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Watch out for shady computer repairers — 4 Comments

  1. Lots off rip off merchants in this game,but
    it is tough for decent,ethical people.

    One of the main problems in the repair
    business(especially on site).You give an
    hourly rate,but eventually you start running
    a bit over,or they are regulars and you
    get soft,5 mins or 10 mins here and there
    when you are passing.

    And of course the intermittent faults or weird
    and troublesome jobs can take hours to track
    down.You can’t charge the true time,you just
    have to put it down to experience and hope that
    it happens to someone else in future so you can recoup the time spent researching.

    With hardware now getting ridiculously cheap,
    software,hard drives and the amounts of data
    being stored increasing in size,it really is
    getting too labour intensive to be viable.
    Especially combined with the mal/tro/virus

    After 6 years full time,I am thinking of
    retiring at Christmas(before Vista causes

    I spent an hour yesterday repairing an awful
    multifunction device install.

    A daughter(“Really good with computers”)
    (every family has one) had attempted to
    configure a new b/band connection and the MFC.

    No broadband,disabled usb ports,disabled modem,
    no line filters,3 instances of the printer and
    a new detection on reboot.

    I’d quoted one hr and $50 for a connection.

    I then spent an extra hour fixing up a $85 MFC.

    What do you do?.

    How do you charge people who won’t pay
    for anti-virus but can’t install free

    The latest trend is the cheap laptops.
    People are appalled when you suggest
    paying more for 2 yr warranty,512,
    decent brand etc.

    Who wants to pay more than a grand
    for a laptop?

    A businessman last week had me
    install a complete new system and
    set it up in his office.He phoned
    yesterday and said he had taken it
    back to the shop and swopped it for
    a laptop! Can I set that up this week.

    He hasn’t even got last week’s invoice

  2. Hi David.

    4 posts in 2 days!

    If you keep going like this, I might have to let you write your own articles 🙂

    Yes, its difficult for decent, ethical people (I’d like to think myself as being ethical).

    But I also look at it from the customer point of view… how can someone know if they are getting a decent computer guy? They can’t, and price is no indication either.

    Thats where it really pays to have a great telephnone manner, and to quickly develop a great face to face rapport.

    Thats leads to something like the old engineering/computer principle:

    – fast
    – inexpensive
    – high quality
    A product can only have 2 of the above attributes.

    For computer technicians, its probably like:
    – technical competence
    – friendly and helpful
    – inexpensive
    … pick any two…

    I’m working on the first 2, and if I succeed, then, maybe, I’ll be able to charge more.

    Then there is another thing to consider: The customer that tries to take advangage of your good will. Eg:

    A regular customer wanted me to fix the power connector on his laptop (it couldn’t charge the battery properly). I said: 2 hours minimum charge… laptops are very time consuming. He said “Oh, I think I’ll send it to IBM then”. An hour later, he calls back saying “IBM charge $150 just to give a quote”, so he reluctantly got me to fix it.

    But after I fixed it, I was nice enough to tell him that I noticed the battery no longer holds charge. So he says “but the battery was working fine before I gave it to you”.

    At that point, most people would say “F you”, but I barely noticed. I just said batteries are notoriously fickle, and are virtually “consumables” for laptops, with barely any warranty… and It was like that when I got it. But I made damn sure not to offer to fix / replace it!

    I also make damn sure not to get into any discounting wars. I cannot afford to charge $40 per hour, and I probably don’t want to deal with people that pick their computer help based purely on price.

    The best decision I made was to increase my prices back in July. For some strange reason, I started getting more business, and better quality customers!

    But I also seem to do what you do: often spend many hours researching problems, but can’t bring myself to charge the true time. But then, in most cases, I tell the customer (usually when it comes time for them to pay me), that I actually spent X hours fixing it, but I’m only charging X-Y hours. Good customers will appreciate the extra effort, bad customers don’t give a rats.

    Yes, the low cost of hardware is a worry, but Vista could be an opportunity (a learning curve for everyone), but I’m geared to adapt to a changing market… I don’t specialise in one area (eggs in 1 basket), so I can keep going even in the unlikely event that Vista eliminates all malware and spam.

    Most companies (particularly big ones) just cannot change as fast as someone like me. Eg: Its dissapointing to see how many computer repairs websites are very poorly designed, but the effort I put into my website has generated some good business (including web design and SEO!).

    Some business people don’t seem to grasp some fundamentals like: try to increase income and decrease costs… But if they are happy to throw money around, I don’t mind (I try to give invoices within 1 minute of completing the job… sometimes I just alter my pre-printed invoice to suit the extra/lesser time spent)

    Are you retiring completely, or just from this line of work?

    I’d like to expand Computer Aid, but at this stage, it will probably be something like having a Computer Aid “group” of quality techs, who all work independently, but use a common trading name (Computer Aid), and who will help each other out. Well, its only a dream at this stage… it needs more thought before I actually do something about it.

    Anyway, enough rambling for now…

  3. Hi again,
    feel a bit guilty posting too much,
    and taking your time.

    But it is nice seeing someone in the same game
    and reading of their experiences.Especially an
    unjaded person!Most of my contacts are working in shops and are half salesman,half repairs.

    Which is understandable.A decent repair bill
    these days goes along way to just buying a
    new system and doing a file transfer.Also
    with the constant toys coming out they do
    a roaring trade in cameras,usb drives and
    mp3 players etc.Tiny profit though.

    And that’s one of my gripes.The hardware is appalling.

    Cheap and nasty designed to just last past
    warranty and until next month’s gimmick and as it gets cheaper, it also seems to lack quality control.There’s nothing worse than new parts
    which are faulty (especially onsite).

    At one stage this year a certain brand of wireless
    router had a failure rate of one in ten according
    to a local shop.

    I’m also coming across lots of the cheaper desktops and laptops which people buy from electrical stores.Pain in the bum.Crap components,and the damned recovery disc/partition drives me crazy.

    I am also convinced Vista will be a shambles.
    If you get the chance,go into the control
    panel and switch to “classic view”.

    What a dog’s breakfast,and remember
    most people still get lost in XP.

    That’s before the different versions
    get them.

    How many Acer,Dell,HP so on will ship
    with the “Basic” version?

    Flashing lights and a message from
    MS “Sorry,you must upgrade to Vista
    Premium to use this feature”.

    Customer service has never been a problem,
    I have more clients than I need,and they
    do look rather worried when I mention
    retiring,but it is very stressful constantly
    dashing around.Especially to work on cheap
    machines that need lots of work.

    Painting walls,pulling teeth,you book in.

    Business’s with dead computers expect the
    SAS to arrive!

    I certainly can’t retire from working,but I can see us been next year’s TV repairmen.

    I would love to specialize in data recovery,
    but I don’t get many calls for it.

    This week I replaced a customer’s PC.

    AsusMB 3100+ 512 80gb DVD/RW XP.Parts cost $550.

    It replaced a HP cel 433,64/10gb/40x cd/ win98se cost $2500 in ’99.And that’s with inflation!

    Those were the days!

  4. Hi David.

    As far as Im concerned, you can never post too much… Im not as busy as I could be (otherwise my blog posts would suffer)… and its all good google fodder 🙂

    Anyway, after 17 years working for small and large companies, its just great being able to work directly with the end customer.

    I guess im unjaded after putting up with office politics, red tape, procedures, department empire building (where power is more important than giving the customer what they need, and facts get in the way making oneself look good to higher management), money wasted on projects that should never have been started, ignorant managers that have no technical knowledge, but just use the few buzzword they pickup from tech staff, so they can play their power games amongs themselves, etc etc… Its scary how close dilbert, and real life, are.

    So after all that, to be asked to fix a problem, and not have to fill in a change management request, and wait for it to be approved, before fixing the problem, is great.

    Im not sure about the hardware… Ive not noticed much change myself… from the days of the IBM XT, till now, many things have changed, but there has always been a large range in hardware quality.

    I agree with the recovery partition rubbish… Id prefer a disc I can hold in my hand.

    The one thing that make computers different from TVs is that computers store valuable data, which isnt always straighforward to copy to another computer (a TV stores no data).

    Since Businesses only represent 10 – 20% of my work, I deal with ordinary people, who usually are not in a hurry to fix problems, and are prepared to pay for a service, just as they are propared to pay for a plumber.

    But once people start storing all their data online, then PCs will become like TVs… nothing significant stored locally.

    Anyway, if I started looking back, I could kick myself for not having started this line of work 10 years ago, but Im going to look forward instead, and adapt to the changes as they come … I reckon it will become more web based, so Im keeping a few fingers in that area.