First, let me explain that this is not a complaint. I am trying very hard not to use HelpMeRick to vent my frustrations.
I hope that readers see this more as a humorous observation on what it is like to be a computer guy than a computer guy complaining about non-computer guys. As much as I work on computers, I prefer to think of myself as a guy who helps people rather than a guy who fixes computers.
Sometimes computer guys need a little help in figuring out a problem. Rick and I often talk off-mic about how people for some reason think that their computer should be easy to figure out. We can't figure out where this perception came from.
Everyone has a car, a fridge, a lawnmower, a home heating system, a washing machine and probably a television or two. For some reason, people will not hesitate to call in a professional when they need any of these items worked on.
However, for some reason, people think their computers should be simple do-it-yourself repairs.
Today I had two calls from people who wanted me to tell them over the phone how to fix their computers. They were each of the thought that computers were a novelty and a computer guy should not cost as much as some plumbers (the few cheap ones).
Each of these callers expressed their problems like this – and I paraphrase…
CALLER: Hi, I am having a few computer problems and I have some questions. (Most people know that I answer questions for free – I charge money to solve problems).
ME: I will do my best, what's up?
CALLER: Well, I was working on printing a document (I made this up, it could be anything that they were doing when they noticed the problem) and I had a few problems. I worked on it for an hour and my husband spent an hour on it, then I called Dell and spent almost three hours on it. Now I can't print and there are some funny things happening.
ME: Ok, what did your husband do, and what did Dell think the problem was?
CALLER: Oh, I don't know. My husband knows about as much about this stuff as I do and I couldn't really understand the Dell guy because of his accent. I think Dell might have said something about Internet Explorer and my printer. After a few hours the Dell guy couldn't fix it and told me that it's probably a virus.
ME: No, I'm pretty sure it's not a virus, but the other problems are a little too vague for me to diagnose over the phone. I should probably take a look at it>
CALLER: (In a suspicious tone as though I am just trying to come up with a reason to charge them money.) Isn't there anything else that you can have me try?
ME: Well, I can think of a dozen things, but they would take a couple hours for me to explain and a few minutes to actually do.
CALLER: I'll be at home tonight if you want to call me back when you have more time.
ME: I could, but my rates are the same even if I do it over the phone. It would be much cheaper for you if I just came buy.
CALLER: Do you know of anyone else that I can call? My grandson is coming for Christmas, do you think he will be able to fix it?
ME: That's possible. But he could make it worse too.
CALLER: No, he's 14 and he knows how to do everything. He knows more about these things than his parents do.
ME: Sounds good. I hope that he can get it working for you.
CALLER: In the mean time, do you know of anything I can try to get my printer working?
ME: Are all of the cables plugged in?
ME: Are you getting any error messages?
ME: Then, I don't think I can do much more without seeing it.
CALLER: Do you think I need a new printer?
ME: I doubt it, it's probably just a communication problem.
CALLER: Do you know of anything I can try to get it working?
ME: I can think of a lot of things, but it would take a lot longer for me to explain than it would to actually do it.
CALLER: Maybe I should just get a new one.
ME: You can, but if it's a communications problem, you could have the same problem with a new printer too.
CALLER: Do I need a new computer?
ME: No, you just need to have things looked at and tuned up.
CALLER: My grandson was over and he did some stuff on it last week, could that be part of the problem?
ME: Could be.
CALLER: Do you know of anything I can do to check and see if he did something?
ME: I know of lots of things, however they are things I can do in a few minutes, but they could take a few hours to explain over the phone.
CALLER: I scanned for viruses and it says there aren't any.
ME: Than it's probably not a virus.
CALLER: What do you think it is?
ME: I don't know, I would have to see it.
CALLER: Ok, well I guess I can live with it a little longer. I will call you back after Christmas if I still need help.
ME: Sounds great. I'll look forward to it.
CALLER: Oh, one last thing…
As you can tell. From the caller's point of view, I spent the entire call withholding easy answers so that I could scam them out of their money.
From my point of view, I spent 15 minutes of my cell phone plan trying to help this person realize that computers are more complex than cars.
For some reason many callers are ready to go out and buy a new printer or computer for hundreds of dollars to avoid paying me to take a look at the system and tune it up.
In contrast, I saw two clients today that call me on a regular basis for small problems. Each problem was solved in less than half an hour and they avoided what could have been a large repair bill or new computer later on.