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Crime Hardware IT

Confessions of a Computer Repairman 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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Confessions of a Computer Repairman

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  • I'm evil (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:59PM (#36129660)

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

    • 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.

  • 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 ?
    • 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.

    • 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 ?


      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.

    • by 2.7182 ( 819680 )
      No, it is entertaining, sort of the reason I browse at -1.
    • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @10:15PM (#36130608)

      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 ?

      Not at all. I do get annoyed when the submitter is pointing to his content farm that just re-frames the original source. But it's not because I can't stand self-promotion, it's because the content farm rarely adds anything to the subject and I have to jump through another hoop to get to the real story.

      It's not a crime to profit from providing information. As long as it really is something interesting (and not otherwise deceitful), I see no reason to get one's hackles up about it.

  • by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:08PM (#36129726) Homepage Journal

    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? :-)

    • by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:22PM (#36129808) Journal

      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...

    • 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 ca

      • 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.

        • 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 do

    • Pfft. Nothing new. Insurance scams were all the rage in ancient Greece.

      The scams involved the common practice of bottomry.

      No, it does not mean what you think. :)

  • 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.
    • 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!)

      • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @08:06PM (#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

        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2011 @09:58PM (#36130536)

          I lot of computer people have a hard time charging for services. It is just so natural and easy for us to fix some problems that we feel bad charging for it. It took me a long time to get in the mind set that my time was worth money and to ask people to pay me. I pay repair men a lot for all kinds of work that I cannot or will not do my self. Plumbers, electricians, mechanics, and even lawn care providers.

          I was paying someone $54 a few times a year to fertilize my yard. They would pull up with a truck and a long hose and just spray the yard down. They were in and out in about 10 minutes. When my yard was over ran with weeds, I could justify it. I found that it was cheaper and not all that much work for me to do it myself. I still over pay for someone to change my oil and rotate my tires.

          Once I decided that I was done with part time home repair work, I used my prices to drive away work. I would charge higher and higher prices and would be very up front with them. I even had a minimum charge of one hour. I was surprised at how much people were willing to pay. I eventually moved away from the area and was able to call it quits.

          • $54 is actually pretty cheap for that sort of service. It does depend a bit on how many houses they're able to do, but it's unlikely that they can do more than 2 an hour, unless they're all fairly close together. Even paying the workers minimum wage, you're still probably talking not much less than that for labor alone, not to mention the costs of providing that labor, the equipment and supplies and whatnot.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        ugh, malware.

        I would have no problem quoting someone $200 for a maleware cleanup. Best case its a fresh infection and whatever automated tool you run will clean it up or its a google search away. If that's the case, then you over estimated and only charge $60-$100. Worst case its years of infections that finally broke the computer on a 4 year old computer with too little ram that wont boot from USB.

        This stuff is like cancer. Not to bad if you catch it early, but once it spreads you never know if you got i

      • That's high, I guess, but I agreed to clean up the laptop of a wife of a best friend, and that shit took six to eight hours to finally set right. They took me to dinner, at least.

        And then she manages to infect it with malware again *days* later by doing one of the very things I told her not to do!

        Ah well. I got lunch *and* dinner out of that. I told my friend if she does it a third time the price will involved a period of indentured servitude.

        Then they got matching Macbooks. No problems since. ;-)

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          Then they got matching Macbooks. No problems since

          Ever since my mum's computer became useless, I've had no problems either.

  • Confession Time (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:17PM (#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."

    • 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.
      • Indeed, which isn't that much better than in the past when the solution if they couldn't quickly find one was to reinstall, without backing up the data or asking for specific permission to do that. Which is why I don't bother taking any equipment in for repair, because quite frankly it's not normally worth while.

        Just because a user signs a waiver for data loss does not mean that steps which are certain to cause data loss ought to be undertaken without asking specific permission. The waiver is in case someth

    • 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 di

      • Ugh... yeah, I've been there-- getting charged for a new oil filter/cabin air cleaner during a routine oil change only to find the dirty old one still there...

        Since it's a car and not a computer I don't have to turn in my geek card, right?

        Just a little knowledge or common sense will help with getting ripped off in so many cases. I recently had to repeatedly tell a dealership monkey that I had NO alignment problems with my car when he wanted to charge me to perform an alignment check during some random mai
    • Re:Confession Time (Score:5, Informative)

      by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @09:34PM (#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.

      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.

      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.

      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.

      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.

      Step 22: Try Guest account. It logs out immediately.

      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.

      Step 24: Try a few more things, and ultimately give up, as none of the suggestions or original ideas work. Cu

      • Re:Confession Time (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DDLKermit007 ( 911046 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @11:24PM (#36130878)
        Honestly, that's your own fault for trying to save a bad drive image. ANY bad sectors on a drive instantly gets a "NO" with using Vista to using any kind of drive imager from me. Drives that fail SMART? Maaaaybe...sectors? Not ever...It's not that you are being attentive to the customer, and trying to be nice, it's that you are taking TOO LONG to go down a route wraught with trouble. That's one of those paths you avoid since they will be without their PC for quite a bit longer with possibly a reinstalled OS anyways. Reinstall the OS (real techs have the right install media), use the key on the laptop's sticker (if none, I make them buy a new OEM key), dump their files over into a new profile, run updates, and hand them back their machine with the hard drive in case something was missed.

        It sucks, but not reinstalling in that instance from scratch is a rookie mistake. I was say you got a bad shake with the Vista system since XP, and 7 can run a Windows repair and usually recover from those corrupted files. For whatever reason MS thought it was wise to pull it from Vista unless you can get into Visa *rages*
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I admire your tenaciousness, but you really need to learn when to ask what the customer considers a good trade-off. My guess is that you're very far from that point already.

        Some comments on your general approach: When a computer has "random" slow-downs, the hard disk is always a suspect. Check SMART data first. This gives you instant information about a very common problem domain. If the disk has bad sectors, power down, then ask the customer about his or her priorities: Is there a recent backup? If not, ar

  • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:19PM (#36129792) Homepage

    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...

  • Yes some even do that *double facepalm*... obviously not mine in this specific case but someone else's.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:28PM (#36129850) Journal
    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.
    • 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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LodCrappo ( 705968 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:31PM (#36129862) Homepage

    "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.

    • 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 ot
      • 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.

        • 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 m
    • 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, th

    • 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

      • "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)

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      much longer to clean up a crapware infested machine

      The crapware will happily consume whatever memory you give it.
      Dust off and fdisk from orbit - it's the only way to be sure :)
      Sadly since home computers are full of software of which the owners "lost" the install disks and MS Windows has the fucking insane registry so you can't just copy files over you are stuck with trying to work out what has happened to a compromised system that really should never be used again without wiping the lot. That means a lot o

  • 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 rea
  • 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.

  • "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 t

    • Note, I'm a coder & technology security researcher. If I ask a "competent" technician to remove malware from my machine, and they don't immediately flash the BIOS, then re-format the drives from a known good boot medium & (re)install a fresh copy of the OS -- I wouldn't call them competent.

      Let's say you find out an agent working for you is really a spy -- What can they do to prove their loyalty? Nothing: They're a spy! You can't trust a spy, you have to get rid of them and get a new agent. Th

      • That's an interesting world you live in. I could have a rootkit right now and not know it. In fact, I better format and flash immediately after posting this.

        I'm not sure why this was posted in reply to my comment. When I spoke of others having their data wiped by a technician, it was usually because they couldn't fix a Windows problem (no start, software doesn't install, etc). As far as rootkits in the wild go these days, they're nearly all used to empower a hoax product. Their removal has become munda

  • by metalmaster ( 1005171 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:50PM (#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 time is money. I've been raised by contractors to think that way and im not gonna change now.
  • Three Points (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:59PM (#36130004) Homepage

    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.

  • 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 stopp
  • 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.

    • 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, fo

  • Face time (Score:4, Informative)

    by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @08:36PM (#36130196) Journal
    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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @08:59PM (#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 f

    • I don't have these problems.

      My suggestions for you:

      1. Don't try to please everyone all the time. Some customers are bad. You don't want them. Focus on the good customers and their referrals.

      2. Stop worrying about quoting prices. Give them the price. There's one price for reinstall. One price for HD install. One price for data backup/restore. Give them the full price $220. Can't afford it? Next....

      3. Customer doesn't communicate or pick up computer after 30 days? Sell it to recover your
  • I did CompUSA repair work in the late 90's - in fact it was my first tech job so in some respects I'm grateful for it and in others I'm not - This was back in the day when top of the line HD's were 8.4 gigs and memory was sold behind the counter

    We always ran an above the board shop but let's face it - that goes from manager to manager - a lot of our guys (myself included) were just young people though we had an antique or two around to fix Apples and Printers -

    some of the issues we saw were Operating issues

    • by ruebarb ( 114845 )

      er - change this sentence -

      we would occasionally get some folks wanting to upgrade and we'd often point them to the refurbished computers because to upgrade a 486 to a top of the line pentium would after install fees, cost MORE then buying a new pc - (kinda still holds true today actually)

      for those wondering - after parts/motherboard/video card/memory/CD ROM - count approx 50-100 bucks PER component installed - (we were doing free memory upgrades while you wait on laptops back when they were 3k and locked a

  • by kriston ( 7886 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @10:36PM (#36130690) Homepage Journal

    I knew a guy in college who got a new job when he sent his computer in for repair. They liked his resume. He was a Computer Science major and got an interview followed by a job offer after he picked up the computer.

  • by NicknamesAreStupid ( 1040118 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @12:35AM (#36131124)
    P.T. Barnum underestimated the birth rate.

Air is water with holes in it.