5 Gross Things You Learn About People Fixing Their Computer
There are three types of people in this world: people who fix their own computers, people who wait until their kids come home for Thanksgiving to force them to fix their computers, and people that bring their computers to repair places. The biggest of those repair places is Geek Squad, a service run by that tech retailer and unwanted-warranty hassler, Best Buy. We spoke to one of those Geeks about what his job was really like, then we asked him to fix our laptop, because there was no more room on the screen for us to download new browser toolbars.
Computers Are Goddamn Disgusting
Laptops get filthy, because half the things you do to that poor computer are going to be considered war crimes once the machines gain sentience. Plus, you're usually eating chips while committing them. So, a big part of our job is simply cleaning the stuff people bring in. Often, that fixes whatever problem they were having in the first place. Excess dust can stop fans from working, and a long-forgotten soda spill might make the keys stick -- at least we pray to God that's what that is. Shine a black light against a laptop keyboard and you'll find -- no, actually, don't ever do that. I have to assure myself daily that there's no such thing as "finger herpes."
We all probably expect the bodily fluids, but less expected is the stuff that comes along with all those crumbs that collect in your laptop's keyboard. I've found ants. I've found roaches. I once found a molted corn snake inside of a desktop.
I set it aside and finished the repairs on the computer. When the customer came in with his two kids to pick it up, I asked him if he ever owned a snake. He smiled and told me that he had a long time ago, but it escaped. Then he asked how I knew. I decided it was probably more humane to let him think I was psychic, rather than introduce the possibility that there are snakes in his computers.
People Still Don't Understand What Computer Work Looks Like
You might spend a third of your day screwing around on your work computer while trying to look busy. The opposite is true of us: Repairing computers looks a lot like "fucking around on computers." It's not uncommon for customers in need of assistance to see one of us with our face buried in a laptop and assume we're perusing Magnum, P.I. slash fiction. This angers the customer.
It's actually a big enough problem that management had to get involved. They seriously gave us orders like "move your arms more!" and "write down what is happening on the screen" -- not because we're harnessing kinetic energy or preserving Windows errors for the annals of history, but just so our computer work looks more like traditional work to people that don't know any better. So that's why we're always flailing about the store, scribbling meaningless equations like mad scientists. Well, that and all the caffeine.
Even If We Know What We're Doing, We Have No Idea What We're Doing
Common problems that Geek Squad agents encounter include: WiFi connectivity issues caused by incorrect settings, computers missing updates because of the wrong date/time, long boot times caused by unnecessary programs during startup, and, of course, all those snake infestations that are caused by the Robot Devil. Luckily, we went to school for all those years to become certified tech geniuses that handle the most esoteric problems using only our raw and unfiltered brai- aw, who am I kidding?
We Google it.
We have some smart and knowledgeable folks, but the truth is that there are people on our Squad who think RAM is that band from the '90s. But if you're reasonably good at Google-fu, it doesn't matter if you think all computers are run by little Tron cities -- you can still fix most anything. Even if you're a young Jeff Bridges, though, you'll still mostly Google for the answer. It's impossible to memorize every single error and fix for constantly shifting and updating software. So you look up an error code, and what's that second link? A forum post about how to fix the error code. Your job is done for you.
Unless it's one of those bastards that comes back to the thread later and just says, "Never mind, fixed it," without saying why. Then your new job is to find that person like Liam Neeson from Taken and make them pay.
Most Repair People Are Actually Salespeople
When it comes to hiring new employees, sales experience is considered preferable to actual computer know-how. Eventually it got so bad that our repair service had to outsource to India just to fix the computers that had been brought in specifically for us to repair.
Sure, we're ostensibly there to fix your OS after you clicked on an attachment that promised to enhance your genitals through the power of "computer bytes." And sometimes we do that. But mostly we're there to sell: Much like the movie theater concession worker foisting off another gallon of soda on you for just a quarter more, we'll try to upsell customers on data backups, software installations, warranties, etc.
Sometimes it's pretty shady: If you've ever bought a computer from Best Buy, you've been given the option to pay extra to have a basic suite of programs installed. Here's the rub: Those programs are automatically installed on basically every computer. If you don't agree to the installation fees, we actually have to spend time uninstalling those programs. It's like paying for a car only to find a "radio installation fee" attached, and if you don't agree to it, the salesperson walks over and rips your antenna off.
Don't Think Everything Is a Scam
The business practices might, uh ... how do you politely say "suck cocks in hell"? But that doesn't mean the employees are shady. Most of us like computers and just want to help. Family photos, important financial info, entire novels in progress -- these days people keep everything on their computers. And when something goes wrong, you come to us for help. We know it's important to you.
One time, a man came in on the verge of tears because his PC had died, with all of his pictures of his recently deceased wife stored on it. Losing those would have been like losing her all over again. Luckily, his computer simply had a busted battery. I ordered a new one, and he thanked me for bringing his wife back to him. This isn't the most straightforward or even honest business in the world, but we're still human beings. Treat your computer guy decently, and he'll move Heaven and Earth to make you happy.
Or, at the very least, he'll Google your problem and order you a new battery.
For more insider perspectives, check out 6 Bizarre Things Nobody Tells You About Weight Loss Surgery and 5 Things You Don't Know About Strippers (Until You Are One).
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