[ale] How NOT to buy/sell a computer.

Benjamin Scherrey scherrey at proteus-tech.com
Sun Feb 1 16:43:55 EST 2004

	Just had an interesting experience with the MicroCenter in Gwinnett county. Yesterday I 
picked up one of these cool litle Shuttle X boxes that runs an Athlon64. Tony, the sales guy there 
was helpful and knowledgeable so I was satisfied I had a good system with the right components. 
Spent just under $1000 for the components and brought them home to assemble. It cost me nearly 
$200 more to buy it locally than mail order (even after shipping expenses) but I always prefer to 
support my local stores with the expectation that they'll stand behind their product and the added 
advantage of immediate gratification. It was a nice idea anyway...

	Unfortunately, the machine didn't get much past POST. Recognized the CD media but 
locked up during the boot. Also immediately locks when trying to get in the BIOS. Checked out the 
online support forums and saw several reports of power supply problems which seemed to fit the 
behaviour I was seeing. So today I take the machine back and explain what's happening. Initially 
MicroCenter wanted $85 to look at it - but I could exchange it for free. This made no sense to me 
but I explained I just wanted to get a working computer and would do whatever was easiest for 
them. There were only four possible components to change out to see what the real problem was 
so I suggested a 20 minute effort was cheaper for them and myself than exchanging out everything 
at once.

	So they let me back in the tech room with the tech (Walt is his name I believe) and 
explain to him the symptoms and what I had found on the support forums. He plugged the power 
supply into a little 3" long device with a power switch and a green LED which lit up. With that he 
declared the power supply fine! I suggested that it might be better to test it with a load on it but he 
insisted that the device did this. I figured it wouldn't do to ask him what remarkable technology was 
able to dissapate 200+ watts of power without performing any work or heating up enough to burn 
his hand... ;-) He then attempted to boot the machine, got the exact results I had described and 
said there was no telling what the problem was and a tech would be available on Tuesday for the 
afore-mentioned $85.00 - reinforcing my long-held belief that ego/attitude and talent are inversely 
proportional amongst tech types and photographers.

	Not quite understanding what the point of that excersize was, I decided to just take the 
initial offer of exchanging everything - even though it didn't sound like such a great deal for 
MicroCenter. So now I needed to extract my DVD-ROM out of the box as it was the only 
component of my own in the box. Unfortunately the tech said I couldn't borrow a screw driver or 
work on the box in any way inside the tech area for fear I'd electrocute myself and sue them. 
(Seriously - this is what he said) I guess he'd be glad to do it for $85.00. So I take all my stuff out to 
customer service and start disassembling the box there with my pocket knife. Can't get two of the 
screws out (that's what I get for screwing things in right) so, when the manager (Bill) asks me what's 
going on I explain to him what's happened and that I need to borrow a screw-driver to get my DVD-
ROM out. He disappears back in the tech room and finally comes out asking me to follow him back 
to the tech room (again) where he will let me borrow their screw-driver - but only after enduring his 
anecdote that had I bought tires at an auto store they wouldn't let me borrow their tools to install 
them. He literally held the screw driver away from me until he finished his story - which took an order 
of magnitude longer than the time required for me to remove my drive. Once removed, he also 
noted that if I exchanged the computer and had similar problems that there would be a 15% 
restocking fee! 

	Finally insulted and harrangued enough for making the effort to do business with 
MicroCenter and attempting to solve the problem with as little cost or trouble to them and myself as 
possible, it was clearly time to cut my losses. I told him that I'll just return everything and take the 
added savings of mail order rather than do business with them again. So, Bill & Walt of MicroCenter 
managed to spend nearly an hour in an effort to lose a $1000.00 sale plus the loss of taking the 
returned items and all future business from me rather than the 20 minutes necessary to keep the 
money, stand behind their product, and retain a customer.

	lesson learned,

		Ben Scherrey

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