sense of ethics is misplaced in the slightest.  I can understand where you’re coming from at all angles. However, you are also a consumer having a less than stellar experience with your laptop, not because you dropped it and it’s broken but because Apple has a software problem they don’t seem to want to fix.

    As another poster said, don’t tell them who you are.  Chris Elliott isn’t the most unusual of names (isn’t there an actor by that name also?) so they might not make that connection.  If they do – make sure they understand you don’t want special treatment, you just want a software update that will fix your computer.  If you’re not the only one, this will help others, which IS what you do for a living.

    As expensive as Apple computers are, this would have me incredibly upset if I were confronted with that kind of expenditure just a year after purchase.

  • Bill Armstrong

    You pressure companies for other people because of “who you are”.  It seems Apple can’t fix this whether it is under warranty or not.  Since every other user of this computer is not experiencing this, I don’t think it is a firmware issue.  Tell them to fix the thing.  It surely isn’t your fault.

  • etitus

    The Lord helps he who helps himself.  I agree with Lorcha, you state that “you are not asking for speical treatment as a consumer advocate.”  well said

  • Charlie Funk

    I voted no because of the very reasons you expressed for doing so.  On the other hand, you almost certainly have to have acquaintances who are likewise consumer advocates and there surely is a way one of them, perhaps that deals specifically in consumer electronics, could act on your behalf.  If that is the case I would not hesitate to seek such assistance.

  • yankee17

    The biggest problem here is you bought a Mac product.  As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

  •ón/631855100 John Negrón

    Chris, You are not only a consumer advocate. You are also a consumer – and a loyal Apple consumer to boot – and entitled to to the same protection as any other consumer. The only one who should have concerns about you being an advocate is Apple.

  • Jennifer Moore

    Do you really think you don’t deserve to have this fixed?  It sounds to me like this problem is a product defect, which EVERYONE should be able to get fixed.  So, mediate away!

  • Kirtsch

    It is refreshing to find someone who is concerned about the ethics of a situation!  That seems to be a disappearing virtue.

    I also applaud so many similar voices in this comment section.

    Good advice and great values, folks! 

  • l2y2

    I voted yes, Chris. Would you do it if you were’t a consumer advocate? I think you would. Why wouldn’t you advocate for yourself as a consumer? As mentioned earlier, you are also a loyal Apple consumer. They need to hear from their consumers and learn about the defects of their products. Oh, and if they blow you off, please let us know ;-)

  • Christopher Elliott

    Wow, what a great debate! Thank you for the advice.

  • DavidYoung2

    Send the letter.  It’s like running for class president and not voting for yourself.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Props to you, Chris, for asking yourself that question. I can see both sides, so I don’t think you’ll be wrong with whatever you decide, but it’s refreshing to see somebody concerned with ethics. Unfortunately, for too many people it’s just a course they had to take in college.


    Apple gave you a shit product. Any consumer, even you, should expect to get what you paid for. Plus, I wouldn’t feel too bad about having Apple pay, they have $100 billion in the bank. 

  • Miami510

    I voted YES, and here’s why.
    I was the first owner in a new condominium and the GE appliances came with a set period warranty.  I also took out a service contract for parts and labor with a local appliance repair firm.
    One month after the GE warranty ended, the stove electronics stopped working.  I called the local repair firm, who diagnosed the problem as being the “mother board,” and showed me in the fine, grey print on a grey background on the reverse side of the contract, where electronic parts were not covered.  After $300, they fixed it. The board came with a one year guarantee.
    Thirteen months later the problem repeated itself… and here’s its relevance to Christopher’s question.
    I wrote a letter with the entire story to Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of all of GE (not just the consumer electronics division).  About two weeks later I received a call from his executive assistant who said Mr. Immelt would like her to make an appointment to have the stove repaired at no expense to me.  They did and the workman mentioned to me that the instillation originally lacked some insulation that permitted the stove temperature to destroy the “mother board.” 
    As a member of my condominium board, I informed management of the problem, and many homeowners sent my letter to GE along with their cover letter and all had their stoves repaired at no cost.
    Apple, like GE is a top-notch firm that wants to do the right thing.  The problem often is with employees down the line who feel the company wouldn’t look favorably upon their spending money to right a wrong.  When they repair Christopher’s laptop, ten’s of thousands of Apple owners will, a. learn that a free repair is possible and b., that Apple is a responsible manufacturer.  It’s going to be a win-win-win situation.

  • Ethicall

    You didn’t buy the warranty – it isn’t a covered issue.  Using your status (although they probably couldn’t care less about someone with your reach) is an unfair advantage.

    Usually if you have to ask the ethical question you know the answer.

  • DesrtDrmr

    As the new owner of a MacBook Air, I hope you WILL mediate the case.  It could/would help many others that don’t have the knowledge or the time to mediate for themselves.
    Thank you in advance!

  • TravelingSalesman

    YOU ARE CORRECT to be a little less than anxious to use your bully pulpit in this case, however, if you have that problem, think how many others there must be out there without that big stick you carry.  It’d be nearly impossible to avoid being who you are, but it DOES NOT MAKE YOU ANY LESS ENTITLED TO GOOD SERVICE.

    I’d have to say, “Listen Genius” followed by more than a few harsh words.  and ask, SO . . . if it’s “probably” going to be fixed by the next update, how about fixing it now?

  • SoBeSparky

    No brainer.  I too got the “we did you a favor before, I can’t do it again, appeal higher.” routine.  Seems there is a lot of discretion about Apple’s warranties.  You, like everyone else, should go for it.  (And give them credit, they keep an awesome customer product database.)

  • jherrmannmt

    Chris — Itm was enough to run your piece and ask the question. If a high level Apple exec isn’t told about it, I would be very surprised. You might run a second piece, or a portion of one, on how many such boxes are dong what yours is doing after warrenty. But get it fixed at your expense. I think the appearance of ethical behavior is often all we journalists have, The real ethical behavior is seldom seen.

    John Herrmann

  • MarkKelling

    I don’t understand your logic. 

    There have been thousands of these machines sold.  The one in question was one of the first made.  The issue is documented and probably fixed with the current model.  If a problem occurs within the covered time frame, it will be repaired or replaced.

    Chris has a laptop that is out of waranty, he didn’t purchase the extended waranty, and is being told there may be a firmware update that is coming that will probably fix it. He did not mention if there was some other option (pay for a fix?) to corect the issue.

    Why does any of this make you not want to buy one?

  • Michael__K

    I think @lorcha nailed it.  If Chris is transparent (as he is by writing this article) and if he declines special treatment, then I fail to see an ethical issue.

    Advocating for Apple to devote attention to this apparently common defect and to (potentially) offer some sort of assistance that could benefit all affected consumers would be a public service.

  • jgb123

    Sorry for your bad expecience. 
    I didn’t vote as there are reasons to vote either way. Due to the time between when you bought it and the problem developed the following the following does not directly relate to your problem but otherwise shame on you, you made a major consumer mistake regarding computers: “For me it was the perfect travel companion…” so you bought it the “day after apple released it.” (What happened to your internal “too good to be true” antenna?) Let any new computer related product be out for at least long enough so that subsequent shipments correct the initial bugs that consumers find. That goes for any brand of computer. There are enough people who feel they have to get the latest and greatest as soon as it comes out to find initial problems and report them back to the store or manufacturer.

  • Jessica Smith

    It seems that you are in general hesitant to use your position for personal issues on a regular basis and do not do so on a regular basis.  So, I am of the opinion that it would be ok to do it in this instance.  The issue seems to have been brushed off by Apple employees as nothing they can do, and it is apparently a well known isuse happening to others…..and if as suggsted by many, it is a software issue, they should be fixing it in a next release….go for it, not just for yourself, but for others with the same issue.

  • TonyA_says

    Because I don’t want to suffer the same fate. I expect my laptop [bought for $1k or more] to last more than a few years. My Thinkpad has lasted me many years but it’s heavy so I travel with an old Samsung Notebook and [also now] with an Android tablet (7″ Samsung Galaxy Plus).

    I need MS Windows to run GDS from a laptop.
    My brother bought the lastest Mac Air and it hasn’t been a year yet. Let’s see what happens.

  • Sadie_Cee

    This one is easy.  I am with the FA on this.  Of course you should mediate on your own behalf.  IMO your status as a consumer advocate should not stand in the way of you helping yourself.  You purchased the MacBook Air in good faith and to Apple you should be considered in the same way as any other registered user/owner. 
    Beyond any additional warranty, at the time of purchase there is an implicit guarantee made that the laptop will perform as expected.  From past experience, there is little doubt in my mind that Apple knew of the problem before you brought it to their attention and has not yet been able to fix it. 
    Unless all users affected by the same problem bring the matter to Apple’s attention, they will have been let off easy.   In your particular case, the genius has established that you did not damage the laptop.  You depend on this equipment for professional and business use.  Therefore, it is imperative that it perform efficiently and reliably.  You are entitled to have the faulty equipment fixed or replaced.

  • Dave Lieberman

    Look, if you wrote to them and said, “I’m a big-time travellers’ ombudsman and airline executives quiver in their plush leather chairs when I send a case their way,” then you’d be over the line.

    You are, however, entitled to exactly the same treatment as you counsel—and that means that if you tell people to send an e-mail to an executive, you can do exactly the same. That you’re better at it than I would be is irrelevant.

    Send the e-mail.

  • lost_in_travel

    Cute – TIME MACHINE – another Apple product!

  • cybersal

    We always get the no-fault extended warranty.(Best Buy) If after 3 years we feel the laptop still has value (every thing just like we like it) we renew for another 3 years. So basically we are paying an extra 5-6  hundred more for the computer but that is still cheaper than replacing it several times.  If it is really obsolete we just replace it. I really hate having to adjust new computers and every time I have to update the software that is just another expense. Screen repair is often more than the laptop is worth. Good Luck.

  • Zod

    And then take your money and buy a computer that will last…like a Dell or an HP…
    I don’t know why Apple people put up with failures like this…it’s like the iPhone “you’re holding it wrong” fiasco…either it works, or it doesn’t…its really *THAT* simple!

  • jennj99738

    Just because it’s out of warranty doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be fixed.  If Apple knows this is a problem affecting many users due to a defect in their product, they should recall the computer and offer a fix.  This isn’t user damage, it appears to be a manufacturer’s defect. It’s not even 18 months old.   

    Recalls happen everyday in and out of warranty periods.  If I were Chris, I would first check out any additional warranty offered by the credit card used to purchase and then advocate for a fix for everyone affected.   

  • dsliesse

    I voted “yes,” but would prefer to phrase it as “pressing” your case.  Don’t mention who you are, and it won’t seem like you’re asking for special treatment.  In fact, you’re doing the consumers more good by not disclosing who you are; if the company doesn’t do right, however that may be defined, then that’s a pertinent factor for others making buying decisions.  (And if you get treated better because of who you are, that’s just as telling!)

  • TonyA_says

    I had to change my GE Profile Microwave TWICE. The defects come out quickly after or near the end of warranty.

  • 1pop

    I voted yes…the shoemaker’s kids deserve new shoes, too!

  • Michelle B.

    I actually have received excellent customer service from Apple. 1) Dropped my iTouch in cat’s water bowl. Clearly my fault. They let me buy a brand new one at 50% off.  2) Accelerometer on 2nd iTouch stopped working 1 month after warranty expired. Clearly a hardware/firmware issue, but after warranty. They replaced for free. 3) Dropped 4 month old iPhone screen down on concrete accidentally. Clearly my fault. They replaced for free (still not sure how I scored that one).

  • IGoEverywhere

    Did you use an AX card or other credit card that has an automatic double warranty on it? Use your head before your attempt to “advocate”. My son had a screen problen on his mac air and all I did was to file a claim with the credit card company and they paid the repair. Apple is year 1 and credit card was year 2. Wow, am I surprised that you have not gone that route.

  • Victoria Dossey Findley

    Chris..If you paid for this macbook using your own hard earned $ Yes… use your voice to let this billion $ company know there is a problem. Think of all the consumers who do not use their voices. Your voice is our voice !!!! Thank you for all you do everyday !

  • MarkKelling

    While any complicated hardware like a laptop can have multiple unexplainable failures, it doesn’t mean every one will fail.

    I don’t care whether I use Windows or MAC for work and have used both. I have been an owner of Apple home computers for 20 years. I also owned Windows laptops to run certain things I neded that were not available on Apple.

    In that time frame, I have had ZERO failures of Apple laptops. In fact, I still have one I bought in the ’90s that still runs just as good as it did when I bought it (it is relegated to a collection of games that I still enjoy playing but is not my primary machine) and have sold two others to friends who used them for many years. Every Windows laptop I bought has failed horribly at about the 18 month old stage – every one regardless of brand. Using this history, I shoiuld then have the opinion that I will never buy a Windows laptop ever again?

  • MarkKelling

    A Dell?  Last??? Ha.

  • y_p_w

    Depends on the product. They started the trend of batteries in a case sealed with glue for devices that aren’t exactly “disposable”.

    I’ve actually gotten great customer service at an Apple Store, and I’ve never even bought any major device there. I’ve come there asking questions about a machine that I bought elsewhere, and the guys at the counter asnwer them without worrying about whether they getting a sale or not. An employee there diagnosed my problem and offered a fix (for a reasonable charge) and didn’t ask where I bought it.

    Personally I’ve got a MacBook where the battery can be swapped out with only a quarter to pop the latch.  The new versions are theoretically not user servicable, but I’ve seen tear-down instructions that demonstrate that it’s extremely easy.  The only things are that some obscure tools (like a T8 Torx or a tri-wing screwdriver are needed).  The hard part is getting a battery.  There may be aftermarket batteries in the future.  Other than that, Apple’s own battery replacement service is $129 (save teh 17-inch models’ $179), or the price of their user-replaceable batteries for older models.

    The batteries in other devices may be semi-permanent, but Apple has a decent replacement policy for out of warranty products.  Depending on the product, they might swap out the battery or replace the entire unit at a nominal cost.

  • y_p_w

    I think someone else mentioned that maybe you have your wife do it on your behalf.  However, I think her name may also be easy enough to tie to you.

  • Linda Jordan

    I didn’t vote because it’s a “no brainer,” do what you have to do to get it fixed! The fact that you’re an advocate has no bearing with your problem. You have a product with a defect that needs fixing!

  • TonyA_says

    I will never buy a Dell again. I will buy the top line of Lenovo laptop again and use it as my desktop replacement. But I wanted the Mac Air because of its size and weight. I don’t have much choice about Windows since my GDS runs on Windows and not Mac OS. Mac Air running Windows would have been the best option until this news scared the heck out of me.

  • Zod

     Hmmm, let’s see. In my basement, I have two Dell Rack servers, a PowerEdge 2650 and a PowerEdge 2850…both in perfect running condition…and both over 5 years old. These are my ESX servers each running 3 virtual Windows servers…A Dell GX-110 that is my Torrent server for an online club I belong to…that thing is from the 90’s..One of my newer machines, a Dell Optiplex 670 that manages my camera security recording. That is from 2008 or there-abouts…And an ancient Dell Dimension with dual CPU cartridges running 800mhz. This thing is my Shoutcast and file server…
    I also have, and use constantly, two DellMini-9 one for me and one for the spouse. A dell D600 laptop which I got in early 2000’s. It only just now lost the backlight for the display. A Dell D620 which performs major duty as a Midi controller for my classic Yamaha synths. And you know? All those machines in my basement are run constantly, 24 hours a day, never shut down except for OS maintenance. And all the other Dells I have I use daily. Not once have I had to make a service call for any of these machines…In fact, I have purchased dells for the rest of my family. In all, I’m responsible for the purchase of over 15 dell computers throughout my entire family and not a single one has had an issue…so, I really don’t get your statement. I’ve *NEVER* had a Dell fail on me, and as you can see, I have quite an experience with them…and this list doesn’t include the Dells I sold!

  • flip44

    Chris, are you kidding? Who you are and your influence in so many areas is legend. Everytime you help someone and it is publicized in your column, that very fact makes the company, or airline, etc. bend, and come thru for you and the offended person.

    I think you may have even written, companies want to know where there are problems so they can correct them. If there is a glitch at some point, they want that fixed.

    I have a MacBook Pro also, and EVERY time I have taken a problem to a Genius, they have been very courteous and generous in making the necessay replacement…free. By all means keep ‘going up the line” to ‘pressure’ if need be to get action. I know that Apple 
    is very concerned about their reputation.

    You mite even try another Apple store and another Genius Bar rep. Some people just have bad days. See the manager of the store
    also…smile “pretty please” and they may come around to your surprise and satisfaction. (Carry a big protest placard, or an “Occupy Apple Store” t-shirt to scare the hell out of them).

    Why are you not seeing this as a buisness expense? Several comments here say it may be an inexpensive repair. However, buying a newer model that is also an upate, can be written off for a tax deduction. 

  • D Ruis

    Well Elliott,

    Two things spring to mind….

    First of all, you could go through the standard Apple repair/warranty procedure completely or as far as it will get you. If that solves your computer issue, well you are done. If it doesn’t, the may assume that this would also happen to any other Apple user and that there is a case to take it “upstairs” as a matter of example and hopefully as a signal for Apple or any other manufacturer to check the issue and change whatever needs to be changed to prevent the issue happening to others. So you can advocate for your self so to speak, but not as a matter of default, but as a standard concerned Apple user of which thousands work with or for the press.

    The second thing is more a personal opinion, but Apple stuff is so overpriced compared to it’s factual quality of build and materials that any issue should be taken directly to the highest level by every Apple product user.

  • Catherine Banks

    Pay to get the problem fixed.  Then send the email.

  • Aaron Gold

    It would be interesting to see what Apple does. Having had similar issues with two Apple laptops, I know that if you were a regular consumer, Apple would tell you that since you didn’t buy the AppleCare extended warranty, you are out of luck.

    Apple has an almost captive audience of people who are willing to shell out a great deal of money for Apple products, AppleCare, and repairs. I was appalled at the quality of the two Apple laptops I bought* — seems you have to buy the $2,000+ models to get decent quality. I’m much happier with my $600 Lenovo ThinkPad, now 4 years old and going strong.

    If you like the Mac OS, I suggest buying a top-of-the-line model, get AppleCare, and be ready to upgrade when the warranty is out. I’m personally happier with PCs and Win7 or Linux.

    * Please don’t reply, Apple fans, and tell me how much better Macs are than PCs. They really aren’t.

  • andi330

    My 5 year old macbook case was chipping. I took it in expecting to pay and it was replaced for free. At the same time, I was looking to upgrade my RAM. The very honest Apple Genius told me that because my computer was beyond the warranty period, I would be better off going to an online seller because I could get the RAM I wanted for a quarter of the cost of buying it at Apple.

  • MarkKelling

    Just goes to show, individual experience varies.

    At work they swap out our Dell laptops every 18 months.  Used to do it every two years but we have so many fail they went to the shorter refresh.  Most don’t make it that long so they are planning on going to yearly replacement.

    Maybe they used to make them better? But my experience with Dell has been the exact oposite of yours.

  • maudr

    Go for it Chris.  I am enjoying your book also and learning from it.  Thank you.

  • Scarlett21

    I think you have a litmus test – if you would not hesitate to advocate for someone else who had this problem, then yes, you should advocate for yourself.  Don’t you deserve the same treatment as those you advocate for?  If you were advocating for someone else, you’re still using your name and your power as a journalist and consumer advocate to get the company in question to see things your way.  I guess, if you really felt strongly about it, you could ask a fellow consumer advocate to advocate FOR you, therefore not using your own name (although, they will know who you are), but it will make it clear you’re not looking for special treatment, just for the same thing you offer others.  This kind of service should be available to everyone, not just some, right?

  • Nigel Appleby

    Well said Crissy. I agree with your message

  • Michelle C

    This is simple. The answer is yes.   We all use our knowledge to help us in life.  People who are lawyers use there skill for themselves when they have been wronged (I use that term loosely).  Nurses and doctors use their knowledge to diagnose themselves.   If a friend/family is sick, we use our connections to get them the best care possible.   When a mechanic’s car breaks down, they don’t question themselves about fixing it.  My spouse can fix any computer so you better believe he takes care of whatever virus or trojan I manage to download.   I’m sure you get my point.   So first you should have your Mac fixed…and maybe second think about going with a different not-so expensive- brand since Mac’s written warranties don’t seem to be better than any other company.

  • travelfly


     I am a mac fan and have been since I got my first mac in 1988. I will always try to fix any problems with my computer myself first. However, Applecare, is the best thing since sliced bread.  If it breaks, ( unless you pour water over it) they will fix it..So good idea to get it next time..

    I have had a very problems that could not be solved at the local level, with my multitudes of computers and devices.But like any electronic product I have had a few weird situations that they could not get resolved. before So what I did is I sent a letter, multiple copies, to the board members listed on the companies web page, I have always just stayed with the facts and enlisted their help, AND Apple has always responded back to me with an answer that led to resolving what my issue was…

    This is a wonderful company, they do read your letters and I always feel that there is a genuine corporate culture that allows the person that deals with you to give you a real response, so yes, let them know…I’m only a longtime user, but believe me I am a lifetime user… I will be interested in your outcome…Why shouldn’t you expect your computer to work correctly?  I can’t see that it would matter who you are, you are a customer first…

  • Gary Kung

    I voted no. Here is my reason.

    This MacBook Air has problem. End of question. Apple can’t detect anything. End of answer.

    So what seem to be the problem resulting this?

    You are a consumer advocate. You should know that the rule of thumb for a consumer advocate is to clearly identify the problem and address that problem.

    Even you write to Tim Cook, which he may offer to swap your MacBook Air (due to various reasons), but the problem is still out there – What is the cause of the issue?

    I think you should find out what exactly going on first before going to Cupertino.

  • y_p_w

    There’s nothing about aftermarket RAM that means it shouldn’t be used in a machine still under warranty.  It’s still under warranty.  Apple wouldn’t be responsible for the aftermarket memory, but the chance of aftermarket memory causing any lasting damage is zero.  Ifaftermarket memory isn’t working properly, it doesn’t actually cause anything serious to happen that couldn’t be fixed easily.

    These things are commodity parts now.  I had aftermarket memory in my MacBook  less than two months after I got it. I’ve never had an issue.

    The only key is that you should be competent about replacing the memory.  It’s not that hard but if you’re a klutz it might be better having someone else do it.  I’ve literally experimented with different memories and never had an issue with anything going wrong as a result.

  • Debbie Lott

    I’m a lawyer and if I had a personal matter that was within my area of expertise, I might handle it myself as a pro se litigant.  Other people have that option and do it all the time.  Why should I have to pay someone to do something I could handle.

  • jennj99738

     This is nonsensical.  Chris is not a computer technician.  Apple has computer technicians.  He should not have to tell Apple what causes the giant stripe down the screen.  Apple already knows what the cause is but for whatever reason isn’t addressing it. 

    If your car breaks down, are you required to tell the mechanic why it broke down? 

  • Gary Kung

     But if you don’t know the problem, how could you ask anyone to fix it?

    It is in fact how people educate themselve.

  • Barry Graham

    I think you should send the e-mail, I am not sure that you deserve to get it fixed free though – it’s outside of warranty!  BTW consumer reports says that you should not buy extended warranties so glad that you did not.

  • streamerstoo

    If you can’t stand up for yourself, how can you stand up for anyone else…go for it…I have been to the top of Maytag, Verizon, Walmart and others, and won, without being “anyone w power”. Just determination.