Undercover Computer Repair Sting

A Special Repair Ripoff Report

POSTED: 12:05 PM PDT Sep 21, 2011    UPDATED: 09:36 AM PDT May 27, 2010 

Each year consumers spend millions of dollars on computer repairs. But how do you know you're getting what we paid for? With the help of a Hollywood makeup artist, we went undercover with four Dell Desktop computers. The only thing wrong with each of them was a power supply cable to the hard drive was unplugged.

The first two stores Human Computer on Highway 111 and Portola and Direct Tech Computer Repair, both in Palm Desert, repaired our computer and sent us on our way without charging us a dime.

The third shop was Royal Computer in Cathedral City. We dropped off an identical computer and they told us they would diagnose it for free. When we hadn't heard back from them, we went in to see if they found they problem.

They said they repaired it by resetting the bios, resetting the memory, installing updates and using static IP addresses. None of these actually fixed the problem. We were charged $95 for the repairs.

The owner of the store, Max Hassan, he writes, "Our staff is proud to showcase our honesty and integrity. We have been in business for the last 10 years and continuously provide excellent service. We diagnosed and serviced the computer problem properly. Our customers are always appreciative when we do extra service at no charge. We have a great reputation for taking good care of our customers, in fact out of thousands of transactions we have never had one credit card dispute. Our techs did exactly what they were trained to do and they did a fantastic job. We look forward to continue providing great service to all our customers."

Hassan is in the process of refunded our $95.

The fourth and final stop was the Geek Squad at Best Buy.

Immediately the employee, Louis told us our Windows XP operating system needed to be reinstalled. The cost would be $130.

Now remember the only thing wrong with the computer is the unplugged cable for the hard drive. Then minutes later he said it looked like the entire hard drive was bad. He gave us a quote into the hundreds of dollars for a new hard drive, the installation and repairs. When we revealed who we were they said they always quote customers a worst case scenario repair price.

The Best Buy Media Relations Department then released this statement to us, " "our diagnosis relies on numerous physical tests, past experience and customer input. in this situation, our geek squad agent drew a conclusion based on what we typically see. a computer hard drive rarely (if ever) becomes disconnected on its own, and these symptoms most often stem from a damaged hard drive or motherboard. In rare cases where we might mis-diagnose a problem, our service guarantee ensures repairs are made to our customer's satisfaction."

It was only after we insisted they do a full diagnosis that Best Buy's Geek Squad came back and said it was just the unplugged power cable. We were charged $69.99 for the diagnosis.

Earl Wilson fixes computers for California State University's Palm Desert Campus. He says if you're worried about an estimate either take it somewhere else or have a personal friend who is tech savvy look at it.