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Why You Shouldn't Use Geek Squad

April 03, 2009

Last week, my laptop crashed. I've never had that happen before, where it worked fairly well the day before and the next day wouldn't even turn on, so I wasn't sure what to do. And then I remembered the Geek Squad.

Now, truth be told: before February, Geek Squad wouldn't have been on my radar. But I attended BlissDom '09 in February, and Geek Squad was a highly visible sponsor at the conference. I thought: "Hey! They support bloggers! I will patronize them and see if they can help me." Because we've got to support each other, right?

So I took my computer to my local Geek Squad (at Best Buy) and explained the problem. The goal: either to fix the problem, or to recover all the data from my hard drive. While I was standing there, the Geek tried to plug in my computer to "run diagnostics." Except he couldn't get it to power up, so he told me all was lost, and my only option was data recovery.

I blinked.

I understand that my laptop is almost 3 years old. And that laptops need to be replaced every so often. And really, the most important thing to me is the data. Every work-related file I owned was on that laptop, and I couldn't really work without those files. Every photo and video from every trip that Roger and I have taken - both foreign and domestic - was on that laptop. And I was desperate to get those back. And then there were the recipes that I've been collecting for that cookbook I'm writing (the one that I've been writing for the past five years, but still), and they were all lost too.

Data recovery suddenly became all I cared about, so yes, I paid $108 to have them extract my files and folders and bookmarks. It was an easy decision.

Though the Geek told me it would take 3-4 days, I was elated the next day to receive both an automated email message and an automated phone call: my order was ready! My laptop was ready for pickup! And with it, I assumed, ALL MY DATA. I rushed to Best Buy, and excitedly approached the Geek. He looked up my order.

Geek: "Oh, it looks like we owe you a refund."
Jes: Blank stare
Geek: "I'll just put that back on your MasterCard."
Jes: Blank stare
Jes: [This is where it would have been helpful if someone had actually called me to tell me what was going on, rather than sending me an automated message to inform me that my "order was ready."] "I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about. Why are you giving me a refund? I don't understand."
Geek: (as though I'm an idiot) "Because we couldn't pull your data off your hard drive. It's broken."
Jes: Blank stare
Jes: "Well that's not my last option, is it? I mean, it can't just be un-recoverable just because you guys can't get it off. Can't you extract my hard drive and plug it into another computer?"
Geek: "That's what we did. It just kept spinning. Your hard drive is physically broken. The only way to recover that data is to send it off to our White Lab."
Jes: "What is a White Lab? Where is that? What is the cost?"
Geek: "A White Lab is a like a giant clean room, like where FBI-like people take apart the computers of white-collar criminals to investigate them. Our service center is in Kentucky. I've seen it cost as low as $260, and as much as $1,700. Plus $34.95 for shipping."
Jes: Blank stare "Ummm, yeaaahhh. I think I'm going to look into other options. You can go ahead with the refund and I'll take my laptop."

Because I REFUSED to believe that sending my laptop off to a service center in Kentucky was my last option. I live in Dallas. Dallas seems more...advanced...than the entire state of Kentucky. Certainly there is SOMEONE in Dallas who can help me.

A man in Best Buy, who overheard the conversation, stopped me and recommended The Computer Wizard. "He's a computer forensics expert, he's been doing this for a llooooonnnnggggggg time, you should check him out," he says. If he can't help, he'll know who can. [Actually, the conversation was much longer than that. But I'm paraphrasing.]

As it turns out, The Computer Wizard is just two blocks from my house in Plano, Texas. So I took my laptop, with my flailing faith in Geeks, and explained the situation. He listened to me talk (on and on and on) about my Geek Squad nightmare, and how I refused to believe they were my last option, and then I told him about the problem I was having with my computer. And then he told me that just last week, he had someone in his office saying the exact same thing. That Geek Squad told them they couldn't fix the problem. And the Computer Wizard could. My hopes soared a little. So I trusted my laptop to him, and left his office, fully confident that this man knew his business.

And two hours later, he personally called me:

Computer Wizard: "There's nothing wrong with your hard drive. I was able to pull all nine gigs of your data off with no problem."
Jes: Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!! "That's awesome news! Thank you!"
Computer Wizard: "Your [something I don't remember] is broken, but it doesn't affect your hard drive AT ALL. This was easy. So just bring in your new computer and we'll transfer the files over, or you can buy a 16gb flash drive and we'll put the files there."

So in the end, I got all of my data. And I'm so thankful for The Computer Wizard. And no offense to those nerdily cute Geeks with their wrinkly shirts and unbrushed hair, but the moral of the story is: DON'T USE GEEK SQUAD . They're really, really, REALLY incompetent.



Wow, my last comment came off as totally bitchy. I swear I didn't mean it that way.


I had a similar experience with the Geek Squad. My laptop all of a sudden just did not turn on. I had a warrenty from Best Buy, so I took it there. The Geek did not know what was wrong and they needed to send it off to be looked at, but all my data would be lost once it was fixed. So I too, paid the $108 to have all my files backed up on a disk. Two days later I received the automated call that my order was ready, when I went to pick up my computer, it worked (horay) AND all my files were on the computer as if nothing had happened at all. They refused me a refund of the back up. I now back up all my own important files once a month. and I will NEVER use Best Buy, or the Geek Squad again.


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