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ę Libros Muchos | Main | A Very Special Episode . . . Ľ

January 12, 2003

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?

Posted by wil at January 12, 2003 10:34 AM
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Posted by: Nobody at January 12, 2003 10:35 AM

what???? the second to post? ok time to read the link. bbl

Posted by: william at January 12, 2003 10:39 AM

I did 4 years as tesch support for an ISP.. Ugh.. I could have made a fortune if I just invest in an asprin company! I'd be rich I tell you!!

But yeah, I have had calls like that before. One that I really remember, a lady needed her new computer hooked up. Kept getting a no dial tone error. Got her to finally realize that the cord wasn't plugged in and she couldn't find the one that came with the computer. I asked if she had another one in the house. She said yes. I told her to get it and plug in it where it says Line or Telco on the back of the computer. She said she did, but wanted to know what to do with the phone on the other end of the cord.

Posted by: MobbyG at January 12, 2003 10:53 AM

I have a Compaq that is about four years old. Recently the CD-ROM drive died, and since it was just before the 3 year warranty expired, I called Compaq tech support to request a repairman. The tech support lackey who "helped" me was, to say the least, very UN-helpful. "First we'll check to see if your computer is running at less than 80%. If it is, then all you have to do is close some programs and we'll see if that helps." Sez me, "Look, I know you're going down your techie-support sheet, but this is not a software problem. This is a hardware problem. The CD-ROM is NOT SPINNING." But, he insisted, so we went through the rigarmarole, which of course didn't work. Next was getting me to empty my cache, which I did NOT want to do and I told him so point blank. He said, "This will fix your problem." I said, "No, it will not. This is a HARDWARE problem and emptying my Internet cache won't do a damn thing. You need to get to the part where you send a repairman to my house to fix my **** CD-ROM." Then the nasty bugger really cheesed me off. He said, "Ma'am, we can do it YOUR way, or we can do it the RIGHT way." I slammed the phone down and called my local computer guy, who said "Yep, it's a hardware problem and I can fix it for you for $30." Those Compaq people are.... grrr. Buggers.

Posted by: RaeAnne at January 12, 2003 10:53 AM

My god this first post thing is tiresome.

I hate customer tech support. When i had a part-time job in electrical retail i would tell customers to call me and save their £1/min fee.

and thats how i got my first Halo.



oooh go here www.thebrainstrust.com. Like the onion but british.

Sorry for the awful post.

Posted by: EnglishBen at January 12, 2003 10:54 AM

I have 8 years tech support from software to hardware from end user software to server and ISP support. I am microsoft certified.

Feel free to contact me.


Posted by: James Wilkins at January 12, 2003 10:55 AM

Agree on the first post thing. I need to make a filtr like the one at Fark.

Posted by: wil at January 12, 2003 10:56 AM

I only WISH I had such an experience to share with you, but it's kinda hard to have a bad or pleasant tech experience if one cannot use the phone, you know what I mean? It's kinda like, I dunno, when my friends talk about music this, or music that, I always look at them with so much envy. *sigh* Oh well, at least it's not raining here this morning. Peace, out.

Posted by: MISERABLEmissy at January 12, 2003 10:56 AM

Sorry i meant www.Thebrainstrust.co.uk

*Puts on Doofus hat*

Posted by: EnglishBen at January 12, 2003 10:58 AM

I used to build computers for a living (ah, remember the early nineties?). I sold one guy a new sound-card, and offered to install it for him, free of charge. Simple installation, no big deal.

He declined, insisting that he was an expert in computer hardware. He'd be taking care of it himself.

Doofus plugged the analog audio-input plug (the one that normally plugs into the back of the CD-ROM drive) into the FLOPPY-POWER PLUG FROM THE POWER SUPPLY.

Turned his computer on.

Smoke and fire.

Came back with his computer asking if there was anything we could do. Turns out, he destroyed EVERY PART IN HIS COMPUTER. There was nothing that was workable. Nothing.

Two thousand dollar 486-50 (hey, it was the nineties) down the drain 'cause chalked up to the dreaded I-know-what-I'm-doing syndrome.

Posted by: Fraize at January 12, 2003 11:07 AM

Ah, yes, the joys of tech support. I worked in tech support for a DSL company. I don't have any particular stories, but I do have to say that people calling in found it hard to believe that a female could actually provide adequate tech support. They would get extremely pissed at me when I tried to tell them how to fix their computers and their broadband. If something needed to be done that I couldn't provide at that instance (like having the lines checked or something) then of course I didn't know what I was talking about, and please put me through to the real tech support, honey. Grrr.

Posted by: Heidi at January 12, 2003 11:09 AM

Funny. I did tech support for an ISP and for Dell hardware for a little over 2 years. I seem to have blocked the whole thing out of my brain. So, I can't really give you any of my stories.

Posted by: constance at January 12, 2003 11:11 AM

Dell has the best tech support!!! Anyways I do not think i had any bad tech support problems in the past thank god! Anyways when a woman picks up the phone I just thank god i hate talking to guys on the phone for tech support lol i dont know they just make me nervous LOL.

Posted by: Steve Z at January 12, 2003 11:16 AM

Back when I started school, I was one of the tech support people for the campus. One year we had just completed wiring all of the dorm rooms to the network, when I received a call from the Helpdesk stating that one of the students was having difficulties connecting to the network.

I went through the normal spiel of setting up the appropriate DNS, etc., but still no luck, so I used the old computers science motto K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid). I asked her if she had the network cable plugged in and her response was, that yes, see did indeed have the cable plugged into to her computer and into the wall, but she had to use tape to keep it plugged in "because the hole in the wallís too big." You see, she had tried to connect her computer's modem to the room's network jack.

If you want some more, go here:


Posted by: Eric at January 12, 2003 11:23 AM

When I was doing tech support for Snappy, we had a customer that was legendary. Now, for those of you who don't remember Snappy, it was a parallel port device that let you take snapshots from any video device. Plug Snappy into your parallel port, connect your camcorder or VCR to Snappy, run the software, and go. Simple? Evidently not to this guy.

Anyway, the call went as follows:

"Snappy Tech support, may I help you?"

"My Snappy is not taking any pictures."

"It doesn't seem to be grabbing pictures? Has it ever worked for you?"

"No, it hasn't. I've been using it all weekend, and I can't get a single picture out of it. "

"Are you pushing the SNAP button in the

"Well, I'm starting by pushing the big blue SNAPPY button, and then I run the software. I even tried mounting it onto a tripod. You know, you guys sure missed the boat by not putting a tripod mount on the bottom of the thing."

??? This really got my curiosity up. There isn't a "Big blue button" anywhere in the software. And mounting the Snappy on a tripod?!

"Sir, could you describe for me exactly how you are using the Snappy?"

"Sure, I'm pointing the little gold pins at what I want to take a picture of, clicking the blue button in the Snappy, and then I plug the thing into my computer. The pictures never come out! It's broken!"

See - he was pointing the parallel port plug like it was a camera lens, and expecting pictures to come out. The blue SNAPPY button was the battery cover. Another classic case of RTFM.

Posted by: Raschied at January 12, 2003 11:31 AM

I used to work for Mattel Interactive's Tech Support, for all of 2 weeks. In those two weeks, i probably have 20 stories. Just insane. My personal favorite remains the lady that called me saying that her 3 year old daughter had put glue all over the Barbie CD and wanted to know why it wouldn't work after she cleaned it.

Problem was she used a steel wool pad to get it off. //forehead smack

To paraphrase Clerks, This planet would be great if it weren't for the damn customers.


Posted by: Chris @ TFN at January 12, 2003 11:36 AM

I've been doing tech support for 8 yrs now. I currently work for an ISP you've never heard of but will soon. (We hope.)

It's busy here, phones always ringing... the other day, however, we kept getting a call and no one would be there. Over and over and over. It wasn't a fax, because usually we can let those go to voicemail and it'll stop the fax from auto-dialing. This happens from time to time, usually not a big deal, but really, when you say "Thank you for calling ISP name, may I have your login ID?" about 20 times in 10 minutes and having no one answer, it gets annoying.

I got the bright idea to do *69, and it gave me a phone number. I called the number and a very confused sounding woman answered. I said "This is *ISP name* technical support, have you been trying to call us?"

She said "You're the voice I keep hearing in my computer! I kept trying to talk to you but you didn't answer!"

She had put our technical support phone number in her Dialup Networking connection rather than a local dialup access phone number, thinking that would get her connected to our service. She kept hearing me through her modem speaker and ask for her login ID, and kept trying to yell into her computer to answer me.

I gave her the correct local access number, but before I could show her where to enter it, she hung up, so excited that she was going to make it work.

...and then proceeded to keep dialing the tech support line from her modem.

But since I knew this, I yelled into my headset: "Ma'am, please call us back at *our phone number* so we can show you how to set this up properly."

In the meantime, my coworkers (all 2 of them) are about peeing their pants with laughter, mainly because I kept such a professional attitude. (8 years of this makes you not even laugh at people anymore! Okay... well, not till you get off the phone with them.)

After yelling this about 10 times, she finally caught on and called, and we got her straightened out.

Yes. I am "the ghost in the machine." F34R m3!

Posted by: Rasa at January 12, 2003 11:44 AM

Oh God! And how could I forget this call the other day!

"Yeah, my sewing machine won't connect to the internet."

::puzzled sound from me::

"I have a sewing machine with a modem in it, and it won't connect to your service."

Turns out, they do indeed make sewing machines with modems: http://www.berninausa.com/home.jsp

What next??

Posted by: Rasa at January 12, 2003 11:51 AM

No really funny ha-ha ones, but my most memerable one was at 3am-ish when I worked 3rd shift (years ago). Very broken english on a computer that was configured in Chinese. It was a three hour called (which wouldn't have happened during the day, but we had a low call volume). But the call ended with the problem solved, so all's well etc etc...

Posted by: DeadCat at January 12, 2003 11:55 AM

Maybe this will actually be helpful! I JUST got off the phone with HP support.
My Computer takes 5 minutes to boot...daily.
HP had me do an entire Destructive System Recovery.
It didn't work but I still had to waste the time RE-installing everything!
Now, the problem is still happening so I called again (literally 5 minutes ago, how ironic) and they told me to do the destructive system recovery AGAIN! I said it didn't work the FIRST time...so now they're sending me CD's to re-image the computer!
I have no hope this will work either but they refuse to let me SEND it IN for repair!! (they said all they would do is what they're telling ME to do)

Anyone else have this problem? Ever hear of it?
Feel free to E-mail me in order to save me some aggravation!

Posted by: buntz at January 12, 2003 11:57 AM

I used to work for this little rinky-dink (Nationwide, even!) ISP in my home town as a sysadmin/tech support guy. It's amazing all the folks who were convinced we could do more for them than AOL. Now don't get me wrong, I don't use AOL, but there are some people who should stick with it.

This one guy in particular had a big problem telling which of his mouse buttons did the right-click and which did the left click.

me: Okay, I'd like you to right-click on Network Neighborhood --

him: But I've got a 4-button mouse.

me: You have a mouse with four buttons on top?

him: No, it's got a button on the side, with the thumb.

me: Okay, so I want you to use the right-most button on the mouse, click on the Network Neighborhood icon and select Properties with the Left button.

him: But I've got a 4-button mouse? Which button is which?

That's about the time I put him on hold and transferred myself outside to cry.

Posted by: Ian at January 12, 2003 12:03 PM

Oh I have FAR too many tech support stories to share. I've been doing support for 7 years now, and am currently a level 2 tech at apple... so I not only have "stupid customer" and "tech support gone horribly wrong from the customer's perspective" stories, I also have "first level agent utterly clueless" stories.

And I would have no idea where to begin.

Posted by: Darkmoon at January 12, 2003 12:40 PM

[I enter a walmart in my home state of SC, in an attempt to return a PCI USB host adapter, receipt in hand. I proceed to the first cashier, Debbie.]

Myself: Is it possible to return this tonight mam?

Debbie: Yes anybody running a register can return it for you.

[I express gratitude and proceed to the rear of Debbieís checkout line. When my turn in line arrives, I am informed that she will have to call a CSM. Why Debbie did not call one when I first inquired about the return, I have no clue. Five minutes later Julie, a CSM arrives.]

Julie: Weíre going to have to take that to electronics to talk to Charlie about it. Come with me.

Myself: Wonderful.

[I am escorted to electronics, where I meet Charlie, the clerk running the register]

Julie: We donít take back electronics, do we Charlie? [God forbid, she would know, being a CSM]

Charlie: Well it depends, Iím not sure if that is software or not, I know we donít take back software. I canít really tell if we can take it back or not.

Julie: We are going to have to check with Amy, our store manager.

[she proceeds to make a telephone page, afterwhich Amy arrives]

Julie : Can we take back electronics?

Amy: What is it?

Julie [reading box]: A USB, easier, faster, powerful thing

Amy: a-do-what?

Julie[into phone]: you know, a fast drive, makes your computer think fasterÖ.

Amy: Ohhhh yeah yeah Iíve got two of them. Well we arenít supposed to take back any electronics, you know all the trouble weíve been having, but go ahead this time.

[Amy leaves]

Julie: well we arenít supposed to return anything like this really. Good thing you caught her in a good mood.

Myself [eyebrow raised]: ohh really?

Julie: Well weíve been having a lot of people loading up viruses on these fast drive things and then bringing them back in. That can tear up a lot of peopleís computers.

Myself: You donít say?

Charlie: Yeah I had one I got that had a virus on it. I had to throw the damned thing away. You can get them on aol too when you check your email. I got smart though, I let my sister check all my email so she can figure out which ones have viruses for me now.

Myself: ohh yeah?

Julie: Yeah my cousin got a worm on her Aol that made her computer start smokiní. I just delete any email that says reply or forward now. Those are the ones that cause all the trouble. Youíd better make sure not to open any.

Myself [extremely sarcasticly]: Ohh worry not, I just delete all of my email before I open it to be on the safe side. That is the only real way to be safe.

Julie: You know, that is a really good idea. I might have to start doing that myself.

Myself: So you must be the resident computer technician around here heh Charlie?

Charlie: Yeah everyone around here always wants me to fix their computers for them when they get a virus. Iím about to start going to school for it, but I need to get my GED first.

Myself: Well if I ever have any problems, I know whom to call now. Thanks for the help returning my Fast Drive there.

[By this point my return was completed, and I proceeded to leave electronics, feeling much more enlightened concerning computer viruses]

Posted by: Major Murphy at January 12, 2003 12:40 PM

5 years ago, while working for a now-defunct software company that made website authoring tools, I had a guy call up who didn't know how to resize a window. You know, drag the corner of the window until it's the size you want. He was *that* much a novice.
Fast-forward 3 months: he's landed a $50,000 contract from a hospital to build their website. He's still using our software (which was NOT a particularly sophisticated package).
Fifty grand, and using a $49.95 product. I really felt like I was in the wrong business.

Posted by: Mike at January 12, 2003 12:51 PM

LMAO @ Major Murphy.

Posted by: wil at January 12, 2003 12:51 PM

Oh, man ~ I just applied for a job at Stream International, which operates call-in centres for a variety of companies.
Yes, it's a last resort application.
They had me fill out a 37-page 'personality test', in which they asked some of the same questions twice. I'm sure I failed, and sort-of on purpose.

Posted by: Reena at January 12, 2003 12:51 PM

Last year I lived in an all-girl residence. For reasons that don't matter at all to this story, I didn't get the residence internet (resnet) hooked up right away. Now, for the second half of first semester, it worked pretty a-ok. Christmas break happens. I come back to find out I am _the_ only one in the entire building who doesn't seem to be on resnet. Now, after about 2 weeks of fighting with the bitch that does the tech work, I'm finally able to have somebody come in and look at the piece of crap. I tell her to come at 4, because ... it doesn't matter, really. I tell her to come at four. My classes are 30 minutes away from the residence, so at 3:30 when class gets out, I'm running to get back to res before the woman gets there and I'm not. I get there 5 to four. Four o'clock hits. 5 after 4. 10 after 4. Starting to panic, as their office is only open until 4:30. I call, and it turns out she went at a quarter to 4. I'm arguing with her on the phone and then she goes "Yeah, I have to call you back. The fire alarm is going off..." (I don't hear it, but sit tight and wait for her to call back.) So when she calls, I'm distraught and going into withdrawl without the frigging internet, and I start crying, blabbering something like "Why does this friggin' university hate me? What did I ever do to it? Blah blah blah..." Well, just so she'd never have to fight with me EVER AGAIN on the phone, she hops in her car and comes over to fix my computer, mumbling that she isn't even working anymore, and that she doesn't have to do it. Moral of the story: Crying gets me anything I want. Mum said it wouldn't work after I left home, but it looks to me like it does!

Posted by: Jessie at January 12, 2003 12:59 PM

During my first day as a system specialist in a military hospital, I got a call that their terminal was broken. This was a VT320, a dumb terminal, little more than a monitor and a keyboard and a connection to the server. How could it break?

I got down to the ward, and sure enough, the VT wasn't working. I tried everything, and the VT just sat there like a stupid brick. This took me an hour.

One of the things that I noticed was that there was a pencil sharpener plugged into the same power strip as the VT. Strangely enough, it didn't work either. I think, "now I'm getting somewhere!"

So, I crawl under the desk and follow the power strip to see where it's plugged into the wall. The power strip circles behind and to the left of the desk. I keep following it until I learn that the power strip is plugged into itself. DUH.

I can't move the desk because it's too heavy, so I call the sergeant over and explain the problem. He's the one who's been complaining about this "broken" VT for the past few days. He turns a strange shade of greenish white, and assures me that the problem will be taken care of.

I check my watch, and this "broken" VT has taken up two hours of my time. From then on, the power cord was always the first thing I checked.


PS Wil, I love your site! This is the first time I've posted, but I've been reading it for six months. You're so cool!

Posted by: Brandi at January 12, 2003 01:04 PM

I run our tech support desk, as well as pull a shift or two. I do CAD support.

Here are 3 stories, 2 are mine, 1 is my bosses:

1) I had a guy worked for me who came in one day pretty pissed off at the world. A client called in with the worst questions, i.e. wanting to be 'phone-trained'. He told the client to "box up the computer and ship it back, you're too fuc#ing stupid to run this."
He was fired.

2) I was teaching a class to a group, and we had a PhD in the class who came in late. We started with basic familiarity of the GUI, and he put up his hand. He said: "I'm having problems with this keyboard." I came over to help, thinking it was a cord or something. He said "Why isn't it in alphabetical order?" I sent him home.

3) My boss has a classic story (an incident about 10 years ago) about a guy who was buying a PC and the CAD program, but couldn't understand the difference between Hardware and Software. Finally, the boss went to the PC, started hitting it, and said "HARRRRDDDDDDDDware". He then took out a 5 1/4" floppy, grabbed the ends, bent it in his hands back and forth and said "SOFFFFFFFFFFFTTTTTWare" This end user just recently called me wanting to know where he could get a used Hercules Card for his second 13" monitor.

I wonder about folks sometimes....

Posted by: kcflatlander at January 12, 2003 01:17 PM

Heck yes. I worked as a lab monitor in a university computer lab for a year. I had people utterly convinced that the Windows dialog box "the program is not responding, it may be busy, etc." was a virus; that the Blue Screen of Death that NT4 and 2000 were so fond of doing was a virus; people printing the entire Red Hat Linux user manual on the printers and wondering why it took so long; people with masters' degrees and Ph.D candidates in engineering who could not comprehend the concept of "break up that literally thousand page print job into several smaller jobs because it causes the printer to vapor lock"; people who couldn't understand the notion of "no, I cannot bump your print job up in the queue, I don't care if you have class in five minutes - because guess what - so does EVERYONE ELSE in this lab ... and many more.

Posted by: Leah at January 12, 2003 01:21 PM

I work in tech support for a large ISP for most of the United States. Anyway I help my own fellow employees when they have a question or problem. THese probmlems include people who are to the point where takling into the tellephone seems moot to them adn they hold the recieve like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and scream obscenities into it.

Anyway, to make a long story short, if you're calling technical support, please don't ask to speak to a supervisor unless you feel you were treated poorly (without manners) by the agent/tech you were speaking to. The supervisor can do LESS for you than the agent. You can yell all you want, and that supervisor will only be able to ask your agent questions for the answers you require, so you might as well stick with the agent.

Just a word to the wise. Good luck all!

Posted by: Neil G at January 12, 2003 01:28 PM

This isn't one of my own tech stories...I seem to have blocked mine out too. Wonder why? *laugh*

I got this in email quite a few months ago, so it might be known by quite a few people already...apparently the gu who took this call got dismissed and is sueing the employer for 'termination without cause'.

"Technical Desk, may I help you?"

"Yes, well, I'm having trouble with Word Perfect."

"What sort of trouble?"

"Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away."

"Went away?"

"They disappeared."

"Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?"



"It's blank; it won't accept anything when I type."

"Are you still in the program, or did you get out?"

"How do I tell?"

"Can you see the C: prompt on the screen?"

"What's a sea-prompt?"

"Never mind. Can you move the cursor around on the screen?"

"There isn't any cursor. I told you, it won't accept anything I type!"

"Does your monitor have a power indicator?"

"What's a monitor?"

"It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it's on?"

"I don't know."

"Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's plugged into the wall."

".......Yes, it is."

"When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?"


"Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable."

"Okay, here it is."

"Follow it for me, and tell me if it's plugged securely into the back of your computer."

"I can't reach."

"Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?"


"Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?"

"Oh, it's not because I don't have the right angle - it's because it's dark."


"Yes - the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window."

"Well, turn on the office light then."

"I can't."

"No? Why not?"

"Because there's a power outage."

"A power... A power outage? Aha. Okay, we've got it licked now. Do
you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?"

"Well, yes, I keep them in the closet."

"Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it

"Really? Is it that bad?"

"Yes, I'm afraid it is."

"Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?"

"Tell them you're too stupid to own a computer."

Posted by: Moonie at January 12, 2003 01:31 PM

My only comment is that that comic is from nearly a month ago, not yesterday...

Posted by: Joshua Sucher at January 12, 2003 01:37 PM

Well, I am currently a Field Technical Support analyst for a national store chain. I won't mention the name though ;) Anyway, I run in to this type of thing every single day. Not only from the employees in my stores, but also from people at the corporate Helpdesk!

I've had calls from the Desk stating a computer or printer won't power up, and arrived to the store to find the power cord sitting on the floor, unplugged. I've had calls stating that a cash drawer will not open on a cash register, only to arrive to the store to find that the store manager locked the drawer and forgot to unlock it when the register was in use...

I could go on all day with stories like this, but I don't want to bore everyone to death! LOL

And no offense to any Help Desk technicians out there, but sometimes my Helpdesk techs are worse than the people in my stores! That's why I like to call it the Help(less) Desk!

*Hides from angry Desk Techs* ;)

Posted by: WebNuT! at January 12, 2003 01:40 PM

It took 3 phone calls to tech support at sympatico, before a guy told me that I couldn't use a cord longer than 3 feet for my internet connection. The first 2 guys had me jumping through hoops for hours.
HP and Future Shop suck. I dropped off my lap-top in August, telling them that the battery wouldn't hold a charge. They had it for almost 2 months. When my husband went to pick it up they said "Sir, we've discovered that your battery won't hold a charge." My husband was pissed. They told him to buy a new battery, when he asked them to point him in the direction of a new battery they told him they didn't sell batteries.
Complaint letters to both companies have gone unanswered.

Somewhat related...I used to work in collections. One day a call came in to our centre by a man outraged over his 6months of cable tv we claimed he owed. He stated that he had disconnected his cable tv. My co-worker asked him who had been to disconnect it. He said, no one, he unplugged the tv.

Posted by: tanyak at January 12, 2003 01:43 PM

For six months while I was in grad school I worked for my local cable company doing customer support. On the whole the calls consisted of explaining to people how to make sure their televisions were on channel three and how to use their remotes. Until one day...

The caller, a very distraught woman, asked me if there was a cable outage. I asked her area and advised her that as of right now, no, there wasn't. I asked her what the problem was that she was experiencing, and she told me that her screen was "black". She told me that she had exchanged her cable box that very day for a new one and now it wasn't working. I asked her if she was certain that her television was on, and she *assured* me that it was. We ran through a large number of scenarios (me assuming that she'd plugged it in wrong or changed the channel or something), and finally I asked her if she could get behind her television and make sure everything was plugged in correctly.

She said yes, the cable was coming from the wall and into her cable box, and yes, another cable went from the cable box to the television -- all in the correct jacks. I asked her if the power cord from the cable box was plugged in to the wall and it was, verified that the outlet wasn't on a switch somewhere, and then I asked her where the television power cord was plugged in. She replied, "There is no power cord from the television."


I patiently explained that there had to be one somewhere and she needed to find it. "No, there never was one. It's CABLE READY!"

Um, no. I explained what "cable ready" meant and that every television needed some power source to run. I asked her if her television was battery operated? "No, of course not. It's cable ready!"

At this point I was having a blast, knowing I'd have fun telling everyone later. I was actually debating asking her if her television was SOLAR powered when she then said "I know you think I'm an idiot, but I swear there never was a plug for this television." Well, yes I do, but my professional hat is on so you'll never know it. I asked her if there was a spot on the back of the television where a plug might come out of -- thinking it had a retractable plug for some reason. No. No, she swears, there's nothing back here.

And then I realized what happened. She had returned her cable box earlier that day -- and had returned her television power cord right along with it.

We managed to find her box in the back, pull her power cord off of it, and she sent her husband to fetch it (I'm thinking she was too embarassed to come herself). Case closed, but MAN, what a lot of work!

Cable ready . . .

Posted by: Laurie at January 12, 2003 01:47 PM

My buddy got a good one...
Caller:I can't make this program work.
Sam: What is happening?
Caller: Well it says press any key to begin
Sam: So what is the problem?
Caller: My keyboard doesn't have an Any key

Posted by: Sue at January 12, 2003 02:03 PM

try http://www.techcomedy.com/

more tech tales than you should ever wish to know;)

Posted by: romana at January 12, 2003 02:16 PM

One of my favorite calls, been taking them for three years now, but this one sticks in my mind.

Me: "Welcome to your ISP's support, can I get your e-mail address?"

Her: "Yeah my dsl isn't working again." ( ignored my request for e-mail address. )

Me: "Okay, can I get your e-mail address?"

Her: "Can you hold on?" (doesn't wait for me to say yes or no, she covers mouth piece but I can still her her.) "Why the hell did you unplug it? Plug it back in. See its blinking again you ass. You made me call and waste this guys fucking time."

Posted by: Matt at January 12, 2003 02:33 PM

I do tech support for an Webhosting company. Some of my more laughable AIM support logs are here http://www.nigma.info/MT/archives/000038.html and here

Posted by: Ben at January 12, 2003 02:41 PM

Two tales, while I worked in a library computer lab at Case Western around 1989...

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...

"The screen went black. My paper disapeared..."

"Damn it!" (pounding fist on table enough to move the mouse and wake the machine...) "Works every time..."


User comes to lab monitor... "I think there's something wrong with my disc."

Lab monitor takes the disc, holds it up to the light, opens the shutter (3.5" disc) and starts spinning the platter slowly while examining the surface.

"Yep, there's the problem. You've got a bad sector..."


Posted by: ChuckEye at January 12, 2003 02:50 PM

In the 90s, I had just started working for a small software company which produced an ascii based program. I had done some work for our newest customer. I had just installed our software in the customer's computer system when I got the phone call. The customer began swearing a blue streak and telling me that our software had destroyed one of their monitors. In the interest of customer service and since I was the last one to touch the code, I immediately went to their site to solve the problem.

I arrived at their site extremly confused about how an ascii based program could have broken a monitor, but I was new so who was I to question the customer. I was shown the monitor while a group of angry customers gathered around to scrutinize my activity, sure enough the monitor was blank. I began the diagnosis. I checked the power light, it was on. I then checked the brightness knob and found it turned all the way down. Turning the knob, I told the gathered mob, "You have to turn the brightness up." Of course the text on the monitor immediately appeared.

(What is up with this? It doesn't help the story, but turning down the brightness on a monitor was an old fashioned trick to prevent burn in. You'd have to be an experienced computer user to know about burn in or this practice. I wasn't experienced, but I learned from people who were.)

After this incident there was a saying around the office, "Is this one of those situations where we have to tell the customer to turn their brightness up?"

Posted by: Beastie at January 12, 2003 03:10 PM

Wil you have no idea how much Arena sucks without you. Well, maybe you do and you're laughing your ass off about it. Anyway just wanted to say that I love the site and I'll miss ya on G4.

Posted by: Bob at January 12, 2003 03:12 PM

I'll say this...Brandi, my boyfriend feels for you.

When my boyfriend first got out of college, he worked for a state's Department of Personnel (I won't mention which one) at their help desk. One weekend there was a thunderstorm, which created a power surge that fried a few computers. The department then told all staff to unplug their computers over the weekend to ensure this wouldn't happen again. One Monday he gets a call from someone in the building, saying that his computer won't work. So he goes up to check it out. Looks at all the plugs on the computer, presses the power button a few times--nothing. So he asks "Have you plugged in your computer yet?" and the guy says yes. So he gets under the desk to take a look. Turns out the guy's computer was hooked up to a power strip, and he had PLUGGED THE POWER STRIP INTO ITSELF. Not wanting to make the guy feel like a complete idiot, he quietly plugged the strip into the wall and turned the computer on.

The best part is that five minutes later he got another call...same thing.

He told me the story that night with a "for THIS I spent 4 & 1/2 years studying computer engineering in college" look on his face as I laughed uncontrollably.

We've since moved to another part of the country, where he now spends his days yelling at a company who can't get a simple membership database up and running. Sometimes I think he still wishes he was working at that help desk.

Posted by: Beth at January 12, 2003 03:13 PM

Leah -- I feel your pain. I worked for over two years in a university computer lab, and not even Macs or PCs, but VT100 terminals hooked right up to the Unix system. Bigass line printers, even a plotter.

None of which is relevant to this story, which took place about two weeks after I started working there. The weather was bad, so I was glad to be spending the evening with my toasty-warm computer equipment and fast Internet access in the 24/7 facility.

I was glad, I should say, until the sump pump in the wall behind me failed. Sheets of water started coming out from under the platform I was standing on . . . the platform where all our computer cables were kept.

Naturally, this concerned me.

I called the main admin and told him I wanted to close the lab. He said, "I'll be down there in a few minutes; it can't be that bad." A few minutes pass. He walks into my room, gets about two steps in, and realizes he's standing in a puddle. "Close the lab and get the hell home," he says.

So I make the rounds of the three terminal rooms and tell the users they have 15 minutes to close their work, that the lab is closing because of flooding in the printer room. "OK, I just have to print my thesis," I hear more than once. "The printers are already off -- there's water flowing through the cables, and I'm playing it safe," I tell them, occasioning screams of anguish. But mostly, they pack up and leave.

Not so the guys playing Xtrek on the Sparcs. I went in there three times, giving them 15, 10, and 5 minute warnings, and finally walked in and told them that the lab was now closed, and anyone who was still in there 60 seconds later would get to talk to the campus police on a trespassing charge. It wasn't until they got to the door and realized that their Birkenstocks were getting wet that they realized I wasn't kidding about the flooding.

I considered flipping the circuit breakers to the room and telling them the water must have gotten into the wiring, but I was pretty sure they would have all hung around until the power came back on. Textbook obsessives, they were.

Posted by: Andrew at January 12, 2003 03:16 PM

It was around 1996, and our family got our first computer. A nice and fast Packard Bell P75 with a whopping 8 MB of RAM. For some reason, after installing a game demo, the computer refused to load.

As I seemed to understand the computer the most, I got elected to call Packard Bell tech support.

After waiting on hold for a few minutes, I get connected to some guy who (in retrospect) seemed to know what he was doing. Somehow, some files critical to the operation of Windows 95 were corrupted. So he decided that reformatting the computer would be the best option.

After instructing me how to get into the DOS prompt, he tells me to type stuff like ("Ok, now Dan, type in 'f' for furry, 'o' for octopus") and so on.

I was having trouble keeping up, and told him so, so he went a bit slower.

Then he asked me to repeat back what I typed.

I diligently replied:

"f for furry o for octopus" and so on.

He didn't laugh too much, but he quickly corrected me.

Posted by: redink1 at January 12, 2003 03:18 PM

My boyfriend just started doing tech support for Cablevision's Optimum online. His away message on AIM reads "@work helping all the STUPID people.
:p" and that is ALL I hear about all night when he gets home. Im getting a headache from his job and I am not even the one on the phone.

Posted by: Sol at January 12, 2003 03:29 PM

My husband does tech support/computer maintenance on the side. he works full time for a shitty retail company and goes to college nights. he can build computers, networks, etc. you name it and he can fix it. anyways, one of his least favorite computers to work on belongs to his dad. his dad is an electrical engineer. although he works on billion dollar air craft and other computer related things every day, the man does not know shit about computers. bless his heart, he tries so hard, but if you're running win 95 cause you're too cheap to upgrade, don't call us if you're now having problems with office 2000 on your win95 os.
and, derek once had a guy who had a problem with his cup holder-yes, children, he was using his cd-rom disk drive for a cup holder and was pissed when it broke.
some people should not be allowed to abuse appliances like that.

Posted by: Amber at January 12, 2003 03:32 PM

Well...there's tons of stories after working in tech support for over three years now...I especially like people that want to make me believe they are using Windows 97 on their computer... ;-)

Posted by: Carsten at January 12, 2003 03:39 PM

I've actually had someone ask me where the "any"-key was. For real!

Posted by: Bugs at January 12, 2003 03:43 PM

I maintain a network in our office. I had just finished setting up the wireless network on a new laptop, handed it to the owner. Walked back to my desk.

Not even 10 minutes later, the owner of the laptop came to see me. It seems his network wasn't working. I took the laptop, turned it on and it worked just fine...I wasked him to show me what he had done. It seems, his laptop (running win xp) crashed after 20-25 copies of IE had been opened....


Posted by: Pyrofenix at January 12, 2003 04:08 PM

Hi Wil,

Does it count if your ex uses you as his own personal tech support line just because "you know more about computers" than he does?

I keep getting phone calls and paged "911" when his "sound doesn't work" (speakers are off) or when "he can't get online" (modem not hooked up right).

To his defense, he's not stupid, just incredibly absent-minded... but still...


Posted by: jozjozjoz at January 12, 2003 04:26 PM

If you want to find more material in this genre, see http://www.livejournal.com/community/customers_suck for a continuously growing treasure trove of it. It's of varying quality, but there are some real gems. Note that it's not mostly from computer technical support people, but there are some of those, too.

Posted by: jss at January 12, 2003 05:12 PM

Wow. I've applied for low-level tech support jobs in the past...suddenly I'm very glad I didn't get them. :) Although I work as a tax preparer now, and I'm an endless source of stupid customer jokes. I think the whole concept of taxes just pre-scrambles the brain.

Posted by: Celli at January 12, 2003 05:52 PM

Oh boy! And I thought *I* was the only one who had the problem of the ex calling me constantly asking computer questions! Ugh!

My ex has worked in many offices, for companies that have their own tech support people. But does this matter to her? Of course not! Anytime she has a problem with her work computer, instead of calling her own tech support people, she calls me! Yea, no matter what time of day or night I get a call. She even told me she considers me her own personal 24-hour on call PC support tech.

But okay. Anyway, she called me just the other day, as a matter of fact, complaining that her keyboard wasn't working, and that she was going insane trying to figure out why. Since this was her home PC, my first thought was that she was moving things around and unplugged it, and didn't plug it back in. So I asked her to make sure it was plugged in. She said it was. I told her to reboot her computer and tell me about any error messages. She does this, but says there are no messages, but still, her keyboard isn't working. I asked her to check the cable to make sure there are no breaks or exposed wires, and she says the cable is fine. Then I asked her to unplug the keyboard and look into the connector, to make sure there are no broken pins. She says all of the pins are fine. At this point I'm thinking that there might be a problem that can't be fixed over the phone, and I tell her I'll have to come by sometime and look at it. This whle process so far had taken about 30 minutes. It was only then she asks me "Could the fact that I spilled Coke all over the keyboard have something to do with it not working right?"

Oh the joys of being computer saavy...

Posted by: WebNuT! at January 12, 2003 05:56 PM

I would have to start my own website for the stories I have from Roadrunner cable modem tech support.

Posted by: Rich Hermes at January 12, 2003 06:04 PM

I work for an ISP, cable company. Can't really say which for fear of losing my job. I've got plenty of stories to tell and I can't really decide which so I'll just go with one that's freshest in my mind...from about an hour ago: Ok, so this lady calls me up and she's already pissed because she's been on hold for 20 minutes or so she says, which is kinda funny considering the longest call waiting which is a stat we have says 4 minutes. Ok, so I get her on the line, she complains about hold time and then proceeds to grill me for 10 minutes about how it's MY fault that there's a dozen pop-ups on her screen. She keeps saying how she pays so much money for this service and there's nothing we can do to get these things off her screen. She even goes so far as to say she shouldn't have to pay for these ads and she wants a credit to her account for having to view them. I basically told her to piss off only not in those words. Told her I can't block those pop-ups anymore than I can stop advertisements on TV. I finally got her to shut up by pointing her to google.com and doing a search for pop-up blockers.

God I hate being nice to these people... If I hear one more time how I have the patience of a saint I'm gonna burst.

Posted by: SOAD at January 12, 2003 07:08 PM

I'm no Computer expert but I and my brother are always trying to help teach my mother how the computer runs and she always freaks out when I say the word "Crash" She thinks I am saying that her computer is broken or has a virus. "Good frickin grief" :S

Posted by: artisticspirit at January 12, 2003 07:24 PM


Posted by: Greenflame at January 12, 2003 07:45 PM

I spent 4 years in tech support before going into business for myself as a trainer. Although I have many stories of my own, this is one of my favorites...

A few years ago on NPR, there was a segment on tech support. At the end, the reporter asked the techie about his funniest call. I am recreating this from memory, so some of the details might not be exact...

He had a woman who bought a new computer. She unpacked it, set it up, then called because the power cord was too short.

He had her measure it and it was indeed too short. He couldn't believe his company sent such a cord, so her had her go through the box of couple of times. He also made sure it was indeed a power cord and had her plug it into the back of her computer.

Finally, he thought of something. But he was afraid to ask her, as he didn't want to insult her intelligence.

He said, "Ma'am, did you take the twist tie off the power cord?"

Dead silence on the line, then "No."

"Ma'am, can you take the twist tie off the power cord, unravel the cord and let me know if it is long enough?"

Needless to say, his job was done. He also said that the call taught him to assume nothing!

Posted by: shrike at January 12, 2003 08:02 PM

RASA said:

"Turns out, they do indeed make sewing machines with modems: http://www.berninausa.com/home.jsp

What next??"

WOW! i just checked out that link and i'm positively flabbergasted. so much that i don't even dare ask what's next....

Posted by: christy at January 12, 2003 08:05 PM

I did PC support for S0nY for 3 years. I once troubleshot a cd drive that WOULD NOT read a cd.
long story short, 45 minutes later I asked the question that I should have asked 45 mins earlier. "You're putting them in shiny side down right?" She had seen it the other way on TV and in magazines and thought that shiny side up was correct. AAAAAAAGH !

Posted by: michapat at January 12, 2003 08:14 PM

My most memorable support call was from a blind man who needed help installing a SIMM in his computer. He said he always did the work on his own computer, but he couldn't figure out how to get the memory chip installed.

After a minute of trying to tell him, and asking again if there wasn't someone nearby who could help out, I got a great idea. I went to our tech bench and walked him through installing the chip with my eyes closed. I described the notch on one side of the SIMM, and talked him through finding the sockets on the motherboard.

Most even slightly cynical people who I tell this are convinced that he was messing with me, and seeing how far he could get me to go. I'll just keep my happy thoughts though, and revel in the good karma that I gained from my tech support days.

Posted by: lemonm at January 12, 2003 08:42 PM

Yes, I did several years as a help desk person. I still have unresolved issues about this period in my life, and my counsellor might let me go public about it soon...

Posted by: scaryduck at January 12, 2003 08:45 PM

Rich Hermes- I'm probably one of your people that you've talked to, since I use Tampa Bay roadrunner and I've called tech support about nine billion times!

Posted by: RaeAnne at January 12, 2003 08:48 PM

My friend recently moved to a location where his DSL service did not provide access. Therefore, instead he went with the Time Warner Roadrunner cable service. He had been dreading the installation for days, knowing that some half-brained tech was going to be touching his system. I laughed and told him to just remove the hard drive to prevent the imbecile from doing anything stupid. We decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and left the drive intact. And itís a good thing we did...

The day comes for the installation and not one, but two techs come to "install" the cable service. This, of course, consists of plugging in a USB modem and hooking up the cable to it. The first thing the tech does when he sits down at the computer is tell my friend he does not have enough memory to install the BS Roadrunner software (aka. crappy corporate branded browsers). My friend literally laughed at the hapless tech before asking him why 512 MB of RAM was insufficient.

They also claimed his brand new USB cable modem (with the Windows 2000 logo on the box) would be unsupported because of his use of "third-party software." Oh, I did not realize Windows 98 was a Time Warner product.

After the techs left, we formatted the drive and used the service, sans the additional useless software, without a hitch.

It just goes to show that sometimes the voice on the other end might be a moron too.

Posted by: David at January 12, 2003 08:51 PM


never done the tech support job professionally, just for friends as my level of computer geekdom continues to grow and blossom into full flower.

First time replying to the blog, so i have say how cool WWDN is.
It is tre-cool. Yes. Cool like... like... well, like something very cool.

For instance, the Help Desk comic over at Keenspot. good fun. just follow the linkylinky.
(i also heartily recommend sinfest)

Posted by: matt, minion of UBERSOFT at January 12, 2003 09:16 PM

Although I primarily do technical writing these days, I have had a little experience as both a consultant AND a customer, so, to some extent, I can see BOTH sides of this kind of situation.

My most recent tech-support problem was just a few days ago. I was trying to refill the ink cartridges in my Apollo P-2250 printer, a nice little unit which, up to that time, had given me good service. Unfortunately, it uses the HP #20 cartridge, which is one of the WORST cartridges from a refilling standpoint! Anyhow, after I had finished refilling the #20 black cartridge (I thought!--it later leaked out ALL the ink!), I read in the refill kit manual that I should run several cleaning and test cycles to make sure everything was OK.

The problem was that this printer came out just before Windows XP made its debut. While XP does have built-in drivers for this printer, none of the other utility software works under Windows XP. Worse yet, HP has now discontinued making Apollo printers, so there will be NO software updates, especially since my printer is long since out of warranty (which also means no support as far as HP is concerned!).

Although they explained that the printer would do an automatic test run any time a new ink cartridge was inserted, I was so offended by the sheer corporate arrogance that fairly oozed and dripped out between the lines of their email and their online help facility that I decided to scrap the Apollo entirely and purchase a used (but still supported!) Lexmark Z52, which I found on eBay. To put it mildly, the long and short of it is that HP has not only lost me as a customer--they have made a mortal enemy of me! I will not hesitate to recommend AGAINST using ANY of HP's products under any circumstances from now on!

Please forgive me if this post is a little long, but I had to give you the details in order to explain the nature of the problem. I'm sure that anyone who has had problems with either HP or Compaq (which of course are now one and the same!) will understand what I mean. HP STINKS!!

Posted by: Tom Nichol at January 12, 2003 09:17 PM

Me: "Well, you have a 10 GB drive. And you only have 4 MB left. You have over 6 GB of MP3s. You should probably get rid of some."

CoWorker: "What if I partition the drive? Will that give me space?"

Me: "Must ... control... fists.. of... death..."

Posted by: thikn_balance at January 12, 2003 09:43 PM

I don't get it.
Oh wait - now I do!
I lost it again.

Posted by: Kevynn Malone at January 12, 2003 09:46 PM

I was part of a dotcom (the smart one, the rest were suits that knew nothing) and the ISP hosting us kept saying that our space was ready to go.

It wasn't

I spent a few weeks on the phone, trying to convince them that it wasn't active. They gave me several new passwords and every time I attempted to log in, it wouldn't work.

About a week before the launch, I called them and went all mad at them - "my *beep* space doesn't work. you *beep* been giving me *beep* passwords for *beep* weeks now and it still doesn't *beep* work".

Needless to say, we launched without a dotcom and got someone else to talk to the ISP.

A few weeks after the launch, I got a phonecall from the ISP. They said "You were right. The webmaster apologieses"

I should have pushed it further, but the site was uploaded that night and all was well.

Posted by: l33t k1w1 at January 12, 2003 10:11 PM

when i was head programmer at International software systems, we had a lady who worked at a credit union for 10 years on the same computer, at the same desk, doing the same job. Her complaint was that the computer was very slow, and refused to open the programs anymore.

We suspected that it was low on memory, so we asked her to reboot the computer. She refused, saying she didn't know how to. We explained that all she had to do was hit the switch on the side of the box on her desk, then hit it again in a few seconds. She refused, as she had never done that before. She wanted us to fly fa tech from our office in SC to Manhattan to reboot a computer, and the problem was that it had never been rebooted in all the time she had had it, except for power outages and the like. This woman wasn't eighty, and worked on a computer at the second biggest credit union in the world doing their accounting. makes you want to bury your money in a can in the back yard, don't it?


Posted by: Dalton at January 12, 2003 10:25 PM

Hey Dalton,

Stop scaring me with your credit union horror stories. With W all ready to bomb Iraq into the stone age, I am tempted to stuff my mattress with my greenbacks as it is...


Posted by: jozjozjoz at January 12, 2003 10:32 PM

i just love the tech support people who do not speak english. That or i can't understand their accent. Then they get mad at you because you dont understand what they are saying

Posted by: steph at January 12, 2003 10:53 PM

Was that cartoon really that funny? Or any of these stories for that matter? Feh.

Posted by: Jeremiah at January 12, 2003 10:54 PM

So I thought of a tech "help" story that I had somehow forgotten until I began reading all the ones here. First of all, let me say I do customer support for a credit card company, so I know all too well how frustrating it can be to deal with a customer who thinks they know how something works better than the trained professional. On the other hand, when I don't have any fucking clue what a customer wants of me, I'm the first to admit it.
(Side note: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever call your credit card company and ask "What's this late fee??" if you don't want a sarcastic answer.) Anyway...
So about three years ago broadband service became available in my neighborhood. (I live in Missouri. Pity me.) I didn't have a decent computer at the time, so I didn't bother with getting it for about a year. I finally got a new Mac two years ago and decided it was time to move on up.
I call and arrange an appointment for a tech to come "install" my cable modem for me. I had an iBook and was running OS 9 at the time. I know that the only requirements are for someone to bring me a cable modem and plug it in. I also know full well that whatever tech I get is going to be baffled, but I play along, thinking that they've been at it for a year now, so they probably know what they're doing. So I make my appointment for a month from when I was calling (gotta love AT&T) and wait.
The day arrives. I was given a window of roughly four hours in the afternoon in which the guys would arrive, so I'm running errands that morning and arrive back at my apartment about 45 minutes before the start of the four-hour window. The tech guys are already waiting for me, acting extremely huffy that I'm not home waiting for them.
Already, I know it's going to be a bad experience.
My second clue is when I realize that there are not one, not two, but three tech guys along for this. Again, let me reiterate. Macintosh. Open modem box. Plug it modem to cable outlet and ethernet connection. Done. Three guys. Three. Three.
As I let them in my apartment, Tech guy #1 seems my computer on my desk and says,
"Great. A Mac." (I'm thinking whew.) "I fucking hate Macs."
Okay, now I have friends for whom those would be the ultimate challenge. Spoken in the street on in a store, those words would at the very least trigger a 15-minute diatribe on why Macs rock. Those words spoken in their own homes would probably result in tech blood painting the walls.
I try to be a little more sanguine, so I just laugh it off, say "yeah," and let it go, hoping I can get them out as quickly as possible.
Two hours later, Tech Guy #1 is still sitting at MY seat at MY desk scratching his head, after my repeated offers to take care of the installation and his snide little remarks about how I wouldn't know what I was doing. Tech Guys #2 & #3 have never moved from their positions on my couch where they've been watching Mtv the entire time, except when one got up to use my bathroom without asking. The two couch monkeys have been joined by Tech Guy #4, who showed up about 30 minutes into the ordeal without any summoning whatsover. I guess he was just in the neighborhood. These three guys have never once offered to help Tech #1 nor have they performed any duties in the installation. I still to this day have no idea why they were there.
About another ten minutes go by with no results and my final attempt to get the guy to let me sit down and fix things. (By the way, his problem was he couldn't figure out the TCP/IP window. There are maybe five places to enter data in the entire window, and only the client id has to be filled in by the user because AT&T requires it. Everything else will fill itself in given a chance. I kept telling the guy this, but does he listen? No.)
I'm fed up. I refuse to get angry with these guys because I know what it's like to have their job. I know they deal with pissy know-it-all customers all the time and after a while it becomes automatic to dismiss whatever the customer is saying. So I excuse myself to go into my bedroom to make a phone call.
Five minutes later I come back into the living room with two cordless phones and hand one to Tech Guy #1 while I listen on the other. A man on the other end begins to berate him over how long the job is taking, orders him to allow me to access my own computer immediately and instructs him and his coworkers to report back to the office within 10 minutes where at least one of them is going to lose his job. When Tech Guy #1 asks who this is, the man on the phone screams, "My name is Cooper! I'm a Team Leader at AT&T's central offices in New York! I've already spoken to your office manager there in Springfield, and let me tell you, he's even more pissed off than I am that you've wasted this gentleman's time with your idiocy! If it was in my power to do so I would fire you all over the phone! If I have to repeat my request for you to report back to your office I will damn well FIND a way to fire you over the phone! Now move!"
Cooper then began to apologize profusely to me for my inconvenience and to assure me that this sort of discourteous service was not typical of AT&T's commitment to the customer. He then offered me three free month's of service if I would just withdraw my request to cancel my cable modem service. As he was saying all this, Tech Guy #1 was hanging up his phone, gathering his friends hurriedly together and apologizing to me as he left my apartment.
As soon as the door closed behind them, I couldn't help laughing out loud. The guy on the other end of the phone was my best friend Corey, who invented "Cooper" (we're both Twin Peaks fans) on the fly and gambled correctly that the guy he was speaking with wouldn't have any clue where AT&T's home offices were located or how the chain of command worked. I thanked Corey and told him to come on over to check out my new high-speed internet connection, which I was sure to have installed by the time he made the five-minute drive to my apartment.

Posted by: Windom Earle at January 12, 2003 11:24 PM

hi wil,

just started my first tech support job a few months ago. and i got a few rippers last week... check this one out: http://www.techcomedy.com/users/submitted_content.php?nick=d
my ears were bleeding after that one.
ah, the joy.


Posted by: diane at January 13, 2003 12:11 AM

Two things:

1) My husband and i used a UNIX shell until 1998. (i do miss that thing). Eventually, with a better puter, we switched to a regular account. it didn't work, it didn't work, it didn't work. Tech support guy is going over the settings with me (all as he said they were supposed to be), yet no one could figure out what the hell the problem was. He was an @-hole to me, too... condescending, etc. I demanded our usual tech guy, who understood the UNIX stuff. He was out for the day. Called back next day, he's there, and LO & BEHOLD- *someone* forgot to switch us over. I called back and talked to the other guy and told him what a dumb F** he was.

2) Not puter related, but phone support: I worked at an answering service for a few months once. one of our clients was the local cable company. Oregon storms are *windy*, and tend to knock cable out, so working the phones overnight during a storm tends to suck. Customers are livid when they cant have their cable (the usual complaint is "what am i supposed to do? I can't watch TV!" to which i usually answered, "i dunno, talk to your family, read a book, go to sleep, i don't care.."). So this one woman calls, screaming at me, right off the bat, "Turn my cable back on right now, i know you can". Thing is, i can't. The cable office is 6 miles away, ok? I don't even work for the cable company! Tried explaining, she doesn't care or understand. After about 20 minutes of unbelievable abuse that i really just didn't deserve, she threatened to call the cops on me because i "wouldn't" turn her cable back on. I laughed out loud.

Posted by: pril at January 13, 2003 12:15 AM

I don't know if this is going to be read...so far down. But anyhow, I actually have a good tech story.

I live in South Jersey and we have Comcast. I'm really lucky here. When I had ordered cable, I expected to have to wait eons to have it installed. Nope. They were out in less than a week of me placing the order. And the guy was a sweetheart too...he even told me how to config my other computer so I can share the modem. Technically, he shouldn't have done this...they would prefer I buy 2 modems.

Also, whenever I have an issue, even if it's just a computer problem, I call Comcast. They're tech help knows their stuff. They route the calls to Canada, but even so, they answer the phone right away, and actually know what they're doing. My brother-in-law has had the same experience with them. He called them when he was networking his computer and they stayed on the phone and walked him through it. They even told him exactly what brand of router to buy...so it would be easier.

I love Comcast. :o))

Posted by: Helen at January 13, 2003 12:32 AM

sorty Wil, all I have is the tme I called the police, for a guest, to register a noise complaint regarding the noise from a carpet cleaner / truck... when asked to describe the noise... I said it sounded like a "jet engine"
the police dispathcher then told me to call the FAA... because the oplice don't handle "jet engines"

(I dropt the phone)

see ya

Posted by: wade art at January 13, 2003 12:34 AM

It's the attack of the ID-10-T computer problems!

Most of these are all what we in the field call the ID-10-T errors. I'm sure that many of my fellow PC Support Techie guys and Techie girls out there know exactly what an ID-10-T is. For those that don't, well, take a piece of paper and write it out:


There are lots of those ID-10-T problems running around out there. ;}

Posted by: WebNuT at January 13, 2003 12:46 AM

Funny, I was flipping through the cable and for some reason I noticed Wil on CMT. I discovered it was a thirty minute commercial for a 3D system. It made me think to check the blog.

I used to do tech support for Dell. I had one customer call and wanted to be able to resize a window to a custom size. Thinking it would be easier to show her rather than explain we fix problems and are not a "how-to" desk, I began.

She couldn't find where the mouse cursor became two arrows so she could click and drag. I was at this for almost twenty minutes before I put her on hold, went outside, had a cigarette, and came back in.

I continued to baby-sit this particularly clueless user until she figured out how to do the resizing on her own. The call took forty-five minutes.

And she wasn't even the stupidest person I ever spoke to.

Posted by: Bill at January 13, 2003 01:21 AM

I'm a computer/web design instructor. I teach all types, those that have years of programming experience, and those that are literally afraid of computers.

I had a Windows 2000 class (application level, here is a desktop, this is your my documents folder)...so anyway, I was showing them how to use their mouse, and the lady actually picked up her mouse and laid it on the monitor screen.

Posted by: erin at January 13, 2003 01:46 AM

Oh, this comic brings back memories. I work for a cable internet provider, and did my time on the phones. We get people all the time ... "I'm a network admin"...."I'm a sys admin"....I have my degree in comp sci". They think that the person they are speaking to isn't able to help them.

Typical conversation...

Me: Lets try bypassing the router and going directly to your computer to see if we can get you back online.

Them: It's not going to work!

Me: Oh, you tried this already? Ok, lets try something else. Go to..

Them: No! I didn't try it, I just know that my router is working fine! I'm a network admin, I should know! (yelling).

Me: Humor me and lets try.

Them: Ok, but it isn't going to work.......

Me: ....I can ping your computer now.

Them: I STILL don't think it's my router.

Me: Ok, is there anything else I can help you with?

Them: Click.

This happened to me several times a day. It's enough to make you go mad.

Posted by: dave at January 13, 2003 02:06 AM

Here's a Tech story you might like, Wil. My website has a counter from Fastcounter. When I signed up for it, Microsoft didn't yet own it and have it under their bCentral name. Anyway, last year, I wanted to get into my counter stats page, but it wanted me to convert my bCentral account into a .NET passport.

Well, at the time, I was running Mandrake 8.1, and using Konquerer to do my surfing. So when it wouldn't let me even start the conversion process, I called up Microsoft and began to gripe. I told the tech on the phone that I couldn't click the "Next" button, and he asked me what browser I was using. "Konquerer" I said. He said "What?" And of course, I told him that it was a Linux browser that came with KDE. The rest of the call was me telling him why I simply refused to use IE, and wouldn't boot into Windows just to convert that account. He tried his best, but couldn't sell me on the idea. Eventually I compiled Mozilla and was able to do the conversion, and called that tech back to tell him that I had managed to get the job done while staying in the Linux environment. I'm sure that went over well with him and his superiors, since I ended the call with "Thanks for all your help. Long Live OSS."

Posted by: Eric at January 13, 2003 02:47 AM

Errrmmmm. Is it just me or does that cartoon look like Jonathan Frakes (!)

Waaaay too scary!

Posted by: Foxychik at January 13, 2003 04:03 AM

Back in 1991, I had just started working as a contractor for Helpdesk support of a US Government agency. I wasn't on the phones yet; I was familiarizing myself with the systems when we had not one, but two different calls from field offices in different parts of the country with the same problem:

They had put carbon paper into their laser printer to get a second copy of the printout.

Seems that many of these offices had just upgraded from a daisy wheel (!) printer, and they had been used to using the carbon paper. Of course, when used in a laser printer, the carbon just melts and totally gums up the workings.

We decided that if we got a third call, we'd ask them to fax over a piece of the carbon paper for analysis.

Posted by: Greg at January 13, 2003 04:21 AM

I do tech support for the Canadian Government (insert 486 joke here) and have had MANY MANY idiots who could be replaced with a simian and nobody would notice. The most notable of which is when I had a call that the user's computer wouldn't work. I go there, remove the half a dozen non-regulation software that are known to cause this problem, all the while having him say over my shoulder "What are you doing?" "Why are you doing this?" "I like to use this program." and so on until I finally removed his Yahoo and AOL Messanger programs. He looked at me and said "You can't remove them!" I asked him why and he replied "Well...what would I do during the day then?". I was floored by this and said "Why don't you try working for a change?"
After some more of him complaining I just left, with his computer fixed, only to have the BIG boss of my whole section of the gov't i work for bring this up at a meeting two days later and find it absolutely hillarious....except not to do it anymore cause 'we need to be professional in our line of work'

End-users can be so inane sometimes.

Posted by: Ryan_W at January 13, 2003 05:33 AM

Hi Will

The worst, the one that makes my skin crawl. The people I want to really expose to this world. Sorry for the long post but this is stuff that gets me so wound up:

Location: It's Saturday night at a party at some friends house. It's been a tough week of solving computer problems/studying in uni for my computing degree. I'm relaxing with some wine enjoying (what I thought to be) good company. My friends/gilfriend has just introduced me to someone. This scenario is the same no matter what country/city/group of friends I'm with.

Me : Really? your a (insert name of fascinating profession that saves babies from being ginger or something)? That sounds fascinating!

Interesting-Person: Not really, what do you do?

Me: What do I do? I'm studying computing/an IT specialist. Not as interesting as working with all those different types of (insert interesting things e.g. tropical plants).

Now-Very-Interesting-Person: Really? I'm thinking about buying a computer!

Me(alarm bells ringing in head): Ah, I expect that is to help catalogue all those marine expeditions!

Not-As-Interesting-As-First-Hoped-Person: Nah, just for internet and stuff. So what kind do you recommend?

Me(cursing friends/girlfriend for all managing to fuck off out of sight at this moment and leaving me with this person): Oh, just a basic PC with a modem should do you. Doesn't sound like you need much.Anyway, those trips to the exclusive Antartic research centre Dave was telling me about, what was that like?

Shortly-Going-To-Be-Stabbed-With-Cocktail-Stick-In-Eye-Person: What's a modem? And how much will all this cost, and I'll need a printer. Where should I buy it from?And someone recommended MS Publisher, could you show me how it works?

And so goes the rest of a now shit party.

Posted by: Shruiy at January 13, 2003 05:42 AM

I've been working tech support at a small Liberal Arts college for a few years, now. I can sympathize 100% with the situation depicted in the cartoon. There's nothing like realizing that a nationally recognized, widely published professor of godknowswhat is a complete moron.

Sure, there's the power strip-plugged-into-itself story, but that's been told twice.

Here's a favorite story.
- insert first few minutes of a typical call here -
Me: "OK, I'm going to suggest that you reboot the computer."
Caller: "What's that mean?"
Me: "That means restart it."
Caller: "What... you mean with the power button?"
Me: "Well, you go up to the "Special" menu at the top and choose "Restart." Right. Then click the "Restart" button.
Caller: "Oh! That's pretty neat. I've never done this before."
Me: "You've never rebooted your computer?"
Caller: "Nope."
Me: "Do you shut it off at night?"
Caller: "No. Never. I didn't know you could shut it off."
Me: "Yep. It's pretty handy sometimes. Like for times when you have to unplug it and stuff."

Ahh... the good old days.

Posted by: hpz at January 13, 2003 06:10 AM

I used to work at a top 40 radio station. We were number one in the market and the Jocks had the ego's to match.

The morning drive time Jock had a little amphetimine problem and would constantly bitch about the quality of the sound coming out of our air room mixer.

We changed the color of the knobs and didn't hear another word out of him except to thank us for fixing things....

Posted by: bernie at January 13, 2003 06:14 AM

too many instances to count, or post, however i think i can sum them all up in one short sentence.
"i've been a network technician in nebraska for 6 years"

good enough?

Posted by: drew at January 13, 2003 06:35 AM

An interesting point that I've discovered over the years is that if you know ANYTHING about computers and/or networks, people tend to think you know everything about anything with electrons flowing through it. Oh, and non-technical people also tend to believe that since you work in the technology field for your JOB, that you want to spend all of your free time working on technology as well...FOR free.

While I'm ranting, let me just say this: buying a computer for your technology ignorant or incompetent older relatives is the worst idea since "Robot Jox." I mean seriously, do you want these people to spend their twilight years on the phone with tech support, or worse, on the phone with you complaining about the system you bought them instead of asking about your life/children/next vacation?


Posted by: Renpiti at January 13, 2003 07:08 AM

I did tech support for years while I was in college. One of the saddest cases I had to deal with was a doctoral student who had been getting rid of all of the versions of her thesis. She had finally gotten down to one copy of the most recent version...

No, she didn't delete that one too.

She alphabetized it.

She was trying to sort the bibliography by author and accidentally sorted the entire document. It would have been fine if she'd just used the 'undo' function, but instead she hit save...

She brought the disc over to us and asked if we could do anything. We wound up having to call an ambulance for her when she broke down into hysterics.

Posted by: m'quirk at January 13, 2003 07:35 AM

I worked at Best Buy as a computer tech. One day a guy came in carrying this. We were so nonplussed that we had to take a picture of it.


Two years later and I still can't figure out how he had his mouse cord draped over the printer feed tray. Or why, for that matter.

Posted by: bebe_the_amazing_pit_bull at January 13, 2003 08:01 AM

Back in the days of yore when I did tech support I noted another type of error, in addition to the ID-10-T error. I noted that many of the problems experienced could be explained away with "PEBKAC".

Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.

One of the funniest/saddest things I ever encountered was the old man that purchased a Compaq, and then called so we could teach him how to use it. He couldn't understand that I was there to fix it, but since it was broken.... yeah.

Another fun one was the poor goon that called because the language setting was incorrect. No big deal, he was a nice kid and it was a quick fix. I didn't want to have to bill this kid the $35, but he wasn't very bright. I walked him through ALL the steps to get to where he could see what the problem was. We got to the point where I said, ""Tell me what it says under 'language'", which he read off to me... and I paused. When he asked, "what do I do now?" I just sighed, launched into the billing speech, charged him and fixed it.

Posted by: Felara at January 13, 2003 08:13 AM

I was in the tech department for a Gateway store when a poor old man brought me a pc because his sounds weren't working any longer. I felt awful charging him 70$ to unmute the volume.

Posted by: Primesghost at January 13, 2003 08:37 AM

I worked tech support for the last 3 years. All with earthlink. And to be honest, you can have a funny story once a day. I didnt know how retarded americans are until i took this job. I knew most of us where a bit slow.. but please... i have about 100s of stories. The best one was, i had to call Cox Cable to tell them my internet connection was out. We just got done having a huge lightning storm in phoenix, and it went out, i called up to report it. The guy says " Yes, we know... the lightning hit the internet." .. i was like oohhh no is that bad? He was like yes, we will be down for a while. I said, can you please email me that explaination, cause im keeping a log, and sure enough, i got the email telling me lightning hit the internet. And you say, EOE doesnt apply to standard hiring practices. So i sent it to this boss. GAWD, help us when we call tech support..

Posted by: Jerry at January 13, 2003 08:38 AM

Oh man.... after reading these, I suddenly feel a whole lot less stupid...

Posted by: Thumper at January 13, 2003 08:52 AM

How many stories can I come up with? Let's see.

Well first, there's the user who plugged a Lexmark printer into her Win95 machine, then went into the printer control panel, added a printer at random, then hit F2 and typed the make and model of the printer that was on her desk. She couldn't figure out why it didn't work.

Then there was the time I was walking into a building and a user looked at me and said - and I quote, "Steve, my computer at home doesn't work. Why?"

Oh, and my fav: a few years ago as a network admin, I made this neat little cheat sheet showing users how to print to a shared printer in a peer to peer network. It's a simple process, and my instructions had pictures and arrows. It was dead simple. I emailed the document to all staff. Half of them replied, saying that they couldn't print it.

Posted by: Steve Tonner at January 13, 2003 09:01 AM

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."

Posted by: OliverJ at January 13, 2003 09:17 AM

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?"


Posted by: Homer Simpson at January 13, 2003 10:01 AM

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.

Posted by: Don at January 13, 2003 10:23 AM

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").

Posted by: Derek at January 13, 2003 10:30 AM

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).

Posted by: daniel presburger at January 13, 2003 10:34 AM

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.

Posted by: chunkbot at January 13, 2003 10:35 AM

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.

Posted by: Amy at January 13, 2003 10:46 AM

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.

Posted by: Boris at January 13, 2003 11:22 AM

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..."

Posted by: The Cable Guy at January 13, 2003 11:41 AM

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....

Posted by: Deacon Blues at January 13, 2003 12:04 PM

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.

Posted by: haha at January 13, 2003 12:06 PM

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.

Posted by: Chris B at January 13, 2003 12:13 PM

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.

Posted by: CaptainVideo at January 13, 2003 01:01 PM

a while back ago, Geek-mag.com ran a funny article just about techies, written by a former AOL techie even! Reminds me a lot of that comic lol


Posted by: SonicBurn at January 13, 2003 01:05 PM

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!

Posted by: Trumpett at January 13, 2003 02:16 PM

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. :)

Posted by: Suzanne at January 13, 2003 04:24 PM

My favourite acronym from my tech support days:


"Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard"!

We used that one A LOT!!

Posted by: Luis at January 13, 2003 04:41 PM

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.)

Posted by: Joshua Sucher at January 13, 2003 06:02 PM

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

Posted by: James Wilkins at January 13, 2003 06:19 PM

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).

Posted by: Marc at January 13, 2003 06:58 PM

Here's some pretty funny phone calls to listen to...


Posted by: Demian at January 13, 2003 09:03 PM

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 ?

Posted by: Igor at January 14, 2003 04:27 AM

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.

Posted by: Joe at January 14, 2003 09:35 AM

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."

Posted by: Andrew at January 14, 2003 06:01 PM

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.

Posted by: Stevetheovernightguy at January 15, 2003 05:34 AM

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.

Posted by: KiltedMan at January 15, 2003 08:35 AM

Oh, and the best part.... I once had to describe to a University of Pennsylvania professor how to scroll right and left. 'tards.

Posted by: KiltedMan at January 15, 2003 08:37 AM

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.

Posted by: Chewie at January 15, 2003 04:15 PM

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.

Posted by: Chandra at January 19, 2003 06:37 AM

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!)

Posted by: day at January 20, 2003 03:33 AM

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...

Posted by: melloman at January 20, 2003 09:21 PM

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.

Posted by: Lord Rasputin at January 20, 2003 10:10 PM

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

Posted by: April at January 22, 2003 12:25 AM

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.


Posted by: Mary at May 12, 2003 05:35 PM
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