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Moral Dilemma guys/gals

Last response: in Business Computing
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July 13, 2012 6:35:03 PM

I've worked or a small company on the side for 6 years now. I do all the small computer work, backup weekly manually, and built/maintain her website. This is a 4 person company which only has me maintaining 2 PC's and the internet.

Well it was a friend of a friend so all these years I only charged $10 a hour for work. She generally sends me a check thats over what my bill was and so the money situation isn't important to me.


Her son (who is 40 something) had martial issues and rented part of her business that use to be a rental property. He and his son now live there using her business wifi and slowly making me miserable.


It started with a router -

She has 2 pc's and only 1 is turned on at a time. She had a single antenna Belkin router that worked for 4 years. Since they moved over they have bought 3 Extreme XXX brand gaming routers and tried to set them up while i was at my normal job then I have to come in and clean it up while they fuss about not being able to play Skrym or watch football online ect.. I really like the lady who runs the place she is really a sweetheart.


Well her PC is 6 yrs old has maintained beautiful runs good and only the network port ever went out. We decided it's time for a new one. Since the old one worked well I shopped around & researched windows 7 compatibility for all her installed software (6yr old pc has some old software). I offered to build her a second gen i5 pc for around $350ish mark. She said she would rather buy a new Desktop and just keep it under $1000. So i was looking at a ASUS pc for around $550 (she doesn't need a lot and ASUS has a great warranty and good gaming history).

I found out today ( i meet her tomorrow) that she let her grandson (still in highschool) build a pc and wanted me to get them a copy of windows 7 or a blank cd so he can go "find" a copy.



Some notes -

I will NOT touch a computer with illegal software. I have none on my personal PC at home and i run a fully legitimate business on the side for PC & Network Solutions.

We have had a long term agreement (6yrs ) that I do all her PC work

I think her son/grandson are pushing her to do these things (they are pushy) so i'm trying to figure out how to delicately handle this. I still maintian the website I OWN IT. the domain/URL are in my businesses name, she only owns the code. She would never let me put all of it in her name for some reason.





July 13, 2012 6:53:17 PM

Tell her that since she had her grandson build her a new PC, then he can find Windows, install it, and maintain it for her. I know you like her and want to help, but she's clearly not able to reign in her son and grandson or say "No" to them, so they will continue to mess things up her and you, greatly complicating your work there and your relationship with her. Either back out entirely, or start charging her standard rates, since with the advent of her relatives she is no longer just your special friend but now another pain-in-the-neck customer.

It's sad, but when it comes to relatives, especially children, many intelligent people cannot deal intelligently with them. Emotion and sentiment cloud their judgment. That's why the term "co-dependent" was coined, to describe this process. A little tough love is needed, but many cannot do it.

Just my two cents.
July 13, 2012 7:01:22 PM

I concur on the illegal software front. I have none at all on any of my PCs. If you can't be bothered to pay for it, don't use it.

I think that the best course of action would be to tell her that her business could be put at risk if she lets her grandson put unlicensed software on there. The likelihood of it happening is small but it does happen. If her grandson wants to be a rebel and break the law he can do it on his own PC but not hers.
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July 13, 2012 7:02:11 PM

The son and grandson are pushing her to hire them as the company's computer/website technicians and dispose of you (my gut feeling, anyway). She'll most likely go along with their idea because they are family. Within a year, they will have made a total mess of things and probably have become bored with the situation. She'll call you and ask that you come back and straighten out their mess. This story happens all over the world, all the time. And not only with computer related situations. If it were me in your shoes, I would bow-out graciously but keep a tight grip on the bits that were legally mine to keep.
July 13, 2012 7:06:21 PM

Not sure what the dilemma is here. If its over the additional support you have to provide because of the son just explain to her that you have to charge her for your time. You didn't say that the grandson wanted windows 7 for free but I guess this is insinuated by saying copy. Just be honest with her and say that the activation key needs to be purchased. If he's going to build one quote them the OEM pricing.
July 13, 2012 7:22:34 PM

I have a meeting with her at 10am on Saturday. If she can show me it's a legtiatemate copy of windows (receipt/new pc that came with it from manufacturer) then ill continue on. I think the one thing keeping them from trying to push me out is my knowledge of HTML.
July 14, 2012 12:10:52 AM

Hi :) 

My company builds machines for businesses all the time and its not exactly unusual for people to say things like....oh just download that Ultimate windows 7 and that will save some money , or just pop a copy of Office on for us...

Our answer is standard....

We will NOT touch ILLEGAL software as its a HUGE fine if we do.....(in the UK its a MINIMUM fine of £5000) (per item)...

Now regarding the lady and her grandson, we have had this sort of family business situation as well...

We would tell tHE lady, you realise hes talking about ILLEGAL software (YOU MUST use the word illegal) and generally speaking the lady will be horrified as she wouldnt want her grandson to commit an illegal act, and I seriously doubt the grandson mentioned the word ILLEGAL....

That should resolve it.... if not ...walk away its not worth the hassle or legal risks to YOU....

All the best Brett :) 
July 14, 2012 2:10:33 AM

there a few thing that you can do..you can use ebay and pick up a oem copy of xp. or a sealed copy of xp. if her family is school age or in collage show them where they can get the discounted windows os and word. show her where online to pick up the oem or retail cd. or show her family where the windows 8 beta download is. also show her and point out to her the size of the fine if microsoft does an audit of her biz and find a pc with a hacked oem. show her the min fine is about 8000 per pc that if microsoft want to lower the fine. your own pc once it conencts to the internet microsoft gives it own id and knows if the windows it bogus or not on it.
July 14, 2012 2:38:40 AM

smorizio said:
there a few thing that you can do..you can use ebay and pick up a oem copy of xp. or a sealed copy of xp. if her family is school age or in collage show them where they can get the discounted windows os and word. show her where online to pick up the oem or retail cd. or show her family where the windows 8 beta download is. also show her and point out to her the size of the fine if microsoft does an audit of her biz and find a pc with a hacked oem. show her the min fine is about 8000 per pc that if microsoft want to lower the fine. your own pc once it conencts to the internet microsoft gives it own id and knows if the windows it bogus or not on it.


The discounted student copies of Windows are not licensed to be used for commercial purposes
July 14, 2012 2:46:47 AM

This does not sound like a Moral dilemma. Your morals are sound.
It is more of a personal relationship problem, because you like your client and what you HAVE to do may be perceived as being mean.

Run do not walk to the nearest exit.
Just quit.
You do not have to tell her anything more than -
"Sorry, but the current situation has become unmanageable."

To paraphrase Robert DeNiro in RONIN.
"If you are concerned that you may have a dilemma, there is no dilemma."
By asking the question, it means you have made up your mind and know what you must do.
You are running a business, and your clients actions are putting your livelihood at risk.
Dump her in the nicest possible way and let her know that you won't/can't be back
until you and you alone are running the whole show.
It is impossible to manage somebody else's mess. Please don't even try.
I have been there and I have the scars to prove it.

It is always hard/sad to see nice people get burned by THEIR OWN bad decisions, but that's life.
You can't always save a drowning person, but your first duty is to not let them pull you down as well.

Good Luck and Happy Trails!
July 14, 2012 4:09:48 AM

While it may seem that yes the solution is simple, the situation is still a difficult one, especially with it being a family friend. I've been there myself. Just like Brett, I too own a computer business and I've had to deal with customers (and family) who have just wanted to skirt by with some bogus software, or want me to find something for them for free.

My suggestion would be do not go in and demand that her family do certain things as you wish, as this can be taken wrong and she may be defensive instead of listening to your logic and information. Instead, simply ask if you can see the information of what they purchased, or are intending to purchase, so you can be informed of the system for future needs like software compatibility, upgradability, and warranty coverage. This should give you the "excuse" to get a solid answer if the Windows (and possibly other software like Office) are legitimate licenses or not. If the licensing is not legitimate, bring it to her attention. It is key to put it not in a threatening way, but more as an informative way first as simply many may just be ignorant that this is going on in the first place! I've had customers "sold" cracked versions of Office by their previous technicians and never realized it was happening.

Finally, if there are issues with the computer situation still - be it licensing, configuration, management conflicts, etc. - then simply state that the issue has become more complicated with her family becoming more involved with her technology needs. State that you can only really cover and manage the parts of the business that you yourself have done, you simply can't warranty another person's work. It's her decision then if she should stick with you and the work you have done, or if you should step out and she lets her family take over.

Spankmon is probably right about this, her grandson will possibly come in and mess up some things, eventually either give up on it or just make it worse, and you may have to step back in to solve the issue. Unfortunately there's not much you can do about that fact besides decide if you're going to step back in afterwards. But I can also kinda see it and sympathize from the other side of the situation as well. When I was still just in high school I began working on the computer systems and network at my dad's business. Pretty much everyone there thought it was a bad idea to bring in the boss' son who wasn't some professional charging hundreds in fees to work on issues, I was just learning and going through things simply where I felt I could handle things. In the end it's what got me truly started in my computer career I feel, and now I'm running my own business doing just that.
!