Monday, April 2, 2007

My computer is back in the hospital and I'm starting to realize that I'm stuck in this dysfunctional relationship with Tekserve. I brought my laptop back to them last week, still suffering from narcolepsy and also from a misaligned CD drive. This time, I brought my computer in for diagnosis knowing full well how tight he and I were, and hoping that they'd be able fix his little circuits up while I waited. But no such luck. They took my laptop and left its sad motherboard and memory on a shelf in the back, rotting away in the clinic queue for the second time in as many weeks.

What gets to me is that the Tekserve customer service techies are really cool about the whole thing, at least upfront. The generalist who first took a look at my computer apologized for them not fixing it right the first time, said he put my laptop right at the front of the queue on the Tekserve technical techie's desk, and even left me with one of those computer science brain teasers I so detest. (Puzzle: Detect a loop in a linked list.) But the minute your computer in their care, it gets trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare of unfilled stock orders and bizarre "extensive" testing, and frankly I don't think I'm ever getting my machine back. I wonder if there's a heated debate in the back between the technical techie and the boss techie like on those medical shows: "I can justify keeping it here another twenty-four hours for observation, but after that I'm gonna release it."

"Dammit man, if we send it out there without a diagnosis, it'll be dead in less than a week!"

"Then you have a day to figure out what's wrong with it." Scene.

I already complained about the computer's first stay with Tekserve, which despite my Mac withdrawl, went pretty smoothly until they told me they needed to order a part. It just felt disingenuous to me, like they had the computer for four days at that point and they knew what it needed, so why didn't they put in the order as soon as I left? I don't have any proof of this, but I believe that's exactly what they did and "a part is out of stock" is their euphemism for "we're running behind," which is what I would've rather heard. I asked if they thought my computer would be ready that day and they told me no, but my annoyance and long face at having no computer (other than the five other computers in my house) for the weekend turned moot when I got the call at six in the evening, after I got home.

Instead I got to be annoyed because I had to make another pain-in-the-ass trip into the city to rescue my damn computer, which was explicity what I was trying to avoid when I asked them if the computer would be ready that day. We don't all live in Manhattan, Tekserve, so how about you work with us here for a minute? Like, when I call and ask for a status update, maybe tell me where in line the machine is so I can plan out my whole day. Thanks.

It's been a week now, and Tekserve still has my computer — which I'm assuming did not skip to the front of the line — and I'm getting antsy. I want to call them up and ask, hey what's up, but the work order they printed out for me says, specifically, "Please don't call to ask if we are done sooner, we'll have to stop fixing computers in order to answer the phone! We'll call you when it's done." I don't remember that admonition being on my first work order, so I feel like I made some horrible trespass upon them when I called that first time.

Also on the work order, which is cluttered with stuff like this, another warning: "We'll call when your repair is complete, please don't come to pick up your unit until you have heard from us." I bring that up because everyone I'm bitching to about my computer in absentia is telling me that I should put in a personal appearance at Tekserve, that you get better service when you're standing right there in the flesh. This has never happened for me, ever: I get the same indifferent service no matter what I do. Besides, what I am supposed to say to them: "I demand you drop whatever you're doing and repair my computer this instant!" I really do feel like they're not treating me right, especially on the re-repair, where they've now had the machine for longer than they did the first time. Next time, I'm seriously gonna just ask them to give me the new pieces and I'll do the repair myself.

Which brings me back to the whole dysfunctional relationship. See, my iPod is on life support, with its ticker holding less and less charge, and I'm going to need a new one. So what's the first thing I think? "Better go to Tekserve and get a new iPod." Goddamn it! After they took the computer hostage, I still want to deal with the Tekserve techies? Do I really have that little self-esteem? And of course, the answer is yes. The thing about Tekserve that I noticed is that, unlike every other electronics store, and especially the Apple Store, the Tekserve techies realize that you're an intelligent human being and don't talk down to you, almost in violation of everything Apple stands for. When I bought my computer at the Apple Store, the sales-phony spent like twenty minutes telling me how easy Tiger is to use and how you have to be a rocket scientist just to turn your Windows machine on. Or take a look at those "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" ads, where hypochondriac PC-guy makes a huge freaking deal about how tough installing a video driver is. Yeah, Apple: I'm too stupid to put the CD that came with the camera into my computer and follow the instructions on the screen. Last time I bought a PC peripheral, I tried to eat the USB cord that came with it, and then for like five hours I was all, "How come this hard drive won't show up in My Computers? Oh, maybe I was supposed to plug the cord into a port on my computer instead of dousing it in ketchup! How dumb am I! Now if I could only compare the shape of the plug and the shapes of the holes in my machine, and figure out where to stick this damn thing." Note to Steve Jobs: I'm not a toddler, and I'm not Mom.

So you tend to get sucked in when you're talking with a techie who shares your passion for Unix-based computing rather than just parrots back sales pitches. It's like we've got a connection, ending up in a $269 purchase, and I can walk out of the store feeling like a cool geek. (Answer: Hash the node addresses for time efficiency, or switch a flag bit on each node for space efficiency.) And I keep going back. Although next time, I'm not letting the Tekserve techies get anywhere near my beloved computer.