If you haven’t heard the term “pizza tech” before, a pizza tech is a nickname some technicians use to
describe people who are providing computer repair services for pizza and beer money. These people are
usually young teenage boys who are still in college and might have a part time job somewhere. They are
good with computers and want to earn a little side money to supplement their other part time job. However,
usually provide lower quality work than that of a professional technician. I’ll explain why.
A pizza tech believes that a computer format is done by just running the Windows XP CD. They believe that
all you need to do to remove a virus is run AdAware, CCleaner, a virus scanner and your done. A
professional technician knows that after the removal of the virus they need to reboot the computer, test the
internet connection and make sure the client can do what they need to. They know this because there have
been times when they haven’t tested a computer after removing the virus and had to come back (I had to do
it a few times in my early years as well, now I always test).
Lets apply “pizza tech” work to another industry like the medical industry; a patient comes in complaining of
chest pains and a pizza tech (pizza doctor?) would give them some heart burn tablets and tell them to go
home. A professional technician will listen to their chest, check their blood pressure and pulse, perhaps
even do some X-Rays to make sure there isn’t something more serious at work. Chances are it is just
heartburn but when you we are talking about something as important as the heart, you don’t mess around.
Luckily, the medical industry is heavily regulated so there aren’t pizza doctors. However, the computer repair
industry isn’t regulated and which allows the existence of dodgy pizza tech work.
The difference between a pizza tech and a professional technician is four things. Responsibility,
Sustainability, Experience and Honesty.
Responsibility is always being careful with clients data such as creating an image of their hard drive before
you format their hard drive. Its going back to the clients house if the virus you were paid to remove comes
back a few hours later. It is always doing a good job like installing all of the computers drivers, Windows
updates, setting their emails back up and checking the old data for viruses before you put them back after a
format. Its having insurance in case you cause harm to a person both physically or financially due to
something you did.
Sustainability is charging a high enough price for your business to not only survive, but thrive. Anyone can
reinstall Windows for $20 (as many of the pizza techs on Craigslist do) but its not sustainable. You need to
factor in things like petrol, tax, the cost of the advertising that originally got the clients attention and the time
you spent working on the machine. I wrote an article about this called “Are you charging enough?“.
Most professional technicians don’t worry about competing with the pizza techs who will format a computer
for $20 because they know they will kill themselves off eventually. Its just not sustainable.
If the pizza techs manages to survive for any decent amount of time, the professional technician will
eventually end up getting the pizza tech’s clients at a higher rate because the client got burnt by a pizza
tech due to the techs lack of experience.
Of course, a low rate by nationwide standards doesn’t make you a pizza tech. There is a technician on the
Technibble forums who is very skilled and experienced but his rate is very low compared to many of the
other technicians. The reason for this is he lives in a small town where the cost of living is low and the
average income is lower so his price is just about right in his area. However, you obviously wouldn’t charge
such a low rate if you were living on Manhattan Island in New york. Its all about sustainably, if you can pay
for your rent, electricity, advertising, petrol and still be putting money away by charging a lower rate, good
Experience is knowing what to do when the problem is hard to pinpoint or the usual repair applications like
CCleaner or Ad-Aware aren’t working. I remember I was at a large LAN party a few months ago with about
400 people attending and the person across from me was having trouble with his computer. I was in the
middle of a multiplayer game when I first noticed him having trouble but once I had finished my game I
walked over and asked what the problem was. About 10 guys had already looked at the computer while I
was gaming and all of them were very good with computers. These are the type of people who have
overclocked and water-cooled computers with SLI’d graphics cards and massive RAID arrays but they
couldn’t figure this out why this machine wasn’t working.
The owner told me that the computer would power up for about 5 seconds and then switch off completely. I
went straight for the 4 pin 12V Pentium 4 molex connector, unplugged it and plugged it back in. I switched
the computer on and it powered up fully. It turns out that the connector had slid out while he was
transporting his computer from his house to the LAN. The connector was in just enough to look like it was
plugged in, but out just enough not to make contact.
How did I know that was the problem? While replacing a power supply for a client a few years ago I forgot to
plug in the same 4 pin 12V P4 connector. When I turned on the computer it powered up for about 5 seconds
and then switched off just like this Lanners computer. I’m sure this persons friends knew more about the
latest and greatest hardware than I did (seeing they had some serious hardware there), but I have
experience with computers that are not doing what they should do. This is why its not enough to just be
“good with computers” when repairing clients computers. I’ve been there, I’ve made mistakes and I have
dealt with some really crappy computers.
Of course, everyone has to start somewhere to gain this experience so I charged a lower hourly fee at the
time (but still sustainable). This is the reason why professional technicians charge much more to do a
seemingly simple job. They have the experience to fix a computer in half the time a less experienced
technician could. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be much point in getting better because you would be paid less
as you get faster. I personally made plenty of mistakes (again, you have to start somewhere) so I often didn’
t bill for all the hours of work.
Honesty is admitting when you have misdiagnosed a problem and not charging the client for fixing it again.
Its giving some of the money back if they accidentally overpay you. Its saying you don’t know how to do
something rather than working on blindly to not look bad. Its having predictable price rates and keeping the
client up to date for any price increases that may occur from the original quote rather than surprising them
I am not saying the professional technicians are holier-than-thou and they should be put up high on a
pedestal. I was young and inexperienced at one point too and I occasionally make mistakes even today, but
I always had 3 of the 4 parts which were Responsibility, Sustainability and Honesty; Just not experience. If
you are inexperienced but follow the other 3, you are not a pizza tech.
That is the difference between a pizza tech and a professional technician.
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