Saturday, July 25, 2009

My laptop battery bulged and deformed!

Yesterday everything was fine, tonight I noticed my 17" MacBook Pro was wobbling like a table on even ground. I looked under it and the battery appeared to have come loose. I shut everything down and flipped it over. Well… it was a little worse than that.

With difficulty I removed the battery and noticed something inside had swelled up tremendously. Not good. I remembered a battery recall notice from a while ago, so I went looking. I did check at the time but since my battery was not actually exhbiting any symptoms, the Apple web site told everybody to run Battery Update, which I did.

Coming back to the site now I find that while my computer was covered in the plan, it is now too late. The program closed in May 2009. Browsing around in the forums I find plenty of accounts from users that are in the same boat. Bought their laptop in similar time frame and only now does the problem happen. The original article admits a design/manufacturing issue, but yet no replacement.

I decided I wanted to call Apple to see if I could get a replacement battery anyway. Normally I would have gone to the Palo Alto Apple store, but as it so happens I am in West Yellowstone Montana at the moment. The nearest Apple Store is in Salt Lake City, over 6 hours away! No go, at Apple Care (the only phone number really that one can find to call), is closed. I decided to call my "home" store and see what they can do.

The person in the Palo Alto store keeps insisting that batteries do not normally last that long: Tough, buy a new one. He insists I should go to a Store. The message that the nearest store is 100's of miles away falls on deaf ears the first several times. After insisting about the Apple program about these batteries etc. and that this is a safety related issue, he tries to get a "Genius" to help me. They're all busy. I get told to call Apple Care tomorrow and get case number. With that in hand I should call back to see if, maybe they can ship me a battery.

I am somewhat hopeful about getting a replacement as the messages in some boards seem to indicate that it does happen. In fact, some even got them shipped overnight. Of course that is what I am hoping as I am using this machine every day and waiting for the battery for a week would not be good. More later.

UPDATE: 07/27/09
Talked to AppleCare yesterday (I do not have a contract) and after some hemming and hawing that this is "normal" I managed to convince them that I know it is not. Basically what they said is that it is normal, but if the battery deforms there is a small potential for it to damage other parts of the laptop and told me to bring it in to have it looked at. If, and only if, there is damage would Apple then repair the damage and issue a new battery. I explained that I am nowhere near an authorized repair center (turns out the nearest one is 2hours away in Bozeman, MT) and that I had discovered the problem right after it happened (it seemed to be a sudden event), and could find no visible damage. With that in mind, I asked them to see if they could spare me the trip and send a battery.
It took 10 minutes on hold and then it was approved! Called back today and got a tracking #. It tracks and the battery is supposed to be here tomorrow. Great that Apple does work with customers this way, but too bad that if you don't know how to push the buttons, how to call when it seems they won't listen (because you don't have Apple Care), or if you live near a store you are likely to not get the same service.

UPDATE: 07/28/09
Battery arrived, opened the box, put the old battery in, ripped of the label to reveal a return shipping label, and gave the box back to the Fedex guy who was friendly enough to wait a few minutes for me to do that. Done!

UPDATE: 07/01/11
Same thing happened to my wife's slightly older 13" MacBook. Called them again and had to go through supervisor to end up with customer relations (I spoke with Charles). Again they insist this is normal, and every case is handled without regard for previous cases. He saw the case this post is about in the system, but refused replacement in this case. In both cases the system was out of warranty. He refused to tell me why this case was different from the prior case and refused to send a new battery. It appears that if the battery bulged to the point of doing damage inside the laptop, they will take responsibility. Perhaps the advise to customers should be to leave the battery in until damage has been done! It did not seem to matter that I have been a Macintosh customer since 1984, currently have 4 actively used Macintoshes (2 desktop, 2 laptop) in my house, as well as 2 iPhones and three iPods. They are willing to really tick of a customer over this. From now on my message to every potential laptop buying friend will be that after 1-3 years they will have to spend $130 on a battery because Apple does not stand behind its product in a consistent manner. The replacement battery, consequently will not be bought from Apple.

No comments: