"I need your help buying a computer."
You'd think I'd like to hear those words. Instead, they typically strike fear and loathing in my heart. They make me want to run the other direction at full speed.
"Why?" You might ask? Allow me to explain.
Anyone who asks this question typically isn't looking for a realistic solution. Usually they're seeking some under-the-table once-in-a-lifetime steal-of-a-deal that they're convinced everyone else is getting. They want in the club. They want to pay $400 for a $1,200 computer.
Please allow me to let everyone down simultaneously. Those deals don't exist. You aren't going to game the system. I'm not the doorman at the secret kick-ass computer discount club. A $400 computer is exactly that. It's not a deal. It's a sucker's bet. You think you're going to be able to turn that $400 computer into a five year workhorse. The merchant knows it's a one year albatross and eventual (sooner rather than later) doorstop-slash-boat anchor.
It works like this: My friend, let's call him "John," asks me to help him buy a computer. I'm happy to help anyone buy a computer. What I'm NOT happy to do is endorse John's purchase of a lump of crap that only looks like a computer.
So John comes to me and says, "what would you suggest I buy?" When I suggest that he spend the money that it takes to secure a business-class computer that will keep him happy for three or four years...something he'll use every day to make money in business...he shows me his cards.
"But...but...Best Buy has computers for $400!" Yes, John, they do. John, what kind of car do you drive? "Uh...what does that have to do with this conversation?" It has EVERYTHING to do with this conversation.
Nobody buys a Kia Rio for $4,000 and expects it to run like an S500 Mercedes. Yet somehow, because all computers essentially look the same, people think they can purchase a $400 computer (that doesn't have Microsoft Office, doesn't have a warranty, but does have a slow, third-rate processor) and have the same experience as the guy who just bought the Mercedes.
Let me assure you: IT DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT.
Pro Tip: If you're going to be in business, buy appropriate tools.
You're not going to drive the green and win the Masters with a persimmon wood driver made in 1974. It doesn't happen. You're not Happy Gilmore. You're not going to get a fast, efficient, business-class computer for peanuts. It doesn't happen...unless it's stolen.
Now, what happens next is John ignores my advice, buys the disaster of a computer and proceeds to tell me that Windows must be the problem. And now John is going to buy a $1,500 Apple MacBook Pro. Do you see what just happened here? It's Microsoft's fault that I told my friend John - who is a total assclown - to buy a good piece of hardware and instead he chose to ignore my advice. If only he could get his hands on Bill Gates...
So after spending untold time, effort and money screwing around with a $400 piece of hot garbage, John the clown decides to go out and spend four times as much on a great piece of hardware (which is what I told him to do) that unfortunately runs an operating system he has absolutely no idea how to use.
Don't be John. Put your big boy pants on and spend what it takes to get a real computer, please. And don't take this as an attack on Apple. I don't care if you want to use a Mac. Just don't think that they're free of problems. If the business world ran on Macs, I guess my company would be doing Apple consulting. It doesn't and I'm not.