There should be an image here!Because I prefer tutoring to computer repair and system maintenance, I now offer tutoring at a lower price than repair where before I simply charged an hourly rate for anything. Most of my clients want to feel more comfortable with their computers, but seem to regard seeking help as a failure of some type. Worse yet, some of them think of learning and practice as play and wasted time. I use the analogy of learning to play a piano. I can show anyone where the keys are and how to strike a note. That is a long way from being able to play Beethoven. People understand that, but expect to pick up a mouse and be proficient. Even worse, they get frustrated when that proficiency is elusive. Having a twenty-something geek quickly zip through a demonstration adds to the frustration. Most tutoring clients benefit the most with relaxed sessions, and those are challenging to bring about.

So even with a special tutoring offer, most of my calls are still of the “Help me — right now” variety. Seniors seem to fall into two categories: (1) those who are afraid to do anything lest they break a the computer or fill up the house with malware, and (2) those who will gladly play whack-a-mole with any banner that pops up. At least the clients I see tend to fall into one of those two extremes.

Recently I had a third type of client. She is a semi-retired accountant who had used high-powered professional accounting software in her profession. Now she was looking to help individuals and small businesses on a part-time basis. Several people had told her to learn Quicken. She wanted to know the best way to do it. Against my own best interests, I told her that with her background, she should simply plunge into the tutorials and look for online help. If she got into trouble, call me. She had been nervous about starting on something new — probably because she had memories of the difficulties she had when first introduced to computing many years ago. We all bring a lifetime of baggage to any new project.

So far I have not heard back from her, so I assume all is well. I also like to think that by passing up a couple of hours of easy tutoring, I gained a long time client who will trust me with other projects.

Like I said, tutoring is more fun than repairing, but right now I have two computers on my table. One of them needed a factory restore (don’t ask — ugly), and the other is being upgraded with memory and generally cleaned up. They represent examples of the two classes I listed above. But they are alike in at least one respect. In both cases, I know the clients and both of them paid too much for their computers. One of them paid far too much to have someone else look at the problems. I would like tutoring to include items such as how to purchase things you need at a good price. Many seniors are still naive about what to purchase and how to maintain it.

[Photo above by U.S. Department of Agriculture / CC BY-ND 2.0]