Friday, December 08, 2017

Rustomers: Rus's IT Customer Tales

My name is Rus.

In a former life, I repaired computers - more specifically - Apple computers. From time to time, I still dabble in IT work as a side income.

I say the words, "former life" almost literally as I feel I may have died - several times - come back only to be able to relate these stories to you  ... much like the character in the TV series "Forever". (preview below)

Here is one of many insane stories of customer service nightmares I've had to deal with over the years. I'll add to this story in the weeks to come.

1)  In the times before Apple Stores were within a reasonable driving distance, I was in pretty high demand. Also, in some cases, certain people, for certain reasons didn't want to go into a large retail establishment - especially a shopping mall.

I used to work in a small computer repair shop as
"The Apple Guy" ← that was kinda my unofficial title.

One day, a tall, rail framed, young white male with a scar through his left eyebrow, diamond stud earrings, a backwards hat that said "Brooklyn" written in graffiti-style cursive above the plastic sizing snaps, acid washed jeans about mid-thigh, jockey underwear showing, a sports jersey style shirt that said "00" and "Brooklyn Dodgers", and a very large gold chain around his neck with what seemed to be a solid gold and diamond studded emblem that said "BOSS" around his neck - came into the shop to ask for a diagnosis of his Apple laptop that wasn't booting.

I should stress that he asked for a diagnosis - and specifically said several times to call him before I made any repairs. The diagnosis was a standard $35 dollar charge - of which - the balance was applied to your final bill should you have our shop repair your computer. I confirmed that the unit was not booting in front of him while he turned the laptop towards me over the customer counter.

I don't want to make this sound stereotypical - but it was. This guy had bloodshot eyes. He had what looked to be heroin bruise holes and belt/tourniquet marks on his arms. Every sentence he spoke began with, "Here it is" like he was about to break dance for me and every sentence ended with a hip hop style, "you know what I'm sayin' yo"

He filled out his paperwork with only a first name and a phone number. 

The first name he wrote?

FIRST   _____BOSS______      LAST _____________

I didn't question the contact information. 

He left the shop and I started immediately into it. As was my standard practice, I used a program called "Diskwarrior" to see if I could diagnose and fix the booting process and then go from there.

Diskwarrior booted the unit fine. I started the Diskwarrior processes. It completed. I restarted the unit. It booted perfectly.

Upon finalizing the boot, several programs/documents were apparently set to launch on startup. A map of a nearby neighborhood popped up that had red dots on it. An excel database popped up with names and phone numbers. A word document with numbers that looked to be balancing a checkbook popped up. I honestly didn't examine it thoroughly, but it was kinda obvious what popped up. It was a narcotics delivery and balance sheet.

I immediately shut down the laptop. I waited a little while then consulted with my colleagues about the situation. We agreed that I would wait 30 more minutes then call him and tell him his computer had been diagnosed and to come back in. I should have followed that exact plan. Instead, being excited that I had fixed the unit in less than 15 minutes and his only charge would be the diagnosis fee - I called him after a little more wait and said ...

"Your computer is fixed."

I was going to add that it was fixed in the process of diagnosis, but I was interrupted with a very loud scream through the phone.

"WHAT!!!!! I told you to diagnose it yo! I told you to diagnose it yo! I said mother[bleep]in' diagnose NOT FIX yo! I'm coming up there!"

I started running all sorts of scenarios through my head. Was he loading bullets into a gun? Was he loading bullets into guns, plural? Was he about to crash his car through the lobby? Should I call 9-1-1?

He arrived. His face was red. He opened the door violently - and if any harder - he'd have ripped it from the hinges like The Terminator after John Connor. He came up to the desk and said,

"Where's my computer yo? I told you to diagnose it yo! That's what I said! You heard me! Diagnose! I didn't say fix! I said call me before you fix it yo! You said, "Yes." I said, "You know what I'm sayin" You said, "Yes" again. What did you do? What DID YOU DO? You fixed it and that's not what I said, you know what I'm sayin'?"

The more he yelled, the more purple his face turned - the more I could see his jugular vein in his neck pulsing.

He continued for another 2-3 minutes - repeating the same thing over and over. All of my colleagues came out. One of my co-workers who was a rather big guy said,

"Look, how about we give you your money back. It looks like the Apple Guy here followed your instructions exactly, it's just that sometimes - the diagnosis fixes a computer. There just wasn't a lot wrong with it. Just something out of place."

He started breathing hard. I could see what looked like the outline of a gun on his hip slightly protruding after each stomach pump from his hard breathing 

With not a word further. He put a $50 bill on the table. He stormed out with his laptop like King Kong about to scale the Empire State Building with a girl in his hand.
The End.

More to come soon.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

I bought a DART, But Got TRANKED Powerless By Their Customer Service.

I guess it seemed cool, with a successful kickstarter campaign and all ...

In the original fundraising text on kickstarter, FINSIX promises with the DART ...
"One, tiny Dart. Power for all your devices. 
Perfect for your mobile lifestyle."
 Then there's this gem of jargon ...
"The Dart is the world’s smallest, lightest laptop adapter. At a powerful 65W it is a perfect complement to today’s thin, lightweight, portable laptops. It fits in a pocket and is designed with a USB port and single outlet profile to make it easy for you to stay charged up when you're on the road. We hope you are as excited about the Dart as we are and looking forward to finally carrying just one, tiny Dart to charge all your electronics. Join our campaign and never be stuck powerless again!" 
I admit, I liked the wording. So, when I saw the product at my local Staples and thoroughly examined the box, I was excited. I thought ... "Okay, gonna power me some Macbooks and chrome laptops!"

Why on earth did I think that?

Because FINSIX said so, right on it's box.

Wish it had given the web page listed (below) on the box. It's a HUGE list of incompatible laptops. In fact, there's more that the DART doesn't work on than it does work on. The list of incompatible laptops is so big, they have to make up a new English dictionary entry ... 

This page isn't the "incompatible page", it's the "noncompatible page".

All sides of the DART Box
(click picture to enlarge)
DART Non-compatibility Page 

But here's the real gotcha in that wording .. 


Yes, I read "Check your compatibility at", but I see absolutely no one in a store, besides me EVER, researching products, especially Universal AC adapters that will "power all of your devices - tip compatibility gauranteed." What about senior citizens? Most don't have a smartphone, and the ones that do, don't use them like that - in store. I mean, I'm an IT guy who repairs computers and I admit, I was duped by the awesomeness.

So, I get it home. It doesn't have a USB-C tip. It doesn't have a Macbook tip. It doesn't even have an older iBook tip - like nearly all Universal laptop power supplies do. The Macbook at several points during its sales trajectory has been the number one seller. I can actually understand not including a proprietary tip like the Apple magsafe tip - even though the wording might tell the novice differently. What I don't understand is the USB-C tip - which is common among several brands of computers now.

Let's give FINSIX a pass on Apple adapter tips for a moment. 

What about Chrome laptops?

Nope. The two most common Chromebook laptops are made by Dell and Samsung (which are technically the same) - also no tip included.

So, I decided to send an email to get my tips - because you know - tip compatibility guaranteed right?

I won't bore you with the details, but to make a long story short .. the DART is not the DART-C. So, even though the manufacture date of the AC adapter is rather recent (2017) - the DART doesn't fit laptops released over the last 3 years. There's an entirely different universal AC adapter. So, even with tip compatibility guaranteed, no DART for you! But wait! If you want to fork over an additional $30, DART will ship you a DART-C cord/tip/whatever.

The Macbook? Well, that's interesting! After failing miserably with a customer service guy at DART, I tried for a MacBook Magsafe magnetic tip/adapter. I was certain this would also be a gotcha. To my surprise, I was told that a MAGSAFE 2 tip was available and for the free shipping as promised on the box. That's interesting because Apple didn't license that tip out to anyone (nor did they license out the original Magsafe adapter.) Although the Magsafe adapter was extremely awesome, Apple actually went to USB-C on it's laptops so it could be powered by universal chargers.

So, I got that tip in the mail a week later. I'm happy, but kind of in the way the tree, cut to just a stump, in the book, The Giving Tree is happy.

But guess what! I had bought several DARTs at Staples. So, I asked for another tip - a Samsung Chromebook. Nope. FINSIX/DART wouldn't send it to me. Why? I got a weird message about only powering 18.5 volt to 20 volt laptops. Wait, I thought MIT engineers designed this thing as an AC adapter. Nikola Tesla says AC is better than DC because Alternating Current (AC) is better than Direct Current also known as (DC) For the record, the adapter supports 5V USB connections.

I could pick each one of the above as false statements but I want to focus on one in particular. Most AC adapters within the past two years are pretty small. So I think they could get by with "half the size of most adapters".
Let's go back to that box shall we? "Overvoltage Protection" and my favorite wording - fits all major brands ... Samsung .... Oh! No! No! My favorite wording is from the kickstarter campaign ..

 "At a powerful 65W it is a perfect complement to today’s thin, lightweight, portable laptops

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pinless Debit Transactions ...

For those of you that shop at Walmart and Amazon and use cash back cards or use rebate apps ...

I've discovered something interesting ... Big retailers are switching to "pinless debit transactions" * WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT * for transactions under $50. 

Why does this matter? 

As part of the Dodd-Frank "financial reform" Bill ... credit card companies were forced into (3) scenarios 

1) Chip cards 

2) No signature credit transactions below $50 

3) Transactions can run as a debit transaction if card is a debit card and transaction is under $50.

First, chip cards have been an utter failure. They don't take so long because of slow equipment, but because of all the red tape the transaction has to go through. Your card is encrypted - that encryption has to be read, verified, retransmitted, transmitted again and then sent to your retailer. If you read that like I typed it - you'll see that at one point - unencrypted info is at some point traveling the www. 

What's the point? 

Case study: While moving to Chattanooga last year I had a pretty rough going with my bank, etc transitioning smoothly. I used my wife’s chip card for two months. Her full name is clearly not a man's name. Not once did I sign or get questioned in the dozens of places I used her card. 

What's supposed to be so secure about these cards? I know the technical answer, but it doesn't pan out in the real world. The sole reason chip cards were put into place is tracking and whatever you read otherwise is just subterfuge.

Two, debit cards work privately with your bank. Credit cards work in harmony with your retailer. (And your credit card company is better at what they do) Debit cards cost a retailer 20¢ per transaction. Credit cards (on average) cost a retailer 2% per transaction. It's obvious to see why a retailer would want to force you into a debit transaction. 

And so is the way of all government - Walmart lobbied heavily in the House and Senate to get the little Trojan Horse of pinless debit transactions. Think of a pinless debit as you virtually signing your receipt. Or think of it like I do - a retailer getting to forge your signature so they can save and you can't.

Three. One small convenience is not having to sign for most transactions under $50. Well, that's nice until you realize you are now on the hook for $50 a day if a hooligan or reprobate steals your card or info. This little clause in the law has led to identity thieves stealing volumetric amounts of micro-transactions rather than stealing large sums from 100s. If you can steal 30¢ from millions, why steal $300 from 100s?

All this presents two problems:

1) You don't get cash back because cash back comes from credit card use.

2) You may not get printable receipts which results in loss of receipt submission app rebates. (I.E.,you can use your credit card in any fashion IF you use Walmart Pay. You get your 1.5% back but you don't get a printed receipt NOR WILL WALMART PRINT YOU ONE)

I've tried hard to convert to paying apps rather than swiping my card for security purposes. This is just one of the bumps I've run into.

Hope this clarified some of this for you.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How can you © copyright something you created, drew, or wrote?

Know, that as an American citizen you are protected by the laws of the land. One of the most comprehensive laws is that governing copyright, trademark, and service mark.

Familiarize yourself with The Lanham Act that allows others fair use of your work. Know that copyright also has to be defended in court if challenged - and that can be an expensive and lengthy battle.

There are two low cost ways to copyright an image or written work:

Print it, or more preferably hand write it/draw it.

Put it in a manilla legal envelope, seal, and mail to yourself from a post office with a certified return receipt. On the receipt put copyrighted © poetry by [your name]

Then ...

Publish it, anywhere, especially online because it will have a timestamp.

Include your name and the © symbol and the current year.

If you regularly publish online or have your own blog, your site is protected by the nature of publishing. You do not have to include a copyright notice but it doesn't hurt if you wish to not be a victim of plagiarism or piracy.

Social media and search engines are actually very responsive to takedown notices if you can prove ownership.