It saddens me to have to write this. When I first heard about Free Geek, I was super excited. This was supposed to be a non-profit organization that was all about helping their community. Here's how it was explained to me. People donate their old, or broken electronics (preferably computer stuff) to Free Geek, and their group of staff and volunteers go through all of it and figure out what they can recycle back into the community. You can then come in and purchase a rebuilt computer for a discounted price, or volunteer for a certain amount of hours, and they will give you a basic module computer. They also have tons of parts and accessories. Here was a company that not only gave people who needed computers a way for them to get them, but they also helped keep these components from our landfills. I was super excited, and backed this idea 100%
A friend of mine also heard about this company, and went down and volunteered. [continued below]....
..... They trained her to be a builder. She's a brilliant person, and took to the training quickly. Now she's building computers for people who needed them, and was very excited about the job. I was very proud of her, and still am. I will leave her name out of this. This was not her fault, and I wouldn't want anyone to think it was. Plus I wouldn't want to cause issues between her and her co-workers.
About a month and a half before I was to participate in the 48 Hour Film Project of Portland, I found that I needed a new computer. My friend suggested that I go to Free Geek. I was excited to give them a try. Money was tight, and I was in dire need. This was a perfect opportunity for me to participate with this non-profit organization, and get a computer I so badly needed.
My friend took me in there the day after the Fourth of July to buy my new computer. They didn't have anything that met the requirements of what I needed. I run video editing software, and it takes a pretty good size system to handle it. The sales man told me that I could upgrade it. Seeing that my friend was one of their builders, it shouldn't be any problem. I told him that I had a very good computer case at home that was better than what they had to offer, so he set me up with a basic system, along with some upgrade components. He told me that I had everything I needed to build myself a decent system, and with the help of my friend's building skills I should have no problem. Of course my friend would have to switch everything out and install the upgraded hardware, and I would have to install Windows on it to be compatible with my editing software, (their systems come with Ubuntu, which is a Linux based OS that is free to the public) but I had that already and was willing to do the work involved to install it. When it was all said and done I was supposed to have a 250 gig Hard Drive with 8 gigs of RAM, and a 1.6gig dual processor. Not quite as good as the system that I was replacing, but pretty close, and it should have been good enough to run the editing programs I needed for the 48 Hour Film Project. Everything together along with a monitor ($55) and a dvd player ($15..that was for my fiend) cost me a total of $400. Which was more than I thought it should cost, but what the hell. It was for a good cause.
My friend and I took everything back to her place, and she got to work pulling everything apart and putting together my new system. We were bother very excited about it. She was a wiz about it, and was very professional. Se even made sure to pull out her special tools that wouldn't damage the components. It was a good thing I didn't work on it, I had no idea you needed special tools for that stuff. Finally she gets everything put back together, and we're ready to fire it up. However, when we did, we find that it didn't work. My friend worked on it for hours, and finally concludes that there was something wrong, and it was beyond her ability or training. It was unfortunate, but we figured we would just take it back to Free Geek the next day, and their tech department would help us get it all sorted out. I was bummed a little, but I figured that we had over a month, and that would be plenty of time for us to get it all worked out.
The next day we took it back, and everyone was very friendly. They said that they were sorry and see what they could do to correct the situation. They did mention that because we had switched out the cases, that there might be a charge for the work because we may have voided the warranty, but that they would make sure to keep the charge to a minimum, if they had to charge me anything at all. A few days go by and I have yet to hear from Free Geek, so I give them a call. The people in the tech department had yet to look at it. A few more days go by and a few more calls were made back and forth. All kinds of diagnosis were made on it and it seemed like every time I talked to them, something new was wrong, or in some cases not wrong. I had no idea what was going on. Finally after a couple of weeks, they said that the motherboard was fried, but that they would find me a new one. They said that they were sorry for the delay, and while they concluded that the warranty was voided, they were going to fix it for as inexpensively as possible. They also said that it may take a little while to find a mother board that was powerful enough to handle the specs that I needed. Maybe a couple of weeks is what I was told, and they asked if that would be ok. I was really bummed now, but still having about a month till the 48 Hour Film Project, I figured it wouldn't be a problem. I said that would be fine, and thanked them.
Time went by, and I started to panic. I couldn't get a hold of anyone that had any idea what was going on with my computer, and I kept leaving messages for them to get back to me. I started looking into buying other computers because I really didn't have a choice. I had to have a system that could work and handle the software that I was using, and the 48 Hour Film Project was getting closer and closer. I found out that I could have bought a rand new Dell laptop with only 6 gigs of RAM, but had a 500 gig Hard Drive, and a faster Processor for $400! Plus it already had Windows7 loaded on it. It couldn't believe it. Here was a new system for the same price that I had already spent on a used one that was not only more powerful, but already put together. Now I was becoming perturbed. Still not hearing back from Free Geek, I didn't see how I had any other choice but to buy a new system. I was peeved, but I figured, that hey, the business is still a good entity, and bad luck can happen to anyone. I was still committed to supporting these people, and figured, when I had time, I would go in and work it all out with them.
The 48 Hour Film Project came, and of course, I needed some accessories; cords, monitors and what not. I figured I would run into Free Geek and get these items, plus if I could find a few minutes, maybe I could talk to someone real quick about my system. When I got there, they didn't have the monitors I needed, but they did have the cords, so I grabbed them. As luck would have it, the guy who sold me the system was there again, and remembered me. I told him about the trouble I was having, and how it had been over a month now, and yet I still had nothing to show for the $400 I spent there except for the monitor, and dvd player. I also explained how I had to buy a new system. We was very apologetic and asked me what he could do to to make it right? I told him that I really had no need for a computer any more, so I'd prefer to get my money back, or at least a good portion of it. I figured that they still had the computer, along with the case (a better one than the one they had sold to me). He went in the back to talk to the tech department. When he came back, he said that they still had yet to fix the computer, but they were under the impression that I wasn't in any hurry. I explained that I wasn't,... a month ago, and figured that it was not supposed to take this long. I was told a couple of weeks. He said he understood, but they have a strict policy about not refunding money, however, he said he felt for me and wanted to make it right. He offered to give me store credit for everything, minus the monitor and dvd payer of course. I explained that I would rather have my credit card reimbursed, and had no idea how I was gonna buy $330 worth of cords, and accessories, but understood that this was all he could do, so I agreed. I explained that I didn't have the time to go through all the paper work at that time, being that I was in the middle of the 48 Hour Film Project. He said he understood, and that when I had time, to stop by, and he would get it all straightened out.
A couple of weeks later, after all the dust, and radio interviews settled from the 48 Hour Film project, I stopped by Free Geek. I wanted to get this situation squared away. Plus I needed a cord and a keyboard anyways, so I stopped by. The guy that sold me the system wasn't there, so I explained my situation to the guy at the counter. He said that he would talk to the tech department, and get me squared away. After about 20 minutes, the guy came back and brought with him a woman front the tech department. Now here is where everything changed. First of all, they were both very rude, condescending, and obtuse, with an undertone of disrespect in their voices. They said that I had voided my warranty when I switched out the parts on my computer. That I was lucky that they even made an attempt to try and fix it. That they had failed at fixing my computer, and that they refuse to give me any kind of refund or store credit, That the best they could do was to give me back my broken computer, and that was all they were willing to do. I tried explaining that I had already made arrangements with the gentleman that had sold me the computer, and this was not at all what was agreed upon. They said that there was nothing they could do, that the guy had no right to say that he could give me store credit. That he works in the thrift store department of the business, it was up to the tech department what happened. I was upset, but calmly tried to reason with the two of them, but they were firmly planted in their decision, and they weren't going to budge.
I left feeling extremely violated. I thought to myself. I'm gonna raise hell! I'm gonna call the BBB! I'm gonna flood the internet with spam telling everyone of the injustice done to me! However, by the time I had taken the two busses it takes to get home, I had calmed down. I figured that I'd just wait a few days and go back to talk to the salesman that originally helped me. That we'd get it all worked out then. Well today was that day. I rode the two busses to get there, trying to feel as optimistic as possible, but still feeling that dread of confrontation twisting in my gut. I walked in and stepped up to the counter. At first the woman behind the counter was polite, but as soon as I started to explain my situation, her eyes glazed over. Obviously, I had already been discussed. I was beginning to think I wasn't going to get anywhere with this woman when from around the corner, I saw the guy who originally helped me. I was saved! Now we would get to the bottom of this, and maybe I could go home feeling better about the whole situation. Maybe I would even get lucky enough to find that cord and keyboard I was needing. I pointed him out and asked to speak to him, he looked up, saw me, and disappeared back around the corner into the back room. The woman then looked me straight in the face, and told me that he didn't work in that department. I said What? He's the one that sold it to me. He's also the one that made the agreement with me. What do you mean he doesn't work here in this department. How come every time I come in here, he's in this department? She wouldn't answer that question, but went on to explain that he didn't have the authority to make those arrangements with me. I asked her to go get him, and lets just work all of this out. She refused. I asked several more times to go get the gentleman. That I would like to talk to him. She just continued to refuse, and he never came back out to help me.
This company receives all of their equipment from donation. There is no cost to them for product. It wouldn't have cost them anything but a little time to fix my computer. I was so excited to finally see a company that had it's community's best interest at heart. I am crushed to see that this is what they are really about. I feel robbed. It is of my opinion that they swindled $400 from me, and I am greatly offended by that. If nothing else comes from this experience, I can only hope that my warning about this company, and the practices they partake is not laid upon deaf ears. That my warning can save someone from making the same mistake that I did when I walked through the doors of the building labeled Fee Geek