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Airpods Pro Repair: How hard is it to ship an empty box?

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The Apple AirPods Pro earbuds I ordered in February are broken. The left pod has this really bad vibration that just never seems to never go away. It’s particularly noticeable during my walks. I had some connection issues before and re-pairing the device with the phone fixed it back then, but this new problem will not go away.

All I wanted to do was ask Apple to mail me a shipping box so I could drop them in, and have them fixed or replaced. What followed was an hour long customer support session that continues to erode my enjoyment of Apple products.

According to my support rep Apple requires a hold on the credit card to do the repair via shipping. The exact process is not 100% clear to me. It sounds like:

  • Apple puts on a hold on my credit card for $90.
  • Apple mails me a box (or provides a shipping label printout).
  • I mail the broken AirPod (left ear only).
  • Apple notices FedEx accepted my shipment and ships me a replacement left ear. (Mixed information.)
    • Who knows what size ear plug they mail back?
  • Apple receives my shipment, inspects the hardware and releases the hold.

Frankly I find the process ridiculous. I don’t trust Apple or any shipping company enough to say that this will goes smoothly, and if does fail I don’t know who I would yell at or how to get my additional $90.

How can mailing a empty box be so hard? Why can’t they just wait until they get my broken unit to send back a replacement?

While the in-person Apple Store is an option, I’m very hesitant to drive and hour to and then an hour back to do this in person during COVID. Just does not seem worth the health risk for me or my family.

If anyone sees this and wants to add some sanity to the process, the case ID is: 101205809925.

PS: Other “fun” observations from the chat log below:

  • The “find serial” article is exclusively for iOS 14 (and I am still on iOS 13) so it was not very helpful.
  • Love that auto posting reminder that I have not typed for 30 seconds.
  • This session took more than an hour.

My support chat history