Does this sound familiar? You’ve taken such good care of your older MacBook that Tim Cook himself wouldn’t be able to tell it from a fresh out-of-the-box model. You’ve fawned over it, protected it from harm, and are now ready to trade it in for something newer and better. Since your MacBook is perfect, you’re expecting a big payout.
You send it in to Apple (or really, the third-party company Apple contracts to handle inspections). They take a look at it, find a few faults, and lowball you an offer. Your dreams of getting a nice taken chunk off of your next purchase are dashed.
That’s the scenario The Verge talked about this week in an exposé of the company behind Apple’s trade-in service, Atlanta-based Phobio. As Nick Statt reports, a number of people looking to score big with a MacBook trade-in have reported that Apple/Phobio have found unexpected defects with their device—such as “more than three white spots on the display”—that put a big dent in the trade-in value.
The problem? Some people—even Statt himself—can’t find these faults when they receive their MacBooks back after refusing the trade-in offer.
How big are these drops in value? Hundreds of dollars, in some cases. And that’s awfully frustrating, especially if you can’t actually uncover what’s wrong with your system. Don’t expect to get more clarification (or proof) from Apple, Phobio, or any other parties connected with the trade-in process.
You can always say no to a bad trade-in experience
Here’s the thing, though: You don’t have to accept Apple’s trade-in offer. To the company’s credit, if your revised trade-in value is way below your expectations/reported conditions post-inspection, you’ll get an email asking you to accept or reject the revised amount. Don’t feel obligated to say yes simply because Apple/Provio has your device. Say no, and you’ll get it shipped back to you completely free.
In a perfect world, all you’re out is time, assuming you haven’t already made a purchase expecting your estimated trade-in value to hold. (If so, you’ll be on the hook for the cash, so consider trading in your device before getting something new if you need that cash, unless there is a promotion requiring a trade-in at the point of purchase.)
However, there have also been reported instances in which the trade-in inspection process actually damaged a person’s device beyond whatever state it was in when its owner shipped it out. This is likely a rarer situation, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind as you pack up your MacBook to send away for inspection. As one Apple commenter described in a support forum post:
Just got my laptop back after rejecting the trade-in value and it has a HUGE scratch on the front of the laptop now that’s wasn’t there when I sent it in. They didn’t even back it in the bubble wrap envelope that you send it in. Also I see absolutely no ’white spots’ that they claimed my screen had.
And another, from that same thread:
“I have had good experience with trade in in the past, they have been over the counter. But, now had to send it in. Got the trade in canceled with a very generic response and no explanation. But, when I got my laptop back it was bricked. So, a perfectly working MacBook Pro is now bricked, and Apple takes no liability of the device shipped. This is not the service you expect from Apple.”
Were I trade in my MacBook, I’d start by taking detailed pictures and videos of every inch of the machine. That includes the boot process and the display, powered up and displaying a test page that shows no discernible flaws. I’m not going to go so far as to say that having evidence in your back pocket will guarantee you restitution from Apple should your to-be-traded-in device be returned in a condition different than how you sent it in, but it can’t hurt. (To that end, capture a video of the unboxing process when you get your MacBook back.)
In other words, pretend you’re selling your MacBook to someone on eBay. Assume you need to cover enough bases to ensure that you’d win the resolution process if a buyer later claimed you shipped them a brick.
You might even consider avoiding Apple’s trade-in process entirely, or at least going directly to an Apple retail store to begin the process instead of shipping your MacBook off to “Apple.” If you do go with the latter route, don’t admit defeat: Demand proof of the inspection. Escalate the issue. Take your “faulty” MacBook into an Apple store for a second opinion. Don’t give up.
I’d argue an in-person inspection process is a lot better, even if it costs you a little cash, than risking receiving a dreaded “something is wrong with your MacBook but good luck finding it” email. Hit up third-party laptop trade-in stores in your area or online; consider services like Craigslist, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace; or even go to a big-box retailer with a trade-in program (like Best Buy) to see if you can get a comparable offer in person.
While there’s no guarantee you’ll have a worry-free experience going with an Apple alternative, it’s worth weighing the risks, potential costs, and the final payout. Rather than mailing it off, I’d probably trade in my MacBook to a bricks and mortar retailer, even if it cost me $50, just for the peace-of-mind. Or, go the Apple route first and, assuming your laptop is returned to you in good repair, try your luck elsewhere if the offer wasn’t what you’d hoped.
No matter what, don’t feel pressured to take a lowball offer. You might have to wait a bit longer and deal with a more frustrating process for getting rid of your old computer, but the effort will be worth it, if only so you don’t feel like the victim of a situation beyond your control.