February 16, 2019

From the Desktop: Blackbox

No Thanks to the Rebate

  • October 9, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

I had to buy a new monitor for my Linux box last week, thanks to the death of the old monitor's mode controller. Not having the time to wait for a mail-order delivery, and since using Linux with just a keyboard and a mouse is a bit tricky for me, I ran over to the local computer superstore to grab a replacement.

It should be said that these people know me pretty well, since I am in there about once a month buying something or another for my collection of PCs and notebooks. To them, I am one of "those" people: a homo penguinus, traitor to my own kind. I first got their attention when I actually had to fight with them to not get the big rebate for the PC I picked up to be a Linux box.

I had to get the PC there because once again I could not wait for the mail order people to get one too me. Such is the curse of someone who does not plan their life out. Anyway, the rebate would knock the price of the PC down to $450, if I sold my soul for two years of Compuserve.

"But I don't want the rebate," I said to the minion as he handed me the rebate form written in lawyer-speak.

His eyes actually goggled, which is really very disturbing if you think about it.

"You don't want the rebate?" he stammered.

"No, there's no need, I'm not going to use Compuserve," I replied.

"But don't you want to save $700?" he asked, trying to appeal to me with the ultimate sense of reason.

"Sure," I answered, getting the tickle of danger down my spine, "but I need this machine today, so I can't custom order a box from someone else, and I am absolutely not going to use Compuserve, so it would be dishonest of me to claim the rebate."

One more try: "Well, Compuserve is not that bad, really--"

I cut him off, knowing full well the impact my next words would have on his Borg soul: "This is going to run Linux."

He blinked and goggled again. I'm pretty sure his synapses misfired.


"Linux. I'm installing Linux on it. Let's get it off the shelf and onto this cart, okay?"

Then came the most desperate statement of all: "Uh, I'm not sure Linux will run on this computer."

At this point, I was getting more than a little irritated at putting this much effort into something that should have amounted to a grab-and-go operation. This last statement was so ludicrous, however, I invested the next five minutes of my journey through the space-time continuum explaining to this dolt not only would Linux run on this box, it would run a hell of a lot faster and better than the (fill in the expletive) installed on it now.

At the end of my diatribe, he just blinked again (an action I am now convinced was an outward manifestation of his sales-spiel program rebooting itself) and said once more, "Maybe you should give Compuserve a try."

This went on for another 15 minutes, which ended after pulling the store manager into the fray and me signing three forms saying that I would not get the rebate, that I and my kind were the biggest idiots in the world for passing up this sweet deal cooked up by Compuserve, and I was forever branded as the "Schmuck Who Paid Full Price for a PC."

I did not go quietly into that good night, either. Basically I harangued the two of them all the way out the door and reminded them that not all their customers were sheep lulled into complacency by Microsoft, Intel, and whoever else I could think of at the time.

The investment of time and energy paid off, I am happy to say. The salespeople utterly understand my position now, and do not argue when I come in and pick something up. For this new monitor, the transaction consisted of me pointing at the monitor, saying "thank you" after the guy loaded the huge box into cart, and walking the whole thing up to the cashier.

So now I have a new monitor and my three-year-old has a huge new cardboard box to play house in, all nice and set up in my office for me to trip over in the dark when I stagger in at 3 a.m. to see if people in England have gotten around to answering my e-mails yet.

And, in perhaps the most contrived segue way ever devised, this week's window manager tour takes us to Blackbox. Must be one of those Circle of Life things.

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