I suppose this thread should be dead by now, but I just can't help myself.
Years of frustration and resentment well up.
The inhabitants of computer shops in the British Isles and Ireland seen to
be quite astonishingly hard of thinking. Assuming that they are not all
actually clinical cretins, I can only assume that they either have so little
interest in what they do that they simply cannot be bothered to learn
anything about it (in which case they should probably take up a profession
more suited to ignorance like selling jeans.) or that they are simply too
lazy to bone up a bit on what they are selling. I seem to know an order of
magnitude more about everything they sell than they do by means of nothing
more than a cursory flick through PCW once a month, and a little bit of
applied lateral thinking.
Its been like this since I was about 12, and I'm guessing the same applies
to the majority of you, so it is not simply an experience thing. Now, I'm
under no illusions about my own brains, whilst I'm not particularly stupid,
nor am I a genius. I am however motivated, and I'm guessing that this is
where the problem lies. If I fall too far behind the times in any area, I
loose my competitive edge, my customers stop buying my services, my
accountant kicks me in the nadgers and runs off with my girlfriend, the bank
forecloses on my dog and I have to live in a cardboard box with a can of
special brew and a fruity little personal hygiene problem. If J. Random
computer salesman falls behind on what he sells, I (the customer) just sigh,
and go off and do the research myself, thinking dark thoughts. Maybe I don't
buy from that company, but that sort of thing is hard to track, and he
doesn't really care, he can't get into trouble for it. Now, I'll grant you
that the bulk of his business consists of saying 'No, if you want to read
the data from a Zip disk, you have to buy a special drive, you can't use the
one already in the computer. Yes, I know you paid a lot for the computer,
but you still have to buy a special drive.' and 'Yes, it really is standard
for Windows 98 to crash 3 times a day, no, it is not a problem with the
computer we sold you.', but then the bulk of my income comes from plugging
things together with bits of CAT5 and drawing pretty buttons with VB5, both
tasks one could very simply train a primate to do (probably better than I
do). However, if everything goes horribly wrong, and one of the things I am
plugging CAT5 into doesn't want to talk to one of the other things, or one
of the buttons needs to be a check box, then I simply have to be able to
deal with the problem, and if I can't deal with it immediately, I need to be
able to find someone who can, quicksharp.
The same principals apply to someone in a computer shop, 90% of the job is
trivial, but you should be able to cope with the other 10% when the need
arises (and it will). I don't think it is unreasonable to ask what chipset a
network card is based on. Linux aside, NIC chipsets vary hugely in quality
and compatibility, and it is important that you pick one you know and like
if you are doing something important with it. I for one rate the Realtek
8029 extremely highly, I use no other chipset for 10mbit. The cards cost
about £7 new and boxed, and the performance is quite acceptable for the vast
majority of tasks. Furthermore, they are compatible with anything with a PCI
slot, but this is beside the point.
Now, what would be unreasonable would be to ask for control register details
of the card, or for specifics about it's bus mastering abilities. It would
be impractical and inappropriate for floor staff to know anything about such
things. A line has to be drawn, but at the moment, I think it is being drawn
too short. Sure, there are clued up folks in the back, but they are busy
doing other important things, they should not have to answer fairly
rudimentary sales requests, although obviously if a serious customer asks a
serious question, fine, ask the guys in sandals.
In response to a previous comment in relation to CompuStore, I would have th
ought that a 'newbie college graduate' should be more than capable of
ingesting the requisite information over the course of a couple of weeks. I
would expect someone who 'never has to deal with networking or *NIX' to
answer the question by sliding the card out of the box in it's little
anti-static baggie, peering at it and saying 'RTL8029AS any good to you?'
That is all it would take. The aforementioned salesman would most certainly
be expected to know what chipset a given graphics card has, and could not
reasonably expect a clued punter to part with cash for one without telling
It is akin to asking a car salesman whether a particular car has a catalytic
converter, it is not a common question like 'what size is it's engine?' or
'what is it's fuel economy like?', but one that one would still expect to
get a ready answer to.
I have heard too many stories of clued people going into shops to ask a
comparatively simple question about something, only to receive a slack jawed
'Huh?', to believe that the staff don't need to know the answers to these
slightly more technical questions. The demand is out there, where is the
What can we do about it? If you own a computer shop, expect your staff to
learn at least some of these things, it's not hard, and fire staff who
aren't prepared to learn. It will make for better salesmen and more
satisfied customers. There is no such thing as 'bad' knowledge.
I personally am going to ask Kate if I can borrow his 2X4 and next time I
get a response like 'Huh?' or 'Uh, I dunno' or 'Theres not much demand for
that sort of thing', I'm going to clout someone upside the head!
I don't mean to tar everyone with the same brush, I know many highly
knowledgeable and helpful computer salesmen, mainly in smaller shops, all
doing a good job. I just don't know enough.
Also, I speak as an ex computer and mobile phone salesman of several years
service, (don't ask, I assume it was atonement for sins committed in a past
life) so please don't flame me for ignorance of the subject. However, feel
free to flame me for being a fatuous idiot and wasting everyone's time :)
Anyway, I feel better now I have got that out of my system. I promise not to
post to the list ever again. Ever.
A rather pink and perspiring Dermot Conner
(P.S. There should be photos of LAID up at http://www.esatclear.ie/~dconner/
in the imminent future. Warning: They Will Be Big)
And it's the pelvic thrust, that really drives you insa-a-a-a-a-ane
Lets do the time warp again - The Rocky Horror Picture Show
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