If you spill coffee or beer on your Mac, you gotta call Jack. He’s the Mac Doctor, and he’ll fix your machine faster and cheaper than anyone else. I got so tired of people asking me for his WeChat ID/phone number after he moved from the Fuxing Lu Electronics Market (R.I.P) that I decided to just interview him and find out his deal. He’s now on the third floor of a place called Shinesun Plaza [sic] on Huaihai Lu and Xizang Lu. Here’s his philosophy on life - back up your files and stay happy every day.
SmSh: So how long have you been in Shanghai?
Mac Doctor: I came here in 2002.
SmSh: And you’ve been repairing Macs ever since?
Mac Doctor: I used to work at a Mac factory, specializing in the production side of Apple in Songjiang Mac. There’s a lot of computer factories over there.
SmSh: So you came here just to work in the Mac factory?
Mac Doctor: I was learning electronics and I got recruited to work there.
SmSh: Where are you from originally?
Mac Doctor: Jinggangshan in Jiangxi Province. Mao's base is the place.
SmSh: And when did you decide to get your own shop [in the old electronics market on Fuxing Lu, Xiangyang Lu]?
Mac Doctor: I started on Xiangyang Lu in 2007. There weren’t many people repairing Macs back then…
SmSh: That market just closed, do you know why?
Mac Doctor: I think the market want to change the business model so the place is more organized, with unified leasing…
SmSh: How are you liking this new place?
Mac Doctor: The environment here is pretty nice but the transportation is inconvenient. When my old customers come here they all say “damn, we like the old place better…” I still love it there; it’s a better atmosphere.
SmSh: I loved that market too. It had the old Shanghai feeling. Which market charges higher rent?
Mac Doctor: It’s more expensive here.
SmSh: So you’re open every day?
Mac Doctor: Yep, every morning from 10:30am until around 7:30pm. Two hours later than the old market.
SmSh: Are there other people who repair Macs here?
Mac Doctor: From what I understand, there’s some people repairing Macs, but to different degrees. Some people can do simple repairs, upgrade a system, or swap a hard drive, but once the motherboard is damaged or chips need to be replaced… a lot less people can handle that.
SmSh: Have you ever encountered a repair you couldn’t handle?
Mac Doctor: There are some devices that have been dropped into the water, some motherboards with bad chips, broken motherboards…. Sometimes we have to replace the whole motherboard and that’s expensive.
SmSh: How much to replace the motherboard on a Macbook Pro at the Apple store?
Mac Doctor: Are you talking about the Apple geniuses? I heard they charge about 3600 plus taxes.
SmSh: My friend spilled water all over her computer and you repaired it for like 1000rmb.
Mac Doctor: Yes. Sometimes we can do it for even cheaper.
SmSh: What’s the most severe damage you’ve seen?
Mac Doctor: In fact, it’s mostly coffee, beer, and people dropping their computers on the ground.
SmSh: How long do repairs usually take?
Mac Doctor: Generally two to three hours, or the next day, under normal circumstances. Sometimes I have to order some parts and that delays it a little.
SmSh: You sell stuff too?
Mac Doctor: Occasionally, but I mostly do repairs.
SmSh: Is it just you?
Mac Doctor: Me and that other guy you just saw. We do some on-site service too.
SmSh: Have you ever thought about opening more stores?
Mac Doctor: I’ve thought about it , but it’s very difficult to develop a true Mac repair apprentice. He must first have a basic knowledge of electronics products, and an understanding of computers , especially Mac. Its architecture is very different from other computers. Even if you know how to fix desktops and want to repair Macs, this will require a long learning process. I am now in training this young man in hopes that he can slowly become a qualified Mac Doctor.
SmSh: Does Apple know about The Mac Doctor? Have they ever contacted you?
Mac Doctor: They should know that, but they do not want us repairing Macs. They charge a lot of money to fix a motherboard, so customers come to us. They also take a long time – at least seven days.
SmSh: What do you like to do when you’re not fixing Macs?
Mac Doctor: I like to stroll [slowly, with my hands behind my back] and have a look around, and travel to places like Suzhou. I like traveling and I’ve been to many cities in China, like Chongqing, Chengdu , Suzhou, Hangzhou, Wuhan and Guangzhou.
SmSh: How many times a year do you travel?
Mac Doctor: Mainly in the summer and winter. On the summer holiday I take my kid.
SmSh: Oh, your wife and kids are in Shanghai?
Mac Doctor: Yes, my wife often helps me answer the phone and deals with deliveries.
SmSh: Your kid must be really good with computers, growing up around you. Have you ever thought about training him to become the next Mac Doctor?
Mac Doctor: This depends on his hobbies. Now he’s playing amateur tennis.
SmSh: Your work must feel really free, because you’re the boss.
Mac Doctor: Yes, very free, unlike the factory. I used to work there from 8am–8pm every day.
SmSh: I don’t understand why Apple products are made in China , but sell for so expensive here…
Mac Doctor: This is a commercial secret. There’s relatively cheap labor in China, but also many layers of taxes [Ed: because Macs get exported then reimported]. In fact, the production costs are almost the same as an ordinary PC, but the R&D costs are relatively higher.
SmSh: What kind of computer do you own?
Mac Doctor: Macbook Pro, but I did some DIY upgrades. I’ve got two SSD (Solid State Drive) disks in there. It boots really fast.
SmSh: Can you help people swap in a SSD drive? How much is that?
Mac Doctor: We generally only charge a 200rmb service fee, and the price of the SSD depends on how much space you buy.
SmSh: How much do you charge to unlock iPhones?
Mac Doctor: This depends on the phone’s country of origin. For example, phones from Japan are difficult to engage. We’ve tried many methods but they don’t work.
SmSh: You’ve helped a lot of Shanghai's DJs do repairs. Do you realize that you are actually keeping Shanghai’s underground music alive?
Mac Doctor: Haha yes, the last DJ that came here, his disk was broken. 1TB of data. He was really anxious because he had a performance that night. I fixed it. Most of the cases I see are emergencies, and the customers often don’t care about the cost of buying a new computer. To them, the most valuable thing is the information inside their machine.
SmSh: What do most of your customers do?
Mac Doctor: There’s a lot of designers…I highly suggest that everyone use a backup hard drive or Time Machine. It’s really important to back up your data. That way, even if you spill coffee or beer on your machine, you can continue to work, right? That’s the most important thing.
SmSh: In the future, if humans can have chips implanted in their bodies, will you fix those?
Mac Doctor: This is very risky. Certainly this needs to happen in medical institutions.
SmSh: Besides travel, what do you do in Shanghai?
Mac Doctor: Actually I am very envious that you often go for a drink. I'll go to the bar, but I only drink a little. Sometimes I play computer games at home. You foreigners live, drink, and dance, but Chinese people’s lives are not the same. There are differences in habits and ways of thinking. People work hard, but foreigners are like, “live each day and every day happy.”
SmSh: Are you happy?
Mac Doctor: I'm slowly pursuing happiness. Compared to my previous job, I have more freedom and income.
SmSh: Do you have a website?
Mac Doctor: I used to, but I don’t take care of it anymore. Many foreigners come to my shop. I almost have tourists.
Find Jack the Mac Doctor at Shinesun Digital Plaza, 3F-B12, 3/F, 99 Huaihai Dong Lu, near Xizang Nan Lu. Give him a call at 138 1659 2851. If you’re ever mean to him, prepare to meet the sons of dragons and die 4,444 fiery deaths.
[Note: This interview was conducted in Mandarin by the author, then transcribed by a native speaker and translated by the author.]