How to Navigate the Genius Bar

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WRITTEN BY WHITSON GORDON

We think the “Genius Bar” moniker does a disservice to everyday Apple users, scaring them away from fixing their own devices and implying only a “genius” can troubleshoot them. But sometimes, going to the Genius Bar makes sense—especially if your phone is still under warranty and you can get it fixed for free.

Furthermore, for all the flak we (and others) give the Genius Bar, its mere existence is still a huge step in the right direction. The vast majority of PC and phone manufacturers don’t have easily accessible retail locations where you can walk in and get service—in fact, a lot of them require you to mail your device in for warranty service. A short trip to the Apple Store is much, much easier.

So if you’re headed to the Genius Bar for some fixin’, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Research the issue before you go

There’s a good chance you’ve already done this, but just in case: have a Google around and see if the problem is easily fixable at home. If your iPhone is having trouble charging, for example, the charging port may just be full of lint—grab a toothpick and try to clean it out. You’d be surprised how often people waste a trip to the Apple Store for such a simple solution, and if you can save yourself an hour of hassle, you’ll feel pretty smart.

Similarly, the problem could be on your end—maybe your computer’s “slowness” is actually a poor Wi-Fi signal degrading your internet speed, or maybe your sound is finicky because the headphones are broken. Check out our troubleshooting guides before you go, and be sure to check for other common issues that might be outside the Genius Bar’s domain.

Plus—and this should go without saying, but just in case—back up your data before you hand your phone or computer over to Apple. You never know when something will go wrong and you’ll be left without your crucial files.

Get an appointment—don’t try to walk in

Once upon a time, you could walk up to the Genius Bar, wait a few minutes, and get quick service. Those days are long gone (if you can’t tell by the throngs of people that regularly swarm Apple’s retail stores). Longtime Apple users probably know this, but if this is your first trip in a while, you should know: going to the Apple store is like going to the DMV now, and an appointment is crucial if you don’t want to stand around waiting. Head to Apple’s website, click the “Get Hardware Help” button at the bottom, and make an appointment for the device in question. (You can also do this from the Apple Support app.)

If you have multiple issues or multiple devices that require service, make multiple appointments back-to-back from one another. Apple schedules those appointments assuming they’ll last 10-15 minutes each, so bringing a bunch of “but also” problems with you is only going to slow them down—and potentially get you worse service from a rushed technician.

Familiarize yourself with AppleCare (if you have it)

When you buy an Apple device, you get a one-year warranty with the device called AppleCare. You also have the option to purchase an extended warranty called AppleCare+, which not only adds an extra year of service but includes coverage for accidental damage, theft, and loss. A lot of people think this means they’ll get free repairs if they break their screen, but that’s not how it works.

If your device has a known issue that you didn’t cause—like the iPhone 7’s No Service glitch—then AppleCare will likely give you the repair for free. But if you damage your screen, dunk the phone in water, or otherwise damage it accidentally, you’ll have to pay a service fee to fix that damage. It’ll just be a lower service fee than you would have paid without AppleCare+. So don’t go demanding a free repair you aren’t entitled to.

In other cases, Apple may deny warranty coverage if you’ve damaged the phone, even if that damage isn’t directly related to your issue. The same goes for devices that you or a third party has repaired: Apple may decline to offer warranty coverage, even though it’s illegal for them to do so. We’d encourage you to remind them of that fact if they try to pull a fast one.

See if you’re eligible for at-home repair

If you need service on a desktop Mac, it might be a hassle to take it into the store (especially if we’re talking about one of Apple’s 27” behemoths). They don’t advertise it heavily on their site, but Apple actually offers at-home repairs for desktop Macs if you’re still under the AppleCare warranty. You’ll need to give Apple a call, explain your situation, and they should be able to transfer you to a supervisor who can set up an at-home visit.

Don’t be afraid to look for help elsewhere

Back when I was in college, my mom had an issue with her MacBook Pro: it wouldn’t boot. We troubleshooted the problem, but ultimately couldn’t get the computer to start, so we took it to the Genius Bar. After their own testing, they told us the hard drive was dead, it needed to be replaced, and there was nothing they could do to retrieve my mother’s data (unless she wanted to pay independent, “clean room” data recovery specialists nearly $1000). She hadn’t backed up—hence my advice above—so she was devastated. She almost let them recycle her hard drive, but I told her to bring it home just so I could try it with my own hands.

15 minutes and one Ubuntu live CD later, I had all of her data copied to a backup disk, with zero fuss. Just boot, drag, and drop—it was that easy. If she had listened to the Genius, she would have lost everything. (Apple’s Geniuses hate when you bring your tech-y friend, but in this case, it was clearly a boon for the customer.)

I called Apple Support to ask them why the Genius didn’t try something so simple and obvious, and they basically told me that Geniuses are given specific troubleshooting steps by Apple, and many will just stick to those. Others may go above and beyond the call of duty, but that’s never guaranteed.

So if the Genius Bar can’t fix your problem, don’t throw your hands up in defeat—take it to an independent repair shop (or even a tech-savvy friend) and see if they can do anything. You may be out of luck, but you never know. This is not the only time my mom’s had an experience like this at the Genius Bar, and she’s certainly not the only one. So like any other doctor, get a second opinion first.

Be nice, but firm

As with any customer service interaction, you’ll catch more flies with honey. Despite some of Apple’s shady support practices (like the aforementioned warranty repairs they’ve illegally denied), at the end of the day, the Genius you’re talking to is just another person working their daily retail job. If you run in angrily demanding repairs and blaming the Genius for your problems, you’re going to have a much worse experience than someone who is polite, listens carefully, and doesn’t act like you know more than them (even if you do). That doesn’t mean you should be a pushover—be firm in the resolution you want, especially if you know you’re entitled to it—but a little kindness goes a long way.

FEBRUARY 21, 2019 WRITTEN BY WHITSON GORDON IN HACKS

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