Thursday, September 23, 2010

You can't lose 'em all...

...and, for once, I didn't lose. Okay, so I didn't actually win either, but I feel compelled to add a final chapter to the Geek Squad Saga.

All y'all read about it below: in essence, my computer picked up a nasty virus, and Geek Squad was supposed to clean it out for me. After I dropped a whole heckuva lot of loot on them, the computer came home and started in on the same old nonsense. I complained (politely) and was essentially told to pound sand. Another company actually came through for me, but I was out a hefty pile of spondulix, enough to buy a decent new 'puter. Geek Squad, via its customer service people, kept on telling me to pound sand.

So here we are. I mentioned having found contact info for a Geek Squad bigwig, and indeed made contact. Mr Bigwig didn't get back to me personally, but assigned someone (higher up the corporate food chain than my previous contacts) to check it out. At some point, the Dreaded Gift Certificate was again offered as a way to smooth my ruffled feathers.

PARENTHETICAL THINK-ABOUT-IT-FOR-A-MOMENT THOUGHT: What is a "gift certificate" worth? It entitles you to buy stuff at the same store that made you angry in the first place, costs them maybe half the face value if that much, and in the end they have the money and you don't.

I thanked the representative for the offer, but emphasized that I would prefer cash. Right now, I need that more than anything I could get at Best Buy. Unless, that is, Best Buy has started selling food when I wasn't looking....

Yesterday, I was advised that a refund was indeed warranted, and was told to call the manager at the offending store. Which I did. He invited me to come up and collect my loot. The only minor drawback was that the sum offered was $60 less than I wanted.

PARENTHETICAL YES-I'M-GREEDY THOUGHT: It was actually more like roughly $250 less than I wanted, but why quibble over details? I can't say the other stuff they did hurt anything or wasn't needed...just that I didn't want to be roped into those services at the time.

Being heavily into my "be polite" mode, I explained this very calmly. In the end, after some to-ing and fro-ing, the manager handed me a pitifully small stack of Jacksons this morning (with a couple Lincolns thrown in to round out the sum I felt was reasonable) and, if I still didn't quite feel all the grief had been worth it, I had to admit the company and manager played fair. We shook hands, smiled at each other like we meant it, and I left.

I'm admitting all this here. I prefer to mete out praise instead of complaints, you know. Don't get as much chance with the latter as I do with the former, though....

Oooh, yeah, before I forget: I'm getting a gift certificate, too, directly from the corporate office. A bigger one than I was offered to shut up and go away. Already have a good use for it in mind....

The whole episode has been an occasion for stress I didn't need, Jim. But it got resolved and I didn't lose this time.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Geeks, don't fail me now!

Oh, wait...they already did....

PARENTHETICAL YA-GOTTA-KNOW-THE-BACKSTORY COMMENT: My computer made the journey from California to, well, here during the last week of July. I set it up, and crawled out onto the interwebz. That's what I do with a computer. Very quickly, it picked up a "trojan" virus, which rendered it useless. Not having the computer-help resources I had in the other world, I decided to play it safe and rely on a well-known name's professionals to restore my poor Compaq's health.

So, I took my box to the Geek Squad at a Best buy store in the next town up the road. They charged me $190 for virus removal, $35 for "cleaning," and $100 to back up my data on CDs. With tax and who-knows-what-else thrown in, the total came to $357.

I picked it up the next day, set it up again, and bingo! back came the same virus. I called the store and was advised that the warranty didn't cover virus removal. I was, they said, welcome to come back and spend another $190. They'd be happy to give it another shot.

Somehow, the notion of paying someone again to fix something they didn't get right the first time didn't grab me. I called a local service firm, which sent a tech out. He removed the virus, installed a superior antivirus (the Geeks said nothing about doing anything like that), installed a couple of useful goodies and restored a few settings the Geeks had messed up. Total charge: $160. No further problems. None.

And so the saga began. No sooner had I again achieved connectivity with Out There than I made sure to drop Geek Squad's "customer service" people a mild email. When I received a response, many days later, it was not what I'd call effective or to the point.

In fact, It's worth quoting from (exactly as received):

Thank you for contacting the Geek Squad. My name is Agent Elorme.

Thank you for taking the time to send me your letter. I rely on direct feedback from our customers like you to let us know how The Geek Squad is doing. If you or anyone you know ever has any experience that is less than perfect, I want to know about it. We care very much about quality and I hope you'll give us another chance.

I apologize for the delay on our response and thank you for your patient. I am sorry to hear you are still having problems with your computer after the in store repair. I would like to offered our Under Cover service as a one time curtsey were an technician remotely logs in your computer and run diagnostic. You will need to have internet access in order to perform the service. I will waive all fee for the service. If you accept my offered please send me a date, time, and phone number where you can be reached. Once again, I do appreciate you as a customer and thank you for taking the time out of your day to let us know what went wrong.

I look forward to speaking to you. Thank you for choosing Geek Squad.

Once I satisfied myself that I understood most of what "Agent Elorme" was trying to say, I fired off a reply, noting that the poor response from my phone call had made me decide to go elsewhere for good service.

That prompted yet another email, this time from someone for whom English is a first or, at worst, second language. Yesterday -- we're now at the 17th of September, you understand -- I received yet another email, suggesting I contact Geek Squad's toll free "consumer service" number about the possibility of a partial refund.

So I did. That was two-plus hours of my life I'll never get back.

It started off well enough. The first person took my information and we discussed various questions she had. She then sent me to another rep, who did the same, and called the Best Buy store in question to see what was what. Then I was cut off.

Naturally, I was on "hold" for roughly half the time involved.

I called back, and went through the same process with two more people. These were a bit more clueless, making me fear that "Agent Elorme" wasn't far away. One couldn't find anything in the records, claiming my name was misspelled. Then I got it out of him that he had mis-typed my phone number after I repeated it three times.

By this time I was no longer mildly irritated, no longer interested in perhaps getting a partial refund. No. Now I wanted at least the $190 back. That's what happens when you irritate a customer by being clueless and condescending, you know. They go from reasonable to angry.

When the final "agent" offered me a $50 gift certificate at the store, I informed her that would do no good. Who needs a gift certificate for a store you never intend to buy from again? She shifted me to her supervisor.

Right off the ol' bat, I knew from the tone of this dude's voice that I was essentially threatening to rob his company, and he wasn't having any. It was my fault, because I didn't take the computer back and give them another chance (at another $190) to make it right. That somehow voided the warranty I had been told at the time didn't apply anyway.

Amazingly, I didn't dip into the vast storehouse of profanity, vulgarity and expressions of rage I have stashed away over the years. I merely told "supervisor" that it was a pretty pathetic way to run a company. The rest I didn't say; I just thought it real hard.

If I had to guess, I'd say my dealings with Geek Squad -- and my subsequent promise (which I intend to keep) that I will never again spend a penny with them or Best Buy -- didn't not result in any hand-wringing at their corporate headquarters. Hell, I'm only one customer; losing me won't require them to park their fleet of VW Beetles or lay off any of their "technicians."

We've all seen people who, when wronged by Evil Corporate America, set up websites (which they fill with page after page of boring details about their woes) and, like conspiracy theorists chasing the Infamous Grassy Knoll Assassin, can quote dates, times to the second, and produce witnesses to support their arguments. I've tended to laugh at such people.

I understand them now. I won't do that -- in fact, I can't think of anything I can do in this case -- but I understand it. There's an evil little part of me that wouldn't mind seeing tires flattened on every black & white VW Beetle in town, but that part remains quiescent, as it has after every other instance when I've felt rooked, cheated, bamboozled or hoodwinked.

Just don't expect me to feel any pity for Geek Squad and Best Buy if they go the way of other less-than-customer-friendly electronics retailers/ service points. Comes to that, expect me to cheer wildly on that day!

If you ever need fast, competent computer service, I can give the highest recommendation to a nice company in my area. And I advise you: avoid Geek Squad and Best Buy under any circumstances.

Revenge it ain't, but at least now you know -- as the late, not-necessarily-great Paul Harvey used to say -- the rest of the story.


PARENTHETICAL POST-SCRIPT-Y TYPE THOUGHT: A few minutes of research (on the computer which has worked perfectly since Not-the-Geek-Squad fixed it) got me a telephone number for a Geek Squad executive. He's gonna get a call from me come Monday....

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Return of "Jim"

My friend Juanderlust suggests (in a comment on a previous post) that I haven't been writing here often enough, and he's right.

It has been a difficult few months, Jim.

But all is not lost. Not all "all," anyway. Whenever presented with an opportunity to smile, I can still manage it.

One prime example is this TV commercial, which makes me smile every time I see it. It never gets old. In fact I am beginning to believe this may be the best TV commercial in recorded history, the absolute pinnacle of the art since Philo Farnsworth invented the Boob Tube oh so many years ago:

PARENTHETICAL IT-AIN'T-LIKE-RIDIN'-A-BICYCLE THOUGHT: Did that work? I've forgotten everything I knew about HTML. Advancing age and creeping senility, I suppose. Or maybe I never really had a firm grasp of the fundamentals.

One reason for my silence -- and I'm always ready with excuses for my multitudinous failings -- is that I am so used to writing for money; when the ol' spondulix were rollin' in* I didn't have much trouble batting out posts for free in my spare time. It was fun.

"Fun" and I don't have much to do with each other these days. My last writing gig was something like three months ago, and efforts to find a local gig -- any gig -- have been met with uniform disinterest.

So I'm nowhere near being Mr Happy Dude right now.**

But I do have some music stashed in my computer to listen to -- a good bit of my CD collection was salvaged during the Big Crash back in April, but is still in L.A. -- and my old photos to look at. Not much, really, but one clings to sanity with whatever resources are available.

I also have access to the "little piggy," who cracks me up without fail when I see him on the Tube.

And I got you, Jim. Wish you'd buy me a drink, like in the old days....

* Okay, make that dribbling in....

** There is one exception to the no-happiness situation, but that's far away from reaching the talk-about-it stage as of now.