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July 16, 2001
7:09 PM   Subscribe

Countless people have had problems with their Apple Airport wireless base stations failing shortly after the one year warranty ran out. Adventurous folks figured out that there was a faulty capacitor in the power supply, got out their soldering irons, and drilled some ventilation holes. Apple is aware of the issue, and is quietly replacing ABSs that fall within a specific serial number range, but only if they have failed. So other folks have to wait until the damn thing dies before it can be replaced. This corporate behavior isn't just limited to Apple. What other vendors are guilty of lack of disclosure for faulty products, and only change their tune after public outcry?
posted by machaus (18 comments total)

 
firestone?
posted by Hackworth at 7:11 PM on July 16, 2001


Apple is with the replacement PowerBook adapters. Judging from the Apple support boards the yoyo adapters give people way more problems with fraying wires while only six people had their old adapters overheat. I got my new yoyo replacement today and the plug that goes into the machine is too small. Pushing the plug into the PowerBook takes a lot of force and I needed another person to hold the PowerBook while I wrestled the plug out. A call to Apple support got us a couple people telling us tough luck.
posted by @homer at 7:19 PM on July 16, 2001


I wasn't too happy either with getting a yo-yo adapter as a replacement, but more for the reason of how much space they take within a briefcase.
posted by machaus at 7:22 PM on July 16, 2001


All companies do this. Every auto manufacturer has "silent recalls," where the dealer is supposed to fix something the next time your bring your vehicle in for service. Apple is better than average in the computer field; they've done several warranty extensions for products with design flaws, for instance.
posted by kindall at 7:24 PM on July 16, 2001


but kindall, doesn't that speak to a lack of accountability?
I'm not so sure that taking my dollars elsewhere gives my any power when it is an accepted and unregulated occurance across the board.
posted by machaus at 7:29 PM on July 16, 2001


What lack of accountability? If your AirPort Base Station breaks, they send you a new one, even if it's out of warranty, if it's one of the affected ones. In fact, I hear they express-ship you a new one before you send your old one back, so you'll be left with a minimum of downtime. This for an out-of-warranty product, when they don't have to do anything at all. That strikes me as excellent service.

Of course they're only going to replace broken ones. if yours is not broken, why exactly should they send you a new one? Obviously not every single base station is going to die; it's a statistical matter of more failing than expected.
posted by kindall at 8:00 PM on July 16, 2001


I don't want to be perceived as the "reply to every single person in the thread" type person, but I think you are misreading me... The issue here isn't Apple's logistics for handling the returns, but how long it has taken them to handle it. This has been an issue for months, and still isn't a publicized repair extension. Wouldn't you be pissed if you went to all the trouble of cracking open the case to your ABS, only to find Apple sheeplishly admitting the problem five months later? Do you really believe that Apple engineers didn't know about this well before the one year anniversary of the product release?
posted by machaus at 8:24 PM on July 16, 2001


What other vendors are guilty of lack of disclosure for faulty products, and only change their tune after public outcry?

I'd say this sounds a lot like Intel's handling of the Pentium Bug way back when. When people first started experiencing floating-point math errors, Intel tried to deny it at first, and then only replaced processors for those users who demonstrated a need (with Intel setting the standards for "need") for intensive floating-point usage. It took a great deal of public outcry (and possibly a few miscalculated tax returns) to convince Intel to replace processors on demand.
posted by harmful at 8:36 PM on July 16, 2001


"and possibly a few miscalculated tax returns"

And we have a FUD winner.

"The issue here isn't Apple's logistics for handling the returns, but how long it has taken them to handle it. This has been an issue for months, and still isn't a publicized repair extension. "

As a manager of an Apple Higher Ed reseller, I find it surprising that this isn't a publisized repair extension, as machaus points out. We were notified ASAP about the Apple Powerbook power supply problem (fire...BAD!) but the airport prob remains largely downplayed and poo-pooed. And saying that everyone else does it, doesn't make it right.

"(with Intel setting the standards for "need") "

With all respect to the possibility that you are correct, this wasn't within my experience at all. I would appreciate if you would supply a document or link to support this...
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:03 PM on July 16, 2001


So other folks have to wait until the damn thing dies before it can be replaced.

So? "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
posted by nathan_teske at 10:40 PM on July 16, 2001


A business will not stay in business if it trumpets each mistake to the world. Unfortunately, to get things done, you need to be a bit shady.

Apple's better than they could be, for all their flaws.
posted by jragon at 10:45 PM on July 16, 2001


It's because a power adapter is, in essense, just that, a power adapter. But an Airport base is part of their core technology, what they hope, in the "near-and-great Apple Future" will be what everyone is using.

They don't want to subject core technology to that kind of problems. But a power cable? Sure. It's just a power cable.
posted by benjh at 5:02 AM on July 17, 2001


I said "possibly" because I was working from memory, and did not have my copy of Michael Hyman's PC Roadkill at hand. I can see now why I got two separate issues confused in my mind: The Pentium bug is discussed on pages 207-208, and the tax bug is discussed on page 209.

The tax error I was thinking of was actually a data import error between Quicken and the 1995 edition of MacInTax, which led to a number of misfiled returns: "Revelation of the bug shortly followed the Pentium fireworks, so Intuit adopted a very agressive program of public apology." (Emphasis mine.) I had no intent to decieve or confuse anyone; it was an honest mistake.

As far as Intel's Pentium replacement policy went: "To fix the problem, Intel initially said it would replace chips for free for anyone who could prove that they were impacted by the bug. Proving this could be somewhat difficult. It would require showing Intel proprietary code, or otherwise jumping through hoops."
posted by harmful at 6:18 AM on July 17, 2001


My concern with Apple not just replacing (even if they haven't failed) the entire serial number range that have a known faulty capacitor stems from the fact that they have yet to make this a public repair extension. For all we know, they could have known about this fault before the warranty period ended, and will use their discretion going forward. Some people may be out of luck when it does fail. It speaks to a lack of consumer protection.
posted by machaus at 7:01 AM on July 17, 2001


I find it surprising that this isn't a publicized repair extension.

You guys are cracking me up. Maybe the story's not on the front page of the New York Times, but you all know about it. It's been all over the Mac sites, hasn't it? We're talking about it on Metafilter, aren't we? They're not keeping it a secret, are they? Hell, I've been in France for a year and I know about it.

Phooey.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:53 AM on July 17, 2001


Some people may be out of luck when it does fail.

As opposed to everyone being out of luck because the fricken warranty is over. This is an out-of-warranty replacement. Out-of-warranty meaning if it fails, you're usually S.O.L. Apple's providing better service than they're required to, and people still find something to bitch about? Par for the course, I guess, especially where Apple is concerned.

It speaks to a lack of consumer protection.

They only promised you a year. If your year is over, and your Airport Base Station still works, they've kept their promise. If it failed within that year, they fixed it, again keeping their promise. Doing anything else is completely optional. It's good customer relations, perhaps, but it's still optional. The warranty says, basically, "it will work for one year, and if it doesn't we'll fix it." It doesn't say "If the device is found to contain design flaws, we'll send you a new one, no questions asked, even if the warranty has run out and even if it still actually works." I have a standard Apple warranty right here (came with my G4) and it says nothing about anything like that. It says you get a year, period. So if you got your year, quitcherbitchen. If you want one that's guaranteed to last longer, buy the extended warranty.

A good amount of the Sony gear I've bought failed right after the warranty ran out. You know what I do about that? I don't buy Sony anymore.
posted by kindall at 9:24 AM on July 17, 2001


Even with the units in the serial number batch (I have one of them myself), there's no certainty it's going to fail, right? There's a design flaw and the units from that batch show a propensity to kick off, but obviously not every unit from the batch, or Apple would already be inundated. I don't have the invoices here, but the one I have is definitely out of warranty and it's still doing its thing just fine. If it fails - it fails. I'll buy another one. If Apple feels like being generous and giving me a replacement, that would be even better, but you know what? I've been in this business too long to expect that they will. I've gotten about fourteen or fifteen months of constant use out of that one and at US$300, I say that sucker is cheap.
posted by m.polo at 3:00 PM on July 17, 2001


Metastory on the power adapter recall: some of the replacement adapters qualify for replacements themselves. I love Apple, but sometimes it seems like they have a steel bar for a foot and a magnet in their mouth.
posted by darukaru at 4:52 PM on July 17, 2001


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