My Macbook had a motherboard failure two weeks ago. Both USB ports on left side blown, wifi chipset blown. (Blame Tekkcharge but that is another discussion). Discovered this at about 4pm on a Wednesday, went to Apple.com and scheduled a genius bar appointment at 830pm same day.
At 830 I roll into the Bellevue Square Apple store, in 30 seconds someone approaches me and logs me in for my appointment. In a few minutes I am at the desk describing my problem. The genius asked me if I had Applecare, I sheepishly admitted not. Crap, I am going to have to pay for this. Wait says the genius, perhaps your MacBook Pro has the faulty NVidia chipset, in which case it is a free warranty motherboard replacement! And indeed, my machine fails the NVidia stress test, so free motherboard for me! The genius says this will in all likelihood fix my problem — but if not, not to worry, once Apple has cracked the case and messed with the motherboard, if the system is still failing, it is now their responsibility!!! Awesomeness.
Two days later they called and said the motherboard had been replaced but one of my RAM sticks was faulty, and so they were going to replace that as well. For free.
Within a week I got the machine back. New motherboard. New RAM stick. My hard disk and software safely untouched. Total cost to me: $0. The only complication was discovering that Aperture would not run, the activation logic ties the product guid to the processor guid, and so Aperture felt it was not a licensed install. Apple.com again, scheduled a callback, in one minute an Apple rep called and we were finally able to resolve (they were going to get me a new activation once we established my proof of ownership, but I eventually found the original install media).
OK so the MacBook Pro is way more expensive than a PC but I just got hundreds of dollars of parts and service out of warranty for free. And, despite a tragic hardware error, I lost no data, and had the machine fixed locally in under a week. Basically the extra costs for the Mac represent prepaid parts, prepaid service, and retail store staffing to make the lifetime experience of owning a Mac painless.
I don’t even know how to replicate this in the PC world. BestBuy is the remaining significant retailer of PCs. And the service levels are dramatically different. You can’t get much in the way of service there, when we had a broken PC purchased through BestBuy it got shipped away for repair, and took weeks. And just the simplest store experience in BestBuy is worlds different. I was in BestBuy this morning to buy a microSD card reader. I found what I wanted easily enough and went to the checkout. There were two checkers working, each busy. 4 of us in line waiting to checkout. One checker finished with her customer, and apparently decided it was breaktime, and left her station and wandered away. 4 of us in line waiting with money in hand, just needing someone to give it to. The other checker was involved in some complicated transaction so we wait and wait. Meanwhile there are 10s of BestBuy employees walking through the store all doing super important things. I finally spot one and yell across 30 feet of floorspace “Hey, can we get some checkout help here, 4 of us are waiting?” She looks around for someone to help us and goes back to what she was doing. !!!! Finally she comes over and starts to help check us out.
If I was running a retail business, I think I would instruct my employees that job 1 is taking money from people who want to give it to us. Apparently that is not the BestBuy priority. I really can’t fathom this, what does BestBuy tell its employees to do all day??
It is not that PC hardware is necessarily terrible (some of it is but some is just fine), or that the software on it is awful (though again some of it is), but the entire experience from purchase through support over the lifetime of the PC is dramatically worse than the experience available from Apple. As a smart guy said to me recently, “PCs are now throwaway”, when they quit working, you really have no choice but to just chuck it in the trash.
Enough ranting. Glad my MacBook is back humming.