Something for nothing

I am curious to find out if this happens in all professions or if it is only limited to IT(Information Technology, Computer Work). Do people tell their friends that are doctors if they can do that MRI on the weekend when the office is closed, or maybe their Orthodontist friend if he can get you a free crown? Well it happens to me quite a bit, people want something for nothing.

I love helping people, and I also love computers. I love being able to get people into blogging by telling them how to install the software or pointing them in the right direction to get their own domain. I have no problem getting people started on projects that will help them learn more about computers. I also don’t mind doing technical support for friends when there is a minor problem. I even like doing it more for friends than family at times because they seem to appreciate it a little more. However when someone requires big help, a custom application or a complete computer being built, am I wrong for expecting some kind of remuneration in return?

I’ve had several friends of friends, not even my friends ask me to do stuff for them that my company will whore me (I mean send me as a consultant) for and ask a lot of money per hour for. I just don’t understand why people think it is ok to expect that you do your work for free for them. At times all I want is some appreciation for what I do, or respect for the knowledge but in some situations even a thank you is hard to get. So enlighten me by letting me know if this happens to you guys also.

Dilbert

12 Responses to Something for nothing

  1. Ah the times of spending hours fixing problems or bad hardware for folks… I have to agree that the small tasks I have no problem with. There are the times that larger work does turn more into a swapping of time and effort though. I just rebuilt a system for some great friends at no cost. This summer those same frriends spent several hours helping me relandscape a portion of my backyard. In that case the time/effort trade off was justified. There have been time though when I have spent way to many hours working on a system for folks with out having any consideration for my time. I have gotten to the point now that if I know I am not in a bartering setup or just out right owe the person a favor I will explain that a simple pricing model is going to have to be taken into account… either by the hour or by the job. All of that and I still have not ordered a tshirt that states ‘I will not fix your computer’, I really need to get one of those.

    dl

  2. You know, I did tech support for about 5 years, and it never failed: I’d be home on my weekend after a very long week and who would call at 9 or 10 at night? My inlaws wanting computer help. Mind you, they are subscribers of the ISP I worked for, and are therefore PAYING to have tech support available to them.

    I would explain this to them and they would still call me the next time. Or while we’re over there for dinner or something they’ll shanghai me into working on their computer. I don’t mind helping people, but i hate it when I feel obligated to do something anytime it’s asked. What am I going to say, “I don’t know anything to fix it?” It puts you in one of those “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situations.

    After years of this, they never learned. And now that I don’t work in that field anymore, people still bug me and tempt me to don my very own “I will not fix your computer” t-shirt, which you should definitely pick up.

  3. For those of you who have not seen this wonderful t-shirt… you can get it a ThinkGeek


  4. LOL Loving the t-shirt! And yes you have been wonderful in helping those of us out there who are less than proficient in computers! THANK YOU!!!

  5. I try not to look at it that way. Growing up, my family always worked on the barter system. My dad is a carpenter and can build damn near anything. My mom does taxes. My uncle is a mechanic. Everybody has their own roll to offer the family and their friends. In a sense, we do things because we know the value of our work will be rewarded or repaid by the value of somebody else’s work. That doesn’t stop my family and friends from wanting to pay me for fixing their computers, but I decline nonetheless.

    Anyway, I try to think of it in a positive way. As an IT professional, all I deal with is bad news 100% of the time. Nobody ever needs me unless it is the end of the world. Therefore there really aren’t any good days, per se. So when I am able to offer my services to my friends and family that actually appreciate it, I feel like I am being rewarded.

    There is more to life than just money. Some things are more important. I’ve gotten a lot of things from my friends and family. I think I owe it to them to always help out. Pay it forward, right? That’s the way I look at it. Anyway, nobody deserves to have a broken computer so long as I am around.

  6. Sucede que en el colegio nos ayudamos unos con las tareas de los otros, como el que sabe español ayuda a dar con las metáforas y etcétera, el que sabe física ayuda a recordar las fórmulas, el que sabe chimica ayuda a racionalizar el trinintro toluene and so on. Es más bien una relación simbiótica, por lo que yo no me quejo.

  7. Great shirt–I should pick one up for my brother-in-law to be.

  8. Me pasa todo el tiempo. La camiseta esta muy chevere, voy a ver si me consigo una :)

  9. Me gustó el comic. Leo dilbert casi todos los días. Muchos son malos, pero los buenos, como este, son muy buenos.

  10. I am going to tell Kris about this post, and then, ask him to comment so he can tell you what he thinks. I definately know he can relate to this one.

  11. Yes I know the feeling sll too well. I guess since they think you are there friend they are just going to get something out of you for free and you are not going to expect anything in return. I mean am I going to expect a banker to give me a loan while he is at home. That is just crazy. I need one of those shirts man they are crazy.

  12. As for doctors I think the situation is not quite the same (at least here in Germany where most medical needs are financially covered by compulsory health insurance). So I am not being asked to do something for free (as people consider medical services as free of charge, anyway). But doctors are supposed to be readily available all the time, come rain, come shine. People tend to phone me at 5.30 am and – if I am lucky – ask me whether they really wakened me (“You weren´t still asleep, were you?” Or “already asleep” when they phone at 11 pm.). But of course at partys or such people do like to tell their medical questions and ask your opinion…
    Nevertheless there is something special about Computer Work and IT. I think one factor is history. In the good ole days you could not hire people to look at your computer – there weren´t any specialists readily available, only hobbyists like yourself. There weren´r so many DAUs (“dumbest assumable user”) either – computers were something for people who liked to find out how they worked and those liked to share their knowledge. That is how mailboxes or BBSs and computer clubs worked. And indeed these were good ole days!
    It was only when computer became so widespread, when they became instruments of work you no longer could do without even if you were NOT interested in their innards more than you were interested in the workings of your TV or your radio that a misbalance developed: myriads of users and no more happy-to-share-information amateurs than before. Look at the tone and the postings in Usenet newsgroups (RTFM) over the years to see what I mean.
    There is another thing: I don´t need anybody to make my TV, my video recorder, my radio, my kitchen appliances work. These are plugged in, you read the very short manuals, press well documented buttons and there you go. That´s NORMAL. But get a computer because you want to do a few things and you are in the midst of a mess – suddenly you are expected to read fucking manuals, study online tutorials, grasp arcane concepts (my father still has problems trying to understand what a folder is), even get books on how to achieve something with your computer (I am trying to figure out GIMP these days – this is insanely complicated, I fear I will fail; my USB-DVD-burner does not work with my Linux box either although it is being correctly recognized, WHY?). And look at us DAUs: we don´t revolt, as we should, we don´t throw these unrefined, not-thought-through machines back to the sellers and tell them to produce something usable or go to hell, no, we accept that it is our fault that the thing does not work. But we do not think that our flaws are SO fundamental, so we hope that someone with a little more knowledge can solve the problem in a second, it can be only a button or two, can´t it?
    And: whom else whould DAUs ask, but their friend and aquaintances. The man in the shop where they got their stuff? ROTFL! They ususally don´t know nothing at all about the problems (“Linux, no, sorry, I have an XP computer at home”, “Doesn´t work? Well, you will have to get a new version of your OS and a new version of your hardware, as well”, “no, this is not yet supported”, “the colleague who knows will be back on Monday”, “sorry, but we do not support this” and “no, such an extensive problem is far beyond our free technical support”). Do specialists who cost 80 dollars an hour? Not always and BTW I just want to read my email and you want 80 dollars an hour? I am not a firm, am I? But Logtar knows much about computers and is a pal, thank God, so I´ll ask him…Neighbors´ help.
    I have been doing both things – fixed computer and software problems for free and (I guess more often) tried to find friends looking after my computer problems for free. Unsolvable dilemma until we get machines that just do what they are supposed to – and that is pure science fiction.
    Hmmmm.. yes, I will fix your computer for free if I feel like it and if it doesn´t take too much of my time. Otherwise just upgrade your hard- and software, will you?

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