Who ya gonna call?

January 10th, 2007

Last year Sue sent me her Dell notebook PC to fix after a young male family member who shall remain nameless (hello, RUSSELL!) spilled milk on it. Sue had disassembled the computer to clean out the milk, taking it all the way apart, even taking the CPU out of its slot. She did a good job getting the milk out, but she made one mistake: when she put the CPU back in its slot, she bent one of its pins just a tiny little bit, and the computer stopped working.

Before she sent the computer to me, Sue took it to a local repair house, one of those “Geek Squad” type outfits. Their diagnosis: she needed a new motherboard, about $600!

It doesn’t surprise me to learn that Sue’s experience — a simple problem misdiagnosed — happens all the time. Here’s a news report from California, in which a reporter breaks a PC by disconnecting the hard drive. He just pulls loose one connector. This disables the computer, and it should be easy for any repairman to diagnose and fix. The reporter took the computer to several local repair houses to see whether it could be repaired. Several were able to fix the problem, but two couldn’t even find it, and wanted hundreds of dollars to repair components that weren’t even broken. (Caution: the audio and video are out of sync, so don’t try to watch, just listen to the report):

It was just one unplugged connector!

This was posted at YouTube under the headline “Computer Repair Fraud”, but it doesn’t sound to me like fraud as much as incompetence. Or, to quote Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” Then again, these people are supposed to be professionals, and perhaps such astounding incompetence in that role equates to fraud.

3 Responses to “Who ya gonna call?”

  1. Gadgets » Blog Archive » Who ya gonna call? Says:

    [...] ain nameless (hello, RUSSELL!) spilled milk on it. Sue… Read more at jimthompson.org « Update: Microsoft fixes Office, Outlook, Windows fla [...]

  2. Leigh Ann Says:

    And THIS is why I send my computers to you, my personal IT department, for repair!

  3. Claus Says:

    Fraud–sometimes. Stupidity–I’ve no doubt. Laziness–probably many times.

    Every so often when we are at a certain un-named GoodPurchase store, Lavie and Alvis try to convince me to see about making a career change there (Alvis just thinks the little cars they drive are cool). I usually let out an audible groan.

    I’m quite sure that “many” of the techs in these pc-repair shops are honest and hard-working folks and want to provide the best experience for their customers.

    But then there just seems to be a certain conflict of interest in that the same folks who are responsible for doing repairs also work for a place that can sell upgraded parts (or even entire systems). You and I can pretty well set up a home user’s computer using 90-100% freeware/opensource software for all their security/cleaning/maintenance/and productivity software needs. If I did work for one of these outfits, I would feel deeply “icky” if I was required to up-sell them those commercial products as a solution on a service call. That’s why I groan.

    Though in all fairness I haven’t worked for any these shops so I don’t really “know” what requirements and instructions they have for their employees. And of course, car dealerships have the same arrangement…but I wouldn’t consider taking my Saturn to anywhere else but the dealership I bought it at…hmmm…my logic is breaking down horribly now. Analysis, Spock?

    I take Great pride in my IT job with our fair state. Getting my “customers” servers, network, and desktop systems working again is a challenge, but the reward is seeing their satisfaction and excitement when their problem is solved…and in knowing that by doing a good job I’m saving everyone (taxpayers) $$$$. Especially, if it is a solution as simple as blowing clear the dust buildup on a cpu heatsink/fan so the processor runs cool and faster again.

    I haven’t had the chance to work in any other “corporate/in-house” IT shops, so I can’t say what the other side of the fence looks like…but I would imagine that while they might have their own warts…serving your internal customers for IT service repairs/delivery without having a vested $$$ interest on parts/software/upgrades has got to make for better quality control.

    But then…how do folks find a reputable IT shop for repairs if they aren’t a “geek” and don’t have “geek” friends/family to seek repair help from?

    Maybe that’s what makes me be so patient and willing to help those who ask for IT help from me…and my willingness to accept pizza in exchange. Good deal for me and I don’t have to take a shower when I get home.