Saturday, April 09, 2011

Hasta la vista, Tekserve!

Last week wasn't much fun.  The icing on the cake of crapola was Friday, when my laptop seemed to be on its last legs.

I'd been having problems with my beloved laptop ever since I'd run some sort of software designed to free up harddrive space by removing the extra languages.  (I'm really not going to need Finnish any time soon, no matter how much I liked James Thompson's SNOW ANGELS)

The computer was running slowly, taking an ungodly amount of time to turn off and on.  I'd taken to just having it sleep most of the time, rather than actually power down.

Then Thursday I downloaded a bunch of movies, and the computer said "naw, not doing that" and sat down on the metaphorical curb and cried.


Well, I knew I needed to back up data before taking it in, but I couldn't get the software installed for the new remote harddrive.  I sucked it up and trudged down to Tekserve. I've been a customer there since 2002. I've bought five or more computers there, almost all my peripherals, and been content enough to keep going despite a glitch or two.

I expected to wait a while for repair, but I didn't.  I was surprised how few people were there.  The first time I'd been to Tekserve was on a Friday night and you'd have thought there was an open bar there were so many people standing around. This time there were maybe five people waiting.

I explained my problem to a very pleasant young woman who had a really nice bird tattoo. I explained I'd probably done something stupid by trying to clean the computer a while back, and then probably downloaded too much stuff the previous night.

Fine. The young woman tells me what she's going to do as if I'll understand it. Do what you need to I say to her, and she does.

Fifteen minutes later she says "your hard drive is corrupted. You need a new one. Fortunately it's covered by warranty. Of course, none of your data can be saved, but we can try to restore it for you for $549.  If we can't, you don't have to pay."

Hang on a second.

I'm pretty sure my hard drive is working, albeit slowly. I'd sent emails on it five minutes before leaving the office.  It turns off and on, slowly yes, but it does. The screen doesn't go blank.  It doesn't suddenly fail.  It's just slow.

And what's this about losing all my data?  I don't think so.

I ask if it's possible to drag and drop my file folders onto a flashdrive.
The birdlady says "no, your hard drive is corrupted."

Fearing the worst I ask how long it will take to fix. "Oh just a day," she says.

"So if I bring it on Saturday, I'll get it on Monday?"
"No, you'll get it on Tuesday."

"And if I bring it on Monday?"
"You'll get it Tuesday."

Well, it seems clear that the thing to do is go home and try to salvage as much data as possible, either by emailing myself files or getting them on flash drives. There's nothing to be lost by bringing the computer back on Monday instead of leaving it now.

So I buy the three largest flash drives Tekserve has.  Three 32 GB flash drives, and off I slither into the subway.

I get home, and pop the first drive in.  I drag and drop a file folder. The computer burps and says "no, I don't think so"

So I drag and drop single files from the folder.

And lo and behold it works.
It's going to take a while, but it works.

As I'm loading up the flash drives I realize I need to find the software disc for my MS Office program.  Of course I have to hunt for it.  I'm pawing through my discs when I come upon something I'd forgotten I had.  The discs that reinstall the operating system. For this laptop.


When I'd screwed up the computer, maybe I'd screwed up the operating system. What if it's not the harddrive? What if it's just the operating system?

I get everything on the flashdrives but a couple of files from iTunes, and I sadly say "sayonara" to four seasons of Law and Order, figuring when I reinstall the OS, I'll never see them again.

Then I take a deep breath, install the discs and mutter a prayer.

And it works.

The OS gets reinstalled. The computer restarts itself and presto, magic turns on in about 30 seconds, not three minutes like it had before.

The computer coughs a few time like she's waking from a nap, then starts back to work. And my god, all my files are THERE. I have the backups, but the files on the computer are still THERE.

Es su milagro!

At this point I'm so grateful I don't have to 1. buy a new computer 2. lose any data 3. have three days downtime I forget that the technician at Tekserve not only had the wrong diagnosis, she didn't actually ever ask me if I'd tried reinstalling the operating system.

And she was right: replacing the harddrive WOULD fix the problem. It wouldn't cost anything. It was covered by warranty.  What she ignored was the cost in downtime and lost data. 

This is the second time Tekserve has been cavalier about cost when I've dealt with them. Once is a mistake. Twice is a pattern.

Now, I'm not going to say "I'll never buy another thing there again ever ever ever" cause those kinds of blanket statements can end up biting you in the asterisk.

What I am going to do is this: I'm not going to Tekserve first.  There are now other places to by Apple products in NYC. There are other places to talk to Apple techs.  I have no idea if they are any good, but I'm going to find out.

And losing my business won't damage Tekserve in the least. I'm a small potatoes customer.  Of course, I am intending to buy my assistant a new computer, and I am intending to buy a wireless router, and I was looking at Macbook Air computers with an idea of upgrading, so they maybe lost three sales in the next month.  That's not much.  But it's something.

So what's the point of this blog post? It's not an exhortation to boycott Tekserve.  Make your own decisions on that.

The point is that I was reminded how important it is to listen to what people say.  I can remember times I've just been so certain I was right I cut people off in conversation.  I've done it during pitch sessions. I've done it in conversations. I've done it a lot.

This incident was a pretty clear reminder to me to shut up and listen carefully. This was my reminder that you can be right, and still be wrong.


Sandra Cormier said...

I never heard of TechServe, but we have the Apple Store here - a blinding white store with a Genius Bar where people sit on stools & wait for techs to do their magic.

I'm glad you found your install discs. Keep rockin'!

Kathy said...

Exact same thing happened with me and the Geek Squad at Best Buy. They said I needed a new hard drive and my computer wasn't under warranty. I didn't have the cash, so I left. A friend casually asked if I'd tried reinstalling the OS Backed up my files, reinstalled the OS and shazam! Problem solved. I'm guessing those places install a lot of unnecessary new hard drives to clueless, panicked computer owners.

M.A. Leslie said...

I am a husband, therefore an expert in being right, but still being oh so wrong.

Amy Ellerman said...

I remind myself to stop and listen all the time. I teach first and second grade, and as often as I'm sure I know exactly where a conversation or question is headed, I find myself surprised. It's always worth it spend the extra time to make sure my kids feel heard.

I love that after such a frustrating experience your insight was the big picture about human behavior rather than what is always much easier--the angry rant about money.

Michelle Kollar said...

Great post and true! My kids remind me everyday how I may be Mom but I don't really 'know it all'. Darn little smarty pants make me proud.

Alaina Y. Ewing said...

Yikes... I'm glad you fixed the problem yourself. Seriously, I get so tired of sitting on hold that I tend to use the free services now that do the support through chat. It works great and I never have to take anything into a store. :-)

Have you tried purchasing macs online? That's always the way I have done it, and it seems to work great. You can custom build when you do it that way too. You still get all the support, you just don't have to deal with clerks that don't know about computers.

Sometimes re-installing will fix the issue, but if it slows back down again then it probably is the hardrive. That happened to my husband's and it took a couple months before it completely went out. Just keep backing up! :-) LOL So you never have to worry. Dang computers!

The Writing Goddess said...

My iPod quit and the Apple store sneered at fixing it. It was 18 months old, after all, I should just get one that wasn't so ancient and outdated. They even offered $20 off the purchase price of a new iPod or iPhone - such a deal! (Not. Turns out I got it fixed elsewhere for less than $50.)

Then I hear stories like this... as a writer with more stories than dollars, gonna stick with PC's for a while. Not impressed with Apple and their affiliates' business model which seems to be "just sell the customer something new and/or more expensive, whether they actually need it or not."

Anonymous said...

And the truly sad thing is that if the tech had listened carefully and asked the right questions, she may have been able to fix the problem without even going so far as to replace the OS.

Rule number one, life's First Standing Order of Everything, is "Always identify the problem."

Oh, and, uh... back up that data, now that you can. I assume you did that? :)

Nadia Lee said...

A lot of them just tell you to replace HD b/c that's how they can make money, esp. by telling you about their data recovery service.

It's not impossible to recover data on your own if you have a big enough external hard drive, etc. Also I always tell people to reinstall OS first. If that doesn't work, wipe your hard drive clean (no data, nothing) and reinstall OS to get rid of all the junk programs and any virus / trojan crap, etc. your computer might have w/o you knowing about it.

HD failure usually happens b/c people don't do basic maintenance on your HD or if it's been years since you bought your laptop. Most HDs are designed to last about 3-5 years, max, per my JP engineer friend. And you can hear it make odd noises (clicking and ticking sounds...not good at all!)

IanBontems said...

Glad you got it all sorted. I hate having computer problems.

Just imagine how many people have handed over their computers and either lost a wad of cash or all their data.

Oh, and I recommend the new Macbook airs. My first Apple was an 11"mba I bought in November and I love it.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

My friend, I hope this has also taught you why you should back up your computer at least weekly, if not nightly. Nightly. Seriously. That way, you never lose more than a day's worth of work.

Unknown said...

First of all, Hooray for small miracles! Hope you poured yourself a fat glass of wine after your computer coughed back to life (or maybe you already had one parked next to you as you dragged all your files to flash drive.)

Second, great reminder. I remind myself of that very thing (often a second too late) when I get impatient with the person I'm chatting with and jump in with my own words for what I assume they're stammering over. Suddenly, the person has lost their train of thought, the conversation is off-track, and lo and behold, that's not really what they had meant to say. And in my mind I am smacking myself on the forehead. Again.

Pamala Knight said...

So glad you were able to solve your problem. We're a Mac nation at my house too (just bought a MacBook for the teenager, there's my MacBook Pro, and the two iMac's for the husband and the other kid) so I invested in the Time Machine with the big giant hard drive (a couple of terabytes?). Since it's also a router, not only does it back up all the computers, it's our gateway to the internet.

So, don't give up on Apple just because of your TekServe experience. Your reminder to listen carefully is great advice to one and all.

Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

my computer is on its last leg. i've never taken it in anywhere to get fixed because i don't have the i've been dealing with slow start ups (which is awful when you go through and try to edit two novels...ugh...OH, and it doesn't open PDF files, either).

i'm glad yours was able to be saved!!!

Livia Blackburne said...

You should be using some kind of automatic backup software, Janet. Some of my friends use mozy.

Unknown said...

My Tekserve story:

In 2008, two weeks before I had to hand over my dissertation to my advising committee, I heard a "click-click-whirrrrrr" in my computer.

The hard drive had died.

Because I was out of warranty, I took it to Tekserv, who *said* they could recover my data. Well, they might have. I'll never know. But when I got my computer back, they had restored...

wait for it...


When I called them, they said that they were sorry, and they wouldn't charge me for the data restoration.

I asked, "Where's my data?" Their reply? "We delete our hard drives every night, so your data is lost."

Yeah. Tekserve.

Moral of the story: back it up! My dissertation was OK, but I lost A LOT of my fieldwork photos.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

M. A. Leslie - I have a saying hanging on my kichen wall which says:

If a man is alone in the woods and speaks, and there is no wife to hear him, is he STILL WRONG ?

Dawne said...

My husband is growing his computer service and repair business.

He's looking for good techs to hire.You have the drive, creativity and perseverance needed in a good computer tech.

I can put in a good word for you if you'd like.

You might have to move to Michigan though.

Robin Ruinsky said...

Three words for you Janet:

External Hard Drive

Buy one. Cherish it. Hook it up and back up your computer.

Online backups are great. Someone mentioned Mozy.


External hard drive

Your new BTB...Best Technical Buddy

Computer Years are not the equivalent to human years. They age
like a piece of fruit left to shrivel in the summer sun.

jjdebenedictis said...

Robin Ruinsky: External hard drives are awesome except when someone breaks into your house and steals it too.

I backup to an external hard drive and to one remote location.

Shaunna said...

That is so true. My dad went to two different cardiologists who listened for five minutes to his symptoms and then recommended an invasive surgery they thought most likely to fix the problem, even though they weren't sure what was causing it. He finally found another cardiologist who took a complete history and physical. Lo and behold, that physician determined the cause of his symptom and prescribed a much-less traumatic solution. Sometimes the best thing any of us can do is shut up and listen for just a few minutes longer.

jesse said...

So that's what you've been up to.

I'm sorry about your hiccup, but happy for the resolution and life lesson.
I've never had any luck with those places: the employees are usually either unwilling or unable to fix complex problems. It is more cost effective to adhere to boiler plate resolutions and/or sell new parts/systems.
If you want a real good time, try returning defective software...

A3Writer said...

The age-old dilemma of how to safely back up data. Ideally, yes, you want to have a fully automatic system in place so you don't have to worry about losing much, but external hard drives can fail, too, and if you're like me you can't resist the urge to use that space for more than just duplicating your data.

Instead of routine full backups of your drive, I would suggest an image of your drive where you have all your programs and settings how you like them. This can be safely stored, and you don't have to worry about the mechanism of constantly backing up.

For more current work, I would suggest the almighty Dropbox ( to synchronize files you select online and across multiple computers. Automatic, secure, backups. I use it for all my writing because of sheer paranoia, and the convenience of using the file on one computer, closing it down, and then popping open my netbook to resume work on it using the same file without ever having to copy it over myself. Depending on your email set up, it should be able to back those up as well so you don't lose out on important communications.

I'm not a Mac user, but a quick search turns up Onyx ( as a software for cleaning out the system and grabbing back HD space. It's Ccleaner for Mac from what I understand.

It's a shame the place you had been a loyal customer stopped caring. It sounds like they were doing what was easiest for them instead of what was best for you.

ryan field said...

Reminds me of the time, about ten years ago, when a mechanic told me I needed a new computer something or other in my car and I spent 600.00 to do it. I know nothing about cars, so I listened. After that, the car still wasn't running normally. So I went to another mechanic and he put in a new spark plug for fifty bucks and the car was perfect.

Shannon Heather said...

Almost sixteen years ago, I fell in love with and married my very own geek. That's when the magic began (get your mind out of the gutter).

Best damn decision of my life!

I've spent almost 16 glorious years absolutely clueless to the trials my friends have with their computers. I don't install thingymajigs and whatchyamacallits. All I have to do is buy things that plug in and a few hours later they work.

When my computers acts up, I call my hubby and say "it's broken." And, I ABSOLUTELY know magic is real because when I turn on my computer the next day - IT WORKS! MAGIC!

We have our own personal cloud. I was a little concerned at first because the cloud is odorless and colorless. But, after my hubby explained what it was, I cancelled the call to the fire dept.

I don't have to backup, because some computer in our basement saves stuff automatically. MAGIC!

That's my geek story *places cool sunglasses on face and leans back*

Rachel Searles said...

Glad you were able to save your data! I just lost a month's worth of revisions because I had been saving my sole copy on a flash drive that up and died. A flash drive! What was I thinking? No backups! I'd cry for myself but I'm already paralyzed by my own stupidity.

Liesl Shurtliff said...

Online back-up: Mozy or Backblaze. Five buck a month for infinite peace of mind no matter how messed up your computer or idiotic your tech support.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann said...

My goal in life (besides getting my YA fiction published by a major house) is to work in the Apple Store's Genius Bar. Anyway, my recommendation for your office is Apple's Time Capsule, which serves as both a wireless router and an external backup drive. It's really easy to set up and use with Time Machine, as long as you have Mac OS 10.5 or later; Time Machine can back up automatically at intervals that you specify. One thing to keep in mind is that the drive is prone to overheating, so make sure it's located in a relatively cool spot with good ventilation--not on the radiator or under a pile of unread manuscripts, in other words.

And since you shouldn't put all your backup eggs in one basket, I recommend that you also use an online backup system, such as Apple's Mobile Me service or one of the ones in the comments above. The Apple service costs $99/year, but they take $20 off if you buy it with a new computer.

The fact that your hard drive started to falter after you messed with the languages in your OS is a tip-off that the OS was probably corrupted--which would call for a reinstallation of the OS rather than a replacement of the hard drive. However, if your Mac happens to be the black MacBook, aka Black Beauty, the Tekserve employee probably reacted to the fact that those hard drives have an unusually high failure rate and are covered by a special extended warranty.

Carradee said...

Something else that can help: Open "Disk Utility" and run "repair permissions" on your hard drive. (Open Computer, then Applications, then Utilities; it'll be in there.)

Also, there's a program called DiskWarrior that can fix Mac software issues that Disk Utility can't touch, as long as it's software (programs). It costs about $100, but I've found it to be worth it.

You only ever need to buy a new hard drive when there's something physically wrong with the drive, which makes the issue a hardware problem.

As far as backups, I recently got CrashPlan. It took most of the 30-day demo to get all my data backed up (my computer's old and slow), but it's inexpensive to get online storage that's Unlimited. It frequently scans your hard drive for updated files to copy, and you can set it so it only copies files when they're closed, which helps avoid corruption.

Er, just this Mac user's thoughts.

Robert Clear said...

Roll on the day when they can programme machines with emotions. Perhaps then I'll be able to coax my rickety old laptop into good behaviour by shaking my fist at it and letting my finger hover threateningly over the power button.

Until then I'm putty in the hands of the tech gurus...

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm glad you were able to recover your data, Janet. The world of information technology, and especially IT support, is nearly as subjective as publishing, so it's a great thing that you didn't listen to that person.

In the future, if you're going to work on Windows computers, I would highly recommend storing your information on removable media, like a USB drive, flash or otherwise. At the very least if you keep it on the same drive as the OS, back it up often.

If you decide to buy Apple, and start running OSX, the chances of the OS crashing or becoming corrupted are far less, but you should still back up.

Sarah Laurenson said...

My wife is echoing Carradee on the "repair permissions" - which is what your OS redo probably already did.

She also said you can zap your PRAM but you would need to research that one as it can mess with your preferences. And she's not sure if you can still do it on newer Macs.

Laila Knight said...


You poor dear. All that sounds exhausting. I'm glad you recovered everything. I'm always paranoid about saving. You gotta love technology.

JVRC said...

This is when you (I am including myself in this; I just went throught his recently. Turned out it was the motherboard that fried. That could also be your problem.) go and get an external hard drive and put all the files and programs on that. Just in case.

Melinda said...

I've always had great luck with the Apple Genius bar. I love that you can make an appointment online. They have never tried to trick me into fixing something that isn't broken, and they don't charge $600 to back up your data.

Speaking of backup, I use Carbonite for online backup and then I have an external hard drive running Time Machine. The last time I had a hard drive issue, the drive was replaced and Time Machine restored all my files/software just like it was. Awesome!

Also, you can check for yourself if the hard drive has bad sectors with the OS disk. There's a utility on there that will run a hard drive test. That way you can know before you go that the hard drive has real issues.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Bill E. Goat: Wicked fairy! I'll defend my mistress to the death ... umm maybe to a near death experience! or umm I'll eat your hard drive!

Me: Bill, what ARE you mumbling about?

Bill: It’s the plot for my new book. I’m sure Janet will want it.

Laina said...

Dropbox! It's free and if you need more space, you can buy it :)

LLogan said...

Wow, I've never heard of Tekserve either, but I agree... stay away from them. I can't believe they were going to charge you that much to recover your data. That's HORRIBLE!

My husband works in IT, so I'm REALLY lucky I never have to worry about that. However, the weekend that I was finishing/polishing my first and only novel before it went to press, my hard drive crashed. We managed to recover everything EXCEPT my email contacts, and, of course, the email address for the editor that I was supposed to send my novel to was among the corrupted files. Luckily, I had printed out a couple of emails from another contact person at the publishing house, and she was kind enough to forward my work to the appropriate person.

Anyway, I came across your site on Absolutewrite... just thought I'd take a look at your hints on queries and such. I've been writing screenplays for the last five years, and now I'm working on a memoir.

Thanks for all the helpful info on your site!


Lynne Logan
Columbus, OH
P.S. Jim Thompson (the author of Snow Angels) is my ex-husband. Small world, huh?

DeadlyAccurate said...

Another thing to remember is that anything that can be installed from a separate disc or re-downloaded from the site where you bought it doesn't need to be backed up. So for example, you only need to back up your spreadsheets and emails and documents and anything else you create, but not MS Office or your OS or games.

And I, too, recommend doing backups to the cloud by using a service like Dropbox or Sugar Sync. You can sync up multiple computers to the same account, so you'll have updated copies on each computer plus a copy on their server.

Kitty said...

I've had to use it twice. Plus I can access any file anytime from any computer.

Kathleen Ortiz said...


Come on.

You could've called me...or sent me a message via carrier pigeon...or just, I dunno, Tweeted?

Oy. All that time spent when you could've just asked me *sigh*


My IT services comes with CUPCAKES (a little ass backward, but hey, whatevs)

<3 / KO