Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

I’ve seen literally hundreds of TV news reports based on this theme: “We took a perfectly good [insert product here] to several local repair shops to see if you’re getting ripped off.” In this case, it was a typical desktop PC that had the hard drive cable physically disconnected. The test: to see if the local VARs could find the problem and how they would address it.

Here’s the good news. Two VARs visited by Fox News affiliate in Portland, Ore., – PC Paramedix and OK PC – found the immediately found the problem and repaired the machine at no charge. And the Geek Squad team at one Best Buy location also found and fixed the detached cable without a fee.

Now, here’s where things go wrong for the intrepid reporter. To test the Geek Squad service, she took it to a second Best Buy location. The technician couldn’t find the problem on the spot and told them they needed to check the machine into the store for a $70 diagnostic. Several days later, the reporter got a report that the hard drive was broken and needed replacement at a cost of $585. And, compounding the problem, the Geek Squad told her that they found a virus that needed removal for an additional fee.

The final Geek Squad diagnosis: It’s better to replace the PC, and they were happy to help make recommendations from the Best Buy stock.

Of course, the Best Buy manager couldn’t comment, but the Geek Squad district manager send the TV station a statement that said, “We take any misdiagnosis very seriously, and I personally feel horrible that we missed this opportunity to be consistently accurate.”

There’s also bad news in this tale: More VARs failed because they couldn’t take the test. The TV station contacted three other VARs for support and schedule repairs, but they were either unable to take the order or they automated support systems failed.

This incident reminds me of an experience I had with a local VAR in my town on Long Island. I had an HP notebook burn out. I really didn’t care about the machine, but I wanted the data. I took it to two local VARs. The first–whose shop was a disaster area of cables and open chaises littering the floor–told me he could do nothing with the machine. The second VAR told me that he would extract the data and then see if he could repair it.

Two days later, I went to pick up my broken machine. The VAR burned a copy of the files on a DVD, and then told me that the machine was too expensive to repair. With a credit card in my hand, I asked him what he recommended for a replacement (he had plenty of machines on the shelf). He babbled something about Dell having good deals and let me walk out the story without closing a bigger deal. To add insult to injury, he gave me the wrong DVD. He had to come to my house to deliver the correct set, at which point he realized where he knew me from (copies of eWeek and VARBusinss littering my home office and Channel Insider on one monitor was a good clue).

The lesson here is more than the ability for local VARs to compete against corporate behemoths such as Best Buy and Geek Squad. The true lesson here is that you should treat every customer as your best customer because you never know who’s going to come through the door next.

One postscript from the Fox 12 report I did find interesting: Many of the Best Buy/Geek Squads in the Portland area had failing grades from the Better Business Bureau. At the request of Best Buy corporate, the Better Business Bureau consolidated those reports with the corporate rating – an A-.