New Times: How do you answer the phone at work?
Eric "Gailand" Baron: "This is Gailand." But if you get my answering service, it says, "You've reached Gailand at Phuhque.com."
NT: Fuck you dot com. Hee hee! Where'd you get the idea?
Gailand: Have you ever known anyone who's happy that their computer is down, and that they have to pay someone to fix it? With me, you get to start out by saying, "Fuck you!" Phuhque is phonetically correct for "fuck you," but less offensive when people see it in print. People ask me what it means, and I tell them, "It means, If you don't like it, take your business elsewhere.'" And it works both ways. I had one customer turn me away once he figured out how it was pronounced. They told me to change it, and I said, "Phuhque. Hire someone else."
NT: I'll bet you have a company philosophy.
Gailand: "Anyone can move boxes, but very few people provide service these days." If you can get past the company name and my non-corporate appearance, we'll get along great.
NT: Your non-corporate appearance.
Gailand: I don't wear a three-piece suit. I show up in a tee shirt and shorts, and I have a scruffy beard. Corporate America is way too anal. Everybody is too high-strung and in a hurry to get somewhere. In my business, you really have to listen to what your client is saying.
NT: Okay, here's what I really want to know: How come computer techs are so snotty? If I hear "you have to upgrade" one more time, I'm going to murder someone. My computer is five months old!
Gailand: The reason my business is a success is that most computer techs aren't interested in whether the machine is right for the client. There's a prevailing attitude with tech people that everyone needs a computer that will allow them to play a video game at 60 frames per second. I've suggested an upgrade a couple of times, but only when the customer is using technology that's more than five years old.
NT: That's what I mean. Why not just fix the poor slob's equipment and let him alone? Most of us don't care that our stuff is outdated.
Gailand: The average computer tech has a superiority complex. The first thing my client says to me, in every case, is "I'm computer stupid." A lot of technicians will say, "Yes, you're right." I always teach the customer what I'm doing while I do it, so that he's learned something.
NT: I don't want to know that stuff. I'm the guy who just wants you to come fix my laptop and then leave. I don't want to talk about bandwidth and floppies and, for Christ's sake, motherboards.
Gailand: I actually prefer that kind of client, because then we can have a discussion about other things, like cats or sports cars or firearms.
Gailand: Yeah. For some reason, a lot of my clients are former cops. But I can talk to anyone about anything. One thing I like to show people is how to look for pornography on their children's computers.
NT: Speaking of which, how come every day I get 12 e-mails offering to enlarge my penis?
Gailand: Hey, your mom is getting those, too. You don't have to go to porn sites to get linked to that stuff. Someone got hold of your e-mail address and sold it to other companies. There's nothing you can do besides maybe put a filter on your computer. I used to get e-mails every day offering breast enlargement, until I put a firewall on my computer, to see who was pinging me.
NT: Here we go with all the boring computer jargon. What's a firewall? What's a ping?
Gailand: Pinging is someone saying, "Hello, are you out there?" A firewall prevents a response to that. People out there can load a program into your computer from the Internet and turn it into a server for their wares, and you won't even know about it. They can wipe out your hard drive if they want.
NT: Malicious computer nerds!
Gailand: Pretty much. Script Kiddies is what they're called. I'm sort of the antithesis of that. I prefer the personal side of things. If I haven't made my customer smile, I haven't done my job.