Press any key

A friend pointed me to yesterday’s User Friendly, and it made me laugh.
Any WWDN readers have a tech support experience (from either side of the phone) worth sharing?

135 thoughts on “Press any key”

  1. I handle the help desk for a company that manufactures wood beams. You know, the things that hold up the floor of your house. So I deal with architects and builders a lot. My favorite tech help call came after I faxed two beam calculations to an architecture firm. The one calculation showed the beam they wanted to use, with a big ” THIS BEAM IS INSUFFICIENT DUE TO LOAD” phrase over the top of it. The other calculation was for the beam size they would need to use for those loads, which was bigger than the one they wanted to use. So they called up:
    Them: “Hi, I had some questions about the calculations that you faxed to us.”
    Me: “Okay, what can I do for you?”
    Them: “This one that says “BEAM INSUFFICIENT…”-Can we use it anyway?”
    Me: “…”
    Me: “Umm, only if you want it to snap and fall down, taking the entire house with it.”
    Them: “Oh.”

  2. I used to work part time as a PC tech at a major consumer electronics retailer (we wore blue shirts). I have 2 stories I like to tell (I’ll try to keep them brief).
    A customer came in complaining that his 2-year-old computer was broken, and he wanted a new one (he had purchased a product service plan, which entitled him to free parts and labor, unless there was abuse involved). I asked him if I can check it out, and he agreed. Sure enough, it wouldn’t boot. I popped the top, and discovered that someone had tried to pry the CPU out of its socket. It had several mangled/broken pins. The customer said it was always like that. Uhhhh-huh. He explained that his neighbor tried to upgrade the CPU, but it wouldn’t come out of its socket (it was a Zero-Insertion-Force socket with the little lock-down arm). I showed him how to raise the ZIF arm. He became angry and demanded to speak to a manager. I complied. The manager gave him FULL CREDIT on his original purchase price toward the purchase of a new machine. Maybe crime doesn’t pay, but stupidity sure does.
    Another customer approached me one morning to ask me about the new “Pentennium” (yes, that’s how he said it: pen-TEN-ee-um). He kept using the incorrect pronunciation throughout the conversation, and clearly didn’t know the difference between the CPU type (e.g., 386 vs. 486), clock speed (Megahertz), system memory (Megabytes), and the size of his hard drive (also in Megabytes). The best part was that he really thought he knew what he was talking about. He radiated confidence in his computer knowledge. He freely confused terminologies and concepts, and clearly had absolutely NO CLUE. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, so I gently tried to at least correct his “Pentennium” issue by working the correct pronunciation into my side of the dialog as often as possible. He never did catch on. At the end of this whimsical, and arguably pointless, conversation, he turned to leave, but then turned back to me with one final question:
    “Say — is that Pentennium a 386 or a 486?”

  3. I work in application support. We have a newer acronym/tag than I-D -10 – T, its called PEBKAC – for problem exists between keyboard and chair.

  4. That comic is so true. I’ve spent the last 7ish years doing tech support (first 2 were NT, last five add Unix to the list). Unfortunately, OS doesn’t seem to make a difference to the IQ. The only constant I’ve found is: The more they try to impress you with their degrees, the lower the IQ. My two favorite support cases:
    NT User:
    Hi, I purchased your AV software and didn’t trust the little “test” virus string you included, so I infected my server with a boot sector virus and your product can’t clean it. (Was in the days before AV software could get at the boot sector of an NT server and was clearly documented in the manual. Explained how we would need a DOS boot disk to fix his little bit of fun and got back “I’ve been an admin for 4 years, there’s no way you’re right. I want to talk to your superviser).
    Unix user:
    (My conversation with him after being paged out at 2 a.m. due to a server crash and a 90 minute drive to the site) Well, I was dialed into the server and resetting the target/lun assignment in sd.conf because I wanted the disk arrays on the east side of the building to have even SCSI id’s and the disks on the west side of the building to have odd SCSI id’s and it never came back up from the reboot. (Turns out he’d introduced random noise into the config file from phone static, box would reboot and couldn’t find root. When I explained this to him, his response was “I’ve been doing this for 15 year and have never seen that before”).

  5. here is a real winner. I was a History Teacher in south Central Los Angeles. I had made it clear that I wanted to be a Computer teacher, but since they didn’t have any positions available in Los Angeles at the time, I had to make due. Anyhow, a teacehr came to my room and said, “They need you in the office RIGHT NOW, I’ll watch your class.” I went into the office and was lead into the Principal’s office where the MAN, the Head of Technologies, our computer teacher, and assorted other tech using people from around the campus were standing around looking at a lap top (early 1990’s so lap tops were pretty new, and those cute 3 1/2 inch floppies were new). Anyhow, the principal tells me that he can’t save his work. I sit down and try to save the work, the computer says that the disk is full. I check the disk, but it says it has only about 500 k on it (it should hold 1m+). So I create a new document and try to save the letter F (for Farkin Idiot). No go… I pop out the disk and this thing has WEAR marks from being slid in and out of the disk drive…
    ME: Do you have another disk?
    Principal: another one? Why would I need another one, I want that one to work.
    ME: I think there may be a problem with this disk, so I want to test this out by using a new disk.
    Him: No, that’s the only one I have.
    ME: How long have you had this disk?
    Him: About 18 months.
    ME: This is the only disk you’ve ever used?
    Him: Yes, why?
    ME: What do you do when it is full?
    Him Erase something I don’t need.
    ME: Your disk is bad, you need a new one…
    Him: It can’t be that, that disk has always worked well, if you don’t know you should just say so. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH
    at this point all the observers are giving me dirty looks and thinking that I am just wasting their time…
    Me: I don’t know, that’s why I want to test it on a new disk.
    Him: Don’t waste my time, just fix it. If you can’t fix it, get out…
    Me: Can I try a new disk? What could it hurt?
    Him: Someone get this know-it-all a disk so I can get rid of him and call a repair man.
    Me: Thank you (for giving me a disk)
    ME: Saved. anything else?
    Him: It worked? Wow!. let me have that disk… Ms Secretary… pull up the document called XXX and type it for me on Letter head! Right away, I am late….
    Me (shaking head) I’ll go back to class now…
    Him: Right, those kids need a real teacher, but you will have to do (smile smile… I guess it was some kind of joke).
    ME (after exiting the office, under my breath) Kiss my @$$, you old “gas expelled”
    Now I teach computers at a different school in South central, and my Principal has MOVED my lab 3 times in 4 years… how do you MOVE a LAB!!!!! 38 computers, Raceway, wires, so on… Last time he did it so the english classes could be networked together (we had a Fiber optic network installed throughout the school last year).

  6. Some of those were hysterical. I love the picture of the printer with the mouse in it.
    I work in technical support at a Northern California ISP. I have 3 stories–two funny ones, and one about this scary ice-queen raving psycho.
    1) him: “I keep getting this error that says ‘pop3 server cannot be found. account: pop3 server: 1843 Montecito Avenue”
    me: What?
    him: repeats the error.
    me: I’m sorry, I just want to make sure I heard you correctly. Did you say “server 1843 montecito avenue?”
    him: yes, do you know what the problem might be? I made sure that my mailing address was correct.
    me: Ah! I think I know what the problem is.
    (in addition, I discovered that his SMTP server was set to the local post office’s address. He swore to me that a technical support rep told him that those were correct… I just couldn’t believe anyone could be that cruel to such a clueless person.)
    2) I took a sales call from someone who called the tech support line by mistake. He said he was in a hurry, and was very interested in signing up. He asked me how long it would take, because the last ISP he signed up with took 50 minutes to take him through all the settings on his windows machine. I told him that if he didn’t ask any questions, and trusted me to give him all the right settings, I could have him up and running in 5 minutes.
    It took 4 minutes and 37 seconds (He apparently timed it…) to sign him up, and run inetwiz.
    3) This is as close to the actual call as I can remember.
    me: Thanks for calling [insert ISP name here] technical support, this is Matthew, how can I help you?
    her: You have got to be the stupidest person I have ever had to speak to.
    me: I’m sorry? What seems to be the trouble?
    her: Look, I don’t have time to f#ck around here. I’ve called 10 times today, and none of you dimwits can seem to help me with my problem. [insert 60-90 more seconds of abuse here] I just want to pay my bill, and get my email alias fixed.
    me: Alright, I have absolutely no problem whatsovever helping you with both of those tasks. Can I get your username, please?
    her: What did you say? You are such a disrespectful little punk! Why should I give you my username?
    me: Well, frankly ma’am, we’ve spent the first 3 minutes of this call calling me names, and pointing out how stupid my co-workers are. Despite all this, I really do want to help you. However, I need to know your username because there are 27,000 users at [ISP name here], and I can’t even begin to guess who you are without some more clues.
    her: Where did you learn to communicate with people? Because you really suck at it.
    me: (I almost told her the truth.. I went to CSU Sacramento, studied interpersonal communication, and graduated on the dean’s list, w/ a 3.5). I’m sorry you feel that way. The longer we spend insulting my education, and intelligence, the longer it will take to get your problem solved.
    her: Now you listen to me, you little shit. I am going to give you my credit card number, and the expiration date, and you’re going to write it down, and then walk over to the billing department, and hand them the slip of paper, and tell those dummies to renew my account like they should have done automatically. Don’t say anything except “yes ma’am,” or I’m cancelling my account, and complaining about you to your supervisor.
    me: yes ma’am.
    her: Good. Here is my credit card number… Now you better do this, or I’ll have you fired so fast, your head will spin.*click*
    and she hung up, so all I have is a credit card, and I don’t even know who this lady was. Her number had caller-id blocking, so I couldn’t look her account up by her phone number…
    I held onto that credit card number for a long time. I never heard back from her. I thought for a long time about posting it on 30 or 40 different random BBS’s, but I decided that would be a bad idea. I just shredded it.

  7. I work tech support at an univeristy…and I have since 1995. My favorite story is when I was still getting my feet wet at the beginning.
    CallerXY:Um…I think that someone is hacking into my computer.
    ME: Ok. Why do you think this?
    CallerXY: Well, when I type on my computer, someone else types something different.
    ME: Ummm…ok. Can you be more specific…what do you mean typing something else (thinking maybe they have changed the language on their computer).
    CallerXY: Well, when I type in my email password I see signs of the zodiac instead.
    ME: Signs of the zodiac? That is weird…what kind of signs of the zodiac?
    CallerXY: Um like stars in constallations.
    ME: Stars in constallations? (befuddled).
    CallerXY: Yeah…it is really starting to freak me out. Maybe someone is stalking me? Do you think I should call the police?
    ME: Well, do you think that you may have clicked on something that changed the language of your keyboard?
    CallerXY: um…no the only thing I have done recently is installed the school’s email program.
    It took me forever…but I finally discovered that her signs of the zodiac where really the astricks (****) that the email program puts in the password field to protect your password….DUH.

  8. My favourite support story was when I was doing internal company support for a place I was working. It was easy enough, but sometimes soul-destroying. Examples: The CEO calls me one day and says his mouse has stopped working. I go to his office, and the mouse is in about four pieces. It looks like it has plaster chips on it. I glance across the office to the wall nearest the desk. There is a mouse shaped dent in the wall. the CEO tells me that he tried banging it to make it work. I say nothing and replace the mouse… A little later he asks me to upgrade his MS-Word 2 to MS-Word 6. I do so. About 3 days later he phones to complain that his PC is running slow. I check and can’t see anythiung running slow. He tells me that Word is taking about 2 minutes to start up. I tell him that Word 6 is like that. He tells me “It’s version 6. Its supposed to be smaller and faster”. I guess he listened too much to the sales guy.
    Same place… I was supposed to be the network manager, but the tools that managed the network wouldn’t run on the 286 I was given. After about 18 months of requesting a faster PC I was told that I was getting a 486 with 256mb. Exactly enough to do the job. The PC arrives in, and I get a call to pick it up. I go to where the PC should be. There is a crappy 386, with 32mb of memory, a hard disk and a memory stick. I tell the person that this isn’t my 486. She says “No, Steve (VP) took that and left this”. I go to my manager who is about as useless as a chocolate teapot. He tells me that Steve wanted a better PC so he ordered an upgrade for his 386 and it came in at the same time as my pc, so he took it instead and left his old PC. Tells me that it *might* work. (It doesn’t). Worst of all is that all Steve uses the PC for is for a telnet client to read his email. He could have used a VT102 and still had the same functionality.

  9. This one is far enough down so that no one will read it, but….
    I used to be a cable guy. Not an installer mind you, but the guy who ran customer service for a large cable provider in Los Angeles. I smartened up and left the business many years ago, if for no other reason than that you can never tell anyone what you do for a living becuase they’ll complain to YOU, even though you have nothing to do with their cable problems.
    EVERYBODY hates the cable company.
    Among calls from subscribers I can recall (and these include some fairly savvy Hollywood people):
    1) Complaining their TV doesn’t work during a power outage.
    2) Complaining about the sex on soap operas.
    3) Complaining about the sexual content in David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet”, and movie you would have had to PAY VOLUNTARILY to watch.
    4) Complaining that their audio was spanish on the english language stations.
    5) One of my favorites: “I didn’t pay the bill in full becaue Idon’t watch TV all the time”
    6) People get irratoinal about TV – one time we experienced problem with some vandals and lost reception in the hills above Los Angeles. Yes, that was bad. Yes, we worked hard to fix it. Yes, we explained it to everyone, who assumed it was our fault. Yes, we took responsibility for it. Yes, that was a high-profile attourney who threw a potted fern through the front window of our office.
    It’s okay to hate the cable people. They hate you too.
    My favorite moment (realizing I had sold my soul for far too long) was when a fellow employee, on his last day, on his last call, got a very DENSE person on the phone. I can still remember his words clearly: “Okay, I think I understand the problem. Now I want you to take the cable that runs from the cable box to the TV and unhook it. Yes, that’s right. Now – I want you to take that cable and – can you hear me? – ah, good. Take that cable and shove it up your ass… did that solve the problem? No? Well, bear down…”

  10. 2 years DSL tech support, now i’m an instructor for DSL provisioning.. is this my reward? noooo….
    OK, tech support tale:
    I once got this cheeseball on the phone, said that he couldn’t get one of his systems to download files very well, even though his DSL was ‘working perfectly’. “My desktop system downloads just great, but the laptop isn’t doing so hot.” I had him do the usual ‘reboot the system and try again’ schtick, and while we were waiting for the laptop to boot up, I asked him if he could also power down the DSL modem as well. He says “its an internal modem, how do I do that?”
    Wait wait… we don’t sell internal DSL equipment for laptops. What’s up?
    “Sir, do you have an internal DSL modem, or external?”
    “Well, I have an external modem attached to the desktop, but we can’t use that one for the laptop.”
    I asked why not, we should just be able to plug it into the Ethernet port like any other system.
    “Well, we could, but I’m calling from a hotel, so we have to use the internal modem, it’s all I have.”
    Turns out this guy expected his DSL to follow him around wherever he went on his business trips… he was so heartbroken when I told him he’d have to put up with dialup speeds from hotels….

  11. Being such a TNG fan I was really excited to discover Wil’s homepage. But I was really disappointed- Wil is a complete geek!!!
    Also, did anyone check out the Surreal Life on tv? Corey is in it and he had some stuff to say about Wil. I guess the two are not on amicable terms.

  12. I’ve never actually worked tech support before, but I might as well have.
    My parents often like to talk about their kids and what they’re doing. My mom, in particular, tells her friends about how her son is a web developer and really great with computers.
    Before I knew it, I started getting phone calls from her friends about their broken computers. One was suffering because her son had deleted all of her Quicken files after “backing them up”, but the backup disk was blank. “Is there any way to get them back?”
    Not much later, I started getting phone calls from random people in my parents’ neighborhood. My parents knew the people, but were better described as acquaintances, if that. At that point, I gave them five minutes of my time, then told them to try the local computer store’s support department.
    Then, finally, one night, about 3am, the phone rang. Fortunately, at that time, I was working nights because I loved not having to deal with distractions. (For the record, that’s “distractions” in the general sense, not just random tech support phone calls.)
    Person: “Ohmigod, Chris, thank God you’re home! My computer is not working. I can’t get onto the Internet!”
    I didn’t recognize the voice, but I figured if they were calling at 3am and knew my name, they had to know me. So I gave it a shot. Modem wasn’t functioning, wasn’t responding internally. I tried every trick I could come up with, but couldn’t get it to respond. (It sounded like his modem was fried.) I gave up and told him to check with the local computer store. Finally, I got to the important question:
    Me: “By the way, who are you?”
    We spent ten minutes trying to bridge the link. We went through friends’ names, social groups, etc. Nada.
    Finally, he admits, “All I did was open my day planner and it said: ‘For computer help, call Chris’ with your number.”
    The next day, I told my parents to never tell any of their friends that I was “good with computers” ever again.

  13. I supported laptop computers at one time. I had a caller that insisted that the problem could be resolved by fixing the config.sys or autoexec.bat file. I told him that his system needed to be sent in for repair.
    He continued to argue with me for about 20 minutes and then his laptop computer went up in smoke. That is when he agreed that it needed to go in for repair.

  14. I currently work for a Help Desk. I get about 10 of these type of calls everyday! They vary from the 80 year old lady that calls everyday because she forgot her password. To the housewife you try to get to turn off her computer but doesn’t know where the powerbutton is, or what I am talking about when I say on her computer. Apperently, she only bought a monitor that has no buttons or switches on it. I guess she turns in on with telepathy!
    And of course the teenager that is wondering why her speakers are not working. I guess she forgot to buy them at the store because she doesn’t have any. Then comes the but I have been hearing music while on the computer. I guess the voices in her head are not the only thing she is hearing!!!
    God save the Tech Support Agents!

  15. OK I never posted on here til now… I always enjoyed reading the website, but never thought I had much to contribute… until now.
    I worked for Bellsouth for over a year doing tech support for their DSL lines. What a chore that was.
    Out of all the horrible calls I had.. one stands out in particular. Much like the cartoon, the man was a “Network Administrator” (i use it in all caps loosely), and I was a peon. He swore we sent him the wrong modem, and began verbally abusing me.. which I took. Why you ask? Because I knew I was right and I couldn’t wait to prove this guy wrong. He wouldn’t tech support with me at all.. but I finally convinced him that because I’m not there.. I obviously can’t see whats going on and he has to be my eyes. He agreed.
    To make a long tech support call short.. it basically came down to this. We gave him a router, but they couldn’t hook it up to the computers and make sure it runs because he’s the *horn blows* “Network Administrator” and he can do it himself. I’m dancing around the punchline huh? Well.. he was plugging the cat5 cable into his regular dial-up modem (oh yes.. somehow he made it fit.. I dont think I want to know how), and he complained that the modem we gave him (the NICs) were the wrong type and demanded a refund.
    I set him straight. He felt like an ass.
    It was a good day. :)

  16. My favourite acronym from my tech support days:
    “Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard”!
    We used that one A LOT!!

  17. Ben – “First, imagine a lab full of Mac SEs, all loaded with the obligatory fireworks screensaver. (AfterDark 1.0, perhaps?) Now imagine clueless users who’ve never seen a screensaver…”
    Sounds like the screensaver in question is Pyro. (If you care. LOL.)

  18. Here are some funny tech stories that I got from a newsletter. I thought you would like them.
    Clue, Clue, Who’s Got A Clue?
    Nontechie IT director insists on doing the first interview with every
    technical job applicant — “to determine their technical competence,”
    says database manager pilot fish. “He interviewed one application
    development candidate for 25 minutes before realizing that he had
    grabbed the wrong person in the lobby.” His first clue? When the
    interviewee — who was actually applying for a data-entry job — told
    him, “I’ve never written a program, but I would like to someday.”
    Could Be
    Self-proclaimed computer guru calls consultant pilot fish with a
    problem: He reset the main server, but now he’s being bombarded with
    error messages telling him that none of the services on the server will
    run. Fish hurries in to diagnose the problem. “The system logs are all
    pointing to possibly an incorrect log-on on the server,” he says.
    be guru interrupts: “Would it have anything to do with us changing the
    Now What?
    Users in local newspaper’s advertising department receive e-mails
    telling them they have a virus and instructing them to delete certain
    files. “We’ve warned our users about these hoax e-mails,” says support
    pilot fish, “but three of them deleted the files, disabling their
    machines. Then they called a tech.” Fish patiently explains that the
    messages are a hoax and restores the files. But minutes later he gets
    another call from one of the users. “I just got that message again in
    my e-mail,” user tells him. “What do I do?”
    Mail Call
    Local tech-support pilot fish walks into the office at 7:00 one
    morning to find the entire network down, 70 people unable to work, and
    the boss in a frenzy. Didn’t the network control center contact you?
    the boss asks. No, says fish — no page and no call or voice mail on
    home, office or cell phones. Boss calls network control to find out why
    no one warned fish sooner. Sighs fish, “They informed him that they did
    not see the need to call me, since they sent me an e-mail explaining
    that the LAN was down.”
    Unclear on the Concept
    Irate customer calls this bank’s customer service center when he can’t
    connect to the Web site. Pilot fish apologizes and explains that
    there’s a technical problem with the server. But the site should be
    back up within an hour, he says. “Whenever it’s unavailable like that,”
    customer tells fish, “you should post a ‘Temporarily Out of Order’ page
    on the server so customers will know and not have to call customer

  19. Years ago, I was the tech support/repair geek for a small computer sales and service place. A customer came in with his computer – the hard drive had died. I explained to him that yes, the hard drive would be replaced, since he was still under warranty, but everything that he had stored on the dead drive was gone. I then received a bit of verbal tirade about how everything important he had ever done was stored on the (dead) drive, and it *must* be transferred to the new drive. I asked if he had ever backed up his data (we always told customers to backup early and often, even giving a free “computers 101″ class), and he stated he didn’t have time to bother with backing up his work, and that I should just go move his work to a new drive.
    I excused myself and called a data recovery business, getting a quote faxed for for the customer. When presented with the quote (the price quoted would buy three new computers with all the bells and whistles), the customer realized that I might be telling the truth — I really couldn’t transfer his work, and that the best thing to do was backup his data before his drive died again. He then requested the new drive to be installed and (meekly) how to run the data backup program to save his work.
    At least he finally understood my position and what I could and could not do for him – I’ve too many instances of folks who bluntly refused to understand that there is a limit to what can and can’t be done to fix their hardware/software problems, and that abuse of the tech doesn’t speed up the repair (or reduce the final cost).

  20. My techsupport calls are boring compared to some of the really great ones I read here. I do know what mister “God is afraid of me” sounds like. If only they knew how much ego a tech support person has to eat through every day. To all techs out there : don’t let the bad fastards get to you!
    This is one I heard a techsupport guy do to Miss Clueless one day. I’ve done it a couple of times myself, goes something like this :
    Salesperson: I’m sorry you have to wait so long to pay with your credit card. The machine can be infuriatingly slow sometimes. We almost couldn’t get through yesterday.
    I : You know why that is ?
    Salesperson : Er… no ?
    I : See the cables and wires here ?
    Salesperson : Uhuh.
    I : Do you see where the installers bent the cables to neatly follow the outline of the furniture so they wouldn’t be in the way ?
    Salesperson : Sure.
    I : Now, you know computerdata is binary right ?
    Salesperson : Guess so.
    I : Well, what happens is this, binary data is 1s and 0s. The 0s go through the wires without a problem because they’re round, yes ?
    Salesperson : Ok.
    I : Now, the 1s are sticky-like and when they hit a bend in the wiring, they sometimes get jammed. If there’s much information being transmitted you get a jam, what we call lag, on your system. But actually, it’s the 1s that get stuck in the bends in the wires.
    Salesperson : OOOOOOOHHHHH ! Is that right ? I never knew that. Thanks for telling me!
    I’m not making this stuff up. Honest to Betsy. They really buy that. It’s just scary to think you can tell that to people with a straight face and they’ll just nod their heads. What the bleep is wrong with our education system ?

  21. I’m suprised that I’ve made it all the way to the end and didn’t run into any of the following. Both of which come from my beloved father.
    Saturday Morning Dad calls from the office.
    Dad: Hey, I need your help, somethings wrong with my computer and there’s no one at the help desk this morning.
    Me: Ok, what’s the problem?
    Dad: My computer won’t turn on. I keep pressing the power button but nothing happens.
    Me: Do you see a light on the computer near the power button?
    Dad: Yes.
    Me: Do you see a light on the Monitor, that TV looking thing?
    Dad: I see a black dot next to the button, but it’s not glowing.
    Me: Press the button.
    Dad: Hey, There it is!!!!
    Second quick story, one day my Dad called the Help Desk because he couldn’t get on the internet, so they asked him if he could access the local company intranet but he wasn’t sure how to do it. So the tech told him to open Internet Explorer and type in the address into the address bar. In my dad’s defense, he typed in exactly what the tech told him to…..
    I’ve been doing tech support for my company for over a year, but my dad’s calls are still the most fun.

  22. Sorry to post again (not really), but I have to say that working in a university computer lab, there is much fun to be had with print queues. Three quick stories:
    1) Shortly after I started, one night I saw that all three of our line printers were going gangbusters — I wasn’t getting anything else done because I kept having to add paper. This annoyed the steady stream of people coming in to ask where their printouts were (“Somewhere in one of these three piles.”), so eventually I just let one sit empty while I checked the print queue.
    Many jobs from one user. Many LARGE jobs from one user. And several dozen little jobs stacked up behind them. This user became my newest enemy.
    Fortunately, the solution was simple; I just lowered the threshold on two of the three printers to the point where none of her BIG files could print on them, and let the smaller jobs spool through on those, while the third printer kept doggedly churning away.
    She was NOT happy when she came in and I told her, cheerfully, that her jobs would probably take the rest of the night to print (and this was after I opened a second printer queue back up to her BIG jobs, too).
    2) Same lab. Shiny new laser printer — printing on it was more expensive, but obviously it was better-quality than the line printers. One day, I notice a steady stream of users looking for laser printouts and not finding them (see the theme?). I check the laser queue, to discover that some yutz is printing a massive (200-plus-page) printout, in the middle of the day — a printout which turned out to be, when I looked at it, homebrew beer recipes.
    I *really* wanted to cancel that job and claim that the daemon ate it, but my supervisor said no. I did get to write him a very nasty note, however, about peak usage times and courtesy for one’s fellow users (along with “We’ve posted your user ID in all the labs, and if you ever tie up a printer like this again for personal printing during business hours, your account will be terminated pursuant to usage rules,” which did not please him in the slightest).
    3) Engineering computer lab this time, where I worked tending the two line printers on Tuesday afternoons from 1 until it closed at 5. All the EE majors had big computer projects due each week. On Tuesday. At 5.
    “First come, first served” became my mantra. If you left the lab for *any* reason, you risked losing your workstation to one of the people signed up on the waiting list. (I think I saw at least one guy pee in a Coke bottle to avoid leaving the room.) Worst, the line printers in this lab were hideously unreliable, and on this one particular day, only one was working.
    Guy runs in about 4:55, looks for his printout. Not there. Asks me to check the printer queue. I inform him that I had shut off the queue at 4:45, but that his job will be printed — it’s currently about 16th in the queue, and I expect to see it around 5:20. (I was being nice that day and staying late.)
    This answer does not fill him with glee that he got into the queue at all. No. He asks me to top-queue his job, because “If I don’t get this assignment in by 5:00, the prof will flunk me!” I give him my best “Eat shit and have a nice day” grin and point toward the terminals, where a couple of dozen people are frantically typing (and sending their printouts half a mile down the street to the 24/7 lab, where the operators aren’t assholes who shut off the queue 15 minutes before the lab closes). “Tell you what. If you can get everyone in that room to agree that your job should be top-queued, I’ll do it. Otherwise, I suggest you print it at [lab down the street], where they have three working printers, not one. And run. Really fast.”

  23. I worked for several years as a manager of a consumer electronics store. I won’t say the name here, but they were owned by a company that sold computers that rhymed with “CANDY” Get it?
    I loved the one where a woman who owned her own business bought a computer from me. Later that week she complained that the computer didn’t work and was going to return it. After asking what was wrong, she told me that the spreadsheet was not working. It was not accepting her data. After several minutes of going through what she was doing I decided I needed to actually see the computer. She said that if she had to bring her computer to the store it would only be to return it. SO being the “nice guy” that I am. I drove out to her company. I tried the spreadsheet and it worked for me. (OF COURSE) Then she tried it and it would not work. Then it was my turn. Then her turn. Luckily, I looked down at how she was typing the data. She was using the letter “l” for the number 1. She told me that that was how she typed on her circa 1960’s Smith Corona typewriter. I showed her the 1 key and to use it from now on. She actually did not belive me at first. But she tried it and “wadda ya know” it worked. But then she got pissed that she had to learn how to use MY keyboard and then asked if any other computers had the same keyboard as her old typewriter. Really stupid people cause long stories.
    That was what I call an ESO problem. “Equipment Superior to Operator.”
    I loved this one.
    I got a call from a customer that had just bought a computer not even an hour prior to calling. He could not figure out the picture showing how to hook up the modem.
    I told him to disconnect his telephone from the wall and plug it into the modem port with the little picture of the phone and then run the supplied phone cable from the other modem port back to the wall.
    HIM: “Ok, so I unplug the phone from the wa…*click*” *sigh*
    From time to time I get some very odd questions concerning electronic devices..this was the topper.
    An elderly couple came in and asked me if it was possible to secretly install a wireless speaker in someones home. At the time wireless speakers were quite cumbersome and I showed them what they looked like.
    They swore that someone has been talking to them on a regular basis THROUGH THEIR WALLS of their bedroom. They could not make out what they were saying but they knew it was some sort of prank because they would hear the person laughing.
    They even told me that they had spent over “$2000.00″ ripping out the drywall to find where the voice was coming from!
    I tried to humor them as much as possible.
    They turned away from me as I had another customer. They consoled eachother as they waited patiently for me.
    The customer I was helping wanted to see these “talking watches” that he heard about. I showed him the best one we had. It even crowed like a rooster when the alarm goes off.
    As soon as I pressed the button to make the rooster sound the elderly couple turned to me in fright.
    “That’s the sound we’ve been hearing!!”
    “Where is it coming from???!!!!”
    I held up the watch to show him.
    “Hey, I’ve got a watch just like tha…”
    He quickly shut up and turned bright as his wife burst out laughing.
    Apparently, he forgot that he had the same watch and left it in his dresser drawer.
    The laughter he was hearing was the rooster crowing.
    That got the biggest laugh at that weeks manager’s meeting.
    I’m so glad that I don’t work in retail sales anymore.

  24. Oh brother. If you think the guy from User Friendly’s bad, try dealing with actual Ivy League professors. They’re all brains and no common sense or capacity to listen due to thier concieved infallibility. I swear the Profs at Temple and Drexel aren’t HALF the pains in the ass as UPenn.

  25. I’ve been on the otherside of the phone with a jackass at Tech support. I needed to fix my dad’s email program (Eudora at the time) – now, I knew the ins and outs of Eudora quite well, but it wouldn’t work. So I called a guy at their internet service company for help. He mumbled something and I asked “What?” and he then said really slowly like I was the dumbest person in the world…”OPEN EUDORA.” I managed to keep my cool and not tell him what to go do with himself. After listening to him to tell me what to do (I had already done everything he said) he couldn’t figure it out either. I almost called the guy’s manager back and told him that he would be better off if he removed that fool from the customer service line. Not everyone calling tech support is completely inept and they certainly don’t deserve to be treated as such.

  26. Well, I was working tech suport for @HOME when I got this call from a sweet old lady…she had just gotten a new computer delivered to her house and was setting it up. She had everything set up but couldn’t figure out how to get the pointer moving on her screen.
    I told her that there should have been a pointing device(aka a mouse) that came with the computer. She said that there wasn’t one so I described it to her. She whent “Oooooh…the foot pedal.” She thought it was like her sewing machine…I put her on hold for a moment to keep from giggling before I explained to her that that was the pointing device and should be set on her desk top so she can move the pointer around with her hand.

  27. Oh, lord. I’ve done tech support for three years, most of it as a supervisor, and there are some absolute nutters out there. Bear in mind, I was originally dialup support only, then cable modem support, and now I’m a supervisor for all the broadband products we handle – dialup, cable modem, telephony, and cable tv…
    There was the older gent who called me one night to ask why we were monitoring his Internet use. Um, we’re not. “Well, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, there’s nothing wrong with these horse-racing websites.” Of course not, sir, who said there was? “Well, I was at this site, and this mesage popped up, something about illegal action, and everything shut down! What gives you people the right to -” Um. That’s not us, that’s Internet Explorer, and it’s nothing to do with the legality of horseracing over the internet… Took me ten minutes, but I explained, he got it, had the sense of humour to laugh at himself, and went back to playin’ the ponies.
    And then the English teacher who called in a panic – she had killed her computer. Killed it how, exactly? “Well, I was looking at this website, not really doing anything, and I got a popup about a fatal error, and I didn’t know what to do or what I’d done…” I explained that literal-mindedness is not always a virtue when dealing with computers, and sent her back to her research (read: Bejewelled).
    Then there are the crazies who call us agitated because they’ve gotten disconnect notices. Well, indeed, it is unreasonable of your broadband provider to expect you to pay your bill, especially with any kind of consistency. How long past due are you? 6 months and $2000? And you say your old provider never shut you off when things got to this state? I suggest a return to them, because frankly, you should have been shut down at least three months ago. I will take your complaints a lot more seriously when you no longer owe more on your bill than I pay for two months’ rent.
    And being a woman in tech support is such a joy. Being the first woman in our call center’s cable modem group was even better. I can’t count how many times people called and asked me to put them through to a tech, as if I were a switchboard. Sure, the guys here in the call center treated me as an equal, they made a real effort to teach me everything they knew – they were, and still are, better techs than I will ever be, but they really did what they could for me. (Neil G, if you’ve read down this far, bless your evil little heart – I think I still owe you an apple pie from that AOL user with TCP/IP issues and my personal email address in her address book, two years ago…) But the customers – and it wasn’t all men, either! That was the bit that really griped me: I’d have professional women – teachers, doctors, lawyers, office managers, business owners – who would call, hear a female voice on the phone, and ask for a ‘real’ technician. Gah. It’s enough to make a girl bite the head off her plush Cthulhu.
    Yes, there are some total ‘tards working our end of the phones as well. The CCNA at our NOC who, when confronted with a ticket stating that all the modems on a given Cisco router were unable to grab IPs asked, “Can you please confirm that this customer’s modem is turned on?” Well, pal, they don’t try to grab IPs, successfully or not, if they’re turned off. I may be a chick, but I know that much. The guy who informed a customer that all he had to do to move a cable modem from one room to another was just do it – don’t worry about jack activation or anything, sure, just plug that sucker in anyplace, and it’ll be *just fine*. The girl in email support who blows off doing actual work by responding to every email she gets with a request for ‘more details’ (and whose annual performance reviews happen to be done by her longtime best friend, who is also her supervisor, which is why she’s still in email support…).
    ::sigh:: What the hell, I’m indoors, I’m salaried, I have a nifty Aeron chair, my own desk featuring a bobbling-head ‘Ash’ and a laser printer, I can wear ratty blue jeans and concert t-shirts to work (especially since I moved to overnights and the managers never ever see me), and the people I work with are, by and large, among the nicest, smartest, overall coolest people I know. (You can tell – they’re largely WWDN fans!)

  28. Not only was I in tech support, I became the Dirty Harry” of our callback team. It was Dell support. I was the one who got the callbacks where people could not, or would not cooperate. I got everything, from the guy whose palm pilot kept frying the serial port on his motherboards, to the little old lady who just got her system and needed to get a little assurance that she was doing things right, but had such a gruff disposition that nobody wanted to handle her issues. Almost all had one thing in common: They needed to be told to let go and let me handle the problem. most issues were either an easy fix, or a walkthrough to find the problem. One time there was a customer that had three previous techs had not gotten the customer to ‘crack the case’ or open the computer up for a quick look, and reseat any parts. Quite literally, the mentors and managers were taking bets on whether I could get him to crack the case… I talked to the customer, assured him that it was both standing procedure, and part of the contract, for him to open the case uner my guidance. He did, and was quite happy about the results. I had the respect and admiration of all the crew, as well as a couple of bene’s for a job well done…

  29. Two years as ISP tech support … a couple of gems …
    Me: “Now, sir, can you put your Windows CD in the drive?”
    Luzer: “Sure.”
    Me: “Now, I want you to click ‘OK'”
    Luzer: “When I try to close the drive, it won’t close. I push down the lever to close it, and it won’t work. Did you want me to put it in the drive that says ‘CD-ROM’ instead?”
    It was the 5-1/4″ drive.
    ‘Nutter story:
    Now, at one point, we switched from sending out Nutscrape to Internet Exploder. We changed our Windows 3.x setup last, and sometimes, we needed to send out Nutscrape because the MSIE kit didn’t work right on Win3xx. Fucking Microsoft couldn’t make things work on its own fucking OS.
    Anyhow, a luzer wanted to know how to telnet to his library, and he had to download a telnet client. So he could download one, I had to find out which software we had sent the luzer, and I didn’t phrase the question well. My badly-worded question, however, did lead to an interesting talk:
    Me: “Now, which software are you using?”
    Luzer: “I’m not using any software.”
    Me: “You’re not using any software? How are you connecting to the Internet?”
    Luzer: “You’re connecting me. You’re my Internet Service Provider.”
    Me: “Did we send you any software?”
    Luzer: “No, you didn’t send me any software.” (he’s starting to become upset I can’t think down to his level) “You know, Charlie, could you put someone else on the phone?”
    Me: (not letting some fucking luzer tell I couldn’t connect his retard ass) “Did we send you three disks?” (this is the days when burning was too expensive for us … or our owner was too cheap)
    Luzer: “Yes, you sent me three disks, but you didn’t send me any software!”
    Me: “Then how are you connecting to the Internet?”
    Luzer: “You’re connecting me. You’re my Internet Service Provider. Charlie, maybe you should put someone else on the phone …”
    Me: (NOW I ask the luzer what I want to know in the right words) “Are you using Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator?”
    Luzer: “Internet Explorer.”
    The dumb fuck was in some sort of computer class. We had so much trouble with that guy …
    I had another frequent flyer who was the sysadmin of some local business and liked to tell us that she had been using computers since we were in diapers. True, but she hadn’t been using them right, since she was too dumb to make two modems connect. I had one guy who tried telling me that his 29 years of data processing (going back to punch cards!) was enough to tell me that he had diagnosed all our network problems and that his connection problems were due to our network problems (the network was working fine at this point). The sysadmins, truth be told, were the worst. If a sysadmin called me and asked for anything more than phone numbers, IP addresses, luzernames and passwords, then he showed himself to be a total fucking retard. We were responsible for babysitting so many fucking LANs.
    Consultants were another problem. I had one nice lady whose consultant had scared her to the point where she could not put a floppy disk in her floppy drive without calling him and paying $45. This consultant was taking advantage of a nice but ignorant woman and living better than I was, and I was really helping her client.
    There was one lady who constantly changed everything, and then called me and expected to have me fix it. Nice lady, but totally clueless. I lucked out in the end — we merged with another ISP, and the call load was so great that she called me, and she was so deep in the queue that by the time I could call her back, she had cancelled since I had yet to respond.

  30. Hi. Not sure if you’ve seen this before (not a regular reader), but Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie has some really good tech support humor. They have a Quicktime video of their Internet Help Desk performance, which is classic, and a bunch of other geek comedy videos and animations.
    Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie
    Internet Help Desk
    Every OS Sucks

  31. will you please email me back, i just browsed and saw your name and it said that you used to be a dell tech support. and right now, emailing you to help is my best thing to have a temporary relief. i accidently spilled some water onto my laptop (by dell) and the keyboard isn’t working, everything else seems to work fine tho. please help.. i cant take it to dell and have them change it cause i have no warranty, i got the computer used. please email me back at… [email protected] thank you sooooooooo much.

Comments are closed.