When "FireDogs" And "Geeks" Don't Know What's Wrong, You Pay

Channel 10 out of Columbus, Ohio recently conducted a sting operation in which they equipped themselves with an easily repaired laptop and took it to Geek Squad, FireDog and Micro Center to see who could figure out what was wrong.

The station’s IT guy changed one settling in the BIOS.

“This is definitely something you can find out while you’re doing your diagnostics or troubleshooting,” 10TV’s IT guy, Josh Waibel said.

Here’s a summary of the results:

Circuit City FireDog
Consultation: $64.04
Diagnosis: “The hard drive is working correctly. Your operating system is fried on it, though,” said the technician. “The operating system is essentially dead.”
Additional Cost: $130 to reinstall the operating system.
Total Estimated Cost to Repair: $194.04

Best Buy Geek Squad:
Consultation: $62.98
Diagnosis: “It just clicked and that’s usually an indicator that the hard drive’s bad.” “It’s clicking – making some weird sounds – which is not a good thing.”
Additional Cost: $80 hard drive, $39 hard drive installation, $129 operating system installation
Total Estimated Cost to Repair: $310.98

Micro Center:
Consultation: $74.67
Diagnosis: Repaired

Computer Technicians Put To Test [10TV](Thanks, M!)
Video [10TV]

Comments

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  1. Gorky says:

    Another story on technicians with a ridiculous problem that most people arent going to check in the first 5 minutes at check in. What they should have done is check it in for a diagnotic and determine the problem. BIOSs dont randomly disable the hard drive. These people are just out to try and make people look bad

    • Anonymous says:

      @Gorky:

      Not true, a user can disable it without knowing. This would of been one of the first things I look for. Installing hardware and a new operating system is not my favourite passtime. I would rather repair and fix the issue the do a shot gun reinstall.

  2. smitty1123 says:

    In other news: your car’s johnson rod probably didn’t need lubed for $500.

  3. shadow735 says:

    Opps they did it again hah hah

  4. Falconfire says:

    @Gorky: Bull, this is a problem that if you know what your doing you would see simply watching the boot.

    And your right the hard drive is not randomly disabled, but if you have ever worked in IT you would know a time honored acronym of PEBKAC

    And PEBKAC accounts for part or all of 95% of all computer issues out there.

  5. Frostberg says:

    Who would think to check the bios if the customer didnt say otherwise. Problems are always easy to fix if you know how they broke. Cheaper too.

  6. SchecterShredder says:

    When will consumers finally realize that Worst Buy is THE WORST BUY on the planet. They are nothing but crooks who will stomp all over a customer to make sure they made money off of you that ONE TIME. I sincerely hope BB goes the way of CompScrewSA and soon.

  7. HalOfBorg says:

    @Falconfire: LOL @ PEBKAC. I deal with that routinely.

    It sounds like they took HD off of the boot order. ALWAYS check the easy stuff first – like BIOS settings.

  8. Slick36 says:

    FireDog + GeekSquad = Useless as tits on a bull.

    Management is mostly to blame. They hire techs and throw them to the dogs. No supervision, mentoring, or anything else for that matter.

    On the other hand, an A+ certification does not a PC Technician make.

  9. MaelstromRider says:

    @Frostberg: Who would think to check the bios if the customer didnt say otherwise.

    Um, anyone who knew what they were doing. That’s one of the first things to check when trying to diagnose computer problems. Anyone who doesn’t know that shouldn’t be repairing computers.

  10. Phildawg says:

    @Gorky: Hey buddy, why don’t you read the article before you start making comments you pulled out of your @$$!

    The pc was left at firedog for over a week…

    The diagnosis done at Best Buy for 60 dollars was 10 minutes long, but this was because the technician was ‘certain’ he knew the problem. After it was within GeekSquad for 2 days, they contacted 10TV about the issues they were experiencing.

  11. Crymson_77 says:

    Best practice:

    1. Reset BIOS to defaults (covers issues like these) and verify settings

    2. Boot machine normally

    This whole thing should have taken the guy at the counter 3 seconds to fix, and he should have done it for free so that they could gain a customer. It is truly shocking how stupid “service” departments have become in the past 10 years…

  12. Crymson_77 says:

    @Slick36: Way, WAY too true…I actually got my A+ certification when it meant something…haven’t even thought about it in 8 years…

  13. Illusio26 says:

    @Gorky: Any tech worth his salt would see on the bootup what the problem was.

    However, now a days they do have those stupid logo screens that hide the boot sequence, but once again, most tech’s should remove that anyway to see what’s going on.

  14. pigeonpenelope says:

    makes me feel very lucky that i have two smart brothers who can fix this kind of stuff. i used to tell my little brother he should join the geek squad but in the past couple of years, i’ve realize he’s too qualified.

  15. Gorky says:

    @Slick36:

    You do also realize that they probably have 20,000 Geek Squad and Firedog people nationwide. Id say there is a good chance that it is impossible to make sure that NONE of them will make mistakes. I bet if you took this same computer to 100 different Best Buys and 100 Circuit Cities, at least 80% of them wouldve figured out the problem. The reason people like this slip thorugh is because at most stores the people who do the hiring arent technicians themselves so they can only ask the questions on the interview form and compare them with the answers instead of asking questions that truly talented technicians would know

  16. Machete_Bear says:

    @SchecterShredder: I think you should specify that Best Buy’s Geek Squad are the ripoff artists. I have personally never had anything but good experiences, and good deals with the store itself. And yes I am a longtime Consumerist reader, I just get agitated when people buy into the anti-big-box mania.

  17. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I’m no tech guy, but I understand what is goin on here. With reasearch, I’d like to think if I had a PC with this problem i could figure it out.

    Anyway, my point is that I agree BB and CC are the wrong places to go to becasue the types of problems they deal with are things like striaght up faulty hardware (dead HDDs) and people forgetting to plug things in.

    Simple problems, often caused by simple customers, fixed by simple people, becuase it isn’t a computer store.

  18. stageright says:

    @darkjedi26: There are no “Techs” that work at Geek Squad or Firedog. They have high school kids and sales people, that’s it.

    Which, I guess, was the point of the investigation lol

  19. parad0x360 says:

    @Falconfire: explains my neighbor and his utter glee as he installs every piece of bloatware, crapware and spyware his little fingers can find.

    Guy has 7 no name search toolbars installed in IE6 on XP with no service pack installed…Can you come over and fix it? No sorry not today.

  20. SchecterShredder says:

    Sorry, ALL OF BEST BUY SUCKS. Ask any “educated” consumer. PERIOD.

  21. Gorky says:

    @darkjedi26:

    I happen to BE a technician and I wouldve caught that problem but it would NOT be the absolute first thing I wouldve checked. I wouldve begun by booting to a hard drive diagnostic CD and when it couldnt find the hard drive since it was disabled in the BIOS then I wouldve checked the BIOS. All these sttories with ridiculous problems that you rarely see makes ALL computer repair places look bad. I work in a Mom and Pop place and even here people mention these types of stories. If they truly wanted to see if a technician was qualified they would do something like put a defective part in the computer or corrupt the operating system but instead most times they do something ridiculous like tape the connectors on a memory module, or remove a pin from the power supply ro something ridiculous like that

  22. Trai_Dep says:

    CLEARLY, it’s the consumers’ fault.

    If they would have had a terabyte of porn on their hard drive, the tech staffers would have been on it.

  23. parad0x360 says:

    @AlteredBeast: The problem is they shouldnt be the wrong places to go. They advertise they will fix your pc but clearly they have no damn clue what they are doing despite them telling people that they do.

    What happens when you pay that $300 and your pc is still dead, then what will they con you into fixing?

    They have killed most of the little guys cause people who dont know any better trust them because they saw them on TV. OMG GEEKS!

  24. guevera says:

    @Gorky:

    “I bet if you took this same computer to 100 different Best Buys and 100 Circuit Cities, at least 80% of them wouldve figured out the problem.”

    Well my station (which is no where near Ohio) literally just did the EXACT same story.

    Quick bios change rendered computer non-booting. Producer took it to CC, BB, and Staples. Only staples correctly diagnosed and fixed it.

    Makes me skeptical of the claim that 80% of the CCs and BBs out there would have done things right. What I have evidence of is widespread failure. What I’m yet to see is an example of the techs at either of these chains EVER actually providing a correct diagnosis.

  25. lostalaska says:

    This was the reason why when I got my first PC in middle school I began reading up on everything there was about them. I was the guy that would destroy his system on a weekly basis. Ohhh Registry edits sounds like fun! I learned a lot about computers from constantly destroying and rebuilding them. Nearly 20 years later and I work in I.T.

    We recently had to hire some new I.T. staff and I had to sit in on some of the interviews. Just a note to everyone, being able to use MS Office doesn’t make you I.T. staff material. Although if we need someone to send out a huge mailer using word’s mail merge function we’ll return the call.

  26. Falconfire says:

    @lostalaska: I got one better, my boss is a DATA MANAGER. The minute you get away from simplifying things and start explaining the problem in depth the guy just zones out. How he ended up becoming our IT manager I will never know, but boy does it make me bang my head in sometimes.

    @Gorky: We have seen it twice in the last year, so no its not ridiculous to think that you will never see it in the field. Like I said just watching the boot would have clued you in immediately to check the BIOS before you do anything. Any technician worth his salt would know that.

  27. Geekybiker says:

    Makes me wonder if the tech get commission on selling “repairs” new hardware.

  28. shadow735 says:

    what is a harddrive? just kidding hah hah

  29. Michael says:

    Watch out for that “Screen of Blue Death!”

  30. MikeB says:

    @Frostberg: Actually, I would say that this would be one of the first things checked. No HD, then try the following, in any order. Use a bootdisk, do you see a HD, No, check the cables, are they secure, yes, check bios do you see the HD in the Bios. No, check the settings, ahh there you are… Always always remember the adage, K.I.S.S I have been burned several times thinking it was some major issue when in fact it was something small.

    I will say, that Best Buy, at least when I was there, had no test for techs. I came from the floor selling computers and started on the tech bench with pretty weak tech skills (I replaced my CD-rom). While I did learn, I was pretty unknowledgeable (is that a word) back then. But it was a start and I eventually went on to bigger and jobs in IT.

  31. Gorky says:

    @Falconfire:

    Like someone else mentioned most consumer PCs have the boot screen covered up by a company logo. Most techs dont disable that on the first boot

  32. cosby says:

    While this is not one of the things one would be use to seeing with a computer it is something they should have been able to fix.

    The news team should have let them try to fix it. Would have been interesting to see how many quoted a motherboard when it didn’t pickup the drive again.

  33. jackelmatador says:

    @Crymson_77: Sure go ahead and reset that bios, unless of course they have a raid setup and and the hard drives won’t work in default. True you won’t cause any damage to the hard drive but still might cause you to scratch your head for a while.

  34. arniec says:

    Two things: 1) We’re assuming it was a hard drive BIOS setting…it could have been anything. Shadow RAM turned off? Incorrect clock speeds either killing the computer with heat (unlikely as the IT guy wanted the laptop fixed) or ridiculously underclocked. I wouldn’t focus too much on the hard drive bit, nor that there was a BIOS error. That said, I ALWAYS check the BIOS as a tech.

    2) Best buy said “Best Buy told Consumer 10 that “we should have detected this problem. This is our error, and our service guarantee would ensure resolution of the problem to the customer’s satisfaction.”

    Um…good luck with that. Say that Best Buy had replaced the hard drive for $300. Then the problem wasn’t fixed. Good luck with the “service guarantee”. You’ll be told you needed a new hard drive anyway AND there’s something else wrong. If you complain they’ll tell you to call their 800 number. Hello Bangladore!

    It’s a wonderful line to spout about “service guarantees” but good luck making them work.

  35. arniec says:

    @Crymson_77: Good point! But then the tech will see an unpartitioned hard drive if the RAID is in IDE mode, and he’ll likely try to partition it. Hope it’s RAID 1 cuz RAID 0 and…bye bye all data.

  36. Gorky says:

    @guevera:

    You say youve never seen one where they go it right? try this one [video.knbc.com]

  37. MissTic says:

    There are two simple rules for living in the age of technology:
    1. Always back up your work.
    2. Know how to do repairs or know someone trustworthy.

    Anything else is taking a gamble. Sad.

  38. shor0814 says:

    @Frostberg:Who would think to check the bios if the customer didnt say otherwise.

    The guys at MicroCenter did.

    And I agree, the service guarantee is worthless if they charge you for hardware and service that the computer didn’t need. When they finally diagnose the problem, did they plan on refunding the extra charge and putting the original hard drive back in, with data?

  39. jtheletter says:

    All of the people saying these undercover tests are arbitrary or unusual etc are just making excuses for people who are bad at correctly diagnosing problems. These tests are valid because people can and will do stupid or simple-but-arcane things to screw up their computers.
    Why is it somehow less relevant just because the problem is rare? The computer technicians and retail repair shops are not being paid to diagnose and repair X subset of problems, they are being paid to diagnose and repair the system. And also diagnosing a problem is twofold. You don’t come up with a hypothesis and repair the system based on that, you TEST for the problem. So if a tech tells you the HDD was dead there ought to be supporting evidence for that (as in more than ‘it makes clicking noises’).
    For the record I develop and debug military robotic systems. I REALLY understand that some computer problems can be odd or elusive, but once you identify the alleged problematic part you need to verify it’s broken, not just guess-and-check until you get it right.

  40. coolsright says:

    Buy a mac.

  41. TPS Reporter says:

    In reality you wouldn’t check the bios 1st thing unless they mentioned a problem that could be something wrong in the bios. It’s easy to say yeah I would have checked the bios very 1st thing (now that you know what the problem was). But after 2 or 3 boots to see what is really happening (hard drive not being recognized maybe) anybody who knows anything about computers would check the bios, after disabling the useless logo screen. It also depends on what they told the techs was wrong.

  42. Falconfire says:

    @Gorky: Most techs maybe, but most GOOD techs would. I even disable it on Apples when I have issues booting a OS X mac.

  43. V-effekt says:

    Ok, this may sound bad, but wouldnt you find an internet computer and google “Operating system not found” ? (Even for most consumers…but techs might also try it)
    The first link is Microsoft and it tells you as the first method for repair to check the BIOS.
    [support.microsoft.com]

  44. fullmetalgenesis says:

    @jackelmatador: “Sure go ahead and reset that bios, unless of course they have a raid setup”

    I take it as an article of faith that anyone smart enough to be running RAID drives is smart enough to not have to use Geek Squad. Or at least I hope so.

  45. to the people who say “get a mac”-

    They are great computers. However, the chances of a drive failing are just as likely as in a windows computer (same hardware). Today alone I had to replace 3 macbook hard drives because they failed mounting tests and had unrepairable bad blocks (all seagate momentus 120gb coincidentally).

    If you don’t backup your stuff, you deserve whatever comes your way. I hate people who blame the technicians for not being able to recover their stuff, and then blame them for “breaking” their computer. I guess it’s just part of the job

  46. NigerianScammer says:

    Whenever someone tells me about their computer troubles I always give them tips and even offer them help before they even goto GeekSquad.

    You have to admit, Best Buy/CC have this corner of the market nailed pretty well, whenever someone has a PC problem, it’s off to the geeksquad it goes! It’s all I ever hear.

  47. @NigerianScammer:

    that’s part of what is great about being good, is that you’re good. I get most of my consulting spread by word of mouth. when you can setup/repair something in an hour or two that took BB/CC 3-5 hours unsuccessfully, people will spread your name like nothing else. honesty is also something that people haven’t experienced before, and it’s the only way I work

    ps-your name is ironically funny

  48. crashman2600 says:

    Everyone realizes that BB, CC, and others pay these guys like $7/hour. You are not going to get an a “l33t” tech for $7/hr. Now if they paid 40-50k/yr and only hired seasoned techs (who would be tested on such things) or at least one such guy to go over what the monkeys cant fix then this stuff would get fixed.

  49. SomeoneGNU says:

    I’ve watched the video and a few comments to add.

    First – a clicking hard drive, regardless of bios settings, is generally a bad sign. As a tech, I would still have advised the customer to get a new drive.

    Second – asking the end user what they did is quite often fruitless. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you might get a gem of info but usually you won’t.

    Why? Two reason – users lie and users don’t know what they did. Users lie because they don’t want to admit they are the ones responsible. If they do that, then they look like idiots. When someone wakes up to find out that the CD-ROM wasn’t *REALLY* a coffee cup holder, they get mad. At themselves mostly, but they lash out. So, to avoid looking stupid, they will say “nope, didn’t do anything.”

    As for users not knowing, it’s not an insult to their intelligence or computing skills but people just do not think about it. I had another issue where a user was complaining certain keys weren’t working in some DOS based program. I asked him when the last time he remembered it worked and what changed since then. The answer was simple, “It worked two weeks ago, but nothing has changed since then.” That “nothing changed” was really the fact he installed Bonzai Buddy which for some odd reason was capturing most of the function keystrokes.

    I am reminded of a story where I had a user who’s keyboard mysteriously stopped working. First question, “Did you spill something in your keyboard?” “No.” Follow up, “Are you sure?” “Yes, nothing was spilled.” Flip the keyboard over and out comes his entire 20oz coffee. His response, “Oh, I might have spilled a little bit.”

    I’m not saying Geeksquad or Firedog is good. In fact, in most cases they’re horrible since they are “cookie-cutter” techs taught to follow steps A-Z, and that’s it. And while computers can be fixed using that pattern, it’s not quite as elegant or non-destructive as true logical thinking. It’s the nature of applying the assembly line to logical thinking jobs.

    In conclusion, I’m glad that people are trying to show the difference between the little guy and the cookie cutter crap out there but I don’t think it was necessarily a fair test.

    To fix it, first include more shops. Three is nice, but I have a feeling that they might have found the same results from some of the local guys. Next, make the problem more realistic. Sure, a user can get into the bios and accidentally turn off an IDE channel, but is it really likely? Over ten years of supporting users both at home and in business and never once have I seen this. I have, however, seen tons of people delete key files, rename directories by accident, and even find out the hard way that RJ11 are not the same as RJ45.

  50. swalve says:

    @Gorky: Agreed.

    @MaelstromRider: No. You are wrong. Why would you go fiddling around with BIOS settings if the user said they didn’t change anything? If the news people are going to lie, their whole premise is blown.

  51. Catperson says:

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that Microcenter knew what was up while BB and CC totally dropped the ball. My husband built a computer this summer and while he ordered most of the parts online, he had to go to Microcenter for a few things and they were always super helpful. Could be because they get commission so they have some incentive to actually help you (for the salespeople at least).

  52. scoosdad says:

    @parad0x360: But it was all FREE! And that’s being a good consumer!

  53. Leohat says:

    I didn’t watch the video (at work), but I don’t think that my first train of thought would be the BIOS. I think I would have suspected the OS.

    If it was the disconnected cable thing that these news teams like to do, I would have noticed that only after popping the case.

    Remember, if all you have is a hammer all problems look like a nail.

  54. quagmire0 says:

    When will people learn. RETAIL STORE TECHS ARE THE LOWEST RUNG ON THE IT SERVICE TOTUM POLE – even your 10 y/o nephew is more reliable/knowledgeable!

  55. redkamel says:

    are people seriously defending a computer technician/repairman who cant detect a bios problem? really?

  56. Was in best buy yesterday just walking around looking at stuff and killing time. I usually will find and look at things I like then go by them online. Also it is a great time killer to be “browsing” near associates that are talking to customers just so you can make sure they aren’t pulling stuff out of their butt. Which they do most of the time. Infact one time for fun, I acted like I had no idea what DDR2 was, and his explanation (geek squad guy) was WAY off. I think I am going to conduct these experiments more often.

    Anytime you have the chance to “overhear” an associate talking to a customer about computers and electronics… DO IT and you’ll realize that a majority of BB associates have no knowledge of what they are selling at all.

  57. camille_javal says:

    Way back in the days of OS 7.5 and my Power Mac 6300, I was home from college over the summer and didn’t plug in my computer or use it at all, not realizing that it would cause problems. I took it to CompUSA, they suggested a battery replacement – I had to go to another store to buy the battery and bring it back, they installed it, I went home. (I’ll also note that, as a girl and a Mac user, this guy talked to me like it was a miracle I found the door, or my ass with both hands.) I turned on my computer, and about thirty seconds after that, turned on the monitor, to discover it still wasn’t really working.

    When I took it back to CompUSA, the guy yelled at me for turning on the CPU, then the monitor. Yelled at me, and insisted that it broke the computer.

    Took it to MicroCenter. They determined that the power source needed replacement within less than 15 minutes, and then replaced it. I told the tech about the CompUSA thing, and he got the same wtf look that I had when the guy yelled at me.

    Sorry – MicroCenter’s competence just made me all nostalgic.

  58. dorkins says:

    The real ripoff is Circuit City’s 3-month guarantee on fixes … that’s right, I had an intermittent problem with it turning off itself when unplugging and Circuit City claimed it was a battery issue. When the problem resurfaced the extended warranty had expired. Not only that, the tech claimed that each fix is only guaranteed FOR THREE MONTHS! Tried the EECB but they just said sorry, sucker.

  59. bilge says:

    @swalve: Why would you go fiddling around with BIOS settings if the user said they didn’t change anything?

    When people fuck up their own computers, they’re often too embarrassed to admit it.

    Me: “Did you make any changes before this problem started?”
    User: “No.”
    (I take a look at the computer and find something that’s set incorrectly)
    Me: “This setting should be [not what it currently is].”
    User: “Oh, yeah…I was trying poking around and changed that. I didn’t think it would make a difference.

    Any good technician would have found this immediately because if you can’t boot into a working operating system THERE’S NOT MUCH YOU CAN DO BESIDES CHECK THE BIOS SETTINGS.

  60. StevieD says:

    Galloping Zebras.

    Let’s get real, the average home computer user could not find the bios with both hands tied behind his/her back, thus the bios would not have never been altered.

    Secondly, these “interviews” are with the entry level tech at the troubleshooting desk, aka the know nothing that doesn’t actually do the work.

    Why don’t these hidden camera traps do a real test. Oh, I don’t know, how about the kid that FU’s his registry or the elstupdio that breaks the USB port when he tries to sharpen the pencil in the USB port. You know, real world stuff. Of course dying hard drives and fried Power Supplies could be used as well.

    But FU the Bios is just childish. That is something that a tech is going to FIND during troubleshooting, not something a tech can ASSUME and tell the consumer during a check-in interview. Big difference.

  61. brent_w says:

    I live less than 5 minutes from this exact Microcenter.

    I know their prices are a little inflated compared to online, but I’m impatient so I’ve go there frequently.

  62. Typhoid says:

    @coolsright: Your ridiculous solution is to buy a Mac? And have “geniuses” who have a grand total of 2 weeks of training to be the only ones Apple will allow to do warranty work on it. Yeah awesome. When I worked there they still hadn’t implemented the “all of our geniuses need to have touched a Mac before working here” rule. I’d trust Geek Squad before most “geniuses.”

    Besides, if you’re screwing with the BIOS the problem is with the user, not the computer.

  63. Carencey says:

    @Catperson: yes, I will leave the geeking out to those who know that stuff and was curious what others thought about MicroCenter, especially locations other than the one I have visited (Rockville MD). I visited our local one for the first time a few weeks ago and was surprised by the general aura of competence from the few people I talked to, something I have gotten used to NOT experiencing with Circuit City and Best Buy. It even turned out I didn’t need to replace the item I was looking at quite yet, but when I do, I’m going to them.

  64. sauceistheboss says:

    There are multiple ways to accidently go into the BIOS and accidently change things???

    You have to be kidding.

  65. apotheosis says:

    AAaaaaaaaaaand Micro Center continues to be the bomb.

    I love those guys like a fat kid loves a cupcake.

  66. rdldr1 says:

    My sis got her dead HP desktop fixed at MicroCenter, even though it was a week PAST the MicroCenter warranty date. Not only was it fixed, she also got a new hard drive and got the broken one back too, which she gave to me.

    What MicroCenter is, is what CompUSA tried to be but failed miserably.

  67. ogremustcrush says:

    As a person who used to work for the Geek Squad, I can tell you their hiring procedures are a joke. Most of the people who work in the stores got their job as a “promotion” from computer salesperson. Because that’s what the job is, or at least what the managers would have you think it is. You are supposed to offer at least three services for every computer that comes in, and the people who are good at conning people into buying stuff are the ones that get the jobs, not those with actual technical knowledge. When I was at my store, at one point 50% precent of the technicians I would say were qualified for the job technically, and that is extremely high as far as Geek Squad goes. However, all the technical people get fed up with the job and quit, so now only 15% of the people at that store would be qualified in my opinion. At least two of them got hired as salespeople while I still worked there and were promoted after I quit (as replacements?!), and asked some of the most idiotic questions about computers possible, like whether laptop ram would work in a desktop.

    Other than the sheer lack of experience of the technicians, their sales tactics are awful. Most of them are the same guys who are constantly pushing the PSPs when they were on the sales floor, and misrepresenting them to customers. There were several times where I felt like pulling out my own hair because of those same types of salespeople, and then customer hoping to get their promises fulfilled, when I was not empowered to fulfill them, and any manager would deny them.

    And even when they don’t promote the computer salespeople to Geek Squad and actually hire for the position externally, the qualifications they seek are horrible. I think they only require something vaugely computer related in your resume to get in. Certifications matter not, not that they’re that useful of assessment of skill anyway, but most of the people who worked their wouldn’t be able to pass the A+ exam without doing some sort of cheesy cram thing where you don’t actually learn the material. I was they only one in my store that they did hire directly into Geek Squad, and the interview had only 2 technical questions. If I recall, one was about monitor degaussing (which was odd because we never did any work with CRT monitors), and the other was something equally stupid. The rest of the interview was about ensuring that I was somebody who fit the Best Buy “personality” and that I promised to offer so many services per customer.

    Utterly and completely rediculous….

  68. Falconfire says:

    @StevieD: As I pointed out before, we have had the EXACT thing happen twice in our district.

    Its not a question of average its a question of LOGIC. If you boot a computer and it says the hard drive is not present, there is a LOGICAL progression of checks you as a tech would do. This is a progression of troubleshooting that you are tested on if you had any certs, and its a progression of events that if you have half a brain, could figure out without even knowing what your doing.

    And it goes something like this.

    Boot machine, see if hard drive is detected on a normal boot.

    If not check BIOS see where drive is located in boot progression and if it even is selected AS a boot device.

    If both check out, THEN open case, see if cables are properly connected, and not loose or dangling.

    If it checks out, switch out cable with one you know to be working to see if perhaps the cable was damaged in some way perhaps by being pinched.

    Test hard drive in another machine see if it is seen using a machine you know works. You dont even need to try to boot it, just pop it into a drive caddy.

    If THAT doesn’t do anything, then you know the Hard Drive is boned and you need to start targeting that as the problem. If it DOES work then you can test it in another machine and see if it tried to boot (it likely will bitch like a mother, due to some sort of incompatibilities with drivers and the like) if it doesnt then you know its probably software related, if it does then you know the problem is board related and you need to start testing the motherboard.

    And this is off the top of my head, and im probably missing a few things that i would do but didnt think of to post this. But this is how I would diagnose the problem, and it would in total MAYBE take me a hour and a half, if that.

    I mean seriously this is NOT THAT HARD. I haven’t been recertified in over 7 years and yet could diagnose this issue by my second test.

  69. mikelotus says:

    @Catperson:
    @rdldr1:
    @camille_javal:

    yes Microcenter has their act together. There is a reason the geeks in Cambridge, MA hang out there just to hang out there. If they wanted to open a coffee bar, they could keep the place packed 24×7. We have one in Fairfax, VA too. Its the only place I will take a computer to if the repair is beyond me or requires analysis of a purchase to see if it will work. They rock.

  70. clevershark says:

    @jackelmatador: “Sure go ahead and reset that bios, unless of course they have a raid setup and and the hard drives won’t work in default.”

    If you had that sort of setup you wouldn’t be shopping for service at Geek Squad… you’d either know how to service it yourself, or you’d be working at a place that has competent IT staff…

  71. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    I consider myself pretty knowledgeable and probably never would have figured a user would be mucking around in the BIOS. Just seems like an odd thing to happen. Good to hear that Microcenter was smart enough to check it though!

  72. bilge says:

    @clevershark: Not necessarily. You might know nothing about computers, but the well-meaning geek friend or relative who set up your home computer (or gave you their old computer) might have RAID’ed your drives and given you an explanation that you promptly forgot (or didn’t understand) about how your drives are configured.

    But even if we discount a situation involving RAID, a technician who resets a BIOS to default settings as a standard troubleshooting technique isn’t one that I want around my computers.

  73. RvLeshrac says:

    @mikelotus:

    Micro Center suffers from the same problems as other retail businesses: management often needs a kick in the rear.

    That said, yeah. The service techs generally have their heads screwed on right. (ok, so I’m tooting my own horn here a little)

    @rdldr1:

    Did you fill out a survey? Please go fill out a survey!

    @apotheosis:

    You, too. [www.microcentersurveys.com]

    @Carencey:
    @brent_w:
    @camille_javal:
    @Catperson:

    Etc.
    —–

    MC spends a *lot* of time training associates. Not nearly as much as years ago, but more than any other retail store. Much of it is standard vendor-based training, but a lot is still in-house-developed material. Even moreso, the people that work at MC in sales and service are interested in tech, and spend quite a bit of downtime teaching coworkers about various things. (And getting into arguments about why X is better than Y…)

    Let the management know how we’re doing, so they know that it “works.” Most of the time, anyway. There are some people that you just can’t help. They already know that the reason people shop at MC is because the salespeople generally know their stuff and aren’t afraid to say “I don’t know, let me see if I can find out,” but positive reinforcement always helps.

    That’s the skinny on it. You’re certain to get a bad recommendation or two from someone (people can’t know everything), but there’s always another person to ask, and there’s always the in-store technical support department to utilize if you have a problem. (Just please try not to treat the Tech Support guys like a free repair/diagnostic service!)

    And yes, commission plays a big part in how well the salespeople know their stuff. They’re aware that their commission depends on repeat customers, and repeat customers depend on quality help and advice.

    The prices are a little higher, yes – that keeps the lights on, and we try to keep them competitive (we beat Newegg’s price on CPUs twice a week).

    The stores don’t get a lot of fanfare and press, but with all the articles on Best Buy and Circuit City, that might be a good thing (ha!).

    (For the record, if you’ve had an absolutely terrible experience at a Micro Center store, we want to hear about that, too. Can’t fix things if you don’t let us know what we did to upset you.)

  74. RvLeshrac says:

    Oh, and with regard to the actual story:

    Jesus, hook up a known-good drive and you know that something is screwy. It takes all of five minutes to pop the side panel, shuffle some cables, and boot with good hardware.

    BB and CC need to start doing the old “break a machine in some obscure way and then tell the applicant to diagnose it” interviews. That’d weed out these people fast.

  75. RvLeshrac says:

    @bilge:

    A BIOS reset won’t do anything to your RAID config. The controller stores RAID configuration info, not the CMOS.

    The worst a BIOS reset will do is rearrange the boot order, or possibly reset DDR voltages. (Some sticks of DDR2-800+ will only run stable at 2.1v, which might be difficult to diagnose if you don’t know what’s in the system, or if you can’t get RAM info because the user has some crazy heatsinks on them.) You *MIGHT* have a very rare case of resource conflicts, but anyone competent enough to assign resources to devices/disable onboard devices will be able to tell you what they’ve done (and probably diagnose the machine thsemelves, anyway).

  76. john_nyc says:

    It’s because of stuff like this that no competent computer guy should be without a constant stream of sex/meals from grateful females and favors/meals from male friends in return for tech services rendered.

    Just last week my neighbor, whom I’ve helped in the past, cleared my walk and driveway of snow (without asking, bless his heart) because he knew I was sick and that there would inevitably be more computer problems for me to help with.

    So, BB and CC… keep on suckin’!

  77. majortom1981 says:

    Hmm those are some lazy techs. You can tell right away when a bios settinbg was changed. I do this kind of stuff for a living (at a library and make big bucks doing so) and i always recomend reinstalling the os or getting new hardware as a last resort.

    They probably just set the sata or ide port to disabled so it doesnt detect the hdd drives.

    This just smells bad.

    PS IF I actually started my own business like all my patrons want me to I could be rich just fixing geek and firedog screwups. My problem is though that I cant charge something like $50 to chust run an adaware scan or something like that lol.

  78. dandd says:

    $130 to reinstall your OS? Sure it takes a few minutes, but honestly you put the CD in and let it do its thing. Hardly a service worth paying $130 for.

  79. apotheosis says:

    @RvLeshrac:
    Don’t have a receipt handy ATM, but I’ve bookmarked it.

  80. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Frostberg: The guys at the last place did.

    So, I’m no IT guy but obviously the last place named did in fact check the BIOS (whatever that is) and they fixed the problem.
    While their consult appeared to be a bit more expensive…it (gasp) worked.

  81. rustyni says:

    Firedog is a joke, depending on what store you go in. In the first CC I worked in, the guys there actually WERE computer savvy and could fix any problem you threw at them. They also went out of their way not to charge an arm and a leg to do so. The second store I worked in, was run by a bunch of short-bus riding morons, and they couldn’t diagnose a hardware problem from a software problem. They also routinely downloaded personal content from customer’s equipment, but thats another story.

    :D

  82. DashTheHand says:

    @Frostberg: You would think that the TECHNICIAN would be the one to check it since its the FIRST STEP of a computer booting up aside from pressing the power button.

  83. apotheosis says:

    @RvLeshrac:

    And yes, commission plays a big part in how well the salespeople know their stuff. They’re aware that their commission depends on repeat customers, and repeat customers depend on quality help and advice.

    The guys at the Overland Park, KS store are good enough that even if I pull something of the shelf myself, I’ll track one of them down and get them to commission sticker it. It can’t be over-emphasized: inasmuch as a few bad experiences can drive people away for good, a few good experiences can make a loyal customer for life.

  84. axiomatic says:

    Checking BIOS settings is troubleshooting 101 stuff! GeekSquad and FireDog are in the wrong here people.

  85. beachcub says:

    To the people talking about a BIOS setting for a RAID. umm…since when do laptops have RAIDs? 99% of lappies are likely only a single hard drive, and if anyone does have a RAID on a laptop, they wouldn’t take it to CC or BB.

  86. CSUSam says:

    Doing one thing like this at one store with one employee proves dick. How do you know that if you went in one day later a different employee at any of the three above would have had it and seen it completely differently?

    By company policy, I know FireDog has to use that diagnostics tool and that is supposedly all they are allowed to do. At a lot of stores the techs hate that and do other things if they have the time.

  87. DrHellknow says:

    As the sole IT person for a medium-sized Architecture company I’ve often seen this sort of thing where my users monkey with something, or their kids do. This situation can be replicated on a lot of machines by changing the ATA handling; if XP is installed with AHCI enabled and that gets switched to anything else the computer will start to boot XP and then simply reset. I’ll be a pretty endless loop, but one that you can easily diagnose very quickly.
    Of course it’s bad of me to do so, but I have spent a lot of my own time preventing my users from taking their machines to the likes of Firedog and Geek Squad because I know how incompetent they are. When I first moved to the area I interviewed with both and after a few minutes I realized that they weren’t looking for computer techs capable of solving customers’ problems, but salesmen with enough knowledge/memory to sell services and parts convincingly.
    I just love that when one of my users called them about a wireless problem the guy came out and said “Your router is bad, so here’s a new one” and set it up (poorly, I might add). The Monday following she brought me the “bad router;” I plugged it in and within a few seconds I could see that the problem was simply that someone had set a static IP for the WAN port. Even something as simple as resetting the router would have fixed the problem…

  88. MrEvil says:

    I have to say that while this was kind of a no-brainer problem and I usually check it all the time. Sometimes even the best of us can miss the obvious. I just finished a call on a T60 Thinkpad for a customer. One of my co-workers installed a motherboard in it yesterday to fix a no POST issue. Laptop POSTed but would BSOD when loading the OS. What my co-worker didn’t realize, and the customer didn’t remember (cust was an IT guy) was that they don’t load a SATA driver in their XP loadout. New thinkpad motherboards ship with AHCI enabled by default…which requires a driver. I sit around in the lobby of the office for half an hour waiting for someone to show me back to the machine. Set the BIOS from AHCI to “Legacy” mode and BAM Windows magically starts booting.

    However, the dork squad should have checked in BIOS to see if the hard drive was registering there. That’s the FIRST thing I do when I get a no OS issue.

  89. Android8675 says:

    Next time get in-home service, those guys cost 20-30% more, but they are all at the very least MSCE certified.

  90. Rusted says:

    @Slick36:Certs just means that someone can pass a test. That’s it. Nope, need just experience. I’d rather fix houses. More fun.

    @Android8675: Uh, seen CL recently?

    @MrEvil: I hate acronyms. A translation…..

    Power On Self Test,
    Blue Screen Of Death, Operating System, Information Technology, Basic Input Output System, Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, Advanced Host Controller Interface.

  91. RvLeshrac says:

    @apotheosis:

    I can’t say too much on the subject of commission, but suffice to say… don’t do that unless there’s someone in particular you REALLY want to see the commission. They’re not “losing” anything by not stickering a product.

    I’ll leave the explanation up to someone else. Or you can just ask the guys in the store off to the side.

  92. apotheosis says:

    @RvLeshrac:
    I got the impression they were eager to sticker something when they did help you find it, and since I’ve never had to look very far to find one of them it wasn’t much hassle.

    The very fact that I don’t have to look far for someone speaks well of the company in and of itself. If it encourages them to keep doing what they’re doing, it’s a win for everyone.

    Of course if there’s a good reason NOT to do this that I’m overlooking, I’m willing to listen. I just thought of it as sort of a friendly gesture to reward the good service I’ve had from them.

  93. Artnchicken says:

    Yay Micro Center. I miss that place; all there is out here is Fry’s.

  94. RvLeshrac says:

    @apotheosis:

    Individual vs. Everyone.

    I know, for example, that there are commissioned associates who have customers that will simply leave and come back if they aren’t working. People are happy to sticker because, just like every commissioned store, there are reports out every week that detail all kinds of things. Stickering also lets an individual track what they’re making. If a particular person has a HUGE commissioned sales figure, they’re going to be able to get away with a little more – the people up high are probably going to overlook the second time your grandmother dies and you can’t make it in if you’re showing seven figures in commissioned sales.

    I still can’t talk about the exact mechanic behind non-stickered items, but suffice to say that the commission doesn’t vanish. I *can* say that they will look closer at the number of employees in a store as the number of non-stickered sales increase. This is one way, along with all the normal business things, that they track scheduling. If there are a large number of unassigned sales from 2:00-6:00, they’re going to either hire someone to close the gap or reschedule existing employees. (It also helps indicate whether or not the people that ARE working are doing their jobs and looking to help people.)

    Essentially, it helps keep us from becoming CompUSA. The goal is to make *every* sale an assigned sale, meaning that no one ever has to go hunting for a sales associate.

    I’ve never seen a salesperson refuse to sticker something, that’s decidedly true. They make money when the store makes money, though, regardless of stickers.

  95. tpma4life says:

    First off, I agree that this test wasn’t the best test to perform. But as an actual firedog technician, I’d like to let a few things be known, at least for my location, I can’t speak for them all. (We definately would have checked the BIOS.)

    We do not get paid 7 dollars an hour, we do infact get paid more. I won’t say my exact location, only that it’s very south, and we have a constant influx of people from foreign countries, who insist their technicians, try to fix problems, and mess them up more. But I can say this, I’ve worked with Geek Squad, Staple’s Easy Techs, and Firedog.

    Out of all three, I’ve actually found Firedog Techs to be the most knowledgeable. We are, HOWEVER, divided. Not every firedog technician is for PCS, some are for TV’S, and yes, even they get put behind the bench sometime. So errors do happen.

    As far as testing and knowledge goes, at my location we’re all network, A+, MS, and usually HP certified. Most of us can diagnose a problem within a few moments of seeing it, but the reality is, while we CAN, it’s not always necessarily best to do.

    Why you ask? For one, one simple problem usually leads to the other. Like someone else said, PEBKAC. We can fix the problems for them, but it’s usually more then one problem, and only as someone else said a “band aid” over a problem. Whether because the person INSISTS he’s doing something correctly and he’s not, or because usually one hardware failure can lead to another, we do ask for the diagnostic fee, and usually keep their computer.

    If we diagnose it’s something very simple, we usually finish it within a couple of moments, and then explain to them, in non-tech, what happened, what they can do, etc.

    So it’s not a matter of not always knowing, but also a matter of knowing that when one problem occurs because of a person, more is sure to follow, and if we can assist them in AVOIDING that problem, then we’ve done our job, AND saved them money.

    I’ve known many Firedog techs to actually assist a customer above and beyond what is normally expected, and because of that we’ve earned quite a lot of loyal customers here, but of course, you can’t win them all, and sometimes even the simplest solution is over looked.

    No IT guy, whether he makes 7 dollars an hour, or 2000, is correct 100% of the time. These types of tests are stupid. The fact of the matter is, a slightly smarter then average consumer should know, technologically inclined or not, when they’re being ripped off. If a clear, valid response cannot be given and PROVEN, then there’s something wrong. I haven’t experienced that at my location yet.

    But like I said, the test wasn’t the best test that could have been done. Because of it’s rarity. Most “plain jane” users don’t even know how to bring up the BIOS, let alone alter it, and so that’s why alot of the times it’s the last thing we consider looking at.

  96. Yankee01 says:

    As someone who has worked in the industry for ten year and been a store manager for both Circuit City and Best Buy, I’d like to point out a couple things. First, like car mechanics and other technical professions, you have your good ones and bad ones and some in between. To say all Geek Squad or Firedog techs are stupid or incompetent we be *stupid*. It is a difficult position to hire for because you have to try to find someone who can *ideally* fix PC’s, sell products and services, and communicate with the public (and some that pass all those fail the personal hygiene test).

    For those of you who posted about the hiring questions…you are 100% right the questions are old and out-dated and do ask about monitor degaussing…LOL.

    Some Techs I’ve hired have been great, some adequate, and some I’m lucky didn’t get me an interview on channel 10 news at 11. At the same time, have you ever talked to a “tech” or “technical support” from: Comcast, Linksys, D-link, Microsoft, Toshiba, AT&T, etc??

    Bottom line: Geek Squad, Friedog, Staples, etc. Everyone is only as good as the individual tech.