Computer Shops Fail Undercover Test

Several Tested; Few Get It Right

In a time when almost everyone owns a computer, it is safe to assume that at some point there will be a problem that requires expert help to fix.

The Call7 Investigators took a perfectly good, working laptop to an expert at TechSkills, a school that offers certification programs in multiple disciplines within information technology, healthcare services and business.

That expert, Mike Powis, first confirmed the laptop was in good working order, then helped us create a simple, easy-to-fix flaw in the laptop.

"It wouldn't get much easier in terms of a repair," Powis said.

He simulated a problem that is known in the computer industry as "chip creep" or "ram creeping," when the computer's memory cards are dislodged either by bumping or dropping the computer, or from a sudden temperature shift.

"It can cause the chip to shift enough that it doesn't have a complete connection," Powis said.

Call7 then took the laptop to seven computer repair shops in the Denver metro area.

At Geek Squad locations on Broadway and East Mexico in Denver, technicians told the Call7 team the motherboard was shot and that the power supply was dead.

The Firedog inside Circuit City on South Colorado in Denver told us both the power drive and the motherboard likely had problems.

CTI on Park Meadows Drive in Lone Tree said it was the motherboard and agreed we would be better off buying a new computer.

"It's just shocking," said Powis.

"You took a perfectly good laptop in and left with something that should go straight to the trash. For lack of a better word, it seems like incompetence," he added.

Powis said he could not believe that after visiting four stores not one technician kept the laptop to perform diagnostic testing. He was also surprised that the technicians did not ask any questions about recent changes with the machine.

The fifth time was the charm for the CALL7 team.

"We could do a basic diagnostic, test hardware and everything. It's $49.95," said an employee at Action Computers in Denver.

Action Computers kept the CALL7 laptop for a few hours and fixed it, reseating the memory cards for the promised $49.95 fee.

At another Firedog location, a technician reinstalled the memory cards in less than two minutes, free of charge.

The Geek Squad at another Best Buy location also found the fix in minutes for a $29 fee.

The Geek Squad's public relations office responded to the CALL7 investigation with this statement:

"Our diagnosis relies on numerous physical tests, input from our customers, and real-life experience that confirms the majority of computer problems involve hard drive failure and virus/spyware issues. Nevertheless, we made a flawed diagnosis and that's our error. Our service guarantee ensures resolution of all problems to our customer's satisfaction."

Circuit City Stores also responded about the findings at its Firedog locations:

"Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are gratified that your station had a positive experience using Firedog services at Circuit City. In the other case, our technician did not follow our procedures and was therefore unable to properly diagnose the computer brought in for service. Please know we're taking the appropriate steps to respond."

Powis said customers need to ask questions when bringing a computer to any repair shop, including if the employees are qualified and what, if any, certifications and formal training they have.

He also said knowledgeable technicians would, in most cases, ask to keep the computer to perform diagnostic testing.

This was not the case when the first four shops told CALL7 the laptop likely could not be fixed.

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