Wow, the IT industry is really letting consumers down

I love technology.  In my house, we have four computers, an Xbox 360, an iPod, Fiber broadband and TV, multiple cell phones, three digital cameras, etc.  Most of the people I know at least like technology and I wrongly assume that everyone is like me.

Tonight I got a reminder of just how wrong that assumption is and just how badly the IT industry treats consumers.

My next door neighbor has a lawncare and snowplowing business.  He called me to ask for some help with his computer.  His computer had stopped working and he needed to get to QuickBooks.  Off he went to CompUSA (probably a critical error) to ask for help.  There they told him that fixing his old computer would cost more than replacing it.  So they sold him a new computer.

He goes home and tries to install QuickBooks.  Unfortunately, his new system runs Vista and can’t run his copy of QuickBooks.  [I am not clear on the chronology of the following section so bear with me.]  He gets CompUSA to “recover” his QuickBook files which have been damaged by whatever malfunction caused his original computer to stop working.  They give him a CD (along with a two year service plan that cost $200 some odd dollars) with is “recovered” files and send him on his merry way.

When he gets home he installs his version of QuickBooks on his son’s XP machine.  So far, so good.  He then inserts the CD of recovered files from CompUSA and attempts to import his data.  No dice.  He tries again and again and again.  Then he calls me.

I brave the sub-freezing temperatures to walk next door.  I begin fooling with the system and see that all of the files in the QuickBooks folder on the CompUSA disc are Disk Doctor files.  Using WordPad I open each one – they are a bizarre assortment – but nothing to do with QuickBooks.  There are old AIM chat logs, modem configurations and lists of local dial-up numbers.

We both look at the screen and realize that there is nothing here to help.  So we go to the basement where the Brand New HP running Vista is waiting.  He had asked for XP but was told he couldn’t get it without paying to have Vista removed and XP installed – not something he wanted to do.  In addition to Vista, this system also houses his original hard drive where we hope to be able to find the QuickBooks files.

First, let me say that there are not words enough to describe how badly Vista sucked.  I expect to be blown away by dazzling performance when I buy a new machine with a new OS.  This piece of crap ran more slowly than my kid’s computer – which is three or four years old.  I found the QuickBook files – only to discover that they too were in the Disk Doctor format.  Could I find a text editor to review the contents of the files?  Not on your life.

I managed to copy the files to a memory stick and brought them back upstairs to the XP machine to see if there was any usable data.  Nope.  In the end, I had to break it to my neighbor that he was essentially SOL.  Now his plan is to a) ask CompUSA to come to his home to help him or b) return the Vista system and suck up the lost loot.  He was pretty frustrated and was leaning toward the latter – and he had every reason to be annoyed.

Lets break this down:

First, his computer breaks.  That is annoying but it happens.

Then, CompUSA gives his some jive that his computer would be cheaper to replace than repair and charges him to “recover” his most critical files.

Next, CompUSA sells him a new computer and a “service” plan to help keep it running smoothly.

He gets home to find that his new system won’t run the application he needs.

Installing the application on another system leads him to discover that the files CompUSA have recovered are not what he needed.

Finally, the Brand New Vista system is as slow as can be.

Not only is my neighbor unable to access his business records, he has paid more than $700 for that privilege.

For most people, computers are just a means to an end.  They don’t want to go through the crap I’ve outlined above.  Microsoft has totally screwed up with Vista – it is dog slow on brand new hardware and it wasn’t able to meet his persons reasonable business needs.  CompUSA basically duped this guy into buying a system and service plan that didn’t do what he needed.  And HP is marketing a box that comes pre-loaded with an operating system it doesn’t have the guts to run.
He’s rightfully annoyed about the whole situation.  IT companies – whether they do hardware, software or services – need to do a way better job of meeting customer expectations.

[tags]Data loss, Microsoft, Vista, QuickBooks, CompUSA, HP[/tags]

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