My 4 year old macbook pro makes a cracking sound and I look underneath to find the battery has popped out of the machine because it's swollen and cracked its case. OK, check 't Internet and find it's a common problem and most people say that if you take it into an Apple Store, they'll replace it. Got two such stores about half an hour away and, worried about machine (which I need to use), I head off to one - the Apple Store at the Metrocentre, Gateshead. Now I should say, I've never needed to take an Apple product in for repair or support, so I've never used the 'Genius Bar'. However, a bit panicky, I head in that direction, where a number of 'Geniuses' are on duty, with a couple apparently doing nothing. Just as I'm about to reach one of these, someone (who we'll call Matt Smug, since he refuses to tell me his second name) stops me and asks if I have an appointment. Now, I've never been to a shop where I have had to have an appointment to discuss faulty goods; but anyway, I don't have one and admit this. I explain the problem and show him the swollen battery. First off - well, there's no way that will be replaced for free says Matt Smug, as the machine is too old, we'll have to factor in wear and tear and it's likely you've done something to cause this. OK, says I (through gritted teeth), how much will it cost to replace? Can't say, you must see a Genius and there are no appointments for 45 minutes, says Mr Smug. But this is clearly something that will take about 2 minutes and is pretty simple - the battery is unrepairable and will need replacing, says I. Ah, says Mr Smug, that's not for the customer to say, only a Genius can decide this. Well can't you look up the cost of a replacement? No, he cannot touch the battery at all, it is clearly very dangerous and could do serious damage to Mr Smug's hand. Bearing in mind that I've been holding it for 5 minutes and he's not seemed vaguely worried about the chance of my fingers being burned off, this seems unlikely. Fed up with his obstructive, everything-is-too-much-trouble attitude, I say: OK, there's another Apple Store 15 minutes away, can you see if they can see me straight away or quicker than here. No, that's quite impossible. Next time, Matt Smug says, you must make an appointment. Vowing there will be no next time, I hit the next Apple Store (Newcastle) about 15 minutes later. The Geniuses are *much* busier, every one obviously engaged with a customer and the girl I see says they can't see me for an hour. I explain my predicament and she says that it looks like a really simple problem to solve, so she'll ask if she can squeeze me in if a Genius finishes with someone else. She does so and two minutes later, I'm talking to a Genius. Yep, says he, that's a well known fault, we'll replace that straight away and free of charge. Gets a new battery from the store, installs it and sends me on my faith-restored way. Total time in store, 5 minutes, everyone really pleasant and trying their best to help me. The moral of this story: for Apple, send Matt Smug for retraining. For everyone else, if you're in the North-east of the UK and need an Apple Store, go to Newcastle and not the Metrocentre.