Bad genius, caught on video

Angela Ahrendts, you've got a problem.

In the first 6:30 minutes of this Canadian Broadcast Corporation investigative report, an Apple Store "genius" is caught on hidden camera giving spectacularly bad advice. He estimates $1,200 worth of repairs are required on a MacBook Pro that a shop on First Avenue was able to fix with tweezers for free. A new backlight cable, if it had been necessary, would have cost $15. Bad genius, bad.

Cue the video:

My take: I wasn't aware Apple's water damage indicators were as unreliable as this video suggests, or that its water-damage repair policies were so iron-clad. The deeper problem, according to iFixit, is the war Apple is waging against third-party repairs.

UPDATE: I'm having doubts about the original CBC story. See Celebrity repair guy Louis Rossmann takes his complaint to YouTube, trips over agenda.


  1. Ken Cheng said:
    There are certainly bad genii out there. I sent an old iPhone 6 to my nephew. It was perfectly fine, except for a scratch on the screen. After a year he took it in for a battery replacement. The genius said the screen would have to be replaced in addition to the battery, due to the scratch being a crack. Honestly that’s nonsense, but he went ahead with the expensive replacement anyway.

    When the genius had it open, he said the new screen could not be installed since the frame of the phone was bent!!!

    I know the phone was not bent when I owned it, but my nephew could have bent it, I suppose. OTOH, why didn’t the genius notice it was bent earlier?

    Now my nephew has a brick. My only other comment is that the only bad genius experience I ever had was at the same Applestore in LA, the Grove. They were hostile and seemed to push for billed repairs. And that was over a dozen years ago! Doesn’t seem to have changed much.

    October 10, 2018
  2. David Emery said:
    (For those of you not following PED 3.0 on Facebook)

    In my experience (since Store #2 opened a couple miles from my home in Northern VA), the quality of tech support from the “Genius Bar” varies widely. Some have been very good (one guy I knew from a local independent Apple dealer before the store opened, we’d chat about “old times”.) Some have been acceptable, but snotty or condescending. Others have been close to clueless and are just ‘mentally reading’ from the script they’ve been trained to.

    I did take my laptop to the Manchester NH store a couple weeks ago. I was 90% sure the problem was ‘swollen battery’. The ‘Genius’ did the right things to check it out, quoted me a very reasonable repair cost ($200, they replace battery, trackpad and top cover of the laptop as a single LRU.) That included shipping the laptop back to my house. Dropped it off noon Monday, got it back Wednesday.

    October 10, 2018
    • S Lawton said:
      Unfortunately, I think we will all start to discover that with a 3.7% unemployment rate, service is going to suffer not just at Apple but many industries, because now that it is an employee market, they will go where their pay and benefits are better and that is not in a retail environment.

      October 10, 2018
  3. Fred Stein said:
    “Bad journalism, caught….”

    Apple’s computers have the highest customer sat at 83, per ASCI, reported in MacRumors a few weeks ago.

    One example does not make a case. Note that Amazon and Samsung nearly match Apple,

    Must add: Remember the OMGs about Bendgate and touch touch disease? Next question: Did we see warranty expense rise? or loss in customer loyalty?

    October 10, 2018
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      One example does not make a case.

      I have a friend (also an AAPL investor) who when we discuss my Historical Trend Chart always gives me an example of this year, or that when AAPL didn’t perform to the Trend. My response is always “A sample of one does not a trend make”, but somehow that never sinks in.

      As is true with all surveys and averages, the greater the sample, the greater the accuracy. To get an accurate feel for the quality of Apple’s Genii you’d have to sample far more than an individual experience. My guess would be that that sample would entail at least 500 scientifically curated experiences, and even then you’d get a margin of error of about +/-4%.

      Unfortunately, today’s media doesn’t have the resources or inclination, to sample on that scale. Doing so would in all probability negate the headline.

      My Historical Trend is compiled from 8 years of trading data and still, AAPL’s daily trading pattern varies from the trend, which is why I bracket the trend with a Standard Deviation range.

      October 10, 2018
  4. Gianfranco Pedron said:
    Editor: ” I need a hit piece on Apple service practices by the end of the week.:

    Journalist: “Easy peasy.”

    Knowing full well that Apple will not service a device unless it is authorized to address all non conforming issues, journalist locates Apple laptop computer, messes with easily accessible cable, triggers liquid sensors using water and a cotton swab (or has someone do same).

    Journalist takes computer to however many Apple stores are necessary to obtain desired sound bite from an Apple Genius. Story done by mid afternoon of same day.

    When customers bring a device to Apple for repair, they expect to receive back a device that is 100% Apple and entirely conforming to factory specification. A device with triggered water damage sensors, however they may have been triggered, does not conform to factory specification. As a result, Apple employees do not have the leeway to make a judgement call like Mr. Rossman does. (I find his skill and his videos absolutely fascinating.)

    When a device is brought to Mr. Rossman, his customers simply expect to receive a functioning device without the expectation that it will conform entirely to factory specification. In a video I recently viewed, Mr. Rossman received a mainboard with a Thunderbolt circuit that had been damaged beyond repair. I watched, in amazement, as Mr. Rossman brought the mainboard back to life by removing the damaged components and disabling the Thunderbolt circuit altogether, with consent from his customer, of course.

    Let’s imagine, for a moment, the ensuing uproar and threats of legal action if it came to light that Apple had performed, or even authorized, such a “repair”.

    Regarding the free bent pin and other “easy” (for him) fixes Mr. Rossman offers his customers, he scores goodwill points without actually entering into a repair contract with all the implications of liability for possible issues the quick fix might engender.

    The journalist, of course, had no time to explain all this to his viewers because he had to use the second part of his report to drag up the iPhone battery issue for which Apple has taken corrective action quite some time ago.

    As an avid DIY’er, I would do, and have done, exactly the same things to my personal property while waiting for the proper repair parts to arrive. As a businessman working on other peoples’ property I would hesitate.

    October 10, 2018
    • “Knowing full well that Apple will not service a device unless it is authorized to address all non conforming issues, journalist locates Apple laptop computer, messes with easily accessible cable, triggers liquid sensors using water and a cotton swab (or has someone do same).”

      And risk his or her career in journalism over one stupid story if caught? Nope.

      October 11, 2018
      • Gianfranco Pedron said:
        OK, granted. However he did it, the journalist did locate a broken Apple computer and went looking for sound bites.

        The CBC and others have done this type of journalism before where they overtly plant a defective component, or disconnect a wire or vacuum hose on a motor vehicle and take it around to various repair facilities filming the technicians and service staff on hidden camera, without negative consequence to the journalist’s career.

        As for your suggestion regarding what a “good” genius would do, had those suggestions been captured on hidden camera and published, he would likely be a severely reprimanded or maybe even an unemployed genius today. I’m not saying that’s right, just the way it is for whatever reason.

        I don’t believe it’s up to Apple or its employees to suggest their customers take their Apple devices elsewhere for repair, not out of nastiness but simply because they can’t recommend that. Had the genius been told he was being recorded and asked to make a suggestion off the record he might have been more forthcoming.

        My take on this story is that if I was a genius working for Apple, I would behave with clients as if I was secretly being recorded all the time. You never know who’s watching.

        October 12, 2018
  5. Gianfranco Pedron said:
    In a somewhat related story:

    “Chinese fraudsters scammed Apple out of free iPhone parts”


    “”Apple set aside $1.6 billion at the start of its fiscal year for global warranty claims, but ended up spending $3.7 billion on them in the period, according to the company’s annual report for that year,” The Information said.”

    October 10, 2018
  6. George Row said:
    Having watched the whole of the TV hit-piece, I have to say that I think your headline was wrong.
    This was NOT a “bad genius” and he was not “caught” doing anything other than following company policy. The company policy is to repair a device to good-as-new status, with proper spare parts.

    Apple doesn’t employ “talented tinkerers” a) there simply are not enough such people and b) by definition the repairs they perform will leave a device “better than it was, at least for a while” rather than good-as-new.

    The backstreet repair guy is able to take out his microscope and tweak one pin on a tiny cable or re-do a dry solder joint. The corporate policy always has to be “replace the component make it good as new” not “give that a try and let me know if it goes weird again”.

    On behalf of friends and family I regularly take Apple devices to the Genius Bar and get the benefit of their free diagnostics. Then I make the judgment call as to whether we will pay the price of the official fix or obtain recycled spare parts and fix it at home.
    I have on occasions admitted stuff like “I think I have put that part in the wrong way round and it has jammed. Can you guys get it out without damaging anything?” When they returned from the back room I was told “yes you had forced that in upside down. Frank in the back room got it out – those need special long tweezers – but he can’t take responsibility for fitting one of those. You’ll have to check it yourself. But when I opened the case the job had been done for me.

    October 10, 2018
    • “Having watched the whole of the TV hit-piece, I have to say that I think your headline was wrong. This was NOT a “bad genius” and he was not “caught” doing anything other than following company policy. The company policy is to repair a device to good-as-new status, with proper spare parts.”

      Agreed. The company policy is strict and in cases like this, unfortunate.

      In my world, a good genius would have suggested the possibility of false-positive water damage. He or she might have mentioned the option of taking tbe computer to a repair shop. They can often offer a cheaper fix that violates your warranty but gives you a few more years of use.

      October 11, 2018

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