10/01/2009 - Recently I noticed that my Apple MacBook Pro's battery life seemed to be much shorter than what I experienced when it was new. This issue, combined with a hairline crack in the display bezel, led me to make an appointment at the Nashville Apple Store this past Saturday.

I arrived early for my appointment, finding the store crowded as usual, a bevy of shoppers milling around the tables, talking tech, waiting for a chance to speak to one of the Apple support people at the Genius Bar. I sat at the bar, started playing with my iPhone, and patiently waited for my appointed time to arrive.

In hindsight I don't think it was good fortune that paired me with a very friendly Apple tech--more on that in a bit. He heard my laments, looked at my laptop, for which I had wisely purchased AppleCare, and told me that AppleCare didn't cover cosmetic issues. "Well okay," I said, "Maybe you can determine what it will cost to fix." We went on to discuss the issue with the battery; a cursory test showed the battery to be in good working order, but the tech told me that often the issue is with the motherboard and not the battery itself. We talked about this for a bit, when he said, "Tell you what--I'm going to get this bezel fixed for you. Can you live without your laptop for a few days?"

"Sure," I replied enthusiastically, "that woudl be great!" So I left my laptop with the tech, who told me that it would be shipped back to me at my house.

Today the laptop arrived.

Keep in mind that I only mentioned two things to the tech: the battery issue and the cracked bezel.

Here is what they replaced, for no charge: the top case lid, the bottom case lid, the RAM cover, the DVD drive (which they said had issues, unbeknownst to me), the battery, the bezel, the display (they said there were color issues--oh really?), and last but not least, the keyboard (I'd scratched a key top a little bit).

What I'm holding is what appears to be a brand-new MacBook Pro, with the original hard drive and original motherboard. How much did this cost me? Not a dime.

You have to love a company like this, whose techs look at a damaged laptop and apparently say to themselves, "What can we do to this laptop to bring it up to perfect specs?" and then proceed to do so without charging the customer a dime for it.

Lest you think this is an anomaly:

My AppleTV, which I love, freaked out the other day when I inadvertantly assigned its IP address to another computer on my network--oops. Its feelings clearly hurt, it decided to stop working. I tried restoring it to the factory OS, but somehow that made matters worse and it wouldn't run at all. I took it to the Apple Store, where a tech worked on it for an hour, first installing the latest OS on it, and trying to get it to work. Little did he know that the reason his remote didn't do anything on my AppleTV was because I have it paired with another remote. I took it home, plugged it in, it came back to life and is happily living on its own IP address again.

How much did that tech incident cost me? Nothing.

Let's compare this with other expensive gadgets. What if I were to take my Prius (a gadget-lover's dream) to the dealer and asked him to tell me why the GPS wasn't working, or some other issue. If the GPS unit were damaged, would they look the car over, give me some new tires, perhaps a new driver's seat, new carpet, just because they wanted to bring it back to original condition? Not a chance. Only once did something like that happen to me, when I brought my Infiniti J-30 into the shop and the service manager noticed a huge chunk out of one of my tires' sidewalls; he replaced it for free, to my extreme pleasure. Later I found out that he was fired for doing just that sort of thing for all his favorite customers.

Apple not only doesn't fire their employees for this sort of thing, they clearly encourage it. That's why I love using Apple products, why I will continue to sing their praises at every opportunity, and try to model my own customer service after theirs. Give the customer just a little bit extra--it pays off in the long run in positive word of mouth.