First of all, the story has a happy ending, so don't get too upset as you read on. That being said, let me begin in a more traditional spot: the beginning. My desktop computer has slowly been losing its power supply. On Christmas morning our neighborhood was visited by a series of brief power outages. When I went to sit down to write my holiday blog, I reached over to make the machine work, and nothing happened. No lights, no noise, nothing.
I spent a few minutes grumbling at myself for not taking better care of my personal computer, protecting it from power surges and all manner of potential calamities. Eventually I was able to find the strength to take it apart and discover the root of the problem. As someone who once owned a Volkswagen Beetle, I tend to believe that I can usually fix anything with a limited number of moving parts. I confess that I hoped to open the case and find a dangling wire with a big red flashing sign that said, "Connect Me!"
That didn't happen, but I was able to carefully remove the power supply, making careful note of which wires plugged in where. Then I was stuck. I tensed myself for the morning trek to Best Buy to purchase a replacement. Would I really subject myself to retail on the day after Christmas?
As it turns out, I needn't have worried. The crowds were sparse, and the nice young gentlemen of The Geek Squad lived up to their name. "Oh that? That's a little thing," said Geek number one.
"That's a special order. You'll have to call HP," agreed Geek number two. "All the power supplies we have are way too big."
My do-it-yourself ethos was taking a beating here. I thanked them and returned to my poor powerless machine. Happily, we live in a household with an abundance of computers, and using one of them, I was able to find the spare parts hotline for HP. I didn't want to take the chance on this special piece by relying on my own expertise and clicking on the wrong item. Imagine my surprise then, when the voice on the other end of the line turned out to be Geek number three, who was every bit as helpful as his cousins. This power supply no longer existed, he told me, and I might have some luck tracking down a replacement under a different part number. He even suggested a third party vendor that I might try. HP had washed its hands of my machine because it was more than five years old. Silly me, trying to keep machines out of the landfill.
The third party vendor was a touch more helpful. The lady there wasn't quite a Geek. She commiserated with my situation, and while she was unable to locate a power supply for me, she understood my plight and suggested I search the Internet using the part number to find someone who might.
Lo and behold, the first hit I got when I put in the part number was a place called "Just Power Supplies." I flashed briefly on the old David Letterman bit about the shop in Manhattan called "Just Lamps." "Wonder what they sell there?" asked Dave with a wry grin. As I looked at the page, I noticed this disclaimer: "Does your power supply look different than the pictures above?Did you get this 0950-4107 part number from HP when you called them? Does your old power supply look like the one on the left? You should go by the part number on your old power supply to get the correct part." This caught my interest.
I called Just Power Supplies. I talked to a very cheerful guy named Bill. He told me he wished he had a nickel for every time HP gave out the wrong part number, and that if I had ordered the one that they had suggested that I would be sad. The one that they suggested would not fit. He told me that he had just received a pallet full of this supposedly obsolete part and would be happy to send me the right part for a reasonable fee.
Honestly, I would have paid twice what he charged just to have the pleasant and informed interaction I had with Bill. Bill was not a Geek. Bill was a mensch. And in a few days, depending on the speed of shipping, we will all live happily ever after, machines included.