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Confessions of a Computer Repairman

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the bwa-ha-ha-ha dept.

Crime 387

nk497 writes "What really happens to your PC when it's handed over to computer repair cowboys? We reveal the horror stories from computer repair shops — the dodgy technicians that install pirated software, steal personal photos, lie about hardware upgrades, upsell to the unsavvy, or simply steal your PC to sell on. Plus, we tell you how to avoid such dodgy fixers and find a trustworthy repairman."

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387 comments

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Meh (-1, Flamebait)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129648)

If you don't know how to repair it, don't break it.

If you don't know how not to break it, don't use it.

When sweet old nana who just sends emails of cats to everyone and installs everything that pops up has problems, and she gets messed over she kinda asked for it.

Re:Meh (3, Insightful)

x*yy*x (2058140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129652)

Exactly. Don't break your legs and head in a car accident if you don't know how to repair them!

Re:Meh (2, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129700)

More like "Don't drive if you don't know how not to crash"

I read the article, some stuff might be hard for the beginner (cable got lose, that might take a while for a person to diagnose) but asking them to upgrade RAM and not knowing how to check how much RAM the system has is stupid.

Re:Meh (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130390)

but asking them to upgrade RAM and not knowing how to check how much RAM the system has is stupid

We were halfway there with the first iMac. Putting in more memory was a matter of using a coin to open a little hatch and then putting the memory right into the slots underneath. Apple since moved to designs where it isn't so simple and PCs are not so instantly obvious.
Personally I think high schools should allocate an afternoon to simple PC construction. With onboard video etc it's easier to put a machine together than flat pack furniture but people assume it is hard without even looking at a manual. Cure that assumption and we'll see less people getting ripped off.

Re:Meh (1)

X-Power (1009277) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129708)

I think the story to take home here was more like:

Don't go to England and drive on the wrong side of the road and break your legs in a car accident, if you don't know how to repair your legs, the other guys legs and both cars!

Re:Meh (1)

virgnarus (1949790) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129724)

Cuz, you know, every time something breaks it's always from manual error, yes?

Re:Meh (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129798)

If you read the article, one of the examples given was pretending to put in RAM as requested, but really just running a spyware (and stuff) scan.

If you don't know how to check your computer's RAM, you shouldn't be trying to buy more of it.

Re:Meh (2, Insightful)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129838)

If you're not a pulmonologist, stop breathing.

Re:Meh (2, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130420)

At least all they did was pretend to put in more, I've seen Rent a Ripoff actually steal RAM out of the PC when they brought it in for cleaning. And all these "if you don't know X" are so damned full of shit! Do you know how to rebuild your engine? Then you shouldn't be driving! Can you operate on your legs if you break them? Then you shouldn't be walking!

Dumbasses nobody can know everything and that is why we have mechanics, plumbers, and yes repairguys like me. I am proud to say I have NEVER copied someone's files, stolen a damned thing, or not done any job I wasn't told to do. I don't use hot software (although I will admit I use Windows copies and not originals, I use the correct key for the machine) I don't go looking for pics of your GF, I just do my job.

The moral of the story is the same as with mechanics and plumbers ask around and you'll find out if they are honest or not. I'd be happy to give them the name of a couple of my business clients if they want to know about my work, or hell just walk into their place of business. See all those whiteboxes? Guess who built them. I design the machine for the job required, which is why the printer has middle of the road CPUs (AMD Triples) but 4Gb of RAM and 1Gb of RAM on the GPU, because it helps with those large banners they are always doing. The local engineer has only 2Gb of RAM but a fast CPU because the engineering program he runs doesn't use much RAM but slams the hell out of a processor.

So just ask around folks. You wouldn't take your car to "Crazy Joe's house of repair" just because he has a snazzy commercial would you? And please for the love of all that is good QUIT GOING TO WORST BUY! Because I swear I've had to fix more horribly broken shit from them than from any other shop! So just ask around, an honest fixit guy is more than happy to give you references of past customers.Hell I'll even take before and after pics and screenshots if that is what makes you happy, I'm damned proud of my work, thank you VERY much! I'm not the cheapest guy in town, but I'm honest, fair, and you get what you pay for.

Re:Meh (2)

MokuMokuRyoushi (1701196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129806)

I'd say 90% of the time, it's an operator error that causes something to break. I doubt anyone here would contradict me.

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129882)

I'd contradict you out the wazoo, but I don't deal with consumer-grade gear run by people who click on pictureofosamascorpse.exe.

But regardless of target audience, hardware fails, and it fails more often than people like to think.

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130078)

About 10% of system builds normally have something wrong or tricky, especially if your building gaming systems or funky intel servers.

Re:Meh (1)

francium goes boom (1969836) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129998)

Citrix would like to contradict you

Re:Meh (2)

Niris (1443675) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130020)

I whole heartedly disagree. Hard drives and boards in consumer laptops die a lot, and there's not much a user can do to prevent it aside from not using their machines (which completely defeats the purpose of owning one).

Re:Meh (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130054)

never worked in a datacentre have you?

I'd contradict you.

I've also lost a PC to simple dead hardware and seen a few friends PC's go in similar ways.

If you limit it to software problems it might be true but lots of problems just happen.

I fricken' hate this myth (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130344)

people are constantly coming to me and asking me how their computer could possible break. It's a machine, like any other. They don't last for ever. Caps Pop, hard drives wear out, cooling & heating breaks circuit board connections to RAM, shit happens. But they just don't believe it. Gotta be a virus, right?

Re:Meh (3, Insightful)

kuzb (724081) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130006)

You're a fucking idiot.

Re:Meh (1)

Niris (1443675) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130012)

Logic fail. Do you know how to fix everything with your television, car, or any other appliance or gadget in your home?

Re:Meh (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130410)

I have an uncle like that. He actually did fix some cardiac monitoring equipment with a nurses hairclip. On the other hand he is retired after a long career in electrical engineering and his hobby is learning how to fix everything he has in his home. I can't even fix my car - I could fix a 1980s car but not this one.

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130364)

I didn't reply earlier, because I knew you'd get your ass reamed quite nicely. It looks like they're not done with you yet either.

Just know: when you're lying there bleeding, battered, and broken, I'll show up to begin my fun.

I'm evil (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129660)

I downgrade them to IE6, uninstall firefox/chrome, disable their anti virus, set their search engine to bing and their home page to lemonparty.org. Then I charge them in bitcoin.

Re:I'm evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130048)

high five! XD

Re:I'm evil (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130260)

You mean you don't actually install a fake AV, pull half their RAM and leave child porn on the machine as well?

So how evil are you? Eh, not so much.

Geek Squad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129680)

Why do they hate the Geek Squad so much?

Re:Geek Squad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129802)

They deal with "end-users". Anyone who does so is obviously the lowest of the low.

Re:Geek Squad. (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130094)

They deal with "end-users". Anyone who does so is obviously the lowest of the low.

What's that supposed to mean?

Re:Geek Squad. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129936)

I used to work at Geek Squad and we'd play around in people's computers out of boredom and were even told to look for things that are illegal. This was back before the whole case about that person who had CP on their computer and Geek Squad ratted on them so I don't know if they still do it. We wouldn't install anything that they didn't signed up for at least our store didn't because it was a waste of time but we'd try to convince people that they had to get these things installed because they would break it again if they didn't have it. I really hated working at best buy/geek squad. To lie to your customers or else risk getting little to no hours to work, to be told in the training room that you need to target specific races and old people because they have money and to avoid indians at all cost is insanely racist. We also would rarely get breaks because of the way they managed staff at particular times of the day but there was a lawsuit and we won so i think most people who took part of the class action lawsuit got like $60.

To anyone who wants to buy anything at Best Buy, don't. Their markups are insanely high, especially accessories like cables, their extended warranties "service plans" are nothing but a joke and good luck getting your hardware fixed through it. If you go through Geek-Squad they charge an insane amount to do the simplest tasks. Seriously, spend like a week to learn about computers and don't ever worry about it for the remainder of your life. It's true that certain things change gradually, but what you learn in a week like how to use google to find a fix to your problem is universal across time. You're not a monkey, you're a human and even if you have a very low IQ of 90, it doesn't mean that you can't figure it out with video tutorials.

Re:Geek Squad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130082)

Posting as AC since I still work at Geek Squad (and not representing the company, just my own opinions here, all that sort):

I think maybe you just worked at a pretty bad store, because the two I've worked with never had us looking for anything illegal (we rarely even open the user folders unless there's something specific a user asks us to find. If we're doing a backup, we just copy the main user folder except for the appdata), we install anything a user brings in on a disc unless it's too questionable, like a burnt windows 7 cd that isn't a restore disc for that model, and we're pretty straight forward and honest with people about what everything will cost, if we know what a problem is or if we just think we know, and if they'd just be throwing away money fixing an 8 year old computer compared to buying a new one (mainly because the repair costs are rape if you don't have some sort of work plan, and we all know it).

As for the markups, yeah I'll give you that. There's not really any markup on game systems or computers, but on accessories it's ridiculous. The service plans for hardware are great though from my experience. The basic plan covers just about everything but dropped or spilled on parts. Plus in the fine print every laptop service plan comes with the ability to order an extra battery and power cord. Also now there's that tech support plan that covers damn near everything we do software wise (and some hardware, like upgrades) for the time period of the plan.

Re:Geek Squad. (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130162)

I used to work at Geek Squad and we'd play around in people's computers out of boredom and were even told to look for things that are illegal.

Notice the "used to". They got exposed for this by the Consumerist in 2008 or so. Search for "geek squad porn" there and you will see the stories.

Self Promotion ? (2)

SirGeek (120712) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129694)

Does it annoy anyone else that there are more and more articles here on /. that are submissions of an article/store by the author of the story ?

Re:Self Promotion ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129718)

It's easy, those companies who want to basically promote themselves give /. some monetary compensation so that they can basically whore out their articles on here for more viewers. It gives them more impressions/clicks and /. gets money.

Re:Self Promotion ? (2)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129720)

It's annoying, but I suspect it's good business for Slashdot so they do it anyway.

I suspect that's why there's only ~3-4 editors aside from CmdrTaco that post anything anyway. They also seem to work in shifts, so it's probably just a line job now.

Re:Self Promotion ? (2)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130136)

Does it annoy anyone else that there are more and more articles here on /. that are submissions of an article/store by the author of the story ?

No.

Most of what we read about on this site are things we want to go out and buy. If the topic is interesting, the topic is interesting. If you want to wipe out everything considered an advertisement this site is going to dry up real quick.

Re:Self Promotion ? (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130324)

No, it is entertaining, sort of the reason I browse at -1.

Just like any other profession (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129698)

You are going to find dishonest people in any profession, and finding someone trustworthy to work on your computer, car, appliances, etc. requires looking at more than just the price tags. Bargain shoppers get screwed quite often, but if you are willing to pay a little more for good service and able to do some research you can find the good providers. (Not Best Buy)

People fall for... obvious frauds (2)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129726)

Only just finished checking over my aunt's computer. She'd paid about £80 because a company cold-called her and said Microsoft had detected a virus on her computer... somehow they also had her postcode. Their 'evidence' for this virus was to show her that not all Windows services were running ('it had shut some down'), and that if it wasn't repaired soon, more services would be shut down. They accessed her computer remotely because she willingly visited a site and ran an executable for them.

I was quite surprised she fell for it. Even a Luddite should realize this kind of cold-calling scam. Maybe the Brits are just suckers? :-)

Re:People fall for... obvious frauds (3, Interesting)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129808)

Social engineering, the oldest trick in the book. It plays on us defaulting to trust unless otherwise proved (us being anyone not deep in military/corporate secrecy or it security).

hell, i tripped up once myself. I got a IM from a friend asking about a url, and thinking nothing of it i clicked on it. Thankfully it was aimed at Windows users, or i would be in deep trouble.

Basically the url used was laid out so that at a casual glance it directed one to a .com site. But actually what it did was download a .com binary...

Re:People fall for... obvious frauds (2)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130086)

The only surprise I have is that they're using cold calling for this instead of just dumping a fake AV on her machine. Cold calling is a really labor intensive way to make some money. I suppose they did this because they're too dumb to use a phishing email or other remote means.

The fake AV business is booming. Most of the spyware cleaning I get these days is because of some fake AV. I've read reports that some of these guys are probably making several million a year from this scam.

Most of the clients who call me pretty much figure out that it's a scam, and maybe they know to try one of the spyware utilities, but frequently that doesn't work because the fake AV disables the AV or they pick the wrong one. So they call me and I come in with UBCD4Win and a few other removal utilities and clean it out. Then I get them off IE and on Firefox if they aren't already and put the free version of Malwarebytes Antimalware and ThreatFire 3 on their system and usually switch their AV to Avast (because their Norton or McAfee was slowing their machine down to a crawl.) And also make sure they're fully patched. My maximum home user charge is $100, but I usually eat a couple hours getting them straightened out after the actual cleaning so they don't have to do it again in a month.

Re:People fall for... obvious frauds (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130156)

It's a global scam. I had some guys call me up, telling me they're from "Microsoft Windows" and that my PC had problems. I'm assuming they're hitting up people that have learned about the online scams but are more trusting of a real person, even if they're from whichever Asian country it is they're working out of.

Re:People fall for... obvious frauds (2)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130282)

Good points: if they're working from Asia their labor rates for cold calling are going to be low. And yeah, social engineering in person works better than an online scam.

I wonder if they also use the excuse that "we're from your ISP, we've noticed your machine is sending spam, so we need to clean your machine for you". That would work with a lot of people. Sending emails allegedly from the ISP with "free antivirus software" as an attachment probably would work even better. I haven't heard of that being done but it seems like an obvious approach.

I have first-hand experience with this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129736)

I once worked in a computer store for a short while, and when a customer had ordered a custom-built computer with a CPU they didn't have in stock they actually made me put one in that was a lot less powerful. While I didn't personally see the customer get the computer, I'm pretty sure they really did go through with that scam. Since then I've never bought from that place...

And yes, that's why I post anonymously.

Re:I have first-hand experience with this (1, Interesting)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129854)

They made you?

Did they also force you not to loudly announce what had happened at the front of a full store?

Protip: In most of the Western world, you don't need that job to survive.

Re:I have first-hand experience with this (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129916)

Protip: 3-4 years ago that was probably true.

Re:I have first-hand experience with this (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130088)

You mean 12 years ago.

Re:I have first-hand experience with this (1)

xwizbt (513040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129888)

They didn't make you - they told you to. You're the one who did it.

About time! (0)

definate (876684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129774)

It's about time they got an article on here like this!

I know most Slashdotters certainly can't build or fix their own shit. That's why it's "Slashdot... news for nerds".

P.S. Slashdot, FIX THIS FUCKING CSS/JS/etc, half the time things are layered over one another, other times I can't post! In Win 7 running Chrome, not using noscript or similar.

Re:About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129986)

P.S. Slashdot, FIX THIS FUCKING CSS/JS/etc, half the time things are layered over one another, other times I can't post! In Win 7 running Chrome, not using noscript or similar.

I've tested /. in the latest versions of Chrome, IE, and FF.
If you're going to keep using IE6, you get what you get.

Re:About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130200)

It's been changing lately. It most definitely has fucked up in Chrome recently, as the GP says.

Re:About time! (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130396)

I've seen the errors on Firefox 3.6, Firefox 4, and IE9 (via IETab), each one running on both W7 and XP. I've also seen people complain about the errors using Chrome and Safari. In fact, I think IE6 is the only browser not to have reported errors. Maybe that's what /. tests builds on?

What is the problem? (2)

beernutz (16190) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130454)

/. looks great to me in Win 7 with Chrome.

Maybe you should take your computer to the GeekSquad.

Please leave your geek card on your way out.

8)

Trustworthy repairmen? There Aren't Any... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129784)

Even the most ubiquitous repair group - geek squad at best buy - has shown itself numerous times to not be worthy of trust. If you need it repaired, you need to learn to do it yourself. Otherwise you will get screwed worse than a high school girl at a car mechanic.

Re:Trustworthy repairmen? There Aren't Any... (1)

Just Brew It! (636086) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129844)

By most accounts, Geek Squad used to be a class outfit until Best Buy took 'em over; after that, they went downhill fast.

They quoted my father $200 to do a malware cleanup. Unbelievable! (Not sure why he even went there, I've warned him about them before. And yes, he declined the $200 Geek Squad cleanup -- at least he got that right!)

Re:Trustworthy repairmen? There Aren't Any... (5, Insightful)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130036)

By most accounts, Geek Squad used to be a class outfit until Best Buy took 'em over; after that, they went downhill fast.

They quoted my father $200 to do a malware cleanup. Unbelievable! (Not sure why he even went there, I've warned him about them before. And yes, he declined the $200 Geek Squad cleanup -- at least he got that right!)

Computer repair is not an equitable business. Everyone loses.

Either the customer gets ripped off by paying high fees OR the company gets ripped off in labour costs. It just isn't worth it.

In business you need to charge out labour at x3 to cover overhead. If it takes 1.5 hours to fix a computer you need to charge 3 * 1.5h * $20/hr = $90.
And almost every task is going to take 1.5 hours.

Go ahead and spend 10 minutes slapping in that memory upgrade or video card and handing it back. When it comes back with the sound or internet not working you're going to get corn-holed. If you don't do any CYA when it comes in or goes out the general rules of thumb is: the last person who isn't retarded gets full responsibility for all current and future computer problems

Re:Trustworthy repairmen? There Aren't Any... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130440)

Yup. Anything broken that costs less than $1000 new should probably be put on a ship to a country with cheap labor.

Re:Trustworthy repairmen? There Aren't Any... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130008)

I doubt few here would consider Geek Squad a reputable repair group.

Confession Time (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129786)

Former Geek Squad drone here. Yes, flame away. I'm used to it.

It's true that you really shouldn't take your computer to most GS places, but the reasons why might be different than what you think. There's always the chance of getting an idiot who has no clue what they're doing. But more often than not, the GOOD people can't really prove themselves because their hands are so tied by corporate policy. The "Diagnostic & Repair" service is a complete and utter joke unless someone who knows what theyre doing actually does the work (and the actual person doing the work will likely NOT be the one who checked it in). It goes something like this:
  • Check if computer boots into Windows.
  • If it doesn't boot into Windows, try Safe Mode.
  • If it doesn't boot into Safe Mode, run automated diagnostics.
  • If diags pass, reinstall Windows (even if it's just one minor thing causing it to not load).
  • If you can boot into safe mode, connect to "Agent Jonny Utah" to complete repairs. AJU is an outsourced drone somewhere in the Philippines who does the same thing you would do at the store, which is the next item.
  • Run MRI FACE. This essentially automates the entire process, running through automated diagnostics, then scans with Kaspersky, Spyware Doctor, Webroot System Analyzer, Ewido, Panda, and A-Squared.
  • Reboot into normal mode, run System Analyzer. If still showing "traces", re-run FACE in normal mode.
  • If no "traces", then "Mission Complete"

So no, even if the tech is competent, they don't want you spending a whole lot of time actually SOLVING the problem. They want you to spend maybe 10 minutes at most of actual touch time on a computer, then either get it on the complete shelf, or sell them a new one. Now of course they don't SAY this, but the pressure is there in the form of departmental budgets, and "revenue per transaction" goals. Basically, it's a matter of "if we can't fix it, we're discouraged from actually looking for a solution instead of upselling to something else."

The sad part is, it didn't used to be this way. But with Geek Squad being seen as just an extension of Customer Service (functionality checks on ALL returns, sending store-stock items for repair, and having to ring up ALL computer sales because corporate doesn't think the actual salespeople are capable of selling the much exalted "complete solution" of computer/software/cables/services), there's also no TIME to give each client the attention they deserve. Best Buy Mobile is actually fairly decent, because they're actually allowed to operate as a "store within a store", so to speak. They can't get pulled to other departments (which ALWAYS happens to GS people), and they're allowed to run their department as they see fit. This is why BBYM is one of the few departments that actually makes money on a consistent basis.

So no, not ALL the problems with Geek Squad are caused by incopmetent "Agents." I'll admit that a lot of them are, but corporate has basically castrated the department into nothing but sales drones who can "speak computers."

Re:Confession Time (1)

Dr Herbert West (1357769) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129942)

Somebody mod this guy informative-- not that I have ever worked with/gone to/would ever recommend a GS outlet, but because his comment sounds exactly right: "fix" in corporate speak means "if you can't make the problem go away in less than 10mins, upsell to a new product".

Different than what the average /. poster would do to fix a computer problem.

Making no excuses, of course, but incompetent and sh**ty service is not always the result of being evil.

Re:Confession Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130150)

Former Geek Squad drone here. Yes, flame away. I'm used to it.

It's true that you really shouldn't take your computer to most GS places, but the reasons why might be different than what you think. There's always the chance of getting an idiot who has no clue what they're doing. But more often than not, the GOOD people can't really prove themselves because their hands are so tied by corporate policy. The "Diagnostic & Repair" service is a complete and utter joke unless someone who knows what theyre doing actually does the work (and the actual person doing the work will likely NOT be the one who checked it in). It goes something like this:

  • Check if computer boots into Windows.
  • If it doesn't boot into Windows, try Safe Mode.
  • If it doesn't boot into Safe Mode, run automated diagnostics.
  • If diags pass, reinstall Windows (even if it's just one minor thing causing it to not load).
  • If you can boot into safe mode, connect to "Agent Jonny Utah" to complete repairs. AJU is an outsourced drone somewhere in the Philippines who does the same thing you would do at the store, which is the next item.
  • Run MRI FACE. This essentially automates the entire process, running through automated diagnostics, then scans with Kaspersky, Spyware Doctor, Webroot System Analyzer, Ewido, Panda, and A-Squared.
  • Reboot into normal mode, run System Analyzer. If still showing "traces", re-run FACE in normal mode.
  • If no "traces", then "Mission Complete"

So no, even if the tech is competent, they don't want you spending a whole lot of time actually SOLVING the problem. They want you to spend maybe 10 minutes at most of actual touch time on a computer, then either get it on the complete shelf, or sell them a new one. Now of course they don't SAY this, but the pressure is there in the form of departmental budgets, and "revenue per transaction" goals. Basically, it's a matter of "if we can't fix it, we're discouraged from actually looking for a solution instead of upselling to something else."

The sad part is, it didn't used to be this way. But with Geek Squad being seen as just an extension of Customer Service (functionality checks on ALL returns, sending store-stock items for repair, and having to ring up ALL computer sales because corporate doesn't think the actual salespeople are capable of selling the much exalted "complete solution" of computer/software/cables/services), there's also no TIME to give each client the attention they deserve. Best Buy Mobile is actually fairly decent, because they're actually allowed to operate as a "store within a store", so to speak. They can't get pulled to other departments (which ALWAYS happens to GS people), and they're allowed to run their department as they see fit. This is why BBYM is one of the few departments that actually makes money on a consistent basis.

So no, not ALL the problems with Geek Squad are caused by incopmetent "Agents." I'll admit that a lot of them are, but corporate has basically castrated the department into nothing but sales drones who can "speak computers."

This is so the truth its sad. I worked for the Big Yellow tag for 12 years and Geek Squad for 7 of them. Everything the last poster says is dead on. Geek Squad was great until it got bestbuyed.

Re:Confession Time (3, Interesting)

sgtrock (191182) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130262)

This is so the truth its sad. I worked for the Big Yellow tag for 12 years and Geek Squad for 7 of them. Everything the last poster says is dead on. Geek Squad was great until it got bestbuyed.

Give me a break! Your market before Best Buy bought you out was the artsy types here in the Twin Cities. That's why you drove those old Citroens with the lousy paint jobs, wore the white shirts, black pants, and goofy glasses. It was to make those interior designers and advertising people feel good about themselves because at least they weren't YOU.

Geek Squad was NEVER about knowing what to do when faced with a real problem. If you couldn't get their printer driver working in 10 minutes, or find the On/Off button on their monitor, you farmed it out to one of our local shops here who had some real talent.

Re:Confession Time (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130190)

I'm pretty offended by this. I am 'Agent Johnny Utah' here, a 3rd party consultant for a private company that takes care of Geeksquad customers, among other companies. Not only do our customers PC's get fixed, but I'm in chicago, and all the agents I know are located in the USA. We do not use 'MRI' like they do in the stores, and our very livelihood depends on us doing a good job. We regedit, fix updates, kill TDSS rootkits, fix startup issues and use tools that actually work. You say 'FORMER' drone and you are absolutely right. The powers that be finally wised up and started hiring competent American IT professionals to do the work instead of morons who got promoted off the salesfloor.

Re:Confession Time (1)

stuffman64 (208233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130312)

Another GS drone here... I'm fortunate enough to work in one of the new "connected stores" that operates slightly differently from the other stores, and I also have the fortune to work with a boss who is a genuinely nice person.

Up until recently, Geek Squad charged $200 for a "diagnostics and repair" service to find out what was wrong with the computer, and repair it (less the cost of hardware). Not everyone had to pay this amount; those with existing warranties or protection plans didn't have to pay the diagnostic fee ($70) at all, and only the remaining $130 if the problem was not due hardware (i.e., you got a virus/malware/borked your Windows somehow). People out of warranty were pretty much hosed- $200 for a one-time-fix is quite expensive any way you look at it.

Recently they rolled out a new plan that for the same price will cover pretty much anything that goes wrong with your computer for a year's time (excluding physical damage and the cost of replacement hardware, of course). Not only is it a lot better for the consumer, but I don't feel nearly as guilty for charging $200 for essentially deleting a few files or rebuilding the MBR or whatever. Better yet, it's 100 bucks for a year if purchased with a new computer.

Okay, enough of me sounding like a salesman trying to justify the prices. The point is, almost everyone here does not need anything like Geek Squad. We know what we're doing, and we have the skills to fix it ourselves. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't, and they'd gladly pay to have the work done (or simply don't have the time to deal with it themselves).

I'm sure many of the readers here pay money to have the oil in their car changed by the 15-minute shop down the street (or worse yet, the dealership). Just as GS charging for repairs is a rip-off in the eyes of this community, anyone with a jack, a wrench, and something to catch the oil sees paying to have your oil changed as a huge rip-off as well. And unfortunately, just like with Geek Squad, these people can end up being less-than-scrupulous as well- the one time I did take my car for an oil change (hard to do with a foot of snow in your driveway), I paid $35 for oil and a filter. When I was there, they tried to get me to put all kinds of crap in my engine to "flush" it, or pay for a premium air filter (I guess they didn't notice that I had a cold-air intake on my car with a washable filter, as it's hidden in the fender well). Worse yet, a few weeks later when I was under my car, I noticed my old oil filter still there. When I went back to complain, they quickly refunded my money without putting up any resistance (and I'm far from being a loud complainer... it's almost as if they said, "you got us, here's your money back").

The point is, services exist because people demand them. Unfortunately, the people performing these services aren't always the most honest people with the greatest integrity. On the flip side, there are many, many people out there that will do the job well.

Re:Confession Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130464)

I will wholeheartedly agree there are some amazing people employed by Geek Squad. I've worked with several of them. Unfortunately, corporate BS is what ties their hands.

I was lucky enough to leave right before they rolled out the whole "Geek Squad Technical Support" idea. While it's a win for the customer, I see it causing nothing but headaches for the employees. It's basically BTP on a PERSON instead of on a computer. That means they can bring in any number of different computers, and they will all get fixed under the plan. Corporate even said so much as they would fix any computer the person brought in. I imagine this will end up being horribly abused. It's like they've gone from overpricing services, to completely undervaluing the employee's time and expertise (for those that actually know what they're doing). In the end, it's going to be just another one of those things that gets labelled a "non-negotiable" for TRUST interactions, i.e. sale's pitches. (along with PC Setup & Restore, Home Networking Made Simple, MS Office Install, Buy Back, and Reward Zone Credit Card + AccountShield).

It's not that all Geek Squad agents are scam-artists, it's that the ones who are good are marginalized, while the ones who get huge sales numbers are promoted to supervisory roles where they can further push their shady ways upon others. I could pull in some decent numbers, but I was always chastised for "taking too long" with a particular client. I'd rather take 20 minutes figuring out their ACTUAL problem, and giving them a bit of friendly advice, leading them to trust me enough to always come to me when they needed paid work done. I hated the mentality of "if they come into the store, you should find SOMETHING to charge them for." I never charged someone for fixing a loose cable, checking wireless settings, or most anything that I could do in just a few minutes. Those people loved me. Others would charge for doing anything other than running WSA on the computer, and wonder why people hated them.

And don't even get me started on the uselessness that is the TA sheet (or the Geek Squad version of TPS Reports)...

Re:Confession Time (5, Informative)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130444)

So no, even if the tech is competent, they don't want you spending a whole lot of time actually SOLVING the problem. They want you to spend maybe 10 minutes at most of actual touch time on a computer

Well can you blame them? From a business perspective, that is.

I've been 'repairing' somebody's computer the past few days. Yes, days. Admittedly I also have another job, but it allowed me to walk over to that debacle and press buttons and such once in a while, so it wouldn't be sitting idly very long.

Their Vista machine was slow, wouldn't properly run things anymore, not even log in (light blue screen), responded to ctrl+alt+del only sporadically, etc.

So.. they brought it in.

Step 1: Boot, make sure you can reproduce the problem. Yup, reproduced.
Step 2: Try a different user (Guest account, say). Same problem.
Step 3: See if, within the reproduced problem, you can still access diagnostic tools. Nope.
Step 4: Try a different user.
Step 5: Try safe mode. Same problem.
Shit.

Step 6: Open laptop, remove drive, put into dock, mount to a different machine (make sure autorun is off!), check disk for viruses malware. Some stuff found, but in AVG's quarantaine. But that scan sure took bloody forever.
Step 7: Check the disk. Oh dear - read errors in various places.
Step 8: Ask if person made backups recently. Nope.
Shit.

Step 9: Download Unstoppable Copier (UC) and set it to work in its fastest mode (skip everything that so much as introduces a pause in the copy process - this is faster than Windows copying files itself). This still takes a good bit of forever.

Step 10: Hear that a drive image was made of this machine right after installation of user programs, customization, etc. Using ODIN. Regret their choice later; for now, believe you can restore the image, at least it'll be back to their personalized settings/etc. at the time of imaging.

Step 11: Check drive size. Custom label, says it's 250GB. Get new 250GB drive. Mount.

Step 12: Run ODIN. Restore Drive. ODIN crashes. Why? Dunno.
Step 13: Fine. Restore partition instead. ODIN restores partition. Use MbrFix to reset the MBR using ODIN's copy.
Step 14: Mount newly restored drive in machine. Boot. Boot fails - blank screen with blinking cursor.
Shit.

Step 15: Go back to ODIN. Figure out what's going wrong. Wait. Why is it saying the selected partition is only 7GB? There's 70GB of image files data in that directory. Realize there's three partitions under different series.
Step 16: Select second partition. See size as 250GB. Add 250GB + 7GB. Realize the original drive is not the custom label's claimed 250GB (to match with apparent available size in Windows, presumably). There's another 7GB in a restore partition (let's get back to this later), and some more GB in a hidden Acer 'D2D' partition. Realize also that maybe that's why ODIN is crashing - it needs equal or greater drive size.
Shit.

Step 17: Return 250GB drive, get a 320GB model instead. Thank store for their courtesy in taking back the drive at no charge, given that they now have to sell it as 'slightly used'.

Step 18. Re-run ODIN to restore the entire disk. ODIN restores entire disk. Hooray? This takes a good while.

Step 19: Mount drive in laptop, boot up in Safe Mode.

Step 20: Do a victory dance as Vista boots up in Safe Mode.

Step 21: Try to log in. Oops. User gets black screen with mouse cursor. Ctrl+alt+del responds just fine, but starting e.g. Task Manager does absolutely nothing.
Shit.

Step 22: Try Guest account. It logs out immediately.
Double-shit.

End of Day 1.

Step 23: Hit the internet. Find potential causes for problems under 21 and 22. Graphics drivers? Not authenticated Windows? UserInit for either issue? Try them all - to no avail.
Triple-shit.

Step 24: Try a few more things, and ultimately give up, as none of the suggestions or original ideas work. Curse the person who chose ODIN again, or alternatively blame Vista - 'cos an image, when restored, should just work -aside from- potential authentication issues (new HDD serial number, e.g.). Remember that there was a restore partition and D2D partition.

End of Day 2.

Step 25: Boot and hit alt+F10 during POST to invoke the restore partition. Tell it to restore the OS but leave user files alone.

Step 26: Acer eRecovery says FAIL. Try to reboot and try again. Acer eRecovery doesn't even start now.
Shit.

Step 27: Unmount drive, put in docking station, restore image using ODIN again, remove from docking station, remount drive in laptop. This takes a while.

Step 28-1: Just for kicks, try to boot.. maybe it magically solved itself. No such luck - still the black screen with nothing working except ctrl+alt+del. This wasn't an official step, so...

Step 28-2: Hit Acer eRecovery again. It starts up, as it did before. This time, tell it to just restore the entire system. The user's files (those not corrupt) are on the original drive and on the UC copy. User will have lost program settings and some programs, but what can you do. Acer eRecovery says FAIL again, this time complaining it can't find the D2D partition.
Shit.

Step 29: Unmount, dock, Verify that D2D partition is broken (Shit.), re-image drive, etc.

Step 30: When the machine was first started, recovery CDs were burned. Find those, and try those.. presume it'll FAIL since it's the same programming. eRecovery indeed FAILs when trying to restore O/S only.

Step 31: Try System recovery, presume that will also fail, and start looking around the interwebs for a Windows Vista Home Premium download seeing as the official recovery routes are clearly not working. Jump for joy as the System recovery, after sitting there for a while, starts restoring the system from the D2D partition (the one that couldn't be found by Acer eRecovery as booted off the HDD. Blame ODIN again? Who knows.)

End of Day 3.

Step 32: So now you have a Windows Vista Home Premium installation from ca. 2008.
Shit.

Step 33 through 387129321: Nah, just kidding. Step 32: Remove all of the crapware that's part of the System default (adware games, McAfee, some online file locker thing, etc.)

Step 34: Start checking for, and installing, updates - and reboot. A lot. , Windows Updates. This. Takes. Forever. Chuckle as the IE9 installation fails because SP2 hasn't been installed yet... then stop chuckling as you realize that SP2 is going to come up eventually and will bring with it another half a dozen rounds of checking for updates, installing updates, and reboots.

End of day 4. Yes, that's about how long that takes.

For the following steps, take note of things that look like they might be important and don't already exist on the 'clean' install, so those can be kept around 'just in case'.

Step 35: Go over the original drive and ook for installed programs. Re-install those programs. This, too, takes a while. As an example of the aforementioned 'looks important' - the user had 5 different photo album (physical items) providers' software installed, no clear indication of which one was actually used. Keep those around to ask about later.

Step 36: Go over the original drive's user preferences and application data files, and restore where possible. iTunes preferences, IE favorites, cookies, MSN Messenger contacts, the user profile picture, desktop icons, etc.

Step 37: Go over the user's data files, and re-place those where they belong.

Step 38: Compare the original drive and the UC version, as UC doesn't let you select its list of files skipped and copy those / save as a file or anything (feature request, dude!). Print out a list of files that weren't copied under the the quick settings. Lots of songs (user can re-download), photos (hopefully they have copies somewhere*), and a document which looks important (really hope, for them, they have a copy).

Step 39: Take that list, and set UC to work in its fastest copying mode to copy those files. A few pictures saved, a few others are garbled messes.

Step 40: Take the list minus the files that were copied correctly, and set UC to its most diligent mode. Check the 'log file' option this time - maybe that will provide something useful.

End of day 5.

I can't tell you Step 41+ yet, as it will be tomorrow at the earliest that UC will be done. I think that after this last UC round it'll be time to inform the user that there's nothing more that can be done without the intervention of a professional data restoration lab as far as the photos and document go, if not copied 100% by UC.

Now, granted, things got complicated by the fact that the drive was physically dying, that I did not have an appropriate replacement drive on hand, and that the person who made an image using some obscure thing (albeit open source) which may or may not have contributed to Acer's eRecovery console going haywire.

But I can well imagine that a place like BestBuy/GeekSquad isn't going to authorize one of their people to go through the above. It's not economically responsible. If I charged $20/hr, which is pretty low, the user could just about buy a replacement laptop by the time I'm done with the thing. While 'upselling' may be the other extreme, I can certainly imagine a company telling their 'repair' people to go through the steps you mentioned - which in my case would probably have resulted in the diags not passing (HDD failure), a new HDD with clean image (not sure if vendors provide them for you - they should under service contracts, surely?) for the model installed, and tell the user that they may be able to save some of their files by putting their old HDD into a drive enclosure - only $9.99.

Even more freightening ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129790)

... are the deeds of Bicycle Repairman [youtube.com] !

News for retarded nerds (2)

billcopc (196330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129792)

It is just me, or is this the dumbest article posted here since Jon Katz' tour of duty ? Yeah, duh, 9 out of 10 PC repair guys are shady, and the article's anecdotes sound like they're from 20 years ago. Zip drive ? come on, guys...

watch your porn (1)

fysdt (1597143) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129810)

Yes some even do that *double facepalm*... obviously not mine in this specific case but someone else's.

Re:watch your porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129912)

I hope they wash their hands first

Let's all be surprised! (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129850)

So, we typically pay the guys who handle our massively-complex-bundle-of-personal-information-and-spying-potential about as well as the guys who change our oil and then bad things often happen. The independent ones are subject to basically zero supervision and not infrequently include complete amateurs, some rather dodgy. The chain-store ones are subject to supervision aimed primarily at forcing them to upsell and bill as hard as possible, while working as quickly as possible. Quality results are assured. Wow. Allow me to collect my jaw from the floor.

The only surprise is that anybody is surprised. Even in professions with a very long history of handling personal, highly technical, or discrete matters for their clients, with well developed professional codes, cultural pressures, and often substantially better compensation(think doctors, lawyers, priests) there are innumerable cases of ethical dodginess, laziness, and other issues.

Re:Let's all be surprised! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129946)

I think you missed the part where the computer technicians charged outrageous amounts of money for doing practically nothing.

Re:Let's all be surprised! (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130044)

So, we typically pay the guys who handle our massively-complex-bundle-of-personal-information-and-spying-potential about as well as the guys who change our oil and then bad things often happen.

My car is way more complex than my laptop. Perhaps that's why auto mechanics are also notorious for dishonesty and/or incompetence?

hrmmmm (4, Interesting)

LodCrappo (705968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129862)

"The trick,” one repair shop owner told us, “is to give the computer a good tune-up to clear any adware or malware that might be slowing down the machine; clean out the cache; perform a spring clean – anything that makes the machine much faster.

“There’s no real need to actually install the strips of RAM that the client has paid for, because they probably won’t know where to look for it. No-one’s going to notice if there’s 3GB or 2GB of RAM in there if it works faster when it comes back from repair, and they’ll probably never look.”

Doesn't it usually take much, much longer to clean up a crapware infested machine than to slap a DIMM into a slot? And isn't ram pretty damn cheap to start with?
Sounds like sort of a silly approach to take.. if the shop just charged for the labor they were actually doing instead of the cheap part they didn't install, they'd make more.

Re:hrmmmm (1)

Dr Herbert West (1357769) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129966)

Right-- but what happens when you double the RAM and there's no increase in performance due to all the cruft on the box? Customer gets what they asked for (more RAM) but without what they wanted (improved performance) vs. customer gets what they WANT (performance) rather than what they asked for (RAM).

Sometimes good client service is giving what's needed, not what's asked for. Of course, excellent client service is letting the client know the difference, and giving them an opportunity to pick one or the other.

Re:hrmmmm (1)

LodCrappo (705968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130040)

I don't think charging the client for a part you did not install can ever be construed as "good service", regardless of whether you did some other service that you feel is more helpful. The article presents this as a common scam, not as repair shops deceiving their customers in some strange, secret effort to give them what's really needed without letting them know what they've done.

Re:hrmmmm (1)

Dr Herbert West (1357769) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130116)

I agree-- these guys are shady, without a doubt... but I bet after the first few times you install some RAM as per request and get a customer get up in your face because their box doesn't run faster, the scam as solution seems less like a scam and more like a solution.

Not the way I do business, and definitely not cool-- I just wanted to make the point that what's asked for is often not needed. The correct approach is to explain that new RAM won't fix everything (for instance, I recently doubled my RAM in my Mac workstation up to 8gigs, and did not notice a performance improvement AT ALL) but a spyware removal would be more helpful, possibly cost more.

Re:hrmmmm (2)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130052)

I think the point is precisely that it does take longer to do that, so the store owner gets to charge his hourly rate for four hours of make work, and THEN does NOT have to pay for the $30-40 or whatever per RAM stick he didn't put in the machine while still charging the client for it.

I'd say the store owner has to be careful, though, as the client might actually know enough to look at Properties on Computer and see how much RAM he's got. But there are plenty of people who don't know how to do that.

Also, the store owner probably has to run some BS in order to charge for the extra hours if the client thought all he needed was some more RAM. But if the client is naive enough, that would probably work.

But the store owner would get nailed if the client knew all he needed was more RAM and knew that all it took was slapping a stick in the box in five minutes. But there are tons of clients who don't know this.

Re:hrmmmm (1)

xwizbt (513040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130338)

The whole concept is ridiculous - you're saying 'I know the consumer needs to clean up their installation, but I'll offer to install RAM they don't need, then clean up their installation, let them pay for the fake RAM then hope they don't discover I've sneakily cleaned up their installation rather than giving them the RAM they paid for'. Perhaps you should pick out a special superhero costume to go with it. You're thinking FakeRAMGuy or something; I'm thinking 'Pratman'.

Ya no kidding. (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130058)

To properly clean and tune a system takes me a day or so. Now I will say that our users (university professors) seem unusually good at spywaring their system and of course it isn't like I spend a ton of my time on it it is "Run utility, go do something else, come back later." Still, takes a good bit of time to run badware scans, defrag, uninstall crap and/or tune startup apps and so on.

Installing RAM? Hell that is 10 minutes at most, and that is only for a case that is a pain to open.

Personally I don't get the drive to be dishonest for these places. Do the job you've been paid to do, do it well, and people will want to use you again and recommend you.

Then again, maybe that is why I have a salaried job doing computer support for a large organization and they work at a small shop. Shit like that would be absolutely NOT tolerated at work and would at best get you fired and maybe criminally charged. We do what we say, we respect your privacy, and we ensure data integrity above all else. To me that doesn't seem special, that seems expected.

Re:Ya no kidding. (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130188)

"Personally I don't get the drive to be dishonest for these places."

It's simple. There are two main reasons: 1) competition, or 2) the guy is just dishonest by nature.

In the case of competition, there are two reasons: 1) a lot of out of work techies go into computer support - I did - and they charge less than someone running a store with overhead; and 2) the economy sucks and as I've mentioned elsewhere people hate paying for computer repair so it's not that easy to make a decent living fixing PCs unless a) you're very good, and/or b) you have good marketing skills and thus a lot of corporate clients as opposed to home users.

Marketing skills and PC repair skills tend not to go together in the same person - it sure doesn't in me.

In the case of 2), dishonesty is common in every profession. By definition, most of the people in any profession are doing less well than the people at the top of the profession. This tends to bring out dishonesty. The lower down the totem pole you go, the more dishonesty you find. Since basic PC repair (as opposed to more high end computer consulting) is basically a blue collar, low education, no respect type of job, it's no surprise people who end up in it tend to be dishonest.

Re:hrmmmm (1)

tgeek (941867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130270)

Doesn't it usually take much, much longer to clean up a crapware infested machine than to slap a DIMM into a slot? And isn't ram pretty damn cheap to start with? Sounds like sort of a silly approach to take.. if the shop just charged for the labor they were actually doing instead of the cheap part they didn't install, they'd make more.

True it may take longer to clean the crapware but it's not necessarily cheaper. An infected machine comes in and the boss yells "Hey Bubba-Tech! Stop playing solitaire for a couple of minutes and run some virus scans on this machine!" Bubba-Tech dutifully obliges and spends a total of about 5-10 minutes of his time running one or more virus scanners (although the total running time will be much longer). 8-9 times out of 10 the problem is gone, boss gets to charge for memory never installed (he was paying Bubba-Tech anyway), Bubba-Tech gets to get back to his solitaire game, and the customer is so happy he/she tells all their friends . . .

knackered (0)

kaoshin (110328) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129900)

lol..

I know a trustworthy computer repairman... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36129904)

...me.

Seriously, it's not that hard. If you can't be bothered to learn how to change the oil in your car, then you can't really complain when the guys at Jiffy Lube rip you off. The same principle applies here.

Chicks for free.. (1)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129924)

Computer repair.. that ain't workin..
It's a shame that there are so many unscrupulous repair men, ripping people off... Most PC repairs are simple, and require very little knowledge, that can usually be obtained with a few Google searches.. for those that can't grasp lefty loosey, righty tighty, well then bite the bullet and either find a geeky friend you trust, or take it to the big chain stores.. (pay for your lameness).. As to software problems, learn the basic "back up things important to you",and realize that a reinstall is the simplest, and often the best solution..

Cleanup Manual (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129926)

It would be helpful if somebody who knew where all the embarrassing stuff exists provided a clear, multi-step manual of how to clean up your machine to a state where it won't embarrass you or worse. There's a lot of places where traces of your nasty, shameful habits are available to people who know where to look for them.

Windows machines might have the most, but I'm quite sure Linux and Apple systems also have their problems.

Re:Cleanup Manual (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130138)

On Windows, it's called CCleaner.

But it doesn't help if you have ten gig worth of porn in your Documents folder.

they're just incompentent (1)

juventasone (517959) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129954)

"a problem with the power supply unit that we fixed for about a fiver" It doesn't say what was done, but who bills $8 for repairs?

In my experience the problem isn't malicious technicians, just incompetent or lazy ones. Formatting drives with customer's data (no backup or consultation) is probably the biggest one. Pirated Windows installations when there's a COA on the case for the same version (not totally sure what this is about). Days spent troubleshooting a problem that anyone with experience would take five minutes. The list goes on.

Re:they're just incompentent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130164)

Send in windows 7 computer in with windows xp theme, get it back with pirated XP copy.

If you dont know a /. user..... (2)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#36129958)

make friends with one. Its as simple as that!

Seriously though Im probably one of the shady-ish people because some people say I over charge, but atleast im fair. If you're a family friend/aquaintence i'll do a diagnostic for free. If the problem is as simple as running a few software tools i'll give explicit directions and ask if you'd like to do it. If youre not comfortable doing it i will for a fee. If it's a hardware issue i'll tell you what you need to replace and assess the difficulty. Again, i give explicit directions. If youre uncomfortable I'll do it.

Here's the catch....my time is money. I've been raised by contractors to think that way and im not gonna change now.

Re:If you dont know a /. user..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130330)

Having a friend owe you a favor is usually more valuable than money. The money your friend would pay you to fix his computer is probably not enough to pay for a professional to help you move a sofa, and vice versa unless your friends are a lot wealthier than you are.

Superficial acquaintances is a different thing completely. But hey, look at it from the bright side. It's tax free as long as the government doesn't know!

Three Points (3, Interesting)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130004)

1) Yes, there are idiots who do this stuff.

2) Most of these stories are from ten years ago based on the hardware described, but we can assume the same tactics are used today.

3) I service PCs for corporate and home customers - and I don't do any of that crap. I'm not the most hardware-oriented technical support person you'll ever see and I'm not the sort of techie who knows Windows internals forwards and backwards, but I usually fix the problem regardless and I do it in a way that doesn't cause problems down the road.

I also charge a reasonable rate - which means I'm barely paying my rent. So obviously I'm an idiot.

I charge 25 bucks per hour for home users with a maximum charge of $100 - and usually that means I work a couple hours for free on a spyware cleaning and repair - and 50 bucks per hour for business users. Obviously I could charge a lot more. But there's a lot of competition out there from out of work tech people who also charge low. And despite claims from some people that customers will pay tons of money for computer service, the reality is most people REALLY hate paying anything more than what they paid for the computer in the first place and only get support because they're desperate when the machine is unusable (which is why they can be suckered by the unscrupulous).

Another scam that is very common these days is the "remote maintenance" company, who charges you a tiny amount of money per month and who promises to fix your machine remotely from their systems if you have a problem. I've never figured out how they expect to do that when the machine won't even boot because the hard drive has died or the home router doesn't work or the customer doesn't even have Internet. Sure, this can work with a spyware cleaning - IF the spyware will allow you to remote in or the machine isn't running bone slow because of the spyware. And if you've ever done any remote support over the phone, you know what a painful process that is, especially with a naive user.

There's no substitute for a guy standing in front of the machine who can assess what the customer has done wrong and can help the customer do things right from now on, as well as actually physically seeing what is going on with the machine. I've had several clients call me after the "remote maintenance" company either couldn't fix their problem or screwed things up even worse.

It seems to me things would eventually get better if every grammar school and high school in the country had a basic computer course teaching everyone how to buy a machine, something about the innards, and how to use a machine, including proper computer security, and how to fix the most common problems. I don't know if school systems do that these days, but they should - computer savvy is a basic survival trait these days.

Re:Three Points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130376)

Make sure you charge lawyers, used-house salesmen, dentists, and plumbers $100/hr instead.

1 2 3 4 5 Next (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130026)

1 2 3 4 5 Next

Now what do you do (2)

SquirrelDeth (1972694) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130032)

when you find out by accident while fixing your friends computer his wife is using a dating site to cheat on him? Then you realize your friend is hiring and meeting up with hookers he met online? The real kicker is they asked me to figure out what website they were going to that was giving them this virus. The install every pop-up people. I told them to stop installing pop-ups and figured they deserved each other and left it at that no need to embarrass anyone let them figure it out on their own and I stopped associating with them figured they were untrustworthy losers.

Re:Now what do you do (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130124)

Switch his wife to your Web site, obviously. And make sure you note the Web sites and phone numbers of those hookers.

What kind of nerd are you? :-)

Re:Now what do you do (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130194)

The only moral thing to do would be to post all the info to /b/ and blame "hackers".

Sadly the scammers make it hard for legit business (5, Interesting)

grapeape (137008) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130170)

I do mostly business consulting now but originally did home business and residential work, the biggest contributor to changing my business model was the plethora of scammers advertising cheap rates. Its really hard to charge a reasonable rate for quality work when the scammers are advertising to fix any virus problem or repair any pc for next to nothing...yes you get what you pay for but often you dont find that out until its too late and the result is the customer doesn't trust any "small business" for that sort of thing and usually goes to something like Geek Squad the next time. The last straw for me was a customer that had called to have me fix a problem that a dodgy repairman had screwed up. After completing the job even though I had explained my rates up front she started complaining about how much higher my rates were than the guy that messed up her computer before.

Re:Sadly the scammers make it hard for legit busin (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130252)

You're right. Despite claims to the contrary, home users REALLY hate paying for computer repair and only do it when they're desperate - which is why their machines are in such a mess when we get to them.

In fact, corporate users don't like it either. For some reason, there's some myth that all these boxes with moving parts in the drives and high heat output are supposed to be "un-breakable" for the five years or more people keep them.

I got one client still running a ten-to-fifteen year old Windows 95 box, for God's sakes! He absolutely will not upgrade that box because it runs a specific software he needs and he doesn't want to learn anything newer. It's already burned out at least one power supply and he lucked out that it didn't fry his motherboard.

And it's not just scammers charging low rates. I charge low rates and don't scam anyone. There's just a ton of people doing PC repair work and the competition is fierce. Add that customers don't like paying a lot per hour and it's hard to justify higher rates, especially for poorer home users. It's a bad business model but poor people need PC support, too, and just can't afford Geek Squad rates.

Face time (3, Informative)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130196)

My office charges for "face time" - time spent actually interacting with a machine. So a complete restore (which we frequently do since we work almost exclusively on business machines and the user's critical stuff is, in theory, stored on the server) that takes us 4-6 hours from top to bottom will probably only be billed for an hour or two, and most of that is going to be spent reinstalling their apps. The 3 hours that it sat there with the "HP is installing your software - please wait" and I worked on another project isn't charged at all.

Am I qualified to be a PC technician? I have no certs (yet) and I majored in English. But I'm amazingly good at figuring things out, and I've been tinkering with computers for over a decade. I've met people with half a dozen certs behind their names that know a fraction of what I do. If nothing else, I can always do my own PC repairs and avoid any of these scams.

I've read enough (4, Interesting)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 3 years ago | (#36130296)

OK, after reading the article and then reading the thread here I've concluded that I've had enough. Yes, there is fraud. You get that in every field. It is also not very common as most repair folk would rather make a living--few people I know are out to take you for everything at the expense of their reputation which equals their livelihood. Besides, anyone with specialized knowledge could fraud anyone that doesn't have that knowledge. They could just cheat them. Their prices could be out of line with reality.

Everyone feels at least once that they were not given as good a deal as they think they should have. They feel that way about lawyers, from car repair shops, any type of shop that would repair or upgrade your property, anyone with specialized knowledge. Yeah, and even our government.

What this article does is 1) gives examples of a few of the tricks that some fraudsters pull. Anything from outright fraud to just exaggerating their labor. 2) It then goes on this diatribe about the costs associated with repairs as if they are the ones that are the best judge of the costs associated with parts and labor. Much of the article is about this one guy expressing his unhappiness with what he considers to be a fair cost for repair work. This is, frankly, irrelevant, as setting a cost for your services is not a fraud. Setting a fair price is just good business practice. But hell, look at designer jeans from manufacturer to another. Levi Jeans cost much more than the Walmart store brand. Cost is a matter for the owner of the business, not the judgement of some half-baked tech journalist. Long ago someone said to me that you get paid for what you know, not what you do. So, please, cry me a river if you don't like the charges. You can go elsewhere.

A good company will "estimate" up front what the charges are going to be and approximately how long it will take. Customers have addictions to their computers and they want it all done cheap and done yesterday. Let's get real, neither is likely to happen. Generally, the parts of a computer are worth more than the whole.

Consider a fair cost of around $90 to get an OS re-installed on a netbook that might have cost $250. Adding a replacement HDD plus re-installing the OS on a netbook can come close to the value of the book. You don't really expect the repair technician to sell you the hard drive and then toss the OS install in for free, do you? Re-installing the OS can be a time intensive task. Most netbook manufacturers don't make it easy to remove the old and install the new HDDs (sometimes its even difficult to install RAM in those)--time adds up and time is money. Consider then that on top of that your customer wants you to transfer the data from that old defective HDD to the new one--how much labor is involved in trying to get it to be recognized by the OS (clicking, missing partitions, etc), to access the files, to copy those files to an intermediary device and then back onto the new install). Do you really think that it is out of line to have costs nearing the original cost of the netbook? You bought cheap. Don't expect the technician to fix it cheap due to your cheapness.

The technician needs to be clear on what is going to happen. Try to explain it to the customer. The problem is that the customer is often a closed mind. They don't want to hear an explanation. They just want it working again. How many times have I tried to explain to my customers precisely why their computer is slow (they are running XP and have 256mb of RAM and have all the updates done from Microsoft along with a slew of other software products that load at start up eating away at valuable resources). Or try to explain to them that their HDD is failing. That the diagnosis indicates the drive has tons of bad sectors and they screwed up their computer because they had viruses, bad sectors, and they tried to defragment it. Or explain that their nephew wiped out their hard drive by installing a version of Vista that they didn't have a license for and in the process erased all their files. Try explaining to them that they should never use their computer as a filing cabinet and that they need to have 2 copies of their important files on different media rather than a backup of those files on the same partition with the drive that's failing/failed. Or explain that a hard drive comes in blank and that you can't just plug it into the new computer and have it working.

What the technician needs to do is to tell you up front the value of your device and the costs associated with doing the repair. It is up to the customer to decide what the value of the unit is BEYOND the value of the hardware--as you see, some people value the utility more than the purchase price. It is up to the business to decide the value of their own labor and to give a realistic quote for the work up front with provisos about how other things can go wrong ,or unanticipated events and problems that can delay the repairs. BUT don't go on in a public article about how unhappy you are that some people do repairs that cost more than others and that you don't think that cost is realistic, when frankly it is none of your business. You know, it costs a lot of money for fresh fruit in northern Alaska during the winter. Deal with it.

Customer's often bring in their unit complaining of one problem, but they've had other ongoing problems exhibited in a variety of ways that they ignored until it came time where they absolutely had to take their computer to the shop. They often exclaim they can't get it to boot up. So, the technician quotes a price, then after agreement the technician has to go back and work on the unit only to uncover 2-3 different issues that probably weren't considered in the quote. Often when this is brought up to the customer they'll swear otherwise that that was not at issue. Sometimes only after complex explanation and/or photos are shown displaying the other issues does the customers admit those other things were happening. And, really, it's not their fault because they just don't understand the other issues. What's the shop to do? Toss in all those other repairs for free? Fix the issue that the customer specified and give it back only half functioning and in the process ruin their businesses' reputation? Or fix the customer's problem (while realizing you can't fix the original problem without fixing these "other" issues first--and then deal with the customer afterwards when they dispute the work if/when you try to charge them.

I had a customer bring in a netbook. Their hard drive was malfunctioning. I told them the price of a new drive and the labor involved in re-installing the OS. I then told them that I would be nice and toss in the data transfer at no cost. But I warned them that most people wouldn't want to have the work done (because the charges were too close to the value of the unit). I told them to think about it. They told me to do ahead and do the work. I provided the replacement drive, backed their data off the old drive, located appropriate install DVDs (which sometimes is not easy), removed the old drive and installed the new one, re-installed the OS, migrated their data, and then called them numerous times with the news that the netbook repair was completed. It's been months now and they haven't come to pick it up, while I'm out the money for the labor and parts to do the repair.

How many Windows Vista boxes come into your shop with 1 gig of RAM and the customer complaining that it is super slow. You quote a clean up price and then begin your detective work. The 1 gig of RAM is insufficient no matter how you look at it. The customer has viruses on their computer, they have a ton of toolbars in IE. They have Norton and McAfee installed and they still got infected. You look at msconfig and every imaginable app is pre-loading (you look at McAfee and it shows no less than 12 services/apps. Then you see Adobe, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and everything else you can think of being loaded at start up--I'm supposed to give this labor cost to the customer for free? This leaves very little room for the OS in RAM and even if you did it would leave almost no room for end-user applications. Their response is: that's how I bought it. It should be enough.

Articles such as this that start out pointing out common frauds and then digress into complaints about costs are stupid and unproductive and only serves to harm the reputation of the good guys that work hard every day to ensure the customer gets a fair deal (sometimes at their own expense).

Re:I've read enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130424)

You mad?

Warranty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36130366)

Why don't people just shell out the extra 20-30% on a software + hardware warranty.

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