Posted in StoryTime

Dependent on the Kindness of IT Strangers: My Computer Woes

I’m both emotionally and physically prepared to handle most kinds of emergencies with two exceptions: car problems and computer problems. I was raised with medical jargon so dealing with doctors and nurses do not vex me the way tech support and mechanics do. Everything sounds like expensive jibberish, and I don’t know who to trust.

In the beginning, I had a TRS-80 Model 1 with 5.25″ floppy disks and cassette tapes. I considered myself a major gamer hanging out with Poker Pete, bowling and playing pinball. Then came Tandy years (1000SX and 3000HL), which were my last computers before Windows came along. I spent hours playing Remote Control, Wheel of Fortune, Crimson Crown, and Wordfall.

Please ignore the Cubs shirt. I was clearly delusional. Go, Sox! Circa 1988

After that, I couldn’t tell you the name of any computer I’ve owned or any of their technical stats. I’ve had two laptops and about six different desktops. All have been PCs with one exception. I was forced to buy an iMac for work reasons. Shudder. Let’s move on.

Flash forward to the year 2013. I bought a computer on Woot.com. Here are the stats (if you like that sort of thing):

Processor:Intel Core i7-3770 (3.4GHz) with Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz
8MB Cache
Processor Core: Quad-Core
Memory:12GB DDR3 (PC3-12800)
Max Memory:16GB
Graphics:Radeon HD 8570 (2GB DDR3 dedicated)
Hard Drive:2TB SATA (7200rpm)
Optical Drive:SuperMulti DVD±RW

Flash forward again to the year 2018. My desktop has served me well. I hadn’t needed any updates until Adobe decided that a five-year-old below average video card is no longer enough to run their programs. Pfff…whatever. Snobs.

I travel to my local Fry’s Electronics with a post-it note of what kind of video card I have and what Adobe is requiring. Once the employee ceases laughing, he explains that the lowest video card they have in stock is eight times better than what I have now. He points me to the aisle of choices and says I can pick anything and it will meet my needs. I choose an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Graphics Card for $120.

I install it myself and feel quite proud. *Whispers* In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not good with technology. Three different friends who have helped me in the past are laughing right now and saying UNDERSTATEMENT. *Stops whispering*

Everything is humming along for about two months. Then one day, I turn my computer on, the fan starts up and stops. I reboot. Same. I let it sit and think about what it has done for a day or two. No change. I can log on and keep working, but I know that is a terrible idea. Mother puss bucket!

On my day off, I head to Fry’s again. The guy, we shall call him Bryan, says he agrees with me that the fan does stop once powered up. Bryan fiddles with it a bit and says he can’t see what the issue is. He recommends a new fan. Another employee walks me over to the section, and we pick out a fan. Bryan installs the fan. Remember Bryan. He comes back later in the story.

About a month and a half later, I turn my desktop on, and it goes to a black screen and says “Error: No boot disk has been detected or the disk has failed.” Well, I’m no expert, but that seems bad. I hop on my laptop and figure out how to get on the computer. I manage to log on with no noticeable problems. Weird. I reboot and “Error: No boot disk has been detected, or the disk has failed.” Son of a salesman!

I’m able to log on eventually after jumping through many, many hoops. I moved everything not nailed down on to my backup drive. I fear a need to reinstall Windows is in my future. I called Microsoft Tech Support and had a wonderful experience with a Tech named Maya. Everything is fine. The world makes sense again. This lasts for three whole days.

After rolling out of bed, I boot up the computer. All the usual noises happen, the red power light glows proudly, and nothing comes up on the screen. No warning. No blue screen of death. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. I reboot. No change. I let it sit and think about what it has done for a day or two. Nothing happens. A deep sigh and primal scream.

The following Saturday morning, I head over to Fry’s. Bryan greets me. He remembers me. This may or may not be a bad thing. He fiddles with it for a bit and says that he can’t see why it isn’t starting. He would need 1-3 days to perform a diagnostic test because “your computer is so old.” My computer is only five years old. “Exactly. They don’t even make replacement parts for something that old.” Dude. My computer is in the prime of its life. I begrudgingly trusted this young whippersnapper and headed home.

Bryan calls me at Noon the following day. The below has been recapped and shortened for your reading pleasure.

“We figured out the problem. When the fan was installed, the fan was not actually hooked up to the right part, so nothing was being cooled. The motherboard overheated and burned out. You need a new computer.”

“Well, since you installed the fan, you will replace my computer then. Correct?”

“No. You can’t prove we did this. Someone else could have worked on it after us. It could have come from the factory like this. Also, we forgot to put the work order in the system before so there’s no real record of anything we did. On top of that, I never would have done this. Not something I would do.”

“But you did. No one else has touched my computer except you.”

“You can’t prove that.”

“I can because it’s the truth. Wait a minute. How long would the motherboard have lasted if nothing was cooling it? And if it was like that from the factory, wouldn’t you have noticed that when you replaced the fan?”

“Hard to say, but maybe or maybe not.”

“How are we going to resolve this?”

“I will talk to my manager and call you back.”

He hangs up. Imagine if you will, a stream of cursing that would embarrass drunk sailors on leave. I’m pretty aggravated, but I have hope the manager will come to my aid. Seven hours pass and no call. I call back.

Bryan says, “We’ve been trying to reach you. Your number has been busy.”

“My phone is working fine. Other people were able to call me. Anyway, what did your manager say?”

“He said you can’t prove a thing. You need to replace your computer. We’re not at fault, so you have to pay for it.”

“I want to talk to him directly.”

“He’s gone for the day and off tomorrow. You can call him on Tuesday.”

“Umm…no. You have him call me on Tuesday and explain this.”

“He’s too busy to talk to customers. You have to call and see if you can catch him. We can’t tell him to call you.”

“What is his name?”

“Mike.”

“Mike what? That’s a common name.”

“I can’t give you his last name. We never release last names.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. We just don’t.”

“None of this makes any sense. You understand why I’m angry, right?”

“I guess. I don’t know what to tell you. Talk to Mike on Tuesday.” Bryan hangs up.

Furious anger consumed me. The above conversation went in circles, and I had Bryan explain everything again. Some discussion of the exact piece that burned out and maybe I could find a used one on eBay. My blood was boiling.

For the next two days, I’m running through all kinds of scenarios and questions. This was a scam they were running to convince people with “ancient” computers to replace them. They intentionally sabotaged my system to get me to buy a new one. Bryan screwed up, refused to admit it, and no one named Mike works there. How does small claims court work? Would I pay to have my computer fingerprinted to prove Bryan was the only one who touched it? I’m ready for war by the time I talk to Mike…if that is indeed his name.

Tuesday comes, and on my lunch hour, I speak to Mike. He checked my computer and spoke with his techs. Mike apologized and said everything Bryan told me was wrong. The problem consisted of a post on the motherboard burning out. Nothing to do with the fan which was hooked up correctly. I relayed the conversation from my perspective and mentioned how he refused to give me his last name. Mike said that was weird because there is no reason to withhold last names nor is it their policy.

I feel a bit better. “So what happens now? Do I need to buy a new computer or can I salvage what I have?”

“Well, most of the parts are fine. You need a new motherboard, processor, and hard drive. Your video card, optical drive, and CD-ROM are all fine.”

To put in car terms, you know my second favorite thing, he said “Well, most of your car is fine. You would just need a new engine, carburetor, and alternator. But your windows, oil, and seats are all fine.”

“How much will this cost? I don’t need much. I use Photoshop and Microsoft Office products. I’m not a gamer, nor do I edit video, or record podcasts.”

“I’ll see what we have, call you back, and give you different options. Sound good?”

“Great. I’ll wait for your call.”

True to his word, he called back within the hour. He could give me a processor that is four generations newer than mine, slightly less RAM (2 GBs less), and a new motherboard for $275. He confirmed he would wave the labor because of everything that happened.

Basically, a virtually new computer for under $300 and two days of aggravation. Mike believed he could have everything ready by the end of the day and would give me a call when I could pick it up.

Turned out that Windows wasn’t loading correctly, so it took until Thursday. I’m happy to report that my computer works great.

The moral of the tale is sometimes you really do need to speak to the manager. Also, bad customer service can become good customer service.

Now, if you will excuse me, the “change oil” light came on in my car even though I had it changed a month ago. I wish I were kidding.