(Psst… if you want to jump straight to the tips, just search: Steps you can take to avoid getting hustled fixing gadgets in Malaysia.)
It happens. If you’ve had your laptop or phone for long enough, something is bound to break down. Like humans, devices aren’t meant to last forever.
Unfortunately for me, when I thoroughly destroyed a laptop screen, it was on one that I borrowed from my brother.
The last time I broke a laptop screen, the shop told me that it would cost RM500 to get it fixed, and I didn’t have that kind of money on me to spend, but I fully intended on making reparations for my crime to my brother.
I WhatsApped a laptop fixer recommended by a colleague, and he confirmed my fears.
“We never replace screen for laptop. It’s not advisable, because it’s not cheap.”
Not one to stay defeated, I tried my luck with Google and a prayer, which led me to some relatively good news.
Still, even the screen’s seller warned in the description that you’d best hire someone to attach the screen for you if you don’t know what you’re doing, so I went on a little price-hunting quest to get the cheapest laptop screen fix I could manage.
This begun my my little journey down a path of price-fixing shop owners.
It’s always been an open secret that the digital area of a mall is sleazy as heck. Just take a little jaunt down Lowyat and you’ll see. Not only do these stores beckon to you like call girls in the seedy parts of KL’s underbelly, but like some mechanics, they’ll quote you prices based on how gullible you look.
And I got to taste this first-hand.
After telling my colleague’s recommendation that I found a screen on said Lazada page pictured above, he promptly disappeared on me.
But he wasn’t my only option, so I went to the digital section of a nearby mall. I sampled three stores, and was quoted three different prices.
Repair Shop 1: RM350.
- When I asked about Lazada offering the screen for RM220, the shop assistant said something about how the laptop had two ‘prongs’ or ‘pins’ instead of one, and that’s why it is more difficult to affix than the one-pinned screens. Citations needed.
- To be honest, since the pre-discount price listed on Lazada was RM300 anyway—assuming that this is the price they get for just buying the screen, it makes sense that they would charge an extra RM50 or labour. I just don’t understand how prongs come into the negotiations and why.
- But let’s be real, they can probably get it for cheaper. They just wanted to charge more.
Repair Shop 2: RM280
- This, I thought was reasonable. Assuming that I would ship the laptop screen for RM220 anyway, I’m happy to part with an extra RM60 for labour costs, including everything from shipping to attaching.
- Not to mention, he actually bothered to do a proper check of the aforementioned laptop screen right in my face before quoting me a price. It’s just a nice thing to do. Plus, neither of the other places did this due diligence, before quoting me a higher fee for a fix.
- A less honest seller could just take your laptop in, and discover that there was a cheaper fix to the problem, but still order and replace the part on your dime to make an extra buck.
Repair Shop 3: RM390
- I asked if there was a way to get it for cheaper, already knowing that they were hustling for a quick buck. They pointed to the Core i5 Intel processor sticker, called it a new model, and said that there was no way I could get it cheaper.
- Look, I was there when my brother bought the laptop. I know how old it is. Not sure who these guys were trying to fool. The stickers have even faded.
- He also straight away assumed that “cheaper” meant “I want a seconhanded screen” and not “Why are you overcharging me?” but hey.
I thanked all three, and went my way home to confess my sins to my brother, and make my promises that I’ll fix the screen next month.
So that there’s some value of going on this fool’s errand, here are some tips that I can offer you so that you don’t suffer.
Steps you can take to avoid getting hustled fixing gadgets in Malaysia:
1. Google is your friend.
If you know exactly what’s wrong with your device (like a cracked screen for example) you can use the internet, like I did, to check the price of the products.
Even if you can’t find the prices in your currency, converting from dollars to ringgit is as easy the click of button. Regardless of if you end up ordering online or not, checking the prices sets a precedent for price when you visit actual stores.
You can even keep the page on-hand on your phone to show the repairmen, especially if they try to upsell you.
Is the fix something difficult to DIY, and you have to bring it to the shop anyway? Reading up on it will help you get a good idea about what the fix actually is. At least, you might not get conned out of more of your cash than you need to.
Meanwhile, if you’re not sure what the issue is, there’s a possibility that the fix doesn’t require you to make a trip down to any computer repair shops. Computer nerds on the internet (said with much love) are generally quite happy to list out potential solutions in great detail, that even beginners can navigate.
2. If a replacement part (for broken hardware) is easily available online, consider whether it’s worth ordering and just paying the repair shop for labour.
Do note that it’s prudent to ask around if a repair shop would even do this for you in the first place, as some might not take up on the request.
But if the price is a difference between RM10–RM20, it might just be best to get the shop to handle the whole process for you.
3. Always, always, ALWAYS shop around.
After doing your due dilligence on Google, you’ll probably have a decent idea of what it might cost you, and what the repairs will require. Use this information to shop around, and don’t limit yourself to one area (eg, Lowyat).
There are a few areas where most of the stores in the area are owned by the same company, and charge you a similar upscaled price. Don’t be afraid to venture from place to place to find the best price.
You can even be shameless about it. Enter a store, and tell them that “I’m just asking around for the price, could you quote me for <insert problem>?”
But! In your quest for bargain-hunting, keep the reputability of the store in mind as well. After all, some of them might put in a fake replacement part instead of an original, or use a defective replacement part instead of an original.
Again here, Google could be another good bet. See what others have said about the store online.
4. If there are options for warranty, take up the warranty option, even if it might cost you extra.
This helps somewhat mitigate the issue of vendors trying to hustle you out of more cash by using defective replacement parts.
To be honest though, most replacement parts come with warranty anyway without extra charge, so this really isn’t too much of an issue. The repair shop might not say it outright, so always ask about warranty. And make your choices accordingly.
5. If you know someone tech-savvy, bring them along. Or at least check some of the terminology they used with them.
After all, if I repaired computers for a living and a clueless looking lamb came into the store asking for a fix, I can easily just start spouting tech-sounding jargon to confuse them, and try to offer fixes or upgrades they don’t need. Or just spout some extra jargon to “justify” why I’m charging them the upsold prices.
My brother, a computer-savvy PC-builder, had a hearty laugh at that ‘pins’ or ‘prongs’ debacle in Repair Shop 1. He’s interned at a computer repair shop before and those terms made no sense to him, apparently.
5. If you feel like you just got hustled, you can make a complaint to TTPM.
Despite all of your best efforts, sometimes, things still happen, and you find yourself conned out of a lot of money. For this, you can consider lodging a complaint to TTPM, which will bring this case to court. Here’s how you can possibly get that done.
The problem with this in Malaysia though, in my opinion, is that for cases like these, it’s really not feasible for a consumer to make a big deal out of losing maybe RM200–RM300. Sure, the rights are enshrined. But would anyone really go through with filing cases if it wasn’t out of massive spite?
I was lucky enough that I had relatively decent tech savvy, and had an understanding that these sellers are hustlers in the worst meaning of the word.
But what if I was an innocent elderly auntie who didn’t know better? Would they try to hustle another RM100 out of the quotations? Would they just try to place the screen at a really exorbitant price, and then just try to convince said aunty to buy a brand new laptop instead?
In the end, if I were going to make a choice based on the options available, I would have gone with Repair Shop 2. If I bought the screen for RM220 and paid for both shipping and labour to attach, it would probably go up to approximately the same price anyway, and I didn’t trust any DIY-ers to get it done for me.
But I would probably have made a quick jaunt to another section of shops to to make sure that this was the absolute best price I could get, and even just a general figure of what types of losses it might cost my bank before making my final decision.
The fact that this article exists in the first place really proves that the gadget repair “industry” is in need of a massive disruptor.
The rise of online shopping in the first place can actually be traced back to tech geeks in the early days looking for a bargain online for their techy needs, but there has to be a mass disruptor in the works somewhere, for everyday consumers, right? Right?
Get on it, startup founder-hopefuls!