As one of my few "duties" at Computer Central in Brazil I've come up with a motto for 2013: "Get the Facts Before you get an axe!"
As always, in the interest of full disclosure, our son Nathan is owner and lead-technician of Computer Central. And, no, I don't know nothing about no 'puters. That said, I do have a few non-computer-geek observations which seem worthy of passing on from time to time to any non-geek readers who prefer facts over gobbledygook.
FACT: Fixing your computer problems "free" as seen in certain advertising media is what Col. Sherman T Potter called "horse pucky".
The word "free" is one of the most powerful words used in marketing. Somewhere in life, though, usually at considerable costs, we all learn some form of the truth "there's no free lunch." "Free lunch" refers to a once-common promo of saloons in providing a 'free' lunch to patrons who had purchased at least one drink. All the foods on offer were high in salt (e.g. ham, cheese and salted crackers) so those who ate them ended up buying a lot of beer. Life teaches the astute that "free lunch" refers to many and varied come-ons.
Fact is if I were paying millions of dollars to advertise nationwide it would certainly be useful to claim a service was "free." However, giving away something to customers you paid good money to entice to call you is, at very least, unprofitable
Keep these facts in mind when you see or hear of "free" PC repairs:
First, people who like to fix PCs (or cars, or anything else) will always find something to fix. They will always tell tales of something which "should" be fixed (we drove two years on tires that "should" be replaced). With what very little I actually know about computers, I can find something on our home computer that could be "fixed".
Second, the guy or gal on the phone or Internet only tells you the real price of the fix after they find something to fix (and sometimes only after their "fix" is the only solution to what they've done already). For what it will actually cost to "fix" a PC remotely or with a disk or download you could probably find an in-America technician who would fix it for the same price -- or less.
Third, this observation has been that after these people download their fix to a computer, their fix sits there fixing whatever it fixes -- or does not fix -- forever. Thus, after they fix the fix they say you need to fix, you may find you need to fix the fix they fixed.
As to actually fixing computers, Computer Central has always offered Free, on-site diagnosis while you wait for 15-minuets or less. And, both our son Nathan and Customer Service Technician Dave Bolin know the difference between "could", "should" and "must" fixes. While there is no free lunch, sometimes they really can fix it "fast and free". What we non-geeks can count on is that these live, local, and in-person guys will find out what the facts really are and skip the computer gobbledygook.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org