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Editorial

How Apple trade-in turned my broken MacBook Pro into an expensive paperweight

If you want to recoup some of your investments, you're better off selling your MacBook on eBay or Craigslist.
By Roland Udvarlaki January 2, 2022, 7:00 am
16-inch MacBook Pro 2019 used as a paperweight Source: Pocketnow

The day is October 18, 2021. Apple just released the latest 16 and 14-inch MacBook Pros, and everyone is amazed by all the things that Apple just demoed during the keynote. I was flabbergasted just by looking at the numbers – I’ve seen what the M1 MacBook Pro was capable of doing, and I was very impressed with Apple’s claims on performance improvements and endurance.

After spending the next two days convincing myself that I needed to get the new 16-inch model, I decided to use the Apple trade-in to recoup some of my investments. I owned a 16-inch 2019 MacBook Pro, and while it worked well most of the time, it had a lot of performance issues due to throttling when connected to an external monitor, and the display was also broken. I was given a quote of £430 (~$570) for my machine at the time, which was competitive based on my research for a device with a display issue. I placed my order and trade-in on the same day, and it was smooth sailing from there. I just had to wait for my Mac to be built and shipped to me.

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Or so I thought…

Background

Before I go any further, I think it would help a lot to understand my situation if I described the condition of my MacBook Pro that I was trading in.

Over the summer, I faced a ton of overheating issues due to the dust that built up in the Mac. Sometime in mid-June, I decided to take off the back cover and de-dust the machine on my own – I’ve watched several tutorial videos, and even read iFixit’s teardown guides to see the steps required to remove the back panel.

Unfortunately, separating the back panel from the chassis was more tricky than I initially thought, and while I made sure I was gentle and went as slow as possible. I must’ve put too much pressure on the display at one point by accident. When I finished the cleaning process, I cleaned up and put the back cover back on, and opened the lid. That’s when I realized that I had made a massive mistake.

The top center of the display, just below the camera, turned purple, and some pixels looked completely dead. There was a small line going through the entire display. That was the moment I knew it would only last a few days at best. Unsurprisingly, the entire screen went blank three days later. When I took it to an Apple Authorized Repair shop, I was told I would have to pay £804 to get the display fixed – since I was out of warranty and didn’t have Apple Care+.

The resale value of my MacBook Pro was between £1,300-£1,600 ($1,700-$2,100) on eBay, so I knew that I would have to shell out roughly 50% of what my device is worth to get it working again. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy with my silly mistake, and I had no option to go down the route of fixing it myself, since nearly all MacBook parts are only available through Apple. Back in June, I was tempted to get it fixed, but I had just started working for Pocketnow, and I needed a machine that I could use and rely on to do my work, which is why I decided to keep it and use it in clamshell mode, connected to my USB-C monitor.

Due to the issues I was having, I decided to hold off on upgrading – even though the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro was tempting, I would have been limited to using one external display without any hacks. I sometimes use two or three monitors to write content, research, and for coding purposes. I decided to wait, since there were so many fingers pointing at Apple announcing the much-awaited M1-Pro and M1-Max MacBook Pro devices later in September or October.

Trade-In procedure

The trade-in process itself was pretty simple and straightforward. I’ve selected a few options based on the condition of my device, and Apple quoted me £430 for the device with the broken display, at the time. I found his completely fair, given that Apple will most likely repair this device, and then list it as refurbished on Apple.com and sell it for £1,869 (~$2,490). I thought Apple would clearly have a lot of margins on it, and I could get away losing slightly less on my machine, and put it toward the 2021 MacBook Pro purchase.

Or so I thought…

You might see a recurring theme here, and that’s for a reason. Apple makes their customers believe that the quote is accurate if the trade-in partner inspects the laptop, and confirms the condition of the device, based on the user’s selection. This is all fine, and it works, but what happens if the trade-in partner confirms the state of the MacBook, yet manages to de-value your device to £0.00?

Apple MacBook Pro 2019 Trade-in value Source: Pocketnow

A few days later, after Apple’s trade-in partner inspected my MacBook Pro, I received an email notifying me of the changes. The trade-in window had a note stating that the “Display is not functional/not responsive to touch”. The latter confused me; how could a non-touch enabled display panel respond to touch? Whatever, I thought, I was happy it finally got checked by a professional. I was very happy and satisfied until I looked down at the revised refund trade-in value for my laptop, which went from £430 to £0.00.

I quickly went back to the Apple trade-in page, made the same selection, and double-checked whether I may have put down something wrong. I must’ve done something wrong, I thought to myself, but it turned out that I made the right selection based on the information that is provided by Apple. Based on the state of the device – which is in excellent shape with minimal signs of use – and the rest of the information, I was indeed correct, and I qualified for the quoted value.

MacBook Pro trade-in quote Source: Pocketnow

On the “screen and enclosure of your Mac in good physical condition?” page, there is a pop-up panel that provides even more information about what the question means. The page asks “Is the screen intact and free of cracks and cosmetic damage? Is the display free of pixel loss, black or white spots and lines? Is the body free of major scratches, dents and liquid damage?” – it’s quite obvious that I put no as a selection, since the display wasn’t in great shape at all; it was blank and had a total pixel loss and a line.

This is where it gets confusing. Apple’s website explains that if you own a device that has a display that doesn’t function properly, it’s still fine to send it as you will likely receive the quoted value. It’s interesting to see that even though the MacBook Pro was described and inspected correctly, the value was revised to nothing. Apple is, of course, generous enough to say that it will happily accept the device for free, which would mean that I’d be giving away even more free goodies to a Trillion dollar company.

Upon contacting Apple support, the representative told me that they cannot do anything regarding the revised evaluation since it was inspected by their partner and they have the right to say whatever. As you can expect, I wasn’t satisfied with the answer, and I have promptly pointed out my quote findings and the result I was expecting. The Apple Staff support person apologized, and repeated the same statement over and over again. It’s out of their control, and their trade-in partner has the last word. While I was fine with this, I told the staff member that they had found the same issue that I had stated, but it was a never-ending loop. I knew that contacting the trade-in partner would likely refer me back to Apple, and it would be a waste of time, given to overly negative Google reviews of the company.

As you can imagine, I was furious that things like this could happen, and even if it’s a reputable company, people and different partners and departments will point fingers at each other, expecting the customer to give in and hand over the device for free. Fortunately, the option of asking the trade-in partner to return my device was there, so I requested it back, thinking that I could sell it on eBay on my own for parts – since, at that point, I didn’t want to deal with the device anymore.

The return of the old friend

Four days after requesting back my device, I had finally received it in the same box I sent it in, although some of the extra paddings that I included inside were removed for some strange reason. Upon opening the return box, I found my MacBook Pro covered in dust from top to bottom. I’ve never seen a MacBook that dirty, and given that I take extra care of my devices when it gets to protection, it was appalling. The entire device was covered in dust, both outside and inside, near the keyboard and display. While some may say, “it could’ve happened during shipping,” it was clear when I took it out of the box that it was placed in a dirty warehouse, and it received very little to no care.

It raises the question of how the trade-in partner is qualified to evaluate expensive laptops when they can’t keep their work environment clean and tidy enough. It’s worth noting that I have sent the laptop away in pristine condition, and while I expected it to be slightly dirty, this was certainly not what I expected to discover.

When I opened the lid to turn on the device, I quickly realized that the operating system was missing – even though I had reset to factory settings, with the OS waiting for the partner to do their testings when I sent the unit away. I didn’t think much of it, since I knew macOS is pretty easy to re-install, and I even had a bootable Big Sur on my USB drive, ready to go.

16 Apple MacBook Pro 2019 trade-in opening Source: Pocketnow

Upon opening the lid, the display started working again, just enough so I could see that it was missing the entire system, and it wanted to connect to the Wi-Fi to reset and re-download the original system it shipped with originally. When I selected the Wi-Fi in the dropdown menu, the screen would instantly go blank. It did this whenever I reattempted the same action. Fortunately, I had a USB-C to ethernet dongle around, and once I connected it, I could bypass the Wi-Fi selection and begin downloading right away. Sadly, the display would always die, and it wouldn’t let me see any of the options or allow me to react to any prompts by the system.

My genius came into play when I realized that I could connect my wireless keyboard and mouse. I have then connected my laptop with my monitor using a USB-C connection. I believed that all of my issues would now be solved, and I thought it’d be smooth sailing now as I reinstall the operating system from scratch.

Or so I thought… yet again.

Apple is strict about what part of its OS you can access from external monitors, and none of the recovery or setup processes are accessible from a non-built-in display. None of them, and believe me, I’ve tried them all.

Once I went through all of the reset options that I could find on Google and on Apple’s own support forums, I decided to just re-install the entire original OS once again, using the ethernet cable. The process went through and seemed to work, but it’s hard to tell as I could only see the screen flash for a few milliseconds after turning off again. I’ve got a glimpse of the recovery menu, but I can’t do much without going through the setup process. I’m back to square one, albeit, I at least have an idea that it’s possible to re-install the OS, and it appears to be working fine.

I have read on a forum that I may have some luck disconnecting the entire display panel from the Macbook itself, which would force the external display method to work. The last thing I wanted to do was remove the back cover once again; therefore, I decided to skip this and move on. I was tired, and I didn’t want to mess with it anymore.

From a broken Mac to a stylish, and very expensive paperweight

16-inch MacBook Pro 2019 used as a paperweight Source: Pocketnow

While the operating system could technically be installed, that’s currently impossible due to the faulty display – which is completely my fault, and I own it. However, what isn’t on me is that Apple sent back a device that they knew wouldn’t be usable by the user, even though it knew it worked before handing it in for returns. Apple returning devices in an unusable state is unacceptable, and using this tactic to force people to use their repair services is simply disgusting in my book.

I can see Apple’s counterargument stating that it’s a company policy to send back devices without an operating system to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with, so the user can simply re-install it easily. That’s all fine and great; but the entire process could’ve been much easier and more seamless, allowing external displays is certainly one of them. A person who is much less knowledgeable than myself would face even more problems, and I’m sure that Apple would happily reassure the person that sending back the device, and getting it fixed through Apple can eliminate any and all problems – the only issue is that this was created by Apple itself, yet the person who owns the machine would have to pay extra, and it would also take even more days until the machine could be used once again.

I wrote this on my 2021 MacBook Pro, and while I love this machine, I hope I won’t have to use Apple’s repair services, because I lost all confidence in the company and their repair staff, who doesn’t seem to handle these expensive devices with proper care. My 2019 MacBook Pro is gathering dust behind me on a shelf, waiting for a person to buy it on eBay. Still, it won’t be easy, since I can’t even state that it has an operating system, or re-assure potential buyers that it’s a fully working unit.

So, there you have it, an Apple trade-in nightmare experience in the UK. It’s also worth noting that trade-ins often undervalue your existing devices, and you’re often better off selling it yourself, just like I pointed it out in my Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 trade-in article. They can sometimes be great and offer great value, but it’s rarely worth considering in my opinion, unless there are some carrier or other exclusive perks that come with it.

Did you have a similar or even worse experience? Let us know in the comments below!

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