Apple (Support?) In Portugal

Soon after Bruno posted about his unorthodox technique for iPod resuscitation and mused about why he didn’t feel like bringing it in to Apple support, Pedro Telles wrote up a great essay concerning the state of affairs of Apple support in Portugal that I think worthy of further exposure.

If you can’t read Portuguese, try this link instead. It’s not perfect, but should give you an idea.

That essay (like many other things I’ve written about here) provides a considerable degree of insight into what (not) having Apple directly represented here means for Mac users, and is a recommended read for anyone who aspires to see Apple directly represented locally.

Besides the usual (or not so usual) hassles of being unable to buy certain Apple products locally and legally (i.e., with a receipt issued by a local company and your correct home address) and not having an Apple store, there’s indeed quite a bit more to Apple’s continued absence.

And hardware support is sure to be a critical aspect in the years to come (what with that new gadget you may have heard about), so it comes as no surprise to me that Pedro decided to tackle it head-on.

My Previous Close Encounters

I count myself lucky in having had relatively little trouble (so far) with Apple hardware. I’ve had five machines altogether since I switched, and so far I’ve only had real trouble with my iBook.

Still, there is more to the story – and I kept records of pretty much all of it:

So you can see that the issues above aren’t a fair sampling of any Apple support issues – there’s hardware obsolescence, trouble with retailers, etc.

The only real issue I had support-wise was the inordinate length of time things took to be fixed, and I was probably very lucky in actually knowing what needed fixing in those instances.

Tick Tock – ZAP!

Still, there is trouble brewing. My current laptop is a black MacBook and it is an excellent machine, but I have had some issues with it of late.

So far I’ve had no real disk issues (and believe the little clicking noise must be related to the drive parking/unparking the heads), but the power adapter has been throwing circuit breakers around the house pretty damn near every time I plug it in – with or without the MacBook at the other end.

It doesn’t take an engineer to figure out that something’s amiss.

If I plug in the thing without any load and it throws not only the room’s circuit breaker but also the main one (plunging the whole house into darkness), there has to be something wrong with it, right?

And before you ask, we tuned the power loads for the circuit breakers – I happen to be married to another engineer, so we have earthed power plugs and RJ-45 sockets throughout the house (as well as two UPS units).

Bleating At Motherships

So before going on vacation I e-mailed a few Apple service centers asking:

  1. What would it take to exchange the power supply under warranty (which is good until December 2008 or so).
  2. If they had replacements available (it isn’t as if I can use the machine more than a few hours without a replacement).
  3. If not, how long would it take to obtain one.

All pretty straightforward questions. I also described the issue in what I believed to be non-ambiguous terms.

The replies, you ask?

Well, I’d rate most of them on the far side of farcical. Not only did I get one that said “oh, the noise the adapter makes could be normal, it’s called an ‘electrical arc’ in terms of Physics” (odd in several ways, not only because I never mentioned a noise), but I was also quoted a period of two to three weeks to obtain a replacement power adapter.

Yes, people thought it absolutely normal to quote that period of time for a replacement PSU.

Some even quoted the price for a new one if I wanted to order it (I have to assume they mis-read the bit where I mentioned a little known word pronounced warr-ant-ee).

I was also told I’d have to bring in the laptop as well “just on the safe side”. Which kind of makes sense (as standard procedure) until you realize that I made it plain that the power adapter triggered the circuit breakers all by itself.

We’re Communicating

Truth be told that the replies from Interlog had none of the above nonsense, but then again I didn’t get any sort of estimate for the replacement from them either.

Which is sort of acceptable, since the person replying to e-mail probably isn’t in a position to commit to there being replacement stock…

But the bottom line is that I haven’t gone in and swapped my power adapter yet.

And my previous visits there went pretty well – other than the inordinate delays, people were civil, knowledgeable (despite the delays).

Incidentally, “there” is pretty much nowhere, since they’re sited in a former industrial area way outside town. Other third(fourth?)-party support centers are inside Lisbon, but they seldom have parts and/or ship things there, so they are no guarantee of speedier service.

Why? Well, the reasons are hard to pin down, but overall I’d boil it down to this – It’s not the kind of user experience I want to have with an Apple product.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, my MacBook needs recharging. If by any change there’s an electrical blackout in Lisbon… It probably wasn’t me.

Note: before my US readership starts hitting the comments link and mentioning Geniuses and AppleCareI’d buy AppleCare if it existed here (and if I thought I’d be getting my money’s worth). Plus there is the little catch of there being no Apple stores here…