Demetrios Leontaris, also known as the NYC iPod Doctor, and his team of two other technicians drive around Manhattan daily going door-to-door to fix laptops, iPods, PDAs and cell phones. He fixes 10-15 devices on an average day for waitresses, high school kids and Wall Street workers, in addition to repairing devices sent to him by mail.
What inspired you to start your business?
DL: I started it because people weren’t getting a lot of support from the manufacturer after the warranty ran out on their products, so they didn’t have a place to get them fixed. I [personally] had tried going through the manufacturer for a broken iPod screen, which they told me wasn’t under warranty. It would have [cost] $250 to replace the iPod. The retail price at the time was $300, so I ended up buying another broken one and putting it together that way. I’ve been dabbling with my computer and electronics for years—it’s not new to me.
What’s the most common problem you encounter, and where do you get your replacement parts?
DL: Broken screens from being in the pocket or dropping them on the pavement. It’ll take a hit like that four, five, six times and then one time it just breaks. I get parts either from scrap or from suppliers in China. I get my LCD screens from a place in the states for laptops, not far from where I live. One of the big eBay sellers are laptop LCD screens.
What do you typically charge for your services?
DL: On average, for an iPod it’s between $59 and $100 and change. Laptop LCDs start at $115, but on one I had to go to $595. It was a rare Sony 10” screen that I had a hard time finding, but the computer was worth around $2000. Then my labor was $100.
What was one of the craziest things you’ve dealt with?
DL: I had a couple who got into a fight—with their iPhone in the middle. She threw it at him, he kicked it back to her and she stomped on it. In the end I ended up fixing it by replacing the LCD screen. I have had them run over by cars. People forget that it’s in their pocket and then they wash their clothes. My son actually has a water damaged one he’s been using for eight months now.
Isn’t it time-consuming to travel all over New York?
DL: Yes, but have you checked out retail space in Manhattan? I think the last place I [saw] might have been 700 square feet for $21,000 per month. It doesn’t make sense to have a store in Manhattan.
What are the most frustrating things you deal with in your job?
DL: No schematics or maps for the electronics. It can be time consuming writing my own map of the circuit boards. Luckily we don’t do much repair on circuit boards—we generally swap them out. But occasionally it’s worth it to at least see if there’s a possibility of repairing by switching the circuits.
It sounds to me like you don’t like saying “no” to people.
DL: I’m very bad at saying “no.” It’s not the best thing for business, unfortunately. But it makes people happy to get their stuff fixed. If I’m not doing that, I don’t see a point in doing this at all.