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George Engel has been a friend to the Design Center and the User Group Network for more years than we care to admit. His writings are always intuitive, informative and fun -- he has been an Apple hardware/software guru since the beginning of the Mac, and is one of our favorite contributors...

Customers & Gaboon Vipers

Excerpt from 'the Naked Serviceman' by George M Engel

AS IN ANY BUSINESS, there are those customers that are like nails scratching on a blackboard when they call.. You pick up the phone and you hear the first word, "Hello?" Then you recognize the voice on the other end and know that you've been struck by fate. The Gaboon Viper' strikes again!

Many years ago, Johnny Carson had a skit about the Gaboon Viper. The shtick went something like this:

Traveling in the jungles of Gaboon was very dangerous, especially when the Gaboon Viper was about. The Gaboon Viper would wait until you passed, then whammo, it'd sunk its teeth into your ass and would NEVER let go; NEVER! The rest of your life, you had to live with this Gaboon Viper, hanging on your ass.

Well, some of our customers are like that.

We maintain our own Gaboon Viper list. Occasionally a new one goes up there, but it takes a lot to really qualify for that list. After 16 years of 'officially' doing business as a Certified Mac Repair Center, we have less than twenty-five Gaboon Vipers. That's out of over 1,350 customers in our Database.

As you can see, it takes a lot of Viper to get there, and they NEVER leave! Never!

How does one qualify to be a Gaboon Viper. Well, let's see... Inability to think ahead or look backward might help; being the first one that the wolf pack would bring down could be an indicator; Darwin laughing at you helps; last being that both Will Rogers and Dale Carnegie are arguing as to which will be the first to punch you in the mouth. Last is the fingernail on the blackboard test. If you'd rather hear that than listen to that customer, well... you got it!

Here's a perfect example

We had a person call us on the phone and said he wanted to speed up his computer at a low cost. How much would it cost to do so? So we went into the pro's and con's of buying an add-in processor into his computer versus buying a new machine. Since money was the main question, cheap was the answer. So we gave him the stock answers. Increasing the RAM may be the cheapest, next is the Hard Drive size if you're doing major graphics, and last would be the processor itself, but processors are the costliest.

He then asked us "...why not just plug it into 220 volts! That'll make it faster at no cost!" After gagging, we proceeded to tell him that just wouldn't work. He then called us a bunch of "... stupid assholes, of course that will work," and said we were "... just in this to make money." He then hung up. Which goes to prove, folks, don't argue with losers! They'll drag you down to their level and beat you with all their experience.

George Engel is the famous Naked Serviceman Another is the guy who just couldn't understand about Mac's and a few Virus effects. Finally we just said something like "... as long as you're on the phone with us, you're protected against that!" He was now satisfied! Or the customer that says "I don't know if you remember me, but I brought my machine in there last year and I have the same problem again. Is that covered under your service warranty?" In our busy times we do about ten Macs a day. Duh! Our reply is "no sir, we can't warranty what you do with your software once you leave here, but if it's something we've done, you'll notice it the same day that you leave here, and it's correctable at that time."

Or the customer that swore we screwed his machine up and was going to sue, only to find out, after wasting our time for half an hour, that he had it done somewhere else. Oh yeah, some people don't have stress, because they're carriers!

One of my favorite problem bench jobs was an elegant Lady who complained that her Mac running with OS9 was just so slow! Over a period of time it had slowed up so much that it literally took about a minute between the mouse click and the action taking place on the screen. Now that's a long time. Usually that's a Browser problem with Netscape, Explorer or Eudora's cache folder filling up to the brim. Trying to open the Cache folder in her case took over an hour and was still clicking away. From my vast experience with Cache problems, I knew it was easier to just boot from another Drive, back up the whole thing, re-format her Drive, put a new System on it and drag her old folders back, less the Cache Folders. Much faster!

As it turns out, it was almost an all-nighter. Her cache folder alone was almost 320 Meg and had over 9,500 cache files in it! No wonder she had a slow-down. I threw away all but around 40 or 50 files at random. Enough so I could show her what I meant by cache files. When this elegant Lady came back a few days later to pick up her Mac, I explained the problem and how it came about. I explained that the Browser keeps a record thumbprint of where you've been and the Browser Preferences determine how many thumbprints are in history, and how long they're kept there. So I decided to show her and her five foot-eleven, fourteen year old son what I mean. So I just popped a handful of the saved cached snapshots onto 'JPEG Viewer' and waited for them to flash on the screen. WHOA! What popped on the screen was NOT what I expected!

Folks, I've been married before, but in all my forty years of married life... well, I was surprised! I've never moved so fast in my life as I did that day. I covered that screen to the best of my ability, and as fast as I could. My face was beet red. I apologized profusely. This elegant Lady turned to her son, who lost about five inches of his height in four seconds, and said, "John (name changed to protect the guilty), we'll discuss this when we get home!"

Three of us learned a lesson that day. She learned a lesson on child rearing, I learned a lesson on preparation before doing a demo, and poor "John" learned a lesson on covering his tracks and how to properly use a Web Browser and cover his butt, like "erase now ?" ... "YEAH, damn YEAH!"

The Gaboon Viper struck him square in the ass. Imagine twenty years from now, every time he looks at his Mom, she'll remember how he embarrassed her and HE will be reminded of that for life. Or, maybe he'll have a heart-to-heart talk with his son on the facts of life, and relate how he got real stupid one day, and show him this snake still on his ass, still hanging there.

Now that's a REAL Gaboon Viper hit, folks! Yowza!

The Naked ServicemanGeorge Engel

About the author: George Engel has been a computer guru probably longer than he will admit -- as a computer expert, he authored The Naked Serviceman book, about his journey through the history of Apple's Macintosh as owner/founder of an authorized Apple Service Center. (Available from Amazon, or LuLu) He owned one of the first Apple II computers as well as one of the first Macintosh 128s. He started out with the Upstate Apple Users Group somewhere in upstate New York, and now hangs out with the 'Lakeland Mac Users Group' in Lakeland, FL.


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