Stupid Tech Support
By no means is tech support immune to exhibiting computer stupidity of their own. This page consists of stories of customers that just can't get the help they need.
* Customer: "Hi, I can't seem to connect you guys are you having a problem?"
* Tech Support: "Well sir, what dialup software are you using?"
* Customer: "The one you provided."
* Tech Support: "And what version is it?"
* Customer: (says the version number)
* Tech Support: "Oh, that's the problem you need the latest version."
* Customer: "Ok, how do I get it?"
* Tech Support: "Well, just transfer the file via FTP."
* Customer: "Well that would be nice, but I can't connect to the Internet."
* Tech Support: (sounding exasperated) "I told you just to FTP the file sir."
I hung up.
I had trouble downloading an operating system upgrade for a PDA, so I called tech support.
* Me: "I can't seem to get this download to complete. What might be causing it?"
* Tech Support: "What operating system are you running?"
* Me: "Windows NT."
* Tech Support: "Well, you have to be running Windows 98 or better in order to download it."
* Me: "Ummm, I am. I'm running Windows NT4, SP5."
* Tech Support: "Are you on a PC or a MAC?"
This is straight from a call log of a major computer company that happens to have technical support technicians in India and other points outside of the United States.
Problem Description: Client wants to know the MAC address for the computer. Advise client that I have no way of knowing or obtaining that information. Advise client that she would more than likely need to call Apple to see if they could point her in the direction of obtaining that. Client says that the MAC address is not a macintosh address. Client says that the MAC address can be obtained by doing an ipconfig /all. Client ended up disconnecting the call. During the call I believe I could hear someone else listening. Just before the call was ended by the client there was a something faintly said but I could not make it out.
Resolution: Advise client to contact Apple.
I'm not the most technical of people, but a few years ago, I got the infamous "blue screen of death." I called in the IT department, and the new guy told me that my monitor just had to be "de-gassed" (degaussed). Needless to say, I rolled around the floor laughing, and someone else was called in to replace my hard drive.
My boyfriend and I were sitting in my dorm room, when there was a power surge, causing my computer to reboot. Unfortunately, it never got very far and popped up an error message about a missing file. Panicking, I reboot again, and the same thing happened. Foolishly, I decided to call my computer's tech support line, and after struggling with their automated system, I finally got through to someone.
* Tech Support: "Thank you for calling tech support. How may I help you?"
* Me: "Yeah, um, I just had a power surge in my dorm room, and my computer won't reboot. It's giving me the error message: [error message]"
* Tech Support: "Have you tried rebooting?"
* Me: "Yeah. Want me to try again?"
* Tech Support: "Yes, go ahead. Tell me when Windows comes up."
* Me: "Ok...it's giving me the same error message. It's not even getting into Windows."
* Tech Support: "Ok, let's try rebooting again, but this time, hold the button down for longer."
* Me: "Er...how much longer?"
* Tech Support: "About five seconds."
* Me: "All right. Holding it down now...ok, it's rebooting."
* Tech Support: "Good. Tell me when Windows comes up."
* Me: "Same error."
* Tech Support: "Ok. Let's try a hard reboot. Turn your computer all the way off, then unplug the power cable."
* Me: (??) "All right, it's out."
* Tech Support: "Ok, now hold down your power button and plug it back in. But don't let go of the power button yet."
* Me: "Er. Ok. Tell me when to let go."
* Tech Support: "Ok, let go. Tell me when Windows comes up."
* Me: "Same error message. Windows isn't coming up."
* Tech Support: "Ok, let's try looking at your BIOS."
* Me: "All right."
* Tech Support: "Reboot your computer, and when it's coming up, hit F1 as many times as you can."
* Me: "Can't I just hit it once?"
* Tech Support: "No, your computer should start beeping. I want to make sure it beeps."
* Me: "All right, it beeped. BIOS came up a while ago."
* Tech Support: "Ok, let's walk through some things...."
He proceeded to do nothing more than confirm there was nothing wrong with my BIOS. He had me reboot again, and, of course, I got the same error message.
* Tech Support: "Ok, let's try bios one more time."
* Me: "All right."
* Tech Support: "Now, when it's rebooting, I want you to hit the F1 key as many times as you can. It has to beep for this to work."
* Me: "I really don't think my computer 'beeping' has anything to do with the problem."
* Tech Support: "I think I know a little more about computers than you do, ma'am."
* Me: "All right, fine, I'm hitting it. My computer is beeping."
* Tech Support: "I don't believe you."
* Me: "...Excuse me?"
* Tech Support: "I think you're lying. I need you to hit it as many times as you can. This is very important."
Finally, I gave up on the guy and made my boyfriend finish the call. About half a minute into the call, my boyfriend gets a really funny look on his face and ejects the floppy disk that was in the drive. He rebooted it, and it worked fine.
I suppose this doubles as a stupid user story too, but you'd think a tech support person would have checked for that early on, instead all the other dumb things he had me do.
I called up tech support because Internet Explorer insisted on opening everything I was trying to download with Quicktime.
* Customer: "Internet Explorer insists on opening everything I try to download with Quicktime."
* Tech Support: "Ok."
* Customer: "So whenever I click on anything that I want to download it tries to open it with Quicktime."
* Tech Support: "Are you sure that its not a Quicktime file?"
* Customer: "No it's an exe file."
* Tech Support: "So it's not a Quicktime file?"
* Customer: "No, and I can't right click either, to do a Save Target As."
* Tech Support: "Oh, but you're sure it's not a Quicktime file, right?"
* Customer: "Yes, it is an executable file, DOT E X E, not DOT M O V."
* Tech Support: "Is it a .exe that can be opened in Quicktime?"
I use a cable modem ISP, one of North America's largest ISPs. During one of their interminable outages, I called to demand what the problem was.
* Tech Support: "Is your computer on? Is the modem plugged in?"
* Me: "Yes, it's on and working fine. The modem's plugged in, but it isn't getting anything from your end."
* Tech Support: "Ok, can you click on the 'Start' button and type 'WINIPCFG'--"
* Me: "Yes, I know. My IP is listed as 169.XXX.XXX.XXX."
This IP was the one Windows 98 usually gives when it's supposed to have one assigned to it but doesn't get one.
* Tech Support: "Well, sir, that's the problem."
* Me: "Yes, I know. I'm getting no IP. I'm not in the network."
* Tech Support: "No, sir, the problem is that you're using a Mac."
* Me: "I'm sorry?"
* Tech Support: "Sir, your IP is a Mac IP. You're not using a PC."
* Me: "Uhhh, I am using a PC. It's a Dell with an Intel PII-450 CPU. I'm running Windows 98."
* Tech Support: "No, sir. Your IP indicates that your computer is a Mac. IPs that start with those numbers are used by Macs."
* Me: "You know, I don't think it works that way. I'm pretty certain IPs are assigned based on where the computer is in a domain and a subdomain and such. I know all your IPs assigned in this area start with XXX. And I'm quite certain my computer is a PC."
* Tech Support: "I don't think we use 'domain' here."
* Me: "Can I speak to a supervisor, please?"
This incident happened to me in India. This was in 1992-3 when Windows 3.1 was becoming popular. My machine had a CGA card and monitor, which I exchanged for a VGA card and monitor. The machine booted up -- there were no warning beeps -- but nothing was appearing on the screen. So I called up tech support.
* Customer: "The computer boots up without any warning beeps, but nothing shows up on the screen."
* Tech Support: "Is the monitor connected."
* Customer: "Yes, but there is no display."
* Tech Support: "Did you install the drivers for the VGA card?"
* Customer: "How can I install them before I'm in DOS?"
* Tech Support: "You have to install the drivers first before you can get a display."
* Customer: "You don't need VGA drivers to boot to DOS like you do for Windows. I should be able to boot to DOS."
* Tech Support: "Well, insert the floppy you received with your card. Go to the A:\Utilities directory. Type 'readme.com'."
* Customer: "I cannot see anything. How do you expect me to read a file on the screen?"
* Tech Support: "Read the file, and it will explain everything."
I hung up. The problem was that the monitor was broken. I took it to the shop and proved it, and they gave me a replacement.
After owning my computer for a little over two months I noticed the system was sluggish.
* Me: "My system's really slow on bootup."
* Tech Support: "Have you been on the net for a long time?"
* Me: "Well, yeah, about a month or two."
* Tech Support: "Try deleting the cache. Oh, and do you have a virus scanner?"
* Me: "Yes, it was the first thing I put on the hard drive."
* Tech Support: "Oh, get rid of it. That's the problem. Those virus scanners screw things up on your disk. Get rid of it."
* Me: "Isn't that risky?"
* Tech Support: "And you'll have to format your hard drive with Quick Reinstall. That's really all I know."
* Me: "Um...sure. Sure I will."
A friend cleaned up my system path, and the boot lag cleared right up. And guess what? I didn't have to format my hard drive after all.
My school district decided to require us school psychologists to do all our reports on laptops and print from a single printer. After a few months the laptop they provided me ceased to work with the printer. I spoke with the IT Manager.
* IT Manager: "I don't know if the problem is a hardware problem or a software problem."
* Me: "Ok."
* IT Manager: "So I can't solve the problem now."
* Me: "When can you solve it?"
* IT Manager: "I told you: I don't know if it is a hardware problem or a software problem. I can't fix it until I know."
* Me: "Ok. I need to print my reports. When will I be able to?"
* IT Manager: (angrily) "Look, if it's a hardware problem I can't fix it! I don't know if it is a hardware or a software problem."
I made several more attempts to communicate with the IT manager about this problem over the next few weeks, only to find myself in the same conversation. Finally, I sent a memo to my boss, explaining that I was having difficulty getting tech support and could not print out my reports. My boss wrote back:
* Boss: "Please do not harass the IT Manager anymore. He has already explained to you that he doesn't know whether it is a software problem or a hardware problem."
* Technician: "What a bad day! The PC is not working well, the phone is out of order, and I wounded my fingers when trimming the network plug with a knife to fit the PC hole."
A few weeks ago I was calling around to some local phone companies, looking for DSL. I have cable right now, but I'm extremely unhappy with the pathetic support they give. Anyway, the phone company is one of the main providers of DSL, so I called their number to ask some questions.
* Me: "I want to get more information about the DSL."
* Her: "What would you like to know?"
* Me: "Is the 768K download in bits or bytes? I'm assuming bits."
* Her: "I believe it's in bytes."
* Me: "So you are giving me faster than my cable connection for cheaper? Are you sure its not 768 kilobits, which is about 96 kilobytes?"
* Her: "I'm pretty sure it's 768 kilobytes."
* Me: "Ok, that works. As for the IP address, is it static or dynamic?"
* Her: "It's dymanic."
* Me: "Oh, ok. So how often does it change?"
* Her: "The only time it ever changes is when you go in there and change it."
* Me: "Ummmm, then how would that be dynamic if it never changes?"
* Her: (click)
Ok, so, strike one. The girl in tech support didn't know what she was talking about, so she hung up on me.
I called back, and this time a man answered the phone. I told him the girl was not only clueless but hung up on me, and I am already considering not using them. He said he would try to help.
I asked him the same questions. The download speed is 768 kilobits. The IP address is dynamic and changes every few hours. But he couldn't answer anything else: he didn't know where I would get the DSL modem from, if they are using internal DHCP, how the changing IP address will affect my connectivity and downloads, etc. He finally admitted that at that particular call center, they really don't know much about it. He gave me a number for tech support.
I called that number and a lady answered. She gave me a set of responses that were different still.
I finally wrote in to their customer service and told them that after one person clearly had no clue what she was talking about and hung up on me, a second was guessing and admitted he didn't know, and tech support gave me completely different answers, I will not be using their services. The next day I received a reply. The man who replied basically said he was sorry for such bad service, and please call the following number for support. It was the number I dialed the first time.
I use a cable modem company for my Internet service. One day, it was not working. So I called our neighbors down the street and found that theirs was not working either. I decided to call tech support to see if it was down in our area. The message did not list it, so I went ahead to ask tech support.
* Tech Support: "Oh, we've been getting a lot of calls from that area today."
* Customer: "So service down in this area, then?"
* Tech Support: "Hmmm, well, my records don't show that. Okay, let's check your settings."
* Customer: "I've already checked my settings; they are fine. But I can see that the light on the cable modem isn't on. I just want to know if service is down and if someone is working on the problem."
* Tech Support: "Hmmm, the problem isn't on our end, it's on your end. Maybe you should try to re-install your drivers. Sometimes the drivers just fail."
* Customer: "Ma'am, we have five computers connected to the cable modem? None of them can get online. Are you saying all their drivers failed simultaneously?"
* Tech Support: "Oh, your computers are networked? Well, we don't support networks."
* Customer: "That's fine, I have my PC connected directly to the cable modem right now."
* Tech Support: "Well, just re-install your modem drivers. Go to Control Panel...."
* Customer: "Wait, you are telling me that five PCs of five different brands with five different drivers failed simultaneously? And how about the rest of the area? I think your service is down."
* Tech Support: "Ma'am, I think it's your drivers."
* Customer: "Uh, thanks, I'll check it out and call you back."
I called back 30 minutes later. It turns out service was down in our area.
About a year ago, my mother was having problems with her brand new computer. She hadn't had it for a month before the video card died. She called the customer service line and spoke with a technical support representative, who diagnosed the problem and promised that they would send a new card to her.
She received the new card and called the 800 number again, this time asking what to do with the card. The guy that was helping her said, "Do you see the screws on the back of the computer? Well, take them all out and take off the case. You will see a card that looks like the one you just received. Replace it with the card you have and put the case back on." And then he hung up.
So here is my mother, staring at the back of her computer, seeing an array of screws, and wondering which ones she should take out. She followed his directions to the letter and unscrewed all of the screws on the back of her computer, not just the ones around the casing edge. All of her computer components hit the bottom of the case with a bang.
When the dust settled and she realized what she had done, she called back, in hysterics. Thankfully, she got a nice woman who understood and agreed that it was the tech support guy's fault for not staying with her on the phone. She agreed to ship her a new computer at no charge.
When I was in college, I needed to connect to the school's network from my own computer in my dorm room. I knew there was a dial-up number that would allow me to log in and run limited commands. All I needed to know was the number. So I called the help desk.
* Me: "I'm trying to access the University's network from my computer in my dorm room. Can you help me?"
* Help Desk: "Which lab are you in?"
* Me: "I'm not in a lab. I'm in my room."
* Help Desk: "Then you're not on the network."
* Me: "But I want to connect over the phone line. What number do I need to dial?"
* Help Desk: "You need to call [phone number of help desk]."
* Me: "No, that's your phone number. I need a dial-up number for the computer."
* Help Desk: "I don't understand. What are you trying to do?"
* Me: "I want to connect my computer to the school's network through the dial-up."
* Help Desk: "Why don't you use a computer in the lab?"
* Me: "That would defeat the purpose of having a computer in my room."
* Help Desk: "Well, your computer is not connected to the school network."
* Me: "I know! I want to use my modem to connect."
* Help Desk: "What's a modem?"
* Me: "Never mind."
* Me: "I was thinking of installing Linux, but I was wondering if you knew if the modem works under Linux."
* Tech Support: "Oh, I'm sorry, we only support Windows."
* Me: "I know. I was just wondering if you knew if it was possible."
* Tech Support: "But we only support Windows."
* Me: "I know, but just to save me some time, have you heard of anyone that got Linux to work with the modem?"
* Tech Support: (getting annoyed) "Why can't you just use Netscape?"
* Me: "Uh, wha? It's not a browser, it's a--never mind. Thanks for your help."
* Customer: "When my computer boots up, all I get is a black screen that says, 'boot2/'."
* Tech Support: "What operating system are you using?"
* Customer: "I'm using Windows 98 and NT 4.0."
* Tech Support: "Ok, I'm the Mac tech. The Windows tech is gone, but I can try to help you."
* Customer: "Ok, what should I do? I've reformatted the hard drive and have fresh installs of both operating systems."
* Tech Support: "Sir, have you put any cheese or mustard in your a drive?"
* Customer: "What? Did you just ask me if I put cheese or mustard in my floppy drive?"
* Tech Support: "Yeah, we've had that happen a lot lately."
* Customer: (staring blankly at roommate, who was laughing uncontrollably on the floor) "I think I'll wait for the PC tech to get back. Thanks for the help." (click)
Last term in college I was working in the lab when my network connection suddenly died. Mine was the only computer doing that, and we're not supposed to mess with the computers ourselves, so I called the lab attendant over.
This guy was a fourth term programming major. I don't know how he was this stupid. But I told him what was wrong and what error message I was getting ("no route to host") and figured he'd go behind the computer and check the wires.
No. He brought up the menu on the monitor (that allows you to adjust the size, shape, tint, brightness, etc, of the display) and starts fiddling with that. He told me to try again. Obviously it didn't work.
* Me: "Why don't you just check the network wires?"
* Him: "I'm the computer expert here. Just let me work."
He fiddled with the monitor settings some more. Finally he slapped the monitor and said:
* Him: "Well, I don't know what's wrong. That's what they get for having NT servers."
When he left, I checked the back of the computer. As I thought, the wire had gotten pulled out.
* Me: "Yes, I'm having trouble with the connect suite for dial-up."
* Tech Support: "What seems to be the problem?"
* Me: "I get random disconnects, I can't always get the dialer to work, and web pages often give strange time-out errors. I set everything up according to the documentation."
I thought, at this juncture, I'd get the usual "let's go through the setup just to be sure" routine. I was wrong.
* Tech Support: "Yes, well, that program doesn't work on everyone's computer."
* Me: "I know that. It doesn't work on mine, for instance."
* Tech Support: "Well, we don't know why it doesn't always work. You should consider getting a new computer."
My company recently hired a new technician, and at first he seemed to know what he was doing, but soon he got in over his head. A customer brought in a system and said she couldn't get on the Internet. When the tech couldn't get the plug-n-play modem to work under Win3.11, he assumed it was a new modem, and it couldn't be done. He called her.
* Tech Support: "Ok, this modem, since it is plug-n-play, will not work in Windows 3.11. You'll have to get a new modem or install the Windows 95 upgrade."
* Customer: "But I've been using that modem for over a year in Windows 3.11, and it never gave me any problems."
* Tech Support: "Well it doesn't work now."
* Customer: "If it worked before, why would it not work now?"
* Tech Support: "Lightning must have hit it, and now it won't work in anything but Windows 95."
She called back later and asked for someone else.
A year ago, I was programming a database for one of the larger insurance companies in my state. The computers they had were awful things that still ran Windows 3.1 and took about three minutes to boot up.
One morning I turned on my computer and waited for it to boot. Just as it loaded Windows, it started rebooting all over again. I waited again, and it did it again. After about ten times, I began to wonder. I would have just loaded DOS and found the problem, but one of the security systems on the computers there automatically rebooted the computer if you went to a DOS prompt.
So I called tech support and explained the problem.
* Tech Support: "Ok sir, have you tried rebooting the computer?"
I have a Pentium 100 that I bought in March 1996. I moved since then and lost the documentation about the motherboard. I called tech support.
* Me: "Hi, I have a Pentium 100, and I want to put in a faster processor, a 133 MHz. I lost my motherboard documentation and the jumpers aren't marked. Can you tell me what the maximum is for the board I have?"
I give him all the information he needs, restating the question three times in the process.
* Tech Support: "I don't have that information."
* Me: "You guys built the machine. Don't you have an engineer somewhere with this information?"
* Tech Support: "Um, I don't know let me ask."
Ten minutes later:
* Tech Support: "Ok, I am going to transfer you to a technician."
* Technician: "Ok, you want to put a 133 processor on this board?"
* Me: "Yes."
* Technician: "This board only goes up to 100 MHz. You can use it with Pentium 75, 90, or 100."
* Me: "That's a disappointment -- I wish you hadn't sent me a machine with no upgrade flexibility like that."
* Technician: "Well, you can put the P133 in -- it will run at 133, even though when it boots it will only say 100."
* Me: "REALLY? In the five years I have been working with PC hardware and software, and of all the machines I have upgraded, I have never heard of this. Are you sure you are correct?"
* Technician: (long pause) "Um, no."
* Me: "You just wanted to get me off the phone, right? Well, I just wanted the answer about my board -- if the answer is no, fine, but don't lie to me."
* Technician: "Um, sorry. No, you can't upgrade that board to a processor faster than 100."
* Me: "Hi, I have a problem with my left speaker, no sound is coming out of it."
* Tech Support: "Have you adjusted the balance in the volume properties?"
* Me: "Yes, it's definitely not that, and it's not a sound card or connection problem either. Could you just send me some new speakers? It's still under warranty."
* Tech Support: "Errrm, ok, I want you to go to DOS and type 'format c:' and then restore your hard disk from the master CD."
* Me: (click)
I called my cable modem service about a problem involving a series of constant disconnections and lock ups.
* Tech Support: "Oh, you need to empty your browser's cache."
* Me: "Well, that's a different program."
* Tech Support: "Do you use Internet Explorer or Netscape?"
* Me: "Internet Explorer."
* Tech Support: "Ok, click on View/Properties/Internet Options."
* Me: "I'm sorry but cache files from an entirely different program couldn't possibly be causing this."
* Tech Support: "Hmm, let me refer you to advanced technical support."
The advanced technician knew exactly what the problem was and solved it. A month later it happened again.
* Tech Support: "When was the last time you cleaned your browser's cache?"
Yet again I was forwarded to advanced tech support, and my problem was solved. A while later, it happened a third time.
* Tech Support: "Oh, it's the cable line in your area. We'll get a truck rolling on it right away."
* Me: "If it's the cable line, how am I able to connect at all?"
* Tech Support: "There could be a short in one of the lines, and that could be causing it."
The next day the cable repairman arrived and checked the lines in my area, but my service was again working flawlessly even before he arrived. When he left, I turned on the TV and noticed the cable was out.
I'm a system administrator for a fairly large company. We were shipping out new desktop PC's to all our branches, but the PC's did not come with installed modems. I installed modems in these machines and configured all the necessary software before I shipped them out. I received a call from one branch manager stating that his modem would not work. I had his try all the standard tests, and it appeared that the modem had become unseated.
He called the IS director and asked why I hadn't tested the machine before I sent it. I tried to explain that I did, and the card had become unseated in shipping. The IS director, knowing that I install PCanywhere on all machines so I can troubleshoot from my office, asked, "Can't we use PCanywhere to dial in and fix that?"
I had just come across a Compaq 386 Deskpro motherboard. Since I was just getting into PCs, I thought it would be cool to wire it up for my brother. But I had no idea what the pinout for the power supply plug was, as it was non-standard. So I called up Compaq tech support.
* Me: "I just got an old 386 Deskpro motherboard, and I wondered if I could get a pinout for the power supply plug, so I can power it up and see if it works."
* Tech Support: "What happens when you turn it on?"
* Me: "Ummm...nothing, I don't have a power supply for it. I need a pinout to wire up a standard power supply."
* Tech Support: "I see. Can you get into Windows?"
About two years ago I signed up with a local ISP. They gave me some software to install and said it would take up to five days for my account to be activated. I installed the software, but five days later I still couldn't get on. I waited two more days, then called to find out what the problem was. The tech support person said he would check on it and call me back. Four hours later, I still hadn't received a call, so I called again. The same guy answered the phone. I asked if he had figured anything out. He replied that he had not. I told him if he couldn't fix the problem, I wanted to cancel my service. He stammered and told me he really didn't know that much about computers, but he didn't want to lose my business.
At this point I completely lost my patience and told him to cancel the account immediately. He told me that to cancel my account I had to send them email from it.
I called the TurboTax support number for help with the online filing of my taxes. Here is my dialog with the "tech support" person:
* Tech Support: "How can I help?"
* Me: "I'm having a timeout problem when filing online. The modem dials up ok, but after connecting I get a timeout error."
* Tech Support: "What kind of modem do you have?"
* Me: "A MultiTech 28.8."
* Tech Support: (pause) "We only support 9600 baud. What's 28.8?"
* Me: "Twenty-eight point eight K-baud."
* Tech Support: "What's K-baud?"
While looking into DSL, I came across a number for a large service provider and called to get details. When the tech support person got up to the speed of the connection, she said:
* Tech Support: "1.54mbit up/down."
* Me: (after some calculations) "Hmmm. That's about 173KB/sec, right?"
* Tech Support: (pause; sound of typing) "No, that's 1.54MB/sec."
* Me: "No, that's the speed in bits per second. I wondered what it was in bytes per second."
* Tech Support: (pause) "No, it's 1.54MB/sec."
* Me: "No, 8 bits equals 1 byte--"
* Tech Support: "No, bits and bytes are the same thing!"
* Me: "Um, that's not true. That's why a 56K modem is a 56kbit modem that usually gets 5 KB/sec transfer rates."
* Tech Support: "Well that's because people take out the dot when they say it. It's actually 5.6kbit or 5.6kbyte. The .6kbyte is just lost in the connection."
As a networking consultant called in to a new client, one of the things I like to do is go over their bills to make sure they are getting what they are paying for from ISPs, telcos, etc. On one occasion, I discovered that a client was paying an ISP for 20 email mailboxes that they hadn't used in years. I called the ISP's customer support to cancel the mailboxes.
* Me: "Yes, I notice I'm paying $100/month for 20 email boxes I'm not using. I'd like to cancel them all."
* Tech Support: (after verifying our account information and getting the details of the account displayed) "No problem, sir. What I'd like you to do is fax me a list of all the boxes you'd like to cancel, and I'll do it this afternoon."
* Me: "Well, I can't really do that, because I don't have a list of these email names. I just have a bill. We haven't used these names in probably two years. Just cancel them all."
* Tech Support: "It's all right, sir. I have them here. I'll read them to you."
She proceeded to read me names, and like an idiot I jotted them down until it dawned on me what we were doing.
* Me: "Hold on. You're going to read me all 20 names?"
* Tech Support: "Yes."
* Me: "So I can write them down and fax them back to you??"
* Tech Support: "That is our policy, sir."
* Me: "Am I the only one who thinks this is absurd?"
My husband and I helped our church get online. We installed a new modem, checked everything out and then after doing some research on local ISPs we chose a reputable one that would give the church a good deal.
Netscape came with the modem's communications software, but it was an old version. After getting everything going we started to download Netscape's upgrade. The ISP kept hanging up ten minutes after starting the download. We checked all the settings. Everything checked out fine, but we were still experiencing the problem. It would even disconnect while downloading email.
I asked the church's secretary to call the ISP's tech support number the following morning. The next morning she called me back and reported that the ISP tech support person had told her she needed to reformat her computer and reinstall Windows.
I called the tech support person myself.
* Me: "I can't believe you told her that! You told her that? That's preposperous! This is not a software problem, this is a problem with the ISP. What does this have to do with email downloads and getting disconnected?"
* Tech Support: "Look, this is a common problem. I can't even download email without it disconnecting. It is like that with all ISPs. This is what we tell all our customers who have this problem. You see, SMTP stands for--"
* Me: "I don't think you have any idea what you are talking about. I am with Netcom, and this has never happened to me."
I was getting several "illegal operation" errors on a new Windows 95 machine I was trying out. So I called tech support.
* Customer: "I want to buy this computer, but I'm a little concerned that I'm getting so many error messages. Is that common with this machine?"
* Tech Support: "Well, we have to reformat the hard disk and reinstall the software every day. That's normal."
* Customer: "Wait, wait, wait. You're saying that I will have to reinstall Windows every single time I use the computer?!?"
* Tech Support: "When it has errors, ma'am, that's the only way to get rid of them."
Needless to say, I purchased my computer elsewhere, from a store and salesmen that had a clue.
I had a problem with my computer. Out of the clear blue, the sound card disappeared from my hardware settings. After trying to get Windows 95 to re-install it, I gave up -- Win95 consistently told me that the card was a Soundblaster, and I knew it wasn't. But I didn't know what kind it was, and the manuals that came with the computer didn't say. I called tech support, and they asked me what had been installed on the system since I bought it. "Microsoft Office, and Plus" I said.
They told me that was the problem. They told me I wasn't ever supposed to install anything on the machine except for what came with it originally. Then they told me to reformat my hard drive and re-install everything from the setup CD.
I asked to speak with this guy's supervisor, and he told me the same thing.
In the 1980s, I did not know what fdisk was or how to use it, so I called tech support and left a message on their answering machine. I spoke very clearly and left the message: "My hard drive crashed, and I've been told that I need to do a low-level format before I can restore from my tape backup. How do I low-level format my hard drive?"
The next day, our receptionist handed me this message from the tech support team: "Put the floppy diskette in the drive and type format a: and hit enter."
This weekend, my father brought over his new laptop, purchased at a major retailer. It was taking 4-5 minutes to boot into the OS. It was discovered that there were several utilities loading during startup, some of them multiple times. Not wanting to void the support warranty, we called tech support. After my father related the problem, they talked him through removal and unchecking of many of the options. A reboot then took about 2.5 minutes, still quite a long time. When he asked what else could be done, he was told, "Just reboot a few more times. It should get faster as it works in." We just sat there with our mouths open.
I was working as a student placement at a rather large company last year. One of our backup tape drives was acting up, and nothing I could do fixed it. So I phoned support. The first thing the guy asked, after half an hour of detail-taking, was:
* Tech Support: "Do you use clean tapes in the drive every time?"
* Customer: "No."
* Tech Support: "Well, that'll be your problem. Use a new tape every time, and that'll fix it."
I was rather skeptical about this but decided to try it anyway. Of course, it didn't work. So I rang support again and got a different guy.
* Tech Support: "Do you use clean tapes in the drive every time?"
* Customer: "Yes!" (enthusiastically)
* Tech Support: "Oh, well, that'll be your problem then. Every new tape that's used clogs up the drive."
I bought a laptop with a DVD drive and S-video output, thinking to use it, among other things, to play DVDs on my TV. The S-video output worked fine until I tried to play DVDs, when it switched back to the laptop's monitor. So I called tech support.
* Tech Support: "It's not supposed to work, because the resolution would degrade too much."
* Customer: "But this is DVD; they're designed for TV sets."
* Tech Support: "No. You see, it looks really great on your computer monitor, but the TV doesn't have as good resolution."
* Customer: "But DVDs aren't SUPPOSED to use all that resolution. They're supposed to be shown on TV sets. Anyway, do you have a solution for me?"
* Tech Support: "Well, if you'd get an HDTV, it would work fine!"
As it turns out, he was right about one thing -- it wasn't supposed to work. Buried in the documentation of the MPEG decoder is a line that the card didn't support interlaced displays.
The company is now dead, so I can mention this one by name:
* Tech Support (an elderly sounding woman): "Hello, Commodore customer service. May I help you?"
* Customer: "Yes, I'm trying to find the file format for Deluxe Music Construction Set."
* Tech Support: "You want to format a disk? Lemme see..." (paper rustles)
* Customer: "No. I'm looking for documentation on the file format for DMCS."
* Tech Support: "Oh, yes. I've got documentation here." (paper rustles) "Ok, to format a disk, first you--"
* Customer: "No, no...I'm looking for the file format for--"
* Tech Support: "You want to format a file? I umm..." (paper rustles again)
* Customer: "NO... I DO NOT WANT TO FORMAT A FILE!"
* Tech Support: "Ok, well, to format a disk, you--"
* Customer: "NO! I don't want to format a disk. I'm a programmer. I'm trying to find some documentation on--"
* Tech Support: "We have documentation."
* Customer: "Yes, I understand. But I'm looking for specific documentation on software that I bought through Commodore. I'm looking for documentation on the file format for Deluxe Music Construction Set--"
* Tech Support: (paper rustles) "You want to format a file?"
* Customer: "No, I-- Is there someone else there I can talk to?"
* Tech Support: "No. No one here but me."
I tried in vain for other contact numbers or the vendor of the software (contact information for that software was conspicuously missing in my software and documentation). Some hours later I called the same number above and got someone who gave me decent information. He had no clue what woman I talked to earlier. Could have been janitorial staff for all I knew.
I was troubleshooting a powerbook for a user, which had been flaky all of it's short life, when it refused to boot and I could smell something smoldering. Clearly there was a short-circuit somewhere, probably in the power supply. I called Apple to get it repaired under the warranty.
* Me: "Hi, I have a problem with a powerbook. It has developed a short circuit, probably in the power supply. I need an RMA number so I can send it back; it's still under warranty.
* Tech Support: "Please describe the symptoms."
* Me: "Um, there is a short circuit somewhere. I'd guess it's a bad power supply. I can smell smoldering when I try to power it on, and it won't boot, and the screen is just a pattern of lines.
* Tech Support: "Ok, let's try troubleshooting this."
* Me: "There's nothing to troubleshoot. I need an RMA number so I can send it back under warranty.
* Tech Support: "Well, you just described three problems to me. We'll tackle each one and see how many we can fix."
* Me: (frustrated) "There's only one problem, a short circuit in the power supply. Something's burning inside the case; I can smell it when I power it on."
* Tech Support: (as to a child) "You said that you smell smoke, that it won't boot, and that there are funny lines on the screen. We'll tackle each of these one at a time. Now, let's start the troubleshooting and see if we can get it to boot."
At this point, I mumbled something about the phone not being near the computer and hung up.
The punch line is that, after the thing was shipped to Apple (twice), it got stolen from the shipping agent's truck, and we got a brand new model.
I had just bought a new laser printer in the US when I received a very good job offer for the summer in Europe. So I called the printer manufacturer's help desk to find out if I could use the printer in Europe with 220 volts, or if they had a low cost transformer.
* Me: "Hello, I have just bought your new (printer model), and I was wondering if I can use it in Europe with 220 volts?"
* Tech Support: "Hmmm...let me see.... Here, ok, it says that the printer works with 120 volts, so 220 volts should be enough."
* Me: "What?! If it is made only for 120 volts, and I hook it up to 220 volts, it's going to fry."
* Tech Support: "Hmmm. You may need a surge protector."
I'm an American living in Switzerland. I prefer English software, and the easiest way to get it is to buy directly from the United States.
So, we've recently purchased software from [a company] in the States. It had a few problems, so I called the international support line, and please note the word 'international'.
After 45 minutes of listening to bad music at peak international phone rates, someone came on the line. It's a known problem, he said, and he'd send an update right out -- he'd just need my address.
He asked for my street. He asked for my city. He asked for my state. Oops, I'm in Switzerland, and the 'state' field doesn't apply. The tech is very apologetic, but his software won't let him leave the field blank. Ok, I said, I'm from Texas, so just put Texas in there. Amazingly, the software accepts my four digit zip code. But he never asked me for my country, so I double checked. No, there was no place for him to enter a country. So he wrote my address down and said he'd sort it out later.
Weeks later, the update still hadn't arrived. I called back, waiting "only" twenty minutes this time. They checked, found my order, and told me it had been sent to Canada and been returned as undeliverable. I corrected the mistake, and the update arrived a few days later in spite of the fact that it was addressed to "Swaziland."
I have no idea if this company ever updated their software so the international help line could support international addresses.
* Me: "Does your Internet provider support multicasting?"
* Tech Support: "Yes. Just download it onto your PC and it'll work fine."
* Customer: "I seem to have lost my IP address can you tell me what it is?"
* Tech Support: "Just a minute, I'll check." (pause) "You're using Win95 aren't you? It's a bit complicated. Click on Start."
* Customer: "Ok, I don't need to do that--"
* Tech Support: "Please do it my way, click on Start."
* Customer: "Ok."
* Tech Support: "Now click on Settings...Control Panel...Networks...TCP/IP...and now on Protocols, and there you are."
* Customer: "Yes, that's where I was when I called you."
* Tech Support: "Well why call me? That's where your IP address is, right in front of you."
* Customer: "Well, that's where it should be, but mine's all blank."
* Tech Support: "Well, what do you want me to do?"
* Customer: "Can you tell me what it is?"
* Tech Support: "Of course, just a second...why didn't you ask me that in the first place?"
* Customer: "I can't seem to connect. Is there a problem on your end?"
* Tech Support: "No. Let's check a few things."
* Tech Support: "Ok, looks like you'll have to re-install your net software. Do you still have the disks we sent you?"
* Customer: "I've been using you guys as an ISP fully a year before you had handy install disks for common software."
* Tech Support: (pause -- he clearly doesn't comprehend how that's even possible) "Well, then you'll have to re-install Windows."
* Customer: "I don't think so. Can I talk to someone else?"
* Tech Support: "Um...just a sec." (several minute pause) "You there?"
* Customer: "Yes."
* Tech Support: "We're down in your area."
* Customer: (dryly) "Thank you very much."
One of our clients, an ISP, gave us a free account to use to test their service and help us write the documentation and marketing copy for them. I set the system up, logged on, and handed it over to my assistant.
After about thirty minutes I passed by and noticed they were on the phone to the technical support line, reporting a problem with the connection. I checked what the problem was with my assistant who told me that the web site they were supposed to connect to wasn't answering. I checked -- sure enough the connection just timed out with the usual 'Unable to connect to server' error. I tried a ping to the server and got no response, then decided to speak to the tech support person myself.
He was convinced the problem was with our dial-up connection, but as soon as I got on the phone I suggested the server was down and asked if he could check it with someone. He refused and we spent the next forty minutes trying various things on our machine to get the connection working. Finally I stopped him:
* Me: "Look, I'm a technical consultant who tells other ISP's how to set up their services. I was a founder member of the largest ISP in the UK, I think I know the difference between your server being down and a probem with my machine."
* Tech Support: "I've set up two ISPs myself, I know what I'm doing, sir."
* Me: "You may well have set two ISPs up, but your server is currently down. Can I speak to your supervisor? I don't have time to waste checking things I know aren't wrong."
* Tech Support: "Hang on a second -- I'll just check something." (pause) "It looks like our server is down."
* Me: "I told you that 45 minutes ago. Why didn't you check that when I first asked -- we could have both saved ourselves a heck of a lot of time."
* Tech Support: "Well, we have to go through this procedure of checking the caller's machine."
* Me: "I'm having problems connecting to sites outside the University."
* Tech Support: "What operating system are you using?"
* Me: "The latest version of Linux."
* Tech Support: "What programs are you currently running?"
* Me: "Nothing much -- ftp, telnet, X, Netscape, sendmail..."
* Tech Support: "It's not our fault you can't connect anywhere if you're running sendmail. You have to get mail centrally."
* Me: "But sendmail has nothing to do with ftp access, web access, or anything else."
* Tech Support: "It's not our problem."
Three months later, it was announced on the University web site that there was an "untraced fault" on the network, and everyone had to reduce the MTU on their computers to 1498. A few talks with various technicians revealed that this had been known and repeatedly reported by a great many people, who had received just as unfriendly a response as I had, over those 3 months. The official story was that the technicians were waiting to see if the problem would clear up on its own. It took another six months of complaints before they finally got someone in to fix the router.
I recently signed up for a 640kbps ADSL line with a borrowed router. We have four computers in our household, with a perfectly working LAN. But after trying to set up the ADSL settings, there was still no connection to the Internet. I thought it was an ISP problem, so I phoned to the tech support. I explained the problem, and...
* Me: "...If I ping any computer everything works fin--"
* Tech Support: "You what?"
* Me: "If I ping any comp--"
* Tech Support: "No, I didn't get what you did. Ping, right?"
* Me: "Yes, ping. You know, when you write 'ping' and an IP address to see if the network is working."
* Tech Support: "Write where?"
* Me: "At a command prompt."
* Tech Support: "It is better for you to upgrade to Windows XP. DOS is outdated."
* Me: "I run Windows 2000. Go to Start, Programs, Accessories, and you'll see a Command Prompt icon. That's where I type 'ping'."
* Tech Support: "Oooooooooooh, I see, I see. Now I remember. Maybe the LAN isn't working."
* Me: "No, I told you, the LAN was set up well before the ADSL contract and is perfectly fine."
* Tech Support: "Mhm. Go to Start, Programs, Accessories, and you'll see a Command Prompt icon. You'll get a black window. Write p-i-n-g-space-[an IP address]."
* Me: "..."
* Tech Support: "Sir?"
* Me: "Done. All packets lost."
* Tech Support: "You have a LAN, don't you? Try to ping your PCs and the router. To do so, go to Start, Progr--"
* Me: "I know."
And so on, for almost an hour. The problem never got solved. Later I swapped out the router, and it worked. So I called back to see if I could have a replacement router.
* Tech Support: "So, you tried to exchange the router with a new one and it worked?"
* Me: "Yes, it could be defective."
* Tech Support: "Yes, it could. Which brand of router did you have?"
* Me: "A Cisco one."
* Tech Support: "Ah. Does Cisco make routers?"
I hung up, and later I cancelled.
I had a problem with using my PPP connection through Linux. The data transfers were really slow sometimes but fine at others. I played with it for a while, then finally called the help desk. I was on hold for twenty minutes, then:
* Tech Support: "Hi. How can I help you?"
* Me: "Hi. I'm trying to hook up my Linux box via PPP, and I'm running into some problems. It works fine under 95, but I can't seem to get it to connect right under Linux. I can resolve hostnames and even --"
* Tech Support: "Um, sir -- what kind of computer is it?"
* Me: "IBM compatible. Specifically, an Ambra."
* Tech Support: "Ok -- what happens when you try running Trumpet Winsock?"
I slap my forehead.
* Me: "This is Linux. It doesn't run Trumpet Winsock."
* Tech Support: "Oh - it's a DOS program?"
* Me: "No. It's an operating system. Trumpet runs fine under 95."
* Tech Support: "Well, have you tried running this program under Windows 95 then?"
* Me: "No, it is an operating system. It doesn't run under another operating system."
* Tech Support: "Oh. Ok, so what happens when you try to run Winsock under it?"
Murderous thoughts are going through my head. After a couple more exchanges back and forth, she finally understands that Winsock won't run on Linux for some weird reason.
* Me: "So can I get an incident number so I can talk to a tech?"
* Tech Support: "Sure. I just need to get some info from you."
She gets down my name, room number, phone number, computer type and brand, then we get interesting again.
* Tech Support: "Ok, so is this under Windows 3.1 or Windows 95?"
* Me: "Neither. It's Linux."
* Tech Support: "Which type of Windows does it run under though?"
* Me: "Neither! It runs on its own!"
* Tech Support: "Oh!!! Oh! I'm sorry, in that case we can't help you. We only support Windows 3.1 and Windows 95."
* Me: "WHAT?!?"
* Tech Support: "Sorry. That's all we're currently supporting. Have a nice day." [click]
* Me: "The ethernet card you supplied doesn't work under Linux."
* Tech Support: "Have you installed the DOS drivers?"
* Me: "I'm using Linux, so the DOS drivers won't work."
* Tech Support: "Why not?"
I was a manager in an IT department who had a network of around 100 point-of-sale (POS) computers spread all over Australia. One of our shops, about 2000 miles away, called with a problem. The motherboard appeared to be broken. I called one of our technicians who was in the area and asked him to go over and swap out the hard drive from the machine with the broken motherboard into a machine that was in the store room which I figured was working fine -- that way the shop wouldn't lose any of its data.
The technician called me later and said he couldn't figure out how to get the hard drive out of the machine. To understand what he was looking at, I dismantled a spare machine I had. Thankfully IBM made the machines easy to service -- lots of diagrams and instructions on the inside of the case. You just had to get into it first. The hard drive was mounted on a tray which was designed to slide out smoothly once a retaining clip had been pressed. Then it would be easy to unplug the drive and slide a new one in.
No matter how much I described, cajoled, and threatened the technician, he could not figure out how to get the hard drive out. He finally got sick of it, got in his car and drove away, leaving the shop with frustrated customers. I called the technician's manager and explained the situation. But he wasn't too interested either, saying we'd have to get IBM to come and fix it (at a huge cost, as you can imagine).
I called the shop back to explain what was going on and that they'd be down for a while. But the elderly lady in the shop said, "It's ok, dear. I watched what the technician was doing, and it didn't look that complicated. He left some of his tools behind, so I pulled the machines apart, swapped the disks, and all I need to know now is how to get the cases back on."
I lead her through how to re-fit the case, and she was off and running.
This is an actual conversation I overheard in the cube next to me. I only heard one side of it. He had called the helpdesk to resolve a network problem.
"Hello, my name is [name]. My computer no longer communicates on the network. . . . Yes, the network connection is plugged in. . . . Yes, both ends. . . . Ok, I've rebooted the computer. Still nothing. . . . I don't have a 'Start' button. I'm running Windows NT 3.51. . . . Windows NT. . . . NT. . . . Ennnn Teeee. . . . I don't think that will work. . . . Well, ok. I'm pulling down file [long list of instructions]. . . . I don't have that menu choice. . . . Ok, we'll try it again. I pull down file [long list of instructions]. That menu choice doesn't exist. . . . Yes, thank you, I do know how to spell. . . . No, there is no menu choice by that name. . . . I'm sorry, it isn't there. . . . No, I do not have a 'Start' button. . . . No, I am not running Windows 3.11. I am running Windows NT 3.51. . . . Uhhh, no, I don't think they are the same thing. . . . Look, you can keep saying that the choice has to be there, but in fact it is not. I'm running Windows Ennn Teee. It's different from Windows 3.1. . . . No, the choice third from the bottom is [name of option]. . . . I AM NOT LYING TO YOU. . . . Hello? . . . Hello?"
My co-worker redials.
"Hello help desk? My name is [name]. I called a few minutes ago with a network problem. I'd like the name of the tech assigned to my case. . . . Thank you. Now, could you assign a different person to the case please? . . . Because she's a moron. . . . Yes, I did say moron. . . . Thank you."
* Customer: "I'm calling to find out if the modem that was bundled with my system has Non-Volatile RAM. It doesn't appear to work, if so."
* Tech Support: "Have you run 'MemMaker'?"
* Tech Support: "Multitasking a Pentium is like stepping on the motherboard with running cleats."
Edited by Tim'A, 18 October 2007 - 04:45 PM.