Part 5 is here
The shipping box I asked Apple to send arrived via FedEx today, from Reno NV I think. Once packed up it'll be shipped to somewhere in Texas where I assume Apple has a large facility that repairs broken stuff. The guy in the Apple Store's explanation for why they don't repair anything in-house anymore was due to the possibility of breaking something else and not having the part on-hand. This may be true or may be a plausible excuse, I couldn't tell.
I'll package up the machine on Monday and drop it at my nearby FedEx store. First I have to create a test account for the technician to use to login. Then I need to check if the drive is encrypted. I have a hunch that it isn't as it's been on my ToDo list to check for months. If it isn't I'll encrypt it, then make sure that the test user can mount the encrypted drive - which sort of defeats the point of encrypting it, but it should be encrypted regardless. Then finally make sure that it is fully backed up - both to TimeMachine on an external drive and to the cloud using ARQ. Apple don't guarantee that they won't destroy the contents of your drive during the repair. I joked with them that if they destroy it they had better upgrade it to a 1TB SSD.
Yesterday I also contacted the two companies I conversed with about the repair to let them know that I had decided to go with the Apple solution. I let them know that I preferred to work with an independent smaller company to give them business but when it doubled the repair cost, I couldn't justify it. I felt morally obligated to give them the feedback so they knew why I didn't move forward with them. One ignored my message and one wrote back with some followup questions. The first I won't bother dealing with again, hopefully ever. The later I will still hope be able to use in the future. They seem to be trying to provide good customer service even if they can't compete with Apple pricing.
Part 7 is here