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Tech Support

Customer: "So that'll get me connected to the Internet, right?"
Tech Support: "Yeah."
Customer: "And that's the latest version of the Internet, right?"
Tech Support: "Uhh...uh...uh...yeah."
At 3:37 a.m. on a Sunday, I had just looked at the clock to determine my annoyance level, when I received a frantic phone call from a new user of a Macintosh Plus. She had gotten her entire family out of the house and was calling from her neighbor's. She had just received her first system error and interpreted the picture of the bomb on the screen as a warning that the computer was going to blow up
AUSTIN, Texas - The exasperated help-line caller said she couldn't get her new Dell computer to turn on. Jay Ablinger, a Dell Computer Corp. technician, made sure the computer was plugged in and then asked the woman what happened when she pushed the power button.
"I've pushed and pushed on this foot pedal and nothing happens," the woman replied. "Foot pedal?" the technician asked. "Yes," the woman said, "this little white foot pedal with the on switch." The "foot pedal," it turned out, was the computer's mouse, a hand-operated device that helps to control the computer's operations.
One woman called Dell's toll-free line to ask how to install batteries in her laptop. When told that the directions were on the first page of the manual, says Steve Smith, Dell director of technical support, the woman replied angrily, "I just paid $2,000 for this damn thing, and I'm not going to read a book."
Compaq's help center in Houston, Texas, is inundated by some 8,000 consumer calls a day, with inquiries like this one related by technician John Wolf: "A frustrated customer called, who said her brand new Contura would not work. She said she had unpacked the unit, plugged it in, opened it up and sat there for 20 minutes waiting for something to happen. When asked what happened when she pressed the power switch, she asked, 'What power switch?'"
Seemingly simple computer features baffle some users. So many people have called to ask where the "any" key is when "Press Any Key" flashes on the screen that Compaq is considering changing the command to "Press Return Key."
Some people can't figure out the mouse. Tamra Eagle, an AST technical support supervisor, says one customer complained that her mouse was hard to control with the "dust cover" on. The cover turned out to be the plastic bag the mouse was packaged in. Dell technician Wayne Zieschang says one of his customers held the mouse and pointed it at the screen, all the while clicking madly. The customer got no response because the mouse works only if it's moved over a flat surface.
Disk drives are another bugaboo. Compaq technician Brent Sullivan says a customer was having trouble reading word-processing files from his old diskettes. After troubleshooting for magnets and heat failed to diagnose the problem, Mr. Sullivan asked what else was being done with the diskette. The customer's response: "I put a label on the diskette, roll it into the typewriter..."
At AST, another customer dutifully complied with a technician's request that she send in a copy of a defective floppy disk. A letter from the customer arrived a few days later, along with a Xerox copy of the floppy. And at Dell, a technician advised his customer to put his troubled floppy back in the drive and "close the door." Asking the technician to "hold on," the customer put the phone down and was heard walking over to shut the door to his room. The technician meant the door to his floppy drive.
A Dell customer called to say he couldn't get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of troubleshooting, the technician discovered the man was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the monitor screen and hitting the "send" key.
Another Dell customer needed help setting up a new program, so Dell technician Gary Rock referred him to the local Egghead. "Yeah, I got me a couple of friends," the customer replied. When told Egghead was a software store, the man said, "Oh! I thought you meant for me to find a couple of geeks."
A Dell customer called to complain that his keyboard no longer worked. He had cleaned it, he said, filling up his tub with soap and water and soaking his keyboard for a day, and then removing all the keys and washing them individually.
A Dell technician, Morgan Vergara, says he once calmed a man who became enraged because "his computer had told him he was bad and an invalid." Mr. Vergara patiently explained that the computer's "bad command" and "invalid" responses shouldn't be taken personally.
Mr. Shuler, the Dell technician, who once worked as a psychiatric nurse, says he defused a potential domestic fight by soothingly talking a man through a computer problem after the man had screamed threats at his wife and children in the background.
One man from New Hampshire calls Dell every time he experiences a life crisis. He gets a technician to walk him through some contrived problem with his computer, apparently feeling uplifted by the process.
Customer: "I'd like to return this scanner."
Store Clerk: "Excuse me?"
Customer: "This scanner I bought. I paid eighty dollars for this scanner, and it doesn't work!"
Store Clerk: "Uh . . . sir, that's a trackball."
Customer: "No, it isn't. It says 600 dpi tracking resolution right here!"
Got a call from a woman said that her laser printer was having problems: the bottom half of her printed sheets were coming out blurry. It seemed strange that the printer was smearing only the bottom half. I walked her through the basics, then came over and printed out a test sheet. It printed fine. I asked her to print a sheet, so she sent a job to the printer. As the paper started coming out, she yanked it out and showed it to me. I told her to WAIT until the paper came out on its own.
I had been doing Tech Support for Hewlett-Packard's DeskJet division for about a month when I had a customer call with a problem I just couldn't solve. She could not print yellow. All the other colors would print fine, which truly baffled me because the only true colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow. For instance, green is a combination of cyan and yellow, but green printed fine. Every color of the rainbow printed fine except for yellow. I had the customer change ink cartridges. I had the customer delete and reinstall the drivers. Nothing worked. I asked my co-workers for help; they offered no new ideas.
After over two hours of troubleshooting, I was about to tell the customer to send the printer in to us for repair when she asked quietly, "Should I try printing on a piece of white paper instead of this yellow construction paper?"
A man attempting to set up his new printer called the printer's tech support number, complaining about the error message: "Can't find the printer." On the phone, the man said he even held the printer up in front of the screen, but the computer still couldn't find it!
Customer: "Hello? I'm trying to dial in. I installed the software okay, and it dialed fine. I could hear that. Then I could hear he two computers connecting. But then the sound all stopped, so I picked up the phone to see if they were still connected, and I got the message, 'No Carrier,' on my screen. What's wrong?"
An unfailingly polite lady called to ask for help with a Windows installation that had gone terribly wrong.
Customer: "I brought my Windows disks from work to install them on my home computer." (Training stresses that we are "not the Software Police," so I let the little act of piracy slide.)
Tech Support: "Umm-hmm. What happened?"
Customer: "As I put each disk in it turns out they weren't initialized."
Tech Support: "Do you remember the message exactly, ma'am?"
Customer:(proudly) "I wrote it down. 'This is not a Macintosh disk. Would you like to initialize it'?"
Tech Support: "Er, what happened next?"
Customer: "After they were initialized all the disks appeared to be blank. And now I brought them back to work, and I can't read them in the A: drive; the PC wants to format them. And this is our only set of Windows disks for the whole office. Did I do something wrong?"
I have a friend who just bought a computer and was instructed to load a program by typing "A:" and then the name of the program. My friend told me it would not work because his keyboard was no good. He said he couldn't type the "dot over dot thingie" and that every time he tried to type the "dot over dot thingie" he kept getting the "dot over comma thingie" no matter how careful he was to press only on the very top of the key. When I taught him about the shift key, he thought I was a genius.
This guy calls in to complain that he gets an "Access Denied" message every time he logs in. It turned out he was typing his user name and password in capital letters.
Tech Support: "OK, let's try once more, but use lower case letters."
Customer: "Uh, I only have capital letters on my keyboard."
Email from a friend:
"CanYouFixTheSpaceBarOnMyKeyboard?"
My friend was on duty in the main lab on a quiet afternoon. He noticed a young woman sitting in front of one of the workstations with her arms crossed across her chest and staring at the screen. After about 15 minutes he noticed that she was still in the same position only now she was impatiently tapping her foot. He asked if she needed help and she replied, "It's about time! I pushed the F1 button over twenty minutes ago!"
Customer: "Hello? I'm trying to dial in. I installed the software okay, and it dialed fine. I could hear that. Then I could hear he two computers connecting. But then the sound all stopped, so I picked up the phone to see if they were still connected, and I got the message, 'No Carrier,' on my screen. What's wrong?"
An unfailingly polite lady called to ask for help with a Windows installation that had gone terribly wrong.
Customer: "I brought my Windows disks from work to install them on my home computer." (Training stresses that we are "not the Software Police," so I let the little act of piracy slide.)
Tech Support: "Umm-hmm. What happened?"
Customer: "As I put each disk in it turns out they weren't initialized."
Tech Support: "Do you remember the message exactly, ma'am?"
Customer:(proudly) "I wrote it down. 'This is not a Macintosh disk. Would you like to initialize it'?"
Tech Support: "Er, what happened next?"
Customer: "After they were initialized all the disks appeared to be blank. And now I brought them back to work, and I can't read them in the A: drive; the PC wants to format them. And this is our only set of Windows disks for the whole office. Did I do something wrong?"
Copyright Thomas Rupp