Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Geek Squad Tried to Rip Me Off

I’m pretty technically inclined – some may even call me a geek. So, when things go wrong on my computers or networks, I usually can resolve them myself. I’ve replaced hard drives, video cards, debugged wireless and wired networks, even been able to decipher many Windows error messages – which is no easy feat.

But sometimes, even us geeks need a higher power. I had a Gateway laptop which just plain ‘ol died late last year. I couldn’t get into the diagnostics to figure out what the problem was – though I had a hunch it was either the hard drive, or the motherboard.

So, I brought it to the Geeks Squad at a local Best Buy store. They claim to be able to repair any computer problem. And I’ve used them before for things beyond my control, and they were excellent at the time.

Times change – even for the best.

The technicians at Geek Squad couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so they offered to send it for a free estimate directly to the manufacturer – in this case, Gateway. I said, sure, can’t go wrong with a free estimate, and all I wanted was the thing up and running.

I wanted to get this old laptop working, so I could give it to my dad – at the time he was using an ancient desktop machine circa Windows98! Since then he’s finally got a nice new Windows Vista-based machine.

The folks at Geek Squad said I should hear back from the manufacturer within two-weeks. Time came and went, and two-weeks had long passed. So, I called the specific Geek Squad store I was dealing with, to find out what was going on. They were exceptionally busy, I had to call back several times to get someone on the phone – they don’t have voice-mail, it just keeps ringing or goes back to the main menu.

They told me they hadn’t heard from Gateway either, but not to worry, I would. Two-weeks turned into two-months, before I got a surprise from Gateway.

They told me the cost to repair the laptop would be at least $710.00 – but could be more. They said all they could give me was an “open estimate” because they didn’t know completely what was wrong with the machine, and they wouldn’t until they at least got the system running.

That kind of cash can buy a nice new machine – laptop or desktop. So I certainly wasn’t going to pay that for a repair, which would likely cost me untold amounts more.

I declined the repairs, and they told me they’d send the still non-functioning computer back to the Best Buy store where I had dropped it off. And they assured me there was no cost – the estimate was free.

Time passed again – after a couple of weeks I called the Geek Squad at Best Buy to see if my laptop had arrived. Nothing yet, but it should be in soon, so said the man on the other end of the phone.

Weeks turned into months. The year came and went – literally – I dropped off the laptop in November 2008 and just last week got a call telling me it was ready for pick-up!

I had written-off the damn thing, figuring it wasn’t working and I hadn’t heard back, it probably got lost in transit.

So, I go to get my still non-functioning machine, from the techs that are supposed to be able to fix anything. They ask for $40.00 for what was supposed to be a free estimate.

Since when is “free” valued at $40?

I told them I’m not paying for a free estimate. If they won’t release the machine, they can keep it – it doesn’t work anyways.

They didn’t want it either, so they let it go.

But I was shocked – and as I write this still am. I know they are trying to make money in an economy that is tanking. But when someone tells you several times that it’s just an estimate, and it won’t cost you a cent, it shouldn’t.

I used to enjoy going into my local Best Buy store. Being a technologically-driven person, I salivate over all the latest gadgets and gizmos. Often I’ll go in with the intent to purchase one thing, and I come out with several other items.

But today’s experience has soured my shopping taste buds. I’ll have to re-think my next trip to a technology store, because Best Buy’s Geek Squad tried to rip me off.

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