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10 August 2005 @ 03:22 pm
Tech Nightmares  
gonzo_md just posted a story of the joys of tech support, and it made me think of all the idiots I dealt with on a daily basis, working for EarthLink back in the day (and Fox Internet, before that). Over the time I worked there, I did a little bit of everything; customer service, tech support, cancellation salvage, dead account reclamation, even internal design work (and that had just as much bullshit as the external clients!). I've gotten damn near every cliché support call there is (with the exception of the "my cup holder broke" one, thankfully). I've told many a story from my days there, but there are some calls which will live forever in infamy. Allow me to share my stories.

Caller Number One: The Background Picture - Unfortunately, you don't need a licence to travel the Information Superhighway. Unfortunate, because it means you don't have to know the workings of your vehicle, or even the direction you're going, but people like me are supposed to be able to get you back where you want to go. This kind of foolishness leads to the most inane calls. These are the people that call to tell you that they cannot get to something-or-other, and you discover, after 15 minutes of trying, that they don't have their monitor turned on. This guy, though, he was fun. The story goes like this: our friend, we'll call him "Jack", was bopping around the 'Net while his wife was at the grocery store. As a guy alone is wont to do, he hit the porn sites (hence my name for him :P ). Somehow, he managed to set a particularly raunchy picture of a heterosexual couple engaged in a rather intimate act as his desktop picture, and he didn't know how to fix it. If his wife saw it, he'd be a dead man, and he knew it. Well, this Should have been a 20-second call...but I was in an ornery mood. Hoping I wasn't being recorded this day, I probed him a moment to find out just how much tech knowledge he had. let's just say that the keys in my pocket are more of a geek than this guy. So, I proceeded to spend the next 15-20 minutes, running this guy through every possible diagnostic I could find on his machine, "checking things, trying things out", avoiding, of course, anything that might HELP.

He got more and more panicky as the call progressed, but I held him together, telling him I would make sure he we would fix it. Finally, I heard him react to something I couldn't hear, and he tells me that his wife just got in the house. I decide it's time to let him off the hook, inform him that "a tech friend of mine just told me about a little-known shortcut", and changed his desktop. His huge sigh of relief has worth every minute I'd spent on the call...and definitely gave me a much-needed laugh.

Caller Number Two: The Big Man - This one is actually from Fox. A guy called in, describing problems with his DSL router. At the time, I knew very little about DSL, just enough to be dangerous, really, and I would have gladly passed this call on to someone else, but the entire support department at Fox was me and one other guy, and he was usually too busy calling online date ad girls. Stuck with the call, I did the best I could.

This guy called back every day for a fucking week and a half, complaining every day, always asking for me. he always made a point about how he simply could not have connection problems, he had to be online, there were important things he could not miss. I talked to my higher ups, and one finally remembered that there was an extra router sitting in someone's office (it had been returned to the office by someone who had cancelled their service, even though they had bought the equipment), and told me to tell this guy that if he would come to the office, we'd exchange his router. He agreed this would be fair, since he couldn't be offline this much. He'd come by the next day on his way to work to get the new router and drop off the old defective one.

The next day, I get a call from the front desk that there's someone here to see me. I had already left the new router up there for him, so I didn't need to see him at all, but the bastard had asked for me anyway. Off I went, to be greeted by a short, pudgy, balding guy in paint-stained jeans and a white t-shirt. Apparently, he just wanted to assure me again how important it was for him to be online. Curious at this point, I asked him what he did for a living. He replies that he's a painter...ah, I say, must be stocks that you watch, then, yes? No. Turns out, he plays a lot of "Ultima Online", and I guess when he was offline, he was getting attacked a lot, losing area and materiel, etc. All this ranting and raving, bitching and moaning, over a video game. I glanced down, and noticed he had no wedding ring. No surprise there.

As an epilogue to that story: we tested the router. Not a damn thing wrong with it.

Caller Number Three: The Asshole - Easily my favourite call of all time. It had been a long day, and the phones had FINALLY slowed down. I was shaken out of my relaxation, though, by a call that started on one of my least favourite notes: an angry caller who was shouting from the get-go. It took me a couple minutes just to figure out what his problem was: he could not connect to the 'Net, as he was getting no dial-tone. As if to seal his own fate, he vehemently informed me that he knew his way around a computer, and he'd already checked everything, and the problem had to be on our end. Now, keep in mind, this is dial-up Internet service; if you aren't getting a dial-tone, then you've not connected to us, and thus we don't have anything to do with it.

I calmly attempt to explain this to him, but he refuses to accept that. I tell him that I'll help him narrow down the problem, at least (which I didn't have to do, but, you know, good customer relations and all), and explain that the problem is in one of three places: either the phone line itself is bad, the modem is bad, or the cable is not plugged in. Now, as you can imagine, he started in again on how he'd checked his machine, and that wasn't it, and he'd checked everything else, and none of those was an issue, so it must be our fault. *sigh* I manage to convince him that we need to check them together, so I can put in my notes that we have confirmed these problems are non-existent. he grumbles and bitches, but agrees to run a modem diagnostic, which turns up nothing. Problem 1, check.

Problem 2 is the bad phone line. He assures me that it works fine (he has a separate line for the computer). I ask him how he confirmed this, and he tells me he plugged a phone into it and got a dial-tone. bracing myself, I ask if he's calling from that line now. He screams that he's not that stupid, and I try to calm him down, tell him that I just had to be sure, you'd be surprised the number of people that don't realize, etc., etc. Short of having him call on that line, I gotta take his word for it, so Problem 2, check.

This only leaves the infamous "phone line not plugged in". I mention this; you can imagine the screamed earful I got for THAT suggestion. Boy, do I EVER get an earful. I flat out told him that until I could confirm this, I wasn't going any further. Well, THAT went over well, too. Allow me to switch to a transcript, for a bit:
(TA=The Asshole; Me=me, natch; CAPS denote yelling)
Me: ...need to confirm this, just to be sure.
Me: Yes, sir, but if you'd just take a moment to confirm that -
Me: I suppose so, yes sir.
TA: (*assorted angry grumbling and ranting, accompanied by the screech of a heavy desk pulled across a non-carpeted floor*)
SEE, HERE'S THE PHONE LINE, RIGHT INTO THE GODDAMN WALL, PLUGGED SOLID, JUST LIKE I FUCKING SAID! (*sounds of the desk being slammed back to it's original position, and his bulk flopping back down in his squeaky chair*)
Me: Thank you, sir, now we should just confirm the phone line is plugged securely into the back of your computer.
(yes, I thought of the guy in Clerks bitching about drinking his coffee hot)
Me: I'm sorry, sir.
TA: GODDAMN FUCKING IDIOTS, DUNNO WHAT THE FUCK THEY'RE DOING...(*sounds of him getting back out of the chair, thumping on to the floor, attempting to get under his desk, hitting his head on the desk...*)FUCKING CHRIST, THAT HURT! STUPID FUCKING MORON, SEE, HERE'S THE FUCKING LINE, LIKE I FUCKING SAID, GOING RIGHT TO THE BACK OF THE MACHINE WHERE IT'S not plugged
Needless to say, I hit the 'mute' button as fast as I could, because the laugh that was stampeding towards my mouth was NOT gonna be stopped by Hell or high water. It was all I could do to keep it low enough not to scare my co-workers in the adjacent cubicles (luckily, I kinda had my area to myself, near the end of my shift). I calm down as quick as possible, in order to hear him, and in a quiet voice, I hear him mumble "Well, I'm an asshole." The mute button is again my best friend, as a whoop comes out to join his earlier hilarious friend. I finally hear a very small *click* of him putting the cable in place, and listen as he shifts his big ass back into the seat, fire up his Internet connection, and connect with no problem. Ahh, it's always the little things.

I come back and ask him, as politely as possible, if everything is working now. He mumbles that yes, it is. Staying as bright and positive as I can, I say that that is great, and is there anything else I can do for him today. All his former attitude gone, he asks if I've kept notes on the call. I tell him that yes, I have, and would he like a confirmation number for today's call? He asks if there is any way of my just deleting these notes, and I have to inform him that, no, if the call was recorded (he sighs) and they check it against my notes and find them missing, I could be, did he want the confirmation number? No, he says, he'd rather just forget this ever happened, and I let him off the phone.

Let me just close this entry to remind you of Things Customers Should Know. Take them to heart.
Current Music: White Zombie - I Am Legend
Jedi Freemanjedifreeman on August 10th, 2005 10:45 pm (UTC)
at least number 3 was intelligent enough to realize he had been such an ass, I have had calls where they dont admit it, not fun.
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Rollarchmage on August 10th, 2005 10:46 pm (UTC)
His admission is part of why it was my fave. Simply admitting that not only was it his fault, but that he was being an ass made it all worthwhile.
Lost TsomewhereIME: get youtsomewhereime on August 10th, 2005 11:25 pm (UTC)
I would not forgive myself if I did not .....

oh nevermind I got a chuckle for my thought anyways. I am surprised you didnt at least mention it.
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll: The Mask (Laughing)archmage on August 10th, 2005 11:41 pm (UTC)
"Spanish please...or Frank." That the one? I posted about that one not too long ago, after it came up...again. Fun times, but not as funny as those above.
fear & loathing on capitol hillgonzo_md on August 11th, 2005 12:28 am (UTC)
"The Asshole" = one of the greatest stories ever

i'm glad i could bring back some of those timeless memories for you :D
Vortexvortex on August 11th, 2005 06:51 am (UTC)

I remember those calls well!

Angry caller #3 is one of the main reasons I'd had enough of HelpDesk/Customer Support and moved into Network Operations...
Deechsavrille on August 11th, 2005 02:34 pm (UTC)
Favorite Service Call from back in the day:

Background: I used to work for a small company that made student management software. My job was to design, install and maintain the networks and computers we installed in the schools so they could use the software we sold. Due to schools being fairly far between, my coverage area was roughly 120 miles in any given direction from my office.

I get a call one day, around 4:30pm (my workday ended at 5) from a well known jerkwad at a school located a good 2 hours drive away. He informed me that his computer wouldn't boot and he had to have some reports done for the state the next day. (Often, these reports would have a big effect on the funding a school recieved, so they were pretty important). I asked him to be specific to which he replied, "It's all black! No lights or nothing!". Ok, fine, I have him check the only thing I can with a black computer.. Is it plugged in? "Of course it's plugged in! What do you think? I'm not an idiot!" to which I said "Well, I know that your janitor has a habit of unplugging that computer to plug in his vaccum cleaner. He's done it before. Make sure you trace it all the way back to the wall."

"God damnit. I told you I fucking checked it! You gotta get down here and fix it!" ...

"Ok sir, but you do realize it's going to be after hours rates, plus travel and emergency charges, right? You really should check that plug."

"Don't fucking patronize me! You just get your ass down here or I'll personally make sure [my company] doesn't do business with [his school] again!"

"Ok sir. On my way."

Then the driving and the arriving and now I'm standing in the office. First thing I do is trace the plug... to the power strip.. yep, plugged in... trace the power strip to the wall... whoops, not so plugged in... Plug in the power strip, computer powers right up and is loaded by the time I get up off the floor (DOS days, quick booting). Total time to fix: 2.1 minutes

"Well, that was your problem. I asked you to trace it to the wall."

"But, it was plugged into the power strip!"

"Yes, but if the strip has no power, it's not so much a power strip, is it?"

"Well, just let me sign the bill."

Ok, so I start filling it out. As he watches, his face starts turning red... it looks somthing like this:

Afterhours Travel: 4 hours @ $100/hr
Afterhours Service: 2 hours @ $225/hr (2 hr minimum on all afterhours calls)
Emergency Service Surcharge: $300
Emergency Travel Surcharge: 4 hours @ $25/hr

Total: $1250


"Sir, I asked you to check it. Twice, actually."


"You don't have to. You have a contract with us that agrees to pay for all services rendered. Have a nice day!"

I then proceeded to slip it under the superintendent's office door (locked, so this guy couldn't get it back) and drove home.

The next day I got a call from the Super. I explained and he quitely said, "Well, I'll make sure you don't have a problem like that again." The next time I was out, I saw that particular employee sweeping a hall.. he didn't look at me.. :)

God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll: Rock Dirtygirlarchmage on August 11th, 2005 02:46 pm (UTC)
thndrchldthndrchld on August 15th, 2005 09:05 am (UTC)
it did make me laugh! I have had a week of..."the space key is that large key at the bottom center of your keyboard" and "Yes, you DO need a phone line running from the modem to the phone jack to use dialup, you can't use the cable modem to dial these numbers". But the ongoing ones are: "I don't HAVE internet access, I can only get email now" which runs even with "the other computer's email address is....".

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