How an email got my defective MacBook display fixed for free

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The “Staingate” issue

If you’re using a MacBook Pro 15″ with Retina display, well, take a closer look at your display. If you see what seems like stains on the display that cannot be wiped off and looks like the photo below, then you will want to check out this post.


MacBook Pro Retina display affected by an issue with the anti-reflection coating, aka “staingate” issue. Photo source:

As you would guessed, I too discovered this problem earlier this year when I tried to clean my screen with the microfibre cloth that came with the MacBook Pro. When it started to wipe of the coating, I was horrified! And so it was the beginning of trying to get the display replaced.

The first thing I did was to reach out to Apple support directly over live chat to ask if this was a known problem and if it can be fixed. After a short chat and sending the two photos above, I was asked to visit a local authorised Apple service provider here in Singapore. And so I went, but only to be later told that this wasn’t covered under the standard AppleCare warranty. And instead, they would raise for an exception request with Apple to see if I can get the display replaced without cost, especially since it was not due to any fault of mine. At that point, I would have to say that I was rather disappointed. When the service centre called me back a few days later with the bad news that the repair exception was rejected, I was now devastated.

The next few weeks then saw me researching on this issue a lot deeper. As I discovered, this is actually a defect with the anti-reflection coating of the MacBook Pro’s display. It seems to also affect mostly the MacBook Pro with Retina displays. Both 13″ and 15″ users has complained about it, but from my observation, most of us affected are with the 15″ displays. As to why this happens, there isn’t a clear answer. There are many who claimed that they cared for their display very well and it still showed the problem after a while. Some as short as just a few months later. For me, I had my MacBook Pro for a little more than a year before the problem surfaced.

If you want to find out more about this, I would recommend you to find out about it at the following sites:-

The email for got it all fixed

There was one thing that I also discovered in the sites above when researching. Some of those who had the same problem attempted to send an email detailing the problem politely (emphasis mine) to Tim Cook’s email address. They then reported that within a few days, an Apple representative based in their country would get in touch with them and help them through getting the display replaced, even if their MacBooks was already out of warranty.

This then gave me some hope that I too would eventually be able to get my MacBook’s display replaced. But before trying that, I thought it would only be fair if I try to contact Apple Support one more time to try to see if I can get explanation on the rejection of the repair exception and see if that could be reversed. And so I got on a live chat with Apple Support again, and even got myself redirected to the support supervisor, but again, to no avail. Once Apple rejects any repair exception, the decision apparently is final and there is nothing the Support folks can do about it.

The email was the only option left. And so I started to write a draft.

I kept it simple and to the point. And most importantly, I think, I kept it polite and sincere. After all, even if the defect shouldn’t have happened in the first place, you are emailing a problem escalation to the CEO of Apple. I surely didn’t expect Tim Cook to reply to that email, but from what I’ve read, it was clear that someone does read all those emails and they do respond to them personally. Perhaps a team that reports directly to Tim Cook himself, or perhaps a team that’s in charge of corporate relations that also deals with issues like this. And everyone knows Tim Cook’s corporate email. It’s not exactly a secret at all.

Just Google Tim Cook’s email address and you’ll find it.

Here’s what I wrote in my email:-

  • A short description of the issue I was facing with the MacBook’s display.
  • What I have tried to do to get it fixed:- Reaching out to Apple Support and the local authorised service provider, both to no avail.
  • And lastly, a sincere request for help.
  • And of course, attaching the two photos of my MacBook’s problematic display with the peeling anti-reflection coating as you’ve seen above.

And so I waited for a couple of days, waiting for a reply to my email. Instead, I got a call on my mobile from a representative of Apple’s Executive Relations team based out in Singapore. This means that there really is someone that’s taking the care to read the email, validating my email address against their database and probably reading up the logged support case notes to understand my issue and from which they would know my mobile number and where I’m based out of. Very nicely done Apple.

After a few email and call exchanges, I finally got a case id that had the repair exception approved for a replacement of the display, without any charge. And with that, the rest was as simple as getting to an Apple Authorised Service Provider again, provide the case id, and then wait for the MacBook to be fixed and returned to me.

Last thoughts…

This ordeal has given me some lasting impressions. I now know that if there is a genuine problem with Apple’s products and you really aren’t at fault, there are people within Apple that really cares to get it fixed for you. And Tim Cook really is on top of customer satisfaction.

Also, there has been recent reports that Apple is more willing to fix this issue with the display without needing you to jump through all the hoops that I had to go through. But most of these reports are where the users had their MacBooks looked at Apple’s Genius Bar directly. So I would advice you to try going through Apple Support first before trying to escalate this to Tim Cook and his Executive Relations team directly.

Update (October 17, 2015): It looks like Apple now recognises this issue and have launched a quality program specifically to address this issue! I’m not sure if Apple would announce this publicly but at least this is now a known issue internally and they would recognise and replace the screen if its truly due to the delimitation of the anti-reflective coating. You can read about it at Mac Rumors.

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