What do you do when your computer breaks? If you’re a smart business in the New York City area you call The Computer Answer Guy, of course, and if you’re a business almost anywhere who wants to prevent computer issues before they happen you use PC-VIP. But if you’re like the rest of us you . . . call Geek Squad?

If you know me personally and we’ve spoken on the subject you know how I feel about the computer care services that electronics giant BestBuy provides under the GeekSquad name. I’ve heard story after story about Geek Squad technicians leaving computers in far worse shape than they were in before beginning work, and charging huge sums  for “extra services” in what has been described to me more than once as feeling like a bait-and-switch.

So should I be surprised at this report about BestBuy / GeekSquad ‘s “optimization” of computers? I’m not. I honestly wish I was.

And I have some questions about the way this is done and its legality.

To start with (disclosure: I’m not an attorney), there are some laws in the USA against forcing someone to buy one product or service as a precondition of buying another. It’s called “bundling”, and while it’s OK to offer you a bundle—perhaps in exchange for some sort of discount—it’s not OK to require you to buy a bundle.

So with that said, the question becomes what are BestBuy ‘s GeekSquad people doing to your computer before you take it out of the store, and when?

Think about it:

  • If you pick up a just-arrived computer at a retail outlet, whip out your credit card, and take it with you, then nobody has performed the alleged “service”.
  • On the other hand, if all the computers have been altered before arriving at the store where you shop, that means that each one of them was diverted from the manufacturer to some scary Geek Squad mid-point, opened, tinkered with, re-packed and resealed before being shipped for a second time to your BestBuy.
  • Finally: there could be a Geek Squad crew located at each BestBuy location performing surgery on each computer before stocking it, but . . . I’m pretty sure that  “staff everywhere” isn’t the way BestBuy operates GeekSquad.

Assuming that each computer really does get serviced by a Geek Squad technician before hitting the shelves at BestBuy, and if there was disclosure not at point of sale but in all advertising for the computers they sell that the computers are Geek Squad – ified / BestBuy – ified, and if there was a unique product SKU for an altered computer being used instead of the standard manufacturer model numbers, then BestBuy might have an argument that they have the right to sell computers “their way”—even if the service being added is as bad and inconsistent as pointed out in the article from Consumerist. But that’s not the way things work; computers sold at BestBuy carry the regular manufacturer model numbers.

Don’t buy a computer from BestBuy or anyone else that requires you to accept it in a pre-serviced state, unless that’s your intent. And I’ve never once heard someone say “I’ve got to have me that good old Geek Squad servicing on every computers I buy”.

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