Ramblings of a white guy living in Tokyo that's *gasp* never taught English (!). I'll talk about just about anything, which often does but doesn't always have something to do with Japan.
Please comment to your heart's content on my current life story and random Dougisms.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Battling cultures in the world of tech support
I ran into a rather interesting snag this past week that was, at least to me, most unexpected.
So my girlfriend's computer has been giving her an odd error involving memory/space allocation or some such nonsense, which I for the life of me could not fix. This along with some less than ideal partitioning and some other things made me decide it'd be easier to just start from scratch with a fresh install. She doesn't have a recovery disk or anything, so I used a fresh copy of English Windows XP.
Now in what I would consider normal circumstances, you can go to the homepage of most laptop manufacturers and download any drivers you might need, or at least find out which drivers to look for and find them elsewhere. A visit to the Sharp Japan homepage, however, gives no such information.
Furthermore, clicking on the "support" button is rather telling I think in the difference in mentalities between Japanese service and American service. They give you 4 options: 1) I don't know how to use my computer, 2) I'd like to send my computer in for service, 3) I'd like you to setup my computer for me, and 4) I want to upgrade my computer. Further clicking shows that you can call their call center for the first year for free advice (pay after that), or bring it in and pay them to look at it. In the US, they couldn't be happier to have you try and fight with it yourself, as it'll save them time and effort.
So not only can I not find driver or specific hardware information, there is nowhere on the website that I can find an option to simply ask them for such information, or even advice without paying. Not even a simple email. I went through their FAQ on re-installation, and the only thing they mention on hardware drivers is to use their reinstall disk.
Just for a bit of balance, I went to the Dell support page to check, and sure enough "drivers and downloads" was the first option on the list. In my time here, it seems to me that either people are less willing to try to take on a task themselves or maybe just merely don't have the time to, and are thus much more dependent upon the service industries.
This could be a chicken/egg argument as I'm not sure which is the cause and which is the result and, albeit to a lesser extent, this exists at home as well, but this is far from an isolated case. You get looks of amazement telling most people out here that you've changed not only your own oil, but also your own brakes and so on. Now granted, in this case there is also the problem of having the space to work on your own car, but the fact that most people wouldn't even consider trying to pick up a wrench themselves is beyond me. I've heard stories from a particular friend married to a Japanese man who has wound up looking up how to fix her toilet herself when the husband didn't know where to begin. TV's broken? Well it's too hard to even think about fixing, better just buy a new one.
I'm sure that at least to some extent most of these are cases where the money spent for these services is for the saved time it allows, but there's also that element of Eastern willful interdependence vs. Western individualistic mistrust. Japanese companies further fuel this by basically saying "that's really complicated, you wouldn't understand. Just leave it to me."
Nah, I think I'd still rather figure it out myself and learn something in the process.