Friday, April 20, 2012

COMPUTER SERVICE, ITALIAN STYLE

The following account is inspired by a log I discovered the other day, while sorting through some files. I kept it when we lived in Rome, to detail our computer service experience at an Italian Apple store. 

The Apple store on Corso di Francia was a shiny new establishment with a glass front, staffed by beautifully groomed and sexy men dressed in black tee shirts.  It resembled a night club. Interesting edgy music played in the background.  I was to become extremely familiar with this store and its workers. More of this, later in the story...

 To provide a little background, we bought our Mac in the States because it came with a universal service agreement, but when we arrived in Rome, and attempted to hook it up to the internet, we discovered the service agreement did not apply in Italy. And since we couldn't make 800 calls to the United States from our Roman apartment, we could not avail ourselves of telephone support either.

 In August (which stretched into September) we hired a computer technician from the embassy, to come by after work and hook up our existing internet server to the new Apple computer. He sat in front of our computer for several days on end. Sometimes he came during his lunch break and I made us lunch.  He seemed perplexed by the Apple system. We sat together over pasta and salad. He was friendly and charming, but after several weeks, declared that the wireless connector we had purchased in the States could not be used. We would have to buy an Italian router.

 In the meantime, the Microsoft Word system, a free trial on the Mac for 60 days, had expired - and we would have to purchase it separately. Of course I did, down at the Apple store on Corso di Francia. I write in Word. At the time, I was in the middle of writing a book - and all my files were in that program.

 In November, my London based agent told me she needed my book sent to her in Microsoft Word.  The Word system purchased at my favorite new Apple store was freshly installed on the computer. Unfortunately, it was in Italian.

Then, the first week of February, our internet service floundered, and on February 18, it died completely.  Also, our computer froze. I won't bore you with accounts of my long distance calls to the internet service centers, first in Rome and then in Naples, where I waited on hold for several mornings in a row - was put through to the provider occasionally, and hung up on repeatedly.  But following the instructions in the "trouble-shooting" manual we'd purchased with the computer, I did shut down the Mac, and started it again in safe mode.  

Niente.

I then followed the next instruction, and re-installed the software that came with the computer, careful to 'archive' and 'save' all the music, photographs, my new book files and so forth, on the computer.

I restarted the computer. It booted up. But all the files were gone! Oh, there were strange traces of some of them all right - names in peculiar places, of non-existent files, but nothing could be opened. Nothing appeared to be behind those names, although, inexplicably, there were also mysterious traces of word-processing files stored in the Appleworks templates.

Little did I know, we had only just begun our adventure.  This is where my friends in the Apple store on Corso di Francia really came into their own.

 I took the computer down to them. I breathed in the air of edgy competence the store layout and its handsome technicians exuded, and when I left my computer there, after chatting with the salesmen in Italian, I was feeling reassured.

At least, until one week later, when another Apple technician, Fabio by name, told me that none of the files could be recovered, and that I must not have pressed the right button to 'archive' the files - they were gone forever, due to human error.

 I could pick up the computer, said Fabio, if I telephoned him in the afternoon. Don't phone in the morning, he said, because he needed to sleep. I complied with these instructions, and at a mutually agreed upon time, went to the store to pick up the computer.

Later, I paid 50 euros for Fabio to visit out home and reconnect us to the internet server (which was, as you know, a herculean task). But still, there were problems. As an  aside, the keyboard now needed replacing. Unbeknownst to me, there are different language keyboards - and the Italian keyboard I purchased at the shiny Apple store, was very different from the English one. In order to write fluently, I must learn all the new key positions.

When Rozzie came home from college on March 13, she ran a check on the computer twice. "Mum," she said. "The hard drive is damaged."

 Back we went to the Apple store. It was closed. There was no sign of life - in fact the grid was pulled down over all that beautiful plate glass. Silly me. I'd forgotten about 'lunch hour'. Rozzie and I waited until 4 o clock when the store finally reopened.

You have never seen so many handsome, sweet smelling, well-groomed sales assistants in your life, as they have in that store on Corso di Francia. But strangely, none of the computer service activities there appeared to be computerized. Instead, the assistant who came to my aid scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to me. It was a very long number. He said I would have to telephone this number - which was, by the way, in Ireland, and mail the computer there myself, if I wanted to have the hard drive repaired.

 "But this is an Apple store!" I cried. Surely they could fix it in an Apple store! Fabio agreed.  He took the computer into the back room and said he would telephone me as soon as it was ready.

A month passed. I hadn't heard a peep. So at last I went into the Apple store once more and asked where my computer was. While I waited, the technician telephoned one number and then another, and then he scribbled a message on a post-it note. He handed the note to me. "Contact Paolo," he said, "after 6 o clock on Friday." Paolo would tell me what was wrong with the computer.

At 6 o clock on Friday, I telephoned Paolo.  No answer. Two days later, another Apple technician telephoned, to tell me that the hard drive was broken. Did I want it to be replaced, he asked kindly? Did I want them to also replace the cable with an Italian connection?

"I have been waiting a month for the hard drive replacement," I told him.

 One week later, Fabio called to say my computer was ready. I went in joyfully to pick it up. Was this everything, I asked. Yes, he said. And congratulations. We beamed at each other, and I thanked him profusely. But when I got home I discovered they had neglected to pack the connecting cable.

Once again, I had to wait until the end of 'lunch hour' which goes from 12:30-4:00, before I could pick it up. Back at the store, Fabio gave me the cord with a friendly smile. Sorry they had forgotten it.

I plugged in my computer when I got home. What a surprise! I discovered they had replaced the Panther system with an Italian Language Tiger System. My son Alex managed to fix the settings, so that most of the language on the computer was in English - but not all of it. Also, the Appleworks word processing system had not been installed this time - nor was there any Word for Apple program. This meant I still couldn't write - nor could I send my work to my agent in London.

 I reinstalled the Italian language Word software. And although it corrected all my English and tried to make it Italian, I decided I could live with that.

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