Invest in yourself. It worked for me.

If you want to become successful, put the work in. If it worked for me, it can work for anyone.




A Tree Grows In Brooklyn – right in front of my store!

When having the sign made, I didn’t take into consideration that by June leaves would grow on this tree. Check it out.

Invisible. 🙁 Can you find us? Make it in and I’ll give you a free screen protector, just for your skills.

If you ask nicely… we may actually fix your computer. If you have a broken Macbook in need of repair, you’ll save some money coming to Brooklyn – I’m feeling all kinds of generous. Something about not having 30 tickets thrown in your face all the time does that.

Thanks Dad – for not getting me the knockoff screen on my birthday.

A few months ago, this guy comes in for a screen replacement. He left the first Yelp! Tip of our business in April of this year. I tell him the price, and get this look – this terrible look like “WOW, OMG, RIPOFF!!” when we were about $5 less than anyone else in the area using an original part.

To pacify him, I offer him a knockoff screen for less money, but tell him the quality is not as good, for some lower price. I am clear about the quality being worse. The kid kept asking his dad for an original, and it made me feel like shit that I was giving him an inferior knockoff for his birthday, and that this discussion was taking place in front of the birthday boy. Yes, it was his kid’s birthday. Yes, getting his iPhone fixed was his present, and yes, he did barter the price down via a knockoff screen – which was explained to him as inferior – in front of his kid.


He gets it back and it has a slight imperfection on the side, and complains. Well, duh. I tell him after he complains repeatedly “sir, I’m not trying to make up some bullshit to get out of offering you good service – I clearly stated knockoff screens aren’t perfect, and you chose it.”  (this is considerably different than his interpretation of what I said, if you read the Yelp! tip) He complains about my use of the word bullshit. Ah well. I didn’t exactly build a reputation around using G rated language. I eventually gave him $15 off so he’d STFU and get out of the store. He was having a discussion on the phone which, call me judgmental, alluded to the fact that ten or twenty bucks wasn’t going to make or break his rent. This reinforced to me that he was going out of his way to be a jackass about the entire experience, especially since his kid was standing right there – on his birthday – listening to his dad cheap out and get him some knockoff shit.


What bothered me here wasn’t that argument,or the complaint, or the discount. I don’t want that to be mistaken as the central point of this entry. I went back to memories of being a kid after this experience, and that’s where I want to take this.


My dad wasn’t always financially well off. My Dad was a good man, but had a string of bad luck with his personal health that kept him from making the same money my peers’ parents did. I still remember Chris Quadrino and Joe Zagami with North Face jackets and a new pair of Nike Shoxx every 2 months, openly making fun of the K-Mart clearance garments I wore to school. My dad didn’t have the money their parents did. He couldn’t afford to get me the best stuff – the comic book I wanted for my birthday in shrink wrap from the store. The Hess Truck in original packaging from the Hess gas station. However, if he were going to get me a birthday or Christmas present that were used or a knockoff in any way, he wouldn’t let someone explain out loud in front of me how his present was a piece of shit, then give it to me and say “There, Happy Birthday son. Enjoy your inferior knockoff.” How tactless is that? Is there any more effective way to ruin the magic of a birthday present?


My Dad would go through some trouble to make it special even if he couldn’t afford to do so. If the gift were used, he’d polish it off with some alcohol and a paper towel. He’d find some shrinkwrap from something else he had opened months before so that it could be passed off as a new Hess Truck, and find box to put it in so I’d have the same experience waking up Christmas morning as the other kids, whose parents could afford to drop hundreds on these gifts. He went through effort to make the best of a bad situation – to make the holidays extra special even if he couldn’t afford it.


Don’t get me wrong. Kids have to learn the value of a dollar. Kids have to learn that they can’t get everything they want – they have to learn that it is not their right to have the money they want spent on them, all the time. It’s not your job as a parent to keep up with the Jones’, and if you explain to kids the value of money, I think they’ll understand. They may not LIKE that they have a black & white 1989 Game Boy while everyone else has a PlayStation 2, but they’ll UNDERSTAND it. One of the reasons I have such an appreciation for my work – why I treat it with such respect, as my livelihood, is because I grew up in an environment where financial security didn’t exist. I don’t take having the ability to pay my rent every month for granted, and I don’t take my business for granted – not for one second.


That doesn’t, in my mind, make it any less asinine that this dude did what he did to his son. On the one day of the year your kid is supposed to feel special, his Dad was arguing to get a lower price after agreeing to have a shit part put in the birthday kid’s phone. Even if you are going to do this, IMO, it’s wrong on several levels to do this in audible range of your son. If we don’t go all out to make our kids feel appreciated and special on their birthday – than when do we?


Meeting that guy really gave me a deeper appreciation for the effort my Dad made to be a good parent, to make me feel special come those holidays even when he didn’t have the means to do so. My Dad  went above and beyond to try and make sure I turned out ok. Where other parents beat their kids, punish, or ignore them – he taught me the real world consequences for my bad behavior.


The idea regular parents have behind punishing their children is that the child will associate punishment with bad behavior. When the kid turns 22, his dad won’t be there to punish him anymore – so he’ll do X as much as he pleases. Because of how my dad raised me, I had real world examples to draw from on what would happen to me if I acted immaturely, and as a result, I grew up better than I would have otherwise.


He also knew when to take the time out to make me feel special. We lie to our kids sometimes just so they can be happy, and I think that’s ok. When telling them about Santa, we lie. When you tell your kid that the aberration of random scribbly lines they drew for us looks great and hang it on the fridge, we lie. And if we’re upper middle class and looking to save ten or fifteen bucks repairing a $600 device for a once a year holiday – fuck, call me crazy, I think you should hide that from your kid. Or, dare I say it, spend that so your kid can feel special – the kind of special you don’t feel when your dad’s bartering and accepting a knockoff for your birthday. It’s just part of being a parent.


I know I don’t say it enough, but Dad, I love you. Thanks for not being a piece of shit.

For you? Of course not for you!!

About a week and a half ago a customer walks in with a broken laptop. Right after she gets the price of the service, she asks to come in and sit down next to me while I work. Starts talking in a breathy voice. I forget if the charge was $150 or $170. Let’ say $170 for argument’s sake. I see where this is going.

At the end, I’m done. She puts her left hand on my shoulder and her right elbow on my knee, looks up and says

"that's not going to be $170 for me, right?"

My reply?

 "Of course not, not for you!"

I wait for this to register a smile, before delivering

$It's 170 plus tax! You don't have a resale certificate!"

Much less happy. Legitimately mad, and semi embarrassed looking… I’ll probably get a 1-star-yelp out of it.

Yes, I am a young, nerdy looking guy. I’m a geek who knows the difference between LP8543SQ and LP1585SQ. No, I am not the dipshit portrayed in this video. Thanks!

Why don’t consumers trust us? We lie when we can get away with it… yeah, that’s probably it.

A kind young woman walked in with a dead laptop. It won’t turn on. In the end, it has a problem we’re all too familiar with – nothing but a bad keyboard. She tells me Apple told her around $800 – mistake #1. She also makes mention that her parents are going to pay for the repair. Mistake #2 – I now have justifiable cause to inflate the bill(“Apple said $800”), and reason to believe she will be able to pay for it! Make it any easier and I might just be able to levitate the money out of its wallet.

Alas, I can’t. I don’t have that killer instinct – the predatory nature required to rip people off. I am confident these factors would  turn the problem of a bad keyboard into a much higher bill. Something $300, or $400, or $500 would be her bill, had it been brought to the wrong place after she said what she did.  She would’ve never had a clue what we did, had I decided to pocket an extra $130 today courtesy of a white lie.

Technicians can do this and make customers happy. I can’t say I know someone perfectly from just one meeting, but I would put money on the idea that she’d have been equally happy with a $280 or $320 repair. And this is why technicians do this – they get both benefits. The same happy customer, and more money! Win win. Right?

Wrong. It is because of this behavior that we are branded with a reputation of con artists and grifters; reminiscent of the used car salesmen of the Great Depression.



One thing I noticed looking through the bad mechanic and pricing videos ETCG1 have on youtube, was how much there was in common between auto mechanics and laptop repair technicians. I’m not going to say I looked through any of the repair videos. I don’t know how to drive a car, much less fix one, and I probably won’t anytime soon. Where I live and work in Brooklyn & Manhattan, I can often beat cars on bike due to traffic, so I never learned how to drive, and as time goes on I think I am less likely to learn. The people who drive seem so stressed out screaming at other drivers, screaming at traffic. This is unlike most of the country, where you need a car to be productive.

Onto the point. A lot of similarities in the two businesses stuck out to me. How to deal with people who blame you for breaking something since you worked on their car, when you should eat it, how to price jobs, how to deal with problem customers, how to deal with fellow servicemen, how to deal with problems when a job takes you longer than it should or less time than it should, how to set up your labor pricing. It all seems the same as running a laptop repair shop that focuses on repair of physically and liquid spill damaged computers.

One thing I ran into that troubled me greatly is when a job is quoted at a higher price because of how it came in. I’m not good at analogies, and I know close to nothing about cars. Let’s say someone goes in for routine maintenance and you notice some part is in poor condition – but the car works fne. That customer may be less willing to pay as high a price for the maintenance as they would be if the car were brought to the shop under different circumstances. Let’s say, instead of scheduled maintenance, they came to your shop on a tow truck because their car stalled on the highway. I am guessing that it would be easier to talk them into a higher bill, even if you are replacing the same part. Whereas $120 may be the limit of what they are willing to spend during maintenance, they might be willing, and expecting, to pay over $400 if that same part failing caused a complete stall of the vehicle.

Let me use an example from the laptop industry – keyboards. If someone comes in because they spilled a tiny bit of water and the shift/enter keys don’t work, they would be charged the $175 for keyboard repair, and up to $350 at neighboring shops. However, there are many circumstances where the entire keyboard fails, and the keyboard includes the power button. Under these circumstances, the laptop does not turn back on, so the customer does not have a clear idea what is wrong with the machine, and many technicians often take advantage of this and add 30%, 70%, or 110% onto the price for the same repair.

To be clear, I am not talking about times where cable pins are burned away or motherboards are corroded, I am talking straight keyboard damage – with no other issue. I have seen what should have been a $225 keyboard bill go up to $350 just because it wasn’t turning on when they came in – just because the customer was honest about the fact that Apple wanted $700 to fix their computer.

This seems incredibly wrong to me. Again, I am not talking about a quick estimate where the technican assumes other damage. I am talking about the final diagnosis, where the technician is 100% sure the keyboard is the only problem, but he over-bills the job using an ambiguous diagnosis to shield him from customer speculation.

I have been the person selling these before, because it was my job. I hated it. I hated the fact that I was good at it! I am not a natural born salesman, but I am a technician, and I’m good at what I do. I’m damn good at what I do! I also like helping people. I’m not a salesperson. I’ve failed at selling credit cards, sporting goods, health insurance, and much more in my lifetime for a living. What makes me good at selling repairs, is that I know what I’m doing and love what I do. I enjoy helping & informing others. I have a direct, informative, confident approach with customers that allows me to gain their trust, and I was abusing this left and right to milk people for money, and it made me sick.

The excuse most commonly used by the technicians who do this are “well, was the customer happy? Because that’s all that matters.” I could never appreciate that cop-out.

I recall one occasion someone paid $375 for what should have been a $130 repair at this establishment. The woman actually came up to me and hugged me after checkout, because Apple had told her $800 to repair. This felt terrible. I did all I could to maintain a proper smile and not puke in front of her, but I couldn’t do it – it was this incredibly insincere smile, and I was unable to hold in my disgust at what I was doing. She was too happy to notice. Since she was “happy” , I hadn’t done anything wrong… really? That’s the benchmark?

I’m not great with analogies. Let’s say I’m in a comic book world – I’m a shapeshifter. I can take people’s appearances. I have a crush on my neighbor’s wife. One day, I kill her husband on his way home from work and take over his appearance, and go about living his life. I take her out and we have a romantic evening – and maybe go on vacation together. She’s as happy as can be.

Have I done nothing wrong, because she is happy? If she knew I were not her husband, if she knew I murdered her husband – she would be incredibly shocked, angry, livid, disgusted.

I believe the same is true with the repair. She is very happy that she paid $375. However, if she knew we performed a service that was on this very company’s price list, their website, their ads – for $130, would she be happy? Probably not.

I understand in this industry that a little bit of white lying is sometimes necessary. I recently posted a video about an experience I had where I was bitched out terribly because I had stuck to my estimate of $150, even though I didn’t have to replace any parts. I figured I was in for a $15 part and a 1 hour repair, or an $80 part and a 15 minute repair. I was actually in for a $0 part and a 3 hour repair. In the end, everything worked as I promised it would, and I charged the agreed upon price of $150 to fix the problem. The customer was incredibly angry because he was the type of person that was ok paying for replacement parts, but needed to think he was setting his own labor value – something under $30.

I don’t think people become bad overnight. I think it happens step by step. You lie here because it is more practical and you’re doing nothing wrong. Then you lie again to make life easier and you notice you can make more money while they’re happy… so that’s not doing anything wrong. Then you lie left and right because you think that’s just how it’s supposed to be, but it’s not. It’s not at all.

I’m an idealist at heart – always have been. I become excited when I can make the world a better place. I don’t mean picking trash off the side of the street(although I am avidly against polluting and bitch out friends who throw cigarette butts on the sidewalk), I mean doing what I can in my job, my hobbies, and my personal life to make the world a little better.

Part of this idealist philosophy is not lying to people in order to take more money, even if they will be just as happy. As I become older, I am a little more pragmatic, a little less idealist, and a little more in touch with the rest of the world. Part of that means seeing things as other people see them, and something I’ve noticed is that a lot of good people lie to make more money, and make people happy doing it. I notice that the honest businesses are the ones with one location, struggling employees, and stagnant business models. However, the ones ok with lying a little are the ones taking their business to the next level, expanding, receiving news coverage, hiring more people, with founding partners buying luxury condos out of state. Above all – in spite of all the lying to extract more money – their reputation remains untarnished. and So this leads me to the great question – is this wrong? Am I an idealist, blind to the practical ramifications of running a for-profit repair shop?

There are a plethora of reasons that the average consumer does not trust, nor like, the mechanic or the technician. Now that I am on the other side of the fence, I want to do my part to change this lack of trust & dislike as much as I can.

San Francisco loses to cellphone industry – who cares?

Does this really matter? No.

Scientific research has barely given any credence to the idea that cellphone radiation harms your health. There is a lot of debate around whether cellphone radiation harms  you, but no well recognized & accepted conclusion.

Do you know where there is no debate? Cigarettes. A large majority of Americans use products like cigarettes. Cigarettes say right on the box that they kill you. They have been proven to kill you. Unlike the cellphone radiation health issue, cigarettes have no debate attached to them. 99.9% of the world’s scientific community is in agreement: using cigarettes WILL shorten your life. It says so on the box; yet MILLIONS of regular people smoke them anyway.

It’s not just ignorant, uninformed idiots who smoke cigarettes. Political leaders & businessmen, professors & parents. People from all walks of life, all classes, take part in an activity that does not provide much for them besides cancer, inferior cardio performance, and quicker death

Is it really worth fighting over having radiation ratings advertised next to phones? No. If people will spend $20 a day to put smoke in their lungs that kills them, they sure as hell aren’t going to stop using a device that revolutionizes their life because it may, kinda, sorta, not-really-proven-yet-but-we’re-working-on-proving-it harm your health someday.

Get people to care about the dangers we know about. Then, work on getting people to care about the dang…, well, maybe dangerous, we still have to prove it stuff. Even if San Francisco had won – this would have been a hollow victory.


The $20 dilemma.

Professional labor costs money, to the detriment of the occasional client.

A service we offer.

We charge $130 for a 500 GB hard drive installed into a Macbook Pro, with an operating system installed. This price includes

  •  500 GB drive
  • Part installation
  • Installation of a functional operating system
  • Same day service

This amounts to approximately $50 in parts, and $80 in labor. It takes about 30 minutes to fully disassemble & reassemble an A1226/A1260 Macbook Pro, and 45 minutes to install the OS. At an average shop labor rate of $75/hr, plus $50 for the part, this comes out to $130 – a logical price based on our labor rate. We come up with the labor rate using a basic formula most use in the business of computer repair – 3.5-5x the cost of what the person performing the repair would make hourly, to cover rent/other staff/taxes/promotion, along with every other associated expense of running a business.

Service in action!

A customer calls after receiving their promised free diagnosis, and wants to discuss it with a technician. On the $130 for hard drive She says she’ll call back after checking the price of the hard drive, after asking us for its capacity. I figure she won’t go ahead with the hard drive install, because she wants to check the price of the drive – and that’s fine. That’s fair business. I shop around all the time. I see the writing on the walls in vocal tone – she wants to figure out the part cost so she can clarify labor cost, and low-ball the labor. I call this, the twenty dollar dilemma.

My powers of deduction haven’t failed me yet! She calls back to say she found the drive for $55 on Amazon. I see exactly where this is going. I tell her yes, Amazon has it for $55, and if you want, I can find it for you even cheaper! She asks to clarify the labor cost, and I do – $50 part comes out to $80 in labor. It takes a half hour to install the drive, and 45 minutes to install the operating system, which comes out to $80 over about an hour and five minutes. I’d also like to clarify in this blog that while purchasing from Amazon requires waiting for the item to be delivered from a distribution center before you can even begin DIY, we could have the laptop functional within an hour and a half of your phone call.

Convenience; it is worth, and does actually cost something. And that’s all included in the $80.

The lowball… if part cost is X!

She asks if I will do it for cheaper after finding out the part cost, and I say no. Mere blocks away you have companies charging $200-$250 for the same thing. Here’s the kicker.. she tells me geeksquad will do it for free. Uhm. Excuse me? I say “ok, wow. I wish I had knew they would do it for free beforehand – I would not have wasted one day of your time performing a diagnosis if you had an extended service plan with someone else, or a warranty.” She explains that she has no warranty or service plan because it’s 4 years old. This means 1 of 2 things.

a) The real reason Best Buy is bleeding money is because their computer repair division has not been charging money to repair computers. If this is the case, shit me rivers, I am going to FIRE EVERY TECHNICIAN TODAY and give everything to them. You hear that, hartford? No more workman’s comp! No more payroll taxes. God I am happy.

b) Someone has an overactive imagination.

As much as I wish it were A…. something tells me it’s B. Ideas?

Labor rate pricing vs. market pricing.

I have my own staff reminding me daily how silly it is that I still use labor-rate-based pricing. I set prices based on the job difficulty, part cost, and time spent on the machine. I do not set prices based on what customers “may be willing to spend” or what others are charging at the time(aka market prices) – which is why my hard drive+install+OS reinstall price is one of the lowest in Manhattan for a retail store.

Does this system make sense?

My philosophy has one main flaw. It does not take into account the business reality of target demographics. This pricing system is not ideal for either demographic. The $20-$30 demographic – that I often fit into – do not want to pay anything over $20-$30. I use $20-$30 as a general line in the sand, as an expression. It may differ from person to person in this demographic. They have a set idea of what labor is worth, and it’s $20. Then you have people who simply want to get it done. These people do not care about the difference between part cost and labor, and they don’t leverage how easy it is to lowball your rate. There are people who will spend $250 easily for this same service.

Why this system makes no sense.

The people who do not want to pay more than $20-$30 won’t pay $250, $300, or $130. So, by charging a logical parts & labor rate of $130, I don’t get the business. There are people who want to pay what they feel is reasonable based on what a working machine is worth to them – they will pay $250, or $300. So here, they will pay $130, but they would have paid $250 as well.

Why we use this system anyway.

Simple; I have a conscience. Silly me. Unfortunately, my ability to sleep at night rests in whether I could live with my actions if I were on the receiving end of them.

The DIY assumption.

Do we lie on parts cost?

I feel like a lot of people think that repair shops try to lie to people on part cost, because many do. It’s one of the sales tactics used to sell a service – discourage a customer from having a repair done because “it’s not much more to do it here.” I can tell from the surprise in one’s voice when I tell them the part cost is even less than what they think it is, that they are expecting me to fib on the part cost. I tell the truth; it’s because I truly don’t have any shame on the labor charge. I am not a market based repair center – I don’t have to go “well, we figured we could get $250 out of you, so we decided to charge what you’re willing to pay so we could get the most money.” I have a clean conscience with “This is what our time is worth for this particular job. This is the part cost, and amount of time put in. This is the total charge.” I can live with explaining that, so no lies or fibs are necessary.

Do we lie on difficulty?

Another one. I can tell when people go “I can do that myself!” that they are expecting opposition, or a discount. They’re often surprised when I go “you probably can.” Another way to sell people is to convince them of how much work goes into the repair. I don’t have to lie. You can indeed do this yourself. I’ve never tried to tell you otherwise. I act like this has no bearing on the repair cost… because it doesn’t. You can cook pasta yourself – why pay $50 for it at a restaurant? Same idea.



You got accused of putting a broken X into someone’s device.. what now?

This video series was a four part series. I’m so happy with part 4 that I’m posting it in its own blog entry.

How the Better Business Bureau is becoming irrelevant thanks to modern social media.

Does anyone in 2013 use the BBB to gauge a business prior to utilizing their services?

What about BBB accreditation? I want to work with a BBB accredited business.

BBB accreditation requires the business pay the BBB. BBB accreditation does not imply that the BBB investigates to see if the business acts ethically, or is competent at their given craft. It merely means they pay a fee. This much is mentioned on their own website.
On a public review site, a business becomes accredited by being accountable to the community. On, a business becomes accredited by paying an annual fee. Which do you trust more?

Misconceptions about the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB is a private organization – not a law enforcement body. The BBB gives businesses ratings based on consumer complaints, and replies to consumer complaints. However, the BBB has no standing to fine, punish, or derail a business’ existence or operation.

When you send a complaint to the BBB, it is then forwarded to the company the complaint is against. The company is asked to reply. The company can say anything they like – “This is our policy, here is why we cannot help you according to our policy. We consider this matter closed at this time.” That’s it. The BBB cannot, nor do they, attempt to mandate a business to change a policy decision. The BBB acts as a middleman messenger service and nothing more.

That’s wrong. My friend filed a complaint on a business, they had many other complaints, and they were shut down!

Again, the BBB has no standing to shut down a business. Rather, it is more likely that the business was receiving many complaints because they were under-serving their customers. As a result of under-serving their customers, the business lost its customers who went elsewhere, leading them to close. Or, whatever internal problems(personnel, funding) were causing the business to under-serve its customers caused them to go under.

So what DO they do?

As stated before, the BBB simply exists to allow customers to post complaints, and then resolve them through back and forth conversation. Ratings are given to the business based on a business’ responses & the customer satisfaction with the responses.

That sounds like a noble cause. Why would you say they are becoming irrelevant?

I’m so glad you asked! Several reasons.

Firstly, the BBB only exists for the negative. You can check on their site for complaints. It is a one sided site – there is no ratio!! You need to be able to see positives and negatives to get an idea of how the business operates. The BBB shows the negative only – without seeing the positive along with the negative, there is no way to judge the ratio of happy to pissed off consumers.

For example, one business sells 100,000 items a day, and has 5 people per day file a complaint. Another business sells 40 items a day, and has 1 person per day file a complaint. The busines selling 100 items per day has less complaints, but has a higher percentage of unsatisfied customers. However, looking at the BBB site, the business selling less seems more legitimate – because you cannot gauge the ratio of complaints to happy customers. If you check a Yelp page and see they have 50 5 star reviews and 3 1 star reviews, this looks better than a business with a single 1 star review and a single 5 star review. However, on the BBB site, the latter business would look better.

Secondly, the interface and theme have not kept up with technology. Compare usability to Google Places & Yelp. Or citysearch. Or even resellerratings – they all are put together much better, and make it easier for a consumer to find the information they need on a particular business. Google & Yelp have android & iPhone apps that make it easy to find a business and look up their credibility instantly by location. These sites post deals, descriptions, lead you to business websites. Does the BBB do this?

So you’re saying less people use the BBB?

Yes. We polled 100 customers over a 6 month timeframe. Of these 100 customers, 70 had looked us up on Yelp, 10 had word of mouth referrals without even looking us up, 7 had found our Google places page(3 of these 7 had looked at yelp as well), 14 people who walked in didn’t look us up and were just passing by, and 2 looked us up on the BBB(where we are nowhere to be found). Those 2 who looked us up on the BBB were both over 45 years of age.

Less people do use the BBB, and from our crude “survey”, those who do are not from the younger generation.

Thoughts on opportunity, the recession job market, and what we can learn from immigrants.

Some of my thoughts on why immigrants handle the recession better than Americans, along with my experience.