With apologies to Mr. C. Dickens, and thanks to Mr. S. Claus

My computer was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

That computer was as dead as a door-nail.

(Oops, that’s A Christmas Carol… well, my holiday mood is still with me. It’s all good.)

Anyway, it was dead. And me, on vacation, far from civilization.

I borrowed someone else’s computer to look up the symptoms and heard dire terms like “logic board” and “hard drive.” Sounds like no diagnosis could be worse…

== A note right here: I thanked my lucky stars that I had done a complete backup of every byte only two days earlier. Phew! If you haven’t done that lately, STOP READING! and go back up your computer’s data. (I’ll wait.) Back so soon? Then let’s return to our tale… ==

I tried all the wild remedies mentioned on the www. Zapping PRAM (no, I don’t know what that is), unplugging for ten seconds (this apparently disturbs voodoo?), starting in safe mode… well, starting is an exaggeration. The computer did power up at first, for a few minutes or a couple of hours, but then, within a day, bizarre behaviors—the flickering power cord, the disc drive spinning and choking, and worst of all,


At last the computer flashed to the happy Apple logo (or just a black screen), and with each try, it died before my MacBook Pro could wish me a chiming Hello.

There is no doubt that it was dead. This must be distinctly understood… (ahem! Dickens again. I forget myself).

I could only try to find a zen place from which to contemplate beginning the new year with the purchase of a new Mac.

And new programs when the old ones won’t behave on a three-years-newer system.

And a new printer when the old one has no idea what a new MacBook is.

You can probably guess that I didn’t find a very zen place within me. Instead I either cursed it, ignored it, or mostly, tried to avoid completely agonizing over it in some middle place. Happy Holidays to me? Oh, ouch.

I’m going to wait until I’m back in civilization… to face The Genius Bar.

And the drive to the Apple Store just to get to the Genius Bar.

And the fatal diagnosis.

And the lines at the Apple Store.

As I bemoaned my fate (rattling more chains than Jacob Marley himself?), a friend asked whether I’d considered another option.

“When you get home, take it to the Geek Squad. If it’s dead they can tell you that as easily as the Apple people and for you, they’re a lot closer.”

Like, 5 minutes from where I live. I had no idea they deal in Macs. Apparently this is new(ish) waters for them and no one even told me! Hm.

I know they may not have the same Mac-pertise as the folks at the Genius Bar at an Apple Store, but my friend was right. Dead is dead, and it doesn’t take a lot of expertise to pronounce those words. So before I trekked to the Apple Store, I headed around the bend to Best Buy.

Geek Squad car in the snow

Image of Geek Squad car by Michael Simmons (msimmons on flickr).

(For those of you not familiar with them, Best Buy is a retail tech and appliance superstore based in the U.S., and the Geek Squad is their in-store, and mobile, tech support and repair department. They aim to put a little fun into the scary business of tech help and repairs with their distinctive look [see their Squad car, above] and energetic “Agents.”)

When the day arrived, my dead Mac and I waited in a small, fast-moving line. Within minutes I was next.

“Can I help you?” The man in the short-sleeved white shirt and skinny black tie was more hopeful-sounding than I was.

“Well, probably not… I read it’s the logic board, or the hard drive. This is what’s been happening….” I listed off everything I could remember.

“Flickering power cord?” the Geek Squad guy asked.

“Yeah… like, if I wiggle it, it stays green, usually all day, but if I take the computer someplace else and forget to wiggle it…”

“Only green? Not orange? Hang on a second.”

He came back with a funny-looking plug (new model), stuck it into my Mac, and voila! For the first time in a week, the computer came up and did not immediately crash.

“It’s on!” I exclaimed (too loudly for the post-holiday crowd, I’m afraid).

“Yep. If it wasn’t going orange for some time, it wasn’t ever charging the computer’s battery, and then in the later stages, everything else going on was only symptoms of the real problem. The cord had died totally.”

He pointed out the aisle where new Apple cords are. And though he’d diagnosed and solved my problem, he’d didn’t write out a ticket or charge me the hundred-or-so dollar diagnostic fee. And he apologized to me: “Sorry,” he said, “the new cord isn’t cheap.”

True. My funny-looking new plug just cost me 80 bucks. And instead of saying ouch, I could only smile.

In Miracle on 34th Street, Macy’s Santa Claus is caught sending shoppers to stores where they can find what they want, instead of pushing what Macy’s wants to unload. Will Mr. Macy be upset? Not when he realizes it’s making loyal customers for life out of once-a-year looky-lous.

Now, even if I’d paid the diagnostic fee I’d be happy to get out with only that and the price of the new cord, since I expected to need something between a new hard drive and a whole new computer.

But later, I might have felt funny about 30 seconds of sticking a functioning cord into my Mac costing so much. I’d still be satisfied, but not very happy about the experience.

To meet expectations will make me happy for a minute, and will keep me, your customer, satisfied. Not a very high bar, particularly in the world of stressed-out folks facing possibly-huge repair bills.

To exceed expectations—in this case, sending me to the department where I can get what I really need instead of selling me (getting away with) what you can—

—is to keep me loyal, and keep me spreading the word.

A friend suggested I give Best Buy a shot because she’d really enjoyed the Geek Squad and their new Mac-geekiness. Now it’s my turn to recommend them when folks around here (who know me as a huge Machead) ask me what to do about their own problems.

And that is a Miracle of Maximum Customer Experience on 34th or any street—one that’s rarely seen in big retail chains anymore.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson