Staples Rebuts "Charge Senior Citizen $390 For Basic Computer Repair" Post

Staples saw our recent post, “Staples Tries To Charge Senior Citizen $390 For Basic Computer Repair,” and Bob MacDonald, Staples VP of Technology Services, sent in the following rebuttal:

On behalf of Staples, and our entire team of EasyTechs, I wanted to respond to the recent post regarding an allegation that we attempted to charge a senior citizen for unnecessary computer repairs. We have spoken to those involved in this episode, including the store manager and the technician. (We were unable to contact the author of the post due to missing contact information, and our calls to the customer have not been returned.) The facts are these:

  • The customer brought his computer to our store on January 28 stating that his computer was running slow and generating excessive “pop ups.”
  • We conducted a system analysis (which is the first step of our PC Tune Up process). The system analysis indicated the presence of a Trojan Horse (storm.gen). Since the PC had only 256mb of RAM, we also recommended a RAM upgrade to boost performance.
  • At that point, we recommended a virus removal, RAM upgrade, and detailed diagnostic to determine if there were any other hardware problems. Total cost with installation: $243.00. The customer declined, insisting that we complete the free PC tune up, even though he was told that a tune-up would not fix the problems with his machine.
  • A month later, on February 29, the customer brought his computer back to the store and spoke to our tech, stating that his computer was still slow and that now his email and internet were not working. We pulled up our records from his previous visit, explained to him that the degrading performance was probably due to the viruses that were still on the machine, and repeated our earlier recommendation.
  • It was at this point that the author of the post intervened and began a separate conversation with the customer. They soon left the store and we didn’t hear from the customer again.
  • While there are many errors and distortions in the original post and the subsequent discussion threads, the most important facts are these:

  • The customer was never charged and paid no money to Staples.
  • We correctly diagnosed his problems but the customer did not want to pay to have the problems fixed. The cost to fix the problems would have been $243 – quite a bit less than the $390 that was claimed. (We offer a very good value in computer repair, with most of our prices at or below our competition.)
  • Staples system analyzer tool uncovered at least two potential problems with the computer, and we stand by our recommendations for additional RAM and virus removal. (Removing a virus can be a lengthy and difficult process, and off-the-shelf virus programs are generally useless when the machine is already infected.)

  • Contrary to assertions in the blog, a bank of RAM can easily become unseated in the course of transporting a computer. We believe that is what happened here. In any case, there is absolutely no evidence supporting the most spectacular charge in the post – that the computer was opened and the RAM intentionally removed in order to provide a cover for bogus charges.
  • Our team of more than 1,400 technicians do their best each and every day to satisfy our customers. While we are not perfect, we have a pretty good track record in taking care of our customers, and when mistakes are made, we usually go the extra mile to correct them. That is part of the Staples culture and the easy brand promise, and the inaccuracies, distortions, and unfounded speculation contained in the post will do nothing to change that.

    Bob MacDonald

    VP of Technology Services

    Staples, Inc.

    PS – Please let me know the best way to get this posted in a prominent location on your site.

    When I look at this story, I think of two aphorisms. The simplest answer is usually the best answer, and never ascribe to malice what can be explained by simple ignorance. So we can either assume that the Staples tech had a nefarious plan to bilk the elderly, one which would only materially benefit himself in a small way, or we can say that either or both the tech and the old man and Michael made a series of mistakes and misunderstandings. Still, the RAM unseating is very strange. They are basically locked into place and it takes a human hand to press the button and unseat them. In any event, whichever explanation you choose, we recommend making friends with a local tech and using his services instead of taking your broken computer to a retail tech support service.

    PREVIOUSLY: Staples Tries To Charge Senior Citizen $390 For Basic Computer Repair

    (Photo: Soul_Motor)


    Edit Your Comment

    1. Jon Mason says:

      “Contrary to assertions in the blog, a bank of RAM can easily become unseated in the course of transporting a computer.”

      Bull. Shit. Unless you have dropped it and one of the latches has snapped off there is NO WAY that RAM would become unseated by itself.

    2. davere says:

      I have no reason to doubt Staples here. But $243 is still a lot of money for those services. But then I probably get ripped off every time I take my car to the shop.

    3. soulman901 says:

      Lies, lies and more lies. The Staples PR Spin Machine at work.

    4. IamTCM says:


    5. warf0x0r says:

      W/E staples. You blew it and now you have to live with the smell of shame on you. Deal with it.

    6. jamar0303 says:

      If “a bank of RAM can easily become unseated in the course of transporting a computer” someone needs to have their car fixed. They’re *clipped* in place.

      • TVarmy says:

        @jamar0303: The older guy may not understand how delicate computers can be, or may have been frustrated with the computer, and loaded it up without proper respect. If the strength was going in his arms, he might have trouble putting it down gently.

    7. ottawa_guy says:

      wow! $243 for RAM and virus removal… I would say removing that virus would cost maybe $75.00 for an hour of labour, and then RAM (1GB of DDR about $50.00) and installation of that RAM ($20.00 max, comeon people it’s about 2 minutes of work).

      Total REAL price = $145.00 + applicable taxes

      Staples overinflated price = $243.00

      Tip: Bring your PC to a local computer store, they charge alot less!

    8. Honus says:

      It may never have been fully clipped. You guys make it seem like they’re held in by industrial strength clips. They’re little plastic bits. You can seat RAM w/o them fully engaged.

    9. cindel says:

      Contrary to assertions in the blog, a bank of RAM can easily become unseated in the course of transporting a computer.


      • TVarmy says:

        @cindel: If you drop a computer hard, a lot can happen, since desktops aren’t put together to stand impacts like laptops. I could see ram getting clipped with a big drop.

    10. pastabatman says:

      I can’t believe I’m gonna write this because i HATE these kind of statements, but in cases like these I always think of one thing:

      People like this customer should buy a Mac.

      There. I said it. It’s the same reason I almost forced my father to buy a mac. If you have no technical savvy whatsoever, and have no interest in learning how to keep you PC running relatively smoothly, the ‘price bump’ of a Mac makes sense.

      My dad’s computer would grind down to a syrupy sluggish mess after months of foolishly and inadvertently loading garbage onto his Windows box.

      $243 for virus removal and ram upgrade, that he would have to do again (the virus part) at a later time because he has no clue how to keep his system ‘clean’, adds up fast.

      This has NOTHING to do with whether Mac is better than windows or linux on a broad level, just making the point that for guys like these, the virus/malware problem is close to nil

    11. bohemian says:

      $243 for a virus scan & fix and a stick of ram? That is still a rip off. Unless the virus repair is extremely time consuming manual work, but in that case it is usually better to just format & reload.

    12. brent_w says:

      I can’t imagine any instance in which “transport” of the computer would unseat the RAM.

      The amount of force required to jostle out of those clips would almost certainly break something.

    13. topgun says:

      Sounds like BS. I know I’m constantly working on my 70+ year old parents computer. But that is a lot of money for a RAM upgrade and as a computer tech I have no idea of what software is available other than off the shelf to remove a virus. I have to call BS on that.

    14. SneakyMuffin says:


      I have been building computer for many years and I can tell you when there is a problem with a computer when it comes into my hands one of the 1st thing I check is the seat of the RAM. I cannot begin to tell you how many computers I have worked on where taking out the RAM and reseating it fixed a problem.

      This is DEFINITELY NOT, as you so eloquently put it, “bullshit”.

    15. kmn842 says:

      “Removing a virus can be a lengthy and difficult process, and off-the-shelf virus programs are generally useless when the machine is already infected.”

      I call BS. AVG can remove most viruses (virii?) (especially simple Trojans) for absolutely no cost, and it runs itself. I have used it numerous times to clean up friend’s computers when they were too dumb to protect it up front.

    16. Nissan288 says:

      Best solution for old people with broken computers: find a high school techie and pay them to fix it. I set up a good shop in high school with my friends and we got a lot of business from the retirement communities nearby. And we did a good job to the point that people in the neighborhood knew who we were and knew that we were not just going to do some bullshit work and leave. No big corporations to take a cut of payments and it’s cheaper for the customer. Plus these kids get experience with customer work and get to do what they love best: tweaking computers.

      That’s what I did when I was in high school and I made enough to get by. Plus, it helped me get a job after college when I told them that I’ve been working with technology and fixing computers for people since I was 12.

    17. Saboth says:


      Yah I’d agree with you. Glad Staples put the story right but….no, ram doesn’t just jump out of it’s slot on a whim. Hell, sometimes you have to apply enough force to the levers, you worry about breaking your motherboard.

    18. Nighthawke says:

      AT $150 i’d have put the brakes on the job if it were on my bench. I want to see the numbers where Staples is getting from with the RAM estimate. That is absolutely ridiculous. What I really want to hear is the specs of this ailing system so I can make my own estimate.

    19. quattie says:

      @masonreloaded: Agreed. Unless the customer opened the machine at home and started touching stuff (and, playing devil’s advocate, we don’t know this for sure), there is no way RAM just pops out by itself.

    20. stageright says:

      “Removing a virus can be a lengthy and difficult process, and off-the-shelf virus programs are generally useless when the machine is already infected.”

      Did a Staples PR guy that knows nothing about computers write this? This sentence is like saying “Antibiotics are useless once a bacterial infection is present…”

      When I’m doing a PC tune up (for which I charge a LOT less than Staples) and I find viruses on a system, I install AVG, update AVG, run AVG and it fixes the problem. Every. Single. Time.

      “Contrary to assertions in the blog, a bank of RAM can easily become unseated in the course of transporting a computer.”

      Um, no. It’s extremely unusual for this to happen. Computers are shipped across the world, in ships then in trucks, and yet almost every new computer is fine. That’s the entire REASON that the retaining clamps were added to RAM slots in the first place.

      This rebuttal has done nothing but confirm that Staples is in the business of ripping people off.

    21. brent_w says:

      Well although the price is high, all of the big chains charge exorbitant amounts to repair computers, even when the problem is trivial. So you can’t fault them too heavily for that.

      But the RAM comment sounds incredibly fishy.

      Those things are in there tight … and those clips are no pushovers.

    22. ColoradoShark says:

      100% BS on the memory easily becoming unseated during transportation. I work in the industry and an internal connector that would let loose of its device is not acceptable. This kind of connector has been in use for decades and the mechanics of holding memory in place is well understood.

      If this was true, Dell, HP, Gateway etc. would have a huge number of PCs with this problem and would consider unacceptable and the connector would get redesigned.

      Also BS on difficulty in removing an entrenched virus. Boot from an antivirus CD and let it do the clean up automatically.

      However, the guy should increase the amount of memory in the PC. Staples got that part right.

    23. nutrigm says:

      I’d have to agree with Staples here. Virus removal and installation of RAM at $243 seems reasonable. Most of the time virus/trojan removal takes about 3-4 hours because everything happening on that computer will be in slow motion. Unless the customer agrees to do a complete formatting. In which case it shouldn’t cost more than $100-$150 with the RAM installation.

    24. Echodork says:

      Yeah… RAM comes unseated, and $243 is an acceptable price for virus removal and a RAM upgrade. How about $0 for the virus and $79 for two sticks from Newegg?

    25. Moosehawk says:

      The VP’s response sounds pretty good and convincing until here:

      Contrary to assertions in the blog, a bank of RAM can easily become unseated in the course of transporting a computer.

      Everything else suddenly seems like bullshit in his post now. Weird.

    26. robocop is bleeding says:

      Well, I know that I transport my laptop by hurling it like a discus, so I can understand how RAM can become unseated.

      My only problem with Staples is with how bossy the staff is. Every time I go in there, I can’t hurl a laptop without hitting another employee who is all like, “Please don’t throw that” or “I’m calling the cops” or unconscious or something.

    27. Traveshamockery says:

      @kmn842: “””I call BS. AVG can remove most viruses (virii?) (especially simple Trojans) for absolutely no cost, and it runs itself. I have used it numerous times to clean up friend’s computers when they were too dumb to protect it up front.”””

      AVG, and other free anti-virus programs almost certainly prohibit their use by enterprises or other for-profit businesses. Tools that are free and legal for individuals to use often are neither for businesses.

    28. Ram comes out of its slot about as often as the hsf falls off the processor in transport. NEVER.

      Bullshit staples. You guys were just trying to swindle the old people.

    29. ClayS says:

      Vibration over time might eventually unseat RAM, which may not have been fully seated originally. We may never know if the technician was dishonest. Did the customer lie about the proposed charge..$243 vs $390?

      Kudos to Consumerist for publishing both sides of this story.

    30. Phipps6505 says:

      I’ve worked in tech support at a major research university for 10 years. I’ve seen a lot of strange things, but I’ve never seen RAM come unclipped and need to be reseated. We’ve probably relocated a half a dozen departments as new buildings were built, and relied on movers that seemed more interested in playing street hockey with the boxes than actually moving carefully to their new locations. I’ve never seem anything like this happen.

      I’ll second the motion to recommend non-technical people get a mac. It’s worth the premium. Bad things can and do happen to macs, it generally happens less frequently.

      Given my experience with Geek Squad when they didn’t fix a TV I brought in for repair (under extended warranty) and then tried to tell me that I dropped it on the way home… I would avoid big box store like the plauge.

    31. sir_eccles says:

      The actual story aside, it’s interesting to see that more and more corporations seem to be reading Consumerist and are willing to make rebuttals.

    32. savvy999 says:

      So Staples’ “Free PC Tune up” does not = removing viruses?

      They will scan a customer’s system for them, tell you they’re there, and then let them go? That’s poor.

      That’s not a tune-up, that’s peeing on the tires and calling it a spit-shine.

    33. Traveshamockery says:

      @Echodork: “””Yeah… RAM comes unseated, and $243 is an acceptable price for virus removal and a RAM upgrade. How about $0 for the virus and $79 for two sticks from Newegg?”””

      This is a rediculous statement. Do you think this old man could actually order the right RAM, install it, and run an anti-virus? Of course not.

      Staples was *gasp* trying to make a profit off this guy. That’s what they do – make money. $0 for virus scan and $79 for memory is the cost for you to do it. Just because there’s someone in the world who can do it cheaper does not require Staples to do the same.

    34. Crymson_77 says:

      @Honus: Actually, that only applied when 30 and 72 pin RAM was in use. Those types of RAM can only be bought at used computer places anymore. Most likely, the elderly gentleman that was being screwed here had a system with SDRAM which, when installed, requires a significant amount of force to verify that it is properly seated and due to the design of the clips in question the RAM could _NEVER_ be fully seated without also being clipped in place.

    35. Based on this exchange, I’ve concluded that Consumerist has an addiction to hyperbole. Here, as I see frequently on lesser sites, an analyst has become an alarmist.

      Fact 1 –

      $243 is a competitive price for a virus removal, stick of RAM, and installation of that RAM. Service at Geek Squad and other similar locations costs about the same. You can argue that this whole business model is flawed, but keep in mind that most of us are skilled. The car mechanic analogy is sound and valid here – “just a sparkplug” or “just a stick of RAM” to me is not that to others.

      Fact 2 –

      RAM is easy to unseat. This guy repeatedly dragged his computer around – it’s entirely within the realm of possibility. Don’t be ridiculous. Plus, RAM can frequently experience intermittent functionality as it nears failure, and this computer is obviously aged.

    36. MissTic says:

      It’s nice to see a rebuttal. I realize that Consumerist comes at these stories from, well, the “consumer’s” P.O.V. however, there are always three sides to every story (provided rock solid evidence is missing like audio or video) the customer’s side, the store’s side and the truth. All of which can be distorted as the story is repeated and passed on.

      I think Consumerist owes it to it’s readers to publish these kinds of rebuttals because not every store is out to rip us off. (Not insinuating that they are repressed!) And not every situation happened exactly as printed. So, hats off to Consumerist for printing the rebuttal and letting the readers decide. It’s much easier to do so with another viewpoint. Not as sexy as most Consumerist headlines but hey…thanks anyway!

      As for the RAM issue, stranger things have happened. I think everyone calling B.S. needs to chill. You have no idea what kind of state his P.C. was in.

      All of that being said, I still stand by my previous comments on this story – make friends with a techie or learn it yourself! And back up your work!

    37. DomZ says:

      Yeah, the price sucks – but the guy never paid it according to Staples – I don’t get it.

    38. Crymson_77 says:

      @ADismalScience: The functionality of the RAM was not in question. The statement that it had come unseated is. As for your assertion that transport of a computer, especially with more recent hardware, can unseat the RAM…well, please see my earlier post and do some research on RAM chips and the slots they sit in.

    39. MeOhMy says:

      The conflicts between the two stories are annoying, but the Staples’ people’s mechanic-like insistence that the computer is too bizarre and complex for any mere mortal to repair on his own really takes the taco. Offering a service called a “Tune-up” even for free is ridiculous right there. Do they get out the timing light and make sure all the platters in the hard drive are firing in the correct sequence? Obvious ploy to “find” other “problems” and then “offer” to “fix” them.

      Also, while I’ve seen RAM work its way out enough to lose contact while still being clipped in, I’ve never seen one come completely unclipped.

    40. Joafu says:

      Oh Staples, don’t try to save face on teh internets; we hear this all the time.

    41. IndyJaws says:

      I actually agree with a few things:

      RAM can become loose. Not nearly as common as expansion cards (video cards, modems, NIC’s, etc.) but I’ve seen it happen. I’ve not read the OP, so I don’t know if it came out altogether (that would be very rare), but loose enough not to make contact can happen.

      What in the world is someone running a PC with 256 MB RAM? Of course it’s going to be dirt slow, unless it’s running Win95 (and even then won’t be especially peppy).

      I do disagree with the rebuttal that running AV after an infection is “generally useless.” I’ll put my plug in for Kaspersky – it has done an incredible job saving some machines I’ve fixed for people. Couple that with Spybot, SpySweeper and/or AdAware, you should be able to fix the majority of problems. Use HijackThis for really bad issues.

      Finally, on the cost of repairs and parts…why are computers treated so differently than car repairs? A basic repair that a knowledgeable car tech can do in a few hours can run hundreds of dollars, yet no one seems to bat an eye. A similar situation on a PC and people go crazy over the charges? I realize that many more people know how to do PC repairs and they are able to determine the amount of markup, but again, they are people who know how to do the repair. For someone who doesn’t know how to fix issues (like me on cars), they have to pay labor to those who are experienced. Labor ain’t cheap – if you don’t like the price, either find someone else cheaper or learn how to do it yourself.

    42. Hanke says:

      @masonreloaded: If the RAM was not seated properly when installed initially, this can certainly happen. I’ve fixed this problem a number of times when i was a ‘local tech’, and each time, even though the problem took all of 5 minutes to fix, we charged the bench fee of $50.

    43. pda_tech_guy says:

      I would have charged 39.99 for virus removal, 19.99 to install the RAM, and 19.99 for a house call.

    44. CharlieSeattle says:

      @masonreloaded: You’re full of crap. It not only can become unseated, it’s possible for carbon to build up on the contacts. Re-seating usually fixes that.

    45. DeeJayQueue says:

      I work for staples. They don’t train the easy techs for shit. They don’t train anybody for shit. They make everything they do so idiot proof and on rails that there is no need to actually know what you’re doing. They keep the computers locked down so tight that we can’t even access the C drive on them, they give us shitty, obsolete software to work with, but don’t want to hear it when customers complain that we can’t help them.

      I will say that I don’t know whether the guy was given a choice as to which parts of the “staples plan to fix your computer” he was able to pick or if he had to take it 100% as they presented it. True he could have used some more RAM, but getting the viruses off of his computer was the first priority.

    46. CharlieSeattle says:

      @ColoradoShark: You should find another industry then. Because you don’t know what you are talking about. Let me guess you are an MCSE.

    47. Hanke says:

      @bohemian: It’s not a virus scan. They’re right; I’ve yet to encounter an AV program that can properly clean an infected machine when that product was either not already installed (problem #2) or not kept up to date (problem #1). There are only two ways to fix it at that point. Either sit down in front of it with an OS booted from a CD, and manually clear out the files and registry entries, which can take an hour of more; or the nuclear option. A total wipe and reinstall of the OS.

    48. @Crymson_77:

      I’ve built enough computers in my life to understand your point and still disagree. It’s within the realm of possibility for ram to become unseated, especially on an older machine with very little RAM whose parts are probably well past their MTBF’s that’s being regularly transported.

    49. ColoradoShark says:

      @CharlieSeattle: Carbon build up on the contacts???!!! The contacts have been gold on the memory and gold on the connector for at least 10 years and maybe 20. Gold to gold will not corrode.
      Maybe you are confused with some motor you repaired once?

    50. ncboxer says:

      @ADismalScience: Fact # 2: No RAM is not easy to unseat. Read Crmyson_77’s post above. When you push down on modern RAM chips, the clips automatically engage. If the chips is halfway in, halfway out, the computer would have boot problems. This wasn’t the case- the old guy complained of slow performance, not that he couldn’t get the machine to boot up. Are you saying that if I drag my computer around several places the RAM might just fall out? How about the CPU- might it just pop out too? Oh, please….

    51. tz says:

      If the memory wasn’t properly seated originally, it could come loose. I’ve had similar things happen so though unlikely I can’t be sure.

      Reformat and Reload can be an even more time consuming process – Did Mr Senior Citizen do diligent backups? Is there even a record of all the software on the machine? It is easy to hand back a clean system – including no user files, or one in a restore archive with a warning it would reinfect the system. Either removing a virus or sets of malware or even doing a proper backup is time consuming.

      But I would second the above poster “Get a Mac”. With Time Machine disk, and Apple Care. You are good for 3 years. Even Apple charges if they have to do a backup.

      You might find a student tech (or search your family tree and old friends) who will do it for free, but I don’t see any of the above saying how many minutes or hours they would voluntarily spend doing whatever was necessary. This sounds like an hour job minimal (assuming there was no malware – and I will give Staples the benefit of the doubt here since the statistics show an average home PC likely to have something).

      Please, do post your hourly rates and guarantees that I will get my computer back, virus and malware free, with all my data and applications intact. With contact info. Especially if you will do it for free.

      It is not that ripoffs don’t happen (maybe someone should try one of those consumer reporter tests – like the one that showed Microcenter did it right). But I don’t see the people here forming businesses to “do it right” and make enough to eat. Or even forming an auditing, certification business that would do secret shopper type tests – computers with specific known problems – to see if the places consistently do it right or do it wrong.

    52. Hanke says:

      @IndyJaws: Because the costs asociated with the repair of a PC, these days, can rapidly approach the cost of the most common PC sold today. The budget crapboxes marketed by HP/Compaq and Gateway/eMachines. 90% of the machines I needed to repair were of these two brands, with initial costs of $600 or less. The rest were usually Dells with idiot owners not realizing their PCs were under warranty, and they could have had them fixed for free. We used to charge only labor on those repairs, but we also charged them for our phone time with Dell getting the parts.

    53. tokyomonster says:

      Ok, there are a few problems I have with the majority of the comments here.

      First of all: I am an internet security technician, and have dealt extensively with the storm worm. It’s more than your average trojan. It is also a root kit, which means it latches itself to very innards of your operating system making it very hard to detect and clean. It’s a dirty nasty worm, and I doubt AVG could remove it succesfully.

      Second of all, at 256 MB of ram, the guy did need an upgrade. And any computer that had 256 to begin with is probably going to have DDR. If anyone has been keeping the track of the price of DDR, it’s skyrocketed as it’s quickly becoming replaced by the cheaper, better, faster, DDR2. If newegg is selling it for about 40 bucks for a gig, then staples is probably marking that up by 20 dollars. Actually, I just checked their website. $64.98 for the cheapest 1 gig stick. SO 65 for parts, and then about 178 for memory installation and virus removal if Staples is to be believed. Not exactly cheap, but on par with other big box stores offerings. Also, keep in mind the that labor costs shrink if they were going to offer him 2gigs.

      Honestly, I don’t understand the outrage. This kind of stuff has been happening for as long as people have needed things fixed. Look at auto mechanics. They do these things all the time. Marking up the labor on simple services is second nature for them. Computer techs noticed that the business model works and adopted it. I think people need to chill out a bit.

    54. MikeB says:


      That would be $0 for virus removal and $79 for ram upgrade for someone that knows what they are doing. Virus removal can be a major Pita.

      @savvy999:I could see a free tune up to include running the installed virus scan, after updating it, but not for removing it outside of the already installed VirusScan software. I believe a tune up would involve running a defrag, installing OS updates, running a disk cleanup, etc.

    55. SkokieGuy says:

      What someone else would charge or how they would fix themselves is irrelevant.

      The original poster overheard some of the conversation and jumped to conclusions.

      Adding ram was a reasonable suggestion. Tuning up a PC not including virus removal is reasonable – removing viruses is a repair, not a tune-up.

      I’ve had memory come loose too. It does happen.

      Whether you feel the prices quoted are fair or not is irrelevant. The customer was given repair recommendations and prices and given the option of what to do. I have no problem with that and am fine with Staples reply.

    56. cockeyed says:

      Removing of viruses is not always a lengthy and difficult process. Many websites, including the MS site itself, offer instructions on how to remove viruses. Although, understandably, the man is elderly, so he may not be able to follow the directions easily, but I’ve never had trouble removing viruses from my computer on my own, and it seems like they’re suggesting this is something someone can’t do on their own.
      I guess I’m just pampered because my father is a computer technician. We’ve always gone to him when our computers have had problems.
      It’s good to read the other side of the debacle, since it was previously given from a third party pov.

    57. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

      @IndyJaws: I was pretty happy with Kaspersky, which I purchased about a year and a half ago. I did a couple of the free upgrades and now my licence is about to expire. To continue? $56 bucks. Not real thrilled about that. Don’t McAfee and Norton typically allow users to keep renewing for free as long as they have the original upcs from earlier versions.

    58. moore850 says:

      I can only offer the following: I’ve been opening and messing with RAM since my PC XT which had chips with pins you physically had to insert to expand the capacity. In all that time, I have never experienced RAM coming “unseated”. In fact, in an OEM machine the only way for RAM to come “unseated” that I can think of, based on how the RAM connectors work, is for it to be physically unseated by someone. In other words, you can’t partially insert RAM and get a clean boot, so you’d know right away it wasn’t in. Once it’s in, I don’t see how it could just “come unseated” on its own . A tornado might be able to do it, but a lot more components inside the PC will be “unseated” as well.

    59. gorckat says:

      I know its been said at least a dozen times already, but in my own experience, the force required to pop open those clips is more substantial than what would be involved in moving the case around. They don’t just close over the end, they press the RAM into the slot.

      I have not seen memory properly seat with the clips open, but I’ll defer to those that make a living with PC repair to say whether or not its possible.

      For a drop to have popped open the clips, I’d expect significant, obviously noticeable damage to the case.

    60. Mr. Gunn says:

      ADismalScience: “I’ve concluded that Consumerist has an addiction to hyperbole.”

      …and I’ve finally concluded that the ground gets wet when it rains.

      I’ve lugged and moved computers around the country for the past decade. I’ve never had a stick of ram become unseated, especially on the older machines.

      The overall point, that he could have gotten what staples was going to do done for much cheaper using a local independent tech, remains valid despite all this.

    61. tokyomonster says:

      Also, to every insisting that RAM can not and will not ever come out ever ever, you’re wrong.

      As numerous people have stated, it can happen for a number of reasons:

      1. The ram was not properly installed to begin with. Yes, there are clips that lock the ram in place, but I have had a computer function with the clips less than securely wrapped around the notches of the ram stick, where a few bumps could easily cause a problem.

      2. I have dealt with people personally who’s ram sticks have become unseated. Period.

      3. The clips that hold the ram in aren’t always the sturdiest pieces of hardware. They can often times be flimsy and in some cases useless.

      4. Who’s to say the guy didn’t mess around with it himself, didn’t have a friend mess around it, didn’t drop it, kick it, hit it, in frustration(I’ve seen many a friend do this).

      Quite frankly, there are too many variables in play for people to run around saying that ram can not become unseated and that is the final answer.

    62. tokyomonster says:

      @cockeye: You’ve obviously never tried to remove the storm worm.

    63. jonnyobrien says:

      Is it me or are 25% of the posts seeming to be Staples shills? How many of the commenters ip’s would be from Framingham, MA?

    64. tokyomonster says:

      @Mr. Gunn: It’s been my experience that local techs are either just as much or even more than the big box stores, and in some cases even less knowledgeable. I’ve seen many unqualified individuals market themselves as computer professionals because they’re not afraid to reinstall windows.

      Granted this is not always the case.

    65. IndyJaws says:

      @Dead Wrestlers Society: Nope. They’ll give you a discount on the subscription, but you’ll still have to pay to continue it.

      If you’re looking to save money, and are a Comcast subscriber (where’s my FIOS?!?!), you can get McAfee for free. I chose to pay for Kaspersky after seeing it fix several issues that McAfee and Norton couldn’t, especially with some particularly nasty trojans.

      And for those people who are suggesting $20-40 is a fair charge to clean an infected PC – are you stoned?! Granted, there are going to be situations where it only takes an hour to clean basic infections. But what about the situations where there’s a rootkit or other hard-to-remove malware? You can (and I have) spent many hours trying to get the machine disinfected. Could I have simply nuked it and reinstalled the OS? Sure, but the idea is to preserve the existing data at all costs.

      Yet, some of the same posters say they would charge the same or more to install a stick or two of RAM. Oh really??? Installing RAM is a 5 minute process, tops – 4 minutes of which is removing and replacing the case screws. Why is this okay?

    66. meske says:

      @masonreloaded: Not true. I’ve had to reseat ram in my own machines after moving them from room to room in the past. It can happen with little jarring sometimes…

    67. 3drage says:

      Prices are way too high even at the lowered rate.

    68. tokyomonster says:

      @jonnyobrien: Indeed. How dare I offer an opposing point of view? I must be one of those shills you speak of.

    69. cosby says:


      Memory can come loose in transportation. For all we know the guy that sent in the story over stated what was wrong with it. When I was in retail a few years ago I reseated memory a good 50 times that had come loose and caused an issue. It is also possible to get a new machine that needs it done as well. The last dell server I installed had a stick loose from shipping.

      As far as everyone saying he should just buy the memory and fix it himself you are talking out of your ass. Yes if you know what you are doing it is easy. The same could be said if you need to fix something on your car. Thing is a lot of people don’t. Paying 60 to 80 bucks an hour for someone to do repair labor is a norm. Yea you might be willing to do it on the side and charge 20 bucks or whatever but getting it done by a place that should in theory stand behind their work in a professional setup will not go that cheap.

    70. Dibbler says:

      Saying he could get RAM for $50 is a lie. The system had 256MB of RAM in it when it was brought in so that means that it’s an old machine. I just found out recently when I upgraded the RAM on my daughters machine that RAM starts expensive, gets really cheap and then as soon as it’s considered obsolete it gets really expensive again. You can’t just stick any memory in a notebook and I’m guessing the price quoted by Staples was just about right. As far as the virus goes…the guy obviously didn’t have any anti-virus running on the machine and since it had popups I bet it was full of spyware as well. If I was an independent tech I would have charged the guy lot more than $243. :)

    71. IndyJaws says:

      @jonnyobrien: Why? Because we take offense to broad generalizations and unrealistic expectations on how much things should cost to repair?

    72. forever_knight says:

      i’m siding with Staples on this one. seems like it’s a non-story especially since the old man was charged ZERO dollars.

    73. Daniel-Bham says:

      It doesn’t cost $200+ to “tune-up” a car. Anyone who knows anything about computers knows that the time/effort involved is minimal in removing a few stray viruses.

    74. gorckat says:

      In the original post, was the computer noted as being frequently transported? I thought it was a desktop, so I’m not sure why a few notebook comparison are being mentioned.

      I concede that memory can pop loose during transport and that sometimes the clips are effectively nothing more than show.

      if there is any one argument that i ABSOLUTELY HATE in discussions like this, it’s the following, and i see it ALL THE TIME:

      “It has never happened to me [or] i have never seen it personally, so it absolutely cannot happen to anyone else, nor does it ever happen at all.”
      (regarding unseated RAM described earlier)

      using such an argument to support your ideas FAILs in so many ways, some of which i will describe.

      Point taken, and I really should know better :P

    75. IndyJaws says:

      @Daniel-Bham: So we can assume you are not in the group who knows something about computers, based on that ridiculous broad generalization.

      Even without knowing what “stray viruses” are on the machine, you’re right…a machine old enough to only have 256MB RAM will certainly have the resources to blow right through that detection and disinfection in just a matter of minutes.

    76. Dibbler says:


      256MB memory hasn’t been the norm in computer for a few years so the computer has to be “older” and from this post-

      By JustAGuy2:


      1GB of RAM from Staples is (for PC2100 DDR) $99, not $50.

      You may think that’s too much, but that’s the price.

    77. NickRB says:

      Wait how about this.

      We the consumerist are sorry. We frequently post stories without verifying them first. We believe that many stories are “Too Good to Check Out”, because we might find that the truth isn’t so sensational. If you want more stories written with the same quality please check out the National Inquirer, Weekly World News, and The Sun. These are all fine publications that are more concerned with sensationalism that honesty. Just like us! Occasionally we will have a story that has the most basic facts wrong or sometimes made up. If you enjoy these stories, please check out the New York Times, which is another publication which has been caught making up stories.

      Thank you for your readership and we hope you continue to enjoy the consumerist.

      The Consumerist Staff.

      P.S. Vote for a democrat.

      I honestly expect to see something like that one day.

    78. While everyone is going to dismiss this as spin, I think he really told Consumerist and the claimant off.

      We will never know the ac-factuals of this case (or any other), without third parties. Consumerist is pretty anti-company, so they cannot be the disinterested third party.

      ATC, I’m willing to believe the guy from Staples on this one.

    79. redhelix says:

      You see memory get unseated all the time with desktops when you work in PC services. I can’t remember how many times I saw it happen during my few years with GS.

      That’s why laptop RAM is mounted a hell of a lot more securely than desktop RAM.

    80. bigvicproton says:

      his real problem is thinking staples is a place you can get service…

    81. mikelotus says:

      @kmn842: you are wrong, i had to download Kaspersky AV plus “Hijackthis” and manually edit the registry and remove files from various locations for a particularly nasty trojan. I spent well over 8 hours dealing with this and I know what I am doing.

    82. vladthepaler says:

      RAM does not unseat itself. By claiming that it does, the VP shows himself to be uninformed on the subject he is writing about, and puts into question the entirety of his response.

    83. redhelix says:

      @masonreloaded: You don’t know what you’re talking about. It happens all the time, and anyone who has worked in computers for more than a month is aware of this.

    84. redhelix says:

      @vladthepaler: RAM gets unseated during transportation all the time. As a person who fixes PCs professionally, I’m telling you flat-out that you are grossly wrong and should not be promoting an opinion on something you don’t understand.

    85. mikelotus says:

      @Daniel-Bham: well guess you really don’t know anything about computers and now you have let the world know that.

    86. econobiker says:

      I wish Staples (et al) could document all of their customer service interactions as nicely as this. That would save a lot of time and actions but probably slow down Consumerist’s hit ratio and ad revenues…

    87. weakdome says:

      I love how everyone is like “RAM is never going to fall out”.
      You’re right. It won’t actually fall out. But it does move, enough that it BECOMES UNSEATED, and causes all kinds of crazy problems.
      Jesus. Cut them some slack.

    88. TPS Reporter says:

      Apparently the virus was making it run slow, not the 256 of ram, at least as observed from the customer. Otherwise the customer would have complained about it when he got the computer new. Is what ticks me off is Staples trying to sell him more stuff. Just fix the virus and take 5 seconds and pop the ram back into place and just charge for the virus removal. Tell the guy “We could have charged $xxx for reseating the ram, but we are only going to charge for the virus removal”. Happy customer / future sales potential.

    89. Amy Alkon says:

      The “buy a Mac” guy is right.

      You can get a used or late-model new iBook for $400 or $500, or $800 for a newer snappier late-model one, and I’m guessing it’ll have more power than this PC (enough for a guy like this to get by), will be intuitive to use, and won’t get viruses unless you’re a total moron…and even then. And you can get more RAM at Fry’s for, I dunno, because my boyfriend buys mine, but $20-40? And you can snap it in yourself. You lift up the keyboard with two little buttons and put it in. Easy. A monkey could do it. (My monkey was busy that day, so I did it myself, and I’m not exactly a tech guru.)

    90. redhelix says:

      @Moosehawk: Your anectdotal experience means nothing in the face of the experience of PC repair techs who see it happen at least once a month.

    91. CharlieSeattle says:

      @ColoradoShark: You obviously have never seen cheap motherboards. Like dells exploding capacitors.

    92. Trai_Dep says:

      @NickRB: Perhaps on “The Corporatist”? Yeah, that’s the ticket!

    93. SomeoneGNU says:


      Yes, ram CAN become unseated in transport. Read the original post and various responses. In fact, I have seen it happen.

    94. CharlieSeattle says:

      @jonnyobrien: I’m in Seattle.

    95. forever_knight says:

      @MrBill38: Apparently the virus was making it run slow, not the 256 of ram, at least as observed from the customer. Otherwise the customer would have complained about it when he got the computer new.

      flat out wrong. 256 RAM on XP or even windows 2000 is too little. the entire system runs slow. add to that that the more shit users install the more a computer slows down AND updates and other software enhancements will slow down a non-virus infected computer.

    96. Crymson_77 says:

      @ADismalScience: I could agree with you on that under only one scenario. That would involve not just transporting it, but handling it very roughly continually or dropping it regularly.

      @redhelix: I have worked on computers from every manufacturer in the world. Literally 10’s if not 100’s of thousands. The only reason a piece of RAM would “magically” be unseated, especially in the case of newer RAM, is through rough handling of the computer itself. Thermal cycling no longer applies due to the newer clips. The new RAM clips on motherboards were designed specifically to defeat thermal cycling. Mind you, this DOES NOT include poor construction at the factory…which is of course the reason that I physically check every machine that comes in the door before deployment. In that case, absolutely it happens all the time.

    97. davidc says:


      Actually, virus’s continue to get nastier and nastier and off the shelf programs do not work for the “bot net” type of virus/trojan’s anymore.

      You can easily spend 2-4 hours trying to un-infect an PC that has the newer strains of malware now-a-days and you actually need to replace key system files that you can’t do while the OS is operating.

      As far as the RAM is concerned, The motherboard I just pulled out of my computer didn’t have clips on them, albiet the board was a few years old. And there is nothing to say it was seat properly by the minimum wage employees that built the computer in the first place.

      Anyways … 512mb ram isn’t really enough to run windows, so bumping up to 1GB makes A TON OF SENSE.

      So all your “arm chair technicians” need to sit down and shut up cause you really don’t know what your talking about.

    98. cosby says:


      Depending on the infection it can be very hard to remove as many will block you from installing an av program. Generaly you just hook the machine into another to do the first scan or 2. Then you install an av solution on the machine and finish the cleanup. Yes I agree that installing av after the fact doesn’t always work right. You really need it on the system before.


      While the infection would slow it down, the system could still need more memory now then it did when he got it. Many of the modern av programs require more memory then they did a few years ago as do some newer versions of things he might be using like his web browser. If the system was worth keeping I would recomend throwing in extra memory to help speed it up. Besides for all we know this might have been a low end model when 512 was the norm for a desktop. Really without knowing what the specs of the system are it is hard to say either way.

    99. Benny Gesserit says:

      @pastabatman: There’s another point – I was happy when my mother-in-law bought a Mac. When she calls with a computer question, I can say “no, sorry, I only use Windows machines” and let my better half deal with it.

      I hate the fact I work in the IT industry makes people think I’m their personal (free) Tech Support 24/7.

    100. dialing_wand says:

      And people should know that RAM can become unseated even if it’s clipped in. I’ve seen motherboards with warped ram slots where the contacts between the RAM and slots were barely touching at the center points – and most of the time it was with expensive workstation motherboards – not off-the-shelf PCs and logic boards.

    101. dialing_wand says:

      @Jim (The Canuck One): I believe the IT industry relies on it. ;)

    102. quagmire0 says:

      As an IT person, I can tell you that the RAM can be unseated. What you have to take into account is that an elderly man was handling the PC. In between him taking it out of his house, into his car, and into the store, it could have easily shaken loose.

      I’m not saying that’s the truth, but I’m seeing a lot of people making it sound like the RAM is bolted in – it’s not.

    103. CharlieSeattle says:

      @vladthepaler: You’ve just shown you don’t work in the industry. It happens, I’ve seen it happen and I’m an IT Professional with 20 years under my belt.

    104. quagmire0 says:

      Also, for those people that consider it reasonable that they charge ~$250 for cleaning off a virus and installing RAM – that’s probably $100 more than your neighbor’s kid would do it for. :D

    105. forever_knight says:

      i’m disappointed in myself for reading the comments on this thread. what a waste of time. i want those 5 minutes of my life back.

    106. brent_w says:

      @CharlieSeattle: Many more people here that “have worked in the industry” have stated otherwise.

      You seem to be in the minority.

    107. BuddyGuyMontag says:

      I wonder if Norton and other companies whose Anti-Virus products stock Staples’ shelves would like to know what the VP of Tech Services thinks about their “useless” products.

      That was easy.

    108. Buckler says:

      Regarding the RAM issue, I do know that when I shipped a PC from Florida to Colorado via USPS ground, it arrived with one of the RAM sticks rattling around inside the case, though I was certain it had been fully seated; it can happen.

      Regarding the repair price, $243 is still obscene for a RAM upgrade and virus scan. Maybe it’s just because I do my own PC work whenever possible, but it still seems pretty inflated to me.

    109. 00exmachina says:

      @Moosehawk: If it was a desktop computer I would agree. But the guy had a laptop, the ram clips on those are heavier and designed to keep the ram in place during most bumps and falls.

    110. Consumer007 says:

      @masonreloaded: Exactly – I’m a tech and another possible explanation is that the tech (or another tech previously) didn’t firmly seat the memory to begin with. If the user, like most, is afraid of opening the box, it’s not their fault.

    111. -J- says:


      I may even do a youtube video to demo your statement as true.

      This Bob MacDonald and the tone of the “letter” really gets him the nomination for douchebag of the year. I am never shopping at staples again.

    112. sgodun says:

      I have to side with Staples on this one. The fact that Staples took the time to respond to the original post with a logical and rational explanation means a lot.

      To those crying “bullshit” about the memory issue, consider: It’s POSSIBLE that the memory was improperly installed from the get-go. It is very possible for memory to be installed so that the computer sees it and can use it without a problem, but the clip is not fully engaged. Try it yourself and see. A sharp bump, such as what would be experienced if, say, the computer were in the trunk of a car that went over a pothole, could easily dislodge the memory from the slot. I’ve personally seen this happen dozens of times, mostly (for some reason) in HP and Compaq computers but certainly not limited to them.

    113. -J- says:


      imagine the countless calls into Dell and Gateway computers then if it is so easy to unseat memory.

      Guess what? It doesn’t happen.

    114. katylostherart says:

      or key lesson: shop around before you buy, even with services. ask friends with experience, then move up to paid professionals, then to retail.

      $243 is still a ton for that. you can get a new cpu and motherboard and ram for that much which would fix the speed problem and be a great upgrade to boot.

    115. CharlieSeattle says:

      @brent_w: Really, I see lot’s of posts supporting my position.

    116. CharlieSeattle says:

      @Buckler: Not inflated for removing a virus up grading to a gig of ram. I have 3 desktops in my office at work, one is older an older one. I bought ram for the other two, the older one cost me twice as much as the two I upgraded. Older machine memory costs more.

    117. JohnMc says:

      Ben, Staples and the customer are looking this whole thing wrong. As soon as a tech told me $390 for a repair I would have picked up the phone and called a vendor for a brand new Cloudbook. Its only $9 more.

      The landscape is changing. When one can get a laptop for $300 bucks taking it to tech support won’t make much sense will it? We are approaching that point. There are 4 models of laptop under $400. There are 6 models of desktop under $200.

      Cheap? yes. Cheesy? Yes. But Buy It Cheap, Throw it Away — BICTIA is going to become a tech solution. [Yes I hear the roar from the eco crowd. But from an economic standpoint it won’t make sense to spend $400 to repair a $200 desktop. EVER.]

    118. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

      ….”Removing a virus can be a lengthy and difficult process, and off-the-shelf virus programs are generally useless when the machine is already infected…..”

      That’s great to hear. Any reason that Staples still sells those products, then? I’m sure that Norton and other companies would love to hear Staples talk that way about their products.

    119. arcticJKL says:

      Lets ignore the RAM issue for a moment.
      The guy who fixed his computer made no mention of a virus. Why does Staples say there was one?

      Clearly if there is no virus Staples is wrong/lying.
      If there was most people seem to agree it would be expensive to fix.

      Now the memory: Seems to me that a tech probably verified the low memory by looking at it physically and failed to put it back in right.

    120. WNW says:

      Hmmmm…not only does Staples read and respond to articles on the consumerist…they also seem to have a PR department who make comments that support their totally false statements.

    121. mrbiggsndatx says:

      how nice of the manager to put that Staples red stapling Spin! STFU cuz your store sucks!!!

    122. rjhiggins says:

      @cardboardrobot: Finally, a reasonable post by someone with some actual knowledge. People, save your outrage; the price may be on the high side, but on the whole their actions were reasonable.

    123. killerbean says:

      I have a desktop at work that sits under my desk (floor top?) and I accidently gave it a “slight” bump with my foot which dislodged a ram chip. this caused the computer to not start.

      so it can happen, and it was only a slight bump. possibly the chip never was in all the way from the beginning, but it worked up till that point.

    124. 27spots says:

      “(Removing a virus can be a lengthy and difficult process, and off-the-shelf virus programs are generally useless when the machine is already infected.)”

      #1 – I wonder what Staples would use to remove the virus?

      #2 – Even better, I would love to hear what all the major anti-virus vendors have to say about that.

    125. Hanke says:

      @Trick: Yes, useless. Infact, they may refuse to install if it detects something on a pre-install scan, and if its limited pre-install proceedures can’t fix it, you are in a creek. The first thing you do when you get a PC, before you even connect it to the internet, is install a decent AV package. Compare it to using a condom. You signifcantly reduce your chances of infection if you use one before insertion. It’s too late after.

    126. SomeoneGNU says:


      While it may be $100 more than my neighbors kid, does my the neighbor’s kid provide any sort of protection in case he screws up? Not that I’d really bank on Circuit City doing a great job, but it’s hard to sue 12-year olds.

      Thankfully, I can do my own computer work so it’s irrelevent to me. Is the $100 worth it? Would we even be having this discussion if this was a “local shop” instead of one of the big guys? Shouldn’t the neighbor’s kid do it at cost since making a profit is bad?

    127. erratapage says:

      I agree with those who state that RAM can become unseated. Back in the day, my family used to build computers for a living. I had several of my own computers suffer from unseated RAM syndrome. Now, we all do other things for a living (probably because we got tired of trying to seat and fix unseated RAM).

      If the manufacturer employed people as competent as I am, I am quite certain that there are many machines out there that suffer from unseated RAM.

    128. rbear11 says:

      Working with PC’s for a number of years at a local shop I will say that I have seen RAM become dislodged during transport. Does mean that it completely popped out and was floating around the case? Probably not, but it could become dislodged to the point the machine would not boot. This could easily happen if the guy put the puter in the trunk and the unit bounced around..maybe he went over a pothole? We don’t know. I’m going to say this. Despite all of what I’ve read on here, and despite the fact that some of you think that Staples is an ultimate retail evil, they have always been good to me and are very customer focused. Unlike the Geeks, who I’ve had terrible bouts with in the past, they are focused on helping the customer. With that said, give them a break and go after someone that does rip people off regularly like Best Buy.

    129. SomeoneGNU says:


      “Guess what? It doesn’t happen.”

      So the various other IT professionals who have witnessed it are all lying or complete idiots that don’t know what a stick of RAM looks like?

      But, of course, it doesn’t happen. It can never happen. Heat and vibrations could never cause it to happen. You see – inside a computer case the laws of physics do not apply. There is no expansion, there is no contraction, there is no poor quality gear. It just does not happen.

    130. SomeoneGNU says:


      You are a very angry and paranoid person. You should always wear the tinfoil-hat shiny side out.

    131. moviemoron says:

      Actually, if it is a desktop, Ram can become unseated. There are no clips holding the Ram in the slot. Any kind of knocks and bags to the computer during transport and handling could knock the ram a little bit out of the slot.
      Now, if it is a Laptop, then the Ram is secure in place and cannot be unseated unless you drop the computer from a high distance.

    132. brent_w says:

      @WNW: I noticed.

    133. brent_w says:

      @moviemoron: What the hell are you smoking to claim that there ‘are no clips holding the ram into the slot’.

      Desktop motherboards most certainly do have clips.

    134. vw195 says:

      I wonder if they perused the senior citizen’s machine looking for pictures :p

    135. vanillabean says:

      @SneakyMuffin: My desktop RAM became unseated when I moved the case from the floor to the table. I called my brother who is a professional writer specializing in computer hardware (and former PC technician), and he explained how to reseat it and assured me that it happens occasionally. I wouldn’t have known what to do.

      So, I believe the Staples VP because it happened to me.

    136. Apeweek says:

      Don’t let your elderly parents deal with their computers alone.

      I went to a Circuit City with my 80-year-old Dad to get him a computer. They tried to upsell him all sorts of nonsense, including anti-virus software, when his computer was already bundled with some.

      When they tried to sell him their anti-spyware package, I said I would be installing the freeware Spybot and Ad-aware.

      I then heard the salesguy tell my Dad that those two apps were actually trojans that would take over his PC.

    137. TacticalSniper says:

      I’ll agree with other techs here. Seen RAM popping out of the socket. It’s relatively rare, but still happens. What if the RAM wasn’t seated correctly in the first place? I wouldn’t be hasty to blame Staples for it…

    138. algormortis says:

      “PS – Please let me know the best way to get this posted in a prominent location on your site.”

      Because when we screw you over for unneeded repairs, we do that on the down low, but we will shout until the end of days about how cool we are, really, once we screw up and fall on our faces.

    139. youbastid says:

      @IndyJaws: “What in the world is someone running a PC with 256 MB RAM? Of course it’s going to be dirt slow, unless it’s running Win95 (and even then won’t be especially peppy).”

      I was running Windows 95 in 1995 on a 486 with 8MB of RAM. 16MB was top end those days. Windows 98 came out when 32MB was the norm, 128 top end. 256 would be way more than enough to keep it peppy.

    140. DomZ says:

      Whoever is calling people Staples shills on here – relax will ya? Of the companies we see on Consumerist regularly Staples looks like an angel compared to most and they’re still worlds ahead of OM and OD in terms of service and prices.

      Also, regardless of whether the RAM can be unseated if you’re going to a big box retailer to get your computer fixed you’re gonna get gouged regardless. Yes, individual freelance techs and mom and pop shops will charge you a lot less but when you go to the Geek Squad, Firedog, Staples, etc you’re pretty much asking for it.

      You don’t go to a mechanic clueless about cars and you don’t bring your computer to a big box retailer.

    141. secretcurse says:

      @topgun: You say you’re a “computer tech” and you don’t know any tools besides off the shelf virus scannners for taking care of a virus? Are you kidding? Most infected machines require manual startup repair and some sort of live-cd environment to run several off the shelf virus scanners so that you can clean the machine without the malicious code running. That’s why virus cleaning costs so much money. People complain about how much Geek Squad charges for this sort of thing, but it’s because I honestly run 5 or 6 hours worth of malware scans as well as cleaning up malicious startup items manually, and using a Windows preinstall enviornment that costs money to develop and maintain. You’re right that sometimes it’s easier to just reinstall Windows, but a majority of my customers don’t want to lose their data, they want their computer back the way they had it before the infections.

    142. Scatter says:

      I’ll let everyone in on another little secret.

      The Staples FREE PC-Tune-Up really doesn’t do a whole lot. Here’s what is done;

      * Run System Analyzer – A scanner powered by Spy Sweeper that does an inventory of your PC, checks the status of security software and scans for (but doesn’t remove) spyware.

      * Run Norton Windows Doctor if the PC is Windows XP

      * Run Norton cleanup to remove all temporary files

      * Defragment the hard drive

      * Open the Pc and remove all dust build-up. YES the PC case IS generally cracked during a Tune-Up though this step would normally be skipped if the PC wouldn’t initially boot.

      That’s it. That’s pretty much a PC-Tune-up.

      The entire purpose of the service honestly it is to get the customer’s PC in the door which is usually the hardest part of the repair process.

      Once the PC comes in we make our money by upselling various parts and services. The sad truth is that most PC’s that come in have expired or NO internet security software and a many of them already have infections because of this. Other computers are running Windows XP with 256mb of RAM and wonder why their kid’s SIMMS runs so slow.

      So yeah, we try to upsell everything we can but most of us also try to be honest with our customers and wouldn’t recommend 4gb of RAM to the old lady who uses their PC to read the news and send email.

    143. barty says:

      @masonreloaded: Err…not really. If you’ve worked on enough computers, you’ll come across one in an every great while that will have a memory module unseated for whatever reason. I’ve even seen some that were visibly unseated before, but I suspect most of those were due to someone poking around inside the computer before I got my hands on it. Then there’s just the plain weird stuff you run across. In my 10 years of working on PCs, its safe to say that I’ve probably seen or heard of any way a computer could be broken.

      This is in the league of something I’d probably charge about $150 for, which includes the price of the RAM. Most of it would be for the virus removal, which is a pain in the butt sometimes. Typically I don’t charge anyone more than about $15-20 to install something like RAM or any other piece of hardware that doesn’t require any work in Windows. Its just stupidly simple to do and my low price keeps those people loyal and gets me a fair number of referrals.

    144. barty says:

      @youbastid: 256 really isn’t enough for XP and is pushing it for 2000. It isn’t so much the amount of physical memory it uses, but rather the amount of paging you get with that little RAM. 512 is good for most folks who are just going to be using e-mail and the web. However, memory is so cheap these days that it is not much more expensive to upgrade someone to 1GB or more.

    145. marsneedsrabbits says:

      From Bob MacDonald’s letter:
      (Removing a virus can be a lengthy and difficult process, and off-the-shelf virus programs are generally useless when the machine is already infected.)

      So you’re saying that the two pages (18 hits) of various anti-virus programs that Staples sells for up to $79.99 on it’s web page are “generally useless” (to use your precise term) and that the advertisement on your web page that they “removes viruses” is a lie?

      Thanks for the tip.

    146. IndyJaws says:

      @youbastid: My bad…meant to put Win2K. I agree, 256 would be fine for 95 or 98 (or, God forbid, ME).

    147. ogremustcrush says:

      Ram can become unseated in transport. I have seen it many times in the past. However, the ram doesn’t physically move from the slot. It remains clipped in. It just loses an acceptable electrical connection. Removing it and reinstalling it fixes the problem. I have had this happen to my own system as well as those I have worked on.

    148. timd1969 says:

      I thought that Staple’s response seemed reasonable until I read “Removing a virus can be a lengthy and difficult process, and off-the-shelf virus programs are generally useless when the machine is already infected.” So is Staples admitting that they are in the business of selling software that doesn’t work as advertised?

    149. mgy says:

      In this day and age of cheap storage, I rarely sit around attempting to weed out viruses infecting customer’s machines. To them, they want their machine back and in working order as fast they can possibly get it. No one wants it sitting in some back room at a big box store for 3-4 weeks. Instead, I tell them how to back up their important stuff, scan it for viruses, reinstall their operating system, and put their information back on. They’re back up in 3-4 hours.

      People appreciate this approach, and the purchase of an external hard drive and learning to do frequent backups is something that people are willing and able to do – they just need to be taught. Of course, many techs worry about the files being backed up being infected, but rarely, if ever in my experience, have I seen the case where music, pictures, documents or movies have been the culprit for a virus/popup/corrupted windows machine. That’s all that kids these days want, anyways.

    150. KogeLiz says:

      I never actually thought Staples was taking advantage of the elderly. I kinda figured it was just another tabloid-style headline.

      With that said, that’s how much large retail stores charge for these types of repairs. I don’t think it had anything to do with the random employee trying to “rip off” the customer.

      I mean, if I went to get my car repaired, of course it will cost more than if I had myself or a friend do it.

    151. timd1969 says:

      Someone please submit this story to the anti-virus makers’ PR departments. I wonder how they will feel about Staples claiming that their products, which Staples sells, don’t work. If I were Norton or McAfee, I think that I would reconsider how much promotional money gets sent to Staples to fund their various rebate promotions.

    152. Cicatriz says:

      To all you jackasses saying that he could do it cheaper elsewhere, you need to put things into perspective. This elderly gentleman bought a computer for personal use, and clearly has absolutely no idea on how to repair it. Sure, he could order his ram on newegg (if he knew what ram was — which I doubt) by using his credit card on his infected computer. That’s a brilliant solution. It would save him potentially $40 on ram, and maybe get his visa number stolen. To make said purchase, he would have to determine on his own the type of ram, how to install it, and then actually do the installation. Think about that now. This man opted for a FREE TUNE-UP AT STAPLES.

      He does not know anything about computers, and that would be far more hassle than it’s worth. To all those saying staples should have suggested AVG, it’s free, but the store is not allowed to use it. Word came down from above while I was working at staples that it had become an issue because technicians were putting trial, shareware or freeware software on people’s computers to run diagnostics, antivirus, etc. It became an issue, so it’s store policy that we are not allowed to use those software options for the services. Staples sells anti-virus. They’re not going to tell a man to go get the free one instead of buying it off the STORE HE’S RECEIVING A SERVICE FROM.

      These technician services are available at stores like staples because not everyone lives in their mother’s basement and spends their leisure time on a computer. To a lot of people, it’s an easy job. To the elderly man, he may as well have been working on a car, because he would not have had a clue as to what to do to fix his computer.

    153. nycaviation says:

      “PS – Please let me know the best way to get this posted in a prominent location on your site.” = We’d like to send you a check if you publish this letter on your blogger machinerator.

    154. TheAdmiral says:

      I had worked for Staples during their previous entry into PC repair work (which they discontinued at all stores due to mishandling of the business model) all the way through the launch of EasyTech. I can honestly say that they do anything possible to make the customer happy, including a full refund if the service doesn’t meet expectations. Unfortunately, this occurs frequently, as the lack of training beyond how to make sales is appalling. The only correction I have to Mr. MacDonald’s rebuttal is that EasyTechs are only provided with off-the-shelf antivirus software (Norton rebranded for Staples) as of the time we parted ways. I was a little surprised to see the original story posted because the Staples culture I remember was a very honest one. Staples: Out to screw customers? NO. Room for improvement? DEFINITELY!

    155. algormortis says:

      @Cicatriz: “These technician services are available at stores like staples because not everyone lives in their mother’s basement and spends their leisure time on a computer.”

      No, actually, i live in the ghetto and work 70-75 hours a week. Leisure time is thus spent far from computers and often asleep. However, i know plenty of people who fit that description who don’t know the first thing about fixing computers. If you’re going to try to slag people do be more artistic in doing so.

    156. SomeoneGNU says:

      In response to anti-virus software being useless in removing viruses:

      This is true in MANY cases. Anti-virus software generally does better at preventing the infection then cleaning it. I had a computer with Vundo on it and Symantec and AVG could not get it removed. It was finally removed with a lot of manual intervention and technical knowledge.

      Protecting from viruses – most software does a decent to a great job. Cleaning? Downright useless to ok depending on the severity of the infection.

    157. invader-zim says:

      staples doesnt charge by the hour, they charge by the job. $90 for virus removal, $30 for ram installation. You might say that this is excessive, but consider that they’re paying $90 for a job that may take 2-3 hours. They’re not charging PER VIRUS, they’re charging for full virus removal. This fee is not excessive, especially if they’re removing 3 or 4 viruses (and lets face it, if you’ve got one, chances are you’ve got many). $30 for ram seems high, but they’re taking on the liability of any problems that may occur… in other words, if your computer breaks, they’re liable. So $30 is reasonable (come on people, labor, insurance, etc. If you’ve worked in a corporate retail environment, this is not outrageous). Also, Staples isnt New Egg. They have employees who they have to pay, so naturally, their ram prices will be higher. $50 on new egg, $80 in Staples.

      RAM LINK:

      so that’s $120 in labor, $85 in parts after tax… $205 so far… and that’s assuming that the ram is $85. If it was older, SD RAM is still more expensive, and depending on the computer, 1GB may have been 2 sticks of 512, which would also be higher in price.

      Finally… I’ve worked on computers off and on, and I’ve certainly seen RAM come unseated without the aid of a person. YES, it can happen in a car. If the man (or perhaps a child or grandchild of the man) looked at the RAM, they may not have snapped the ram into place. I cant tell you how many times I’ve seen that.

      I dont mean to defend Staples, but I am trying to defend the Tech… It’s not fair to assume that he was taking advantage of the man, my guess is that he was just doing his job.

    158. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

      This is actually a fairly reasonable rebuttal. Picture this:

      Customer: “It was slow, but I used to be able to check my email and look at the internet. Since you guys got done with it, I can’t even do that anymore”
      Clerk: “Our records show you had several problems that you chose not to fix. Your email and internet troubles are likely the result of you leaving them untreated.”
      Customer: “No, you don’t understand, it’s not working at….”
      Helpful Stranger, interrupting: “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear…

      Original: “He explained that his computer had worked well enough for e-mail and web surfing, but after he took it in for the free diagnostic it wouldn’t start up anymore…”
      Bob’s Version:“… customer brought his computer back to the store and spoke to our tech, stating that his computer was still slow and that now his email and internet were not working…”

      Not bad, except for the “stating that his computer was still slow” bit. I suspect that this is a bit of confabulation (or outright CYA lying)that got added somewhere in the Staples chain of command. Maybe by Bob himself, since he later demonstrates his willingness to play fast and loose with the facts:

      Bob:“there is absolutely no evidence supporting the most spectacular charge in the post – that the computer was opened and the RAM intentionally removed in order to provide a cover for bogus charges.”

      Here’s The “charge” that Bob is talking about: “Since he had never opened the PC case up, there was only one explanation: While rummaging inside his computer, a technician had (accidentally or on purpose) hit the button and caused the damage that they were now trying to charge him $390+tax to fix”

      I don’t know if you’re being intentionally dishonest here, Bob, or if you actually think that your description is an accurate characterization of what he wrote. Either way, that’s exactly the kind of crap that makes you less credible than the original story.

    159. invader-zim says:

      Obviously the RAM WAS unseated.

      Bob may have made a mistake when he said it could have happened in transport. He should have known that this community is eager to jump all over anything like that. But he wasnt saying that it’s HOW it happened, only offering a suggestion… I think the main point is that there is no reason to suspect that it was the Tech. Really, the EasyTech shouldnt have even opened the computer, its not necessary to tell what kind or how much ram is inside a computer…

      So we can jump on that “transport” comment all we want, but we’re missing his point.

    160. Alex Brewer says:

      I’m not a pc-repair technician, but I consider myself an advanced user from a hardware and software standpoint. About two months ago my parents’ desktop inexplicably stopped working. The bios would load and then just hang. The RAM had become a bit unseated, and after reseating it, the problem disappeared. This desktop has been in use since 2002, but had never been moved in a car, only pulled in and out of a cabinet. It is not impossible, or even improbably, that his computer’s RAM became unseated. I have also heard first hand from friends who have flown with their custom built desktops that the RAM has become unseated and even become loose inside the case, though that’s while being jostled by baggage handlers. Incidentally, NEVER check your computer when you fly; it’s a terrible idea.

      I’m going to give Staple’s the benefit of the doubt in this case. If you knew *my* grandpa, you’d feel bad for them. Old men can be crazy and unfair to companies that make mistakes or aren’t on the same level as them.

    161. StevieD says:

      Having removed a virus or two in my time, unless you are willing to perform a reformat the removal of some viruses will take an Act of God to completely remove all traces of the virus.

      Off the shelf (commercial) products can work, and free stuff can work, but not all products work on all viruses and sometimes even a combination of products will not work.

      At the same time I doubt any “special” Staples product is going to work any better. Some viruses just embed themselves way too deep into the registry and backup files to be easily cleaned.

      So what is a fair price for any business to perform virus-malware-trojan etc cleaning of a computer? Based upon best cases scenarios I would say $25 for 5 minutes of work the consumer should have done themselves up to several hundreds of dollars for the hours that I will spend cleaning the computer…. at which point just reformat the sucker and move on.

      $75 from Staples seems to be a reasonable balance between the extremes, and I bet for most customers the fee is quite appropriate.

    162. marsneedsrabbits says:


      Protecting from viruses – most software does a decent to a great job. Cleaning? Downright useless to ok depending on the severity of the infection.

      Let’s say you are 100% absolutely correct.

      Why, then does the Staples website advertise products that “remove(s) viruses” if they cannot actually, you know, actually remove viruses?

      Why does Staples sell a product (for as high as $79.99) that Bob from Staples says “are generally useless when the machine is already infected”.

      Those are Bob’s words, not mine.

    163. He said that the $243 was the charge for the first visit. The $390 charge was allegedly for the second visit, which prompted the customer intervention. The Staples note does not take that into account and spins it such that the $243 was the charge in question at the time of the second visit.

    164. trujunglist says:

      There’s a difference between simply reseating RAM because it’s not being detected or causing problems (recently happened to me) and the RAM popping out of it’s slot because clips weren’t engaged. Anyone who has installed RAM knows that it’s not like putting a key in a hole… you have to ram the RAM in there to the point where someone new to it may think they’re damaging the computer.
      So, since those of us who have installed RAM know that it takes quite a bit of force to make it actually “pop” into the slot, then surely we know that it would take a ridiculous amount of jostling during transportation to make it “pop” out, even without clips engaged.

    165. SomeoneGNU says:


      Symantec, AVG, McAfee, they *DO* remove viruses, just not well. Simple viruses? They do great. Removing something like a word macro virus, it’ll clean it right up. A virus like Vundo? I have yet to see any product(except utilities written specifically for Vundo) successfully remove it or its thousand strains.

      So let’s review a few things here:
      1. Anti-Virus software is a very good tool at keeping yourself from GETTING infected.

      2. Anti-Virus software DOES remove viruses, and in some cases, does it well. However, a manual sweep or specialized tools generally will do a better job.

      3. Depending on the infection(and with most modern viruses I’m seeing this tends to be the case) anti-virus software is generally useless.

      4. AV software’s defintion of “removing” a virus is often just making sure it’s not running. Most do a less than stellar job of cleaning up the damage.

      Anti-virus software is a lot like a condom. Its strength is in keeping you STD free, but once you end up with one pennacillin is generally a better treatment plan. But the analogy is NOT perfect because, unlike a condom, the AV software does give you a chance at removing the virus.

      Generally useless? I would agree with Bob. Completely useless? No. Is Staples misselling a product? If they are so are every computer store I’ve seen that offers the exact same product. And that means your beef isn’t with Staples but with computer stores in general.

    166. WraithSama says:

      To you people plugging antivirus programs you paid for, allow me to retort with Avast! Antivirus. Yes, the name is stupid, but it’s free for home use and and is more efficient and less intrusive than most other solutions. It checks your startup data and memory, and then scans active memory, stopping viruses as they attempt to load. It’s also light on resource usage. They update the virus database daily, and the updates occur automatically without you having to do a thing.

      Pair that with ZoneAlarm, an excellent user-friendly software-based firewall that also happens to be free, and I’ve had no virus/spyware problems since.

      When you do have spyware problems, you can’t beat Spybot Search & Destory (also free).

    167. chazz says:

      Another example of an under investgated claim by a person who just sends in a story. Just keep in mind this is not Journalism and you won’t get too upset.

    168. Logan26 says:


      Exactly, that VP is is so full of shit and so is anyone else who thinks ram can just simply come loose on its own. It takes a good deal of force to let one out.

    169. Logan26 says:

      Secondly, I have my doubts he even knows what the inside of a computer loks like , let alone how to repair, upgrade or even build one from scratch.

    170. miburo says:

      I used to work in a tech shop and old computers like that that have a virus is a nightmare. 1 virus usually means more than 1. And anything slow usually means tons of spyware. BTW when a customer pays for a service it usually means you have to clean it FULLY. If you never been a tech you don’t know what it means to do that.

      Judging from the 256 Ram.. probably win 98 se or ME…

      If I were the tech i would just tell the guy it would be more worth it to get a new computer. (of course i would probably get fired for turning a customer away)

      If that cost is really industry standard what is the guy going to do? “Hey i’ll give you half price for no reason?”

    171. drharris says:

      I’m a former IT guy, and Staples is one of the few chain stores I’d recommend to people without technical expertise. In my experience, they are more knowledgeable than Geek Squad or CompUSA or any of those. Now, in this man’s case, most of what was described is straight labor, which is only $75/hour elsewhere. A competent tech could perform both the RAM upgrade and virus/spyware removals in a single hour, 2 maximum. I estimate he could have gotten a better deal for between $100-180 at a private place. So Staples isn’t incredibly pricier, all things considered. I agree with the commenter way above that said people like this should own a Mac. It just makes things easier for people.

    172. krom says:

      The RAM unseating line is bullshit. Anyone who’s tried to upgrade their RAM and tried to yank it out after forgetting to press the tabs on either end knows this, too.

      If it was put in right in the first place, it doesn’t become unseated. The only way it could happen is if the RAM installer was too inept to push in the RAM until both tabs clicked closed.

    173. sgodun says:

      @krom: If it was put in right in the first place, it doesn’t become unseated.

      Right — IF it was put in right in the first place. It is very possible that the memory could have been put in WRONG in the first place, but the computer would still recognize and use it. It is PERFECTLY feasible that the memory wasn’t installed correctly from the factory (i.e., the tabs weren’t engaged) but the memory was installed “good enough” that the computer could see/use it. I’ve seen it happen many times.

    174. greenpepper says:

      I’ll chip in here. I agree with the Staples version. It’s an old PC, a customer who probably needs some help setting up, disconnecting and transporting the dinasour. And it sounds like the kind of repair that doesn’t require rocket science knowledge

      Things go wrong. He sought help. He refused it. He transported the PC repeatedly. What’s he expect?

      Staples, around here, is pretty decent with stuff.

    175. CharlieSeattle says:

      @Logan26: No it doesn’t. I’ve seen ram that was seated just enough and the tab not fully engaged function. Then a slight bump or a move unseats it. What the hell is wrong with you people? Just because you’ve never seen it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. If you’ve never been in a car accident, does that mean it doesn’t happen?

    176. FuriousGeorge160 says:

      I have seen many computers that don’t have the clips, and have had to take computers apart before to reconnect all sorts of cards that are more or less the same thing as RAM slots….

      I don’t know. That’s still a pretty large mark-up, but I have had the pleasure once or twice ( At Best Buy of all places!!) of an employee telling me step by step what I needed to buy and do instead of leaving it with someone to fix.

      the fact that it says “bilk” will bother me for a good while.
      OCD of me?

    177. Simpoleca says:

      The funny part is… these Staples/Best Buy/Future Shop techs receive bonuses once certain dollar figures are reached on a quarterly basis.. the more they bilk from customers the more bonus cash they make if they hit their sales targets… These targets are spelled out in the stores P&L statements.. these bonuses dont include Spiffs etc. that are pushed and earn the techs extra $$


    178. tk427 says:

      Ok, this is what the elderly gentleman heard when he brought his computer in for a free tuneup:

      “blah, blah, blah, mumbo-jumbo, $390 !?!

      This is an elderly gentleman and – I admit to a wild guess here – just wants to be able to see the email from his son/daughter with a picture of his grandchild attached.

    179. Crymson_77 says:

      @CharlieSeattle: If you are paying more for older memory, you are being had. I can pick up a 1GB stick of “older” memory for a heck of a lot less than something new. On the order of $50 or more less than “current” memory. Try or….save yourself some money…

      As for the virus problem…poor guy should have headed over to Fry’s and bought a new system for $400. Better system, running faster, with no viruses. If he was dead set on keeping it, having a local kid you trust do the work of a full backup/reload would be highly worth it. Heck, if he was really that old I would have done it for free for the guy.

    180. dweebster says:

      @IndyJaws: Excellent points. Although I’m not really clear now whether the quote was for $250 or $400, skilled technical work and parts are generally not offered for free, especially at large corporate store that most everyone expects is there to turn a profit of some sort.

      I personally HATE messing around with old machines that novice users have managed to get infested with trojans and spyware and viruses. It’s basically a situation that I’ll “lose” whether I charge or give it away free – as soon as I touch the keyboard there’s someone they can blame when they do their next boneheaded thing that created a problem. Giving away or charging for an hour implies several free hours of help unrelated to that issue with some people. AND – you’re a bad guy if you tell them they need to install and keep up-to-date virus protection, patches, a firewall, not go to certain sites, or otherwise change their behavior so their computer will work well.

      Not knowing the true situation here, I’ll actually give Staples some credit for responding and bringing up that more reasonable figure of $243. If “repairs” were that expensive, I’d either encourage the old guy to find a high school nerd to clean it and install some RAM, or tell him to consider a new sub-$500 machine if it was a few years old. Just like a car, there are diminishing returns on keeping an old klunker functional.

      That said, that RAM “chip creep” story seems fishy – someone’s full of it. It probably happens somewhere in the world, but I’ve never experienced it on anything I’ve seen. The store had it booted up to test it, so somehow this RAM was unseated between then and the time it made it home? Very, very unlikely – although if Staples was inside cleaning it (and didn’t boot up afterward) it’s possible that the canned air or nozzle hit the RAM clip. But I’d expect standard protocol would be to boot it up after a cleaning. As much as I hate to side with a corporate Big Box, Staples seems to run a cleaner ship than most and I think the truth is somewhere between this letter and the OP.

      Bottom line – if your car mechanic’s shop will fix anything for free/cost, then maybe expecting Staples to do the same is a reasonable assumption for you. Mine doesn’t.

    181. Crymson_77 says:

      A tech worth his salt would have walked the guy over to the new computer section and offered to transfer the guy’s files for free or at a very MINIMAL charge.

    182. dweebster says:

      @greenpepper: Well said.

    183. Scatter says:


      Way to be argumentative just for the sake of it.

      Anti-virus and spyware software is generally good preventive maintenance software but once you let your definitions expire and get hit by a virus or some other threat they’re all pretty much useless.

      Once you’re infected the roles reverse and many forms of spyware will actually protect itself prevent you from installing Internet Security software. Sure us geeks can usually fix this problem pretty easily but the average PC user has no clue what to do and rely on professionals to perform the service for them.

    184. Scatter says:


      I think that pretty much every retail and sales job in the nation provides some sort of bonus if you hit a certain goal but that doesn’t mean that all sales reps are dishonest.

    185. AustinTXProgrammer says:

      I’ve done enough corporate and individual IT work that RAM coming unseated doesn’t surprise me at all.

      I’ve had it happen when I’ve moved computers (home built, Intel motherboards), or when new equipment was shipped from Dell.

    186. ClankBoomSteam says:


      You’re either lying, misinformed, stupid, or all three. Let’s go ahead and assume that you’re not lying, and look at the “facts”:

      1) The customer’s previous dealings with Staples are not germane to the discussion, and it only serves the purposes of defending Staples’ reputation by making a customer look stupid. Throwing your customers under the bus is not exactly having the desired effect however, since it only exposes your company’s unwillingness to see reason.

      2) Asking the store’s employees whether they attempted to rook a customer, and taking them at their word when they tell you no, does not constitute an investigation of the situation. Your insistence that the services in question only cost $243 betrays your blind allegiance to your company; has it occurred to you that the employees could have TOLD this gentleman that the services would come to $390, with the intention of pocketing the excess? Clearly not.

      3) Additional RAM, while helpful for just about any computer’s performance, is not called for in the case of repairing a computer infected with a trojan. It will do nothing in terms of defending the computer from other viruses, and it will do nothing in terms of removing the current one. Attempting to convince an elderly man otherwise is a blatant and crass up-sell attempt on your company’s part, pure and simple.

      4) A bank of RAM will absolutely NOT “easily become unseated in the course of transporting a computer” — whoever told you this is, again, either lying, misinformed, stupid, or all three. RAM requires a specific set of actions to even partially unseat it, and it’s patently impossible under normal circumstances for it to come loose without the intervention of a human hand — a hand like, say, one that belongs to a Staples employee. A bank of RAM might come loose if you’re transporting it in a paint shaker, but it WILL NOT HAPPEN “in the course of transport”. Period.

      5) Since a bank of RAM will not come loose without human intervention, this raises an important question: when PRECISELY was it that this customer gave his consent for Staples to physically open his computer? If it was a known factor that his computer had a virus, it seems to me that Staples already knew the problem was SOFTWARE based; Staples had no reason to open this man’s computer. This, of course, leads me back to the whole “taking your employees at their word” thing.

      Your position doesn’t hold water Mr. MacDonald, and it sounds to me like you’re not doing your job (except for the “protecting Staples’ interests” part, of course. Since it has to be one of these three options, I challenge you, Mr. MacDonald, to answer this simple question:


      I await your reply.

    187. Rachacha says:

      Couple thoughts on this:

      The Storm.gen trojan that was apparently on the system sounds pretty nasty: [] and to get rid of it 100% would probably require a drive format & system re-install (Sure a virus software might be able to remove the virus, but it may have damaged some system files that would allow another virus/trojan easy access to the system so the owner would probably be re-infected in a week.).

      If the system had only 256M of ram, it was probably a rather old system, and may not be worth investing additional money for more RAM. It really depends on what this guy was using the system for…surfing the net and E-mail Win-XP and 256M RAM may be fine. With that being said, when you start talking about investing $250-300 in an older system loaded with spyware/viruses, I may have just said F%#$ it and bought a new system.

    188. rjhiggins says:

      @marsneedsrabbits: Have you worked on viruses? Some are removed quite easily by anti-virus software, so Staples can certainly make the claim that the software “removes viruses.”

      Other viruses are impossible to totally remove. But they don’t claim on their site that their software removes EVERY virus, so your careful parsing of Bob’s letter is invalid. As it is, he actually looks a lot smarter than you.

    189. rjhiggins says:

      @algormortis: I think what he’s saying is, “Since Consumerist loves to post these one-sided pieces without bothering to ask for a response from the other side, the least you could do is make room for my letter. After all, I didn’t just blow off the complaint; I investigated and here’s what I found out.”

      I like a lot of things about Consumerist, but I get annoyed that its editors are too lazy to make a simple phone call before posting as fact something that is as questionable as the original posting.

    190. rjhiggins says:

      @ClankBoomSteam: Long-winded, pointless post.

    191. PaulS says:

      Usually I love ‘The Consumerist’, but I gotta side with staples here.

      I don’t know what a $40 tune-up covers, but anti-virus removal is not part of it. I work for a small shop that does repair as part of our business, and I’ve never seen anti-virus removal for less than $300-$400.

      In fact, if we can recover the data we usually recommend a full-on reformat drive/reinstall OS/recover data/, which we sometimes _have to do_ anyway, for $100. (+ a little extra if they want us to install apps for them)

      Somebody like this should get a mac. When I fix my friends’ computers, I usually start out by asking “when’s the last time you did windows updates?”. If I get a blank stare, then I recommend a mac.

    192. fishing-ace says:

      i’ve always had good experiences with staples (unlike evil office depot), but this story is still hard to swallow… ramdoes not just pop out.

    193. krom says:

      Another bit that’s odd to me:

      off-the-shelf virus programs are generally useless when the machine is already infected.

      Um. What? That’s exactly what virus software is supposed to do. Is he confusing virus removal software with virus prevention software?

      And if that’s even true, what was Staples planning to do instead?

    194. theneilcave says:

      I think 243 bucks to fix all that is expensive- but factor in big box stores high prices for computer parts like ram and the fact that virus removal CAN take a long time it’s not necessarily unreasonable. Like others have mentioned, if you can’t do it yourself it’s gonna cost you.

      Also, sometimes RAM does come unseated sometimes. This machine only had 256 MB of ram so it’s probly pretty old… Who knows how many times that machine has been moved? Maybe it got knocked a little out, and vibration handled the rest.

    195. shor0814 says:

      A couple of things that I notice seem fishy in the rebuttal:

      Staples has specially designed spyware removal software? They refer to this particular worm as Storm.Gen, and a quick search of Google reveals only Webroot as referring to the trojan as Storm.Gen.Y, so if I were betting, I would bet that Staples gets their software from Webroot.

      The Storm worm is easily removed, by hand if necessary.

      Storm attacks Win2K and above. Any competent tech would notice that a Win2K+ machine running 256MB of RAM would seem odd, and would open the cover to check the RAM. My first assumption would be 2×256 MB and one is missing, defective, or broke. If the tech didn’t open the cover to look, bad for Staples.

      Upon seeing a single stick of RAM, I would pull the stick and look at the label. I have seen situations where someone placed more RAM in the machine than the BIOS could address, so I would look at the labeled capacity.

      I find it almost impossible to unseat DDR SDRAM by moving the computer. I suppose it has happened, but I doubt it in this case. More likely, it wasn’t re-seated. No big deal, it happens, re-seat it and stop blaming the customer for that one.

      To quote Bob: “the degrading performance was probably due to the viruses that were still on the machine”
      Bob, Virus, or viruses? You only indicated a single trojan, no mention of any others.

      And “Removing a virus can be a lengthy and difficult process, and off-the-shelf virus programs are generally useless when the machine is already infected” is completely false. How else does one remove a virus? Virus removal is correctly done with software NOT on the computer, you know, so the AV software itself doesn’t get infected.

      Furthermore, if AV software is useless, then why sell it?

      The worst part for you, I agree, the customer should have the trojan removed, and should have more RAM. I won’t even argue your prices, they are what they are.

      That said, I won’t be a Staples customer in any way, shape, or form with your attitude. I can deal with disagreeing with a customer, but how could I trust any of your tech’s if I their upper management blows smoke as badly as you do.

    196. argosreality says:

      1.) RAM can easily be dislodged during shipping or transport. Do a rollout of hundreds of desktops and/or servers. I’d lay better than even odds that quite a few of them will require reseats of memory modules.

      2.) Even CPU heatsinks/fans can become dislodged; especially with the newer, heavier solid copper/copper core units. Aftermarket heatsinks are even more likely unless they bolt through the motherboard

      3.) Staples and most other B&M stores charge rather high prices for memory…unless its on sale. Obviously, the memory here wasn’t onsale. $80-100 for 1Gb of older memory at these stores isn’t uncommon. High? Yes, silly; no. They sell far, far more when they go on sale (once or twice a month). They’ll probably charge $20-40 for installing it too. Again, high? Yes but the work is warrantied as well. If they break something else while doing it; they fix it or replace the machine. Your neighbors kid doesn’t offer that kind of promise.

      4.) AV software in most cases will not install, or repair, most heavily infected machines. You’d have to boot off CD/DVD or pull the drive and work from another machine to get a decent chance at removing most infections now adays. Norton, Kasperskey, et al generally suck with adware/spyware/malware whatever you want to call it as well. Those often require more manual work which takes quite a while. Most of them have also gotten more malicious and dirty as of late with constant changes that the virus and malware databases aren’t being updated to catch quick enough. $80-100 flat fee isn’t out of line to charge for something like that. I’d charge quite a bit more. It’s YOUR fault the machine got infected, now its my job to clean it. Its not cheap either. Drive your car without oil and blow the motor? Yea, its your fault and you’ll pay for it.

      I’m glad to see atleast a response from Staples was posted though I’d imagine most people reading it have already made up their minds (instant guilt on the corporations part)

    197. shor0814 says:

      I agree with all of your comments, the only nit-pick I have is that part of the service is dust removal, so they had to remove the cover. Which is probably when the tech looked at the memory stick. Again, no big deal if he didn’t fully re-seat it, just apologize and be done with it.

    198. spamtasticus says:

      I won’t dispute any of the other points in both posts because it’s he said she said. But I have been a computer Geek well… since the Apple II days. Ram, can unseat itself through travel. Specially if it was not properly seated in the first place. I had a company where we shipped and set up touchscreen kiosks to most of the large universities around the US. Each one had 5 computers inside. One of the steps for the installer was to open the computer and make sure the ram was still properly seated in the slots.

    199. cpsterndog says:

      Although my opinions may be assumed by some to be completely biased, as I in the past have worked as a Staples EasyTech, I give you all my word that I write with complete sincerity and honesty.

      ClankBoomSteam, in case you are not aware, all customers who have technical work done at Staples are required (before any services are performed) to sign a release with their complete contact information and an itemized list with individual prices of the services provided and the hardware or software purchased, with a clear subtotal marked. Also, all technical services are itemized with the price on the receipt the customer receives. It is incredibly unlikely that a dishonest employee would attempt to steal from a customer in this manner; there are simply too many ways that a customer could easily be aware that the numbers simply do not add up.

      As a tech, I think we should also reiterate the point that virus removals are an expensive service because they are potentially incredibly time consuming. When work at Staples, often times I would be able to tell simply from the System Analyzer that a removal would be a lengthy one, based on number and type of malware. The flat rate is there (I assume) because a by-the-hour rate would not fly well with the customers, along with the complexity of trying to honestly and accurately record time spent in an environment of multitasking and an emphasis on customer service. During my time as an Easytech, I saw MANY virus-infected PCs come in, and I can honestly say that in-store price we charged would almost always be worth every penny versus charging on a per-hourly basis.

      We as online readers can’t know for a fact how the RAM got loose. It is possible that the employee maliciously removed it, although I find this unlikely because neither employees or managers make any kind of sales incentive when selling tech services (or anything else for that matter). The free PC tune up does include a physical PC cleaning, and memory may have been loosened unintentionally during that service. Or it may have taken a hit being put in or taken out of the car. We simply do not know.

      Ultimately, if the associate was dishonest, he deserves to be punished/fired. Staples, in the years I worked there, was a very ethical company that would never support dishonest actions. Did I know certain dishonest individuals? Absolutely. But the company in practice and as a culture always stressed honesty and service to our customers.

      Just my thoughts, please feel free to comment or question. If you do, please just don’t do so in a way that makes anyone look like a 5-year old.

    200. Michael Belisle says:

      Finding a kid to do your work or buying a mac is great advice. But in this case, I say that Staples has a plausible explanation. Will we get a counter-response from the OP?

      @cosby: @david.c: @mikelotus: I concur. I once lost an unpatched Windows 2000 partition almost as soon as I plugged it into the internet. Before the patches finished downloading, I caught a malware-installing trojan that wouldn’t let me install McAfee or update the system without a fight.

      I eventually cleaned the system, but it was pretty much fubar at that point and I gave the partition its last rites.

      @27spots: @BuddyGuyMontag: The operative words are “already infected”. The off-the-shelf programs are great at prevention (so long as they’re current) but are useless against many pre-existing conditions.

    201. emt888 says:

      “Contrary to assertions in the blog, a bank of RAM can easily become unseated in the course of transporting a computer.”

      Between apartments and various dorms, I’ve moved my computer 11 times including one cross-country move. The last 2 or 3 moves, I was not gentle with my computer as I was looking for an excuse to get a new one, and this never happened to me.

    202. Ecoaster says:

      These free tune-ups are so bogus it’s rediculous. All they do is get your computer on the bench and try to sell you overpriced stuff and services to support their tech department.

      The guy didn’t want or need an upgrade or upsell on his RAM… he wanted the PC back to the way it had always been with the original RAM size- which seemed to have required virus removal and nothing else.

    203. ClankBoomSteam says:

      @rjhiggins: Pointless, substance-free “rebuttal”.

    204. CharlieSeattle says:

      @emt888: Ah so because it hasn’t happened to you, it can’t possibly happen then? How many years have you been in IT?

    205. drjayphd says:

      @Crymson_77: Really? Because I just checked out the price for RAM for my parents’ comp (Dimension 8100, taking PC800 RDRAM) and it’ll cost about $300 to max it out at 2GB. Fairly certain anything recent would be significantly less (and mind you, this system shipped with 128MB installed, with Windows 2000).

    206. Michael Belisle says:

      Life’s most-important questions, answered by commenters on this Consumerist post:

      Q: Can a stick of RAM become unseated?

      A: With 20 yeas and 13 nays, the answer is yes.

      Analysis: This is a stupid argument, which has gone a little something like this:

      – Contrary to assertions in the blog, a bank of RAM can easily become unseated in the course of transporting a computer.

      – NO WAY that RAM would become unseated by itself. They’re *clipped* in place.

      + I can understand how RAM can become unseated. Vibration over time might eventually unseat RAM, which may not have been fully seated originally.

      – This is a rediculous statement. Due to the design of the clips in question the RAM could _NEVER_ be fully seated without also being clipped in place.

      + If the RAM was not seated properly when installed initially, this can certainly happen. RAM is easy to unseat. It not only can become unseated, it’s possible for carbon to build up on the contacts.

      – No RAM is not easy to unseat. I have never experienced RAM coming “unseated”.

      + I have dealt with people personally who’s ram sticks have become unseated. There are too many variables in play for people to run around saying that ram can not become unseated and that is the final answer.

      – I’ve NEVER had RAM come unseated. I’ve never heard of RAM being unseated from carrying around your computer.

      + Everyone insisting that RAM can not and will not ever come out ever ever, you’re wrong. I’ve had to reseat ram in my own machines after moving them from room to room in the past.

      – RAM does not unseat itself. By claiming that it does, the VP shows himself to be uninformed on the subject he is writing about, and puts into question the entirety of his response.

      + Yes, ram CAN become unseated in transport. Read the original post and various responses. In fact, I have seen it happen.

      – The only reason a piece of RAM would “magically” be unseated, especially in the case of newer RAM, is through rough handling of the computer itself.

      + People should know that RAM can become unseated even if it’s clipped in.

      To be fair, someone made a good point. Maybe it was ptrix.

    207. seth1066 says:

      The tech probably took the ram out to verify which replacement stick to look up availability and price. Upon reinstallation he didn’t reseat it properly, either by accident or by design. Of course, the VP leaves the possibility of technician error out of it, blaming the situation on the vague idea that the ram became loose on its own.

    208. Logan26 says:


      If the ram is seated, it will not become unseated without force applied to the clips holdng it in. If the ram is inproperly seated, then yes it can come free but only under that instance, to say otherwise when seated properly is complete and utter bullshit.

    209. Logan26 says:


      You’ve seen ram come unseated that you know for a fact was seated and clipped in place. I find that highly unlikely.

    210. Logan26 says:


      And you are full of shit.

    211. Bonzer says:

      I have worked for a large computer company for 14 years. We ship and deliver orders on many thousands of systems, servers and notebooks per month in 4 countries. Ram can malfuntion and act like it’s not installed or just cause glitches without the end clip being unlocked. I’ve done it to myself by installing a new video card and flexing the motherboard causing parts to shift in their sockets. Only after reseating the apparently fully inserted memory would the system boot. Video cards, network cards and modems, even cpu’s, last gen Xeons were notorious for this, shift around in their sockets imperceptibly. Generally cheap parts are more likely to do this, but any motherboard or ram or add in cards can do it. Sometimes thing just don’t line up perfectly due to tolerances being off or not lined up well during assembly. Cheap cases make the problem worse, especially in shipping. Get a sturdier case if you want to cut this problem down quickly. Use shrinkwrapped palletized
      shipping by truck when possible vs. UPS.

      About viruses and other malware, sometimes you get lucky and get it, especially if you research the best ways to nail a specific infection. Also, run the cleanup program first in regular mode, then run it again in safe mode. I can’t emphasize safe mode enough. Sometimes Registry editors or cleaners help with this too. Don’t mess with the Registry or deleting files or changing their properties at home, kids, especially without a backup, unless you are ready to reinstall the OS from scratch.
      After doing this enough times, you learn if you can fix it in a reasonable time or you actually save time by backing up the data and reloading OS and apps. I always think I’ve seen it all, but every day another new stupid computer trick reminds me nothing is impossible.

    212. Logan26 says:


      When was the last time you been inside a desktop? All desktops have clips to hold ram in place.

    213. Terminal-Alkyne says:

      I like to know why we have so many who put that much faith in the RAM holding hardware.

    214. ClankBoomSteam says:

      @Terminal-Alkyne: Because it’s so rare that it fails; particularly when simply “transporting” one’s computer.

    215. jawacg says:

      Let’s look at it from a different perspective. An older gentleman has a computer that has 256MB of RAM. He brought it in for the free tune up according to Michael the OP (Original Poster). According to Mr. MacDonald, he brought it in for running slowly and having excessive pop ups. Michael never got past the RAM issue and can’t address the particular viruses or how many there are, only overhearing what the tech said about four viruses. Mr. MacDonald only mentions one infection, the Storm worm and indications of two potential (hardware/software?)problems. If there truly was only the the Storm worm, it has nothing to do with pop ups as it tries to blend in the background as much as possible. If it had other problems then wouldn’t it have been more specific than being a potential problem? Both accounts agree on the recommendation of a diagnostic scanning for hardware problems and the recommendation of more RAM. To go with Mr. MacDonald’s account since Michael didn’t get into anything past the RAM, if the free tune up found only problems with virus or trojan infections and the man didn’t have complaints that indicated any hardware issues, why mention the diagnostic scanning or increasing the RAM since he didn’t have any complaints to begin with in the hardware department? Let’s just assume that the RAM came loose with wear over time, random shaking from car or handling, gremlins, anything other than saying that someone accidentally or willfully popped the RAM out. Mr. MacDonald says that the older gentleman had two visits to Staples where Michael didn’t mention it. It could go either way there depending on whom you believe. Both accounts agree seem to agree that there was no money paid to Staples. Mr. MacDonald says that they correctly diagnosed his problems, but we don’t have proof of that and it is his company so we can’t say that is 100% accurate. And then Mr. MacDonald winds up again with their recommendations and the RAM issue. The Consumerist has the comparison with the original post, Staples shop repairs and Staples at home repairs and says they think the 2GB RAM is what was possibly quoted. Here’s what I think, if you are still reading at this point.

      You have an older man who is very tech illiterate with a computer that has functioned sufficiently up to this point.

      He saw/heard an ad for a “free” service. We know why it’s free. To generate paid services. But Staples is a for profit company.

      The tech did his job of diagnosing what they thought the problems were and quoted the Staples appropriate repair/solution along with an upsell of hardware diagnostic test and additional RAM. Why? To generate revenue for Staples and possibly for the tech. Was the RAM and diagnostic scan needed? In my opinion, probably not if the customer didn’t have complaints about the way the computer ran normally.

      If the Consumerist assumption of the 2GB RAM was correct, would it have worked? A computer old/cheap enough to come with 256MB RAM as standard might have not been able to run RAM as high as that.

      Michael was trying to do a good deed and relate a story on the Consumerist and while he might be the smartest guy in that town, we have no assurances of his competence.

      I’m not a computer expert, but I do work in a service industry where misunderstandings and things not completely heard or understood can cause big headaches so I can relate. Also, I agree with some of the commenters that say at even $243 I would consider a new computer for just general browsing and e-mail.

      Last point, I promise. It does seem a little used car salesmanish with that PS add on. Flame on!

    216. Terminal-Alkyne says:

      @ClankBoomSteam: Rare? And this is provable?

    217. ClankBoomSteam says:

      @Terminal-Alkyne: Proving a negative is a fallacious request to make.

      My point is that, clearly, many of us on this thread have a great deal of trouble buying the idea that this guy’s RAM unseated itself, particularly when there is reason to believe that the Staples employees opened up the case on the computer in order to facilitate dust removal ~ a convenient (and more likely) explanation for the condition of the man’s RAM than “it probably just happened on its own”, which is effectively Staples’ official story.

    218. Terminal-Alkyne says:

      @ClankBoomSteam: Well then, do not say that it can not unseat itself.

    219. pfeng says:

      Wow, sounds like they should rename “free tune-up” to “our chance to sell you overpriced equipment and service”

      Nice that Staples got to tell their side of the story, but they’re still pushing overpriced and unnecessary product!

    220. ClankBoomSteam says:

      @Terminal-Alkyne: In my experience it can’t. Ditto for plenty of others here.

      And I hasten to point out that we’re talking about one SPECIFIC instance, here — one in which the MOST LOGICAL POSSIBILITY is that the computer was opened, futzed with, the RAM dislodged as a result (either intentionally or otherwise), then the computer closed up again.

      If you prefer to believe the less logical idea that it “just happened in transport” — possible or not — go right ahead.

    221. BikeRanger says:

      @Hanke: Absolutely. I’ve never seen properly seated RAM unseat itself, but I’ve definitely seen RAM that wasn’t set right to begin with.

      But maybe there’s a middle road to this story: maybe the RAM was loose and maybe the Staples guy caused it, but just out of incompetence, not malice.

      And on another point, part of the reason professionals cost more is that they have more overhead, for example liability insurance and payroll taxes. Pay the neighbor kid, pay a local pro, or pay a big-box with a CEO and a headquarters campus. The local folks will probably give a lot better service, the big-box will give press releases and “customer service” platitudes.

    222. Movado says:

      To Bob MacDonald,

      I like how you call this thing an “episode”. This is not a TV show, which you can fast forward or a case of some mental disease you can take a pill for. Poor service is not an event. You suck, you screwed up, grow some balls and apologize. I think there is a greater likelihood of your brain becoming unseated than a bank of ram so please humor me and give your head a shake a really violent one, like bash it on a wall or something. Thanks for that typical verbal diarrhea, I love it, love corporate america and the brainless VP that spin the mantra.

    223. Michael Belisle says:

      Update! The score is now
      Yes: 22
      No: 17

      The “no it can’t” crowd is clearly gaining. But can they overtake “yes it can”? Oh the drama!

    224. Rode2008 says:

      “Staples repairs” is an anagram for “appeal rests sir”.

      This man’s appeal to Staples Repairs, by virtue of what the anagram tells us……rests – case closed.

    225. jetsetter says:

      this guy’s just plain wrong. the customer got overcharged since Staples’ #1 rule is UPSELL, UPSELL, UPSELL. this guy knows it, and so does all of corporate.

    226. dweebster says:

      @IndyJawscosby: I get my cavities filled by the kid down the street for 1/4th of what that fancy “dentist” guy down the street charges. Even gives me a tube of toothpaste, too. I should stop all those old people from entering that ripoff artist “dentist” office when the kid down the street won’t charge nearly as much. Damn him ripping off the elderly!

    227. Televiper says:

      I am also surprised at the faith people have in DIMM chip clips. They are designed to be low friction, with a simple positive lock mechanism. Above all, they are designed to be cheap and easy to manufacture. Computer desktops are not designed with vibration mind. The mother board is prone to vibration from the fans, and flexing if it’s heating up. Add to the fact that there are many cases where installing the RAM chip is awkward and inelegant.

      Come on people. How often is it recommended that you unplug and plug back in a peripheral card if it’s acting strange? Just do a google search on “unseated ram.”

    228. Televiper says:

      @dweebster: I just think of how often my ‘computer literate’ causin thinks the only solution is an upgrade, or a fresh install of windows. The kid down the street is just as likely to turn your computer into a humming money pit as the guy at Staples.

      My heart really goes out to people who don’t have a good computer person in their lives.

    229. Trumps says:


      wow you think you can remove an virus infections in an hour flat huh? Damn you are good. I have spent 5 hours worth of multiple scans/removals then spent 1-2 hours manually deleting viruses/malware off of PCs.

      Also as a business sense you ALWAYS offer potential upgrades to customers. ESPECIALLY when they desperately need it (laff 256MB with XP)

      RAM can and DOES pop loose during transport. That is why the first thing you do when you get a PC from someone is open the side and make sure nothing is loose.

    230. Trumps says:

      For all the obviously ignorant people who think an off the shelf AV will always work fine when a computer is already infected:


      Potential Issues (take your pick)
      1. Computer cant connect to the internet to update the AVS
      2. AVS won’t install on infected PC
      3. As soon as you install the AVS, it becomes hacked by the virus and useless.

      Most people will run special versions of AVS with the built in updates, or run them off of USB keys with bootable OS. Or even in WinPE with the AVS/updates built into the environment

    231. absentmindedjwc says:

      I met Bob MacDonald once when I worked at staples (an “Easy Tech” like in the article)…. he was a real dick…

      (since then gotten a real job and a college degree, w00t)

    232. clinky says:

      So, let’s distill the “RAM can become unseated”/”RAM can’t become unseated” argument down to basic terms:

      Things break/Things never break.

      A PC is a fairly complicated piece of equipment.

      Thinks break.

      I saw a tire come off of a moving car once. I’ve seen quite a few computers with unseated RAM. Whether or not Staples is run by weasels, things break.

      I’d like to know which magical universe the people live in where things never break and everything works always.

      Things break.

      RAM becomes unseated.

      Live in the now, dudes…

    233. stuny says:

      If Macs are so flawless and foolproof, why are there Genius Bars? @pastabatman:

    234. stuny says:

      So, when the wheel flew off the moving car, who do you think was last one to touch the lug nuts, the certified mechanic from the nationwide auto-repair chain, or the car owner’s neighbor dude who said, “My old man is a television repairman, he’s got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it.”

    235. Logan26 says:

      @Trumps: “RAM can and DOES pop loose during transport. That is why the first thing you do when you get a PC from someone is open the side and make sure nothing is loose.”

      Ram will NOT, read NOT pop out on it own if seated properly in todays machines. If the ram has unseated itself, it was never seated right to begin with.

      @clinky: “RAM becomes unseated.”

      Only if it was improperly set into the machine to begin with.

    236. SandmanET says:


      well first off mcafee and norton suck

      secondly ever store and every tech is different as all we are given is norton scan and clean which no tech uses cause it’s crap.

      personally I use Kaspersky, Webroot (Sophos) w/ AV, and some various tools like smitfraud when needed

      the only other two anti viruses I would use is the corporate symantec av or trend micro

      staples doesn’t sell AVG or PC Tools fyi.

    237. @ClankBoomSteam: Don’t listen to what they tell you. Your post was brilliant. Thank you.

    238. rbear11 says:

      Working with PC’s for a number of years at a local shop I will say that I have seen RAM become dislodged during transport. Does mean that it completely popped out and was floating around the case? Probably not, but it could become dislodged to the point the machine would not boot. This could easily happen if the guy put the puter in the trunk and the unit bounced around..maybe he went over a pothole? We don’t know. I’m going to say this. Despite all of what I’ve read on here, and despite the fact that some of you think that Staples is an ultimate retail evil, they have always been good to me and are very customer focused. Unlike the Geeks, who I’ve had terrible bouts with in the past, they are focused on helping the customer. With that said, give them a break and go after someone that does rip people off regularly like the Geek Squad!

    239. redhelix says:

      @rbear11: I resent that. I worked for Geek Squad for several years. It has become a puppet company of Best Buy; any gouging or bad service you get from them is a product of BBY pricing and bad hiring practices by Best Buy.

    240. Crymson_77 says:

      @drjayphd: I will concede that point. Rambus DRAM has always been outrageously expensive. BUT! it was only in use for a short time because everyone looked at the prices and said, “Just what the hell are you smoking?????” Shortly after, SDRAM came out. Were you using a more standard technology for memory, you would be seeing exactly as I previously stated. Since they got screwed by the ebb and flow of technology…well all I can say for them is that I am sorry that happened. The is even more sad because of the following:


      And btw…that’s older tech too…

      Compare that to:


      And my point is made…

    241. Carey Alexander says:

      We asked if the OP had any response to Staples. This is what he wrote:

      I spent my two hour flight this afternoon trying to come up with a physics force diagram that would pop the RAM out without manual intervention. I can’t do it. I’ve moved dozens of computers, and I’ve even dropped a fair amount of computers (yes, I’m clumsy), and while I’ve broken a lot of things the RAM has never popped out without me working (hard) to get it out. The things are stuck in there very, very well.

      I never said the RAM was popped out on purpose. I said it was popped out, either accidentally or on purpose, but either way my complaint stands: The customer had brought in a slow computer and left the process with a bricked computer, and Staples wanted to charge him for the pleasure. I think it’s understandable why he didn’t want Staples to “fix his problems” because Staples had already, as far as I can tell, made his problems much, much worse.

      People have been most dubious about the prices I used. I tried to double-check what I heard and was later told by the man, but the service list I got from the store didn’t have virus removal listed, for example, and since I totaled all possible charges that had been discussed, the final cost could have likely been lower. Since the customer never bought the services, I don’t know what the final tab would have been.

      What I do know is what prices were discussed. $150 for removal, $150 for RAM, $50 for a diagnostic, and $39.99 for the tune up. I might have been off on the tune up price by $10, as some posters pointed out, because I checked it with older sales literature. The technician said that this “tune up” charge was accidentally included and was being removed, which meant that the charge was at some point there, which was why I included it in the eye-popping total. Some of the charges might also have been waived or rolled into one fee, but if so, the technician was keeping that secret to himself until later.

      I don’t know the technician or Staples corporate culture. I have found many Staples sales staff, managers, and store technicians quite friendly, courteous, and even genuinely interested in customer problems. Given this, I find it unlikely the RAM was popped out on purpose. However, having RAM accidentally popped out is, to a non-tech person, destroying the entire value of the computer. They might as well have thrown it in an electric bath, and that they allowed it to go back to the customer in that condition is grossly negligent, in my opinion. The fact that they then tried to sell the man MORE RAM, when the computer had previously functioned at acceptable levels, was what really angered me. 256mb is not a lot, but it is four times the system requirements to use the only program the man wanted to use: Internet Explorer. While RAM can certainly go bad, there’s no reason to gratuitously throw it at problems that don’t call for it, such as a virus infection, and it was this sales attempt that really irked me.

      The problem is there is very little lay person understanding of how computer virii and PC hardware work. A lot of non-tech people think viruses attack or degrade hardware, or that RAM gets old and slows down, aside from hardware failures. A sales pitch that responds to a virus infection with the suggestion to add more RAM relies, either knowingly or unknowingly, on the conjoining of these two completely separate problems, which is confusing and unfair to an end user. There is an ethical responsibility, particularly with elderly customers, on the part of the selling organization to make clear that these are dealing with two different performance issues, and that they are solving different problems.


      Last e-mail, but there were a lot of questions people had in the comments, which I’d like to address as best as possible:
      The computer was two to three years old, running Windows XP. It was a Gateway. I don’t know how much RAM it had.It was a desktop computer.
      The RAM had holding levers. One was firmly in place, the other was pushed down releasing that side of the RAM. It was not slightly off, but the lever had been almost entirely depressed.
      All work was done in store. The gentleman brought in his computer.
      Once the RAM was back in place, we started the computer and I verified he had active anti-virus software.
      My problem was not with the prices or services offered. My problem was initially with services unrelated to the problem being bundled in a way confusing to the customer, and then that the core problem (hardware had popped out) was not even addressed.
      The e-mail from Mr. MacDonald cleared up a lot for me, actually. My response to his points:
      He never directly addresses the possibility of a tech accidentally knocking the RAM out. Why was the case opened? What kind of internal work was done? Air spraying? Checking the RAM? How is this scenario less likely than it popping out on the way to the store?
      The technician told the gentleman that it was recorded in his logs that the PC couldn’t get through startup. When was this recorded in the logs? Obviously, Staples was able to run the computer correctly for a while, and then it stopped working. Not being able to reach the BIOS means different problems than a virus.
      According to (pro-Staples) reader comments, Staples policy on opening up the computer and looking/cleaning inside is very confused. Some former employees say they never do it, some say they always do. What is that policy? If your own techs down know, how can you be sure mistakes weren’t made?
      The man did not come in complaining his computer was still slow. He came in complaining that it did not work once he got it back from Staples.
      I never said Staples purposefully removed RAM to charge the customer for unneeded services. I wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened. I know that between when the man brought in his computer for a tune up and between when he took it home, he said it stopped working. When it arrived at Staples, it worked, according to MacDonald.

      Any other questions I’m happy to as answer as best I can.

    242. Scatter says:

      The $150 quote for the virus removal was probably including the necessary antivirus software.

      Virus Cleaning = $89.99
      Norton Internet Security = $59.99

      Total for the two = $149.98

    243. Scatter says:

      I can think of a few reasons why a computer case would be opened for a Staples PC tune-up

      The most obvious is that the service includes the removal of dust from the inside of the computer.

      The second reason for opening the case (and I think this is where the RAM incident occurred) is that the Staples System analyzer most likely recognized that the PC only had 256mb of RAM. The tech then probably opened the case to see what kind of RAM it took so that he would be able to quote the customer for the right part. My guess is that when he put it back in he didn’t clip in in all the way. I don’t believe for a second that this was done maliciously but the tech probably denied opening the case out of fear because of all the attention this has received

    244. fashionista says:

      @pastabatman: I consider myself fairly techno savvy (for an end user) and I bought a Mac because I got tired of always cleaning up all the crap that PCs collect (and give out). In order to keep your system running smoothly, you have to install two to three different AV programs, do a system scan to free up hard disk space ever so often, etc., etc. It gets to be more than a pain. I used a Mac throughout college and never should’ve stopped. I wasted good $$$ with Windows based PCs and have absolutely nothing to show for it (save for my nephew who has a decent computer to play games on). I don’t hate to say that I bought a Mac because I’m tired of PCs . In fact, I’d love to shout it from the mountain top!

    245. bunch.of.wackos says:

      Virus removal is a lenghty process??
      run scan, erase corrupted files, restore needed files from disks or
      back ups, re-run scan to make sure you didn’t overlooked anything….
      these guys at staples think everyone is a noob and that they can BS their way out of anything…

    246. Jorel says:

      RAM coming unseated happens all the time. it happened to my computer as well as on my roomie’s. it doesn’t actually come unclipped like the idiots around here are supposing it just is slightly jarred by moving and thus not recognized. you just remove it and put it back in and it works perfectly.

    247. rikkus256 says:

      I see nothing but lies. Oh, and $243 is still a rip off.

    248. lakecountrydave says:

      I ran a quick internet search for the virus that Staples claimed to have already identified on the infected box(storm.gen). It seems that it is a very well known virus that the antivirus companies I checked (Symantec, AVG (which is free) and McAfee claim to detect and repair. I admit that manually removing the worm is probably over the old guys head, but the instructions show that a professional would easily remove it in a couple of minutes. Plus, it does not cause the symptoms described.

      From the Wasington Post (1/19/07) “Storm Worm hits computers around the world”:

      “…most users would not notice the malware, or trojan, which creates a back door to the computer that can be exploited later to steal data or to use the computer to post spam.”

      Manual storm.gen worm removal instructions from F-secure (

      “If Windows 95, 98, and ME operating systems are used, it is recommended to restart a computer from a bootable system diskette and to delete an infected file from command prompt. For example, if a malicious file named ABC.EXE is located in the Windows folder, it is usually enough to type the following command at the command prompt:


      and to press Enter. After that, an infected file will be gone. If Windows NT, 2000 or XP are used, a malicious file has to be renamed with a different extension (for example .VIR) and then a system has to be restarted. After restarting, a renamed malicious file will no longer be active and it can be easily to delete it manually.”

      Manual storm.gen worm removal instructions from McAfee:

      “Removal –
      All Users :
      Script,Batch,Macro and non memory-resident:
      Use current engine and DAT files for detection and removal.

      PE,Trojan,Internet Worm and memory resident :
      Use specified engine and DAT files for detection. To remove, boot to MS-DOS mode or use a boot diskette and use the command line scanner:


    249. lakecountrydave says:

      One other thing. I am not an expert, but if the RAM is not seated I do not believe that it would work. If this computer had a total of 256k of RAM it would most likely be all on one stick. I would think that without any RAM the computer would not work at all. I could be wrong.

    250. HeartBurnKid says:

      The ram thing can and does happen. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve opened up a non-responsive computer, and seen a bank of ram partially out of its slot. This can also happen with drive cables, PCI/PCIe cards, etc.

      First step in diagnosing a computer that powers on, but does not boot: Reseat EVERYTHING.