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scorch
May 10th, 2009, 10:27 AM
I sometimes repair systems in order to earn a little mad money for my geeky projects and toys. A while back a woman called me to ask if I could take a look at her computer. The system was an old 600Mhz Celeron HP, 128Meg, 15Gig HD, and CDR running WinME. I told her that repairs would likely cost more than it was worth, but agreed to take a look. In short order, I determined that the system was riddled with viruses and had numerous disk soft read errors. According to her, the AC cord had been pulled many times due to frequent freezes. It also had the old original McAfee anti virus on it which had expired many years before.

Due to it's shaky unknown state, I decided start at square one, and a reformat and re-install was in order. I spent the next 2 hours attempting to install an OEM Windows ME (it had an ME COA sticker), but it crashed several times during the install. Finally I was able to successfully install the OS, but then it crashed several times afterward. I went thru all the usual motions of reinserting memory sticks, and PCI cards, and even reseated the CPU and heatsink applying new thermal gorp, etc. However, it continued crashing so I decided not to waste any more time on it, and called her to come get her still broken system. I explained that I was unable to get it operating reliably, but could not justify spending anymore time on it! She offered to pay me for looking at it, but I did not accept any money since I hadn't fixed it (my normal policy).

A few days later she called again, this time screaming obscenities and calling me names. After getting her calmed down a little, it turns out that she had gone to Walmart and bought a new $700 computer system. Afterward she gave the old HP to a neighbor kid who, after spending a couple of days of fiddling, managed to find a problem and get the system running reliably (I don't know what the final resolution was?). The woman was angry at me because I had not fixed the system myself, and therefore, "I had cost her $700 for a new one!". And yes, that is a quote!

This is one of those lose/lose situations... given more time I'm certain I could have isolated the problem and repaired it myself, but how much time should one spend on a system worth perhaps $50 or $75 at a yard sale? The episode was unpleasant, and has made me even more gun shy of the mine fields that exist out there. It also shows the false perspectives and expectations that people can have.

Chuckster_in_Jax
May 10th, 2009, 11:24 AM
Gee! Doesn't this sound familiar.It seems everytime someone asks me to take a look at their computer they generally want something for free. I recently was asked to look at a computer similar to the one your are talking about. The owner wanted me to find out what was wrong with it, but they "didn't want to spend any money on it". Turns out the hard drive was bad so I gave it back to him just like he gave it to me and didn't spend any more time on it. Another problem I have had in fixing computers is that people feel that once you touch their computer, you are eternally responsible for anything else that goes wrong with it. I've gotten a call several months after repairing a computer and got "Well it didn't have this problem before you worked on it!"
Ingratitude over the years has caused me to adopt a policy of only working on computers of close friends I know will appreciate the time I spend helping them. Forget casual acquaintances.

Unknown_K
May 10th, 2009, 12:41 PM
If I learned anything in life it is that people will blame everybody else for their problems and expect you to fix it for them.

Don't run a firewall, click on every spam email, never defrag a systems, load a newer OS onto an older system with low resources and it barely boots? Well then ask a local tech to look at it and them blame them for it not running like new.

If you bother to work on old machines you need to have an upfront cost per time to weed out the people who want their 1997 machine fixed for $5 so that it runs Vista. You will be shocked how many people that NEED their old rig up and running will not bother once you want to charge over $20 for it.

Also you need to keep in mind that there are dozens of small home based shops and probably a half dozen or more stores that specialize in making sure your barely working machine doesn't work anymore so you buy a replacement from them at a very high price. Computer shops are the used car dealers of the new millenium, they take weeks to gut your system or laptop just to report it is dead and hand it back in pieces trying to sell you a new system for 2x what it cost to build.

I do some work for a local refub guy who makes all his money reloading windows and selling garage sale finds for 2x what they are worth (and people love him because he is nice to them). You would be shocked what simple fixes need to be done that he cannot figure out. Too many people think they are computer experts that realy do not know what they are doing at all hardware wise. I have snagged machines he was going to dump for free that had absolutely nothing wrong with them, or needed a $2 5 minute repair.

All the bad repair stories have put people off getting machines fixed, and why put $100+ into a repair for a relic when a new machine is $3-400.

chuckcmagee
May 10th, 2009, 01:07 PM
My mom used to tell me "Go to work for yourself. Fix computers!" I would then explain how users (including myself) never backup their files and when something bad happens, they want their files intact. So, usually about 14 hours of work later, the OS is back installed and back to normal. Let's see 14 x $50/hr = $700. Golly, you can now buy TWO new computers for that price. I managed to retire so I didn't have to really attempt it. My mother was an accountant, she would frequently get all the stuff straightened out and the client would give her a bounching, bad check as payment.

Vint
May 10th, 2009, 04:38 PM
Ah yes, reading through these posts sure brings back unfond memories of similar situations I had. You soon learn that if you have a penchant for electronics, then there will be a lot of people that will be wanting you to ‘look at’ their poorly running or non-running equipment. It’s just kind of understood that your time is worth nothing, (mostly with relatives), and you probably have a slew of parts that will get their machine back in shape in just a few minutes. “It’s probably just something simple”, they’ll say to you. I learned very quickly to say electronics is a hobby with me, not a job. “I hear such and such store ‘only’ bench charges $75. an hour though – they can probably fix you up in short order.” That usually gets the subject changed and gets the point across. It gets easier, over time, to tell the people that will appreciate your work from those that just want ‘something for nothing’. I don’t turn away those that are sincere, need help and appreciate. I turn away those that use, abuse, and want something for nothing. They don’t even offer a smile or a thank you when you’re done – only a ‘what took so long’.
With computers, for instance; it’s one thing to get to know your own machine and it’s software and your operating habits, and keeping it tuned well – yet quite another to walk up to an unfamiliar machine just riddled with problems that aren’t going to be fixed in an hour. How many of us have ‘spent the afternoon’ removing snarls from some friend or relative’s computer? I also can relate to that ‘well, you fixed my machine once’, so you are forever it’s maintenance man syndrome.
Lots of ‘been there – done that’.

Dreamcast270mhz
May 10th, 2009, 05:13 PM
Same here, I get people with nine year old computers, with just 56k modems and they wonder why their DSL internet does not work, they want me to "just look a it" for nothing, and I tell them I need at least $10 "diagnostic" work, when thats just to see whether they really are desperate. I even had someone with a P3 670mhz old gateway tell me they want Vista on it and I tell them: " I'm sorry, but this PC will not run Vista, i'd suggest WINFLPC(windoze fundamentals for leagcy pc's) it runs really-" then they rudely boom "I WANT VISTA YOU WORTHLESS NERD!!!!" So I just hang up and mark thier e-mails as spam.

linuxlove
May 10th, 2009, 05:50 PM
Same here, I get people with nine year old computers, with just 56k modems and they wonder why their DSL internet does not work, they want me to "just look a it" for nothing, and I tell them I need at least $10 "diagnostic" work, when thats just to see whether they really are desperate. I even had someone with a P3 670mhz old gateway tell me they want Vista on it and I tell them: " I'm sorry, but this PC will not run Vista, i'd suggest WINFLPC(windoze fundamentals for leagcy pc's) it runs really-" then they rudely boom "I WANT VISTA YOU WORTHLESS NERD!!!!" So I just hang up and mark thier e-mails as spam.

well, IF it could handle 512MB of RAM, you could have told them "Well, this computer will RUN vista, however, you won't be able to do x, x, x, x and x, plus it will run VERY slow".

I haven't gotten into the computer repair buisness yet, but one of the things I see around here around /dev/null college is that the students don't care one bit over something they paid good money for; example: they throw away computers (PII - P4 range), DVD players, ect. Makes me think they don't really care what they get, just when they get something better they throw out the old "worthless" whatever and replace it with a new whatever.

hexsane
May 10th, 2009, 08:49 PM
When someone asks if you know anything about computers answer NO and walk away. Even after having an extended conversation with someone about computers (yes I have really done this and no she wasn't happy with me). :)

-Matt

channelmaniac
May 10th, 2009, 09:38 PM
After putting up with that s*** for many years I started charging $60 an hour or bartering for things.

I even bought mom a new Compaq PC one year so she could call tech support. That got me out of over 2 years of tech support calls until her hard drive crashed. I put a new drive in it, restored it, patched it, and installed some anti-virus software on it. It's up to her to put the rest of her stuff back.

But, at least I get a bunch of homemade jerky for doing that. :D

Unknown_K
May 10th, 2009, 11:48 PM
I stay away from doing repair work just because there is no money in it, and it takes away from my hobby time with my gear.

I do help out people once in a while if they have something I want to get my hands on to try, or if they have helped me out in the past. The local computer refurb guy has given me some cool gear in the past so I help him out usually for free, sometimes I charge depending on my mood and how boring the fix is (replacing power jacks for laptops is boring, putting in an exotic 2ghz G4 upgrade into a powermac is amusing). Still thats only once in a while not weekly so it doesn't get too old.

I was lucky and one of my friends was a programmer so everybody bugged him more then me for fixes. He would get pissed since people wanted free fixes so he charged a $50 rate (in the 90's) and everyone left him alone after that. People who do landscaping don't get asked to cut lawns for free, why should computers be any different.

TandyMan100
May 11th, 2009, 05:14 AM
Same here, I get people with nine year old computers, with just 56k modems and they wonder why their DSL internet does not work, they want me to "just look a it" for nothing, and I tell them I need at least $10 "diagnostic" work, when thats just to see whether they really are desperate. I even had someone with a P3 670mhz old gateway tell me they want Vista on it and I tell them: " I'm sorry, but this PC will not run Vista, i'd suggest WINFLPC(windoze fundamentals for leagcy pc's) it runs really-" then they rudely boom "I WANT VISTA YOU WORTHLESS NERD!!!!" So I just hang up and mark thier e-mails as spam.
Where on earth can you FIND WINFLPC anymore? I want to run it on my PII with 5G, but I can't find where to buy/DL it! I WANT MAH EX PEE!

Dwight Elvey
May 11th, 2009, 06:54 AM
Hi
The conversation usually goes:

Them: I understand you know something about computers and can fix them.

Me: I often repair older machines as a hobby.

Them: Maybe you could look at my machine.

Me: If I spent more than ten minutes on it, I'd have to charge you for my time.
You see, the machines I fix, I keep as part of a collection.

Them: How much would you charge? I'm always willing to pay for help.

Me: Since it is my off time I'd expect time and a half. I'd guess that
I'd spend about 3 or 4 hours on it. That would be about $350
or so plus parts.

Them: Mmmmaybe I should just get a new one.

Me: I'm thinking the same :)


Dwight

Vlad
May 11th, 2009, 09:13 AM
Honestly now, the next person to say you can get proprietary, non-open source software from Bittorrent will be facing a ban. Lets not bring legal issues down upon our beloved forums! Not naming any names and the post was deleted but seriously now, common sense!

BuggZ
May 11th, 2009, 11:42 AM
The thing I hate the most is when you agree to look at a computer for some people, it's like you are married to them for the next year or more. Another thing is when I tell someone their computer needs to have the OS reinstalled and ask if they have the original recovery disks. More often than not they either lost the disks, never created them or upgraded the OS with a pirated copy and then they get upset when I tell them they will have to purchase a new licensed copy or not get their computer fixed.

Yzzerdd
May 11th, 2009, 03:11 PM
. Another problem I have had in fixing computers is that people feel that once you touch their computer, you are eternally responsible for anything else that goes wrong with it. I've gotten a call several months after repairing a computer and got "Well it didn't have this problem before you worked on it!"

I know what you mean! I've got someone bothering the hell out of me about this. His laptop had a nasty virus and spyware problem. I told him it would be cheaper for me to reinstall an O/S than to fix the current one, and told him to get everything off the drive he wants to keep. I wipe the drive, and install XP Professional. I even put the stuff back onto the drive in the appropriate folders. Next week I get a call. He can't find his resume and blames me. He demands I bring back the old DELETED/FORMATTED files and get back his resume. Obviously I explain I can't. He yells and I hang up.

Weeks later he calls me whining about how slow his computer is, its eaten up with viruses again, and won't get on the Internet. Of course, it didn't do this before I touched it (BUT IT DID!!!!!). He wants me to fix it for free. I tell him screw off and he yells and goes on a tangent about how he will call a REAL computer techn like Geek Squad. I tell him go nuts and hang up. Go figure a few days after that I get another call from him, begging that I fix it for money. Not again. Not ever again.

--Ryan

Druid6900
May 11th, 2009, 07:13 PM
I guess I must do things wrong.

I don't get those kinds of problem from people (who have to be referred to me by someone that I've already done work for) whose systems I work on.

I charge a flat rate depending on what needs to be done, I'll do system upgrades that give them a good, long upgrade path and everyone, including relatives and friends, understand that this is one of the things I do for a living and they pay cold, hard cash.

I suppose that I'm just lucky and, since I get things done quickly, I actually make money at it.

Most importantly, they know that their computer isn't the only thing I have to do and that they will have to wait a bit, but, a much shorter time than if they take it to some computer store as I, typically, am working on half a dozen machines at one time, so, while some are testing either before or after the repair, I can work on others.

Unknown_K
May 11th, 2009, 08:43 PM
I guess I must do things wrong.

I don't get those kinds of problem from people (who have to be referred to me by someone that I've already done work for) whose systems I work on.

I charge a flat rate depending on what needs to be done, I'll do system upgrades that give them a good, long upgrade path and everyone, including relatives and friends, understand that this is one of the things I do for a living and they pay cold, hard cash.

I suppose that I'm just lucky and, since I get things done quickly, I actually make money at it.

Most importantly, they know that their computer isn't the only thing I have to do and that they will have to wait a bit, but, a much shorter time than if they take it to some computer store as I, typically, am working on half a dozen machines at one time, so, while some are testing either before or after the repair, I can work on others.


That is the difference between somebody who does repair for a living and somebody who does it for only a hobby. People think they can get away with free stuff from the "geek" hobbyist then from somebody who does it for a living.

If you stick to what you are good at you can make some money (mostly because the fixes are quick and easy). Guess you have to be selective in what you take on.

nige the hippy
May 12th, 2009, 02:52 AM
I am not short of cash, but I am short of time, so I've decided to only charge cash for the bits I use, & them charge them "their time for my time".
As 2 people can usually get things done in less than half the time 1 person takes I usually profit, or it leaves some spare time for tea & biscuits, and as there is no negotiable cash transaction, we usually remain friends:)

scorch
May 12th, 2009, 12:02 PM
I guess I must do things wrong.

I don't get those kinds of problem from people (who have to be referred to me by someone that I've already done work for) whose systems I work on.



Druid, you seem to have had a history of "perfect jobs". MOST of mine are like that too, but having been around since pre-Altair days, trust me, the jobs that blind side you are out there. Mr Murphy is alive and well, and things occasionally go wrong that you couldn't have imagined in your wildest dreams.

I offered to look at the woman's computer as a favor (yes, she was referred to me), and I was planning on charging her $50 for a Windows re-install, plus Antivir, Adaware, and maybe setting up her email. Check the Geek Squad pricesheet and you'll see that is a solid bargain! 99% of the time a format/re-install would be a ho-hum 2 hr no brainer. I actually thought I was doing her a favor by telling her that, in spite of a new re-install, the system was still crashing and charging her $0! Believe me, if I had ANY idea that I would ultimately be chastised and BLAMED for her having to buy a new computer, I would have steered way WAYYY clear of the job, or more appropriately, clear of her PERIOD!

Dwight - LOL, done that too, but today systems are shipped with so much bloatware they often end up hiring me anyway to clean things up and optimize for performance. I can't believe the demoware, trialware, popup advertising, and other crap they put on systems today. The hardware costs are virtually subsidized by all the crap they pile on it. In worst cases, I have seen half the CPU and memory snorted up to run all the background bloat.

Druid6900
May 12th, 2009, 02:42 PM
Yeah, there are some repairs that I've spent more time on than I should have, but, because of the flat rate structure, I make it up on the repairs that don't take as long.

I try not to have a pre-conceived notion of what might be causing the problem(s) so, as I learned many, many years ago, that keeps me from going down blind alleys trying to prove what I THOUGHT the problem was, wasn't the problem at all.

I also use an up-to-date file server to slap on the antivirus/malware/whatever shareware protection they need so, I can do it to a number of machine at once.

And, no, I'm not picky about what work I do. The way I figure it, my home client's computers are just as important to them as my business client's computers are to them. The difference being that the business ones get moved to the head of the queue and they pay more to have the work done over the weekend.

It's (part) of a living LOL

84TAVeRT
May 12th, 2009, 04:15 PM
i have had a few bad clients in the past...

but since i started freelancing again... i charge $50 for an xp reinstall on a pc, $100 for a laptop...

i make a bunch of money downgrading vista laptops to xp... i also make sure that people understand my time is valuable ...

i setup a laptop with xp about 2 weeks ago, and it is already hijacked... they offered to pay again... but i told em i would re-do it for free this time, but next time i would have to charge...

i always try to let them know potential problems and costs before i ever do anything... so that they aren't blindsided by a $200 bill ...

i also offer upgrade options... ram, cpu, mobo, hd, and dvd-rw... some take the upgrade path... some just want it to work again... and some decide to just buy a new one (then bring it to me to downgrade to xp)...

i also tell them that i will try to recover any files, but i cannot guarantee that i will get them all... i am not responsible for backing up files...

well sorry you have had some bad customers... always ask how much it is worth to them to have it fixed... that will give you an idea of how much time to spend trying to fix it...

scorch
May 12th, 2009, 06:06 PM
Yep, Druid and 84, very good points and ones I pretty much adhere to in my own procedure. In fact, I use a dedicated 4Gig write protected keychain loaded with all my normal install goodies and utility tools (AdAware, Antivir, CCleaner, etc.). That way, an infected client system can't infect my own server (yes, been down that road too!). Plus the keychain's portability is great for making house calls.

Like 84, I have standard prices for my services, but I always call the customer first if I find a hidden snafu that will add more cost. I also never charge if the problem can't be fixed in a practical and reasonable manner (like this case). On rare occasions, that policy bites me in the bohuncus, but it's a personal integrity issue for me.

Druid6900
May 12th, 2009, 07:36 PM
Yes, I have a "Charge Only On Success" Policy as well, but, I've never had to make use of it.

I also don't charge an estimate fee. I hate when a place, if they don't have clue one what the problem is, gives a high repair estimate, takes the estimate fee and the person is out money AND has a non-operational computer.

How long does it take to do a quick shakedown? 10, 15 minutes? I can live without sticking it to someone for that little amount.

Thing is, when it's time to buy a brand new system, they come to me, even if my prices are a little more than a Big Box store because they know I will take care of them. It's the little things, like putting the freeware/shareware protection on their systems, the "Hey, it only took me five minutes, don't worry about it" and the "Oh, ok, here's how you take care of that..." 3 minute free phone calls that build customer loyalty.

My grandfather once told me, "Do the best job you can, charge a reasonable price, and treat people the way you'd want to be treated, and you'll do alright". Of course, he was right.

scorch
May 13th, 2009, 07:06 AM
Some of my own Grandfather's wisdom... "It's OK to make occasional mistakes, as long as they're new ones!"

Terry Yager
May 14th, 2009, 12:46 PM
My own wisdom: It's OK to make the really fun mistakes more than once...

--T

dpatten
May 14th, 2009, 01:54 PM
I've never had a problem with ingratitude. I also don't take money for fixing my co-worker's machines. I've had money stuffed into my hand however...

It makes it easier too that most of them buy Dells through our company.

CTRL+F11 and about 15 minutes later you have a brand new fresh install. Of course then you have to spend 6 hours uninstalling bloatware and patching XP...

Sharkonwheels
May 21st, 2009, 11:06 PM
Meh - I just politely say I haven't the time...
Which is usually true, anyways. Lately, I've been leaving the office about 7:30-8:00pm,
arriving home 8:00-8:30pm.

So no, the last thing I want to do, is come home LATE, and work on someone ELSE'S computer.

No thanks - I'll pass!

T

JDT
June 7th, 2009, 06:44 PM
Having done my own in-home computer repair business for a few years, I knwo things can get ugly. I had a simple payment schedule. Just to show up and look at it I got $50 and that covered up to an hour, anything longer went by $30 an hour.
The only people I do freebies for are my mother, grandmother and my childrens day care provider (because the lady rocks and is always hooking us up with something). The people I work with now occasionaly bring me a machine in need of a reload. I generally get paid in cash, beer or whiskey...

as for complainers... no way to avoid them in the "Service" industry. As logn as your honest with people and give it to them straight, good and bad news. You got nothing to worry about, let em be as upset as they want. The world is full of people who just dont "Get it" and always will be.