best buy, i call bullshit

Today, I got my computer a bit of an extra lifeline. As avid readers of this blog (ahem, myself) would know, my HP dv5z pretended to kick the bucket a couple of weeks ago. It being my primary computer and me not being much of an internal-workings-of-the-laptop junkie, I decided to take it to Best Buy to get it fixed. Seemed like the consumer thing to do, right? Wrong. Best Buy quoted me $253 to fix what was quoted as a heat sink/fan assembly requiring replacement. Which is what I expected. Except that the part costs about $15 online (from eBay). It is out of stock in HP but the most expensive quote for it I saw was about $70. In the best case for Best Buy, that meant a cost of about $170 for labor (given that they have already stolen my $85 for “diagnostics”).

I got my computer back today and given that I have pretty much decided to buy a new one, went ahead and cored it. It was fascinating seeing all the little pieces that make up a laptop. I had gone about 3/4th of the way in previously but this time, with my HDD safe and a new laptop purchase in the near future, I went all the way. I got all the way down to the heat sink and removed it. I had purchased a can of compressed air from BB and used it to clean the fan assembly out. Sure enough, it seemed to be hitting something.

Feeling adventurous, I went ahead and disassembled the fan assembly. Using some suggestions I found on the internet, I applied some machine oil (or, in my case, the oil I use to oil my electronic clippers) to the axle that comes in contact with the fan system. I then put the piece back together and tested it out with the compressed air. No noise. I let it sit for a bit and then tried again. No noise. I put the rest of the laptop back together. I am now writing this post from that laptop. No noise.

In no way is this a permanent solution. In fact, I’ve gone ahead and ordered a replacement part from a vendor on eBay (and even got Bing CashBack back already!). But the fact of the matter is that what I did is not worth $170 in labor, any where in the world. It took me a little under 1.5 hours to disassemble the laptop, disassemble the fan, ponder what the problem is and reassemble the whole thing. And I’ve never done this in my life before (well I’ve disassembled this laptop a few times but not enough to do anything useful). That means that in Best Buy’s most convenient case, they’re charging about $113/hr to fix this issue.

That is a ludicrous value. I currently get paid a bit more than $30/hr if I estimate based on 40-hour work weeks. A Best Buy “Geek Squad” engineer makes 4 times this for being able to read a manual? Ridiculous.

Well, I’ve learned my lesson. If I can do it myself, there’s no need to go into a consumer electronics store to get stuff fixed by their highly overpaid “technical staff”. I feel a bit bad for all the consumers who are not technical at all who get duped on a daily basis. $85 for a diagnosis? Absolutely ridiculous.

The worst part of it all is that from what I saw inside my computer, no one seemed to have really opened it up to investigate it. I feel like I should have put a little sticky post-it note saying “remove this if you opened the computer” to see if someone actually looked into it or if they just mailed it to each other and fed me a extravagant quote.

Anyways, when the replacement fan comes in, I’ll go ahead and install it. The positive here is it buys me a few more days to make a decision on a new laptop.

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