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How far is too far?


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#1
Ferrari

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Hi all,

As some of you may or may not know I have recently started selling used computers in my local area about 4-5 months ago. Everything is going very well, but as business grows, so does the complaints, user errors, and calls about computer problems... i.e how do I (fill in the blank). As in any business, this is to be expected.

So I ask all of you, my online geek friends... at what point should I crack down and say, it would be best if you bring it in, my rates are XXX an hour, with many jobs quoted around XX and XX.

The back story...

I'm getting calls almost daily from my past customers who have bought a computer from me asking how to do things on there computer or worst yet... it's a software problem that I'm not responsible for at all i.e viruses, or internet connectivity problems. I warranty hardware for a small 5 day period after purchase, the sale is final, all computers come with a fresh install of the OS. Should the computer die within 5 days, I replace it or fix it free of charge. KEEP IN MIND, THESE ARE USED ELECTRONICS, I CAN'T WARRANTY USED COMPUTERS FOR VERY LONG, 30 days max. Also, some calls are from customers who I've never dealt with and just want free support on what RAM to buy or how do I install XP, or the BEST ONE YET!!! Can I borrow your XP disc? !!!!!! Drives me crazy... lol

The event that prompted me to post this is a customer is now claiming I'm doing him wrong, because I wanted to refer his software problem (most likely viruses) to a business associate that is well trained in that area, instead of fix it myself (for free mind you). The computer was purchased on Dec, 21st, 2009 (approximately 29 days or so from now).

Any thoughts or suggestions on how to kindly tell customers that I DO NOT OFFER FREE PHONE SUPPORT for any issue really, I really need to have the computer in front of me to see what's really going on. Once I have the problem diagnosed, I will call them and let them know what it will cost to fix it. Fair enough, right?

Thoughts appreciated, thanks! :)

EDIT: Another thing fueling all of this is FAMILY. As it has become more and more apparent to my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc that I have a clue about computers, they are starting to call me doing the exact same thing as my customers. In the last week alone, I have dealt with 3 different family members and made 5 house visits for their "computer problems". WHAT SHOULD I DO? This is becoming entirely way to much between them and my customers, I'm doing A LOT for no pay whatsoever.

Edited by Ferrari, 20 January 2010 - 12:59 AM.

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#2
Troy

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To be honest, exactly what you have said above. "I do not offer free support". (leave out the phone bit). That goes for family as well.

If you make a house visit, they can expect to pay you for your time and efforts. If they want free support and are family, the least they can do is bring it to you and bring a big family pie or something to contribute to dinner. At least that way they realise there is still a cost to these things.

Another thought, you need to specify in writing up front what the warranty entails if you don't already. Make sure that you have it clear that software issues are not your responsibility, period. Make sure your charges for further work are laid out clearly and that labour charge applies in all cases except where warranty is specifically requested.

On my website, for example, I have this: "To begin the warranty process, you must contact us and fully describe the situation as much as possible, and why you think Premium PC is liable to repair it." I have had a few calls from people who wanted help fixing something up, and then once it was all fixed I began to write up an invoice. "Oh I'm not paying you, this is a warranty job" where I explain very clearly why it isn't and hand over the invoice expecting payment. The rare few that don't pay, I have never seen again and I continually post/email them the invoice about once a month or so with big "OVERDUE" wording written on it. I'll probably never get it, but if it annoys them! :)

So yeah, don't do anything for no pay.
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#3
dsenette

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you have to make your support requirements CLEAR at the time of purchase. having the user sign some form of warranty contract would make sense too...

you could offer a service agreement, $60-$100 a year for unlimited troubleshooting and service (excluding hardware costs)..
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#4
rshaffer61

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Software support? Hmm that is one area I would not cover under any warranty at all. You didn't create that software and you have no ideal what the user has on the system after you sell it to them. Software issues have always been a billable repair issue with me for the past 12 years.
I also agree any warranty should be in writing and specifically state what you will and will not cover.
If a user's house gets hit by lightning you don't want to be held responsible because it fried their system.
A simple sign or notation on your receipt stating no phone support is supplied.
Virus protection... hmmm let me think about that. You know a site that does that for free don't ya? :) ;)
Family oh what a issue that is. I have 4 computers in my house right now and all belong to a different family member. Guess what 3 of them in the last two days have become infected and they have all been told to log on here and get the pro's to help them. They don't like it but hey if you do it once they will all want free service. Stop it before starting it.
OK that's my rant. :) :) :) :)

Edited by rshaffer61, 20 January 2010 - 08:07 AM.

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#5
cbarnard

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Hey guys just caught this thread... It was a good thread to read.

So many of us geeks start working on computers for everyone and this is something we all experience...

I often wonder when a customer starts having problems, If it is my fault...

I typically will not help and repair a system with out charge (Except my parents)

I don't charge a lot but my time is worth something... I will continue following this to see other good info to "hold on to"

Have a great day guys...
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#6
anzenketh

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I must be lucky most of my family members don't want me to fix their computers.

They say. "I need to learn how to do it myself."
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#7
cbarnard

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I must have jinxed myself...

Today I had a walk in computer problem... A "close friend" if you will...

Anyways they were unable to connect to the net... Come to find out the computer had never been connected to broadband ever, just dial up. For what ever reason the Proxy server had been selected... I unticked it and it worked great and it only took a couple minutes of time.

That evolves into getting rid of junk and installing some proactive measures into the computer... Anyways 1.5 hrs later... I'm done they leave... and didn't even offer anything. Grrrr. I couldn't believe it.

They had spent almost an Hour on the phone with TWC and RR national service desk, and didn't figure out a thing... They were told to take it to a shop or the **** squad... They laughed and told them she was going to take it to "Her Geek Squad" = ME...

And during that fix. My dad calls from work... To make a long story short he lost all of his "data" A certain Online\offline storage company only had 1\3 of the data on their servers... So he thought he had lost everything... CHKDSK /R and he was good like nothing happened... and he wants to know what happened...

Love them to death, but man my time is worth something... Us geeks get taken advantage of "Alot" I need to start laying down some rules...

I know this was a little off topic. I thought it was a good example of "to Far" It just seemed funny to me...

Anyways have a great night guys
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#8
Ferrari

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All great suggestions guys. (And I feel your pain barnard)

I knew when I posted this I must be missing something or there must be a better way to handle all of this. I think the main problem is what most of you suggest: a written warranty. I've always made it part of my speech when selling a computer, but never actually gave them a peice of paper that they and I can refer back to when such situations happen. Often in my speech, many things are not said/covered... in writing, I can cover many things.

I plan to type one up. I think this way I can clearly state what I will cover, what I won't cover, and provide a list of common problems and their charges.

I believe the main reason I never provided a written warranty is because this first started out as a little side thing to just make an extra few buck here and there, but it has turned into much more than that (still a part time gig though... I sell about 2-3 computers a week). So I never came to the point until now thinking I need to be even more professional and provide a written warranty and receipt of sorts.

I'll be sure to take another look at your website Troy and get some ideas on my wording. Maybe even copy and paste. :) just kidding...

Thanks guys! Hopefully this solves some of these problems. As for family, I think I may just need to be a bit more clear when they ask for help, what the charge will be. i.e. "Yeah, I can do that for about 40 bucks."

EDIT: And dsenette, I have thought about your idea before. I think I'd like to start offering an "extended warranty" for XX amount of dollars. Good idea.

Edited by Ferrari, 21 January 2010 - 12:33 PM.

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#9
rshaffer61

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I've always made it part of my speech when selling a computer, but never actually gave them a peice of paper that they and I can refer back to when such situations happen. Often in my speech, many things are not said/covered... in writing, I can cover many things.

Hopefully you never have a legal issue with it this way but I can bet you would come out on the losing end of this one. In writing is always best.

Edited by rshaffer61, 21 January 2010 - 12:39 PM.

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#10
Ferrari

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Well, I guess I shouldn't say never in writing. 100% of my ads on each computer (primarily on Craigslist) state two times in the ads that the unit comes with a 5 day warranty on hardware. Knowing that I have access to my old CL ads, and so does CL... hopefully that would cover me on the 40 computers I've sold so far.
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#11
Troy

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Yep, keep copies of all your ads, you should be right.
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#12
jgrobs

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I see I'm a little late on this but for what it's worth;
If you print the warranty (What it does and does not cover) on the receipt with a space for them to initial the salient points, you will save yourself a lot of future problems. If they have to initial the item, they will have read it and will probably not try to dispute it later. I use this when writing sub-contracts and it eliminates most confusion. I know this sounds like a hassle, but it's worth it. This will also cover you in the event of a lawsuit.
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#13
citadel77

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Well while I may not have "customers" I do a lot of computer work for friends and family, my thought process is though that since half the time I come here or do much research on the Internet can I really charge them for my knowledge? Yes I could charge for labor, but most issues I help deal with are just software virus malware, you know the stuff we come here for help with(well that and everything else). I don't feel right asking, especially friends or family, for payment for something I didn't really do myself. But true now that the word is spreading of my "advanced" user abilities, there are a lot of problem ridden machines coming my way expecting a miracle each time.....

A learning experience at the least. Though I do wish I was receiving some kind of reimbursement for my time...But it's what I do I guess
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#14
Troy

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It's not about charging for your "knowledge", it's charging for your time. If you're smart enough to research a problem, find an answer, and implement the solution then you very well have the right to charge for your time.

To be honest, I work in a computer repairs store and sometimes it seems every second job that comes in I'm Googling and trying to find some answers... There's just so many random problems all the time. Not everyone knows everything, but everyone knows something, and a lot of people like to put that something online so I can find it. :)
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#15
citadel77

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Very good point Troy.....after doing much consecutive free work, I'm on edge of being done doing it for free lol
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