Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

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Orbmiser
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Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby Orbmiser » 07 Aug 2014 20:41

Was spot on and every issue applies to my past experiences.

Ten reasons not to fix computers for free
http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-thi ... -for-free/

Yep use to do it for a living being a computer field tech and worked 10years at Wacker as a Computer engineering tech. Then retired and use to do it for friends,family and others living in my building. Also volunteered at Free Geeks putting recycled Linux computers in peoples hands. Gave classes,Fixed and informed users how to use a Linux computer back in 2001-2005.

Got feed up 7 years ago and said "Enough is Enough" and started to charge for my time. And required setting up an appointment and paying me for my time. Now hassle free and enjoying my last years in Peace & Quiet! :-) As they all now have seemed to fade or scurry away to find another sucker to help them for free.

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby yoast » 07 Aug 2014 21:13

1. I do remember a colleague going over to a pretty secretary's house to "help" (with the hope that she might like him, of course.). We had to explain him that women "like" friendly people, but they do not start liking them in the way he was hoping. They will lose respect. The chance of him dating the pretty girl was reduced to zero the moment he was the "techie" who was going to help her.

2. The worst examples I have seen:
a. a friend moved rurally and one of the first community things he did was attend the funeral of his handicapped neighbour's wife. His handicapped neighbour rang him the day after to ask if he could help fix his printer because he was sending thank you's to all attending the funeral. Helped neighbour. The supp[ort started growing. After a couple fo weeks it became clear that the neighbour had an offcie at home with 3 part-time staff that were increasingly calling upon the friend to solve ad-hoc problems. When he discoverd this he abandoned the help and sent him to a professional. Soon after he received a letter that the neighbour wanted £hundreds for the damage he had supposedly caused (the professional had given off about everything that had supposedly been done wrong etc.).
Some people are a laugh.

b. Close family' friend wants to dabble in IT-support. Starts going round his family and even asks me if he can replace Vista with XP because "XP is much better". I decline, I later have to listen to all the moaning when the PCs start asking for licenses. Since I declined the friend phones me to tell me that I should have warned him. I remind that he even tried to talk me into it and I had given the arguments against it.
Still like the fiend, but the crap people go for.


cheers,
Y.

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby Orbmiser » 08 Aug 2014 01:47

I feel your pain yoast and totally agree. For me it became more of the ungrateful and entitlement than the grateful and giving appreciation like back in the 80's & 90's.

More experiences shared on sub-reddit thread I started.
http://www.reddit.com/r/LinuxActionShow ... _for_free/

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby yoast » 08 Aug 2014 02:11

Hi Orbmiser,

I am not in pain because I have not engaged in helping people for free, to be liked. Though you may be right in the sense that the only pain I feel is seeing others expect that. I still remember seeing a note at work where someone had started collecting old PCs to promote digital-literacy under the elderly and was looking for volunteers to do technical support "because techies love computers". I did wonder if they were going to collect run-down cars and ask mechanics to keep them operational for free because they loved cars so much next.

I have done the absolute minmum on providing support to others, myself. Fortunately my wife has a PC managed by her employer (though I did configure the printer). The family's Laptops and phones+1 tablet are all I manage. Using SolydK helps me spend the absolute minimum of time on that.

I do remember seeing a report in theregister.co.uk where 47% of Sysadmins that used Linux on their desktops had indicated that part of the reason for Linux on their desktops was that they could answer "I do not know about that, I use linux." to users.

As you may imagine, I have never started promoting or persuading others to use linux on their dektops and giving them practical help etc. If they are seriously interested I will send them some links and my opinion. I will also advise that I am not available for support. I do enjoy giving answers in the forum though. I do not mind being helpful or even volunteering, but I do not get sucked in to "operations as a volunteer". Maybe it is just because I do not like tinkering.

cheers,
Y.

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby Orbmiser » 08 Aug 2014 02:46

I am not in pain because I have not engaged in helping people for free, to be liked. Though you may be right in the sense that the only pain I feel is seeing others expect that.
Yep my only pain now is that. The constant do it for me "It's No Biggie" so why won't you do it kind of attitude.

Tho like you I do have close friends that do get help from time to time. And I answer their questions. And always willing to share info,links and other learning resources with individuals that show a attitude of I just need a little help and aim me in the right direction type. As also when working in linux willing to search forums or google for finding the answers myself first before asking.

About 4 hours ago a Girl in Lobby friend of a friend stopped me and ask how could she backup her movie rentals on her new All-in-One Touch desktop computer. Luckily Sherry was there also her friend and help explain that there is no magic one-click way or easy answer. That she had to know how to install specific programs a.k.a. DvdShrink and learn to rip them and store on drive. Then to use a burning program like Nero to burn them out to single layer dvd's after they were compressed,,yada..yada... After just 60 seconds of that and she was lost. She asked me Could I set it up for her? Nope I said as don't do those kind of things anymore. She stated she give me $20. Yep right $20 for an hour of travel back and forth.Another hour installing and setting up. And another hour or two showing her the workflow involved. Then the ongoing emails or phone calls after hours support over the next few weeks and months.
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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby Zero Angel » 08 Aug 2014 03:50

I don't mind giving people advice, but even $20/hr is cheap for computer service. I used to charge a lot more when I was a freelance tech. $40 for 1st hour (minimum fee) and $25/hr after that and these were actually cheap rates.

Here are some reasons why you should charge people a rate that is fair to you:
  1. Travel and travel time
  2. People shouldnt call you over frivolously or waste your time needlessly without being able to compensate you fairly for it. If you didnt charge a higher first hour fee, then people might call you for jobs that take 1 hour, not really paying you for travel or the time you spend preparing for the job.
  3. Proficiency, and the time/effort it takes to acquire proficiency. The worth of your time is relative to how good you are. If you're just learning then your time is cheaper because some of of your 'time' cost is going into the act of learning while doing. It might take you 4 times as long because you're still learning how to do it. If you spent time becoming proficient in something, you deserve to be rewarded for it.
  4. Slow computers. Frustrating to use, they turn a 1 hour job into a 3 hour job because you're waiting for progress bars all day. Clients should have to pay your time if they're making you use such a burdensome machine. (also: I have advised clients to buy a new machine rather than bear the labour costs of repairing an old one)
  5. Liability. If you make a mistake it's going to cost you time, or money -- assuming you're ethically against ripping off your clients. In instances like that you'll have to reimburse or dramatically discount the client (relative to hours worked), etc. Some jobs are unsolveable. I've had 4 hour jobs that amounted to me not solving the problem (e.g. didnt have the proper equipment available to me, or problem unsalvageable) and having to charge the client for 1 or 2 hours (analysis) just to tell them it cant be fixed the way they want it fixed even though i've put in more time/work.
  6. Equipment costs. That portable hard drive that you bought to store backup files costs money. If you want to fix computers well, make sure you have screwdrivers, extra cables (e.g. SATA), a hard disk<->USB adapter, maybe bring a laptop (which may be exposed to extra dangers), utility CD's, etc. Not being properly equipped means that the job takes longer because you'll need to acquire a necessary piece of equipment to complete the job.

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby Orbmiser » 08 Aug 2014 03:56

Zero Angel wrote:I don't mind giving people advice, but even $20/hr is cheap for computer service. I used to charge a lot more when I was a freelance tech. $40 for 1st hour and $25/hr after that and these are cheap rates believe it or not.

Here are some reasons why you should charge people a rate that is fair to you:

1) Travel and travel time
2) People shouldnt call you over frivolously or waste your time needlessly without being able to compensate you for it
3) Proficiency, and the time/effort it takes to acquire proficiency. The worth of your time is relative to how good you are. If you're just learning then your time is cheaper because some of of your 'time' cost is going into the act of learning while doing. It might take you 4 times as long because you're still learning how to do it. If you spent time becoming proficient in something, you deserve to be rewarded for it.
4) Slow computers. Frustrating to use, they turn a 1 hour job into a 3 hour job because you're waiting for progress bars all day. Clients should have to pay your time if they're making you use such a burdensome machine. (also: I have advised clients to buy a new machine rather than bear the labour costs of repairing an old one)
5) Liability. If you make a mistake it's going to cost you time, or money. In instances like that you'll have to reimburse or dramatically discount the client (relative to hours worked), etc. I've had 4 hour jobs that amounted to me not solving the problem (e.g. didnt have the proper equipment on hand, or problem unsalvageable) and having to charge the client for 1 or 2 hours (analysis) just to tell them it cant be fixed even though i've put in more time/work.
6) Equipment costs. That portable hard drive that you bought to store backup files costs money. If you want to fix computers well, make sure you have screwdrivers, extra cables (e.g. SATA), a hard disk<->USB adapter, maybe bring a laptop (which may be exposed to extra dangers), utility CD's, etc. Not being properly equipped means that the job takes longer because you'll need to acquire a necessary piece of equipment to complete the job.
+1 yep that was too cheap as I always got $30 on a field call plus an hourly rate of $25 when I was in the field. For businesses and banks installing routers and hardware was a straight $45/hr. with 4hr. minimum (One call was for a graphics company some wiring routing,etc. And was 11hr job) when I was dispatched from office. As my support area was N.H. Maine,Mass & Vermont. And may have to drive 50-150 miles to service a call.

All that time,gas,insurance,driving,equipment,parts all cost monies and expertise to get the job done.
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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby yoast » 08 Aug 2014 08:47

Here in the UK I just tell friends and family to go to PCWorld (large retailer who have in-store repair-shops with price-lists and all). I took my own laptop there too when it needed a memory expansion.

Since ordering the right memory requires expertise, fitting it itself is dead easy, but solving problems if the different chips do not get on can be hellish. That is exactly what happened. PC world fitted a chip and quickly tested in-store. After some use I found it kept re-booting. I went bacj and they correctly diagnosed that the chips did not get on and then (since they did not have the original) offered me very good deal on replacing my old mem with new as well.

Interesting detail is that I am aware that "only doing ..." is always underestimated. So I do not expect it from others. So, if someone comes to me that they have oredered an expansion online and will I help them fit it, I'll decline. It may occasionally go right in one go, but all problems will reflect on the "expert", not the taking of the original decision.

If people are unhappy about soemthing they do not understand it is easy to start blaming the one who claims he does understand. If you blame the expert you can expect him to solve it for free. You can also hide your fear of tech behind declaring it only something that can be done manually, and absolve your own guilt for taking a poorly planned decision in the first place.

just my 2c.
Y.

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby rokytnji » 08 Aug 2014 12:05

I can give you one reason to fix anything once in A while for free.

Good Will.

Repeat business.

Then you charge on the second visit.
It works for me at my motorcycle shop.
It bought me my Dell XT2 Touchscreen Tablet/Netbook.
It will pay for the powerbrtick,upgrades and new SSD for it also
It keeps my fridge stocked with beer.
It makes for having folks around on the weekend for a barbecue.

Being neighborly is a fine art. Yeah. One can help. Ingrates and moochers are identified
immediately by me. No time for those. Help me. I help you. Simple as that.

Now off to pack up some ram sticks and other computer parts. Box them up and ship
them for free to a Murga Linux forum member today. That member shipped a ram stick, (for free, paid postage)
to another new forum member who had a weak computer and wanted to run Puppy Linux.
He asked for nothing. Just a good hearted dude.

I like the way he rolls, so I asked for his address so I could ship him my old computer parts.
Paying it forward. I don't expect nothing but that members good will. Sometimes, good will can be
priceless. It won't break the bank for me and maybe he will help someone else with my parts.

It all depends on how you roll, the way I see it. Funny part to all of this story I guess.
recipient of favor says:
yes, i do live in the us, though i'm not that comfortable giving my address to a complete stranger.
The thing is, online businesses have reputations and are well known. Maybe your intentions are sincere. Maybe I could have references from people who got such things from you?
My 2 cents
Edit: I vouch for XXXXXXX but you don't know me either. You would only be hurting yourself by not taking his free offer of a XXXMB stick with free postage.
Like pulling teeth sometimes. People come on a forum looking for help for free. Help is offered.
"Welllllllll, I don't know..........?

We help for free here also. Paying it forward. For me. Good things happen to me because of this.
I learn stuff I did not know because I try to help. Instead of standing in the corner and
sulking.

Like I said, a fine art, I guess. ;)

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby kbd » 08 Aug 2014 16:55

I think it all comes down to who and why you are fixing a computer for.
If it is a business, of course you charge and must cya with strangers.
For friends and family, you will need to apply some common sense. I repaired my father in law's computer when he destroyed it with Windows viruses. But I explained Linux, helped set his expectations properly, and put him on an LTS release set only to security updates. No more viruses, no problems, and that was a couple years ago. Set up my mother's computer with Linux over the phone with my sister. It ran a long time problem free with no issues, but before that was always broken with Windows.
There are people I will help with Linux, and people I won't. You have to know the people. I have one good friend that there is no way I would put Linux on his computer without a legal contract freeing my of any liabilities :-) Some people you just can't help. Some you can and they will appreciate it. Mostly I do Linux for family and people I know very well. Not just anyone.

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby fleabus » 08 Aug 2014 18:22

kbd wrote:I think it all comes down to who and why you are fixing a computer for.
If it is a business, of course you charge and must cya with strangers.
For friends and family, ... apply some common sense. ... I explained Linux, helped set his expectations properly, and put him on an LTS release set only to security updates. No more viruses, no problems, and that was a couple years ago. ... Some people you just can't help. Some you can and they will appreciate it. .... Not just anyone.
The best assessment of "should I or shouldn't I" as regards fixing computers for others that I've seen. I've been in all the situations mentioned above. If one does it often enough, one gets burned, and I suppose we’ve all had the feel good experiences too, when things actually go right for some weird reason... :D

I'm certainly about a hundred times pickier about doing it than I was when I was young. It's unfortunate, but yeah, mostly it involves being careful and saving oneself a huge passle of hassles.. When I was younger, being careful as regards fixing computers for others was a foreign concept. I had to get burned a few times to learn that each situation must be weighed individually. ... :)
rokytnji wrote:Like pulling teeth sometimes. People come on a forum looking for help for free. Help is offered.
"Welllllllll, I don't know..........?
Isn't that something... The person has absolutely nothing to lose. :?
Ran into a few of those myself. Try to help someone who then turns around and bites. Go figure... :lol:

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby _q_ » 08 Aug 2014 19:47

i dont even support my wife's system for free :lol:

SolydXK is such a delicious flavor of Debian!

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby Deleted User 2764 » 08 Aug 2014 23:58

When a friend came to me with a too slow to use Gateway, I went about it in the "Give a man a fish, feed him for a week, teach him to fish, feed him forever" rule. I fixed the computer, and while he was there I started the process. I tried to teach him HOW to use the computer (since he wasn't too tech savvy). I told him to right click on the desktop. "What's a desktop?" Well, after I got done, he learned that and a few other basic skills. (He had Windows 95 and no restore disk). I cleaned the computer, saved his data, made a restore disk, and created a user manual that even went over how to do hardware upgrades, troubleshooting, etc. Gave it all back to him. He read it, practiced and one day his hard drive failed. Guess what? No, he didn't take it back to me. He obtained a new drive, installed it himself and even reformatted, partitioned and reinstalled everything himself. All I knew was after the fact that he did it and it was working really well for him. He even upgraded the RAM himself.

But he was genuinely willing to learn. And did so.

I sometimes come across problems even I can't fix. There's a local Wizard and a computer shop I can go to (Wizard does not work at the shop). Wizard is free (though I give him my used and no longer wanted hardware as he tinkers with legacy stuff), shop of course is not but it's affordable.

I rarely have to make use of the Wizard and even rarer the shop. When I do, I try to learn what happened, why, and how to prevent (both Wizard and shop do provide me with this information when I ask). So I learn as I go along.

Last repair was my laptop corner broke (common on these HP laptops). Wizard did fix it with glue and it held but then another part of that same corner broke. Since it takes 2 weeks for the glue to cure (has to have multiple thin applications over a several days and dry in between), I figure I'll leave the lid up and not go for another repair right now. But I don't blame him. Even if his work didn't work (it did work - just another part broke that didn't need fixing the first time), I still wouldn't blame him because he tried. And done more than what I was able to. And it was free. You can't complain if it's free no more than one should complain a free Linux distro has bugs. Learn, contribute, be appreciative for trying.

There's an old saying when you get something for nothing; don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

But the Wizard is really good with fixing stuff and has done so on the rare occasions I needed repairs in the past that I couldn't do myself. And I rarely need his services. So that is why it works out. He's known amongst us as "The Wizard" and just is a very helping person. But he does manage to also "teach to fish" instead of "feed with fish". Along with the repair or fix, you get a good bit of information on hows and whys and how to keep things fixed.

That's probably why many "helpful" people fail is because they just feed with fish instead of teaching to fish. Although another phrase comes to mind: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink it. Some refuse to learn. Then you can rightly refuse to fix. The whole condition of getting things fixed is that you learn how not to break things again.

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby Andrew » 09 Aug 2014 23:24

I'm sort of lucky that none of my friends have any real problems with their computers. All but a hand full use Windows, & the others Macs. Sometimes I do get a friend saying they have a problem, so after finding out what it is I just give them suggestions on how to fix it. Recently, a woman I know (we are both members of our towns' Community Garden) said her laptop was getting really slow so I asked her if she had defragged it. Didn't have a clue what I was talking about so I explained how data gets fragmented on the hard drive & what defragging does. She wasn't confident doing it so I went around & did it for her. Was rewarded with some home baked cake & coffee. She was very pleased with the result & because I showed her how it's done, she's now confident enough to do it herself in the future.

This one I had a silent giggle about. Late last year, a friend took up the offer of getting a tablet & wireless mobile internet from his ISP. Came with a new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. Anyway, he organised a local computer techie to set it up for him (cost $A150) at our local Men's Shed. Luckily, I had taken my laptop in that day to show another friend some photos. It was lucky because the techie couldn't access Hotmail on the tablet to set my mates password or something, so I got on the net with the laptop & he used that to finish the set up. What I had the giggle about, was when the techie noticed Linux is installed on it, he said...Oooo, Linux, you must be really good with computers. :lol: Btw, it was Mint 13 I had installed on the lappy just before I discovered Solyd.
Desktop: 64bit 2.6gHz dualcore 2G RAM - SolydK HE
Laptop: Dell D630 Latitude; 64bit 2gHz dualcore 2G RAM - SolydK BE



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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby rokytnji » 10 Aug 2014 00:03

Another episode this weekend.

My wife volunteers me alot. She has a work buddy who's laptop is hinky hardware wise. It shutdown in a loop
during boot up.

I pull the battery and just run it off the power brick. Problem goers away. Took me all of 10 minutes or so to figure it out.

I tell the wife's girlfriend co-worker. Buy a new Battery. The battery is the problem. She asks me about a Laptop cooler.
I tell her Walmart ships from site to store. She is a happy camper. My wife gets street cred at work.

Happy Happy Happy as they say on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWp1VOFQxKg

Deleted User 2764

Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby Deleted User 2764 » 10 Aug 2014 00:26

Andrew wrote:Oooo, Linux, you must be really good with computers. :lol:
I better be careful wearing that Tux t-shirt I got awhile back on Amazon (the Linux Admin one)... :? :lol:

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby Orbmiser » 10 Aug 2014 01:07

One of the comments from the link.
Always, always, always charge.... I found this out the hard way too. I had a friend who constantly called me looking for help, advice and repairs when he messed up his Pc, which happened a lot. He was a very good friend, so I never charged him.

This friend was a carpenter by trade and I once asked him if he could help me lay a timber floor in my new house. Without hesitation he said yes.... Great, I was delighted. There was quite a lot of floor to be laid. We got the floor finished over 2 weekends. I bought him lunches, dinners and supplied refreshments while we were working, just to say thanks.

I checked the mailbox a few days later and there was an invoice from my friend for €1,000 for his services. I didn't even call him or try to contact him in anyway. I simply sent him an invoice for all the computer work I did for him, charged an hourly rate which added up to be well in excess of €3,000, applied a discount to make it €1,000 and attached a note saying "This should cover it".
Never got that bad. But regular enough to be constant and had to set boundaries. This is not unique to just PC works. Have run into this also in my photography endeavors. Once they see my images or know I get monies from doing stock photography. Then am automatically am available for free as they know me. "It isn't that big a deal...Is It?" They don't realize the extensive learning and training and not taking into account cost of equipment that runs into the thousands or my personal time. I might not want to spend the afternoon or day shooting you,your kids or pets and post process them on the computer a couple of more hours and put them on a CD for you. Some even want Color prints at my expense.

"It's no Biggie Right?" :o

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby yoast » 10 Aug 2014 01:22

Some employers can behave just like users mentioned. I remember this discussion http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1 ... de_job_ad/:

some quotes from the messages:
it was just expected that I (on my own!) would fit 120kgs of (60") interactive touchscreen PC + electric bracket on the wall, a wall made of plasterboard, a wall the school planned to hold that board but with ZERO provision from the builders for it (not even an internal wood support or anything), for a TV that the builders refused to lift between them (let alone fit!), that the site managers had already pointed out that they would NOT be touching (literally "It's not in my contract, and it's dangerous"), that's going to sit above the heads of children with an electric motor whizzing it up and down the wall, and take responsibility for it because "it's IT".
I was expected to control the school boilers because "it has a computer interface".
and
Topping it all off, people seem to think that I have time to sort out their home computing issues (theirs and their kids), with questions like 'My PC at home is slow, what do think I can do?' or 'Can you do laptop repairs?'. Both are normally followed by 'Can I bring it in for you to look at?'

Deleted User 2764

Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby Deleted User 2764 » 10 Aug 2014 02:00

I make a p1$$-poor capitalist. Which is why I get stuck and don't know what to charge people. So I give away for free and teach them to do it themselves next time. I guess that's probably why I'm so poor. :oops: :cry:

Also lately I try not to bother people because I know what it's like to not want to be bothered with other people's problems on top of my own. I'll help a friend now and then, as long as it's not constantly. I have friends I do help on somewhat frequent (but not too frequent) occasion. These are folks I wouldn't charge because it's just not "right". They are like family and helped me out a lot too, to the point where I kinda feel I owe them (even though they never ask for payment or payback of any type).

But if someone not so close came to me and wants to know 'how much do you charge to...' I'd be like uh... I really don't know... :oops:

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Re: Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Postby rokytnji » 10 Aug 2014 18:20

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