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Computer repair shops: the 21st Century’s car mechanic

Posted by GNC at 8:26 PM on May 18, 2009
One of the worst feelings a person can have is seeking the repair of a product that they have a limited knowledge of how it works. How do they know what they are being told is true? How much does it really cost to fix? How will I know if they really replaced anything and it was just a loose screw causing the problem?
 
I talk to home and small business computer users daily in the course of my job and the one thing I continue to see is how much they distrust any IT person they come in contact with.
 
I can’t blame them as they may have seen the same stories on the news about the big box computer stores and national computer repair companies and what their technicians have been caught doing to users and their computers.
 
The more disturbing thing I’m see is how mom and pop repair stores are selling these people bootleg copies of software and loading up corporate networks with “Free for personal use” software.
 
I had a client ask me how much it would cost to replace Vista on the machine she had bought a few months back. I told her is would be the cost of a copy of XP plus the install time, she turns to me and says, “My old IT guy was able to upgrade our four of our other machines from Windows 2000 for $35 each.”  At that point I looked at the machines and each one of them had the same CD-Key and an activation hack loaded.
 
I believe independent shops are hurting themselves and others in the field by devaluing the cost of their services and in the end leaving the customer in a bad situation as well as perpetuating the myth that IT people are arrogant and will sell them what ever snake oil tonic they have to make a quick buck.
 
The main thing I think people should look for when seeking computer repair outside the home is personal recommendations. Talk to your friends and family and see who they have used in the past. Nothing beats the one-on-one interaction with a repairman as well as how they talk to their customers and explain the problems and possible solutions. Also if they say they need to replace a part, ask for the old one back even you have no plan to keep it.
Thankfully I have never been in the situation where I have had to rely on a total stranger to fix a computer of mine that contains family photos, banking information, personal emails and whatever else passes through my computer on a daily basis.
 
What experiences have you or your friends and family had with these shops and what are your tips on finding a quality shop?
 
As always I can be reached at jparie (at) gmail (dot) com.

3 Comments

  1. From susabelle at 8:09 am on May 19, 2009

    What bugs me is how EXPENSIVE repairs are, period. My mother has a nice ACER laptop she bought last year. It works well for her and she is happy. But she dropped it and busted the power port, and when she took it in, the repair was over $400, and she’d paid less than $600 for the laptop from the same shop. If I buy a $20,000 car and need a $300 repair job, that seems normal. But a $600 laptop needing a $400 repair just really seems ridiculous. But there was nothing she could do, she needed her laptop back so she paid the fee. I don’t know if it really cost that much to repair or not, as I am not a hardware person and could not even begin to know what to fix on the laptop, but it does seem excessive. No wonder people are suspicious!

  2. From John Joda at 8:23 pm on May 19, 2009

    I am a tech in Billings Montana.

    I find that some of my dishonest competitors are better at selling services than fixing the problems.

    I rarely advertise. I rely on word of mouth to promote my services.

    btw…..susabelle. If you tried to build a car from parts it would be considerably higher than buying a new car.

    It is a good idea to ask friends and establish relationships.

  3. From John Hood at 1:15 pm on May 20, 2009

    I’m in the same boat as John from Billings, except I work full time as a support tech and do consulting in my off time. All of my off time business is by referral.

    I see both sides of the issue: I’ve dealt with high prices and shoddy workmanship from repair shops. But I’ve also had to deal with people who want their technology, they just don’t want to have to pay for it. I’ve been paid with checks that bounced. I’ve had people object to a $35 spyware removal charge. Last Monday I had an executive refuse to pay a bill for my work on his home computer, total five hours. I get the “just a quick question” types that tie me up for 30 -45 minutes. I get people who need rush jobs done on a computer that’s been sitting for three weeks.

    Were I to overcharge (I don’t), that would be why. It doesn’t justify the use of pirated software though. My website and my clients use a lot of open-source and other free software.

    As for Susabelle – Do you know how much an Acer laptop motherboard actually costs? Check on eBay. It’s a great resource for parts prices. Low-budget laptops are like low-budget cars: a great deal, provided you never have to fix them.