Company out of KZ mich does cheap iPod repair

Is your iPod dead? A victim of a bad battery? Or showing that telltale “sad Mac” icon? Or some other mystery ailment that prevents you from accessing your music on the go?

Don’t trash it. Kalamazoo-based Rapid Repair may be able to save it. If not, they can at least keep it out of a landfill, and maybe even put some change in your pocket for the spare parts.

Considering the cost of a new one, what have you got to lose?

The brainchild of discussions in online forums, Rapid Repair started out as iPodMods in 2003. Back then, service manager Aaron Vronko says, the small shop focused primarily on tricking out iPods. They installed new backlights on the plain gray LCDs of the prevideo iterations of the iPods to make them glow in reds and blues and greens. They installed new cases to make the iPod cases transparent. And, naturally, they moved into battery replacement as the growing base of iPod owners discovered that Apple’s batteries eventually lost the ability to hold a charge for very long.


An online storefront followed in 2004, and, Vronko says, “we’ve been going since then.” They employ 15 people in a brick-and-mortar storefront on West Main Street in Kalamazoo.

In 2007, Vronko, 25, and partner Ben Levy, 28, changed the company’s name to Rapid Repair to reflect their growing business base: They had progressed to repairing other devices, such as the iPhone, Microsoft’s Zune, various PDAs and even game consoles — as many as 500 repairs a week — and offering parts to do-it-yourselfers.

But iPods remain a core of the business, Vronko says. They even designed their own clear replacement case, the iVue Clear, for the current generation of iPods.

What do people do to their players that requires repair? Vronko says half of all repairs are either broken LCD screens or bad batteries. A replacement LCD costs less than $100, with an average around $50. Most battery replacements are $20 or less. The exception is iPhone battery replacement. But Rapid Repair’s $50 charge is half what it costs to replace an iPhone battery through Apple. Vronko says he expects the price to drop as iPhones age, and more customers seek replacement batteries, and volume pricing makes them cheaper.

His most impressive repair: Fixing an iPod for an American soldier whose Humvee was hit by a bomb in Iraq. “He wasn’t hurt, but his iPod was destroyed,” Vronko says.

“We’ve had people who dropped it while mowing the lawn and hit it with a lawnmower,” Vronko says. “That just shredded it. There was nothing we could do.”

Another customer damaged his iPhone while attempting to use a drill to remove the SIM card. Rapid Repair’s technicians had to replace the entire logic board.

“Whatever it is, we tell people to send it in. It’s not as much trouble as you think. Most of the time, the repair can be pretty inexpensive,” Vronko says. “When you think about what you paid, it’s at least worth the cost of shipping.”

Shipping is your only cost. Diagnostic services are free. You provide credit card information only to cover the cost of repairs, if you approve them, or return shipping.

Vronko says 85 percent of all repairs cost less than $90. The typical mod — a paint job on the case, or a colored LCD or a clear case — is usually $35 or less.

If they can’t fix your device or you don’t want to pay that much, Vronko says that, if it’s got usable parts inside, they’ll buy it for the value of those parts, and use them to fix and refurbish others, which are then resold in the online store. If it’s too far gone?

“We’ll dispose of it in an ecologically sound manner. So far we’ve saved more than 10,000 pounds of small electronics waste — with lead and mercury and chromium — from hitting the landfills.

“Our biggest competitor in this business is ignorance. Not that people are stupid. They just don’t know. Our biggest competitor is probably the waste bin.”

article by Tom Gromak

1823 W Main St
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
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