So am I the only person who doesn't think this is a great customer service tactic? You're completely disvaluing (nice made-up word there) your other customers, customers who actually pay for Apple Care. Clearly you can't replace everyone's hard drive when it dies, so how do you determine who's really having a shitty day? What qualifies as shitty enough to give people things for free? I'm not saying that the store shouldn't have done something for this person, but I don't think it's right to play favorites like that. Why buy Apple Care when you can get it replaced for free?
It sounds like poor training and/or a bad hire -- like the Apple guy was too wussy to actually do his job, so he "pretended" the warranty was still valid. I'm guessing the store has x amount of "goodwill" money because I'm sure they track warranty jobs. I can't imagine it's even possible to "pretend" something's under warranty when it isn't. All that stuff is tracked and monitored, and the fried hard drive probably had to be returned to Apple.
And what the hell's up with the hard drive being fried after a year?