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Medicine Apple

Apple Voiding Smokers' Warranties? 1078

Mr2001 writes "Consumerist reports that Apple is refusing to work on computers that have been used in smoking households. 'The Apple store called and informed me that due to the computer having been used in a house where there was smoking, [the warranty has been voided] and they refuse to work on the machine "due to health risks of second hand smoke,"' wrote one customer. Another said, 'When I asked for an explanation, she said [the owner of the iMac is] a smoker and it's contaminated with cigarette smoke, which they consider a bio-hazard! I checked my Applecare warranty and it says nothing about not honoring warranties if the owner is a smoker.' Apple claims that honoring the warranty would be an OSHA violation. (Remember when they claimed enabling 802.11n for free would be a Sarbanes-Oxley violation?)"
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Apple Voiding Smokers' Warranties?

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  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @11:23AM (#30184418) Homepage Journal

    Can this actually be legal? Smoking is ( currently at least ) legal, so how can they penalize a smoker?

  • yes and no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lee n. field ( 750817 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @11:26AM (#30184456)
    The "biohazard" stuff is crap.

    That said, I can always tell when a computer I'm working on has a smoker for an owner. The smoke leaves a yellowish to brownish residue. Dust sticks to it. In the worst case I can recall seeing, cooling slots were blocked by congealed fuzzy crap.

    It's nasty, and I can see it contributing to component failure in bad cases.

  • by mikkelm ( 1000451 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @11:37AM (#30184582)

    Yes, because /that/ is hugely relevant and entirely comparable. Jesus.

  • Hard to deny (Score:2, Interesting)

    by foniksonik ( 573572 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @11:37AM (#30184586) Homepage Journal

    As a smoker I find it hard to deny Apple's case here. Tobacco smoke is not a good thing for electronics. Neither would be lots of candle smoke, grease smoke, auto exhaust and many other environmental contaminates that could leave a residue on the hardware.

    For the smokers out there: is it really that hard to take a break and go outside? I've always felt that was the best part... take a break, go out, have a smoke and consider what ever you're doing - then go back and get it done.

    Of course these are not likely people using their computers for productive things... probably ex-AOLers chatting up people while drinking and smoking. In which case - ??? WTF just get a life already.

    Oh and it's gross to smoke cigs in your house. Same as it would be gross to smoke a turkey inside or any number of things that leave residue everywhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 21, 2009 @11:45AM (#30184666)

    Remember when they claimed enabling 802.11n for free would be a Sarbanes-Oxley violation?

    Why yes, I do. I also remember that it's a perfectly legitimate (though perhaps conservative) claim as well. And I also remember all the people mocking Apple who clearly had no idea at all how revenue must be accounted for in publicly-held companies. Apparently some of you ignoramuses just do not want to let go...

    ok, I'll bite with my ignorance of why this then only applied to Apple, not other US IT companies?

  • by DurendalMac ( 736637 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @11:46AM (#30184670)
    Having worked on many Macs that were owned by smokers, I'll bet that this particular one was clogged to hell with ash and nicotine stains. Seriously. I've had some iMacs from smokers that smelled nasty, but were still relatively clean inside. Then I've seen iMacs that were utterly DISGUSTING on the inside. Every inch clogged with ash, the whole thing stained...ugh. We had to take it out back with an air compressor. No warranty on that one. I specifically asked Apple's techie tech support about that one (SPS) and asked if EXCESSIVE buildup of cigarette residue was cause for a warranty violation. They said yes and that if that thing had come into a repair depot, they'd have refused to work on it.

    Bottom line: I seriously doubt this thing just smelled a bit like cigarettes. It was probably revolting, yellowed, and filled with ash.
  • I'm not surprised (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trevin ( 570491 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @11:48AM (#30184696) Homepage

    They've also refused service on devices where their litmus indicator shows signs of turning pink ( [], [], []). It sounds like they're still looking for more excuses not to honor their "warranty."

    I won't be buying any more Apple products.

  • Two Thumbs UP! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TravisHein ( 981987 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @11:49AM (#30184710)

    For once I am pleased with Apple's quirky business policies.

    In addition to being a biohazard, enough smoking over time by many people seems to actually deposit a greassy residue on the inside of the computer parts, like the heat sinks, integrated circuits, fan blades. I used to be the IT administrator for an office of a dozen people, back when it was somehow allowed to smoke indoors in the office while you work. And the style was for everyone to smoke. As a non smoker I was a minority, and had to put up with working in that mess.

    But for the computer parts, after about six months the parts looked as though someone had sprayed them with PAM cooking oil, and then dusted with ashes. All chunder stuck on fuzzy layer of dust bunnies, and "that" smell of 1000 cigarettes. We went through a lot of computers because of the lack of ability for the parts to cool themselves with the ambient air circulation inside the cases.

    So my fendangled point was, it is not fair for Apple, or any computer company to have to honor warranty claims for computers that were subjected to the abuse of a smoker, as the hardware was subjected to environmental conditions that was not in any of the designed intended use. For example, if I put my computer through a dish washer, they would have the equal right to not honor my warranty claim, as I 'intentionally damaged' it in much the same way. I would like to see other companies start doing this too.. Buy a car? Did you smoke in it ? Oh, now it has no resale value, sorry.

  • Re:Good for apple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @11:52AM (#30184752) Journal

    Smokers die quicker than non-smokers, saving us money that would be spent on long term care.

  • by russg ( 64596 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:09PM (#30184910) Homepage

    I've worked on computers from time to time and the worst are those from people who burn candles or that seem to have way too much perfume in their home. The candles leave residue just like smoking. Oh and don't forget the fur-balls when the computer sits on the floor with a cat in the house.

    I suppose Apple will void the warranties on those folks too?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:13PM (#30184940)

    Mine complains about my brownish-yellow stained computer cables every time I have my servers in for service (yes, I smoke in the server room, sue me). But mostly because they care about my health and don't want to lose a good customer to the coughing death.

    Oh, maybe my service fee is higher than what you pay at Apple. But it includes face masks to protect their techs, it seems. I'm fairly sure you get them cheaply from a lot of governments that bought tons of masks during the last flu craze but nobody wanted to wear them in public because they make you look like a paranoid loonie.

  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:16PM (#30184978) Homepage Journal

    I fix computers for a living, and I will vouch for the pain that is working on a "three pack a day" computer. It's not terribly bad as long as they keep a clean house, but when there's a lot of dust in the machine, AND they're a very heavy smoker, the entire inside of the computer is filled with a matte of dustbunny solidified by tar. It's a dark mustard looking soft foam and reeks to high heaven, and when you touch it, it wipes off on your hands like ash AND sends a fine dark yellow cloud up into the air. Takes 5 minutes of hand scrubbing to get most of it off after you're done working on it.

    I don't think I'd call it a "biohazard", as there's not a lot of chance of my inhaling any nicotine, but it's certainly unpleasant to work on. It also tints the entire machine a dingy yellow, especially the white plastics and the front of LCD panels. It also kills optical drives. (clouds the laser lens) Occasionally we get in a machine that looks ok, but reeks of tar when you pick it up. When we open it up, it's obviously a heavy smoker's computer, that they took the time to clean the outside case before bringing it in. "surprise!"

    Most computers have active air cooling, and function like air filters. If you're filling the air with nasty, you should expect a lot of it to collect inside your computer, and nobody likes dealing with that.

    Twice we've had to refuse warranty repair for a killed optical drive, and once a smoker wanted us to replace (under warranty) an LCD panel that had "become discolored". No, really? Like the WALLS and CURTAINS in your house? ick ick ick.

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:33PM (#30185144) Homepage Journal

    Tobacco is a health hazard when you have to repair a machine clogged with it. During the cleaning process it is bound to be on you and into the air around you. Even just replacing a clogged heatsink stirs it up.

    Apple have a legal responsibility to protect their staff. In this case that would mean protective clothing and a gas mask. That seems unreasonable for a warranty repair since the problem is entirely of the user's own making.

    I imagine Apple would refuse to repair a machine clogged with normal house dust for the same reason. Smoking in enclosed public spaces is banned in many countries, which should tell you something about it's affect on health.

  • by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:37PM (#30185212)
    Bullshit, in 6 months I build up enough shit on my air vents to almost partially block them (almost), and most of it is dust, not cat hair. Meanwhile, a buddy in highschool had two smoking parents. They got their first computer and within a month it was crashing. Opened it up, entire thing was coated in yellow greasey shit that smells like smoke, and dust sticks to it. Tried using canned air, nope, had to wipe it off by hand. Nastiest thing ever, and no shit it's a health hazard to get near it. But even wiping it doesn't get the greasy tar off, it's on there forever, and more dust will just cement to it immediately. Smoking near a computer should void the warranty, as you're intentionally causing damage to the cooling components.
  • Ham Radios Too (Score:3, Interesting)

    by speedlaw ( 878924 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:55PM (#30185416) Homepage
    Whenever you see used amateur radios for sale, "non smoker" is a selling point. I was once given a CB from a guy who was a 3 pack a dayer. His car was a bomb, and the radio took an hour to attempt to clean. It still smells slightly, over a year later in a no smoke environment. This sort of radio makes little heat and uses little power. I can only imagine the smells from a big radio (100 watts out) or a 1500 watt linear amplifier.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 21, 2009 @01:04PM (#30185498)

    I worked with a guy who was a programmer once. He worked at night and barricaded himself in a completely dark room and chained smoked. He sometimes left as people were arriving and thick smoke wafted out of the room when he opened the door. There were no color monitors at the time only amber if you were lucky mostly green CRT's. A few days after I joined I made the mistake of going in that room and came out hacking and coughing like I was gonna die. Nobody went in after that episode....

    When he left the organization the entire room had to be gutted including new drywall and carpets. All computers and printers in the room had to be tosssed.

  • by Ronin Developer ( 67677 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @01:13PM (#30185614)

    Saw much the same thing - our office was a smoker's office and the worst culprits was the owner and his wife. When we installed a server rack (next to his office) and asked for air filtration. He refused. We lost two servers in 6 months due to the smoke - tar and dust buildup beyond belief. The saving grace came when summer arrived and the servers started to shut down due to excessive heat. We installed window air conditioners that brought fresh air into the room and created a positive pressure gradient that kept the smoke out of the room.

    Staff meetings were held in a closed room with people smoking all the time. They had little concern for those of us who didn't smoke. I got up and walked out of more than one meeting because I couldn't breath and my eyes teared.

    Having worked in that place for several years before the company grew large enough to have to be compliant with OSHA regulations that banned smoking in the office place, I hate to think what condition my lungs were in from the second hand smoke.

  • Decontamination (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @02:08PM (#30186114) Homepage

    Fill ultrasonic cleaner in glove box with deionized water / detergent solution. Fill rinse tank with deionized water. Start ventilation system for glove box. Using tongs, place unit in glove box and close door. Disassemble unit in glove box. Place each board and case component in ultrasonic cleaner for one minute, then in rinse tank, then on drying rack. Allow 10 minutes for preliminary drying. Open glove box, remove drying rack with components, and take to repair technician. Dispose of contaminated water as medium-toxicity liquid waste.

    What's the problem?

    Pre-cleaning is routine in maintenance of equipment used in bio and chemical labs and in medical facilities. It works for computers with flood damage, too. Almost all electronic components other than hard drives are tolerant of cleaning in this fashion. The last step in PC board manufacture is a pass through a dishwasher-like cleaning station.

  • by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @04:17PM (#30187334)

    Third hand smoke? Jeez, you don't even know. The REAL danger is forty-second hand smoke!

    On an more serious note, lets look at the real world people. It is impossible for smoking to be as dangerous as the media claims it is. It used to be very common for people to smoke and a few decades ago it was considered rude to not let someone smoke in your home. Hell, everyone on slashdot except maybe those currently in college grew up with restaraunts that allowed smoking, so we breathed it in. If smoking is as dangerous as they claim it is, people 50+ would be dying from lung problems and other smoking related problems in droves - but they're not.

    I'm not saying smoking it healthy for you, because it's not. I hate being around smokers. However, the reality is that they highly exaggerate how dangerous it is.

  • Re:Two Thumbs UP! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @05:43PM (#30188134) Homepage

    Pet residue in computers is relatively easy to clean. Proper filtering catches most of it. Air blasts get the rest. Not so with cigarette smoke residue. It slips right past the filters used in computers and deposits tar, embedded with nasty chemicals, all over the insides. On places like connectors, even connectors already fully plugged in (like the memory sticks), it causes them to fail. The frequent on/off power cycles cause equally frequent temperature changes, which mechanically moves things around just enough for the microscopic particles to slip in between connections and gradually increase the resistance. While it is true there are many other hazards to computers, cigarette smoke in the home of a smoker is a major one.

  • Re:Wash it (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Barny ( 103770 ) <> on Sunday November 22, 2009 @12:58AM (#30191056) Journal

    Here here.

    Nothing worse than working on a smokers PC, the cigarete tar usually filters through any dust in the machine to make a fine layer of sludge (kinda like mud but a whole lot worse) on EVERYTHING.

    Having said "nothing worse" yes I have repaired machines where mouse urine shorted the CPU socket, where a nest of white tail spiders (look them up, they have a fun bite) had taken up residence and even a computer that had been in a babies room and was full of talcum powder. And you know why? At the end of the day, you can wash the smell of all that off yourself, but cigarette tar takes about 3 days to fully get rid of the stink.

    However, they really should put it in their warranty info, I know we have :)

  • Re:Wash it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by atamido ( 1020905 ) on Sunday November 22, 2009 @01:48AM (#30191288)

    I can confirm seeing what the grandparent saw. Other commentors have commented the same as you, so there may be other variables. A different type of cigarette possibly? Smoke density?

  • Re:parent != troll (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Sunday November 22, 2009 @03:44AM (#30191784)

    Tell that Libertarian inside you that nobody forces him to live in a society if he doesn't want to be forced to do something at all. Playing by the rules is the cost of doing business in a society.

  • Re:Two Thumbs UP! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arikol ( 728226 ) on Sunday November 22, 2009 @06:42AM (#30192282) Journal

    I used to run a computer shop/maintenance.
    The car repair shops and the car painting shop that we serviced all knew that their equipment would not last the full time. They were also honest about the conditions in which the equipment had to function.

    There was no way in hell that a general warranty would be honored. However, we would do all repairs for them and replace anything which failed. If the failure was not due to the extreme environment, then the replacement was free (based on warranty).
    In a car painting shop, even the office computer would get seriously gunked up even though there were extra filters on the air intakes. CD drives lasted around 6 months.

    That's life. That's an extreme environment and is generally not covered by warranties. Good, honest working relationships means that problems do not arise.

  • Re:Wash it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Sunday November 22, 2009 @02:41PM (#30195192) Homepage Journal

    "Non-smokers whining about the smell of old tobacco is one thing..."

    Classic. You denigrate the people who dare to complain about having to be near someone who is foul smelling. Imagine working with someone who never bathed. That is a similar experience to being around smokers.

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