May 21, 2003
Consumer Repair Invesatigation
Craig Fiegener ABC Channel 30
FRESNO -- Computer problems
can leave you feeling helpless. When yours breaks, can you rely
on a professional to correctly find the problem?
Consumer Watch put local computer repair
shops to the test. Greg Aiello describes his computer as his livelihood,
"I do every bit of my work on that computer.
Every dollar I make comes out of that
computer." Yet, like most of us with computers, he knows little
about them, "I don't know a whole lot about computers ... I mean,
I know the programs I work on."
Aiello is a freelance photographer and
graphics designer who periodically does work for ABC-30. Recently,
his computer broke down. He turned to Comp USA in Fresno to fix
it, "It was about as confidence inspiring as dropping off my computer
at a drive in Taco Bell."
That's because he says Comp USA quoted
him three different prices to fix it and he still isn't clear
what's wrong with it. Aiello is not alone.
Consumer Watch has received numerous
complaints from viewers about computer repairs. Coarsegold Elementary
schoolteacher, John Carippo, spent close to a decade fixing computers
for a living. He says many people who repair them are not qualified.
He compares computers with cars, "How
do you know that the throwout bearing is out in your transmission
in your car? How do you know the ring cylinder will fix it?
It's the same thing." With Carippo's
help, we decided to investigate. Carippo altered two computers
for our investigation.
One a Dell, the other a Compaq. Both
worked perfectly normal, but now the Dell has a software problem
and the Compaq has a bad hard drive. We had the changes verified
by Fresno State's computer engineering department and took them
to six different repair shops — small ones like Custom Computers
Plus and bigger companies, like Best Buy and Comp USA. The diagnostic
results were all over the board.
The Compaq with a bad hard drive — Best Buy
diagnosed the problem as a system disk problem. Custom Computer
Plus told us the computer had a virus and windows needed to be
reinstalled. Computer Mania pinpointed the problem correctly to
a bad hard drive.
As for the Dell with the software problem
— Computer 4U told us it had a bad hard drive. Comp USA wouldn't
work on it, and Alliant Technology correctly diagnosed the problem
as software related.
Tim Hackmann, from Mac Daddy, says just
because someone works at a computer store, it doesn't mean they
know what they're doing, "When you talk to a technician, you believe
them. They work in a computer store.
They must know, which isn't always the
case." Hackmann says people need to educate themselves, learn
the basics, like the difference between a software and hardware
problem. Software deals with the programs installed and running
on your computer like Microsoft Windows.
Hardware deals with equipment, like hard
drives and CD roms. Before taking your computer to a shop, trouble
shoot yourself. Re-install your system disk.
Your computer likely came with one when
you bought it. We had Hackmann, a certified Apple dealer, look
at Aiello's computer.
Aiello says Comp USA told him both the hard drive
and CD rom need to be replaced. Hackman agrees with the CD rom
assessment but, says the hard drive is still working, "It booted
up. That is the first indication that it works." Some computer
experts we talked to say there are gray areas when diagnosing
Never the less, Aiello and others need
to educate themselves. The computer stores in our investigation
stand by their diagnostic tests.
Best Buy says it uses PC certified tools
to diagnose machines, and the company is always looking to improve
the repair process.
Our repeated attempts to secure a response
from Comp USA have been unsuccessful.
For helpful linksto computer trouble shooting, you can visit: