Can The Major Chains (Best Buy, Circuit City, Staples) Really Fix Your Computer Problems?

While wandering around the Internet I found an interesting article by a television station in the Sacramento, CA area about an experiment done concerning PC repairs and three of the major chains. The TV station KCRA-TV had its own Manager of Information Technology (David York) create a problem on an IBM PC by disabling the hard disk in the BIOS. The station contented that the fix should have been an easy one and could be done in about 30 seconds with six or seven keystrokes.

It then took the PC to three of the major chains that advertise they fix computers, being Best Buy, Circuit City, and Staples for a fix of the problem. It reported the following:

Best Buy and Circuit City charged $60 up front to say what it thought was wrong with the PC.

Staples charged a $50 diagnostic fee.

Best Buy’s Geek Squad on Freeway Boulevard in Sacramento thought the problem was a software issue and asked for the Eventually, Best Buy found and fixed the problem, but it gave the worst customer service of the three chains. Best Buy promised five times to return Call 3’s phone calls but never did. It also kept the computer the longest amount of time. Windows restore disc. When that did not work, they asked to use their own Windows disc. York gave BB a letter grade of D.

Circuit City Firedogs in Elk Grove ran disc fitness and memory tests. The computer passed both. Circuit City said there was no operating system and charged an additional $129.99 to restore it. Later, they found and fixed the real problem. “You got charged $130. It wasn’t for fixing the real problem — it was for reinstalling the operating system. You also lost all your data. Any personal folder, files, pictures of the kids — it’s all gone. You’re not getting it back,” York said.York gave Circuit City an F.

Staples on Howe Avenue in Sacramento assigned Easy Tech Kevin Sakamoto to work on the Call 3 PC.But when that did not work, Sakamoto started poking around the system settings and hit on the real problem.”It was actually pretty easy because you could see in there that the boot device was turned off. It was just a matter of turning it back on, and then somehow it magically worked,” said Sakamoto.Staples found the problem the fastest. Sakamoto thought the hard drive was missing and charged an additional $139.99 to replace it. It returned the computer working in the same condition in which we gave it to them. Staples also said they initially misdiagnosed the problem and refunded the money for the hard drive.He gave Staples a letter grade B.

This makes for an interesting read. But how accurate is the information? Does it judge every store in the chain’s service department the same? Or should one take these findings with a grain of salt?

What has your experience been with one of the major chains? Were you satisfied or did you feel like you got ripped off?

Let us know. Comments welcome.

Full article is here.

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • Mike

    Computer repair techs are no different than auto mechanics, HVAC techs, and any other repair person. The ONLY ones I’ve ever found to be qualified to repair anything were the ones supporting warranty items like washer/dryers, refrigerators, appliances, etc. where you PAID for an extended contract or paid a T&M charge. Those are the only times you won’t get screwed because your charges are set so they have no ability to charge you more by taking advantage of your lack of knowledge.

    I’ve also had good luck at the car dealer doing the job right but boy do you pay…

    It’s either pay now or pay later..that’s the bottom line. As for the computer repair issue here are my comments (I’ve been a NetAdmin for 13+ years and have worked at the tech level many years on many systems and have done my time supporting clients in the field and in-house):

    1. Back up your data first and always–that has nothing to do with repairs or anything and you should be doing this regardless.
    2. Try asking friends…you might be surprised at how much they can help with.
    3. Google any errors or symptoms and try researching the problem yourself. You’ll be surprised at how much can be fixed with simple procedures. You are not the first to encounter a problem–trust me.
    4. Try to have at-home service if it isn’t too expensive so you can oversee the repairs
    5. If you bring your PC in try to go to a shop that can look at it the same day like a small Mom&Pop shop. Personally, I would NEVER leave my computer with someone else unless you truly have ZERO personal data on the disk. With ID theft on the rise I certainly would not trust it with some low-paid, retail technician.
    6. Remember, unless you abuse your computer (physically) MOST problems are the result of viruses, malware, spyware, corrupted/missing Window’s files, recent installation of poorly written drivers/software and similar issues. ALL of these can be resolved using Window’s SAFE MODE/REINSTALL procedure and/or doing some cleanup or uninstalls of the offending applications.

    Most of the stories I’ve heard about shops involved them replacing motherboards and hard disks and reinstalling the operating system all of which will probably solve the issue–if you wipe everything out and swap out hardware of course the problem will be resolved. But, do you replace your engine when the light comes on–of course not.

    Don’t just take someone’s word that hardware is needed or the solution is some extreme procedure. As the old saying goes, use the K.I.S.S principle before moving towards complicated and extreme fixes.

    Good luck…

  • Ron Schenone

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. It is appreciated.

  • the oracle

    Part of what differentiates a good technician from a bad one is the ability of the tech to explain what was done and why. If someone simply says, it was fixed – they may or may not know what truly was wrong in the first place.

    As someone who does a lot of this, I tend to go overboard, explaining more than I probably should, and doing more than I probably should (example – whenever I repair someone’s machine, I take the few minutes to defrag the boot volume, and then explain why it is a good practice. I then give examples of disk defrag programs, and quickly compare them. I also leave a list with the customer of what EXACTLY was done, and what might change in their habits to avoid the problem next time (very few problems I deal with are hardware related, and whn they are, things can be done to mitigate the problem in many circumstances (regular backups when a hard drive or motherboard fails).

    I tend to keep customers – but also make friends, as I am forthright with the customer…this is good, but also financially bad, as I don’t tend to have customers with troubles frequently, as I tend to help them know how to repair many things the next time they happen.

    The people from big-box stores aren’t usually personable enough, don’t care enough, or aren’t allowed by their employer to take the time to be helpful at the the same level.

  • Ron Schenone

    Hi Marc,
    I agree about the making friends approach. It’s the best way to get more referrals.

  • Scott King

    After spending the last 25 years as a power equipment tech, I have seen and heard all the dark tales of customers getting ripped off. The computer/chain store services are no different. My neighbor brought his computer to me, complaining of poor performance after he spent $200.00 at Worst Buy to have them install a loss-leader 80 gig drive and reinstall Windows. After cleaning out the system, it was found that the service people didn’t install any drivers for the hardware, which took all of 20 minutes at the manufacturers web site. Also, after checking the system documentation, it was discovered that one of the original memory modules was missing! A new stick of memory and a good tweaking and the system worked great. All for $40.00 and parts, it took less than an hour. I now get calls from people that he has spoken to, some have told me of the frustration dealing with store techs.

  • Ron Schenone

    Hi Scott,
    Glad to hear that the big chains are helping your business. I know they help mine. :-)

  • Kevin Sakamoto

    Honestly, that article doesn’t mean that every Staples has great service and will fix your computer as good. I’m the Kevin Sakamoto in the article, and what they left out is that a few months earlier, they did the same investigation in a different area of Sacramento, and the Staples there still came out the highest, but the tech basically told the customer “I don’t know what’s wrong with it, so I’m giving it back to you with no charge.” Now usually companies push a certain ethic and motto across all their stores, whether it be to satisfy the customer or just merely maximize profits, but the only way you can be assured of good service is to go back to the one person that did it well. It’s just like getting a haircut: just because the lady at Supercuts gave you a good haircut once, it doesn’t mean every barber at every Supercuts is going to be good, but it does mean that if you request that same lady next time, you’ll get a good haircut again.