Before just letting anyone work on your computer and with your sensitive data, ask for references from prior customers. A good reputation takes time and integrity to build and takes a lot less time to tear down as bad news travels faster than good news. I have hundreds of customers in my database from which a potential customer can randomly call to inquire about my abilities as well as my business ethics. I also have accreditation on display in the foyer of my shop for anyone to view so you can feel confident that I not only know what I am doing but am educated in it as well. Do not trust just anyone promising you the most for the least. Usually, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
A computer for sale with Windows 7 Ultimate (which retails for $285.00 alone) and Office 2010 Professional (which retails for around $350) is not going to cost you $200. It is most likely loaded with illegal software which has been hacked to bypass license activation. These hacks can sometimes lead to security holes which can be exploited by malware writers. But at the very least, Microsoft will expose the activation bypass with an update which will be required before you can update to the latest service pack, something that should be updated to as soon as possible to protect your computer from known vulnerabilities.
So, in summation, whomever you choose to do your computer work should be accredited, have plenty of references from which to call for true reviews and be trustworthy, which can be discovered through the references. In addition to these suggestions, here is a list of questions you should ask anyone before they are trusted with your computer. I hope this helps to keep you informed enough to stay away from jack-legs and to get as much life out of your computer as possible.
Questions you should ask and answers you should receive:
- “How Much do you Charge? Hourly? By the Job?”
- There are many different billing schemes out there, some more transparent than others. Not every job is predictable to the dime but you should get a general idea about cost based on the technician’s experience. Hourly rates for computer repair in the US average about $60.00 to $100.00. A higher hourly rate than this and you are probably getting the shaft. A rate lower than this and you are probably getting service from someone who is just getting their feet wet in the business, has a “stacking” hourly scheme where they bill services by the hour for each service rendered or does sub-par work including but not limited to ignoring other problems that may require the technician to return… …with another invoice, of course.
- You should expect to hear something similar to this:“Without seeing it first, I cannot be absolutely sure. But these issues typically run about (X) hours or $(X.)”
- It is understandable with the many possibilities for explanation of any problem that diagnosis in person may discover a different source of a given problem. However, your technician should never go ahead with a service without explaining costs and possibilities with you first after which your consent should be given before proceeding. Should you suspect that the charges are too high, you are free to do as you would do with your healthcare provider and get a second or third opinion. Hopefully, if it has gotten to this point in the relationship, you have already checked references and established their level of trustworthiness as illustrated above.
- “Is There a Minimum Charge?”
- For quick in-and-out services, it may be that there is a minimum charge which falls below a typical service. If so, you’ll want to know before you take your computer in to find that you pay for an hour when it took five minutes.
- You should expect an answer such as this:“Yes. The minimum shop charge is one hour/minimum bench charge of $(X).”
- Some shops will have a minimum bench charge that is equal to half of their regular hourly/typical bench charge. They are few and far between but they are still out there. We have even been known to charge nothing for something very minor and non-time consuming.
- “Any Additional Fees?”
- The only time an additional fee should apply is when other problems are found or parts are needed along the way as well as the labor involved in replacing the part (possibly an OS reinstall.) This should be discussed with you prior to advancement as discussed above.
- You should receive an answer such as this:“No, not unless I have to order parts or find some other related problem after which I will discuss it with you first before moving forward.”
- If you are told that there are other fees, either see them in writing first to judge their veracity or go elsewhere!
- “Are Your Rates Different for Service Calls?”
- Typically, service calls are more expensive than in-shop work. This is for many reasons but two main reasons are that the technician must use vehicular resources to get to and from your business/residence as well as the time for that travel. Also, while at your site, the technician can only work on your machine(s). This costs more than if he was in-shop working on yours while also working on several others.
- You should expect this:“Yes. Our fee for service calls is $(X).”
- Because of the extra expense associated with a service call, you should expect either a “travel charge” or a %10 – %20 increase in hourly rates. You should also expect to pay a minimum service call rate so, be sure you want them to come to you. Should the rate be twice the shop rate, check with someone else! Also, if you hear a rate that is very low, it is likely to be a “stacking” scheme and as such, may not be trustworthy due to lack of transparency.
- “Does Your Work Carry a Guarantee?”
- This is one of the least asked questions we receive but should be one that we hear from everyone. Hardware repairs should definitely carry a 30 to 90 day guarantee. Virus problems are an unfortunate exception as user practices can easily infect a computer in minutes. The important thing to check is that they offer a warranty and then to read it. If the technician cannot produce a copy of his or her warranty on the spot in-shop, then you probably need to take your computer elsewhere.
- You should expect to hear:“Yes. Our work is guaranteed for(30-90 days).”
- If you are given a time period less than thirty days, take your business elsewhere.
- “What Is Your Turnaround?”
- This is important. You want to know how long you are going to go without your computer. Most services don’t take more than a day or two. Depending on how busy the shop is, it could take a day or two just to get to the bench.
- Ideally, you would hear:“We typically have a 24 to 48 hour turnaround.”
- If parts are needed and must be ordered, it could take three to five business days to get them in. Some parts are not available in the US and must be ordered from across the globe. Your technician should explain this to you if this is the case to ensure that it is acceptable to you. There are legitimate reasons why it would take longer than a day or two but they should be easily explained and justifiable which can be resolved with a technician with good communication skills.
- “Do I need to Pay Anything Up-Front?”
- Under some circumstances, you should expect to pay something in advance of having work done at your local computer shop. Some people leave their machine to be diagnosed but decide not to have it repaired. This is perfectly acceptable but often what happens afterward is not; they never come to pick it up. At this juncture, if it wasn’t worth repairing, it is highly unlikely that it is able to be resold for recovery of the shop time lost during diagnostics. This causes the business to take a loss and when multiplied by a high volume of intake can become very costly.
- Some shops may not require a deposit for custom building you a computer but an experienced one will. On too many occasions do customers decide what they want built, the technician orders the parts, builds the computer, installs the OS, sets it up for use and then the customer never comes back to get it. This puts the company in a sticky place of money out and uncertainty about whether the customer will return to purchase but is just a little irresponsible. With a deposit, (you should expect to deposit half of the quote for a new build) the technician can build it at minimal cost, resell it and receive pay for the work put into it should the customer never return. This should also be accompanied by a policy concerning “Abandonment.” Again, If the technician cannot produce this document upon request, you should probably go elsewhere.
- Answer to Look For:“A small bench fee applies and is taken from the cost of the repair, once you authorize it. Otherwise, payment is not due until completion of service rendered” or “We require a 50% deposit on new builds.”
- With the previous fee scheme in place, your technician should be able to absorb the cost of parts and wait for the remaining payment until your computer is serviced. If not, you are likely dealing with someone who is less than professional; take your computer elsewhere!
- “Is All of Your Software Properly Licensed and Do You Provide a Certificate of Authenticity? (COA)”
- As pointed out earlier, software that is licensed for sale must be paid for to be legal. You neither want the problems that come from an unaddressed vulnerability in your software nor do you wish to be charged with a crime! If the technician cannot produce legal documentation proving the legitimacy of the software on the machine whether selling you the machine or adding it to yours upon request, you should immediately go elsewhere!
- Answer to Look For:“Yes. I only deal in legal software and COAs or required licensing information along with proper liability releasing paperwork is provided at the time of purchase.”
- Still, be cautious if it is anything less than a COA. Other forms of paperwork can be produced, misleading you into thinking you are purchasing legitimate software. If you suspect that the technician is being less than honest about licensing, you are likely dealing with someone whose business etiquette is less than desirable; take your computer elsewhere!