Geek Squad Documents: Meet Agent Johnny Utah

Agent Johnny Utah, aside from being the name of Keanu Reeves’ character in Point Break, is an outsourcing technique used by Geek Squad to keep labor costs low.

How does it work?

They plug your computer into AJU, and a “Black Ops Specialist” takes over. Where are the Black Ops Specialists? Well, that’s top secret, but Geek Squad will say that they’re “all over the world.” Sexy.

Why are they called “Black Ops Specialists?” Here’s Geek Squad’s official (and unfortunately worded) explanation, taken straight from their training materials (emphasis ours): defines a black op is a covert operation. In this context, “black” is a term used in political, military, intelligence, and business circles to refer to activities that are either secret, or of questionable ethics or legality. Black Ops missions often fall into the deniability category, where no government will claim responsibility for the action. This fits, you never saw us, we were never here.

Golly, they’re right.

A little bird tells us that Best Buy will be enforcing a 25-30% Agent Johnny Utah quota on Geek Squad, so if consumers are wondering what will likely happen to their computer when they bring it to Geek Squad these documents will give you a pretty good idea.

Agent Jonny Utah – F.A.Q.(PDF)


Edit Your Comment

  1. B says:

    So basically it’s a remote connection to an outsourced tech in India?

  2. Skiffer says:

    This is so lame its hilarious!

    Bottom line – Geek Squad will just be hiring U.S. employees to plug in computers and IM the real techies in India…

  3. Tristan Smith says:

    not to pick on the “Squad” but isn’t it wikipedia.ORG technically?

  4. B says:

    If you’re going to name it after a Keannu Reaves character, wouldn’t Johnny Mnemonic be a better choice? Or, considering the intelligence of the Geek Squadders, maybe Ted Logan would be the best choice.

  5. Trai_Dep says:

    But luckily, people hailing from the Indian subcontinent don’t like yuccky porn… Err, right?

  6. It was only a matter of time. If it’s only a software issue, might as well let “Jerry” and “Steve” in Bangalore fix it for you.

    But don’t expect the repair prices to go down just because the Squad’s costs have gone down.

  7. arsenal4 says:


    Yep. Pretty much true. I actually worked at a store that was testing this back in 2005. You could seriously get a trained monkey to do the setup.

    The idea behind this was so Agents would have more face time with the customer. Personally, this translated into roaming the store trying to find where i’d be boozing at when i got off work.

  8. arsenal4 says:

    Oh yeah…these people were most likely from Minnesota (BBY HQ) or some region in Canada. We could tell by their accents.

  9. Pelagius says:

    I guess “Agent Parvinder Singh” didn’t have the same ring to it

  10. hustler says:

    Is there a more rediculously stupid marketting campaign than this garbage? What is the agent’s character name who steals your “autocomplete” data?

  11. medic78 says:

    …I had waay too much coffee

  12. B says:

    @trai_dep: Maybe, but now my collection of Bollywood starlet photos isn’t safe.

  13. dbeahn says:

    :> Remote connection to customer computer established…
    :> Please wait…
    :> Please wait…
    :> Please wait…
    :> I am very much thinking Agent Johnny Utah is on logging to the case!
    :> Please wait…
    :> Please wait…
    >:) Beginning scan for copyable customer porn!

  14. Cowboys_fan says:

    That is retarded, but hey, at least we’re getting some middle-man jobs back.

  15. jchabotte says:

    well, at least they can’t steal my hardware.

  16. nota says:

    The outsourcing is in the Austral-Asia areas. My friend works for geek-squad, and as we are both in IT jobs at the moment we took a minute to be pissed off about the news he gave me. And that is, the computers he “works” on go to hacks in the Philipines. He checks on them and regularly sees them surfing porn sites or playing games. And, due to the nature of time-zones, language, and poor management… can do nothing about it.

  17. Neritha says:

    Why are they called Black Ops Specialists? Because Best Buy would prefer you didn’t know they were there.

    There are multiple levels of Black Ops, ranging from 1 to 3 – three being the highest. Most of the three’s are located either in Geek Squad City in Kentucky or around Best Buy’s corporate HQ in Minnesota. As far as I know, most of the two’s are in Ontario. These aren’t the issue. The problem is where all the One’s are.

    I’ve asked the Level One’s where they are located, and they won’t tell me, and I am an agent. However, most of them are Indian or Pakistani, from what I can gather about their names, the way they utilize English, and their rather thick accents (they often call the store to inform us when units are disconnected). I’ve been lied to about their location (one told me he was in Austin, and when I asked what time it was, he couldn’t answer); but their demeanor and behavior leads me to believe that they are Indian and have a low to moderate actual education, and no technical education.

    Level 1 Black Ops – where most people’s computers are worked on, generally do the following – they replaced our through diagnostic with a windows based diagnostic built on the Eurosoft QA-Win32 platform, followed by LASER – an automated tool that runs Spy Sweeper, Ad-Aware, Spyware Doctor, Ewido, CoolWebShredder, and HijackThis!. Previously, the agents had to oversee the scans manually (the installation was automatic, but the results work was manual), but with the release of the LASER 1.21 beta, the entire scan is automated and executed via scripting. Automated command line virus scanners, like Trend or F-Prot are run, then the unit is scanned by System Analyzer, a virus/system scanner built by Webroot, based on the Spysweeper + Antivirus client. Overall, the Black Ops agent barely does anything, and the instore agent does absolutely nothing. Problems are solved by higher level Black Ops agents, or by an infinite chain of REDOs, where we’re told the unit is fixed and expected to give the unit to the client, and if they bring it back, then slap it back on AJU again!

    What makes this so appalling is that Geek Squad’s bottom line is that we are BETTER then the tech support of Dell/HP/Toshiba, when in fact we’re using the same type of “tech analysts” that they use, but at least they’re up front about it. We sell ourselves (the intelligent, clean cut, professional technical agent) on the floor, but never repair the computers we say we’re going to repair. In fact, just this weekend I went to the Geeksquad Technical Briefing at my store, and was told “There’s a reason Geeksquad calls their agents “agents” and not “technicians”. You are not a technician. You are a salesperson who can repair units, but essentially you are capable of selling technical services and answering technical questions about units.”

    Doesn’t that make you feel good about your $299.

  18. theblackdog says:

    Okay, that is just scary.

    Seriously I’m considering buying Entrust ICE for my computer and just encrypting all of my personal folders so that they can’t be touched by any computer techs.

  19. HSChronic says:

    Neritha is right. Agent Hashmir as well call them, are known for screwing up perfectly good computers. Ok so you have a spyware infection, moderate or light I have seen computers go on AJU and be completely unusable when they say “Mission complete”, so when you get that call from Geek Squad saying “Your operating system is too corrupt to fix because of spyware..” it is because The people in the Philippines f-ed up your computer. So now instead of paying $130 (which is a ripoff anyway, pay the kid down the street to fix your box, or use your restore CDs and start from scratch), you now have to pay an additional $99 to backup your data because we f-ed up your computer.

    I used to work as an agent in the precinct (in store), I’m MCDST certified, but could never be made into a double agent (one of the people that drive around) not because I was under qualified, but because I was over qualified. My MGRs could not let me go out of the precinct because then nobody could work on real computer issues. I was also reprimanded by my managers for “doing work at the window” in other words a quick fix (reinstalling a driver, diagnosing a bad motherboard or power supply), and told that I needed to check in computers with bad capacitors, and dead power supplies and could not check them at the window. In the case of a dead motherboard we would not refund the $69 you paid for a diagnostic instead just recommend you get a new PC.

    That is in addition to the fact that they do not require any sort of CompTIA or MCP certification. Also most of the managers urge their employees to charge as much as possible per person to increase revenue (they could care less about customers only their money).

    I’m glad I got fired, since now I make $20/hr working as enterprise IT support and the people are nice and appreciate the job I do. F**k Best Buy and Geek Squad they only exist to screw over people as much as possible.

  20. Scazza says:

    @Pelagius: Oh my god man… thats fuzzing hilarious!

  21. arachnophilia says:

    they REALLY call it “johnny utah?”

    i mean, “johnny mnemonic” would have been geekier and probably more appropriate, and STILL keep with the keanu idea…

  22. homerjay says:

    I’m pretty shocked that IBELLI hasn’t turned this into a race issue yet.

  23. StevieD says:


    Our friend Neritha seems to have a good handle on the situation.

    Can we hear some more insider information from Neritha?

  24. Neritha says:

    I’m an active agent. Ever since I decided to help Ben and crew out, I’ve been reading and copying as much SOP (Standard Operating Platform – the Geek Squad “manual”) and other information as possible.

    By the way, the Jonny Utah quota for units is 12% (of all the units kept in store) – raised from 7%, and our district manager sends out emails praising units that keep their Jonny Utah quota high.

    What else would you like to know about Jonny Utah/Geek Squad? I’m tired of being anonymous about it. If there’s any reason to write candidly again on any Geek Squad subject, I’m using my real name.

  25. Havok154 says:

    Oh noes, you’ll be fired from your low pay retail job and most likely forced to find a decent paying IT job. =)

  26. ShadowFalls says:


    You will be amazed at how quickly you lose your job once you provide your name. They will almost certainly do one of two things, Either make up a reason to fire you, or reduce your hours till you have to quit.

  27. miburo says:

    Outsourcing everything these days.

    My sister called Dell recently saying that her notebook keyboard came with a noticeable dent on in and wanted a new keyboard sent to her.

    The initial CSR kept telling her to reboot her computer to see if it fixed the problem first or he would not let her escalate the case…

  28. miburo says:

    BTW it was obviously a CSR located in India

  29. Neritha says:

    I’m not really worried about it. GS is the bottom of the food chain. I went to work there because I was burnt out doing server installations.

    If they fire me, I’ll seek whistleblower protection out of spite; if they cut my hours, I’ll go find a real job.

  30. RandomAgent says:

    Agent Jonny Utah doesn’t screw anyone over. At our precinct, we are up front and tell people that their computers are going to be connected up to be fixed remotely. Virus and spyware removal, in most cases, is a very routine process. It’s really nice not to have to keep an eye on pressing “Next” on a scan on 8 different computers. Agent Jonny Utah frees up space on the bench and allows us to serve more customers at a time and focus on issues that aren’t virus/spyware related.

    All machines coming off of Agent Jonny Utah are carefully inspected by an agent before the customer is called to make sure that everything is as it should be. I don’t think we’ve ever had a customer bring back a computer that was fixed by Agent Jonny Utah.

    Oh. And your leaked documents are old. The service SKUs are wrong, we don’t use Groove, and there are many other things in the documents that have changed/don’t work that way. Thought you should know.

  31. RandomAgent says:

    @ShadowFalls: They won’t need to make up a reason for firing him… leaking confidential documents to the press is probably enough.

  32. Neritha says:

    I didn’t leak those documents. ^_^

    If anything, I’d have scanned up the documents from the GS Annual briefing that occured a few weeks ago, or emails from the district manager about AJU usage. Oddly, a lot of our computers with access to ETK also have Acrobat or Distiller on them – I could just use the .pdf printer to copy the playbook and SOP.

    Besides, I’ve got a background in law. I can get sued for providing work product and violating confidentiality. They could TRY to sue me for libel, but they’d have a hard time pulling that off, and if they fired me, I’d have a hard time deciding between just printing my real name and badge and filing a bunch of documents with the BBB, attempting to sue back under whistleblower laws, or simply going and getting a real tech job.

    Plus, the fact that we replaced Groove with Microsoft Communicator, or changed the SKUs has nothing to do with the point of the documents.

    More importantly, if they were really concerned about turn time and avoiding agent doldrums, why not just give agents access to the LASER 1.21 beta? It’s a fully automated scanner.

  33. Setnev says:

    I am also a Geek Squad agent that recently transferred from a precinct on the west coast to one on the east coast. Things were done way differently at my old precinct. I had a say in most of the operations in the precinct and I am strongly against AJU because being we were one of the stores that were on the initial test pilot, we had known that AJU would potentially one day replace most of GS labor force. We had gotten the internal confidential documents claiming that AJU would not be used to replace agents. My agents and I never believed it and I still don’t. Do you know who I blame. I blame the people who’s jobs aren’t threatened by AJU. A large contributor of programs that seem to ONLY roll out to AJU is the writer himself; Mike Sherwood. He is the one who creates the programs such as LASER Beta, MRI, MRI PE(Geek Squads “confidential and proprietary” tool that is a preload environment ironically like BartPE). I can post email addresses to the ones responsible for this per the public request. I have the emails for all those who force agents to use AJU and those who contribute to its development. We buy the service of getting your computer fixed in the US, so why should it be fixed by someone in India. Here are some interesting statistics that came directly from internal emails from Best Buy corporate office:

    When you pay $199 for an Advanced Diag & Repair, the company spends about $5.82 for someone overseas to fix it. Where does the remaining $193.18 go? Into the pockets of Robert Stephens and Richard Shultz.

    It takes an average AJU “Black Ops Specialist” about 45 hours to “complete” the repairs on your computer. That averages about $0.13 an hour for then to do it. An average GS Agent is paid between $9-15 an hour.

    In 18-24 months, the average precinct will employ about 3 agents at a wage of merely $9 an hour to hook up computers to AJU. Those units that are not eligible for AJU hookup, will either be turned away or checked in for a an OS wipe or sent out to the service center for part replacement.

    The Double Agent will no longer be able to perform AD&R in-home. When you call 1-800-Geek Squad and ask for an AD&R, you will be required to hook your computer up remotely for someone to F-k it up more, then have to take it to the precinct to get an OS wipe. Double agents will only be there to fulfill in-home service plans, Diags, and Basic network setup.

    These are emails that have come through my email recently in the past few months and can provide proof upon request.