So, after writing about how I was going to make due with my slow backup computer that was just as old as the main computer, I had it hang up on me completely twice and slow to an unworkable crawl more times than that throughout the morning and early afternoon. On top of that, it wouldn’t stay connected to the internet. I still kept trying to power through it, making the most of it, but I was near tears when Jack reminded me that he keeps a household emergency fund, and that me not having a working desktop computer is an emergency, as it essentially puts me out of work.
So we headed out for what I expected to be a short shopping trip. It’s been a while since I’ve been desktop shopping (did I mention that both my computers were from 2009?), so I grossly overestimated how much stock the stores would actually carry. Our Target essentially has gotten rid of their computer section. Best Buy had a decent selection of desktop computers, but they were split about evenly between way less than I needed and way more than I needed, with one computer that was tantalizingly almost in our price range and way beyond the specs I was looking for.
We ended up going on to H.H. Gregg, where the staff was very helpful, very knowledgeable, and very apologetic about the fact that their desktop section had been almost entirely replaced with more expensive all-in-one computers. Seriously, one of the best customer service experiences I’ve had in any kind of store, and almost unheard of in an electronics store.
We tried Office Max, where the staff was apathetic and seemed disdainful of assisting anyone who wasn’t a cis guy. I located a model on the floor that both fell within my technical needs and my price range, but it was almost impossible to flag down a staffer to retrieve it from the stockroom, as Office Max doesn’t have anything but the display models on the shelves. It’s not that there weren’t plenty of staff. It’s that they had no interest in seeing us. To no one’s surprise, the lone female staffer we spotted was the first one who actually recognized our existence, but the male associate she paged for us didn’t seem to think we were worth his time. When he came back from the staff room and reported that there was only one left and he couldn’t sell it because it was damaged… well, I’m not sure I believe that. The impression that he didn’t want to sell me a computer was that strong.
Staples also seems to have replaced all their in-store computer stock with all-in-ones and tablets. At this point, I was feeling pretty dispirited. It seemed obvious we weren’t going to be able to solve my computer problem today. I figured I’d come home, find something online—all these stores surely had more models available online than they carried in store—and then just focus on writing on my laptop while I waited for it to arrive.
But the pickings online weren’t that great. Everything in my price range was coming up as refurbished, which I did not want to roll the dice with again, or had a “decent RAM, decent processor, decent hard drive: pick two” thing going on. When I finally found one that hit all three categories and wasn’t just like new but was new-new, it was at the very top of the price range… and when I told Jack, he said, “If it’s that close, do you want me to just take more money out and we’ll go back to Best Buy?”
So we did.
Jack had to take a call when we got there, so I headed straight back to the computer section. There had been so many reversals of fortune and disappointments in the past two days, I was still braced for disaster and disappointment. And when I checked the shelves, it looked like my luck was holding bad: all the boxes were for the next model down, which was only $50 cheaper but half the hard drive and less RAM.
So I got an employee (much easier than at Office Max) and asked for help in computers. When he asked what I needed help with, I showed him the model I was looking at. His first response was a cheery and enthusiastic, “Oh, you know what you want! Great!” and his second response when he looked at the specs and price was, “Wow, that is a great deal!” Then he started checking the boxes, and I explained that I’d looked and they were all the other model. He of course double-checked them all anyway, as I would have expected, but he didn’t invalidate what I was saying, which was great.
He ended up having to go check on the computer to make sure it was in stock, then came back to tell him that there was definitely one, it was definitely in the building, he just had to find it. He was very apologetic about the wait, but it was way less time than we spent cooling our heels in Office Max and what’s more, I don’t actually care how long it takes someone to do something for me if it’s getting done. The way we were treated at Office Max gave me no confidence that the guy I dealt with was actually doing anything for me when he was out of our sight. On the other hand, Best Buy’s Ruben made sure that we knew he was taking care of us at every step of the way.
There were some tense moments along the way, like when we couldn’t find the model on the shelf, and when it rang up at its normal price rather than the reduced price listed on the sticker. It turned out that the promotion had actually been meant to end yesterday (4th of July sale, I guess?), but nobody had reset the shelf and so we got it for the sticker price.
So, today was not the awesome work day that I envisioned or hoped for, but it had a happy ending. I now have a computer I don’t have to fight with at all… which honestly, even when my main computer wasn’t rejecting its RAM, it was a lot flakier than I like to acknowledge.
I’m writing this on my brand new desktop, so I can testify that it’s working fine. It’s not quite work ready yet. I’m going to be installing my programs on it and then syncing my cloud folders and stuff this evening so that tomorrow morning I can get up, hop on, and get to work exactly like I wanted to today.