I rocked a Packard Bell 486 desktop growing up. Without laying out a few specs, it’s safe to assume that the phone sitting next to you is a supercomputer in comparison. The old PB did its job and it did it well. Had it not been for tinkering with it decades ago, I would not have pursued computer repair or website design.
Early in our ownership, PB started having issues and I didn’t have the software or tools to work on it. We took it to the local computer repair shop and hoped for the best. Since I knew a little about computers then, I was unhappy that the bill ended up being significantly more than we expected. I made my case to the technician that I should not have to pay for a part that was not pre-authorized or a repair that was not related to the primary issue. He agreed and changed the bill.
My limited times–and I could count them on one hand–conducting business with that repair shop helped shape my own business practices for the better. I always strived to be the shop that provided honest and affordable service. However, for every good tech, there’s always one that’s a little shady.
Price. If the price is too good to be true, or it’s way more than expensive than the competition, ask yourself why. The bottom of the barrel tech may not being doing a thorough enough job and the top of the heap tech could be taken advantage. Make sure you ask upfront for a price estimate. If the tech won’t provide one, ask for a worst case scenario price. He or she should be able to guess based on your description of the problem.
How much do you think this repair will cost?
No indication is a red flag. For example, for a machine that won’t start Windows–a best care scenario would be $XX to do XXXX. However, say that machine needs a new motherboard, the worst case scenario would cost XXX. For techs that bill per hour, ask how many hours a general repair of that nature would take.
How do your prices compare to other shops?
It’s not reassuring to say you get what you pay for, but do you? If you find nothing suspicious about a shop charging $20 to do a job that everyone else charges upwards of $80+… It’s nice to hear that their prices are competitive, or maybe 10% less than their competitor. Probe them if they state they’re a lot cheaper with a simple “Why?”.
Ethics. This one goes back the shops or individuals that seem to charge significantly less than everyone else and can be fun to mess with. I wouldn’t say that they’re willing to break the rules to please you, they’re willing to break the rules because they don’t care.
Microsoft Office is expensive. Can you get me a good deal?
If they say yes and quote anything under $100, run. They will offer pirated software to install on your machine and pass it off as legitimate.
I think I have Windows Vista. Can I get Windows 7 (or 8, 10, etc.) installed? How much
The free upgrade to Windows 10 from Win7 and later ends July 29, 2016. To upgrade Vista, for example, to Windows 7, you would need to purchase a copy of Windows for about $100. So if your technician offers to upgrade you to Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 10 Professional, they are not installing legitimate software. Like I say so many times–Windows isn’t free; Microsoft Office isn’t free.
Investigate the Shop/Tech. See if they have a business Facebook page with any reviews. If reviews aren’t allowed, it’s possible that they turned off that feature to hide negative reviews. In that case, Google the name of the shop and/or the tech to see if anything jumps out at you–negative reviews, mugshots, etc. A quick Google search of techs around here will find you a DV arrest, burglary charge and prison stint, and a name on the sex offender registry.
Warranty. A good shop/tech stands by their repair.
Do you offer a warranty on my repair?
If I get another computer virus next week, is it covered under warranty?
This one can be a tricky question. Some shops will cover virus/spyware (malware) removal for 30 days while others will only guarantee it a few days. Regardless of their answer, you need to know for how long and why. I offered a 72 hour malware warranty. Anything after that, and the customer was re-infecting themselves rather than underlying issues from the repair appearing. A long warranty on malware removal can be a never ending cycle with some of the websites people visit, such as adult sites, gaming, torrents, etc.
Diagnostic Fee. A diagnostic fee, or a bench fee, is charged to cover the time that it takes for a technician to diagnose your computer. The fee can range from nothing to $99.
Do you charge a diagnostic fee? If so, does that amount get applied to the final bill?
If a shop charges $50 for virus removals, but charges $60 diagnostic with no rollover, you aren’t saving anything over the shop with a $70 virus removal + $0 diag.
Appearances. Yes, don’t judge a book by its cover, but you should expect professionalism. Jeans and a t-shirt are fine, so is a suit. Whatever your tech choses, they should be clean and well-groomed.
Turnaround Time. Like pricing, be wary of anyone who takes too long or doesn’t take long enough. It’s my professional recommendation not to use anyone who claims to remove a virus in an hour; it also should not take a week.