Over the holiday sseason the Microsoft Word program on my laptop went kaput.
I was unable to open any previous columns I had written and thus unable to write any new scintillating, informative columns for "The Fort Scott Tribune" that readers have become accustomed to. (OK -- the laughing can stop now).
After numerous repeated attempts, I decided to call Microsoft for information and instructions. As is the norm I was connected with "Michael" in India. After more than an hour on the phone, I was told that there were 337 errors or failures on my laptop which was affecting Microsoft Word.
My India connection told me that for $200 he could remove the errors and thus restore the Word program. This would be a one-time fix but for an additional $100 I would have three years of a trained technician at my disposal to fix any new problems. I thanked Michael and said I would cogitate (I like that word) on his proposal.
After hanging up with Michael I contacted HP -- the maker of my laptop. This time I was told that there were just over a hundred failures or errors on my lap top and for $200 HP could restore my laptop to an error free environment. Once again I thanked the representative and said I would take his information under advisement.
My next call was to AOL. After some diagnostics I was told that my Microsoft Word program had expired and for $60 I could receive a new program. What confused me though was that the Word program was on the laptop when I made the purchase two years ago and there was no indication that the program would expire. While the price of $60 was enticing since the program usually retails for over $100, I decided to forego the offer.
Since the laptop was purchased at Best Buy, the local store in my neighborhood received my next call. The rep instructed me to locate a 25 character number on the back of the laptop and enter that number to restore the Word program. Well, that did not fix the problem and I asked the rep to provide me with a new 25 character number. The rep indicated that I would have to travel to the local Best Buy store in my neighborhood to get that number from the Geek Squad. Just another roadblock as far as I was concerned.
So after three hours of phone conversations I was still unable to open my Word program and had four differing solutions. It was then that a friend of our daughter whose home we were staying at arrived for a short visit. As it turns out the friend is an electronic/computer technician. He examined my laptop and in less than five minutes he applied a fix and restored the Word program.
Frankly, I don't know if the time I spent on the phone was a teachable moment alerting me to never believe or trust information and fixes from people whose sole function is to sell me a service I don't need. On the other hand it made me realize that laptop novices such as myself are often at the mercy of uninformed, sometimes inexperienced charlatans whose goal is to scare me into submission and purchase a product that I neither need or want. Here is my teachable moment -- I now have my daughter's friend on speed dial.
And what about all those errors and failures that were detected by "Michael" and the HP rep? Somehow I think that anyone who contacts a help line discovers that their laptop or computer has similar problems. Just wondering how many are really mine or just some concocted by one of my phone friends to scare the daylights out of me. If I sound suspicious and distrustful, jut chalk it up to three hours on the phone over a Holiday weekend where I could have been enjoying some football games and an extra helping of pumpkin pie.
Editor's Note: Bill Kalmar of Lake Orion, Mich., retired from Comerica Bank in 1993 and was then director of the Michigan Quality Council from 1993-2003. The Fort Scott native now writes on a freelance basis.