Sketched out by repair guy but he has my computer.
July 25, 2013 1:03 PM   Subscribe

The computer repair guy I found online took a longer time to get back to me, then appeared to have misplaced my machine when I called him for an update. After he located it and I agreed to let him continue fixing it, he sends me a highly inappropriate text message, very likely by mistake, the next day. I'm really skeeved out by now and would prefer not to continue working with this individual, but I'm not entirely sure what to do. Details within!

I took my computer to be fixed by this guy who seems very well-reviewed online, and was invoiced an initial quote of say, $100. I was told that he would assess the damage, and it would take four to five days before I could pick it up. I didn't hear from him for more than a week, and so I called him to find out what happened. After getting my name, he claimed that he didn't have any records, and as he didn't have a computer of that particular make at his workshop, I may have confused him with another repair shop. After I told him that I was calling the number on the invoice he had e-mailed me, he changed his tune and told me that he would get back to me. He did so within 15, 20 minutes. This time, he stated that because the damage to my computer was far more extensive than he'd imagined, he'd sent it to a third party for repairs, and it would now cost upwards of $400. I did not authorize this, he did not call me to tell me this, so I left him a voicemail message informing him that I did not wish to proceed with the $400 repairs.

He called me back, and this time, he said that he would get it back from the third party, and would now try to fix my computer at the price he originally quoted. Everything has been very civil and polite so far, and even though I suspected him of covering his ass, I really wanted my computer fixed, and I thought that if he'd screwed up earlier, it was perhaps fair to give him a second chance.

HOWEVER. Yesterday, I received two text messages from his number asking for a nude pic! I believe that it was probably sent by mistake--if he could barely remember my computer, I doubt if he knew what I looked like, plus he would be really risking his professional reputation. I did not respond to those text messages, and I haven't received more since, but now I'm not sure if I'm comfortable working with him.

Should I:

1. Keep quiet, let him fix my computer, and proceed as though nothing has happened? This seems like the most practical solution, but while I'm conflict averse, I'm also a bit appalled by what happened.

2. Ask him to turn over my computer right away if it hasn't been fixed, and let him know why? I feel like writing an e-mail explaining why I no longer wish to use his services before picking it up, but he has my computer with a lot of personal stuff in it, and what if he's a vindictive sort? Should I just not explain in the e-mail, but only once I've picked it up? Would I have to compensate him for the time and effort spent?

3. Let him fix my computer, then let him know about the messages when I pick it up, even though this could be next week for all I know? This seems really awkward to me--Hi, thanks for fixing my computer, here's the payment I owe you, and by the way, these messages came from your phone which made me feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

4. Consider leaving an honest review about my experience with him, even though it could negatively affect his mostly 4 and 5 star Yelp ratings? If I were to apply the Golden Rule, I suppose I shouldn't, because mistakes happen. But my partner is of the opinion that being honest isn't unfair because one should not make such mistakes as a business.

This is my dilemma, and I put it before you, polite and assertive members of MeFi!
posted by peripathetic to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Call him and tell him you've thought it over and you're just going to buy a new one. Go over there and get your computer and give him whatever it is he's asked for in diagnostic fees.

Then leave a bad revoew.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:06 PM on July 25, 2013 [17 favorites]

i would just get the computer back and take it elsewhere.
posted by sweetkid at 1:06 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just call him and say that you're picking up your computer at $time whether it's fixed or not. Once you have your computer, call him and tell him about the inappropriate messages if you feel like it -- and also leave a bad review.
posted by KathrynT at 1:08 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sheesh. What a creep. What sweetkid said: get your computer back and take it elsewhere. Even before the nude pic request, it was clear that he was less than professional.
posted by tully_monster at 1:09 PM on July 25, 2013

In addition, might be worth dropping your local Trading Standards office (assuming those exist in CA) an email with details of this encounter. They may already have a file on him if he's been accused of this type of sketchy behaviour before.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 1:11 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get your baby back ASAP, report him to the BBB and find an actual professional to work on your computer.
posted by bakedbeets at 1:15 PM on July 25, 2013

I would be far more bothered by him sending your computer away to a 3rd party and expecting to bill you $400 without asking you first than I would be by that text message - which you're assuming was accidental (for all you know, it was meant for his girlfriend and your names are next to each other in his contact list)

Give him the benefit of the doubt about the messages and get your computer back. He's taken too long over it already and if the damage really as bad as he said then either he knows he can't fix it or it would cost him a lot more than $400 to fix (why else would he have sent it to a 3rd party?) so you're not going to be high up on his list of priorities. I see no need to mention the messages.
posted by missmagenta at 1:16 PM on July 25, 2013

If my computer had "a lot of personal stuff in it," and the repair guy had sent me a text message yesterday asking for "a nude pic," then mistake or not, I guarantee you, he wouldn't still have possession of my computer today.

For my personal standards—and I admit, I'm the polite and assertive personality type you mentioned, whereas you may not be—you are waaaay overthinking this situation. Four options?! No. He gets the courtesy of a phone call informing him that I'm on my way to his home/office to pick up my computer immediately. The end.

And next time? Take the first red-flag hint. It's totally fine to give second chances in professional contexts, but you need to distinguish between which mistakes warrant a second chance and which don't. "I don't have any records; I lost track of your property; I gave it to a third party; I'm charging four times the original estimate"...none of these warrant a second chance.
posted by cribcage at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2013 [32 favorites]

I agree with getting your computer back. I don't think he deserves any diagnostic fees, but I'd probably pay them to get this over with faster.

More importantly, TAKE A FRIEND with you when you get the computer. I'm not sure why you assume the text messages were an accident, when everything else he's said or done has been unprofessional too, but this guy sounds like a creep and you need to take extra precautions for your safety.

When you get your computer back, assume any passwords stored in it (say in Firefox or Chrome) have been compromised and change them.
posted by bluecore at 1:30 PM on July 25, 2013 [22 favorites]

It sounds like he's not operating at 100% of his mental capacity, for whatever reason. Don't let him mess with your computer -- he's likely to make a mistake. Find another repair person.

Maybe his dog just died, maybe he's sick, whatever -- neither of you need to be participating in this transaction right now.
posted by amtho at 1:31 PM on July 25, 2013

Leave the bad review - people often get friends or family to review them and it sounds like he did a bad enough job on multiple fronts that it's okay for his string of positive reviews to be broken.

To be honest, I wouldn't leave the review until after I'd picked up the computer (whether he's done or not) and, frankly, wiped the hard drive completely and reinstalled the operating system. If you're not sure how to do that, I'd find it worthwhile to erase my private files and then take it to a different computer repair place. A little paranoid maybe, but then again this guy doesn't sound especially conscientious and I'd rather not worry about what he may or may not have installed.
posted by egg drop at 1:38 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

As someone who had a fairly crappy encounter with a computer technician myself despite having checked out his reviews beforehand, I agree with the advice to get your computer back now and then leave a review describing your experiences. One bad review may not dissuade anyone from giving him their business, but it could convince them to be far more attentive to any initial screw up or unprofessionalism they see when interacting with him.
posted by DingoMutt at 2:11 PM on July 25, 2013

Geez, you're way too calm about this. Show up without warning and with someone, pick up your computer, pay the $100 if he starts getting shitty. I too would find out if he's installed some crap on the HD. And that's if he even still has your computer - it may be gone forever. And you think this guy accidentally sent you two (!) text messages asking for nudies? Really? Do you really think he sounds like the kind of guy who cares about what you look like and/or his professional reputation? And I wouldn't leave a bad review - too many possible problems for you - but I would report him.
posted by heyjude at 2:16 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this guy lost me when he tried to bump up the bill by $300, let alone the lack of communication and the unprofessional creepy bullshit with the text messages. Get your computer back, leave a negative review and I wouldn't pay him a dime. Gross.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:23 PM on July 25, 2013

And what everybody else said about changing your passwords, etc. This guy doesn't remotely deserve the benefit of the doubt you're extending.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:25 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Get your computer back, make sure he didn't have access to personal info like social security number, DL number etc. Then leave honest review stating what happened. What is the point of checking reviews if people are too timid or *nice* to leave a negative one when its deserved (and he definitely deserves your honest account of what happened)? Its very possible you are not the first person he's screwed up with. You might be surprised, if you post your experiences others may come forward with theirs.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:33 PM on July 25, 2013

If I were to apply the Golden Rule, I suppose I shouldn't, because mistakes happen

This is admirable, but -- you can look at an honest review as a public service.

And just do an honest review, straight-up recitation of facts with no editorialising or personal feelings. As you've done here. This is a very reasonable recounting of events you've posted here; trim it down to size and it will be the "polite and assertive" thing to do...

And I wouldn't leave a bad review - too many possible problems for you, like what? Get the computer back, first, and sure, there could be a nasty text sent when he finds the review, but who cares? OP will, given the clarity here, presumably stick to "X occurred, then Y" rather than "This asswipe who was wearing a dirty t-shirt Xed then Y!"

The worst fall-out I've ever had from leaving a middling-negative Yelp review was that the person left some messages on my phone, long rambly things about how it was bad for their business and maybe I'd like to call them to discuss it, but I noticed there was no "I am offering to make it right with a refund" built into the ramble, and I nearly revised the review to add: and then there were phone calls, to warn other potential reviewers. Maybe I should? Anyway, that was a remarkable response which prompted me to tell even more people: don't hire her. The odds of even an unthreatening telephone call like that are, based on my prodigious fifteen+ years of very public internet reviewing, extremely low.

Just retrieve the computer; having a friend in tow is a good idea, and I would not make any advance "I'll be there at 3:30" calls; just show up. Don't bother with an explanation.

It's easy to send a text to the wrong place by accident, but it is very hard to not notice that you've done that. Taking screen shots and posting them with the review would not be unreasonable.
posted by kmennie at 2:36 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Ask for the computer back immediately. No ifs, ands or buts.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:44 PM on July 25, 2013

Call your local police station and ask if they have gotten any complaints about this guy. If no, then go get your computer and terminate the relationship without comment. If yes, have a male friend go get your computer and terminate the relationship without comment.

Older folks with poor vision and arthritis make mistakes with who they are texting all the time. Computer guys with smart phones rarely do.
posted by myselfasme at 3:03 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, I'll go retrieve my computer ASAP, but will probably have to do it first thing tomorrow morning so my partner can come with me. It was my first instinct, but given that he pulled the third party bullshit, I'm concerned that my computer may not actually be at his workshop. So perhaps I should actually give him the heads up using Ruthless Bunny's excuse so that he'll definitely have it?

I am still ambivalent about mentioning the inappropriate texts in a review, though you've all given me plenty to think about, and look forward to more of your insights. I'll be chewing on this for a bit.
posted by peripathetic at 3:09 PM on July 25, 2013

Put it this way: if the online reviews you had read had mentioned that he had a habit of texting the customers with requests for nude pics, would you have chosen to do business with him? If you would have found the information relevant and unsettling, assume that others would have, also.

Even if he made a mistake and sent you those texts by accident, that's a mistake that a guy in his position has to not make.
posted by KathrynT at 3:29 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites], like what? Get the computer back, first, and sure, there could be a nasty text sent when he finds the review, but who cares?

It depends on how much personal information he has about her, never underestimate some people's abilities to be malevolent fuckers, but on the flip side of that I do agree that leaving a negative review online would be very helpful to other people (as, clearly, the OP knows well enough by now).
posted by heyjude at 4:32 PM on July 25, 2013

If you show up and he doesn't have the computer, try to get him to write down where the computer is.
posted by amtho at 6:33 PM on July 25, 2013

Definitely leave a detailed review. Given your experience, I have a hard time believing that his existing reviews are 100% legit. Perhaps he's been having his friends and family pad the feedback.

(I once ruled out a particular storage company because all of the reviews were overwhelmingly positive and included a suspicious amount of exclamation points and caps. Just couldn't believe that real people were all THAT excited about their storage facility.)
posted by she's not there at 6:48 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

1) Get the computer back ASAP. Really wondering though why you left "a lot of personal stuff in it" in the first place, assuming you could access it. I'd always try to copy the data to an external hard drive and delete it from the computer before handing it over to an unknown party.

2) Write a review. If I read correctly, you based your decision which business to pick on yelp. It only works if people leave reviews. Do it so other customers can make an informed decision.

3) The text messages are really crossing the line. How would you feel if your dry cleaners, your dentist or your attorney texted you such a request?
Look, the guy himself has to take care of his "professional reputation" by acting appropriately, it is not your or other customers role to make excuses for his behavior or shield him. If he can not clean up his act he loses business - that's how it works. It's not that hard to have a business phone and a separate private phone for starters. I would make him aware of that fact.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:31 AM on July 26, 2013

Everyone's assuming the sexts weren't an accident, but I wouldn't go that far. Sure, guys fall back on the plausible deniability all the time -- but only because they can, because it's incredibly common to send your junk and junk requests to the wrong place. (Just ask Anthony Weiner.) For someone like a repair guy who probably juggles dozens or hundreds of random phone numbers, the risk is even greater. And there's nothing inherently wrong with asking for a naked picture -- who knows what context it was in? Maybe it was his long-distance girlfriend. Maybe they were hookup buddies for years. Maybe he's a creep. You just don't know, and it has nothing to do with your laptop.

The problem here is that he runs his business sloppily, he tried to quadruple the price. So: get your laptop back, pay the $100, make sure you only pay the $100, and leave a review saying he tried to bait-and-switch you and was generally unprofessional.
posted by dekathelon at 7:16 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

After reading through all the above responses, I just sort of wanted to reiterate what egg drop said, above. Wipe the computer after you get it back. Format, start from scratch. He's a computer tech. It's not just about what he might have gotten off your computer, it's about what he might have put onto it.

It's nice and all to give people the benefit of the doubt, but that doesn't mean you don't take precautions to protect yourself.
posted by instead of three wishes at 9:43 AM on July 26, 2013

Response by poster: I've retrieved my computer without any issues, and will probably leave an honest review about my experience with him. He let me take back my computer without charging me a diagnostics fee, but the interesting thing was that when I spoke to him about that, he asked me if I "also" went by [female first name shared by a talk show host]. Hah.

For those who were worried that my security and privacy have been compromised, thank you for your concern, and I will be more careful in the future. But to 'splain things, I didn't remove my files before taking it to him because I could not start up my computer at all. As for my personal stuff, they're really 7 years of non-embarrassing photos + writing projects. Annoying to lose, but not life-destroying. Besides, all things considered, he has far more to lose than I if he tried anything really dodgy.

Thanks to all who responded!
posted by peripathetic at 4:05 PM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Only you can decide whether this person is in a rough patch, is incompetence or something more serious.

HOWEVER, seeing you went to this person, I'd strongly advise not to write a negative review until you have a techie who can trust ( try for suggestions) who can do a proper wipe of the hard drive (including HPA).

Also, you should consider all your passwords to be compromised and needs to be changed STAT.
posted by magic_skyjuice at 1:57 AM on July 30, 2013

Please leave an honest review including all that has transpired in your experience. If any of my family or friends were thinking of going to this guy, I'd want them to know what he is actually like so they could avoid the dishonesty and sexual harassment--I think everyone would.
posted by blueberry at 12:46 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

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