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Tech Support Businesses on the Rise 375

prostoalex writes "People are relying on more technology that ever before, and tech support geek squads are on the rise, media reports. The USA Today article says Best Buy has hired 1,500 more technicians for its Geek Squad and CompUSA currently keeps its tech support ranks at 12,000. The article from Digital Connect magazine talks about Geeks On Call, a nationwide tech support franchise, which has more than 300 shops in 20 states. The USA Today article states the profit margins for the tech support teams generally run within 30%, while the Digital Connect magazine gives an estimate on prices charged to achieve the margins: "An initial diagnostics call, for example, could run $99. Cleanup jobs usually run one to two hours, and some franchisees say they charge between $149 and $165 for one hour and $265 to $275 for two hours.""
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Tech Support Businesses on the Rise

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  • by yotto ( 590067 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:11PM (#12864529) Homepage
    So, if you think it's going to take 3 hours to fix, just go out and buy a new computer.
    • Not to mention that the tech who does the work is probably only seeing about $10.00/hr out of it.
      • They probably see more than that, but you've got to remember that they need to purchase the vehicles to cart around the people in, the gasoline for said vehicles, rent/buy the space to house the technicians at a central location, etc, etc. Running a business is expensive. It's not always big mean corporate big-wigs that suck away all the money from the people doing the actual work.

        • Running a business is expensive.

          I'm the first one to understand this, but $149/hr means that they're considering the "highly trained technician" salary (who's services are what you're paying that much money for) to be only 6.7% of the gross profits. Also consider that gasoline is usually a charge on top of base hourly costs if the distance is substantial. (Which only works out to about $7.50 for a 60 mile round trip, 30 each way, w/ 20mpg and $2.50/gallon.) The car is also considered a tax deductable expe
          • The deductibility of the expense of the car, isn't some magic that makes it free. It just means that, as with the cost of the phones and the paper and all the other stuff a businss uses, the dollars spent on those things are not profit, and thus are not taxed.

      • Paying for downtime.
        The problem is that the Geek Squad are a bunch of people and they are there for quick responce. So inorder to insure quick responce you will need enough Geek Sqaders to ready to respond at a drop of a hat. So that means that you will need to employ more then ones that are actually doing work (or chargable work) A smaller company with less employees can be paid twice as much and chage half the price. But the customer may have to wait 6-24 hours before they can get a responce. Because al
      • the tech who does the work is probably only seeing about $10.00/hr

        An employee who gets $10 per hour costs the company another $10 in behind the scenes employment taxes.

        Look on the up side: It's hard to outsource come-to-your-house tech support to India.
    • by login: ( 155941 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:14PM (#12864568)
      The new computer isn`t generally the issue.

      DATA stored on the computer is generally far more precious then the PC itself, and buying a new PC isn`t going to get you back that thesis/invoice/email.
    • by Intron ( 870560 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:17PM (#12864591)
      ...and resinstall all of the programs that you have from the original factory disks that are carefully organized on your bookshelf, right? Oh, and somehow copy all of your docs and emails over to the new PC. Oh, and restore all of your settings, preferences, backgrounds, sounds. Sounds like a 10-minute job to me.
      • ...and resinstall all of the programs that you have from the original factory disks that are carefully organized on your bookshelf, right? Oh, and somehow copy all of your docs and emails over to the new PC. Oh, and restore all of your settings, preferences, backgrounds, sounds. Sounds like a 10-minute job to me.

        I hear tech support can help with all that. What a vicious cycle!
      • To emphasize the point of the post just above mine, that's all fine and dandy if it's your home computer and you've got several evenings to spend rebuilding your system when you'd otherwise be drinking beer and watching football.

        When it comes to business, though, time is money and so is information. To pay one of your employees a day or two labor to reinstall everything on a new system not only takes them away from revenue-generating work, but also makes potentially important data unavailable for the durat
      • Some of the services they offer are to install antivirus, antispyware, and how to use all the crap, regardless of if the computer is new or not.

        I saw an ad for the "Geek Squad" (I hate that name, and all it insinuates), and the cost was so high that for an additional 150 dollars, you could buy a damn Mac Mini and never have to worry about that shit again.

        This says two things to me. Firstly, that if you are buying a new computer,you are going to need all that stuff with a Windows machine anyway, so just bu
    • by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:18PM (#12864599) Homepage Journal
      The people who would buy three hours of on-site tech support are those who would not be able to set up a new computer.
    • by RealProgrammer ( 723725 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:26PM (#12864676) Homepage Journal
      It may take 3 hours of hands-on time to fix a single computer, but five computers can usually be fixed in that same three hours. Much of the "fixing" time is just waiting for disks to be scanned for malware and for installs to run. "Windows is saving your settings" (Ugh.)

      The real issue is support costs versus training costs. Businesses that pay $250/hour for someone to "fix their computers" (which is to say, clean up Windows errors) should be paying $100/hour for someone to train their people on how to avoid these problems.

      It's not hard to avoid viruses and malware. You switch to a non-IE browser and don't run programs whose originator you don't know. That doesn't take too much training time, but it saves a timeclock full of support time if people practice those things.

      Combined with some AV tool (and in my experience it doesn't matter which one), you're generally on target for hassle-free computer use.

    • Big fallacy! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by King_TJ ( 85913 )
      I do this type of on-site work and this is the single most common response I get when a customer is trying to talk me down on price, or complain about the cost of his/her repair.

      There's an element of truth to it, but generally, it's not nearly as good a solution as it appears.

      For starters, most service calls end up being at least partially due to virii and spyware. If the customer buys a new machine, how long do you think it will take him/her to get it just as infected as the previous system was - if he/
      • I'm thinking of doing this as a part-time thing during the summer. What do you charge? Any advice?
        • re: advice (Score:3, Informative)

          by King_TJ ( 85913 )
          Well, the first thing I'd do is call your local competitors up on the phone, pretending to be a customer, and see what they're charging and how they bill. When I did that, I found out a few creative little "twists" to how some firms bill for system repairs. For example, some places claim to charge "flat repair rates" - but actually end up being more costly than firms billing by the hour plus parts. Sometimes, they do such things as billing fixed prices for every piece of the PC they have to remove and re
    • In most cases, the cost of the hardware is trivial in comparison to the value of the data.
    • Around here, most people charge $40-$75 per hour for general computer repair. I charge $40 as a temporary rate (going up to $50 in Sept). Business networking support is available at a higher rate.

      Most jobs take 1-2 hours (min 1 billable hr anyway).

      It is quite possible to hire decent technicians and pay them enough that you can made a decent profit on a $40/hr service call here. Maybe the rate is different where office space is expensive, etc.

  • Good! (Score:3, Funny)

    by PopeAlien ( 164869 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:11PM (#12864533) Homepage Journal
    ..because the cup-holder on my computer will no longer come out. Good to know that help is available.
    • I've actually been in an office where people use their CD-ROM trays as cup holders. They know it's a CD-ROM drive, but they think it makes an excellent cup holder and have somehow never managed to break one off.
      • Re:Good! (Score:3, Funny)

        by yotto ( 590067 )
        Seriously? and you never have the urge to "accidentally" bump the open/close button? I'd find that urge nearly irresistable.
    • Yeah, and I'm waiting for my computer to spit out my credit card!
  • "An initial diagnostics call, for example, could run $99. Cleanup jobs usually run one to two hours, and some franchisees say they charge between $149 and $165 for one hour and $265 to $275 for two hours."

    Which is what leads to people spend 300 or 400 bucks on an entirely new machine...
    • Re:pricing (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bobthemuse ( 574400 ) *
      Which is what leads to people spend 300 or 400 bucks on an entirely new machine...

      Half the /. posts say this, but many many people have computers worth more than $300-400, if you're using that kind of low-end machine, you generally can't afford this kind of tech support anyways.

      Add in the cost of re-installing all your programs, the cost of lost data, and the trouble of buying a new PC, and you're looking at over $1000 average. Add in the higher-value PCs or laptops, and you've got a significant inves
      • Half the /. posts say this, but many many people have computers worth more than $300-400,

        On Slashdot? Probably quite a few of us. We realize just what sort of crap you get for $400 (not to mention, we can make $400 go quite a lot further by rolling our own). But among Mom & Pop and Joe Sixpack? When people can't tell the technological difference, they decide with their wallet. I'd wager that the majority of home PCs sold since early 2004 have cost under $500, and a steadily increasing percent for
  • Good God (Score:3, Funny)

    by 1967mustangman ( 883255 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:12PM (#12864549)
    So this means they will have antoher 1,500 people whose only function is to tell you they have to send your laptop aways for 2 weeks to do a 15 minute harddrive swap???
  • Geek Squad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OctoberSky ( 888619 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:13PM (#12864551)
    Do yourself a favor and track down the Geek Squads price list. Holy Crap am I in the wrong business (law).
    $29.00 to install RAM? Whats that take 5 mins? 60/5= 12, 12 x $29 = $348 an hour. Where do I sign up?
    • Yeah, and 5 minutes is a generous estimate with the newer models of the name brand PCs... (screwdriver free) ... thumb screws (and not the torturous kind)... easy to navigate internals...

      MONEY! NUM! *chomp*
    • Yea, unfortunately, Best Buy is only paying their Geeks like 20 dollars an hour, tops. You could start your own tech support business, but GeekSquad can charge that much because they have a captive audience with Best Buy.

      So I guess the place to sign up is Wall Street, under the sign BBY.
      • BBY is making money, but remember that it really does cost a LOT of money to hire employees (usually 2-2.5 times their salary when you factor in training, management, health insurance, SS, taxes, etc).

        Interesting that it's becoming SO big. Writing spyware for the right clients could make a lot of people a lot of money...
    • Re:Geek Squad (Score:2, Insightful)

      by xtrvd ( 762313 )
      The question is simply "How long can you maintain that source of income?" If you can only get 4 RAM installations completed per day, then it's worth charging $30 for your time, since the day would be worth $120.

      If you can continuously have a line of computers with a new stick of ram beside them waiting to be put in and installed all day long, then your $348 an hour would make sense, but in reality, you will never have 12 machines which need ram per hour.
    • Re:Geek Squad (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Webmoth ( 75878 )
      So, 29 bucks to install RAM, a "5 minute job." You did the math, and it came to $348/hour.

      What about idle time?

      Sure, maybe it only takes 5 minutes. But it might be 25 minutes before the next 5 minute job comes along. You still have to pay the tech for the 25 minutes they are standing around. You might only be grossing $60/hour, you're paying your tech $20, plus about $10 for benefits, leaving you with $30 to cover the overhead for the store: electricity, water, lease, furnishings, property tax, cashier, b
  • The front lines (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Leroy_Brown242 ( 683141 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:13PM (#12864553) Homepage Journal
    I feel bad for the roaming geeks like Best Buy's Geek Squad.

    having to deal with people on the phone is tough. but when you have to go into their homes, that's scary. You lose the safe seperation from people's weirdness.

    Although, I always told the joke that people would be a whole lot nicer if they saw me in person. it's easy to be an asshoel to a voice on the phone. But in person, it's a little harder.
    • I disagree. It would be som much easier to diagnose things if you could see what was actually happening, instead of their interpertation of it.
      • Re:The front lines (Score:3, Informative)

        by cowscows ( 103644 )
        Right on. It's so much easier to stop someone doing something wrong than to deal with the consequences after they've done it. And if you're there, you can always do it yourself.

        While in college, I spent a couple years running the studentweb server, providing personal webspace for students. Sometimes they had to use the space to make websites for classes (business school students mostly), so I'd get a lot of tech support questions.

        If I had the time, I always prefered to meet with these people in person to
    • it's easy to be an asshoel to a voice on the phone.

      But then you go to some old gal's house and she's

      • oh-so-polite while asking you to take out the trash
      • rather opinionated (and clueless)
      • wants to make sure "the job's done right" (but isn't sure what the job is)
      • is adamant that she did nothing wrong (but her story tells you she did everything wrong, without her realizing what she's saying)
      • thinks $10 ought to cover your afternoon.

      (That's a compilation, thankfully, not a description of a sing

      • Sounds like one of my relatives, actually. :)

        My step mom made the mistake of asking me what I'd normally charge someone for my time, so she could start paying me.
        You should have seenher face. :)

        • I'm a professional on-site support tech. I work for a small company (4 techs); we do almost only business computers.

          I don't do after-hours jobs anymore, except for a very few select friends and relatives. And I only charge them a meal and a good visit.

          Mixing friendship and professionalism doesn't work.
    • Re:The front lines (Score:5, Informative)

      by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @02:18PM (#12865217) Homepage Journal

      As an onsite support tech, I can tell you that in a lot of ways, I'd much rather be going to people's businesses (and maybe homes) than talking to them in the store or on the phone.

      When on the phone, there's a certain level of anonymity that customers feel they have, and you're much more likely to get screamed at on the phone than while onsite. When you're onsite, most customers are aware that 1.) they need you more than you need them, as they've called you out to their business, and 2.) you're getting paid hourly, so screaming wastes their time and money. Also, 3.) it's kind of unspoken that the people you talk to on the phone aren't as good as the people in the field, or they'd be in the field.

      So your assessment about being nicer in person is completely, 100% correct, in my experience. The worst part about going out on site is dealing with customers who don't have a store account. I hate dealing with money, and I'm bad at it. I fix computers, that's it. My wife pays the bills, and our understanding is that if I need it to sustain life, I purchase it, and if not, I ask first. Asking customers for $85 or $135 for an hour of work almost wierds me out. And having to sit down at the computer you just fixed, break out calc, and add up ((parts*1.05)+labor), and show them the total still feels odd. Especially since I see about $15/hr of that.

      Every once-in-a-while, though, you do get an interesting customer. Last week, I had a customer who invited me into his townhouse, made a comment about getting his "fat ass out of this chair" (his words), and then stood up, grabbed his crotch, and exclaimed, "Holy Shit, the bag's full!". Just as I was beginning to work that one over in my mind, and coming to the conclusion that he had, indeed, grown a third testis since he sat down, he explained that he had had a good bit of his colon removed, and excused himself to the bathroom to empty his colostomy bag. I began cleaning his spyware in earnest at this point.

      You don't gt experiences like that from working in store.

  • Spyware attacks are on the rise.
  • by Demona ( 7994 )
    Just as the War on Some Drugs can never be ended because it would "put too many people out of work", so do those opposing free minds and free markets viciously fight against any cracks in the Microsoft monocultural dike. After all, think of those poor buggy whip^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Htech support workers. How can they expect to feed their children in the face of secure, stable and reliable systems? You free software people, why do you hate children and America?
  • by seanvaandering ( 604658 ) <> on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:15PM (#12864571)
    The most hated words on a tech support phone call.. EVER. These same people are going to be very dissappointed when they show up - charge $90 bucks - just to get referred.
  • If I can buy a Dell for 399, 499 or 599... why would I pay 165 per hour for a service technician? Hell, a data backup and XP reinstall to recover from a virus/spyware infestation could potentially cost more than a cheap, new Dell.
    • If I can buy a Dell for 399, 499 or 599... why would I pay 165 per hour for a service technician?

      Just by looking at your Slashdot nick, I'm pretty sure you can manage by yourself just fine, that backing things up is a natural reflex to you, and that reinstalling something doesn't scare you off all that much.

      The reason why overpaid techies exist is because of all the people *not* like you, that is, the majority of computer users: they barely know where how to double-click on My Documents, and a backup ref
    • yes it could work, maybe, if you have enough knowledge to know what and how to backup and what not to reinstall afterwards. As this is geared at people that don't mind spending such money for a simple job, I can guarantee you that people using that service don't have those skills.

      But it is a stiff fee nonetheless.
  • Er, not quite. (Score:5, Informative)

    by XorNand ( 517466 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:18PM (#12864598)
    I know for a fact that one of the national big box stores mentioned doesn't have *any* of the thousands of on-site techs in their employment. They subcontract out everything to [], which is an interesting business idea in itself. I wrote a tech's perspective review of here [].
  • 30% is about right (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MrLogic17 ( 233498 )
    In a previous life, the company I worked for sold both hardware and consulting services. The margin on hardware & shrink-wrapped software was about 3%. The margin on consulting, with the bloated managment overhead and massive cross-country travel costs was still over 30%.

    Who would you rather compete against: Dell & eBay or Best Buy's repair desk?

    This is no dofferent than with any other industry in the US. Skilled labor is expensive!

  • "Service industries" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:24PM (#12864659) Homepage Journal
    Apparently that is the future economy of this country. We dont make anything any longer, so all that is left is 'services'.
  • by tivoKlr ( 659818 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:25PM (#12864663) Journal
    Isn't what's really of value here the data stored on the computer rather than the box itself? Having just bought a new computer and spent 2 nights transferring all of my data from the old one to the new one, the thing that came to mind is that this new fancy 500.00 machine I just picked up is an empty shell without MY data on it, and is pretty much valueless.

    So before we jump on the "just buy a new computer" bandwagon, think about the time and hassle of moving that which makes your computer your computer, your DATA, to that new computer and transferring all of your settings, preferences, bookmarks, etc. Incorporate that time into the overall expense and you'll see that it's not such a great deal to just buy up that new emachines or dell or whatever...

    Then factor in the SPOUSE HASSLE FACTOR...God forbid you move some file of your spouses from the old computer to the new one and she can't find it, or things look different on the new computer, etc...

    How much does that cost vs. just fixing the problems with your current computer, let alone the environmental cost of recycling or disposing of the old computer. I know that nobody has ever thrown one of those into the dumpster...

    • Looking at your post the conclusion I come to is something more like "if you set up and stick to a rigorous backup plan and schedule, you can save yourself days of hassle and/or hundreds of dollars later on."

      Just a thought.
    • Then factor in the SPOUSE HASSLE FACTOR...God forbid you move some file of your spouses from the old computer to the new one and she can't find it, or things look different on the new computer, etc...

      The obvious answer is to leave the spouse's data where it is on the old machine and let them have it - that way you don't need to be bothered with the "how do I do that" and "where is it at now" questions while you're playing Doom3.

  • One of Hutcheson's most successful technicians is the former assistant manager for a brake-check franchise. "What I loved about him was the fact that he was taking a $99 brake job and turning into a $300 ticket, and the customer was still happy," he says.

    I'm not sure I'd be too happy, especially if this is something that was "liked" by higher-ups. It seems to put the emphasis in the wrong place. How ironic...he starts by indicating how vulnerable he is when it comes to something like plumbing, and then us
  • I've read several posts now, asking "Why not just buy a new computer instead of paying the money for 3 hours of repairs?" I can answer that in one word: DATA.

    That new computer won't have the pictures of their child's first birthday, or their honeymoon, which were moved onto the old computer from their digital camera. It won't have the files for Quicken, last year's TurboTax data, or the large MP3 collection. The new computer won't have their email, their resume, or anything else they may have worked on
    • Same reason HD recovery places are in business. At one place I worked, a person lots their drive to a head crash. The data was critical, and of course there was no backup. I think we paid to the effect of $2000 to get it back, and we had to supply our own harddrive for them to put it on.

      It would be nice to think people will take appropriate precautions with their data but, much like it would be nice to think people will take care of their body and not eat junk food all the time, it just isn't going to happ
    • When this happens, I use Knoppix and an external USB hard drive to copy data off of the machine before redoing it. It doesn't take too long, but it does save everything prior to restoring the system.
  • I think CompUSA should hire less tech support people and more sales people who are trained to actually assist customers instead of standing around playing hacky sack. It would be nice if I didn't have to wait 20 minutes in line just to buy a cable.

  • and everything to do with cheap and incompetent oursourcers. They cut training and compensation budgets to hide the initial cost of offshoring (or to just make more money), and the result is that calling telephone tech support is a disaster (a free disaster though). Right now telephone techs fall into two categories: those with a minimum call time and those without. The latter will do everything they can to punt you and the former will jerk you around as long as they can. Sure there are exceptions (I'm work
  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:28PM (#12864690)
    You can hire a decent whore for that much. And, yes, I speak from experience.
  • seem to be a pretty expensive franchise: Franchise [] oportunites (11% revenue royalty + other fees!!!).

    I'm trying to find their UFOC (Uniform Franchise Offering Circular) online, but unfortunately, the FTC doesn't seem to have these online - as far I can see.

    Any FTC IT guys out there? Can you convince them to put the filings online a la "EDGAR"?

  • by Webmoth ( 75878 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:34PM (#12864748) Homepage
    Why are "geek squads" rising? Because the quality of telephone tech support has gone down the toilet. People just don't want to talk to someone in Sri Lanka that they can't understand and can't understand them. People don't want to have to walk thru a script of things they've already tried just to make the tech's computer happy.

    People want someone who can look at the computer, know what's wrong, and fix it. They don't want to click on X, Y and Z then get Q and try to explain to the person on the other end of the line what they are seeing.

    Simply put, to speak to tech support on the phone, you need to be somewhat tech savvy yourself. Then if you're a tech like me, it's frustrating to be led thru all the things you've already tried. ("I've already cleared the printer queue. I've reinstalled the driver. I've replaced the cable. For the fifteenth time, the printer's internal test page doesn't print when I use the front panel buttons!!!")

    In business especially, it's not worth the time to spend hours on a tech support call when a phone call to the local computer geek results in same-day service with minimal loss of productivity. Instead of tying up an employee on the phone, that employee can be doing non-computer productive work, which just may pay for the tech's time.
  • I used to do this kind of work on the site before/during the dotcom era, and the residential customers were people with fully loaded IBM, Dell, and HP machines. These are people who have a machine that was top of the line when they bought it and it cost at least $2000 (US).

    Sure, a $500 Dell might be the same specs as that machine now, but if they were going to just buy a new computer they'd be buying a top of the line machine again and spend $2000+ dollars. So $300 for repair is a small price to pay.
  • by prisoner ( 133137 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:42PM (#12864833)
    quickly figures out that the real place to make money is the corporate market and not the home market. With most companies, they aren't behind you with a stop watch to count your time. Also, you normally can get several hours of time in during one stop. You don't have to go all over hell's half acre to make your money. Sure, you can make money that way but it's too much work.

    Also, going into people's houses all the time weirds me out. We quit doing that about 4 years ago.

    I read an article about Geeks on Call and, while it's an interesting idea, I don't see that they are going to have much success in the corporate market. According to the article, the techs are not supposed to talk to any of their customers on the phone - every problem results in a service call. That might work with joe homeowner but a business that spends several $k a month on your service will expect phone support....
  • Marshall Brain has an excellent blog post today [] that dovetails quite nicely. He points to a near future scenario in which our increasingly powerful computers become vastly simpler to use. It's great to see some fresh light on this subject.

    As our applications inevitably migrate from our computers to the network, the network literally becomes the computer.

    This new supercomputer gets faster as bandwidth increases. A completely optical network means bandwidth would approach the speed of light. My computer

    • i'll believe it when i see it. besides, this is nonsense. computers can't possibly get that much easier to use. it goes against the theoreticall limits. if you want to do complex things, then you have to write long, complex programs that have lots of bugs. otherwise the halting problem would be solvable. contradiction, cause it's not.
    • I expect that I'll be an old man before this happens. The connectivity just isn't here on the WAN side. All of the companies who banked on an explosion of bandwidth are now or will shortly be bankrupt. I think that you'd have to have fibre connections to make this work. Cable connections are probably fast enough but most of them are seriously flakey. The ILEC's have no reason to spend money to upgrade network connections to fibre.
      Inside of a company on a local area net, sure.

      I think it is a great idea
  • Technicians... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by writermike ( 57327 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @02:17PM (#12865210)
    More like profesional apologizers.

    Technicians -- especially the good ones -- are not going to do well at this .. and it's not their fault.

    It's the fault of the companies who prohibit their engineers and support people from giving out good, useable, technical information anymore.

    It's the fault of the manufacturers, who often don't know what's in their products because it's sub-contracted through 90 different companies.

    It's the fault of the marketers, who claim that everything works 100%, perfectly, without-a-doubt, with one hand behind your back.

    It's the fault of the customers who look at a $299.99 PC and think that all of their problems will go away and no new ones will appear with the signing of a check.

    It's the fault of the hiring agents who pay a person with 30 years of technical experience the same as someone who read an A+ manual.

    It's the fault of the big box stores who would desperately prefer to move merchandise rather than repair something.

    And it's the fault of the buying public who believe you can have all three: high-quality, free quality technicians, and low-cost.

    I just know it ain't Barry White's fault.

    But, please, please, more spyware, more shoddy workmanship! Everyone at the trough! Dig in. Face first, please.
  • Geek Squad is a joke (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jett ( 135113 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @02:52PM (#12865558)
    I have a friend of a friend who got hired there, you couldn't pay me to trust him to touch any computer I had to deal with. Geek Squad is overpriced and seems to have stupid hiring practices. A friend of mine applied there and didn't even get an interview but he's one of the best technicians I've ever met and has great customer service skills.

    I do tech support professionally on a college campus and freelance for anyone recommended to me by friends. I hate freelancing because tech support crap is almost always boring and I already do it all day long, but it's hard to turn down extra income. I started out charging $20 an hour, now I'm up to $50 (for on-site calls). I always feel really guilty charging that much though (unless it's a nasty spyware infection). This one time I worked on this guys computer that had had the wireless card disabled - I literally just had to click "enable" and I was done. It took 5 minutes to drive to his house, 5 minutes to get situated with the computer booted up and all that, and then I was done. I told him because it took such a short amount of time I would only charge him $10, he was cool and joked that he pays the kid down the street more to mow his lawn and ended up paying me $30. I still felt bad - clearly I'm not cut out for this kind of work.
    Right now I'm working on a PC in exchange for free food, mostly because it's a new customer and I know she is a good cook, but also because all I have to do is swap a CD-ROM drive and troubleshoot a Wacom tablet. I feel like an ass charging for simple things like that.
    • ...for charging people $35/hr to fix elementary problems. Until I read about places like Geek Squad who send you a cookie-cutter tech with only limited troubleshooting skills, yet charge $150/hr or more!

      Nowawadays my guilt is gone. I can't vouch for other people, but _I_ know _I'm_ a good tech. I don't need to know much about your software or hardware to be of use. 15 years of experience with PCs and good critical thinking skills give me everything I need to solve my customers' problems in less time than t
  • Is This a Joke? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by $criptah ( 467422 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @03:36PM (#12865908) Homepage

    You have to be fucking kidding me. No, really. Think again: replaced software engineers who have tons of experience are forced to find themselves in basically level 1 tech suppor role. Travelling to customers' sites in a funny car is not what I consider to be a career. A marketing equivalent of Geek Squad is telling a VP of marketing department to work a a local Gap.

    I agree that technical support is on the rise, but I would highly argue against making a career through an at-home service. What the fuck are you? A maid?. If you really want to make a good buck on support, try getting into B2B environments and work with integrators, high level support of enterprise software, etc. Help desk support is "help desk" no matter where it is located and how it is done.

    If you have people skills and like technology, why not switch to pre-sales engineering? Pays better and you don't have to have "Geek" in the name of your company.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM