Sunday, January 04, 2009

Beware This Squadron Of Geeks

I hit a new low today. I threatened someone with my blog. I know, I know. Totally shameful. But I was at a loss for what to do. It all started when some ghastly FakeAlert virus took possession of my laptop (who I have named Murray). Knowing that the worst thing you can do is let a virus percolate, I immediately rushed Murray to the Best Buy Geek Squad, which charged me $300 to remove the virus. I picked up the computer a few days later, took it home and the virus was still there! I called them up and explained that they hadn’t solved the problem, and they told me to bring it back the next day. But when I woke up the following morning, I discovered that Murray had slipped away during the night. The black screen of death. Wouldn’t start at all. The computer had crashed and taken with it my 100-page book proposal, which was due to my agent that very day.

I hurried back to Best Buy. Without even looking Murray over, the head Geek said that the only option was reformatting my hard drive, returning my computer to the state in which it was bought. But, of course, in order to do that, they had to retrieve all of my files first. Most importantly, the book proposal I’d been working on 14 hours a day for the last few weeks. This, they informed me, would cost another $100.

Since the proposal was due in a matter of hours, I didn’t have time to go to someone else or comparison shop. They had me by the balls. As I handed over my credit card, I argued that it wasn’t fair of them to charge me a second time, and they gave me the number to their complaint line where I could dispute the $100 charge.

I called today and went at it with a beleaguered Indian guy who had the misfortune of answering the phone.

“But, but,” I sputtered, “if you’d fixed the problem in the first place, the computer wouldn’t have crashed.”

“It does not matter. We still performed a service and our employees must be compensated.”

“But you wouldn’t have had to perform the service if you’d done the job correctly the first time.” This went on for more than 45 minutes.

So basically I paid to help train their employees so that they could better learn how to do their job. And according to a Geek Squad defector, this is standard operating procedure.

“You’re seriously quibbling with me over this?” I said. “Is it really worth that $100 to lose my business forever?”

“That is your decision.”

“Well. Maybe I should just write about this experience on my blog and the couple of hundred people who read it each day will know to go somewhere else the next time their computer craps out.”

“I do not read the blogs or the internets,” he retorted.

“I’ll bet a lot of your customers do.”

So yeah, I threatened someone with my blog. The same blog on which I post videos of dog-on-duck sexual assault, and write at length about the Billy Ocean song “Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car.” We hung up a few minutes later, both of us convinced the other person was a shyster trying to make a quick buck.

Of course, he has his opinion and I have mine. But my advice to you is this: Don’t be taken in by this squadron of Geeks. They’re the sketchy car mechanics of the computer repair industry.


Camels & Chocolate said...

Man, that sucks! As a fellow magazine gal/blogger, I know that feeling...when I was still living in NYC and denied access to some stuff Meatpacking club or another, I always wanted to scream: "DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I WORK FOR??? I WRITE FOR INSTYLE/PEOPLE/INSERT ANY OTHER MAG HERE." Right, because any magazine I ever worked for really would have run a review about what douches the doormen at Marquee are (I mean, that goes without saying anyway, right?).

Good luck recovering all your files, esp your book!

erat said...

$300 to (pretend to) remove a virus?

Holy shit, how much would a copy McAffee or some other off-the-shelf virus scanner/cleaner cost from that same store? What toads.

Screw 'em. No Geed Squad for me.

Anonymous said...

You should report this to! I swear I've read stories there about the same $300 for not removing the virus story there. And let them know that you're going to Consumerist if they don't do something.

MIke said...

I think this is part of a larger problem with customer service. I knew the second you said you had an Indian rep you had a problem. Every time I've ever called a customer service line and have been bumped to an Indian call center to which the customer service line had been outsource it's a huge nightmare. I don't blame the reps themselves, but since they're in India they have limited information and limited power to resolve the problem you are having 10,000 miles away. I have gone so far as to not do business with companies that have Indian help lines. Considering my credit card bills every month, I hope Capital One Bank is crying over my lost business.

Anyway, that's my personal rant. Your blog is so cathartic!

On a different note, it's outrageous that Best Buy charged you for the second service and offered to refund the first one. They should have given you your money back because it was their fault you had to get the service AND refunded your money for the failure to provide the initial service adequately. Your transaction for the service alone must have been some sort of binding contract.

You definitely need to get Consumerist to start a hate campaign.

Bob K said...

I had a similar experience with them not fixing a problem - they made me sign a thing that said they fixed it before giving me a chance to test it out.

I finally solved the problem by buying a mac.

S. said...

I have had a similar run in with the Geek Squad. (Best Buys warranty on my first iPod, rather) I have been boycotting Best Buy for like 4 or 5 years now. (Take THAT Best Buy-astards!) I'm actually kind of over it by now I think 4 years was sufficient time to hold a grudge but I still don't shop there (and roll my eyes at the very mention of their name) out of habit. (It shocks me that they've managed to stay afloat without my AmEx card.)

In short: I feel your pain.

Amira said...

I think you could also report to Better Business Bureau. At any rate, I'll never use Geek Squad having read your post! At least your experience made for a lively story.

Cob the Crazed said...

Flash drive. It ain't just there for saving illegal movie downloads anymore! :)

Anonymous said...

the same Indian call center doubles for the credit card mafioso banks who all find a mysteious obscure reason to raise your Int rate above 25% despite prime being at its lowest level in years and nothing in your credit rating changing..... While they also steal billions in tax dollars for a 'bailout'....

Anonymous said...

btw watching you on Red Eye right now... Curious who's better groomed you or Bill?

Greg said...

Just my two cents... get Kaspersky Internet Security for your next computer... It's the best rated and it's very lightweight (doesn't hog resources and slow down your laptop).

And no, I dont work for them...

Anonymous said...

get out of my dreams and into my car lol!! Funny that I know that song and funnier that now that I think about that lyric its hilarious.... The biggy version would be "and into my car b**ch"....

Anonymous said...

made me think of this:

Anonymous said...

Better Business Bureau, Consumer Protection Agency, a hard-copy letter to Best Buy corporate...all good things to do. What they did was crap.

It pays to have a friend who knows his way around a computer. Then you can get help for free.

Also, at the risk of starting another stupid computer platform war, you could get a Mac (if the cost doesn't scare you away). Besides not being affected by the tens of thousands of Windows viruses/trojans/worms out there, the Genius Bars at the Apple Stores are actually somewhat useful/knowledgeable, unlike the Geek Squad.

And always back up your data, especially your professional work. I had a similar thing happen to some music I was working on some years back, so I can sympathize. Luckily, the concert was still weeks away, but boy did I learn my lesson after that.

Chris said...

Hi Noelle,

As Bob K already said, buy a Mac. I am in the business, and I can tell you that we spend 6-8 times the dollars supporting the laptop than we do buying it. Mac laptops are just better, and they are not as subject to viruses and other malwares.

Cob the Crazed said...

All your really need are AVG-Anti Virus and Commodo firewall. They take up less space that Norton Antivirus and they can both be downloaded for free at Along with that you can get the free versions of Ad Aware and Spybot so you can check your computer regularly for symptoms. As I mentioned, all thes programs are free and they are just as good as Norton.

Neil H. said...

Noelle, WHY ON EARTH would you spend $300 to have a virus removed when for a fraction of that you could have bought a good security suite like McAfee, which would have found and removed that virus, any other malware you have on your hard drive, and protected you against future virus attacks and similar nastiness as well?

I'm sure that's all the so-called Geeks did with your laptop -- ran some sort of software on it to try to kill the virus. If their software wasn't properly updated (has to be done frequently since thousands of new viruses appear every month) that might be why it failed to do the job.

Buy your own software instead -- you don't really have to be a computer geek to use it, and it's a lot more practical to have your own, protecting your computer all the time, than to have to go through what you've gone through. That $300 they soaked you is pure rip-off.

Anonymous said...

"...and they are just as good as Norton."

I sure hope not, because Norton is a POS that causes just as many problems as it fixes.

Anonymous said...

Actually, what you should do is tell them you want your $300 back. If they refuse, then dispute the charge with your credit card company because they failed to provide the services as paid for. You get the money back that way.

Noelle Hancock said...

I had the AVG anti-virus program and it didn't work. It let the virus slip right by. And I do back up my work but I'd been working on several documents for 14 hours a day

I know I should get a Mac. Everyone tells me this. But I just can't stand them. I find them very user-unfriendly. And this isn't just a matter of me not being "used to them" because I used them for years at various jobs but never took a liking to them. I work a lot slower on Macs. I'll probably end up giving in eventually but for now I'm clinging to my PC.

Anonymous said...

Either the virus was brand-spanking-new, or your virus definitions weren't up-to-date.

Perhaps you could set up some sort of automatic backup scheme, like Apple's Time Machine for Macs (daily backups to an external drive through Wi-Fi). I haven't looked into what's involved in setting up such a thing on PCs, but it must be possible.

Curious, in what ways did you find Macs user-unfriendly? Is this unfriendliness related to specific applications, or to the OS in general? And which version(s) of MacOS were you using at the time? There is a significant difference between OS 9 and OS X, and between OS X 10.0-10.2 and 10.3-10.5. I love Macs, but I thought 10.0-10.2 were almost unusable, and I didn't like OS 9 so much either.

However, if you think Macs are less user-friendly, you must not have done any significant troubleshooting by yourself. Ever look into the Windows Registry? ;-)

But from a purely end-user, I-rely-on-tech-support-to-fix-problems-for-me's all personal preference.

Reeky said...

BBB, consumer reports, BestBuy corporate all need letters, like others have said. I'd even consider small claims court (just filing could help you get the money back). Either way, your post worked, I'll never use the Geek Squad.

Moving forward, I know I am going to take heat but MAC is not the answer, they crash too.

backup? yeah, except when your backup fails. this past weekend my 500 gig backup failed. i have a freelance art job that has MINOR revisions, bad thing, the orignial files are on my broken backup.

Sometimes life throws you curves. Take a breath and move on.

Reeky said...

BBB, consumer reports, BestBuy corporate all need letters, like others have said. I'd even consider small claims court (just filing could help you get the money back). Either way, your post worked, I'll never use the Geek Squad.

Moving forward, I know I am going to take heat but MAC is not the answer, they crash too.

backup? yeah, except when your backup fails. this past weekend my 500 gig backup failed. i have a freelance art job that has MINOR revisions, bad thing, the orignial files are on my broken backup.

Sometimes life throws you curves. Take a breath and move on.

Anonymous said...

noelle, stick with PCs. why change now- MACs are elitist crap and are waaaay overpriced. it's funny how anyone who criticizes the MAC will always have a grumpy defender come outta nowhere (ummm ANON January 12, 2009 2:52 AM) lol

btw, why didn't you backup?? there's so many ways to backup data these days, especially free. in the case of plain text, just create a Gmail account and send the doc to yourself. i do it all the time. (i do alot of other things to myself as well but i wont go there now rofl)