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PC Warehouse Thriving On Pay-By-The-Job Pricing



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PC Warehouse Thriving On Pay-By-The-Job Pricing

By John Voket

Paul Wang, proprietor of PC Warehouse at 87 South Main Street, says customers might not immediately detect a subtle difference in the way he handles their problems when they first come through his door frantic because their PC or Mac is not working right, or at all.

But he believes that subtle difference, once realized, is what keeps clients flocking back to his Newtown location from points as far as eastern Connecticut and the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., area. He told The Newtown Bee last week that while most computer repair businesses have menu-based pricing, “somebody at the counter taking in the job can’t possibly know how long it will take to fix a problem.”

So he was always curious about why these stores had minimum fixed rates to troubleshoot and diagnose computer breakdowns, whether the fix is just a matter of purging a virus, or the hard drive has been fried by a lightning strike.

Mr Wang, on the other hand, claims that he will generally try to determine exactly what is wrong with a client’s machine before he tells the client how much the fix is expected to cost. And he finds this is a well-received policy, which can actually enhance his ability to sell a replacement machine if the client’s exiting computer is too old, too fried, or too costly to restore to its peak level of performance.

“If the machine is six, eight, maybe ten years old, and we can’t even get the parts anymore, maybe we can help the client with an upgrade to a new computer that will cost less than to fix the old one,” he said, adding that in those cases, the customer not only saves money, but typically gets some of the latest technology, which also enhances the performance.

“They pay less, get a faster computer, and sometimes if they are careful about virus [protection] and they are using it for just simple things like answering emails and going on the Internet, it might last them another ten years,” he said.

During The Bee’s visit to PC Warehouse, a client from Danbury came in with a desktop PC he originally bought from Mr Wang that was nine years old and infected with a virus. After chatting with the client for a few minutes, the technician said that the problem may have been contracted if of one of the client’s children was downloading or listening to music files from a file-sharing source.

“Sometimes [clients] think they are saving money by not buying music online,” he said. “So then they get free music with a virus [hidden] in the file, and they end up here spending more money for me to get rid of the virus.”

Time Is Money

Ultimately, “saving customers money and time is of the utmost importance,” Mr Wang said. So when the occasional customer makes an hour’s drive or more to bring him their machine, he may offer to try and fix it while they wait.

He can typically rule in or rule out a lot of specific issues immediately, and provide customers with some pretty accurate price quotes because Mr Wang has a troubleshooting workstation on the premises. Outfitted with numerous computers and various operating systems, he is always ready with the diagnostic tools to plug in and test problem-plagued PCs on the spot.

Even then, if the client is not sure they want to make a substantial investment to fix or replace their machine, Mr Wang sends them on their way with a detailed diagnostic report.

“If we make a person comfortable the first time they come here, they will come back a second, third, and fourth time, and they will also tell their friends,” he said. “Or maybe we won’t see them again because we fixed the problem once and for all.”

When Mr Wang came to the United States from Taiwan in 1996, and he began studying computer science, he was working on a 386 computer with a Windows 95 operating system. “And I am still learning every day because the technology is evolving every day.”

At first, Mr Wang was a floating technician working among eight different PC Warehouse locations from Poughkeepsie to Rochester to Stamford, which is where he earned his diverse group of “friends.”

“I make a lot of friends because I treat my clients like my friends,” he said.

Mr Wang said today, his base estimate to troubleshoot any computer is $29, which is then applied to any total repair cost or an upgraded machine if the client chooses to move forward from there. His average price for a virus scrubbing and reformatting is $79, versus an hourly rate, and he can typically perform a data transfer between machines, or from an ailing computer to an outboard storage drive for between $29 and $49.

Go Unplugged

When asked for any general point of advise that might go far towards protecting the most computers from the widest range of problems, Mr Wang simply replies, “Shut them off when not in use.”

He explained that if shut down and/or unplugged, there is less likelihood any computer will succumb to power surges, lightning strikes, or other electrical phenomenon that can damage or completely fry components, including the critical hard drive and the data on it.

He also said if the computer is equipped with Wi-Fi, leaving the machine on makes it more susceptible to individuals who are trying to steal personal information including passwords, pin codes, and financial information stored in the unit, or remotely.

He said specifically with laptops, keeping the battery charging at all times when not in use will drain the recharging capacity of that machine’s battery prematurely. And if a laptop is going to be used intermittently, even every few days versus daily or hourly, the owner can further extend battery life by removing the battery from the computer until its next use.

“And stay away from Internet or phone-based troubleshooting and repair services,” Mr Wang advises. He believes those companies’ so-called “technicians” are generally better trained to upsell expensive and often unneeded add-on services than they are to actually address and fix the problems.

“When you are spending your hard-earned money,” he concluded, “you want to know what you’re spending it on and that the fix will be final.”

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