Two Apple Store customers walk into a mall

I love the Genius Bar.

No, seriously.  I really do. 

In fact, I'm going in to the GB this Friday ("GB" is short for Genius Bar), and here's how it's going to play out:

  1. They are already expecting me at my appointment time.
  2. I already have an Apple case number on which all the requisite troubleshooting was performed. So no diagnostic needed. I won't need to take a seat at the bar.
  3. I'm going to hand them a failed iPhone X, already erased.
  4. They're going to hand me a new iPhone X.
  5. I'm going to go home and restore the new iPhone X from my iCloud backup.

Total time in-store = 15 minutes = SUCCESS.

Ok, before anyone starts arguing with me in the comments, let me be clear what the point of this blog post is about. My goal is to share with you, my readers, three tips to remove the pain that's usually considered part of the tech service process everyone eventually goes through.  Do these three things, and you'll never get stuck at the bar.  Your stress level will stay low, and you'll even be able to get most repairs done without ever having to leave home.

Then, the next time you hear someone else complaining about spending hours or days at a Genius Bar, you can tell them about this article and pay the happiness forward.  Which is like filing your good karma tank with high octane happiness.

USE Apple's door-to-door mail-in service.

This used to be one of Apple's biggest selling points, and it still is, but it very quietly slipped out of the AppleCare support scripts about ten years ago.  In my last hundred calls with AppleCare, not a single rep offered mail-in as an option.  Instead, they directed me to unplug my computer and carry it into an Apple Store.

The reason for this is actually quite simple.  Some years ago an Apple executive told me exactly why they do this. But that's neither here nor there right now.  What matters is that you don't have to go into an Apple Store.

As I write this on my 12" MacBook, my 15" MacBook Pro is sitting right next to me, erased and ready to ship off to Apple. I called Apple yesterday and told the AppleCare rep on the phone that my MacBook Pro is slower and the fans are blowing all the time, even after resetting the SMC and erasing and reinstalling MacOS. She checked the troubleshooting steps and realized that I had performed all of them. The next step? She asked which Apple Store I wanted to go to.

"I prefer the mail-in service," I replied.  She checked my AppleCare status, and after a long pause she responded, "Ah, I see you have AppleCare on your MacBook Pro.  Let me set that up for you right now." After confirming my address, phone number and a few other details, she confirmed that the delivery agent will be at my door today between 5PM and 7PM with a box to pick up my Mac for expedited repair.

Apple provides this same service for iMacs, Mac Pros, MacBook Pros, MacBooks, iPhones and even iPads.  To take advantage of this, you need a couple of things:

  1. First, you need AppleCare. You should always buy AppleCare.
  2. Next, your hardware needs to be practically disposable. This doesn't mean you're going to throw it away.  It means that you have your data backed up and verified two different ways (see Pro Tip #3 below), so you can erase the Mac with confidence and ship it off without worry or fear of losing data.

Tech Concierge Pro Tip #2:
FIX MOST problems at home OR OFFICE, not in-store.

Ok, I'll let you in on a secret:

Almost any problem with your Mac, iPhone, iPad (and even Windows PC if you have one) can be fixed without you ever needing to leave your home or office.  

Let me spell that out a different way: As long as your device powers on and connects to Internet, I can fix almost any problem you have, regardless of whether it's a Mac or iPhone, iPad or even a Windows-based PC, while the computer or device is sitting on your desk at home or at the office.

Think about that. Would you rather be sitting at the Genius Bar for half a day, or how about you go out to dinner instead while your computer gets fixed while it's sitting on your desk at home? 

Can you imagine going out for dinner while your tech updates and patches all your devices, so nothing fails? That's what I did yesterday for this customer's iMac and MacBook Air, simultaneously.

As a husband and a father, I know how much it means to my wife that I'm supporting her in taking care of our kids on a Friday evening instead of using up that time tethered to the Genius Bar, watching software installation progress bars go by as the Genius juggles five other customers like me.  Now I got your attention.

What you need to make this a reality is the following:

  1. A tech consultant who is willing to do secure, remote service:  Shameless plug: I started doing this at Tech Concierge in 2008. I even tried convincing Apple to do this back when I was an advisor to the AppleCare management team.  The problem was, Apple is so big that the AppleCare team couldn't see their way to doing anything with what I had offered, and the traditional Apple Consultants Network still to this day is limited to techs by zip code. 
  2. A tech consultant who knows how to do secure, remote service the right way. There's a right way and then there are a lot of wrong ways to do remote service.  I spent five years learning how to reboot a computer remotely so I don't have to get my customer to fix it for me. You want someone who knows what they're doing.  Not an amateur, even if they're "really good" as Mac.

Tech Concierge Pro Tip #3:
become immune to the side-effects of tech repair

This should almost be Pro Tip #1. Things break down. It's normal and expected. $*#t happens. No one would argue to the contrary. When it comes to breakdowns and problems, there are only two things that matter: 1) Do you have your data backed up? and 2) Do you have warranty coverage or not?

In my experience with tens of thousands of customers over two decades, #1 is WAY more important than #2.  Paying a couple hundred dollars is doable.  Losing your data forever - your family photos and critical work documents - is unthinkable.  

So why not take steps to make yourself immune to the pain?  I do this for the businesses and households I serve, and I want to show you exactly what I do, in case you want to do it yourself.  Do this and the next time you have a complete hardware failure, your computer gets stolen, or anything else bad happens, you'll be immune to the side-effects of tech repair.

  1. Get constant, perpetual backup.  I use Backblaze. (link)
  2. Make a clone of your Mac. I use Bombich's Carbon Copy Cloner. (link)
  3. Use Apple iCloud backup on all your iPhones and iPads devices. (link).

When you have all your critical data backed up, it opens up your options. Everything changes. Take it from me: Apple referred over 100,000 customers to my company over the past 15 years, and at least 80% of them didn't have their data backed up.  Here's what that costs them:

  • Instead of just getting their device repaired or replaced, the repair goes on hold while attempted data recovery. Only after data recovery can they proceed with repair or replace options.
  • The 'lucky' customers (about 40%) got 100% of their data back for about $500, but it took an extra 3-5 days.  
  • The 'unlucky' customers (about 60%) were referred on to hardware data recovery, which costs between $2700 and $15,000, depending on the circumstances.  Even then, it takes several more days.  You'd be surprised if you knew how many local businesses you buy from had no choice but to pay for this kind of data recovery.

When you have your backup handled, none of this matters.  All you care about is what your repair or replacement options are.  The computer or phone is just a shell.  A disposable device.  Your apps, your settings, your data, that's all that really matters. 

There are only two reasons to walk into an Apple Store.  The first is to buy an Apple product.  Then there's repair. The Genius Bar.  Look toward the rear of the store and you'll find people congregated around the Bar in the back of the store.  These folks share the ultimate first-world problem: Tech issues. There are only two types of customers:  Those who are held hostage by tech problems and those who aren't.  

You want to be in the second group.  

Do the three things listed above and get yourself in the second group. You'll thank me later.  If you've got too much going on to do it, just send me a note here and let me know.  I can help you get it under control, and fast. Just don't wait until you actually need it, or it will probably be too late.