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Norman, Harvey and Noel

You don't want to buy a cow from a stationary store. You wouldn't buy a car from The Warehouse. So why do we so frequently buy computers from non-computer stores? Computers are highly technical items, not to be trifled with - I should know. It's not the sort of thing you want your average appliance-pusher selling you. Yet so often I see people buying from Harvey Norman, Noel Leeming and other "general purpose" stores - because inevitably when you get an issue with your device, those places can't help you. They don't have the right kind of staff with the right level of experience. Things usually have to be shipped back to whichever distributor they came from and processed under manufacturer warranty.

When you buy a computer from an actual computer store, for starters, you're more likely to get the right computer. You probably don't need the most expensive thing in the room. You may only need something for checking emails and browsing the web - why would you need a $1000 PC for such things? But a salesperson in a non-computer store doesn't really have a clue what you need, they only know what their percentage and/or sales ratings are (depending on how their salary works), and that doesn't necessarily bode well for your purchase. And when you have a problem, they don't have a clue. In a computer store there's so much knowledge floating around that even if one person doesn't know, another person probably does, and that makes dealing with issues a lot easier further down the track.

Lastly I should comment on the quality of both the technical staff and the computers at non-computer stores. They're both driven largely by price, so you don't tend to get the most reliable machines or people in those places. You see a lot of HP laptops (the worst) and technical people who don't really know their arse from their elbow. Someone saying they're a 'Microsoft certified engineer' or the like isn't meaningful in any real sense - it's like having a degree. Except, like, a really crummy degree. That only took you 3 months to earn. Experience is key. At least in a computer store there's enough people who know what they're doing to be able to spot or correct the ones who don't - and even if they have the cheaper computers, they also tend to have better brands as well.

That's not to say you won't ever have issues with a real computer store, or it's staff - but the percentage ratios of good experiences to bad experiences tend to go up. A computer is not an appliance. A computer is a magical everything-box that has so many complications and parameters that it's hard to put a pin in just how much they've changed society. Did you know my job was considered an essential service during lockdown? Along with, you know, plumbing, food delivery and hand sanitiser production? Go figure. Welcome to the future - now where's my flying car? Oh, right - have a look on youtube for footage of the newly available commercial models. Yup.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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