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Technically, I AM Being Supportive!

June 20, 2012

I’ve always been, for lack of a better term, “into” computers.  I grew up around computers at a time when most people did not.  My dad bought a rockin’ Commodore 64 when they were new and hot.  *SIGH* Yes, okay, I’m THAT old.  Anyway, the cool thing to do with a rockin’ Commodore 64 back in the day was to buy computer magazines with programs in them, and then TYPE those programs, line by tedious line, into the computer to create amazing things like simple games.  I used to sit by my dad’s side… from the age of maybe 8 or 9, and read each line to him as he typed them into the computer.  I loved it… and apparently I learned the programming language Basic by osmosis.

By the time I made it to high school, I was learning Pascal and C++ when most kids my age were, well, definitely into other things.  The first major purchase I made while working at my first job was a brand new 486 PC.  Upgrading and (often) repairing this computer was my introduction into the world of computer hardware, and again I loved it.  So, years ago, when offered the job as an inbound telephone technical support person for a major computer manufacturer, I jumped at the chance.  After all, at the time, I had LOADS of retail experience, and considered myself somewhat of a customer service expert.  Also, I had extensive knowledge in the area of troubleshooting and repairing both hardware and software issues.  So, to me, technical support seemed like the PERFECT JOB.

Nothing is EVER Perfect…

…Especially mass produced computers.  Seriously.  I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  First of all, the customer base for a… let’s call them, budget-friendly mass-marketed computer… pretty much runs the gamut from the wannabe yuppie day trader with a mortgage and car loan so out of balance with his actual income that he’s “forced to settle for an inferior computer,” to the small business owner who figured, “what the hell, it SAYS personal computer, but they probably MEAN business computer,” to the yokel from Banjopicker, Alabama, who heard there’s “lotsa nekked ladies on them there in-tar-nets.”  Secondly, and this is really REALLY important to consider if you ever find yourself with the opportunity to work in technical support, people have to get EXTREMELY pissed off with their computer problem before they will resort to calling technical support.  This is ESPECIALLY true if the computer company makes the technical support phone number a LONG DISTANCE CALL rather than a 1-800 number to anyone outside of Boise, Idaho, as the company I worked for chose to do (in the era when long distance phone calls cost a LOT of money).  In other words, expect your days to be filled with irate people making threats on your life.  Finally, never, ever, EVER underestimate the stupidity of the customer.  Sometimes the glaringly obvious solution IS the solution.

This, for example, is NOT covered by warranty.

So, with a job like this, you take the good with the bad.  In this case, the bad would be all the customers.  The good would be the time you and your coworkers spend making fun of the idiots you deal with on a daily basis.  Yes, if you call technical support, we will be talking about how incompetent you are.  No, I don’t think this has improved since all such technical support jobs moved to Nepal.

It’s been over a decade since I took that job.  At some point along the way, my coworkers and I got the idea to jot down some of our most hilarious calls, and later publish it in book form.  It was an awesome idea… something along the lines of, “Confessions of a Techie.”  Shut up, it was a working title.  The point here is that we started a notebook, which unfortunately was never completed, nor embellished to become a full fledged publishable book.  We had a great start on the project, when unfortunately we were all laid off (which is a subject for another blog).  Somehow, though, I maintained custody of the notebook (probably because the book was my idea), and recently unearthed it.  For this blog, I’ll stick to my own conversations, and maybe delve into the call logs of other techs in another blog.  So, without further ado, here are two of my favorite entries.

Log 1: It’s Not What It Looks Like!

Me: Thank you for calling [computer company name omitted to protect me from possible legal issues].  My name is Todd.  May I get your first and last name please?

[I’m going to withhold the name of the caller… mainly because I can’t read my writing on this thing.  Looks like it starts with a ‘D’… or maybe an ‘O’? In all my logs I refer to the customer as EU which means End User… an abbreviation whose use was seriously frowned upon by the company because of the homosexual double entendre.  So, in this case… actually in this case EU seems pretty much appropriate.]

Me: And how may I assist you today?

EU: I need you to help me fix my computer quickly… before my wife gets home.

Me: Okay, I see.  What seems to be the matter with your computer?

EU: I think there’s a virus on it.  There’s porn popping up EVERYWHERE!

Porn and viruses are the bread and butter of the tech support universe.  90% of the calls we would field on any given day would center on one of three core issues: 1) the internet isn’t fast enough, 2) something’s wrong with my internet browser, and 3) my computer is running slow / acting strangely.  Complaining about internet speed issues generally meant “I can’t stream hardcore porn at full speed, please help!”  Problems with the browser usually meant, “I have stupidly installed spyware with page hijackers; help me see my intended porn!”  The computer running slowly and acting strangely usually meant, “I opened an email saying I could get millions of dollars if I downloaded and installed this one prize claim form.  In retrospect this may have been a virus.”

Me: Yeah that sounds like a virus.  We’ll need to run a few system checks to see what type of virus you have so we can better see how to deal with it.

EU: Okay.  But, seriously, we NEED to hurry.  The porn that’s popping up is… gay porn.  I’m not judging!  I mean if that’s what you’re into, then that’s what you’re into!  But my wife will NOT understand why my computer is covered with gay porn!

Me: Well, if you want to bypass the whole diagnosis we can jump straight to a surefire cure, but it means losing everything currently on your hard drive.

EU: Wait.  So, if you fix it, what will I lose?

Me: Well, IF we jump straight to this particular resolution, then you will lose all saved data.  Any documents, pictures, music, anything like that which you have saved on the computer will be gone.

EU: Shit.  My wedding pictures are on there.

Me: I see.  Well, those would be lost.

EU: How long will it take to do the other thing?  The one where you see how bad the virus is?

Me: It shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes.  Of course there is the possibility that…

EU: No I don’t have fifteen minutes.  She’s due home any minute.  Shit!

Me: (After long indecisive pause from EU)  Sounds like you’ve got to pick between your marriage and your wedding, so to speak.

EU: Fuck it.  Other people have pictures from the wedding.

This is an actual error message I got from a facebook game once. I love it so very much.

Log 2: This One’s Not Too Bright

Me:  Thank you for calling [company name omitted].  My name is Todd.

Bill:  Todd I’ve been on hold a long damn time.  My computer isn’t fucking working.

[At this point I take the user’s information like name and computer serial number.  We’ll call him Bill.  That’s not his real name, obviously.  His real name was Daryl but I changed it to protect him and myself.  And also because Daryl is a pretty typical southern name and I didn’t want to cast any sort of geographic bias.  Also he was from Tennessee so in THIS case the geographic bias was dead on.  Holy shit I should have left all this out.  But, the backspace key is way over there and I’m pretty lazy…. so just pretend you never saw any of this.]

Me: So, Bill, what can I help you with today?

Bill: You can fix my fuckin’ computer.

Me: Okay, Bill.  I’d be happy to help you.  So, tell me what your computer is doing.

Bill: It’s not doing a damn thing.  The piece of shit won’t even turn on!

Me: Okay.  Let’s take a moment and make sure the computer is still in this state.  Will you press the power button and tell me what happens, please?

Bill: Fine.  There.  Nothing.

Me: Okay, are you getting any lights on the front of the tower?

Bill: No.  Nothing.

Me: Do you hear anything?  Any fans whirring or a system beep?

Bill: No!  Like I said, nothing!

Me: Okay, Bill.  Now I’m going to need you to trace the power cord and make sure both ends are securely plugged in.

Bill: Oh this is fucking stupid.  I know it’s plugged in, goddamnit!  I haven’t moved or touched the thing!

Me: I understand, Bill.  But there are a series of steps we must follow to ensure the issue lies with the computer before we can repair it.  If you’ll just bear with me, I’ll try to make this as painless as possible.

Bill: (grumbling) Fine.  Whatever.  We’ll do whatever bullshit your script tells you to do.  What did you need me to check?

Me: The power cord, please.

Bill: (after a long pause) Oh it’s no use, damnit!  I can’t see a fuckin’ thing back there!  It’s too dark!

Me: Is there a light you can turn on?

Bill: No, damnit.  The fuckin’ power’s out.

Me: (long incredulous goddamn pause) I’m sorry, what was that, Bill?

Bill: (shouting) I said the fuckin’ power’s out, damnit!  Are you deaf, or just stupid?

Me: So, the power’s out.

Bill: That’s what I said!  I needed to use the computer to look up the number for the power company, and now it won’t even fuckin’ turn on!

Me: The… ELECTRICAL… power.  Which runs all things in your home that use electricity.

Bill:  YES!  GOD (sudden stop… long pause) Oh!  Ohhhhhh.  Well, shit.

Me: Sounds like at least one light bulb just came on.

Ahhh… THERE’S your problem!

Budget Computer: $450.  Idiot User: Priceless

See what I mean about not underestimating the stupidity of the customer?  Yeah.  Case in point.  So, if there’s a moral to this story, it’s this: tech support WILL make fun of you.  After I got off this call I put my next caller on hold while I laughed my ass off and told everyone around me about the moron who’s power was out.  And THEY put all THEIR customers on hold to listen to me.  This is why hold times are so long, by the way.  Also, I have a perfect transcript of this particular call, because it was a log chosen at random by quality control to be graded.  They type the whole thing up and offer their comments.  I received a perfect score… with the only comment being: “Priceless!”


From → Blogs

  1. The power outage one was fucking priceless!!! Last year we had a power outage, and every couple of minutes I would think “UGH! I’m bored… I’ll just go and surf the inter… oh.”

    I’m proud to report I didn’t call anyone about it. Because I remembered I was being a fucking idiot. :o)



  2. Haha! Well done. I mean, we all have those power outage moments where we flip a light switch for the twentieth time as we enter a room or we sit and press the power button on the remote before we slap our foreheads and say, “IDIOT!”

    But, seriously! The mental delay between this guy pressing the power button on the computer and the forehead slap went from press button… to angrily press button… to curse and repeatedly press button… to look up technical support number (probably by flashlight)… to sit on fucking hold with technical support… to cursing out technical support and seething… to FINALLY the realization that he’s a complete fucking idiot.

  3. Wow…keep these coming, hilarious.

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  1. Technically, I’m STILL Being Supportive « CrakGenius

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