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Your Favorite Support Anecdote 1177

Most of us have had the unfortunate opportunity to have worked tech support at some point, whether it was for a paycheck or for a relative. The Register has offered up a vote for several of their favorite support stories but I'm sure there are many more out there to be had. My favorite horror story was while working a tech support call for a governmental employee, when asked to take her mouse and click on the "start" button all I could hear over the phone is what I later found out was the user banging her mouse against the monitor. What other horror stories have people seen from the trenches?
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Your Favorite Support Anecdote

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  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:43PM (#15661211)
    What you forgot when you screamed at him was that you were probably the first caller in about 100 who knew what an IP address was. I worked support for a while, and the one thing I learned was to never assume that the caller did or knew anything. When I did, a simple problem took forever to troubleshoot - because I failed to ask the obvious question, and assumed the problem was elsewhere.
  • by adamlazz ( 975798 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:46PM (#15661251) Homepage
    That's just incredible. I think it's amazing that people think that hardware is something so new to them, that they seem to purposely freeze and act like people that don't know ANYTHING about the device.

    And the IT guys get the proverbial kick in the ass for it.
  • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:48PM (#15661263)
    I remember this one time I got an IP ban here at Slashdot, so I called up my ISP's helpdesk to get a new IP address issued. The guy on the other end kept asking me all sorts of questions. "Have you checked the cables?" "When you click on My Network, does it show you all your NICs?" ad nauseum.

    Maybe he just never encountered some pathetic loser who would actually call up his ISP and spend hours requesting a new IP address just to avoid an IP block due to being an asshat on slashdot. Perhaps he assumed that, if you're calling tech support, that something was actually *wrong* with your service. I'll forgive his ignorance in this case.

    Anyway, I got my new IP address after escalating it to his manager. And here I am! Yay!

    Yeah, we're all better for it.

  • by lecithin ( 745575 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:50PM (#15661283)
    "I had to do so many things that were secret and only known by (higher level) sopport agents"

    If Veritas/Symantec told all the secrets, how would they continue to SELL support?

  • by GroeFaZ ( 850443 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:52PM (#15661309)
    Let me guess: You were IP-banned for language?
  • by Bradlegar the Hobbit ( 132082 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:54PM (#15661316)

    I discovered what I call the Rinkworks site [] a few years ago. It doesn't get updated very often, but because it's edited, the content is usually pretty good.

    I love the comment at the top of the "Computer Stupidities" page:

    "On two occasions, I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able to rightly apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    -- Charles Babbage (1791-1871)

  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:56PM (#15661329) Journal
    "User: "Junk E-mail folder. Why isn't the Junk E-mail folder filtered like the Inbox?""

    My Hotmail account works like that: using Microsoft's settings, the spam goes into the inbox while the good stuff goes into the junk folder.

  • by George Beech ( 870844 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:02PM (#15661358)
    Whose bright idea was it to make the stupidest computer geeks in charge of keeping customers happy?

    Would you work for 10$/hr? The problem here is the people who know what they are doing can make 2-3x as much - if not more - and not have to deal with the public all the time. The stupid ones are the ones that just wanna work with computers and know they can't pass themselves off as real techs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:05PM (#15661382)
    some of you are making this crap up
  • Re:Angry Customer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by charleste ( 537078 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:10PM (#15661424)
    I think it's just commo. My *mother* called me with this problem. But she was smart enough to figure it out after I asked her to make sure it was plugged in properly (I had figured she'd done the 'ol foot on the power strip trick).

    I think this is because people just expect their computers to work. Even I've started to get over to the computer to check the utility website to see when the powers coming back on (just a teeny bit - I remember DUH! pretty quick). It's because we are so used to that instant gratification and information. It's pretty interesting when you compare how you found information even 15 years ago...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:14PM (#15661459)
    I remember working in tech support and I got this call from someone who wanted a new IP address issued. We don't assign new addresses on a whim, sometimes people use this trick to get around blocks for bad behaviour (e.g., see Wikipedia), and experience has shown that half the time the user calls back with the same problem a day later anyway (e.g., it's not software, it is a hardware problem, or USER ERROR), so we have a bunch of standard questions that are asked before making any kind of switch.

    You should have heard this guy! Impatient. Demanding. They went ballistic and started calling me a retard for asking. So sorry, sir. By your command, sir. They pay me $5/hr to serve your every whim, sir. The best part is the reason for wanting the switch: their IP apparently got banned from some on-line forum. Yeah, right. The phrase "Not our problem" comes to mind. It would be like calling the phone company expecting to get a new number because yours got blocked by some other customer for harassing phone calls.

    But, they are a paying customer, and the customer is always right, so, I told them that kind of abuse wasn't necessary, and once they calmed down, I guess they called my manager and got what they wanted in the end. Good for them. I just wish they weren't so rude about it. It's not the end of the world if they can't post to an on-line forum for a couple of days.

    Sheesh, they do not pay enough for the kind of verbal abuse people sometimes have to put up with in tech support.
  • Re:True story... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pjwhite ( 18503 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:15PM (#15661472) Homepage
    OK, I don't get it. What's interesting about this anecdote? It sounds like the customer did exactly as requested.
  • by glwtta ( 532858 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:16PM (#15661476) Homepage
    The only story here is that your tech-support guys are retarded.
  • by telbij ( 465356 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:17PM (#15661485)
    What are you, 12?
  • Least favourite (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:19PM (#15661514)

    Girl from HR with large chest walks in to department and says "I'm sorry to bother you guys but I really need to get these out!" Talking about her newest pamphlet.

    Look you immature arseholes, this is why women hate dealing with IT departments. Why the fuck do you have to compare a perfectly reasonable request to complete and utter idiocy just because the woman happens to have <GASP> boobies!

    Yes, I get the double entendre. How fucking hilarious. Obviously the woman needs to be ridiculed for her stupidity. It's not as if "get these out" is an extremely common phrase heard through offices every day, is it?

    I'm a bloke and articles like this make me embarrassed to work in the IT field because, quite frankly, the reputation it has as being full of fuckwits with no social skills and a fear of women is well-deserved. Grow the fuck up and stop making the rest of us look like dickheads.

  • by iamlucky13 ( 795185 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:22PM (#15661528)
    Rinkworks has a great collection of stories. I question the veracity of some of them, but they're still funny. When I first discovered it, I had to stop after a couple pages because I was losing my faith in mankind's ability to not be completely hopeless.

    The Register's list has a couple good ones (The hungry floppy drive is my favorite), but some of them seem rather lame given the number of stories out there, and they're written like they were copied and pasted from a chatroom. Example: "Someone telling me their 'broadbean' connection is down." I would even say that my 9 year old can write better than that, except I don't have a 9 year old son.

    Also, I'm sorry because I know how important this topic is to Slashdot, but "Girl from HR with large chest walks in to department..." (more spectacular writing) doesn't exactly strike me as a bewildering IT anecdote. It's more like someone got excited about directly interacting with the HR girl and felt a need to share their excitement with the Register.
  • Re:True story... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:31PM (#15661598) Homepage Journal
    Well said - all too often, these stories just highlight the inability of tech support to communicate effectively (which means understanding your audience).
  • Re:Angry Customer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:49PM (#15661740)
    How about some -real- stories? The "power is out" story is as old and fake as "cd-rom, you mean my cup-holder?" The real story here is that so many support people simply wear their job as some kind of badge of honor. This teenage mentality of "im smarter than you" is kinda depressing. When I did support I realized I probably had the worst job out of everyone in the company and wished I picked a different major/concentration/opportunity. Not exactly the smartest move. Oh well, maybe I'll hear about the lady who used her mouse as a foot-pedal too.
  • by GeckoX ( 259575 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:07PM (#15661913)
    Hardly indicative of a stupid user. That is one of the BEST examples of HORRIBLE UI design out there. Unfortunately, it's so incredibly common a problem that just about EVERYONE forgets about the first time they ran into it and what a leap it was to find the magic switch that fixes it.

    Just because you know the workaround doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist, or that someone faced with the actual problem who does not have knowledge of said workaround is an idiot. I have a feeling 'this guy' probably doesn't hold you in the highest regard, and rightly so. There are stupid users, but there are also arrogant IT staff as well. The latter is much more likely to cause problems than the former.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordSnooty ( 853791 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:15PM (#15661970)
    Are you sure she's not just too scared to ask, in case she gets her head bitten off again? (winky)
  • by smokeslikeapoet ( 598750 ) <> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:16PM (#15661989) Homepage Journal
    Doing family support is terrible, doing in-law support is worse. After spending my own money to upgrade the memory and video card of my mother-in-law's computer so my brother in-law could use it to play newer games (aren't i a nice guy) my sister in-law accused my of "breaking the computer." After a family conference and much convincing I pointed out the announcement on her university's website that notified the users of email server upgrades that would make student email unavailable over most of the holidays.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:22PM (#15662056)
    He thought it was the record button because it had a little sideways triangle on it. It looks similar to a record button on a VCR.

    This is the case with meny computers. It is difficult to think of an iconographic way to represent the act of resetting a machine, so somebody decided on a little triangle. Who knows why, but I see it a lot.
  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:24PM (#15662077) Homepage Journal
    Why he thought [the reset button] was the "record" button, I'll never know...maybe I don't want to.

    ...Perhaps because it was red and circular?


  • by gatesvp ( 957062 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:07PM (#15662493)

    Hey man, that was great! But I feel that your blame is misplaced. In a case like this, the blame belongs solely on the shoulders of the respective managers.

    Your manager should have been irate at the user's manager for wasting IT's time. Any overtime worked should have been taken off the next day (as appropriate) and your manager should have been apologetic. The employee with the "missing" keyboard should've been verbally reprimanded by their manager and also should've apologized (to both you and your manager).

    If your manager does not stand up for the work which you are performing, then it's time to talk to HR.

    Viewing this as a "stupid user" problem may be convenient, but clearly places the blame on the wrong shoulders. The user may have been inept and made a poor decision (lock door and leave for lunch), but the true failure is here is management's handling of the situation.

  • by kormoc ( 122955 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:13PM (#15662546)
    Actually, at a lan party I attended a bit ago, a gentleman was using his cdrom tray as a cup holder, cause he said he paid extra to get it extra strong, so it wouldn't break. The funny thing was, it worked just fine, till he spilled his drink onto the computer. Nothing shorted out, but he has the fun pleasure of a hour or so cleanup. Some people do stupid things because they think they are too smart to be stupid.
  • by MrCopilot ( 871878 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:17PM (#15662588) Homepage Journal
    I was employed at a PC repair shop a few years back.

    We had this customer who was irate that his new computer was acting up and it was new I built it myself. No reason for it to be acting so strange. He brought it in we checked it out seemed fine.

    He comes back complaining again. We replace the entire PC. He leaves happy for 2 days. Then he comes back demanding a refund.

    We tell him if there is something wrong with the PC we will make it right. Leave it with us and we'll throw everything we got at it. He does. His wife comes in an hr later. "Can I see my husbands computer for a minute, I just need to check one thing.?" Sure come on back. She presses Shift Ctrl ScrollLock or something similar & up pops this EVIL unnoticable Screengrabber. She quickly scans through the last 3 days worth of pics. Instant message from her teen daughter, Web surfing of her hubby 3 pics a second. Gobbling up space & cycles. If she doesn't check it daily & dump it fills the harddrive with 1280x1024x32 Pics. I explain to her it is unnecessary to grab so many, 1 every couple of minutes is more than sufficient. She asks me to promise I won't tell her husband. I promise she tips me 50 bucks and promises to bring me a bottle of wine (her Idea).

    Later that same day.

    The owner (who has dealt with the husband only on more than one occassion since the sale.) checks in with me to see if I found the problem. I calmly explain the situation, and the promise. He asked me "Did she make you promise not to tell me?"

    Obviously I can not and did not make that promise.

    "Well then, I never promised her shit. But I did promise her husband I would find out what was up & fix it." Cue him Dialing.

    Later that same day, Hubby comes in pays us for all our service (3 hrs on site. 3 trips to the shop) and tips me 50 bucks.

    Still Later

    She comes in like a rocket right passed the counter into the bench area Slams down a shiny bottle of wine & says thanks a fuckin lot.

    My boss says thank you come again.

    The husband still shops there service & purchase.

    Moral of the story: If you are gonna spy on your kids do it with your loved one.

    Opened the wine on my wedding day. Wife loved it.

  • Re:A day at work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by deathy_epl+ccs ( 896747 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:44PM (#15662806)

    I do CAD work that gets output to a large CNC router, and by setting some values incorrectly, I could at the very least create a situation resulting in the possible loss of a hand, if not more.

    Yeah, OK, fair enough... but would you let your gramma use AutoCad on your work box?

  • Re:Least favourite (Score:2, Insightful)

    by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:54PM (#15662871)
    If you hate your peers so much, perhaps you should find another field to work in.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [denave]> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:18PM (#15663027)
    That came up on TheDailyWTF just a few days ago actually... I forget the context, but a number of people said that they have done that by accident when they aren't paying enough attention.

    Anyone else think that USB plugs are really poorly designed connectors? It seems like I always have to look at it to figure out if I'm holding it the right way up... almost every other connector I can do by touch alone.
  • by spudgun ( 39016 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:45PM (#15663221) Homepage
    Don't know how you got insightful there but I had to refute what you said.

    1. There is rarely a need to see the extension on a file, if the OS doesn't recognize it then feel free to poke around.

    What about how lookOut Express hides the extensions too and the user receives virus.txt.exe .....

    Hiding extensions is a dumb idea WHEN THE OS DECIDES WHAT TO DO BY THE EXTENSION.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:50PM (#15663244)
    That's another think 5.25" disks got wrong: using a notch taken out to enable writing...

    "Back in the day" for "us in the know" we viewed this as a feature. Why? Because we could buy single sided disks that were cheaper than double sided disks and make them double sided by punching a hole on the second side.

    Oh, and that worked with 8" floppies as well.

  • Not necessiarly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @07:45PM (#15663781)
    Sounds like they might not be on site. Well if there's one thing I know about users it's that they often lie about what they have or have not done with their computer. Ok, maybe lie is too strong a word as that implies intent, but they at least misremember. So the techs may have questioned her aobut something like a firewall and she said no.

    We get crap like this all the time:

    They: The C compiler doesn't work.
    We: Which one, what system?
    They: The C compiler, the system I'm on.
    *Repeat for a bit*
    We: Ok so GCC doesn't work on shell. Got it. What's the error?
    They: It says it can't find it.
    We: Have you edited your .cshrc receantly?
    They: No.
    *We have a look, sure enough the .cshrc has been modified today and is busted*
    We: Yes, you did modify the .cshrc, today in fact, and that's broken it, we've replaced it with the default so it works.
    They: Oh yes I changed that to make program X work, but that's not related to the compiler.
    We: Yes it is and why did you say you didn't? ...etc

    That's probably our biggest problem troubleshooting systems that we don't have hands on around here, and why we like making people send e-mail. When they have to think out the whole problem in one go we tend to get better information. I find that over 90% of problems that just don't seem to make sense (like somthing suddenly breaking) do make perfect sense, when the user stops giving us bad information they either:

    1) Outright lie, because they've done something they know they aren't supposed to and think we won't figure it out (despite being asked to help).
    2) Forget they did something and so claim they didn't.
    3) Tell us what they think we want to hear so we will get around to telling them the magic secret to fix their problem.
    4) Answer "ya" when they don't understand what we are saying.

    #4 is a real big problem here. Lots of foriegners, The Chinese students, espically, tend to have very poor English skills. Their system for teaching English isn't real effective so the poor students have a lot of trouble. However they've been conditoned to just agree or say "ya" when they don't understand something. Maybe that's good in conversation, but it's real bad when you are being asked a technical question. If I ask you "Have you done X?" I want ot know the real answer so I can proceed correctly, I don't want to just hear "yes" if that's not the truth.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @08:35PM (#15663962)
    Hi, another married guy here. If you're not willing to educate your wife on simple mistakes, your relationship is fucked. Your wife isn't a Crazy Woman Out To Get You. She's your peer and partner in life. You aren't any smarter or wiser if you think biting your tongue and talling snide stories behind her back is how you should behave.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @11:46PM (#15664763)
    Of course. We all know insulting faceless strangers is the very model of humility. . .
  • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:39AM (#15665288) Homepage
    Right. Just yesterday a friend created an .ini file to control some ActiveX component, and we couldn't figure out why we didn't get it to work. Until we realized we had made not an .ini file, but an .ini.txt file... So it can catch you unaware, especially if you turned it off ages ago at your own machine and forgot in existed.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:0, Insightful)

    by BTO ( 604614 ) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @03:01AM (#15665353) Homepage
    You are so right. In fact, that is precisely why our cabs today are all pedal-operated, and why all our stores are built to mimic the look and feel of a grove of nut-trees.

    Yes, indeed, no one has ever had had to change a habit since our neanderthal days, and with the kind of foresight you are advocating, we never will.

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.