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What Do Geek Squad Technicians Actually Do? 1065

Posted by Cliff
from the are-they-worthy-of-the-name dept.
Zenitram asks: "I am a lead technician at a company that repairs computers for various vendors. Many of our systems are from Best Buy's Geek Squad. Based on the systems Geek Squad sends us, it makes me wonder what, if anything, do they actually do? We get systems that have issues that we simply shouldn't have to work on, like: installing device drivers, OS reloads, and reseting CRUs (Customer Removable Units). Additionally, we get systems that are misdiagnosed such as: bad hard drive when a system has faulty RAM; no POST when it simply won't boot into Windows; or no boot when it won't power on at all. So, what is the scope of technical repair that Geek Squad techs do?"
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What Do Geek Squad Technicians Actually Do?

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  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:38PM (#15617936) Homepage Journal
    Some people need that kind of support.
    • by ericdano (113424) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:05AM (#15618319) Homepage
      Plus they have those really neato cars. I see them on the freeway sometimes.

      I think Apple should buy them, and then when they make a call, they replace the PC with a Mac. Simple, and then there would be no return call.
      • by DarthMAD (805372) <markhatesspam AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:47AM (#15618537)
        I agree- when was the last time a door-stop or paperweight needed repair?
        • by tgd (2822) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:01AM (#15619553)
          *glances at dead ibook holding door open*

          *sigh*

          Thats not funny.
        • Excuse me? (Score:5, Funny)

          by Jesus_666 (702802) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @08:31AM (#15619992)
          Doorstop? Paperweight?

          The MacBook is clearly a space heater.
        • Re:Hand holding. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Mayhem178 (920970) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @08:51AM (#15620102)
          They don't do a damn thing. I had a friend ask me to diagnose his laptop one time. Symptoms included spontaneous powerdowns (mostly during gaming), inordinate amounts of heat, and occasional buzzing noises. Anyone with a little computer expertise would recognize this as a faulty fan and/or heatsink. I told him as such. I was wary of opening the laptop myself, as it was brand new. So he took it back to Best Buy to let their Geek Squad deal with it. When he submitted it for repair, he told them about the symptoms. When he got it back a couple of weeks later, it appeared that they hadn't even bothered to check that their "repairs" had worked. They replaced the damn battery. Of all the stupid things I've ever seen, it took them two weeks to replace a battery that didn't need to be replaced in the first place.

          At that point I convinced my friend never to purchase from Best Buy again, at least, nothing that will require tech support. When I finally opened the laptop myself, the processor's heatsink was being held on by 1 screw, and even it was loose.

          My diagnosis: the Geek Squad does nothing. It was a publicity stunt to make consumers think that Best Buy employees knowledgable technicians, when in reality these so-called "experts" probably spend all day sitting around thinking they're "1337 h@x0rs" because they downloaded TweakXP.

          On another occasion I heard a Geek Squad guy tell an elderly couple that hyperthreading was "like having 2 processors in 1." I nearly flipped my lid, but that's a different story for a different day.
          • Re:Hand holding. (Score:5, Informative)

            by Incongruity (70416) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @09:39AM (#15620442)
            My diagnosis: the Geek Squad does nothing. It was a publicity stunt to make consumers think that Best Buy employees knowledgable technicians, when in reality these so-called "experts" probably spend all day sitting around thinking they're "1337 h@x0rs" because they downloaded TweakXP.

            It's such a shame too -- the geek squad started as an independent computer tech service in Minneapolis long before Best Buy bought them... and they had a reputation for being really sharp and being good problem solvers. Now look at 'em. What a shame.
          • Re:Hand holding. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TasteeWheat (981090) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @09:43AM (#15620465)
            On another occasion I heard a Geek Squad guy tell an elderly couple that hyperthreading was "like having 2 processors in 1." I nearly flipped my lid, but that's a different story for a different day.

            Have YOU ever tried explaining something remotely technical to an elderly couple? I don't blame that guy for giving a half-assed answer. It would be easier than spending an hour explaining a concept that the old geezers would still not understand or even remember the next day. Besides, as far as Windows is concerned, hyperthreading IS like having 2 processors in 1 (even though I'm sure everyone here understands the real way in which it works).
            • Re:Hand holding. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Dr Caleb (121505) <thedarkknight AT hushmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @11:37AM (#15621487) Homepage Journal
              "Have YOU ever tried explaining something remotely technical to an elderly couple?"

              Yes, yes I have. And people don't give the "Old Geezers" much credit. After all, they are the generation that built society and technology to the level where we got it. How did the 'Old Geezers' do that? Dumb Luck?

              Sheesh. If there is anything wrong with society today, it's assuming someone with 5X the life experience you have is irrelevant because of a few wrinkles.
            • by gardyloo (512791) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:55PM (#15622091)
              Have YOU ever tried explaining something remotely technical to an elderly couple? I don't blame that guy for giving a half-assed answer.

                      I feel sorry for the old folks. If he had just hyperthreaded the explanation, they'd have got a full-assed answer.
          • Re:Hand holding. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by blueturffan (867705) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @09:43AM (#15620470)
            On another occasion I heard a Geek Squad guy tell an elderly couple that hyperthreading was "like having 2 processors in 1." I nearly flipped my lid, but that's a different story for a different day.

            Considering a) the audience and b) the fact that HT "allows a Hyper-Threading equipped processor to pretend to be two "logical" processors to the host operating system" (per Wikipedia), I fail to see why this oversimplificaton was egregious to the point of lid-flipping.

            In my opinion, this sounds like nothing more malicious than adapting the message to the audience.

            On the other hand, replacing a new battery to stop a buzzing heatsink does show inexperience, ineptitude, and incompetence.

          • Re:Hand holding. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by HumanisticJones (972339) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @11:16AM (#15621289) Homepage
            I worked in Circuit City's IQ Crew (their answer to Geek Squad) for a while. On our crew, I was the only one there with a tech-support background, having supported machines for the local university for a few years. The others I worked with were the most "tech savy" in the store, i.e. the members of the floor sales staff that could toss the most jargon and confound the customers with the biggest words. My coworkers had all worked selling DVD players and Car stereos and had little to know knowledge of the inner workings of a computer. What's worse is that my supervisor sounded like his only link to information technology was having read PC Installation for Dummies.

            Right across the street, and I am quite literal about that, was a Best Buy. Despite the rivalry between the stores, some of my friends worked at the Best Buy so we'd often chat about the day's goings on and swap moronic customer stories. I also got to hear about their Geek Squad. Turns out it was no different there. As we were talking one day, my friend informed me he'd been offered to move up to the Geek Squad from his current job as product specialist in the DVD department. That's right, work there long enough, and they might promote you from floor sales to computer expert!

            My advice, never trust either of these places, it drains a mans soul to have to charge $60 to say what's wrong with your computer $10 per gig if you want anything backed up, and then $15-$45 per thing that needs fixing. Working in these teams, promotion has nothing to do with knowledgability and customer satisfaction, it has to do with how much money you can charge a single person to do 20 minutes of work.

            I still feel the hole in my essence left from my time there.
            • by Mayhem178 (920970) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @11:32AM (#15621439)
              Which reminds me of a more recent story. A different friend of mine, who like me only builds his own computers, was going to purchase a stick of RAM from Best Buy because it was on sale at half price (marked down from $80 to $40). When he tried to purchase the RAM, however, he was informed that the discount is only valid if he let the Geek Squad install the RAM for him. The cost of such a procedure was, as you stated above, around $50, which essentially means that the discount would have ended up costing him more money than paying full price and installing it himself.

              Needless to say, he raised some serious hell about it. In the end the store manager let him have the discount without any interaction with the Geek Squad.
      • by Tweekster (949766) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @02:00AM (#15618859)
        And they dress like mormons
    • Re:Hand holding. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @02:45AM (#15619019)
      Some people need that kind of support.

      You hit the nail on the head. That's exactly the point of Geek Squad and similar repair/upgrade services. It's all too easy for slashdotters to pile on Geek Squad, since they don't do much that's very difficult (and I doubt they pay enough to to attract top-notch techs anyway, so they have to send things out a lot, duh). But the typical home or business computer user is NOT a geek.

      Yes, there are lots of geeks of varying degrees, but not everyone wants to know how to par tition a hard drive, install device drivers or diagnose problems that turn out to be merely software related. My mom wants Word and Photoshop to work, and that's it. She doesn't care about overclocking for 7% better performance in a game, maximizing her server's reliability or learning Linux inside and out. She still INSISTS of using Netscape, for Pete's sake. Looke at how many people who can afford broadband still use dialup. People like them are plenty willing to pay for someone else to worry about their problems, or else wait patiently for me to have a chance to check it out. Or they buy Macs.

      I'm not sure why so many tech-savy folks can't understand that they are special (although they often like to point out that they are), or that not everyone wants to be a computer expert. I like driving my neat little car around town, but I'll be damned if I'm going to freeze my butt off if it needs brakes in the winter. Bodywork? Hah! Simple and labor-intensive, but not thanks. I'm not mechanically inept, but I have a job and like to have dirty work done for me sometimes. And how is this news or "stuff that matters?"

      • Re:Hand holding. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Golias (176380) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @09:35AM (#15620419)
        I don't know much about cars, but when I take mine in for service, I'd like the person who works on it to be an expert mechanic.

        Likewise, if a relative of mine takes their PC to Geek Squad, it would be nice if the guy who looks at it knows how to diagnose simple driver problems or hardware failures.

        That's one thing I like about the so-called "genius bars" in the Apple retail stores. They are not perfect and have a lot of the same problems as any other support center, (and their wait times are sometimes maddening), but since that particular support center is owned by the vendor, and the presige of the entire fucking company is on the line every time they help somebody, there's tremendous corporate pressure for those people to know what the hell they are doing and to act like professionals.

        I know several people who now refuse to buy any computer other than Macs, not because they like the OS so much or because they think the hardware is anything special, but simply because they know that if there's a problem, they can get help which is actually, you know, helpful. For a non-techie, this is far beyond worth the mark-up on Apple's computers.

        Swerving back on to the topic at hand, The Geek Squad is really not much worse than a lot of other tier-1 PC support centers out there. They just happen to be the most visible. The support industry is rife with people who don't even know what defrag does, let alone when it would be useful to use it.
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by bcat24 (914105) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:40PM (#15617944) Homepage Journal
    We know they use Winternals software [sysinternals.com]. :)
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:40PM (#15617948)
    people more clueless than themselves. Maybe they should go to Apple's Genius Bar to get actual help with their PC:)

    Actually, I suspect, based on your summary, that they find it cheaper to contract out to you guys than having knowleable people on their staff. Best Buy just charges the customer anyway (a premium) so it's not like it's coming out of their pocket. If they knew what was wrong with it in the first place, like a faulty harddrive, wouldn't they just replace it themselves? It's not like they don't have the parts.
    • by snuf23 (182335) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:48PM (#15617982)
      One thing I always wondered about. Since Macs are so easy to use, why does it require a "genius" to fix one?
      The problem with "the Geek Squad" and any other computer service (including CompUSA sales for example) is that the pay is so shitty that if an individual actually knows something about computers they won't be working there.
      I remember one incident where a customer had brought a network card to the support desk at CompUSA and asked "Does this card support Linux?". The tech answered "Yes, it has Windows NT drivers. Windows NT is like Linux so it will work." The mindboggled stare of the obviously more savvy customer was priceless.
      Geek Squad has a great model. People pay them to fix their computers, they break it worse and wipe out the data. Then the people don't have to blame themselves for the data loss, they can blame Geek Squad.
      • by bcat24 (914105) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:50PM (#15617994) Homepage Journal
        One thing I always wondered about. Since Macs are so easy to use, why does it require a "genius" to fix one?

        Well, my car is easy to use, but I wouldn't want to fix it myself. I'll leave car repair to the car geeks, and most people should leave computer repair to the computer geeks.
        • by tgd (2822) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @08:37AM (#15620013)
          The two fields are not all that different. There are just as many people involved with auto repair who shouldn't be as there are "geeks" involved with computer repair who shouldn't be.

          Case in point: my girlfriends father spent over $800 trying to fix a hesitation problem in their old car, before he gave it to my girlfriend. Coils replaced, wires, you name it, they did it. Three or four "techs" looked at it over the course of several months and never did solve it.

          They dropped the car off at our house, I took it for a drive and saw the coolant needle drop like a brick as the car hesitated. Pulled over, had her hop in the drivers seat and tell me when it dropped again. Wiggled the wire going into the coolant sensor. *bam* dropped like a rock, and the engine hesitated.

          Duh. Engines aren't that complicated these days. Anyone claiming to be an automotive technician should've known instantly what the problem was. $2 for a replacement connector, five minutes of soldering and heat shrinking and the car was fixed.

          Cars are easy to use and easy to fix if you know a few basics. I don't trust the average dimwit in the "industry" to touch my cars and I don't trust them to touch my computers.

          Both are good fields for everyone to know enough about to know when they're dealing with a moron, or worse are being lied to.
      • If the customer was so fucking savvy about linux, why is he wasting everybodys time in the store?

        I'm getting a little bored of the "does it support linux" analogy to show how stupid somebody is. Everyone uses it, and it's dumb.

        Linux is a fringe operating system. I've used it for about 15 years, and I've come to realize that nobody in a big box store has been trained to support it, or knows if device X works with linux. This is because nobody comes in looking to spend money on linux hardware.

        They really do
  • by BobNET (119675) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:42PM (#15617958)
    Haven't you seen their ads? They wear ties. You know, 'cause all geeks wear ties! (Just look in the mirror, fellow /. readers!) And if they wear ties they have to be computer experts!
    • Re:Their Clothing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ivan256 (17499) * on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:45PM (#15617970)
      You know somebody isn't a repair tech if they're wearing a tie.

      When I worked professionally as a repair tech, I wore a tie for exactly one day. They dangle, and get stuck to the pins on the back of a PCB like velcro. Work on one machine without being careful about your tie, and it's ruined with dozens of pulls. If you're lucky, you didn't ruin whatever it is you were working on.
      • Re:Their Clothing (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ilsa (197564) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:50PM (#15618256) Homepage
        You know somebody isn't a repair tech if they're wearing a tie.

        If memory serves, IBM field techs used to have a no-real-tie policy. They all wore clip-ons for safety reasons. If your tie gets caught in a printer, do you want to lose your tie or lose your neck?

        Of course that was in the days where computer rooms had raised floors and separate air conditioning systems. Dinosaurs may also have been roaming the earth, but I was a child at the time.
      • by totallygeek (263191) <sellis@totallygeek.com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @01:05AM (#15618606) Homepage
        When I worked professionally as a repair tech, I wore a tie for exactly one day.


        I agree with you completely. Although, I used to work for a company where a tie was mandatory. People would always buy me computer ties as gifts and I had about 100 of them. So, one day I am doing some service work at a company I had never visited when one of the owners strolled in. He gestured at me and I introduced myself. He then stated that he thought for the money paid he would have a more conservative, business-minded computer person building out his network and told me to never wear the tie I had on or even one like it in his building. So, I left. I told my boss about it and he told me I had to return and where a non-geeky computer tie (I think I had on a tie with a 3-D computer mouse). So, on the way over, I stopped at a thrift shop and bought a god-awful, really wide, nasty-colored tie. Needless to say, I always made sure I wore a crummy tie while at his office from then on out.

    • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:47PM (#15617977) Homepage Journal
      Hey! I wear a tie and frankly I find it offensive that... nah, I can't pull that off. :)

  • by Raistlin77 (754120) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:46PM (#15617971)
    'nuff said.
  • by beyonddeath (592751) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:52PM (#15618002)
    I havn't started training yet but from the managers explanation of the work, it seems pretty ridiculous. Ie: returned products must be tested, and when we say it simply wont boot up, it will get back we have to be more specific and say what wont boot up like windows or the hard drive. I guess it just goes to show you gotta do what you gotta do, at least when you have to pay rent.
  • by two_socks (516862) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:52PM (#15618004) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, I think they're a step up from "I roll my poo into balls".
    God help you if they ever make you speak to one to explain what's wrong with something purchased there.
  • well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zxnos (813588) <zxnoss@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:57PM (#15618033)
    geek squad charges too much to do what any family nerd can do. install components / software and run malware/virus scans.

    my question is what the 'repair' centers do. i had to send a laptop out to have the power jack replaced. laptop came back with scratches and superglue and a 'new DVD drive that didnt work and was covered in glue (my previous drive worked). i then sent it out to have a fan replaced. i used geek squad again because they said thye would replace the DVD with one that works and wasnt covered in glue. computer came back with new drive, scratches and note that says 'unit overheats and shuts down after two minutes. needs fan.' (that took 2 weeks) i sent it back out to have the fan replaced (again). laptop came back after another two weeks with more scratches and missing rubber feet. fan works.

    during this time i wrote a few letters. it only took 2.5 months to get back my working, yet cosmetically damaged, laptop back. the only good thing is that all 'repairs' were free, a stack of DVD-R's and a 200$ refund on my only big purchase at best buy.

    apparantly geek squad is building their own repair center.

    lastly the guy there stated that when it comes to notebooks, geek squad is a glorified shipping center. they also just write down the symptoms that the customer tells them. so the customer could be wrong

  • by Facekhan (445017) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:58PM (#15618040)
    I took this awful management class and they talked about Geek Squad like its some sort of Business miracle. We even had to watch a video where they talk about the company and its structure. Aside from their marketing they are really nothing special and time will tell on that as well. Geek Squad is just one of many essentially empty shell IT service organizations that charge a high rate to the end users who go to them because they have established a recognizable brand and then contract most if not all of the actual work out to others.

      If you want to see even more disturbing examples of this trend sign up as a provider at onforce.com where a so-called free market for IT services is little more than a way for these empty shell providers to route low paying service calls to "independent contractors" except that marketplace is deliberately skewed so that the providers don't get to enforce their own rates but rather find themselves racing to accept low paying work orders from companies that are nothing more than a catchy name and a 800 number. One of the lowest paying of these companies suspiciously operates out of the same building as Onforce.com (formerly ComputerRepair.com) while routinely violating even the weak rules Onforce setup to guard against abuses, such as requiring that clients pay contractors at least 1 hours time and paying a fee for customer no-shows.
    • by DreamingReal (216288) <dreamingreal@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @03:27AM (#15619147) Homepage
      I took this awful management class and they talked about Geek Squad like its some sort of Business miracle. We even had to watch a video where they talk about the company and its structure. Aside from their marketing they are really nothing special and time will tell on that as well.

      Actually, before Best Buy sunk its venomous teeth into it, Geek Squad really was. It was started in Minneapolis almost 15 years ago by a guy (Robert Stephens) on a bike. The cars, the image, the attitude of the company was all Robert's ideas. They were doing flat-rate pricing before practically everyone and they had Agents whose technical skills would eat the lunches of everyone on Slashdot. The main Minneapolis newspaper retired the "Best Computer Support" category from their annual "Best Of" issue because Geek Squad destroyed the competition every single year. They were supporting the Rolling Stones, Ice Cube, and scores of Hollywood stars because of the phenomenal service they provided and the general counter-cultural "cool" they oozed (this was before Geeks were vogue). They really were a fine lesson in branding and customer service back then.

      I had the great fortune of being one of the first Agents hired after Best Buy purchased the company. My badge number gets awed looks from other Agents as the latest hires are in the 3600s and mine is in the mid 100s. We only had about 70 Agents nationwide at that point (Agent badge numbers are never reused) and the 800-number was still staffed by technically compentent people who actually knew computer repair. I had to go through a difficult technical interview and three personal interviews before I got the job. So did everyone else at that time. No one knew who we were and we had to work fucking hard to prove ourselves to the customers. I worked with brilliant and dedicated people and only answered to the higher-ups in Geek Squad.

      Fast forward 4 years to the present. Best Buy had done what every soulless corporation does with a great idea. They commodomized the shit out of it, dilluted the quality with shoddy hiring practices, and drove away the best talent by only looking at the bottom line.

      They gave all the jag-offs in the store the Geek Squad uniform and made the old Tech Benches into Geek Squad precincts, even though they were staffed with the same underpaid, uneducated, and lazy "techs" that gave Best Buy such a horrible reputation for computer repair. Us old-schoolers screamed bloody murder we they made this decision 2 years ago because we knew what would happen - our great reputation would be pulled into the mud by these knuckle-draggers. Guess what? IT WAS.

      I can fix just about anything, set-up any consumer electronic device to work with any computer, and expertly train anyone on about two dozen diffent software titles. Instead of doing that, I spend most of my time fixing other Agent's fuck-ups and soothing angry customers for "Customer Loyalty". Why? Because I can fix shit properly and I'm good with people. Nowadays, Best Buy store managers hire the on-site Agents and generally look for people who will do their bidding, rather than those who know computers or have demonstrable customer service skills. Most of these new guys won't spend the time to improve their skills or learn new technologies. They either restore or have me do the "hard jobs". And God forbid they should download demo software to learn so they can provide trainings.

      Best Buy management has had the worst affect on Agent morale and employee retention. They focus only on scorecards, holding Agents responsible for missed budgets even though the in-store sales team is expected to generate 70% of the revenue, rewarding Agents who unnecessarily rape their customers with preposterous upselling, and generally ignore technically skilled Agents or those who provide outstanding customer service. At the corporate level, overhiring has led to hour slashing that has wiped out my last three pay raises. I'

  • by cyranoVR (518628) * <cyranoVR@ g m ail.com> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:59PM (#15618048) Homepage Journal
    They hired nerds, not geeks - stupid, stupid, stupid!
  • Nothing competitive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TLouden (677335) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:02PM (#15618060)
    They're kinda like buying milk for your restaurant from 7-11. You get no selection for an exceptionally high price. What the geeksquad does is advertise to the ignorant and rake in the unproductive profits. Note: I am a technical consultant who does everything geeksquad claims to do and much more for reasonable prices so this is just their competitions opinion. Seriously though, using them is like buying an iplod because you think it's the only portable media device in existance.
  • by Enigm0r (655410) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:06PM (#15618075)
    I really depends on the store and it's staff. There are some that are filled with very bright and knowledgable people. Then there are some filled with idiots. I think it depends a lot on the IT industry in your area. If your area has a booming IT trade there are less of the smart, just out of college, but smart people to work a low rung job like Geek Squad. However, if you work in an IT deadzone, what you will find a lot of times in those Geek Squads is very talented *geeks* who are working there as their first IT job because there aren't that many opportunites for IT in their area. Just my 2 cents --Former GeekSquad'er
  • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:11PM (#15618095) Homepage Journal
    Really, we do. They bring us soooo much business it's funny.

    We have determined that the Geek Squad geeks are people hired off the street the day before, and are instructed to look at the computer, and recommend that they buy a new computer. (from Best Buy, of course!)

    Every attempt that we are aware of that they have actually tried to fix something, we see it a week later to fix what was wrong, and to fix what the geek broke while trying to fix it.

    Some of the latest episodes:

    - geek browsed customer's computer to a nasty web site and got it infected with spyware and viruses (two weeks ago)
    - geek took laptop apart and failed to reconnect cardbus slot connector (that one was today)
    - geek told customer he needed a new computer when he needed a new power supply (this happens somewhat frequently)
    - geek told customer he needed a new computer because this one is slow, was actually rampant with spyware and viruses (happens all the time)
    - geek sold customer another copy of XP because this one was showing it was no longer registerd

    The list just goes on and on... funny thing too, we are quite expensive for on-site service compared to others in our area, (we're expensive, but we're good) but the Geek Squad actually is more expensive than we are. I don't see how they get any business, they must have a killer marketing campaign.
    • geek browsed customer's computer to a nasty web site and got it infected with spyware and viruses (two weeks ago)

      Yeah, suuuuuuure... "Oh, I have no idea how that porn site got into my history. I know I never visit porn sites, and my husband/son/dog are morally upstanding individuals... it must have been the Geek Squad!"

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @01:27AM (#15618704)
      I worked for the Geek Squad for a year and a half, ending last summer before college, and I certainly have my 2 cents to put into this discussion...

          I joined, as was suggested by another user already, becuase I needed a steady first job and local IT positions were pretty much non-existant. I have been a computer "geek" since the first Pentium, and consider myself extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of PC systems. I was definitely overqualified for the job, even without my A+ rating (which I thought for sure they'd turn me down over...).

          I was probably the best (or close to the best) "agent" on the squad as soon as I learned their piece of shit software. The problem was, they were so concentrated on making revenue and churning out computers, it was difficult to spend enough time on a machine to do things 100% the best way without getting kicked in the ass to get it off the bench, although 90% of the computers that were checked in were so incredibly trashed with malware, spyware, (pr0n, etc..) that windows was too trashed to repair w/o a format. Many of those computers were so outdated and missing CD's that in some cases it wasn't possible to find all the drivers for thier generic devices, even in the depths of the internet.

          As far as sending computers out for repair by third party vendors like the writer - I HATED seeing computers get shipped out. sometimes, we just sent comptuers out becuase we were too backed up. Some were misdiagnosed on our end, and some, even properly diagnosed, came back unrepaired or worse. The worst part was that >yours truly had to deal with a screaming customer instead of the shitheads who messed it up on one end or the other. Of the 9 or 10 "agents" on our "squad", MAYBE 2 of them (besides myself) REALLY seemed to GENUINELY care about what the customer was going through on the other side of the desk, and consequently caused a lot of shit to happen - the main reason I won't go back...

        I will also say we definitly had a problem with techs who were hired either off the sales floor or off the street w/o proper evaluation : We actually had one tech who brought her own computer in for repair after she "coudln't figure it out for the life of (her)". 30 seconds later I had it fixed after I set the jumper on her CDROM correctly.

      There is soooo much more I could say, but I'll stop and leave those on the consumer end with some tips dealing with computer repairs:

            DUH) GOOGLE your problems first...you save money, and you don't have to read any further

            1) Find someone local who works on their own or for a small firm. Your unit will likely get more personal attention and not just be sent through the repair process on a conveyor belt.

            2) If you have to go to the geek squad or other group of the like, don't go straight in with your computer. go in ahead of time, and talk to the guys at the bench, and find someone you can trust - leave knowing one of them enough that they know your name and your face.
      Ask when their next work shift is and when there is the least amount of traffic, and bring your machine in durring that time.

            4) If the tech works often enough that it is reasonable for both of you that ONLY they work on your computer, ASK for such service. It may take longer, but its better to have someone you trust get it done the first time, then have 5 different techs skrew it up. Some "squads" are great at handing computers off - mine wasn't at all - you never know...Best case scenario, you have a guy you can trust to do a good job from now on. Worst case scenario - he can't blame his shit job on somebody else.

            5) BACK YOUR STUFF UP BEFORE YOU BRING IT IN, especially if you're having problems that may require restoring your system. It can save you a LOT of money, and a LOT of hastle. Even if the backup is as simple as using the customer's CDRW drive to do the backup, we still charged full price (i hated this with a passion...).

      *Yes, we dress like in the ads.**
      **Yes, the ties get in the way and we hate them**
  • by tansey (238786) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:12PM (#15618100) Journal
    I think it's pretty obvious [geeksquad.com] they're here to repair our poor fashion sense! Remember, dressing like an extra from Revenge of the Nerds is the first step towards mastering your computer!
  • by poobread (826669) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:18PM (#15618125)
    Geek Squad: Well, look, I already told you. I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don't have to!! I have people skills!! I am good at dealing with people!!! Can't you understand that?!? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!!!!!!!
  • by miller60 (554835) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:22PM (#15618137) Homepage
    Skilled computer techs who will do residential site visits are hard to find, so instead people default to a choice that they believe will insulate them from the worst-case scenarios. Most non-geek users have trouble assessing whether or not a computer consultant is capable or will muck up their machine even worse. Rather than taking the risk that they'll hire some dimwit or crook, they go to Best Buy (or CompUSA) and pay extra for their service in the belief that this gives them options if the repair goes badly. The crooked consultant can disappear with their money before the "fixed" computer blows up. It's not that easy to move the Best Buy store, so the guy is likely to return and demand satisfaction.
  • by skam240 (789197) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:35PM (#15618184)
    I worked in the Geek Squad at Best Buy for a little while back when they first took up the name. A few fun things I noticed while working there.

    -In changing over from being a computer sales person to a tech, absolutely no form of test was administered to assess my proficiency before putting me to work formatting people's computers (I could have literally not known how to do this before being assigned to this job.)
    -The only training that was administered to me upon transfer to the department was an abysmal program that failed to teach me the ins and outs of the database I would be using (and there were gaps in my knowledge about computer tech work that needed addressing at the time).
    -Almost without exception the only thing done by Geek Squad members to computers which were brought in was a reformat and reinstall of the OS. If that didn't work the computer was almost always sent out of the store for weeks on end for repair.
    -My boss spent over half of his time at work in various hiding places yakking on his cell phone. He was never held accountable for this.

    Eventually my complete disgust with our lack of service, outright hatred of all levels of management and just general dislike of being forced to con people into buying things they don't need drove me to leave. I now work quite happily (at a dollar less an hour) at a locally owned supermarket while I finish me degree. Of every part time job I've ever had (high school included) this was by far the worst.

    I could go on about all kinds of other things about Best Buy outside of the context of the Geek Squad but I'll stay on topic. Also, it should be noted that these are only my own experiences working in one store.
  • by anotherone (132088) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:50PM (#15618255)
    Does the name "Geek Squad" kind of offend anyone besides me, even just a little bit?
    • by mr_zorg (259994) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:44AM (#15618522)
      Does the name "Geek Squad" kind of offend anyone besides me, even just a little bit?

      Yes, but probably not for the same reasons. I wear my geek badge with pride. It's my website and my license plates... What offends me is that these folks, from the sounds of it (I have no personal experience), haven't earned the badge. To me, it's a bit like someone calling themselves a doctor when they haven't been to medical school (or even have a Ph.D. of any sort).

  • by Megane (129182) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:57PM (#15618287) Homepage
    They get to drive around in this way-cool VW Beetle with the words "Geek Squad" on the side. That's soooo l33t.
  • by RexRhino (769423) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:14AM (#15618360)
    There is nothing with Geek Squad, in the same way there is nothing wrong with Taco Bell. Both provide a low quality product for a low cost. If you want excellent service, you have to pay a premium... just like if you want excellent food, you have to pay a premium (or learn how to cook). For many cheap computer systems, paying a premium for a highly skilled technician just doesn't make a lot of sense... especially when, in many cases, the problem can be solved by any marginally computer literate person.

    Now, there are some people who might say that Geek Squad is overpriced. I don't know what the going rate for tech support is, but it seems to me that Geek Squad is far from a monopoly on tech support, and that people are either happy with the service, or prefer the one-stop Best Buy concept than to open a phone book and look for a place themselves.
  • A real answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ktwombley (682915) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:21AM (#15618390)
    I worked as a Geek Squad Agent a while ago. Seeing no real, honest replies, I figure I'll actually answer the question.

    First, I agree that many Geek Squad Agents aren't too bright. However, many are. Where do you think some of the future whatever-you-are's work in high school and college? Yeah, these types of jobs.

    I'm lucky that I can say at my store I was surrounded by several other smart guys, and some not so smart guys. Now, occasionally a dumb guy would try to fix something, call it fixed, and mess things up. However, that was an exception rather than the norm. Often the dumb guys would leave stuff in the back with notes on them to have someone smarter look at it :)

    You have to really understand the situation these guys are in. On the one hand they've got a stream of customers who (rightly) want their computers fixed. On the other hand they've got managers who don't know anything about fixing computers, and would rather have the Geek Squad guys sell more add-on products than fix things. The managers only care about the bottom line. And only in the short-term.

    So often they either have to hurry though something because they're not being "productive" (e.g. not selling enough Norton to people), or don't have the tools / replacement parts to fix things that are broken.

    The way replacing parts works is this: If the best buy store sells a comparable part, and the repair is covered under warranty or service plan, then the Geek Squad Agent can pull the part off the shelf, install it, and send the customer home. This only works in a very few cases, unfortunately. Anything else has to go to a vendor for repair. The Agent just diagnoses which part is bad, boxes it up, and sends it out. Again, this isn't because the Agent is incompetant, it's because he's not allowed to fix it.

    Now, all software-related problems (drivers, spyware, etc.) are done in-store. They don't ship that stuff out to vendors.

    Oh, a note about fixing stuff. It's a common joke to say all that they do is just reinstall windows. In my experience, that's just not the case. However, if you really think about it, often it really is the fastest way to do something. If you're on a tight budget for time, would you rather spend a few hours or days carefully researching and repairing some asinine spyware infestation that's so embedded that no spyware cleaners will remove it, or just spend a couple hours backing up, installing windows, and restoring personal data? It just makes good sense in some cases.

    In summary: Geek Squad agents, the smart ones, at least, realize the situation they're in, and try to do the best job they can despite the obstacles thrown in their way by Best Buy and their managers. Before I'm flamed by some Geek Squad employees: I admit that my info is a bit dated. I'm sure some things are done differently now. This is my own experience.

    Before I'm flamed by some Best Buy haters: I'm not saying Geek Squad is great, or it's the right thing for everybody. In fact, if you're reading /. and actually reading the comments, then Geek Squad is not a product aimed at you. Bitching about Geek Squad (and services like it) on Slashdot is like a Formula 1 pit crew lead telling an 85 year old lady to change her own oil because Jiffy Lube is a rip off. You entirely miss the point.

  • by cliffhanger407 (974949) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:39AM (#15618498)
    i know i'll probably get flamed for this, but w/e.
    i am a member of the geeksquad; I've worked there for a little less than a year, and from my experience, here's what we do.
    Essentially, the in-store people do low level work. I'm constantly bored because I'm doing virus removal after virus removal from people who have messed up their computers and no longer know how to get on the internet. The job is redundant and menial and it gets old pretty quickly.
    We actually do have a data backup that we try to convince people to do, but generally speaking, they opt out because, yes, our prices are too high. If i could change them, i would, so don't bitch at me.
    The main brunt of work that we do though is basic setup (i.e. av install and antispyware install). it's menial dull and boring, and more than half of my time during the day is spent sitting watching little trackbars scrolling across a screen despite the fact that i have an 8 port KVM running full of machines.
    From my experience, there are two types of "agents" who work in store as we're forced by SOP to call each other. there are the fairly smart ones, who know what's going on for the most part and can figure out just about anything wrong with a system. then there are the ones who are good with customers. they know nothing about computers, but often they think that they can fix problems. i don't trust them. most of the good agents that i work with also don't trust them, and as such they don't work on computers very often. in the stores which are understaffed, however, there is not this luxury. This is why the geeksquad has such a bad reputation among the ivory tower of computer intellectuals.
    In-home and in-office technicians are a bit of a different case; they're at least required to have A+ cert for in-home working, and i'm fairly certain (but don't quote me on this) that the in-office are required to be MCSE. It may not be the same as having a masters or just being an all around badass, but they're at least generally qualified. Some people slide through the cracks in the system, though, and still give the organization a bad name.
    I wish the geek squad would have more openings for people like me, though. I'm not certified, but i definately know my way around a system better than anyone I work with. I'm also the youngest at my store by far; I'm just now going to college next year. Basically the deal is that the people I work with are older and don't care as much about making an impression, which I believe is a fatal flaw. They don't want to ensure that management likes them as much because they have become disillusioned with the way the world works.
    That's my 2 cents, sorry for the long comment.
  • JOB REQUIREMENTS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kd5ujz (640580) <william@ramSLACK ... com minus distro> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:40AM (#15618504)
    As stated here. geek squad job advertisment [careerbuilder.com]

    Do you have the skills?

    DOS, Windows 9x/ME/2000/XP or Apple MacOS

    Troubleshooting of Operating Systems and Internet connection issues

    Knowledge of computer hardware diagnostic and troubleshooting

    Software installations and upgrading

    Can install / troubleshoot all computer-related devices (video, sound, modem, printer, scanner, camera, etcetera.)

    Have the ability to research online and work through problems

    Explain computer-related sales and service options to people shopping Best Buy and over the phone


    Geek Squad Agents will work in a fast paced retail environment performing computer-related installations and technical support. Although sales will not be your primary function, let's just face it, when our customers spot a sharp technical mind dressed like an Agent, they can't help but ask a few technology questions. Geek Squad Agents should have the ability to interact with customers while showing respect, courtesy and professionalism. A+ Certification is a plus.

    Agent opportunities: Agent must develop customers as they perform on-site repairs, setups and networking, both in homes and businesses, and will assist customers in Best Buy when not on-site. This very responsible person is provided a "Geekmobile" and a parts inventory. Excellent driving record required.
  • by Codename46 (889058) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @02:03AM (#15618870)
    Many companies that hire computer technicians merely require an A+ Certification [comptia.org] in order for an applicant to be considered competent and eligible for the job. The problems with that is A+ Certification by itself isn't enough because

    1) It doesn't take much to pass. The A+ test consists of two sections (Core hardware and OS technologies), and you really only need a score of 500 to pass for each section to become A+ Certified (which really amounts to getting roughly 50-60 percent of the whole exam correct, a pitiful score). Whether or not you score the bare minimum or got above an 800 on each section, companies only see your certificate, so really you don't know whether the A+ monkey you've hired actually knows much. Hell, I even got A+ certified when I was 15 (I'm 17 now) and managed to get a job as a salesman at Micro Center [microcenter.com], and I didn't even get any hands-on practice (bought a 60-dollar Sybex book and crammed). The concepts are way too basic, and the objectives are messed up. A+ requires you to have knowledge of rarely-implemented concepts such as old motherbboard sockets and the features of really old CPU's (I'm talking 386 here). What the test should concentrate more on is detail on newer material instead of trying to create a catch-all for everything that has happened in IT in the past 20 years.

    2) The test is only updated about every 3 years. Since newer computer hardware comes out about every 2 months, people usually have to resort to extra homework-research in order to catch up. Stores like Frys and Best Buy don't really give much training to new material. Only this year did COMPTIA update [comptia.org] the certification objectives to cover new topics such as dual-core processors, which were released 2 years ago.

    3) The test has no hands-on material whatsoever. I didn't even know how to use brass standoffs in order to mount a motherboard into a case when I passed this test. When I really got into computers and started doing hands-on stuff by myself (i.e repairing PC's for friends and building PC's), I realized how much I missed out even with the certification. Many certifications today (especially the ones by COMPTIA such as Network+, Linux+, and Security+) don't have much, if any, hands-on objectives during testing. I don't care if you have memorized how many transistors each processor that has been developed in the past two decades have, but if you don't know how to correctly mount a motherboard/ground yourself/RAID multiple hard drives by hand, then you don't know jack shit.

    Even with other certifications that broaden their knowledge like Network+ and maybe CCNA, the most important thing is hands-on experience, something that takes a lot more background than cramming a couple of books.

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