Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Valentine's Day Troubleshooting at Comp USA

Yesterday I went to Comp USA to trade in a digital camera because a couple of the pixels weren't working. It was raining. I pulled into the parking lot at about 8:30 pm and the place was dead. There were maybe 3 cars in the whole parking lot. So I pull my car up to a guy smoking a cigarette outside the entrance and ask him if the store is still open. He says, "Yup, we're open 'til nine."

I park and head into the store, shielding the camera box from the rain, and just before I head inside the cigarette guy says, "Is it a return?" I say, "Yeah." He says, "You might as well show it to me now, I'm the return guy." So I hand it to him and he flicks his cigarette into the parking lot, looking at the box as he turns it around in his hands. It's about then that I realize this guy isn't wearing anything that would indicate that he works at Comp USA. He is wearing all black, the sides of his head are shaved, and the long hair on top of his head is pulled back into a pony tail. But just as I start to imagine him running off with the camera and peeling rubber in his black Camero (that's the kind of car I imagine someone pulling a heist like this would drive), he bolts inside and heads behind the returns/repair desk.

He opens the box in a flash and starts pulling handfuls of manuals and wires out of it. "Well you definitely didn't forget anything," he says, "look at all this crap." I thought that was pretty funny, that instead of going down a checklist of the items that were supposed to be in the box, the fact that the box appeared to be filled with lots of stuff was sufficient. I can imagine him sitting in the Comp USA repair training seminar, scribbling copious notes while the regional training director says, "Remember, it's absolutely crucial to open the return item box and make sure it's filled with a fair amount of crap. Comp USA loses millions of dollars every year as a result of employees approving the return of items without much crap in the box."

Then the guy asks me what the problem is and I tell him about the broken pixels. Without hesitating a moment he says, "Let's check it out," whips out the camera, and, before I even realize what is going on, snaps this picture of himself.

Hahah, it still cracks me up just thinking about it. For a lot of reasons... One, it's funny that the first thing that comes to his mind when taking a throwaway picture is to flip the bird. It was completely automatic for him, as if there was no other way to test a camera and that taking a picture without him flipping the bird wouldn't be anywhere near as effective at helping to figure out what was wrong with the camera. Two, it's funny that he would do that in the middle of the store, right in front of a customer no less. It makes me think that somehow I must exude the kind of aura that makes customer service people feel completely at home. (That's me on the left in the picture, by the way.) Some people might see that as a lack of respect, but I think it's kind of flattering. I mean, imagine when some 50 year old man in a business suit comes in with a camera problem and this Comp USA guy has to just take a picture of his hand or something, or walk into a back room to take a bird-flipping picture in private. Not me, though. I walk into Comp USA and the returns guy feels like he's in his own living room with an old friend.

On a side note, I don't want to give the impression that this guy was some punk who didn't care about helping me out. On the contrary, he was actually very helpful and patient, which is all the more impressive considering he was in the middle of trying to win $20 based on how fast he could install Windows on a computer. So, in honer of the bird-flipping, all-black-wearing, gambling-on-software-installation Comp USA repair guy, today's song of the day is Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. (Picture him driving home in his black Camero, listing to his tape of this album, thinking that the lyrics are about technology troubleshooting.)


"A lot of people don't realize that I came up with the idea for Nothing Else Matters while reinstalling Windows Millenium on the tour bus Dell Pentium IV. When I say 'so close, no matter how far,' I'm talking about how maintaining a stable operating system always seems to be 128 megabytes of RAM away."
- James Hetfield, Lead Singer of Metallica


ME (as I'm leaving the store): Sorry if I hurt your chances at winning your Windows installation bet.
THE COMP USA GUY: Hey, no problem, that camera was the best return of the whole day.


Anonymous said...

Funny how you can get better customer service from eleven-dollar-an-hour clerks than from many doctors or lawyers who make twenty times as much.

Incidentally, a more appropriate Metallica song for installing Windows software would be "Harvester of Sorrow."

Hymie said...

Yeah it's true, I guess making all that money and having so much social status makes it easier to be indifferent to the people you are supposed to be helping.

Considering your Metallica suggestions, you might enjoy the Harvester of Installing Windows Sorrow Slideshow

Anonymous said...

I did enjoy it, even though it brought back bad memories of reinstalling WinXP. Actually, there are a bunch of Metallica songs that fit Microsoft: Frayed Ends of Sanity, Creeping Death, The Thing That Should Not Be...

Anonymous said...

I did enjoy it, even though it brought back bad memories of reinstalling WinXP. Actually, there are a bunch of Metallica songs that fit Microsoft: Frayed Ends of Sanity, Creeping Death, The Thing That Should Not Be...

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