Friday, May 4, 2012

When Good Repairs Go Bad

So, I work regularly with computer repair technicians, both because I secretly know a lot about computers and like to help out, and also because I have a number of friends in the industry. One thing that I've noticed that differs greatly in their business from mine is the timeline each of us works with.

When you drop off your computer in the shop, you plan to pick it up the next day, or later this week, or generally anytime not within an hour and a half. With cell phones, the way we wear them glued to our hips, as soon as it's out of our pockets, we're lost without them. I personally know how regularly I check my pockets for my phone if I don't have it. It's like a security blanket, knowing how close we are to contact with anywhere else in the world.

This is a bit frustrating, when you work on repairing these wonderful little gadgets, because as soon as a customer has left my store, I'm on the clock. They want their phone back, and I want to get it to them as quickly as I can. This usually goes fine, but occasionally mistakes happen. Sometimes these mistakes are mine, but today I ran into a defective screen.

Taking it out of the package a few days ago, it looked fine. I did my normal inspection for cracks and defects and found none. There was nothing visibly wrong with the screen. But after working on a customer's phone for over an hour (a veritable lifetime in time without a phone), I discovered three dead lines. A dead line is a line for which the touchscreen simply does not recognize any interaction. If you move your finger over it, it will pick up the contact on either side of it, but nothing along that line.

Dead lines are one reason people bring their phones to me in the first place, which is to say, not something that most will find acceptable in a replacement screen. So the obvious solution is to remove the touchscreen, and send it back to get a new, not defective, replacement.

I hate telling people that I can't fix their phone, whatever the reason. People dread the idea of going even a single day without them. In the end, it will sort itself out, but on a timeline they might not be thrilled with. To get a new part shipped will take a day or two, and the repair another hour. Since I charge book time, as opposed to actual time worked, the only additional cost to the customer is in time without a phone.

Still, as the one doing the repairs, I affectionately yearn for the time flexibility that computer repair offers. With it's "day or two" window, over the "hour or two" window I normally (admittedly, voluntarily) work under.