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Cutting Off an Over-Demanding End-User? 466

SpaceNeeded asks: "Numbers of you will probably recognize the start of the situation. Because I work with systems, I perform occasional builds. This occasionally crosses over to support (especially where it's my kit I'm asked to support). This isn't a problem, nor is it a problem when I get the occasional support query from someone I haven't supplied a system to, but who needs assistance. This is all well and good, but I've had pretty poor year personally. I've lost two relatives and a third is in a pretty bad way in hospital. An eleven year relationship ended a couple of months back, and I'm now having to perform _all_ the domestic tasks that used to be shared. Between these few things and my regular job I'm finding I have a whole lot less time to allow to support calls. What methods do you know of for gently cutting off someone, support-wise?"
"I have a regular end-user who is the one that we all dread. They have little interest in PC systems for itself, and regularly call up with problems, usually related to Windows spy-ware/Trojans/Viruses. I haven't supplied the systems, which comprises of two Dells and a Tosh laptop. Although I quite like them personally, I really don't need the hassle of their regular calls at the moment.

Before the regular cries of 'Supply Ubuntu' get too loud - that will _not_ work. They aren't up to Windows after a couple of years, and will expect interoperability with Windows systems (through college/employer) and don't have the technical skills to manage a *nix system."
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Cutting Off an Over-Demanding End-User?

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  • charge 'em (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackcoot ( 124938 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @08:58PM (#15289542)
    give 'em some reasonable number of requests, and after that charge them $55-65 per incident (which should nicely cover the cost of having cleaners deal with at least some of the domestic stuff for you).
    • Re:charge 'em (Score:2, Informative)

      by Skater ( 41976 )
      Yeah. He should just tell them, "Look, I'm no longer going to be able to provide support for your systems for free." Then stick to it. If they demand to know why, it's really his business, not theirs, but since he told all of Slashdot, I'm assuming he won't mind giving the reasons to the "customer". Most reasonable people would understand and would be grateful for the support they've gotten so far.
    • by Henry V .009 ( 518000 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:23PM (#15289655) Journal
      Didn't you read the original question? He just ended a long-term relationship. What this man needs isn't money, it's sex. He should demand a night with a nubile female relative in exchange for continued support. And he should do it as brazenly and obnoxiously as possible. Either he gets the sex or he offends the other partly so badly that he never hears from him again. Whichever way it goes, the submitter's real problem is solved: he's learned not to be such a doormat for once.
      • Re:charge 'em (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eonlabs ( 921625 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @11:00PM (#15290167) Journal
        "Although I quite like them personally, I really don't need the hassle of their regular calls at the moment."

        I have a feeling that brazenly offending them isn't the solution either.
        Depending on how close you are to the person, you might directly ask for help
        with your stuff in exchange for the tech support. Cleaning someone's computer
        or teaching them how to use it is as time consuming and personal as a lot of
        domestic tasks, so I don't see this as being unreasonable.

        If they just happen to be a nice customer that you're on good terms with, you
        might try pointing them 'gently' toward other resources. That seems to have
        worked well with me when I needed some time away from the constant prodding for
        tech support.
        • by Henry V .009 ( 518000 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @11:20PM (#15290306) Journal
          Yeah, but like the submitter, you're a doormat. By the way, I need to borrow your car tonight to take your wife out someplace nice while you fix my computer. I spilled beer all over the keyboard again.
        • by KevMar ( 471257 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @10:51AM (#15293122) Homepage Journal
          for all your customers, send them a bill for all the work you have done. On that same bill, add an adjustment that brings that bill to $0.00. Give it a lable of "No charge for previous work" or "Service done at no cost".

          Make sure your rates are posted on it.

          It will list all the work you have done for them in hours and when you charge them for the next call, they have nothing to complain about. Also by charging them they will call less.

          Never ever do anything for free. charge them $0.00 for it so it shows up on the invoice. always send an invoice for work done, even if its at $0.00. That shows them how much you are worth to them and they are more willing to pay for the stuff you do charge for.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        "What this man needs isn't money, it's sex. He should demand a night with a nubile female relative in exchange for continued support."

        You're from Kentucky, right?
      • by nacturation ( 646836 ) <> on Monday May 08, 2006 @11:08PM (#15290228) Journal
        Either he gets the sex or he offends the other partly so badly that he never hears from him again.

        Or his offer is accepted, and this prompts a somewhat different Ask Slashdot.
      • Re:charge 'em (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Webmoth ( 75878 )
        You're on to something there.

        I wouldn't go so far as to ask for sex, but start asking for personal advice. Every time you talk to the person, start lamenting about what a hell-hole your life has become. Start asking for advice on relationships, housecleaning, child-rearing, etc.

        Hey, if he can ask YOU for advice on stuff he has no clue, you can certainly turn the tables and do the same to HIM.

        After a while, he just won't want to talk to you any more.
    • Re:charge 'em (Score:5, Informative)

      by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:33PM (#15289699) Homepage Journal
      Back when I used to do contract programming I'd charge something like $80 an hour to do change requests. No half hours, minimum three hours. With rates like that you'd expect my clients to wait until they had a bunch of change requests that needed to be done and give me a list right? No. I'd go out to the site, listen to them explain what they wanted, implement it in 5 minutes and say "anything else?" They'd shrug and say no. I'd offer to hang around for the remaining 2 hours and 50 minutes that I'm going to charge them and after 30 minutes they'd say "ok, that looks like it's working, we'll call you if we need anything else". At first I figured it was just that one client. Then I got another one that was just as bad. So I upped my rates and it just kept on happening. This was in my younger years and I felt that I could be better spending my time. I felt that I had something to contribute and life wasn't all about making money. So I eventually started demanding that they save up their change requests and only contact me when they had at least a days work to do. Something strange happened. They stopped calling. It seems that if you make people put up with software not being exactly the way they want it to be, even if it's just for a week, they will put up with it forever. But if you're there for them as soon as they call and sit down with them and try to make the software exactly the way they want it, they'll pay just about any price for that service.
      • Re:charge 'em (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheCarp ( 96830 ) * <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:59PM (#15289817) Homepage
        So very true.

        Its funny seeing how different groups act. I rememer being on an admin team doing real production support for critical applications, if something broke, your first priority was to make sure service stayed up, and your second was making sure that it didn't happen again.

        If that meant sending a core file or even a crash dump to the vendor and making them tell you why it broke and when the patch was comming out, then thats what you did.

        Generally, it got things fixed, eventually. Now I have more exposure to other systems and I notice, thats not the attitude. People work with broken stuff all the time, just keep on chugging.

        Fact is, you can get used to antything. Getting used to things is kind of what our brains are meant to do. Honestly, I would imagine that most honest to god bugs in end user software are easier to just get used to than say... swithcing from vi to notepad or vice versa.

      • I'm confused... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dimensio ( 311070 )
        You had a situation where you could do five minutes of work and be paid $240 for it, but you cut people off because they did not space their support calls in such a way so that you would do more work for the same money?
      • Re:charge 'em (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @10:50PM (#15290106)
        Yep. I call it the "security blanket syndrome" - because it makes people very comfortable and gives them a strong feeling of safety to know that if they have a problem, no matter how rare such problems are, that the guy to fix it for them is right there. And let me tell you -- it is VERY profitable.

        I myself discovered it by accident. I was getting burnt out with a particular client, but I didn't want to just shut down the connection. So, I decided to raise my rates until they 'fired' me for being a geedy bastard. I tripled my rate, well into the triple digits, and they did not bat an eye.

        In fact, as my client as gone through a fair amount of managerial turn-over, hardly anyone left knows what my original billing rate was and I am now perceived as more important and more valuable than I was when I walked in the door in large part due to how much more expensive I am than any of their other contractors and all I really do is give advice to people and put out the occasional fire. Lots of time for slashdot during the day.

        So, now I am totally burnt out on this boring, tedious gig - the rest of my life is a total mess, but if I can suffer through another year of this, I will be able to retire well before 40.

        This phenomenon is also one reason I am a strong believer in the service business-model for Free software. Selling high-quality, highly personalized service to be big corps with deep pockets can be very profitable.
        • Re:charge 'em (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SpacePunk ( 17960 )
          It also works for small businesses. Sometimes you get called in to basically do nothing more than wave a dead chicken around and mumble a few words. Being the 'technology security blanket' can be profitable.
          • by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:48AM (#15291817) Homepage
            "..wave a dead chicken around.."

            Back in the day we sold complete business systems based on Apple computers, and one of our developers was having mysterious problems with one program. While trying to track it down he implemented a joke error screen that would pop up and say, "Bad ju-ju error 456. Please wave chicken bones over computer." (456 was a trace number)

            Anyway, about six months later we received a call from a customer in Louisiana who said he'd gotten the error message, had been waving said chicken bones for the last half hour, no joy, and what gives?

            We explained the situation, but needless to say, the customer was not as amused as we were.

            True story.

          • Re:charge 'em (Score:5, Interesting)

            by VAXcat ( 674775 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:46AM (#15292633)
            You laugh, but one of DEC's best field service upper level support guys carried a rubber chicken in his tool box. Once, he got called out to fix a dead 11/70 at a critical installation, where a newspaper was waiting to switch over to electronic composition, and lots of money was being lost while this system wouldn't start. This 3rd level tech got called in when the local guys couldn't fix it. It was a very important account, and high up DEC executives were waiting for his, as well as all the managers of the newspaper. This guy walked around the system for a quick visual inspection, and noticed a loose cable in the back of the thing causing the problem. He plugged it in while no one was watching...and then took out his rubber chicken, danced around the system chanting gibberish and waving the chicken, and then hit the boot button...the system started....the DEC managers wanted to fire him, then kill him, but the newspaper folks, who had a sense of hunmor and were so glad he got it going wouldn't hear of it, and insisted that this guy oversee the installation of this gear at all of their other sites...DEC Field Service guys...some of them, they were like that, back in the day...
    • Re:charge 'em (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sorak ( 246725 )

      give 'em some reasonable number of requests, and after that charge them $55-65 per incident (which should nicely cover the cost of having cleaners deal with at least some of the domestic stuff for you).

      That's a good suggestion, as long as he charges enough to either make it painful for the customer, or to make it worthwhile for him. I'm thinking of the book "freakonomics" by Steven Levit, in which he talks about using money as a way of curbing negative behavior. In his example, it backfired.

      A day-care ce

  • by fotbr ( 855184 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:00PM (#15289556) Journal
    I know its too late, but the simple solution to the problem is to not provide support in the first place, unless you're being paid specifically for that support. Either way, refer them to someone who is willing to make a job out of support.
    • by fumblebruschi ( 831320 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @10:34PM (#15290023)
      I had to slide out of providing support for my mom, which took up a lot of (exasperating) time.

      My mom is in her seventies, and wanted a computer, because she wanted to use email because she doesn't like feeling left out. Fair enough. So I set up an idiot-simple Linux laptop for her, hiding all icons except Firefox and Thunderbird. "This one is the Internet; This one is email."
      The problem is, that wasn't simple enough. My mom kept calling me with imaginary problems. She thought the laptop had crashed, because the screen saver came on. She accidentally minimized the Firefox window and thought she'd deleted it. No amount of explanation could make it clear to her what the scroll bar was for; whenever anything was off the screen she thought it was gone. Honestly, it was driving me insane. Restraining myself from saying something like "RETARDED MONKEYS can do this! You have two masters' degrees! What the hell is your problem!" was practically giving me an ulcer.
      However, she provided the solution herself. Somehow or other she realized that the system I'd set up wasn't "what everybody else has" (probably one of her friends saw it and told her) so she became convinced that the whole problem was that I had set her computer up wrong, and if she had Windows and Outlook like everybody else, she wouldn't have any problems.
      Off she goes and gets whatever the clerk at Best Buy told her was good. Of course, she can't use that either, but MY problem is solved, because when she calls for help I just say "Sorry, Ma, I don't know anything about Windows. Call Best Buy." End of high blood pressure.

      So hey, it turns out Microsoft is good for something after all.
      • We all know that a PC you buy and a PC you build have basically the same parts, and that building it yourself is cheaper. That said, I've told every non-geek person for years who has pestered me to "build them a powerful pc" that when you buy a machine, you're paying for that 800 number in the manual, not the pile of parts. That number is worth every penny of an overpriced off the shelf PC because it removes YOU from the responsibility of fixing it.
      • by nadaou ( 535365 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @04:36AM (#15291458) Homepage
        Remember that in earlier days it took her several months to teach you how to poop without making a mess. Maybe frustrating calls now, but perhaps you owe her some slack?

        Or maybe she didn't really need help, but just wanted some involvement with you on some level?
  • by trewornan ( 608722 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:01PM (#15289560)
    This is a really simple business decision - these are the customers you don't want, you need to get rid of them to have a healthy business. Dump this guy, politely, but firmly. "I'm sorry but I'm not going to be able to provide support any more because priorities have had to change and I won't have the time, it's nothing personal it's just business".

    If the guy takes it badly, that's his problem.
    • I'm not sure I'd directly say that customers aren't a priority (because he'll certainly take it that way) and that could get around. Negative PR spreads faster than positive. Don't breed enemies. This is not to say you shouldn't dump the guy, but different phrasing might be worthwhile.

      You: Good afternoon _______, what can I help you with today?
      Customer: ............. blah blah ..........
      You: I understand what you're telling me, but I have to tell you that this is outside of what the management has authorize
      • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:40PM (#15289728) Journal
        >I'm not sure I'd directly say that customers aren't a priority (because he'll certainly take it that way) and that could get around.

        Between my family and personal relationship life and business life/customers, the later doesn't even rank close.

        I wouldn't care if it get around. "I failed to perform to what a customer expected because I had to handle my personal life." is something I can easily live with.

        You can ALWAYS get other customers/bosses/co-workers but you can't get another family.
        • by agm ( 467017 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @11:20PM (#15290309)
          You can ALWAYS get other customers/bosses/co-workers but you can't get another family.

          Too true. I did a month stint on a high deadline job a while back and while my wife supported me 100%, it was hard on both of us. I flat out refuse to do it again, and management know this. I've made it clear that no job or project is more important than my family.
    • Manners is business (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheMCP ( 121589 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @03:16AM (#15291268) Homepage
      There's nothing wrong with dumping a customer, but the correct way to do it is to 1) Be truthful with them, and 2) If possible, refer them to another professional who can help them.

      The client can take it much better if what you have to tell them is "I'm very sorry but for personal reasons I'm not able to take care of your needs at this time. I've selected someone who can help you in my place, let me give you their name and number..."

      It's also a good opportunity to throw a colleague some work. A friend gave me one of those clients he didn't feel he had time to deal with, at a time when I needed the work. It helped me a lot and I was grateful. Perhaps this incident can lead to some good for someone.
  • by nxtw ( 866177 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:02PM (#15289567)
    Why not tell them the truth, and if you need to, give them the name and number of someone that would gladly help them. Perhaps you can find someone that could use the money, such as a student...

    I find that increasing rates also helps, as previously mentioned.
    • by mboverload ( 657893 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:10PM (#15289606) Journal
      Honesty is the best policy...most of the time.

      Lucky for you, this is one of those times. Just explain the situation and if they are an understanding friend (like you appear to make them out to be) they will thank you for all the help so far and go find someone else.
      • I agree 100% and am sure they will understand. If they don't then they weren't worth helping in the first place. I have been a tech since 94 and have had to cut off lots of friends and family from support. Now days I charge everybody something (at least 35$/hour). I'd love to help everyone but I have a life to live. In return I always make sure people who help me get something out of it.
    • Honesty in this situation is the best policy. Help them by transitioning them to someone who can provide the service they need, and temper your brush off with an honest statement of your situation. Honesty isn't telling them every boring detail of your life, but you *can* tell them "I am not able to provide the support that you have been receiving as a part of my other services any more. I can either charge you X or you can use Y service/person/some other tech guy I recommend."

      You should be charging a fa
  • You don't say whether this is a personal relationship or not, but either way, just explain your situation and point them to Geek Squad at Best Buy. If it's personal, they'll understand that it's been a rough year. If it's a business relationship, then screw 'em. They're going to keep asking as long as they get free customer support. Again, tell them your time situation is such that you can't do it anymore, and that's it. That's a lot easier than a personal relationship.

    The bottom line, however, is that you need to learn to say "no". It really is OK to not give out free customer support to people, even if they're friends or family. If friends/family don't understand that you're not up to it after the year you've had, they're not much in the way of friends anyway.

    Just be sure to give them an alternative, then it'll at least seem like you care about them getting a solution.

    • Re:Grow a backbone (Score:5, Insightful)

      by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:35PM (#15289707)
      It really is OK to not give out free customer support to people, even if they're friends or family.

      True enough, although I would never say no to my parents. Cleaning out their spyware is a very small return on their investment. You'll feel better for it too, unless you are a totally hopeless person.

      • True enough, although I would never say no to my parents.

        Yeah, I should've made an exception for one's parents. The in-laws are pretty hard to say no to, too. :)

      • I would never say no to my parents. Cleaning out their spyware is a very small return on their investment.

        Hell, it's your investment on your inheritance, keeping those keyloggers at bay. ;-)

    • Ew. No. Best buy = BAD. Geek Squad = BAD. Have you heard the horror stories?
    • [i]just explain your situation and point them to Geek Squad at Best Buy. [/i] Please dont do that unless you really hate them... or maybe the 'geek squad' at your BB is better than what we supposedly have here. A friend of mine once paid a ridiculously large amount (around 50$ ) to get copy of an antiviurs that she bought (notincluded in the $50) installed. The best option is to find some college student to do it for you and pay him well.
  • That will get them off your back.
  • An idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mr_Tulip ( 639140 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:03PM (#15289575) Homepage
    Just tell him/her you are unable to do it during work hours, as it is too busy / against company policy / whatever. Offer to help him out if he brings his PC to your house after hours.

    Then move far away.

    This worked for me

    • Re:An idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:28PM (#15289675) Journal

      Offer to help him out if he brings his PC to your house

      Definitely works.

      They figure its easier for YOU to come over to their place than it is for them to:

      1. unplug everything
      2. bring it to your place
      3. set it up
      4. wait while you fix it
      5. unplug everything
      6. bring it back home
      7. set it up
      ... because they don't value YOUR time as highly as they value THEIR time.

      I've seen systems sit on the floor for half a year in other people's homes, inoperable, because people are too lazy to bring them over, so they use this as an excuse to buy a new one ...

      Wait long enough, and those systems become yours for free. Great for spare parts.

      • by KWTm ( 808824 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @12:16AM (#15290631) Journal
        Agreed. Somehow clients don't appreciate the work done when they don't have to do it.

        Tech support clients would be the equivalent of medical patients in my practice, and in any practice we see all sorts of people, including the needy/clingy/demanding type of person who wants everything done for him (== her). "I want an Xray!" "I want better medications!" "I want to see a specialist!" And all this after the patient declines to improve his eating habits and "forgets" to take medicine. (You can envision the equivalent scenario for tech support.)

        I will often tell the patient quite frankly: "I will work very hard for you --I will bend over backwards, if necessary-- but I will NOT work harder than you." And I give them homework. Measure your blood sugar twice daily, or do your back exercises every night, or mark on your calendar when you feel the pain coming on, or whatever. Don't come back until you've done that.

        Not only would this (hopefully) improve his problem, but it also gives him an appreciation for what you're doing for him. It makes him less whiney because now he doesn't feel as helpless --there's something that he can actually do about it! And, of course, if he's a real loser, he won't see you again because he's not going to do what you asked.

        I realize that the OP was referring to cutting off support completely, not helping his client improve the problem. On this, I would agree with other posters who have suggested telling him the truth, and then setting him up with alternative means of support, telling the client up front that he probably won't get as good support from Geek Squad or whatever, but you can't support him any more.

        Then set a deadline to cut off support: "I can support you for two more weeks, and then that's it." This is important. Tie the deadline to some milestone so that he won't push you to change it: "I start my night classes in two weeks, so that's why I can't do this any more after two weeks." (It is irrelevant whether this is the true reason; you just don't want the client to say, "Aww, how 'bout 3 weeks? How 'bout 4?")

        And then if that doesn't work then ... what I said, in the first part of this post.
    • Re:An idea (Score:2, Funny)

      by Odocoileus ( 802272 )
      You don't have to move far away. Just have their phone number(s) blocked by your phone company. Label their email address as spam. Keep the house dimly lit at night (also good for the light bill) and mount a webcam near the door so you can identify people before you let on that you are home. Throw in some extra special touches like always leaving a few days worth of newspapers outside your house.
      An alternate move might be to fake a stroke or something and play dumb. This is probably the easiest solut
  • Why not the truth? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rick Zeman ( 15628 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:04PM (#15289579)
    "Sorry, but due to other commitments I don't have the time or the inclination to deal with your issues now."
  • Good idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by Schraegstrichpunkt ( 931443 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:10PM (#15289607) Homepage
    It's great that you've asked Slashdot users -- a community that is known throughout the world for its tact and ability to handle delicate matters -- to help solve your dilemma.
    • Seriously! And the responses!!

      Let me summarize:
      treat it like you're breaking up a relationship
      charge them/raise the price
      tell them to ask/suggest someone else for help
      variations on the above

      When did Slashdot grow a pair of balls?
      What ever happened to the passive approach?

      Stop answering the goddamn phone. Hide. If you see them in public, duck and cover. Pretend you have amnesia. Do anything to avoid a confrontation.

      Some problems you can ignore and they will solve themselves.
    • Yeah,

      We are going to setup a paypal fund for a Colt .45 and send if off with the message, "You know what needs to be done."

      All in all, I think the simplest solution is often the best.
  • of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spir0 ( 319821 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:11PM (#15289612) Homepage Journal
    well, of course they'll keep coming to you, because you're free, and you never say no. One or both of these has to change.
  • Mo' money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by loftwyr ( 36717 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:13PM (#15289618)
    I wound down the suport aspect of my business a while back but the only way to get rid of the support people was to start raising the rates so they would find someone else.

    I don't know what you charge now, but start upping it fast. Increments of 25% is a good way to wean people off stupid calls. You can always charge less, later. Demanding a 3 hour minimum is a good way to go as well (even 4 hour minimums).
  • Give away a new exciting and free upgrade with a compulsory EULA attached. In the EULA state that tech support is now limited to 1 call a month/year/never.
  • by euxneks ( 516538 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:15PM (#15289626)
    Automate the response -- it may sound like a bit more work, but I've tried it myself and in the long run it seems to work out well...
    For instance, for a while I had to look up certain results in a DB for a user and it was happening so often I just created a web interface for them to look it up themselves -- granted, that's an easy fix and I probably should have had that in place in the beginning, but it cut down the amount of time spent trying to figure out why certain things were hooped by about 95%. Now, whenever my coworker contacts me, it's for issues that are most likely bugs and not for DB row queries.
      I understand that your situation is not exactly the same as mine, and my condolences for any hardships you are enduring - But perhaps there might be a way to automate this tech support for this user?
    Another thing would be to talk to your superviser above you and if he or she is a good supervisor, they'll recognize the issues and try to find a solution that works for you.
    Finally, if all else fails, just feign ignorance and the user will probably find another poor sys admin to hassle... =P
  • Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maqueo ( 766442 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:16PM (#15289630)
    How about just telling them what you told us?

    "I have too much shit on my plate right now to take care of your technical problems."

    You don't even owe them an explanation, it's perfectly ok to set your boundaries as you wish them to be. If after that they still bug you they're not your friends, they're just parasites.

    Good luck with everything man, hang in there.
  • by blanktek ( 177640 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:16PM (#15289631)
    Get a mac and then "forget" about how to use windows.
  • by jlarocco ( 851450 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:19PM (#15289642) Homepage

    I don't understand why you're oligated to fix this person's computer.

    Are they paying you? Raise the price. If that doesn't work, raise it again. Problem solved.

    If they're not paying you, tell them to fuck off. It's not your problem that they're too lazy to figure it out themselves or too cheap to pay someone else to do it.

    • I don't understand why you're oligated to fix this person's computer.

      It's called being considerate []. Some people still seem to think that's quite a worthwhile trait believe it or not.
      Facetiousness aside, I believe the OP didn't need to be told that 'no' was an option; rather how best to let people down.

  • by DeathToBill ( 601486 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @09:21PM (#15289648) Journal
    The Mighty [] BOFH []! All the advice you need (and plenty you don't) is contained therein.
  • Easy as ABC (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hobbit ( 5915 )

    a) If they're paying you for support: Bump up the price.
    b) If they're not paying you for support: See (a)
    c) If they keep asking for support at the new price: Hire someone decent and take a cut!

  • and get a ridiculously expensive price list printed up. After the next free service call, hand them the price list and tell them you're starting your own small service business. Make sure to emphasize your desire that they remain a loyal customer.
  • You are protecting that person from his/er own actions. What is his/er incentive to be careful and not click whatever "free emoticons / screensaver / pr0n" button that may appear in front of him/er, if s/he has some sucker to keep fixing it for free all the time? Make that person learn that actions have consequences.

    Don't want a spyware-clogged machine, you annoying induhvidual? Choose:

    1 - pay someone to clean up their shit
    2 - avoid usual threats (MSIE, scuzzy emails, "free" junk, etc)
    3 - learn to use a mor
  • Be honest. Most people will understand that you have other responsibilities and cannot continue to provide support for their systems, especially ones they bought someplace else. For people who refuse to accept this and continue to bother you, are those really the people you want around anyhow?
    • Most people will understand that you have other responsibilities and cannot continue to provide support for their systems, especially ones they bought someplace else.

      You've never actually worked with the public, have you? The type of person who is abusing his willingness to help is the type of person who will NOT be understanding.
      • Re:Honesty (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Veliena ( 39225 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @11:48PM (#15290475)
        The majority of his customers are more than likely not bastards. They have found an excellent means of support and he, being a kind person and happy to help them thus far, hasn't given them any indication the situation needs to change. I don't see why anyone should assume they won't be understanding.

        Communicating the truth to the best of your ability is what I'd suggest. Not everyone needs to know every detail of your life, but being honest that you're going through a rough time and need to cut back on some aspects of your job will work. If they ask what's going on, tell them if you're comfortable; they may be able to offer _you_ some advice or kind words of support, too. If they don't understand at that point then sure, bastards. They're easy to cut off.

        Something else you should do as has already been suggested is offer information to another means of support. If there isn't one you're aware of tell them that too, but make sure they know their continued support is a concern for you.

        I'm really surprised at the number of people suggesting to raise prices as an only solution to get out of a situation you don't want in at all. If more money would make the situation better for you then sure, it's an honest option but, sheesh. Is directly communicating your needs to another person really scary enough to resort to random manipulation instead?
  • can work for you. Forward your phone to a call centre in India.
  • A customer who has "little interest in PC systems", multiple PCs and spyware problems is eating your time.

    Before the regular cries of 'Supply Ubuntu' get too loud - that will _not_ work. They aren't up to Windows after a couple of years, and will expect interoperability with Windows systems (through college/employer) and don't have the technical skills to manage a *nix system.

    There's so much screwed up here and your personal losses should emphasize that. Sell them a new computer to get the work done tha

  • ...if you aren't charging for support to a computer you didn't supply, or supplied while giving no illusions of personal support, then you are getting screwed. Expertise and personal attention together is worth something. I even charge my grandparents, though at a heavily discounted rate. I can't afford to divert much time and gas to help them, so them paying me makes it a little easier.
  • This is what I do... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by coolgeek ( 140561 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @10:22PM (#15289949) Homepage
    "I don't support home users, because it would cost you less money to simply purchase a new Dell box than it would to hire me to fix your spyware infestation"
  • I always charge everyone. Now maybe I only charge a 12 pack or dinner or some trivial token, but they always know that my services are not free. I charge my mother, sister - everyone. If it's a quick question, I'll give them the answer, but I am quick to point them to a website or the help. Even when they do pay me, everyone is quick to thank me and I reassure them - "No problem, I do this for a living". One thing this has taught me is to use my friends talents. My realtor found me a house in exchange for a website waiving the realtor fee, my sister grooms my cat - for free. My friends that use me as a resource always know that there will come a day when I will ask for their help. I had a friend send a crew over to redo my lawn - for free.

    Use the barter system. If your friend likes PC support, ask him for some help with _all_ of the domestic chores you have. Oh, and hire a cleaning lady, you can generally get one to come in twice a month for around $1-200 - then fix her computer for free cleanings :D
    • This isn't mean - it's fair. Everyone has something to trade with, even if it's just an IOU.
  • If you aren't resourced to help them, point them to someone who is. Even if it's a consultant who will charge them money, at least you're giving them an option, instead of just hanging up.
  • Just get slower, and slower to respond to people you think are abusing the privilege. By responding so quickly, you're training them to come to you. Take more time. Rarely will they complain, as they're well aware they're getting something for nothing and are abusing that favor.
  • You have to be honest about what you're in it for:

    -First thing you tell people when you build them a system is that you don't do tech support unless there's a problem with the hardware itself.

    -Second, if they need system level support, recommend a friend who does it.

    -Third, if that doesn't work, declare that the going rate for computer tech support is $75/hour. For a min. of 2 hours.

    -Fourth, if they're still insistent, get new friends and don't answer the phone :)

    A friend of mine who is a doctor gave me som
  • First, avoid suggestions about ignoring these people. This will simply get you labeled as unreliable.

    Instead, simply state - "I have no free time for free work anymore... so my free time now costs $x00 per hour in one hour increments. What time would you like me to show up?"

    You can sugar coat it all you like, but this MUST be the bottom line, and you must be verbose about it. You simply do NOT have any free time anymore. Literally.

    Unless they are willing to trade some of THEIR time for these domestic chor
  • by ( 213219 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @11:01PM (#15290178) Journal
    Run over their dog on the way out of the driveway.
  • I'm not clear whether this is a matter of helping out an aquaintance or of going the extra mile for a loyal customer. Either way, I think the answer is simply to tell them that prior commitments and obligations prevent you from helping them out. If it is a close friend, you can give them as much detail as they'll stand to listen to. If it is a business relationship, I'd avoid giving them Too Much Information, all they really want to know is whether you can help or not.
  • The company I used to work (let's call them ACROSS) for in North Carolina asked the developer of a popular open source program to modify their program, and offered to pay them a sum of money to do so. Fair enough.

    But after we got the modifications working, my boss kept on insisting that since they had paid this developer money, the developer must continue to supply tech support...

    The problem was, the contact was just to make the modifications to the application, and it ended when the program functional in t
  • Since I handle Internet services, repairs, builds, support and all that kind of stuff. One of the most common sayings I have is "I make more money off of other people's friends". Professional or not, I run into so many cases where a friend or a friend of a friend fixed problems for someone and made it worse (happens with professional services too tho I won't mention the company driving around in black and white beetles). I've seen cases where "my neighbor works for XXX and is MCSE certified. He's the one
  • Turn off all the ringers on you phones. Build an Interactive Voice Response system. Spend plenty of time on an extensive menuing system as deep as you can imagine (and add a few more layers). Ensure that the only live person reachable through your rig is a pizza place in New Delhi. I am sure that you no longer will be bothered by pesky callers again. If you get a second phone line for people you actually want to talk to, be sure it is unlisted.

  • by the-build-chicken ( 644253 ) on Monday May 08, 2006 @11:50PM (#15290485)
    1) Put them old hold, for a long time, with really annoying music
    2) Transfer them to random departments like accounting, or freight delivery
    3) After they finally get back to you, cut them off.
    4) Implement a long winded touch tone system that doesn't work (with no option of going straight to an operator)
    5) Implement a long winded voice recognition system that doesn't work (note: if you implement this with the ability to listen in, it can double as a hilareous source of entertainment Customer: "Tech Support Please"...System: "Did you say 'Wreck your court with cheese?"
    6) Disagree with them over silly and obvious things eg...Customer "Oh hi, I have a computer and..." You interrupting "No you don't"
    7) Don't forget the good old "I don't have the authority..."
          version 1: "I don't have the authority to answer that...I'll have my supervisor call you back"
          version 2: "I don't have the authority to do that, you'll have to download our authorization form from , sign it, and fax it back to " ..
    well, that's what works for my bank anyway
  • by ryanw ( 131814 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @12:03AM (#15290562)
    I saw this situation creeping up on me pretty heavily. I was doing a lot at work, and I'd come home to relax to a slew of friend's and family computers that needed care. I found the best way to deter friend's and family was by giving them recommendations to buy expensive "complete" systems with support contracts. Everyone is looking for a FREEBE or a "deal". As soon as I recommended people to buy mac with "apple care" or Dell systems with support contracts they stopped calling.

    Sure, this seems heartless or selfish, but the truth is those higher end systems were every bit as good as whatever I could build for them, and not all that much more expensive. In the end they were more happy and thanked me because they had more time to use their computers.

    In trying to keep this a non-biased post I will interject just one last observation. The people that I recommended to buy macs and did are still using the same computers from three years ago and are still happy. The ones that went with dell most all got tons of viruses and had a lot of support calls, not quite as happy, but it was their choice.

  • Simple (Score:3, Funny)

    by pocketfuzz ( 517969 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @12:05AM (#15290576)
    You could take some these seemingly sensible steps mentioned in other posts, but if you just wear this [] next time you stop by you can cut out that uncomfortable social interaction. Once you walk in, I'm sure the unequivocal statement printed upon your apparel will make your intentions perfectly clear and you can leave without a word!

    Just think of the countless other unpleasant conversations you could completely avoid with this method! There's the "I'm cheating on you with your best friend." shirt, or how about "Your mother and I are getting a divorce."? The possibilities are endless!

  • Incomprehensible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by whjwhj ( 243426 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @01:34AM (#15290971)
    Because I work with systems, I perform occasional builds. This occasionally crosses over to support (especially where it's my kit I'm asked to support). This isn't a problem, nor is it a problem when I get the occasional support query from someone I haven't supplied a system to, but who needs assistance

    I had to read that about 3 times before I figured out what he was saying. I feel very sorry for the poor end users who have to decipher his techno-geek jargon. "Kit"? "Builds"? Speak english, man!

    A better translation:

    Because I work with computers, I occassionally build them for people. Sometimes, I end up having to support the people using those computers. Sometimes I support people using computers that I didn't build myself. And I don't mind one bit!
  • by technoCon ( 18339 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @02:31AM (#15291156) Homepage Journal
    I've never read it, which is why I let folks walk over me. Maybe it'll help. Folks I respect recommend it.

    Main thing is to clearly define what you can and can't do right now. If your situation has changed, share with your friend the nature of the change. Set forth all the details, all the details, in triplicate, share your pain with your demanding end-user friend. If it isn't a career-limiting move, tears might be useful. If every time your friend calls with a support question, s/he gets an earful of all your problems--so much so that you never get around to answering the question, your problem will solve itself.
  • by a-freeman ( 147652 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:55AM (#15291659)
    The problem is that this person doesn't place any value on your time. The way to educate them is make them spend as much time as you do fixing each problem, so that they begin to understand and value the relationship between lost time and certain undesirable behaviour (e.g. opening e-mail attachments, failing to update virus software, etc.)

    The best ways that I've found to do this are:

    1) Make the person bring the PC over to your home or other location for service.

    Most of these types of people can't even be bothered to unplug a PC, let alone bring it somewhere; if they can't spend 5 minutes, why should you spend hours?

    2) Force them to sit next to you and watch while you perform the fix.

    Better yet, sit beside them and force them to do, while you walk them them through it. They may even learn something, and if not, at least they have an appreciation of the effort required.

    3) Be blunt with them.

    With these sorts of people, its usually not fixing a range of problems so much as the same problem multiple times (usually virus or malware problems). Explain that once you fix a certain type of problem once or twice, its no longer your responsibility to get the user out that type of jam.

  • by JakiChan ( 141719 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:03AM (#15291686)
    My Dad always has called me for help with his Windows machine at work. He us a University professor. I have been a unix admin and now am a router/switch/firewall jockey. Never in my career have I done Windows desktop support.

    One time when my dad called me at work with some Windows question I said "Dad, you know they have IT people in your department who not only know Windows but know your systems/network better than I ever would. Maybe they can help you figure this problem out."

    His reponse:

    "I didn't pay for 4 years of college to get any backchat out of you. Now answer my fucking question!"

    That kind of sums it all up.
  • Why ask us? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Rashdot ( 845549 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:23AM (#15291734)
    Why did you come here for free advice?

    Can't you see we're busy?
  • the dreaded customer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:40AM (#15291967) Homepage Journal
    I work at a computer sales/repair shop, and I am all too familiar with your problem. There are three customers I can think of off-hand that match that description. They are customers that will call you at the drop of a hat, to ask you basic computer use questions. Thhey are people that call you 2 minutes after they encounter a problem, having spent basically no time trying to solve the problem on their own. They will call you and ask you to walk them through what you realize is a 20 minute procedure. And they'll call sometimes 5-10 times per day when they are having particular problems. It's common for them to call back less than 5 minutes after the end of their previous call.

    This almost always gets started because someone at the store initially gives the person an absurd amount of phone support. The customer lacks basic consideration and common sense, and now considers you to be his personal technical support and will now call you at the drop of a hat because you are "so helpful". The customer is certainly part of the problem, but you've done it to yourself.

    These customers are particularly difficult to deal with when they are good, frequent, paying customers. It's hard to say no to someone that buys several thousand dollars of your product every year. It's been my experience that most customers are easy to "show the light" that they are being unreasonable, and will hapily scale back their calls if requested. We also have a professional teacher that specializes in computer training that we refer to such customers. Many times the customer is quite happy to pay ~$25/hr to have a professional come to their house and answer every question they have and show them how to do something. Very often one or two visits by this man solves the entire problem with a customer. We encourage the customers to get a paper and pencil and leave it by their computer, and write down questions as they encounter them, and arrange for an appointment from our tech support person at most once a week, say on Mondays, to answer the week's long list of questions. This helps them to get all their questions answered and minimizes the number of visits required. It also encourages them to think on their questions, most of which they end up answering themselves before Monday rolls around.

    We have problems with new employees because the "leech" customers will quickly realize they have a new ear to talk with and will usually ask for the new guy by name, because they have subconsiously figured out that the new guy will spend absurd amounts of time on the phone to help them, so it's important to train the new people on how to handle the tech support leeches. We try to enforce a "5 minute rule". This means if at any point in the conversation it occurs to us that it will take more than 5 minutes on the phone to help the customer, we ask them instead to bring in their equipment or schedule an on-site. MOST customers will either bring it in, schedule an on-site, or get offended at the idea of spending their money for assistance and hang up. A few will simjply continue to insist that you help them for "just a few more minutes". Those are the inconsiderate ones, the true leeches, and often times you simply have to put your foot down, despite customer relations. We use peer pressure to help with this, and if we spot an employee on the phone for a long time with a customer, we will hold up an open hand and mouth "five minutes" to them to remind them.

    We try to use analogies with some customers, to show them why we cannot talk with them on the phone all day. One of my favorites is the car analogy. "When you buy a new car, the salesman will help you with how to operate the new power seats, show you where the spare tire is at, and tell you about what regular maintenance the car needs. They will not teach you how to drive. That's not their job. You have to learn that for yourself, or hire someone to teach you how to do it". It's amazing how this pulls things into focus for most users, hits them like a bat, and knoc

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI