Trade show presenter, podcaster, and Mac user Heidi Miller was not so fortunate. When her iBook G4 died on February 16th, the drive was scrambled beyond the ability of Apple’s “Genius Bar” to repair.
A week later, when she went to collect the now-functioning computer, Heidi was astonished to discover that Apple wanted to charge her $300 so she could take the old drive to a data recovery service. That was on top of what she’d paid for the repair and the replacement hard drive.
This bizarre claim that Apple now owns Heidi’s dead drive resembles the attempts by telecoms companies to charge two and three times for the same service (that is, charging ISPs and charging users). The phrases that come immediately to mind are “What a rip-off!” and “Highway robbery!” The implication is that when you buy from Apple, you’re actually just renting from them.
It would actually make more sense for Apple to charge if you don’t take the old drive away with you, because there are usually fees to recycle anything as toxic as computer components. That would be analogous to the disposal fee mechanics charge when they replace the fluids in your car. You can’t just dump petroleum products or computer parts down the drain.
Heidi persuaded the store manager to cancel the $300 charge, but so far no one in Apple’s PR department will tell her anything about this policy and where or whether she got any notification that if she took the machine in for repair, any replaced parts would belong to Apple. Other bloggers and podcasters are picking up the story. If Apple doesn’t respond soon, this could turn into the equivalent of Jeff Jarvis’ “Dell Hell” experience—a PR nightmare.
From the backup perspective, though Heidi lost the podcast she was in the middle of editing, she did have many of her files backed up onto an external drive, and she’s hoping the data recovery company can retrieve enough of the rest to make it worth the expense of their services. On the down side, her XHD was a recent acquisition and she hadn’t realized that there were whole categories of files that the software didn’t back up automatically.
The moral of this story is threefold.
First, if you use a Mac, see what you can find out about whether you really own your drive, and even if it’s dead, don’t return it to Apple without degaussing it (disrupting its magnetic fields) to make sure they can’t get at any of your data. (Computer recycling facilities provide this service for a fairly modest fee; repair shops might, as well.) Maybe they really do have a legal right to the hardware, but nothing entitles them to your data.
Second, make sure that your backup software really is backing up all of your important data. I prefer a combination of complete drive images and frequent file backups. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked in the file backups, I can retrieve it from the drive image. (But see last week’s reminder regarding the reliability of drive imaging software.) This avoids having to seek out the expensive services of data recovery companies.
Third, make sure your own policies about purchases, refunds, cancellation fees, etc are clearly stated and readily available to your customers and clients. This will help avert PR nightmares. It’s entirely too easy for dissatisfied customers to spread the word about any bad experiences they have. (The good news is that it’s also easy for happy customers to praise you on the web.)