While I almost never buy extended warranties, conventional wisdom is that you should always buy AppleCare for an Apple laptop. You have up to a year after buying your laptop to purchase the extended coverage. At a high level, you’re basically buying an insurance policy for a piece of hardware with a specific serial number. Why does Apple make this so difficult?

I bought my MacBook Pro directly from Apple’s website. Here’s how AppleCare purchase should work:

  • I log in to their store website.
  • I view my order history and find my laptop.
  • Apple has my MacBook Pro’s serial number on file with this order, and they also have a list of equipment covered by AppleCare. Since my laptop isn’t already covered, the site displays a “Buy AppleCare” button next to it.
  • I click the “Buy AppleCare” button, choose to use my billing information that Apple already has on file, and click “Buy it now”.
  • I get a confirmation email and move on to other things.

A lot of people bought their laptops through other sources, like local dealers, chain retail stores, and so on. Since Apple might not have any record of their purchase, here’s how that process should work:

  • A customer visits Apple’s store website.
  • Under “Mac Accessories”, they click “AppleCare”.
  • They see a new form titled “What’s your Mac’s serial number?” and a link to how to find that information.
  • When the user enters their serial number, the website looks up that part information and selects the appropriate AppleCare plan for their hardware.
  • They add the plan to their cart and check out normally.
  • The user gets a confirmation email and moves on to other things.

In reality, the process is far less polished and, well, un-Apple-like:

  • I logged into their store website and looked for a process like the one I described above.
  • When that failed to materialize, I browsed around until I found the AppleCare plans in the store.
  • After some rooting around, I found the correct plan and added it to my cart.
  • I was given the option of picking my plan up in an Apple Store or having it mailed to me. Wait, what? Pickup? Mail? For a warranty? Fine — mail it.
  • After a couple of days, my AppleCare plan arrived in the mail. It came in a large cardboard box with a tiny cardboard box inside it. The tiny box contained some printed material and a registration number, but no Apple stickers or anything else I’d actually want.
  • Per instructions, I went to a separate section of the Apple website and entered my laptop’s serial number (which they already have on file from when I bought it last year!) and the AppleCare registration number (which they already have on file from when I bought it a few days earlier!).
  • I agreed to the Terms of Service, which were identical to the now-completely-unnecessary printed copy that came in the box.
  • After submitting those numbers, Apple asked if I wanted my coverage certificate sent by email or by postal service. “Telegraph” and “carrier pigeon” were not available options, so I chose email.
  • Apple informed me that I’d successfully completed my application, that my registration was now in progress, and that I would receive my certificate when they had finished verifying my registration.
  • That was over 12 hours ago. I didn’t get any kind of confirmation email, but my browser history helped me find the status page so I could check in on it today. It’s still stuck at “Registration in progress”, presumably while Gertrude from Accounts finds my punchcard in the filing cabinet.

I’d probably shrug the ordeal off if I were dealing with Best Buy, Microsoft, or some other company not known for their customer service. But Apple? This was the opposite of the kind of experience they usually provide and I’m disappointed that the process was so clumsy.