"Whatever you can afford" =$X?
September 18, 2019 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Friend, with help of another friend, recovered data from my dropped hard drive. What should I pay her/them?

Earlier this summer I dropped my old Seagate hard drive (containing our pre-cloud digital life) and it was no longer detectable. A tech-savvy friend offered to try to retrieve the data. She was unsuccessful but passed it a friend of hers, who got back most of the contents. When I asked about payment my friend said, "whatever you can afford." I'm in a decent place financially and would like to pay what's fair (but not overpay from ignorance) and don't want to accidentally come across as insulting of their time or efforts.

For context, she reformatted a laptop for me five years ago and I paid her $175. I was thinking maybe $250-$300 for this? Or is $200 each better? Also, should I specify what she gets vs her friend, or let her decide? I am sending the money to her and she would pass along to her friend, who I don't think I know.
posted by Sweetie Darling to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd respond back with: "That's very considerate of you. I want everything to stay cool between us. What do you think is fair?"
posted by Wild_Eep at 12:40 PM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

It depends how long they worked on it. Find out how long it took. For the person who succeeded, I'd pay $200 + $30 per hour – if you can't find out how long it took, I'd assume five hours and send $350. It's a little hard to figure out what to pay your friend, who did not succeed, and is, after all, your friend. Personally, I'd offer to take her out for a nice dinner.
posted by ubiquity at 12:51 PM on September 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd get a few quotes from a local shop, average them and throw in an extra $25 each.
posted by Twicketface at 1:05 PM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

For reference, a commercial service like OnTrack (Kroll) could charge you $1500 or more. Being the kind of nerd who is happy to help out in situations like this, and knowing that rack rate is outrageous, I would be delighted by anything if I had helped you.

The friend-of-a-friend probably shucked the hard drive out of the case, plugged it into their own PC, and copied the files onto a thumb drive -- call it an hour's work. The professionals would start there, but also be able to disassemble the actual drive and swap in components or even run the platters in a new body -- which is why they can get two grand.

Take the high road and give the FoaF a hundred bucks, or even $200. As the nerd, I would expect nothing, and would feel guilty taking much more than $100 + booze, because while I can relate to the personal value of the data, I also know that usually the fix isn't an enormous effort and I like to be helpful. One other aspect: does the helpful nerd need money badly? Then you should overpay shamelessly. :7)

Maybe also give your friend a finder's fee: dinner, say, or a nice bottle, or send a fun photo of you together that's been matted & framed.

(You're a good egg for wanting to compensate these two fairly!)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:37 PM on September 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

I would call Geek Squad and find out what they charge for this. $300 sounds way overpriced to me. Maybe it's because I've reformatted my own laptop, and I've recovered my own old hard drives, and it's really not that big of a deal and doesn't actually take that long - most of the time is just letting contents copy while you do something else.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:51 PM on September 18, 2019

If I did this for someone, assuming I spent a few hours and not a few days on it, and it was for a friend or friend-of-a-friend who I know has plenty of money, I think it would be nice to get a $100 bill (cash, not a gift card or other nonsense) and some kind words.

If it was for a friend who doesn't have plenty of money, I'd like if they'd invite me over for a meal or something.
posted by fritley at 1:52 PM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

There's not really a viable way to figure out what the market rate for this work was without knowing what the work actually was, but the question is perhaps better put as, what was it worth to you? I've done this job and had it go both the "ten minutes of work plus waiting" way, and the "days of nitpicky tedium" way, so it's hard to know. I'd give them two or three hundred bucks, and make it clear that you understand that you might owe them a huge favor in the future.
posted by mhoye at 2:18 PM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

What Wild_Eep said. I read a study ages ago that said if you pay friends that is a good way to lose them because if you pay them at all, what was done for friendship has turned into a transaction. And if it's a transaction it is easy to feel ripped off because one often gets paid less than the commercial rate, which feels yucky, and also was unable to enjoy the lovely feeling of being a good friend in doing a favour for free.

So be very very very careful. Ask your tech-savvy friend what would feel fair to her. How much money? Or money plus dinner out together? Or what?

Commercial data recovery costs thousands of dollars. You were super lucky that you had a friend to help you. Do not pay her money based on a guess. Seriously beg her, if necessary, to tell you what would feel fair to her. Because she is the only know who knows the answer to that question. Congrats on getting the data back!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:24 PM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

You do favors for friends. Most I'd expect is maybe a lunch/dinner invitation. (and yes it gets annoying at times, but help a friend is more important).
posted by baegucb at 6:00 PM on September 18, 2019

I once paid DriveSavers $1800 when my hard drive platters had been reduced to Swiss cheese. Of course, they were working in a clean room, etc....
posted by leahwrenn at 9:23 PM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well...what can you afford? It seems like a big part of their motivation is not to squeeze you for something you don't have, without wanting to indicate to someone who could easily afford a professional service that it's cool to take advantage of strangers. They're probably expecting that you will have a sense of which you are, which, given the perceptual tricks that our societies' fetishization of wealth plays on us, is possibly a bit optimistic of them. But it feels like focusing on what the work is worth, rather than on the sense of mutual respect and gratitude between the parties, might be missing the point of their request.

So...if you can give them $200, I'd do that. That is a clearly generous but not excessive thank you for labour that has been given without expectation of reward. But if you can't afford it, I expect your friend will have told them, so give them less, or do something for them using a skill you have, particularly a professional skill and particularly if your friend can tell you what would be genuinely useful to them.
posted by howfar at 9:49 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Problem with asking is you might well get the 'Well-- My friend says DriveSavers charge $1500 for that kind of work, but whatever you're comfortable with...'

I've done this for a few friends, and the price calculation is oddly reversed-- the more data I can recovery, the less time I generally had to put into it-- so at least for me, without setting a cost upfront:

- If I got back all the files the recovery was probably easy-- $100 would be welcome
- If I got back some of the files, with names and directories the drive probably had bad sectors, but still pretty automated-- $200
- If I got back some of the file, but couldn't recover the real filenames/directories (so you end up getting back image0001.jpg, image0002.jpg, doc0001.doc etc) it'd be $300 territory as I've tried the previous two methods to failure first.
- If I entirely failed-- $100 would be welcome, since I probably ran through all the time consuming events, but feel guilty for not getting anything back (even though I likely spent the same amount of time as the $300 option.)

So, maybe $200 to the friend of a friend, and if you're feeling generous $100 to the friend, who tried, failed and then went on to solve the issue with the other friend.
posted by Static Vagabond at 10:20 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think $300 is reasonable under the circumstances.
posted by Sharcho at 12:33 AM on September 20, 2019

Belated thanks to everyone who weighed in. I ended up giving my friend $200, to share with her colleague as she saw fit. She was genuinely pleased and grateful, so I think we hit the sweet spot of "just enough." I'm grateful for your input!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:51 AM on October 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

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