Locally-Owned Computer Shop Sells Me A Self-Destructing Computer

Image courtesy of (Timothy J Silverman)

Whenever we post a reader’s story of Geek Squad or other computer repair woe, readers immediately jump in to recommend taking ailing computers to an IT-savvy friend or to a locally-owned computer repair shop. For people who lack friends with tech skills, the latter is apparently the only option. The problem is that a locally-owned business can be just as shady as the least qualified member of the Nerd Herd, only answering to no corporate overlords.

Back in May, I had gone to [redacted] (an IT company based in [the midwest]) with a problem. A computer I had bought for a friend of mine was acting up.

A bit of history. My friend has Alzheimer’s, and so I had bought her a computer online since I wanted to make sure it had Windows XP operating system and I didn’t have a current copy in order to uninstall Windows 7 that would be on any new system. However, the company [from which] I had bought the computer sold me a computer that blew out capacitors – and while I returned it once, by the second time I was done dealing with them.

I took the computer to the local company], explained the situation above to them, and they did a diagnosis. They found out that the computer was kaput, and suggested I get one of their used computers since they all had Windows XP. We bought her one for about $120 with a 30-day guarantee.

Cut to about a week ago, when my friend calls to let me know she’s getting various BSOD messages. I take the computer home myself to try and resolve it. I have some computer knowledge – even did first level IT tech support at one of my temp jobs – and after looking it over, it looked like it was potentially a virus. However, when I went to pull the system back to factory standards in order to see if that would fix the issue, I saw that the CD Rom wasn’t being recognized.

I took it back to [redacted], mentioning the whole situation (again) and requesting that they figure out why the CD Rom wasn’t being recognized.

Here’s where it gets frustrating. I get a call back stating that the motherboard was blown – and a recommendation that I should just buy a new computer. When I brought up the fact that we had bought the computer back in May, they counter that that’s why there’s a 30-day guarantee – and then tell me, “[their] used computers are known to only last five or six months.” So, according to them, they KNOWINGLY sold me a computer they didn’t expect to last, when they knew I was looking for a replacement computer – WITHOUT telling me this.

When I clarified that I spent $120 on a machine that they knew would probably not last, the technician once again countered that that’s why they had the 30-day guarantee. I countered that had I known this in advance, I would’ve used the $120 toward a newer machine. The technician just repeated the information about the 30-day guarantee, and said they couldn’t do anything about it. So, not only is my friend out the $120 for the computer, but the additional $40 for the diagnosis, AND the cost of the original computer.

Is there anything I can do about this? I’ve contacted my local paper, and plan on putting this story on a blog and sharing the heck out of it, but I’m frustrated that they knowingly sold me potentially defective merchandise without telling me, and then proceeded to profit off diagnosing the issues that come from this bad merchandise.

A local newspaper’s consumer column is a good place to start, as well as local review sites like Angie’s List and Yelp. The most constructive thing you can do is to tell your story to friends and co-workers, warning them away from this shady shop. Ask for their recommendations for a good place to fix up and buy computers, while you’re at it.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.