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Be careful in offering "favors" to help friends of family with PC issues

By ManiacMan ·
Rant to follow:

A few months ago, a family member from my wife's side of the family tried to put in a good word for me to one of her friends and stated that I "fix computers" and am very good at it. Now I appreciated the gesture and never turn down the opportunity to make some extra cash on the side, but I regret having dealt with these friends of family who have turned into more of a nuisance, as I'll explain further.

These friends were retired doctors, and even though they don't actively practice medicine anymore, they're still heavily involved in the medical community and collaborate with other doctors. Anyhow, I show up at their home at was immediately inundated with so many things to fix on their PC that it made my head spin. First of all, this doctor had loads of spyware and other junk on his PC, so I cleaned that up and optimized his PC, got paid, and left for the day. Not even a week goes by and he calls me back, stating that his 10 year old HP OfficeJet's scanner died and he needed a new printer. OK, so I recommended a new HP multifunction printer for him and he places the order for it. Not a day goes by and he calls me again, stating that he wants to buy a new computer as well because the one he has is running XP Media Center Edition and he wants XP Pro, so I recommended a PC from Systemax and he placed the order. He finally get's all the components in and calls me up to come in to temporarily setup his new printer to his old PC and at a later date, transfer his old files and applications to the new PC. Before I decided to stop by and do the data transfer, I had asked, or more on the lines of demanded, that he clean up his old PC of any files and other junk that he doesn't need anymore because I was going to run migwiz to transfer the data. Needless to say, I finally come in, assuming that he did all of that and he assured me that he has. I start running migwiz on the old PC and realize that it's going to take longer than I had expected. This doctor had over 100GB of ripped movies from DVDs'in DivX format sitting on his hard drive and of course, migwiz picked it up and started to process it. Realizing that he didn't clean up his machine as I asked, I told him that it would be best for me to take the two PCs' home so that I could complete the process and have the machine ready the next day. He stated that he was leaving on vacation for 2 weeks and would follow up and pay me after he gets back. Now this angered me because I expect to get paid for my time there and even offered to do this while he was away, but he was stubborn about it and told me that he'd pay me when everything is completed. I don't know about you, but I bet if his former patients didn't pay him on the day of the procedure, he'd be quite furious at them too. Nevertheless, he comes back from vacation and calls me up again, leaving a message. He is angry at me because I "misled" him into a buying a printer that can't accept faxes of over 1,000 pages as the paper tray only holds 250 sheets. He started claiming that he gets such large faxes (yeah and I'm Santa Clause) and that he was under the impression that the printer had memory and could store incoming faxes if it ran out of paper. I had responded to his email that if he wanted such functionality, he'd have to spend $15,000 on an office class multifunction device like a Cannon Copier with a built in hard drive, and that a $300 HP OfficeJet wasn't going to do it for him.

Needless to say, I got so angry that I decided to simply avoid him and let go of the fact that he owed me money for the time I spent fixing his problems and catering to silly requests. I'm not saying that dealing with all customers is like this, but this guy was truly strange in that he had some grand illusions of setting up his system to do more than it was capable of.

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House calls aquired on the job

by Forum Surfer In reply to Fixing the boss's persona ...

I will only agree to a house call if it's someone above me in the food chain that is a decent person...not the annoying kind that demands you to go. That person I will inform that this kind of thing is way outside of company policy and I cannot morally comply, lol. Outside of that, I have agreed to house calls that can benefit me in the future or lead to other business relationships on the outside...if I trust the person to keep the issue out of the limelight. An example of that would be a company lawyer, if they do something outside of policy they want to stay out of trouble more so than yourself. Plus a couple of good law practices on the side makes for lucrative side jobs.

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I have to agree

by jimmy-jam In reply to Be careful in offering "f ...

Occasionally I will help a friend out but am very reluctant to do so. It's not that I don't want to help but it rapidly snowballs from helping a friend to consuming all your spare time.

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And that's exactly what happened to me with this guy

by ManiacMan In reply to I have to agree

I found myself coming home from work and instead of relaxing, rushing over to him to work on his PC. I've also killed a few weekends on his stupid PC instead of spending time with my family.

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Lucky for me

by Dumphrey In reply to And that's exactly what h ...

going to school full time, working full time, and 8 years dealing with Medicare/Medicaid paper work has turned me into a first class b@3tard these days. I provide help ONLY to me immediate, blood related family. And even then, my father is required to send me tribute for using me as an Oracle daily.

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Doctors and lawyers!

by Forum Surfer In reply to Be careful in offering "f ...

When doing work for doctors or lawyers, friend or not you should always explain every little mundane detail and extract as much info as possibla as far as what their expectations are.

You want a fax? How many faxes do you get and how large? You want a printer? How large are your biggest printjobs? Especially since legal and medical documents can exceed 1,000 pages frequently...which makes no sense to print but who am I to tell a customer how to conduct business? I make suggestions and then clearly state lmitations of my suggestions...hoping the customer upgrades to the next product level which puts more money in my pocket.

Lol, and if it's a customer friendship goes out the window...pay me or I'll be on your doorstep every day, with a baseball bat depending on what kind of money we're talking about! For close friends I try to make recomendations, and not contract out to them. I purchase nothing for friends, but I'll tell them what I think they should purchase and possibly help out with trivial tasks that don't require alot of time.

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Good rant

by Oz_Media In reply to Be careful in offering "f ...

From reading it though, I see very common mistakes that almost everyone starting out with 'friendly side repairs' runs into.

In such a position, where you become consultant for someone, whether by choice or by association (as in your case), you must then learn sales. One of the most important parts of a sales process is qualification. Take the time to speak with your customer, identify his needs and find a suitable solution based on resolving those speciic needs. It is impreative !

As for his grand delusions and him being really strange, it sounds pretty common to me. I would say that 7 out of 10 clients in ANY business I've worked in, are the same. Even custoemrs that I sell product to, that are prequalified, have had a needs assessment done, have been appproached with a viable solution, ordered some odd product that suits their needs etc. They STILL come back with mroe wants and needs after they get it, it's life. Learn to sell and these issues are prety easy to work around.

Sorry you had this experience, I've done it many many times too, even when you THINK you covered all the bases, you find out the customer found another route around them.

As for payment, for a customer to pay you AFTER the work is done is just par fo rthe course. If you need cash up front, be up fron tabout it and explain to the custoemr that you don't have a constant revenue stream, this is a favour to make som eextra on the side and that you need to be paid for each days work before you leave, people are usually cool with it if explained.

It sounds like you may be intimidated when around him or just don't know feel comfortable enough to ask him the right questions.

Learn from this and move on, you are already sharper for the next one...and no it's not uncommon or odd at all, in fact it's to be expected.

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Been there, done that

by robo_dev In reply to Good rant

Right now my next door neighbors are a retired couple, and I am their resident PC expert. They pay me in wine and beer, so it's not too bad. They tend not to do stupid things, and they have macs.

The only issue I had was when I accidentlly blew away about 300 email messages. It turns out that if you delete a connection profile in Mac Mail, all the stored email, address book, and attachments goes *poof*.

Since they changed ISPs, I created a new connection profile for their new email server, deleted the old one and then went looking for their three years worth of saved emails. Gone forever.

Luckily they had accidentally archived about 90% of them by having the same email profile on their other computer (phew).

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I have to console you

by mjd420nova In reply to Be careful in offering "f ...

Chin up, turn those corners up not down. I had to quit doing barter jobs for family as they thought that I was their 24 on call guy. What a wreck and it started simply with a IBM PS2 and seemed to be a never ending stream of upgrades, new video cards and DVD burners were among the usual keyboard/mouse failures and web cam installs. What in the world do all these people need with the gadgets. Now I'm not above making and customizing keyboards for game play and simulators but for me, I could not expect anyone to pay the price I ask for that job, that's why I do it myself. Just like auto mechanics, I can't see paying the prices they ask when I can pay myself those wages and do it myself. On top of that, I know it's done right. I never allow money to become involved, Barter for what they have that you could use, legal services(my favorite customer), paper goods, barber, baker, local liquor store, only just a few but you get the idea. Even if it's just to borrow a pickup truck to move furniture or buy a fridge, who knows where it could lead.

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Try having a written form up front of what your services will cost

by DadsPad In reply to Be careful in offering "f ...

For family members, bartering is the best way. That way everybody wins and family keep depending on one another for help. Keeps it even.

But for the 'friends' of family members, this often will not work. These 'friends' will over value their help and undervalue your help. If you help a doctor/lawyer, then their barter would be worth 5 times plus what you charge.

Have a form that tells (in general) what your charges are. How much labor per hour, plus cost of parts, for instance. Have both parties sign to keep all legal. Chances are, after 1st bill, they will tell you that they now have a grandson/son/neighbor's kid that is a computer whiz that will help them now. Of course, tell them that is great, but to keep your number just in case.

This should reduce the calls and keep your family reputation good. Family should defend that you are in business and need to make profit.

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