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I don’t know much about how computers work. I mean, I sort of do, but not really. I use them all the time for all sorts of things, at home and at the office. If something at work goes wrong, our IT department takes care of it. If something at home goes wrong, I wind up talking to customer service until I gradually get tired of being on hold. Then, I give up and walk away, saying I’ll take it somewhere to be fixed—which of course leaves it sitting there, broken for weeks.

A neighbor’s son offered to take a look at mine. He has a degree, I think in computer science, and he’s been looking for work. So I said if he can fix it and keep it from crashing all the time, I’m happy to flip him some money. He took it, and gave it back in a couple days. Then he gave me an invoice for all these parts. He put in all kinds of memory and said it would be better for gaming. I was thinking of giving him like $50 if he could just get it working again, but now I’m looking at a $120 bill for stuff I never wanted. Granted, it’s not like we had a contract, but this is not at all what I had in mind, and to top it off, the computer still crashes. I don’t want to pay him, but I guess he spent some time on it and he is out of work and looking for a job in the meantime. And I don’t want his parents to think I’m stiffing him, but I also don’t want to complain about his work to them.

How do I get out of this, and how do I get my home computer to work again?

Crashed Hard Drive

The Gay Perspective: Pay him. Call it tuition. You’ve learned not to do that again.

Strictly Classified: Talk to your neighbor’s son, tell him your computer is not up-and-running, and be very explicit in what you want and need from your computer. Feel free to mention that any parts, labor, and other costs need to be clearly stated before work is completed. Odds are that he should make any needed repairs at no charge (this time). If he asks for payment (or should you need the computer worked on again in the future), take it elsewhere.

Aberrant in Allentown says: Fair is fair, you said you’d pay him if he could get it working again, and it’s not working right, so he doesn’t deserve to be paid anything yet.

I can understand not wanting to stir the pot with your neighbors but I gotta disagree with our other experts here saying to just pay him. You asked for “A,” were delivered “B,” and still need “A”—you shouldn’t pay for that, period. You lose, and while the kid ends up a couple bucks richer, he’s really losing here too if he gets a pat on the back for a job not done. If he’s a recent grad looking for work, he needs to learn a thing or two about actually performing work correctly. Demonstrate the problem still exists and give him another crack at it if you wish (with the caveat that the need for any additional parts must be explained to and approved by you first.)

Best case scenario, he gets it right the second time, pay up, and that $120 is probably not a bad deal anyway. The memory might be a nice performance boost even if not for “gaming.”

Worst case scenario, he can’t solve it. At that point, ask him to take the memory back and return it to where he got it, as it obviously wasn’t the solution. Computer parts are frequently returnable, though typically less a restocking fee and shipping costs. Barring that he could always flip them in the Artvoice classifieds and get some or most of his cost back—memory is an easy sell. Then you can perhaps throw him the $50 for his time in attempting it if you want to smooth things over, which will also cover any fees or loss on his end for buying and returning unneeded parts. This way you don’t look like a stiff, and maybe he learns a thing or two about properly diagnosing and solving problems in the field he hopes to enter and start a career in.

And your lesson? The pros charge more than the kid next door for a reason.

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