Thursday, May 18, 2006

Close the Gate

Looks like the final chapter of the Gateway Computer boom here in KC is about to close. Gateway announced that it is closing the call and support center here and laying off 130 employees. The center once had over 1500 employees and was the cornerstone of redevelopment of the "West Bottoms", an area with turn-of-the-century warehouses from when the area was a major river port. At one time, a job with Gateway was a hot ticket.. I think even I sent a resume.

Sad, but not unexpected. Gateway has been imploding for a long time now; just another DotCom failure. It is reported that after the closing, Gateway will have 1500 employees total, down from 24,000 at the peak.

The Gateway brand of computer was once almost a household word. Like Dell today, you could buy a system online or on the phone and have it delivered to your door. The computers usually came to your door in a large black and white spotted cow box. Even the company headquarters building was painted like a Holstein cow.

My first computer was almost a Gateway, but the horrible experience I had trying to buy it led me to another source. Gateway opened a few retail centers where you could buy their systems directly instead of through the mail. So off I went one Saturday AM to the store in Independence, checkbook brimming with cash ready to buy my own computer. I had a company laptop but I wanted one of my own. My goal was to have my computer up and operating by that evening so I could begin surfing the net in style.

I went in and looked around. Plenty of people there, lots of people working, busy showing all the hardware to some of the customers...but not me. I never got a soul to talk to me. One salesperson spent about 1/2 hour working with some people who could not get financing for their system... calling this, working that... here I was with cash on hand, no 90days same as cash, no finance company.. no I'll pay 1/3 now, post date a check for Tues.... and no one said a blooming word to me. One salesperson talked to a guy for a while, talking all kinds of tech shit and then the guy left without buying a thing and the salesperson or whoever disappeared. I went to Circuit City across the street (still in business) and got my first computer a Compaq. I understand I was not alone in my frustration with Gateway.

So no wonder they are retrenching...probably will be around for awhile longer but never the player they used to be.

I kinda wanted a cow box.... wonder if I can get one on Ebay?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I got the same treatment when I walked into Gateway stores — they helped everyone but me! I was one of the unlucky ones that did manage to get hired at Gateway when it first opened, and got paid $7.75/hour. I worked as a tech support "technician" on the phones. Poorly trained, our job was to handle as many calls as possible, whether we fixed anything or not. I finally learned the "system," but was so frustrated with how unethically the company treated its customers and with how poorly they built the systems in the South Dakota facility. Add to that frustration how truly difficult it was to get a non-technical person to install memory or a HD (in the early and mid-90s, it was much difficult than today) over the phone. It's difficult enough to do it by yourself if you know what you're doing!

I, along with half my "pod" of coworkers, gave up, quit in disgust. When I walked out the door, I knew less about computers than when I walked in a year earlier. I took a job at the new Computer City (run by radio shack) in Overland Park, which never had a chance to compete against Computer City. I quit within two months after making sure I got a dishonest and hateful assistant manager fired (something I'm still proud of to this day), and within a year the store had folded.

Gateway, however, suffered from extremely poor management. It really had no clue how to sell computers. And their well-marketed computers never received top reviews up against Dell, who at the time was soon to become the monster, and by 2002 would itself succumb to inconceivably bad management and customer relations.

My advice to everyone is this: find the smartest people in town who build computers out of their own shop. Go buy any peripheral you want in your computer and hand it to them and tell them to build what you want. Pay them. Have a great computer that lasts for years. And be happy.