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Technically, I’m STILL Being Supportive

July 6, 2012

…or…

Techin’ 2: Electric Bugaboo

That’s not a typo.  I meant bugaboo… as in an object which causes fear.  In this case, the electric bugaboo would be computers.  Some owners really, honestly, do fear their computers.  They live convinced that somewhere on their system, perhaps even on their keyboard, there’s a button which will cause the thing to explode.  Seriously, this NEVER happens!  Well.. okay… ALMOST never.  The point is that you really shouldn’t live in fear of your computer.  I think that’s the point.  I got distracted watching videos of burning and exploding computers.

I found myself again leafing through some of the logs which were saved in a notebook from my time working in tech support.  This has already given me fodder for one blog, and I think it’s time I did another of these.  Because, really, this is a public service I’m providing here.  From these idiots, you can learn what NOT to do with your computer.  And, really, that’s the point of all this.  At least, I think that’s the point.  Still a bit distracted by videos of burning computers.

This is an infamous image from a live video teleconference where Dell computers was launching their “hot new laptop.” Yep. Pretty hot.

Clearly These Monitors Should Only Have a Two Week Warranty

Every now and then, a call comes into tech support which seems to stump everyone.  This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, techie nerds get excited.  After all, this is what we THOUGHT we were signing on for when we took the job: the puzzle who’s answers are inexplicably out of reach, and with our Sherlock Holmesian wits we will unravel the mystery.  Instead we get 40 calls a day about slow internet connection speeds and idiots falling for email viruses.  So, when I was given the opportunity to work as a second level tech instead of fielding calls, I jumped at it.  Finally, I was the second line of defense.  I was tech support’s tech support; the guy the techies went to when they were stumped.  On this particular day, I walked in to start my shift to find a group already involved in an animated discussion in the T2 bay (the place where the second level techs worked).

Me: What’s going on?

Another T2, who was in the middle of the group, answered.

T2: Oh, Todd!  I’d love to get your input on this one.

Me: Okay, shoot.

T2: Okay, we have a customer on the line who has a 3 month old computer with a 17 inch monitor. We’ve replaced the monitor four times now.  Each monitor lasts about two weeks and then burns out.

Me: Burns out?  As in…

T2: As in, according to maintenance notes, total electrical failure.

This meant that each time the monitor the customer was claiming to no longer work was sent in to our repair center, it was discovered that the monitor in fact was completely beyond repair.  To the user, this is a moot point, since they get a replacement monitor before they send off the broken one to be repaired, but to our repair centers it meant that she was torching monitors at an insane rate.

Me: Environmental issue.  It has to be.

In this case, an “environmental issue” means the problem resides in the customer’s home, NOT that we need to band together to save the whales.  Just a clarification.  Not that we SHOULDN’T save the whales.  We totally should.  Because… without whales, there’s no whale song.  And everyone loves whale song. Aaaaahhhooooooo.  Ahoooooowwaaaaaaa. (That was whale song, which isn’t as beautiful in print as it is in real life.)

T2: Okay, fine.  But according to her there’s nothing at all wrong with the electricity in her home.  It’s a brand new house and the monitors have been on two different surge protectors.  Besides, the CPU is fine.  Only the monitor is burning out.  And based on the maintenance notes, if this is an environmental issue, we’re not just talking about bad wiring.  We’re talking about full blown poltergeists and instead of calling technical support she should be on the phone with the Ghostbusters.

Me: Let me jack in. [Uhm… this sounds dirty.  All it means is that I intend to plug my headset into the phone of the techie who has the call.]

T2: Okay.  Oh, there’s one thing, though.  She’s a little pissed, and I’ve already talked to her.  She’s expecting to talk to a supervisor next.

Me: Looks like I just got promoted!  Sweet!

This is common, by the way.  When you ask to speak to a supervisor, RARELY will you be transferred to an actual supervisor.  In fact, consider yourself lucky if the SAME person doesn’t simply come back on and just disguise their voice.  For this reason, I’ll call the customer Peggy, like the guy with the Russian accent on the credit card commercials.

Me: Thank you for holding.  This is Todd, a technical support supervisor for [company name withheld].  Is this Peggy?

Peggy: Yes, Todd.  Look, I don’t want to be put on hold again.  I shouldn’t be punished for your shoddy monitors!

Me: Well, I agree Peggy.  But, that’s the problem, really.  Our monitors really aren’t shoddy.  Other than the ones you’re getting, they generally last quite a long time.  Frankly, the situation seems to have us all a bit stumped.

Peggy: Are you calling me a liar, Todd?!

Me: Not at all, Peggy.  In fact I’ve gone over your service records and they absolutely confirm that your monitors are in fact burning out at an alarming rate.  Looking at the history in your case notes, it looks like most of the monitors are lasting less than two weeks before they go out.

Peggy: That’s correct.

Me: Alright, Peggy.  If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like you to describe the area where your computer sits.

After some resistance, where Peggy says she’s already been through all this, she finally relents and begins to describe a pretty standard small computer desk which sits in the corner of her home office.  I have her walk to the opposite side of the same wall and see what is plugged in there, and nothing is (in another call, it turned out that the pool pump was plugged in directly opposite the computer, and cycling the pump drained enough power to restart the computer).  Finally I have her describe the room in which the computer sits.  Nothing seems odd until…

Me: Peggy, is there anything directly above the computer?

Peggy: It’s a one story house, so there is no upstairs.  Right over the computer is nothing but my plant.

Me: Peggy, what kind of plant is that?

Peggy: I don’t know!  One of those with the heart-shaped leaves that grow really well.

Me: So it’s a real plant?

Peggy: Oh, yeah.  It’s real, not silk.

Me: Is it directly above your computer monitor?

Peggy: Yeah, pretty much.

Me: And, how often do you have to water that plant?

Peggy: I water it once every two weeks…. oh…. crap.

It’s always something.  The plant seemed so insignificant to Peggy that she had never mentioned it’s existence to anyone before.  But she had also never made the correlation between pouring water directly above her monitor, and the fact that it would burn out soon thereafter.  The bad news, for Peggy, is that dumping water into a computer monitor is not covered under the warranty, and she was forced to PAY for her next replacement monitor.  The good news is that without dumping water over it, the next monitor probably outlasted its warranty.

Although… who knows WHAT she hung that plant above next…

Seriously, Dude… Just Type EXIT

This isn’t my call, but that of another tech.  I actually caught this one when working quality control and pulling recorded phone messages to grade the tech who took the call. It was one of those rare occasions when, while transcribing the call, I found myself laughing hysterically, and calling other people over to listen in.

Steve: Thank you for calling [company name omitted] customer care.  This is Steve.  May I get your first and last name please.

For the sake of this log, we’ll call the user … uhm … Frank.  I actually have no reason this time.  But, whatever.  Just roll with it.  Anyway, during the information gathering process, Frank gives Steve all the pertinent information including his computer serial number.

Steve: Okay, Frank.  Just to let you know, before we begin, it appears that your computer is well out of warranty, so any support I provide today will require a $20 fee charged to a credit card.

Frank: Oh, really?  I was afraid of that.  I’ve had this computer for quite a while, but the darn thing is stuck on some black screen and I was hoping you could help me figure it out.

Steve: I see.  This black screen you have, does it say anything?  For example, does it say ‘C colon backslash Windows greater than’?

Frank: That’s EXACTLY what it says!  How did you know?

Steve: It’s actually quite common to see this issue.  I’d be happy to help you with it, but, as I mentioned before, you’re out of warranty.  SO, unfortunately, in order to help you, I’ll have to charge you $20 dollars before I can tell you to type ‘EXIT’ and then press enter.

There was a slight pause here, where I kinda thought the customer got the hint… but then…

Frank: So, I guess you’ll need me to get my credit card?

Steve: Uhh… yes sir.  In order for me to tell you to type ‘EXIT’ and hit enter, I’ll need to charge your credit card.

Frank: Hang on a second… do you take American Express.

Steve: Um… well… yes sir.

Frank begins to give his credit card information at this point.  You could hear the pain in Steve’s voice at the end there, where he finally relents to taking the man’s card number.  He tried like hell not to charge him, he really did.  After a few seconds spent waiting for the credit card to clear, the conversation resumes.

Steve: Okay, Frank, looks like that card went through.

Frank: Okay, good!  So what do I do now?

Steve: Okay, Frank, at this time I’d like you to type the word exit, E-X-I-T, and then press the enter key on your keyboard.

Frank: Ah, that worked.  So… huh.  You tried to tell me that before you charged me, didn’t you.

Steve: I did indeed, Frank.

Frank: (laughing) Well.  Looks I just got a $20 lesson in my own stupidity!

Frank took it like a champ.  What was he going to do, though?  It’s not like Steve didn’t TRY to give him the resolution for free.  He tried TWICE.  And frankly, the issue was a stupid one.  It was caused by a bad design flaw in the Windows 98 operating system.  RIGHT BESIDE where you click to restart your computer, there was an option to restart in DOS mode.  If that was clicked, the computer would restart in DOS.  If you turned off the computer and turned it back on, it would still be in DOS.  In fact, it was completely LOCKED into DOS mode until you typed ‘EXIT’ and hit enter, at which point Windows would resume like nothing had ever happened.  Stupid.

Steve got high marks from me, and under the comments section I put: “So many people could stand to get a $20 lesson in their own stupidity.  So many, many people…”

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4 Comments
  1. I swear to the Gods… I am watching Ghostbusters right now. And as soon as I read the Ghostbusters line above, the theme music played on the movie. True story.

    It also adds a little something to an already funny story. :o)

    Hugs!

    Valerie

    • I totally planned on that happening! No, I didn’t. But how awesome is it that that DID happen?!

      Also, I should have linked to the song up there, huh.

      • In my mind you did make it happen. Because you’re awesome like that. Well played, my friend. Well played indeed!

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