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  • A Guru's World #8 - Your Odds Are Really 50/50
    July 28th, 2000
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    There's a friend of mine that always says that your odds for coming out of any given scenario any given way are 50/50. You either will or will not. You either can or cannot.

    It's a rather nave outlook on things, but it does make one think. As I look out of the window of the 747 I'm sitting in, I know that it's most likely that the plane will not fall out of the sky and that I will arrive in Tampa without incident. But, if the plane crashes, is there anything I can do about it? Was there something I could've done to prevent the scenario's outcome? If I take another flight, for whatever reason, who is to say that that plane is not going to fall out of the sky either? I could take a train, but the chances are just as good that that thing could wreck. Fact is there is no knowing the outcome of any event and that the best thing you can do is to accept the outcome, whatever it may be, if the outcome is beyond your control. After all, your odds are 50/50.

    Pretty morbid, I know. But some of you can't honestly tell me you don't think these kinds of things when you fly a big aluminum Tylenol 20,000 feet up in the air.

    In my job, I get to see about 60 packages a day of returned computer product. 10% of these are motherboards. Difficult to troubleshoot and with the large number of components on any given motherboard, easy to say that if any one component fails, the whole board has failed.

    I also talk to 30 to 40 people a day. The people that call me call for one reason: They have a problem with the computer parts they bought. More than half of the time, I help them over the phone and issues turn out to be simple user error. Unfortunately, the other half of the time, my hands are tied and I need to SEE what I'm doing because what I am able to do over the phone is minimal and goodness knows that a portion of these, we may actually be dealing with defective product. This is when the RMA (return merchandise authorization) number is given and the product needs to be sent back to me.

    Fortunately, for MOST of what I get back, I can find the problem typically caused by a slight user error (incorrect jumper settings, etc.), write a little note to the customer and send the product back to the customer as a working unit. If I was to put a percentage on the 25 to 30 motherboards I get back in a week, I would have to say that only 30% of those truly do have a problem that can only be chalked up as "defective product".

    Certainly this 30% is only 2% overall of our entire customer base. Overall, failures on MOST computer products are rare. My job in the computer industry is actually sort of a morbid job, rather akin to that of a coroner. "Yo, Quincy! We got another stiff for ya!" Of all of the customers my workplace sells to and of all of the product we sell, I (because I am tech support) have the pleasure of talking to only the customers that have some sort of a problem.

    Despite these individuals being part of such a minority, they can't help but feel as if they are victims of sorts. I hear, "I've never had a defective motherboard before in my life" which then turns into "These motherboards must be crap" or "You guys sell defective product" which then later results in "I want to try a different board" or "I want my money back". I can try to convince the customer that they are just unlucky and that it really is rare for a board to fail, but it's hard to not sound crass when you are trying to tell someone, "Motherboards only fail 2% of the time, worst case scenario. It just happened to be that this time, YOU were one of the 2%."

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    Author: JonnyGURU
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