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Computer Stupidities

Stupid Tech Support

By no means is tech support immune to exhibiting computer stupidity of their own. This page consists of stories of customers that just can't get the help they need.

I hung up.


I recently had a problem setting the video resolution on a new laptop.


I had just gotten myself cable modem internet connection, and I was having weird problems with it. It kept disconnecting every few minutes. I called the ISP's tech support.

I had trouble downloading an operating system upgrade for a PDA, so I called tech support.

A friend of mine told me that when he was in junior high school (mid-to-late nineties), they got a computer in the classroom free for the students to use during breaks. The first thing many of them would do to was to change the dull Windows 95 desktop. The school's IT Manager for some reason thought of this as vandalism, so he frequently fixed it in the only way he knew how -- by reinstalling Windows.

I was almost on the floor laughing when my friend told me about how the IT Manager had come into their classroom one day and told the students, "Will you STOP changing the desktop background? I've had to reinstall Windows every day for the last two weeks now!"

Our local cable company is Comcast. I was having high-speed Internet installed at my apartment, and a Comcast guy showed up. He started spouting off technical jargon about "bouncing signals" and stuff that I knew was complete nonsense, all so he could buy time to have a smoke and talk on his phone.

I was starting to get very frustrated that he'd been at my house for a couple of hours and wasn't finished with the install. I'd specifically requested that he not install any software on my computer, because I knew it was not necessary for using the Internet. My roommate, however, had not made the same request.

After some time, my roommate had to leave, and I was left to supervise the Comcast guy. I went into my roommate's bedroom to find him scratching his head as he fiddled with her Mac. He was kinda sweaty and really mad and looked up at me and asked, "What kind of computer is this??"

"It's a Mac," I said.

"What kind of Windows are you runnin' on this thing??"

I tried telling him that it did not run Windows, and he refused to believe me. He got so frustrated that he actually ended up cussing at me and comparing me to his ex wife.

He got fired.

Back when high-speed internet was first getting started, my parents wanted to hop on the bandwagon right away and called a technician to come set them up. At the time I was in junior high school and couldn't be there when the tech showed up.

It is important to note that although we were quick in getting high-speed Internet, we didn't have a particularly state-of-the-art machine. It didn't have a cdrom drive, for example, but I assumed the tech would be installing the software from a floppy.

Imagine my horror when I came home and found my mother trying to dig the CD out of our ancient 5 1/4" drive with a key, while the "tech" stood behind her, scratching his head and saying, "I've seriously never seen one of those before. Are you SURE it's not a cdrom drive?"

I overheard a tech support representative on the phone with someone:

Isn't the "backslash that goes the other way" called a "forward slash"? Even after telling her it was called a forward slash, I still hear her telling people to "press teh backslash that goes the other way."

In 2004, I bought a new, high-end, name-brand desktop computer from the manufacturer. Within six months, I started hearing noises from the exhaust fan for the case. It sounded like a bearing broke and was grinding around as the fan spun.

I called the manufacturer's tech support line, explained the problem in detail, and asked them to ship out a new fan, since the machine was still under warranty. The tech to whom I had been connected informed me that the fan was probably fine, and that some software program was at fault, so I'd better completely wipe my main hard drive. I think my jaw actually hit the floor. No amount of reasoning would sway her; she insisted I wipe my drive and refused to discuss the issue any further.

It got worse. Her supervisor said the same thing, and her supervisor did too. Over the next two and a half years, I called a total of 38 times trying to get the fan replaced. (In the meantime, I ran the machine with the case open to let the heat out, which worked okay.) Every tech I got told me the same thing as the first: gotta wipe the hard drive!

But I had the last laugh. On the 39th call, three days before my warranty ran out, somehow I reached someone who actually knew something. After hearing my story, he not only sent me a new exhaust fan but also a new motherboard, processor, heat sink fan, sound card, and a RAM upgrade. In addition, he had a local tech install everything for me. For future reference, he gave me his personal phone number and email address for me to use instead of the company's number.

I was cleaning up my wife's little bit of webspace and found I couldn't delete the files in one folder. Since I could upload/rename/delete other files with any FTP client I chose, it was clearly a server problem.

Inexplicably, ownership of the files had been changed by the ISP. It took a transfer to the second tier support to fix the problem, but even at that level, I got asked this question:

This is straight from a call log of a major computer company that happens to have technical support technicians in India and other points outside of the United States.

Problem Description: Client wants to know the MAC address for the computer. Advise client that I have no way of knowing or obtaining that information. Advise client that she would more than likely need to call Apple to see if they could point her in the direction of obtaining that. Client says that the MAC address is not a macintosh address. Client says that the MAC address can be obtained by doing an ipconfig /all. Client ended up disconnecting the call. During the call I believe I could hear someone else listening. Just before the call was ended by the client there was a something faintly said but I could not make it out.

Resolution: Advise client to contact Apple.

I'm not the most technical of people, but a few years ago, I got the infamous "blue screen of death." I called in the IT department, and the new guy told me that my monitor just had to be "de-gassed" (degaussed). Needless to say, I rolled around the floor laughing, and someone else was called in to replace my hard drive.

My boyfriend and I were sitting in my dorm room, when there was a power surge, causing my computer to reboot. Unfortunately, it never got very far and popped up an error message about a missing file. Panicking, I reboot again, and the same thing happened. Foolishly, I decided to call my computer's tech support line, and after struggling with their automated system, I finally got through to someone.

He proceeded to do nothing more than confirm there was nothing wrong with my BIOS. He had me reboot again, and, of course, I got the same error message.

Finally, I gave up on the guy and made my boyfriend finish the call. About half a minute into the call, my boyfriend gets a really funny look on his face and ejects the floppy disk that was in the drive. He rebooted it, and it worked fine.

I suppose this doubles as a stupid user story too, but you'd think a tech support person would have checked for that early on, instead all the other dumb things he had me do.

I called up tech support because Internet Explorer insisted on opening everything I was trying to download with Quicktime.

I use a cable modem ISP, one of North America's largest ISPs. During one of their interminable outages, I called to demand what the problem was.

This IP was the one Windows 98 usually gives when it's supposed to have one assigned to it but doesn't get one.


I was having a problem with my Internet connection a week ago. It would go off, but both the modem and router said it was on. I first called the manufacturer of the router, who guided me through some steps, and we came to the conclusion it was the modem. I noticed it happened more often when I started my new game Battlefield 2, so I called EA Games, and they told me to open ports.

Then I called my ISP.

Some shuffling sounds on their end.

So then I called the company's business center, and I was told that opening ports would cost a LOT of money.

I called tech support again, and finally got routed to their site in Texas. I told him my problem with the modem and ports and relayed to him the story. After laughing and apologizing, he told me (after I gave him the modem model number) that my modem was out of date.

The new modem took five minutes to configure, and it worked fine.

This incident happened to me in India. This was in 1992-3 when Windows 3.1 was becoming popular. My machine had a CGA card and monitor, which I exchanged for a VGA card and monitor. The machine booted up -- there were no warning beeps -- but nothing was appearing on the screen. So I called up tech support.

I hung up. The problem was that the monitor was broken. I took it to the shop and proved it, and they gave me a replacement.

After owning my computer for a little over two months I noticed the system was sluggish.

A friend cleaned up my system path, and the boot lag cleared right up. And guess what? I didn't have to format my hard drive after all.

My school district decided to require us school psychologists to do all our reports on laptops and print from a single printer. After a few months the laptop they provided me ceased to work with the printer. I spoke with the IT Manager.

I made several more attempts to communicate with the IT manager about this problem over the next few weeks, only to find myself in the same conversation. Finally, I sent a memo to my boss, explaining that I was having difficulty getting tech support and could not print out my reports. My boss wrote back:

A few weeks ago I was calling around to some local phone companies, looking for DSL. I have cable right now, but I'm extremely unhappy with the pathetic support they give. Anyway, the phone company is one of the main providers of DSL, so I called their number to ask some questions.

Ok, so, strike one. The girl in tech support didn't know what she was talking about, so she hung up on me.

I called back, and this time a man answered the phone. I told him the girl was not only clueless but hung up on me, and I am already considering not using them. He said he would try to help.

I asked him the same questions. The download speed is 768 kilobits. The IP address is dynamic and changes every few hours. But he couldn't answer anything else: he didn't know where I would get the DSL modem from, if they are using internal DHCP, how the changing IP address will affect my connectivity and downloads, etc. He finally admitted that at that particular call center, they really don't know much about it. He gave me a number for tech support.

I called that number and a lady answered. She gave me a set of responses that were different still.

I finally wrote in to their customer service and told them that after one person clearly had no clue what she was talking about and hung up on me, a second was guessing and admitted he didn't know, and tech support gave me completely different answers, I will not be using their services. The next day I received a reply. The man who replied basically said he was sorry for such bad service, and please call the following number for support. It was the number I dialed the first time.

I use a cable modem company for my Internet service. One day, it was not working. So I called our neighbors down the street and found that theirs was not working either. I decided to call tech support to see if it was down in our area. The message did not list it, so I went ahead to ask tech support.

I called back 30 minutes later. It turns out service was down in our area.

About a year ago, my mother was having problems with her brand new computer. She hadn't had it for a month before the video card died. She called the customer service line and spoke with a technical support representative, who diagnosed the problem and promised that they would send a new card to her.

She received the new card and called the 800 number again, this time asking what to do with the card. The guy that was helping her said, "Do you see the screws on the back of the computer? Well, take them all out and take off the case. You will see a card that looks like the one you just received. Replace it with the card you have and put the case back on." And then he hung up.

So here is my mother, staring at the back of her computer, seeing an array of screws, and wondering which ones she should take out. She followed his directions to the letter and unscrewed all of the screws on the back of her computer, not just the ones around the casing edge. All of her computer components hit the bottom of the case with a bang.

When the dust settled and she realized what she had done, she called back, in hysterics. Thankfully, she got a nice woman who understood and agreed that it was the tech support guy's fault for not staying with her on the phone. She agreed to ship her a new computer at no charge.

When I was in college, I needed to connect to the school's network from my own computer in my dorm room. I knew there was a dial-up number that would allow me to log in and run limited commands. All I needed to know was the number. So I called the help desk.

Last term in college I was working in the lab when my network connection suddenly died. Mine was the only computer doing that, and we're not supposed to mess with the computers ourselves, so I called the lab attendant over.

This guy was a fourth term programming major. I don't know how he was this stupid. But I told him what was wrong and what error message I was getting ("no route to host") and figured he'd go behind the computer and check the wires.

No. He brought up the menu on the monitor (that allows you to adjust the size, shape, tint, brightness, etc, of the display) and starts fiddling with that. He told me to try again. Obviously it didn't work.

He fiddled with the monitor settings some more. Finally he slapped the monitor and said:

When he left, I checked the back of the computer. As I thought, the wire had gotten pulled out.

I thought, at this juncture, I'd get the usual "let's go through the setup just to be sure" routine. I was wrong.

My company recently hired a new technician, and at first he seemed to know what he was doing, but soon he got in over his head. A customer brought in a system and said she couldn't get on the Internet. When the tech couldn't get the plug-n-play modem to work under Win3.11, he assumed it was a new modem, and it couldn't be done. He called her.

She called back later and asked for someone else.

A year ago, I was programming a database for one of the larger insurance companies in my state. The computers they had were awful things that still ran Windows 3.1 and took about three minutes to boot up.

One morning I turned on my computer and waited for it to boot. Just as it loaded Windows, it started rebooting all over again. I waited again, and it did it again. After about ten times, I began to wonder. I would have just loaded DOS and found the problem, but one of the security systems on the computers there automatically rebooted the computer if you went to a DOS prompt.

So I called tech support and explained the problem.

I have a Pentium 100 that I bought in March 1996. I moved since then and lost the documentation about the motherboard. I called tech support.

I give him all the information he needs, restating the question three times in the process.

Ten minutes later:

I called my cable modem service about a problem involving a series of constant disconnections and lock ups.

The advanced technician knew exactly what the problem was and solved it. A month later it happened again.

Yet again I was forwarded to advanced tech support, and my problem was solved. A while later, it happened a third time.

The next day the cable repairman arrived and checked the lines in my area, but my service was again working flawlessly even before he arrived. When he left, I turned on the TV and noticed the cable was out.

I'm a system administrator for a fairly large company. We were shipping out new desktop PC's to all our branches, but the PC's did not come with installed modems. I installed modems in these machines and configured all the necessary software before I shipped them out. I received a call from one branch manager stating that his modem would not work. I had his try all the standard tests, and it appeared that the modem had become unseated.

He called the IS director and asked why I hadn't tested the machine before I sent it. I tried to explain that I did, and the card had become unseated in shipping. The IS director, knowing that I install PCanywhere on all machines so I can troubleshoot from my office, asked, "Can't we use PCanywhere to dial in and fix that?"

I had just come across a Compaq 386 Deskpro motherboard. Since I was just getting into PCs, I thought it would be cool to wire it up for my brother. But I had no idea what the pinout for the power supply plug was, as it was non-standard. So I called up Compaq tech support.

About two years ago I signed up with a local ISP. They gave me some software to install and said it would take up to five days for my account to be activated. I installed the software, but five days later I still couldn't get on. I waited two more days, then called to find out what the problem was. The tech support person said he would check on it and call me back. Four hours later, I still hadn't received a call, so I called again. The same guy answered the phone. I asked if he had figured anything out. He replied that he had not. I told him if he couldn't fix the problem, I wanted to cancel my service. He stammered and told me he really didn't know that much about computers, but he didn't want to lose my business.

At this point I completely lost my patience and told him to cancel the account immediately. He told me that to cancel my account I had to send them email from it.

I called the TurboTax support number for help with the online filing of my taxes. Here is my dialog with the "tech support" person:

While looking into DSL, I came across a number for a large service provider and called to get details. When the tech support person got up to the speed of the connection, she said:

As a networking consultant called in to a new client, one of the things I like to do is go over their bills to make sure they are getting what they are paying for from ISPs, telcos, etc. On one occasion, I discovered that a client was paying an ISP for 20 email mailboxes that they hadn't used in years. I called the ISP's customer support to cancel the mailboxes.

She proceeded to read me names, and like an idiot I jotted them down until it dawned on me what we were doing.

My husband and I helped our church get online. We installed a new modem, checked everything out and then after doing some research on local ISPs we chose a reputable one that would give the church a good deal.

Netscape came with the modem's communications software, but it was an old version. After getting everything going we started to download Netscape's upgrade. The ISP kept hanging up ten minutes after starting the download. We checked all the settings. Everything checked out fine, but we were still experiencing the problem. It would even disconnect while downloading email.

I asked the church's secretary to call the ISP's tech support number the following morning. The next morning she called me back and reported that the ISP tech support person had told her she needed to reformat her computer and reinstall Windows.

I called the tech support person myself.

I was getting several "illegal operation" errors on a new Windows 95 machine I was trying out. So I called tech support.

Needless to say, I purchased my computer elsewhere, from a store and salesmen that had a clue.

I had a problem with my computer. Out of the clear blue, the sound card disappeared from my hardware settings. After trying to get Windows 95 to re-install it, I gave up -- Win95 consistently told me that the card was a Soundblaster, and I knew it wasn't. But I didn't know what kind it was, and the manuals that came with the computer didn't say. I called tech support, and they asked me what had been installed on the system since I bought it. "Microsoft Office, and Plus" I said.

They told me that was the problem. They told me I wasn't ever supposed to install anything on the machine except for what came with it originally. Then they told me to reformat my hard drive and re-install everything from the setup CD.

I asked to speak with this guy's supervisor, and he told me the same thing.

In the 1980s, I did not know what fdisk was or how to use it, so I called tech support and left a message on their answering machine. I spoke very clearly and left the message: "My hard drive crashed, and I've been told that I need to do a low-level format before I can restore from my tape backup. How do I low-level format my hard drive?"

The next day, our receptionist handed me this message from the tech support team: "Put the floppy diskette in the drive and type format a: and hit enter."

This weekend, my father brought over his new laptop, purchased at a major retailer. It was taking 4-5 minutes to boot into the OS. It was discovered that there were several utilities loading during startup, some of them multiple times. Not wanting to void the support warranty, we called tech support. After my father related the problem, they talked him through removal and unchecking of many of the options. A reboot then took about 2.5 minutes, still quite a long time. When he asked what else could be done, he was told, "Just reboot a few more times. It should get faster as it works in." We just sat there with our mouths open.

I was working as a student placement at a rather large company last year. One of our backup tape drives was acting up, and nothing I could do fixed it. So I phoned support. The first thing the guy asked, after half an hour of detail-taking, was:

I was rather skeptical about this but decided to try it anyway. Of course, it didn't work. So I rang support again and got a different guy.

I bought a laptop with a DVD drive and S-video output, thinking to use it, among other things, to play DVDs on my TV. The S-video output worked fine until I tried to play DVDs, when it switched back to the laptop's monitor. So I called tech support.

As it turns out, he was right about one thing -- it wasn't supposed to work. Buried in the documentation of the MPEG decoder is a line that the card didn't support interlaced displays.

The company is now dead, so I can mention this one by name:

I tried in vain for other contact numbers or the vendor of the software (contact information for that software was conspicuously missing in my software and documentation). Some hours later I called the same number above and got someone who gave me decent information. He had no clue what woman I talked to earlier. Could have been janitorial staff for all I knew.

I was troubleshooting a powerbook for a user, which had been flaky all of its short life, when it refused to boot and I could smell something smoldering. Clearly there was a short-circuit somewhere, probably in the power supply. I called Apple to get it repaired under the warranty.

At this point, I mumbled something about the phone not being near the computer and hung up.

The punch line is that, after the thing was shipped to Apple (twice), it got stolen from the shipping agent's truck, and we got a brand new model.

I had just bought a new laser printer in the US when I received a very good job offer for the summer in Europe. So I called the printer manufacturer's help desk to find out if I could use the printer in Europe with 220 volts, or if they had a low cost transformer.

Around 2001, our family got a new desktop computer from a popular computer company. We also got an inkjet printer in a sort of bundle deal. After a few weeks of flawless operation, the printer ceased working and made an odd clicking sound whenever a document was sent to it. We called customer support for help.

The customer support associate went through an idiotic troubleshooting checklist ("Is the printer plugged into the wall?" and so forth) and then had us check the device manager and reinstall the printer drivers. I told him it did not appear to be a software problem, because the printer was making odd noises, which indicated a mechanical failure of some kind. After an hour long session of troubleshooting, we were advised to box up the computer and printer and send it to their repair center. Yes, not just the printer but the computer as well.

They asked if we had any files on the hard drive that we'd like to save. We told them which files and folders to save for us. Finally we got the computer back and a new printer. The computer had been wiped and the operating system reinstalled, and we got our data files on a CD.

The problem? A cheeto had fallen into the printer and jammed it. They sent the cheeto back in a small plastic bag. The printer was covered by the warranty, but the CD backup was not, so they charged us $100 for it.

I'm an American living in Switzerland. I prefer English software, and the easiest way to get it is to buy directly from the United States.

So, we've recently purchased software from [a company] in the States. It had a few problems, so I called the international support line, and please note the word 'international'.

After 45 minutes of listening to bad music at peak international phone rates, someone came on the line. It's a known problem, he said, and he'd send an update right out -- he'd just need my address.

He asked for my street. He asked for my city. He asked for my state. Oops, I'm in Switzerland, and the 'state' field doesn't apply. The tech is very apologetic, but his software won't let him leave the field blank. Ok, I said, I'm from Texas, so just put Texas in there. Amazingly, the software accepts my four digit zip code. But he never asked me for my country, so I double checked. No, there was no place for him to enter a country. So he wrote my address down and said he'd sort it out later.

Weeks later, the update still hadn't arrived. I called back, waiting "only" twenty minutes this time. They checked, found my order, and told me it had been sent to Canada and been returned as undeliverable. I corrected the mistake, and the update arrived a few days later in spite of the fact that it was addressed to "Swaziland."

I have no idea if this company ever updated their software so the international help line could support international addresses.

"We" check.

One of our clients, an ISP, gave us a free account to use to test their service and help us write the documentation and marketing copy for them. I set the system up, logged on, and handed it over to my assistant.

After about thirty minutes I passed by and noticed they were on the phone to the technical support line, reporting a problem with the connection. I checked what the problem was with my assistant who told me that the web site they were supposed to connect to wasn't answering. I checked -- sure enough the connection just timed out with the usual 'Unable to connect to server' error. I tried a ping to the server and got no response, then decided to speak to the tech support person myself.

He was convinced the problem was with our dial-up connection, but as soon as I got on the phone I suggested the server was down and asked if he could check it with someone. He refused and we spent the next forty minutes trying various things on our machine to get the connection working. Finally I stopped him:

Three months later, it was announced on the University web site that there was an "untraced fault" on the network, and everyone had to reduce the MTU on their computers to 1498. A few talks with various technicians revealed that this had been known and repeatedly reported by a great many people, who had received just as unfriendly a response as I had, over those 3 months. The official story was that the technicians were waiting to see if the problem would clear up on its own. It took another six months of complaints before they finally got someone in to fix the router.

I recently signed up for a 640kbps ADSL line with a borrowed router. We have four computers in our household, with a perfectly working LAN. But after trying to set up the ADSL settings, there was still no connection to the Internet. I thought it was an ISP problem, so I phoned to the tech support. I explained the problem, and...

And so on, for almost an hour. The problem never got solved. Later I swapped out the router, and it worked. So I called back to see if I could have a replacement router.

I hung up, and later I cancelled.

I had a problem with using my PPP connection through Linux. The data transfers were really slow sometimes but fine at others. I played with it for a while, then finally called the help desk. I was on hold for twenty minutes, then:

I slap my forehead.

Murderous thoughts are going through my head. After a couple more exchanges back and forth, she finally understands that Winsock won't run on Linux for some weird reason.

She gets down my name, room number, phone number, computer type and brand, then we get interesting again.

I was a manager in an IT department who had a network of around 100 point-of-sale (POS) computers spread all over Australia. One of our shops, about 2000 miles away, called with a problem. The motherboard appeared to be broken. I called one of our technicians who was in the area and asked him to go over and swap out the hard drive from the machine with the broken motherboard into a machine that was in the store room which I figured was working fine -- that way the shop wouldn't lose any of its data.

The technician called me later and said he couldn't figure out how to get the hard drive out of the machine. To understand what he was looking at, I dismantled a spare machine I had. Thankfully IBM made the machines easy to service -- lots of diagrams and instructions on the inside of the case. You just had to get into it first. The hard drive was mounted on a tray which was designed to slide out smoothly once a retaining clip had been pressed. Then it would be easy to unplug the drive and slide a new one in.

No matter how much I described, cajoled, and threatened the technician, he could not figure out how to get the hard drive out. He finally got sick of it, got in his car and drove away, leaving the shop with frustrated customers. I called the technician's manager and explained the situation. But he wasn't too interested either, saying we'd have to get IBM to come and fix it (at a huge cost, as you can imagine).

I called the shop back to explain what was going on and that they'd be down for a while. But the elderly lady in the shop said, "It's ok, dear. I watched what the technician was doing, and it didn't look that complicated. He left some of his tools behind, so I pulled the machines apart, swapped the disks, and all I need to know now is how to get the cases back on."

I lead her through how to re-fit the case, and she was off and running.

This is an actual conversation I overheard in the cube next to me. I only heard one side of it. He had called the helpdesk to resolve a network problem.

"Hello, my name is [name]. My computer no longer communicates on the network. . . . Yes, the network connection is plugged in. . . . Yes, both ends. . . . Ok, I've rebooted the computer. Still nothing. . . . I don't have a 'Start' button. I'm running Windows NT 3.51. . . . Windows NT. . . . NT. . . . Ennnn Teeee. . . . I don't think that will work. . . . Well, ok. I'm pulling down file [long list of instructions]. . . . I don't have that menu choice. . . . Ok, we'll try it again. I pull down file [long list of instructions]. That menu choice doesn't exist. . . . Yes, thank you, I do know how to spell. . . . No, there is no menu choice by that name. . . . I'm sorry, it isn't there. . . . No, I do not have a 'Start' button. . . . No, I am not running Windows 3.11. I am running Windows NT 3.51. . . . Uhhh, no, I don't think they are the same thing. . . . Look, you can keep saying that the choice has to be there, but in fact it is not. I'm running Windows Ennn Teee. It's different from Windows 3.1. . . . No, the choice third from the bottom is [name of option]. . . . I AM NOT LYING TO YOU. . . . Hello? . . . Hello?"

My co-worker redials.

"Hello help desk? My name is [name]. I called a few minutes ago with a network problem. I'd like the name of the tech assigned to my case. . . . Thank you. Now, could you assign a different person to the case please? . . . Because she's a moron. . . . Yes, I did say moron. . . . Thank you."

I was waiting in a computer store for a price quote once, and while I was waiting I noticed one of the technicians trying to fix a customer's computer. I listen in on the conversation.

It was clear the customer had changed the Windows 95 colour scheme from the standard green background and blue and white windows that you see when Windows 95 starts for the first time. He had a new color scheme altogether, a blue background, and when he ran his mouse to highlight something, it turned yellow instead of the original blue. Perfectly normal, I thought; almost every Windows 95 user changes the color scheme.

Of course, that was it. I wasn't going to buy a system from a store with this incredible tech support, so I left.

He was absolutely baffled when he didn't find any viruses on it.

I had a friend who gave me a Mitsubishi monitor. The monitor wasn't getting a picture for some reason, so it obviously needed some servicing. I took it to a repairman to see what could be done.

My new ISP was exhibiting extremely slow service. When my wife called to ask if they were having a problem, they told her no, everything was fine and maybe she should defragement the hard drive.

I got disconnected from my ISP and was unable to log back onto it -- my modem would connect and everything, but Dial-Up Networking couldn't get past verifying username and password. Nothing had changed in my setup, so I called my ISP's tech support.

He didn't bother to check whether I was using Windows or MacOS.

Adding a comma in a modem dial string causes the modem to pause in its dialing for three seconds. This guy wanted me to add nine seconds of pause after the number had been dialed.

About fifteen minutes later, I was about ready to call them back, but then I actually managed to log on again. Unbelievable.

I originally bought a certain brand of computer that supposedly came with a video card that had 2 megs of memory. After a while, noting that the screen graphics were moving very slowly, I went into the Windows 95 Control Panel to take a look.

Video memory: 1 meg.

So I checked with a diagnostic program.

Video memory: 1 meg.

I called the tech support people about this.

Pardon me, but if my Windows 95 desktop takes up 1 meg of video memory just sitting there, we have a problem.

Um, I need to buy a $50 piece of software so that I can tell you something I already know?

He couldn't seem to grasp the difference between a written set of specifications and a material object -- namely, my computer.

I finally managed to get the guy to give me the number of the local computer tech so I could take it in. The computer tech looked at it, said, "Hmm. It only has a 1 meg video card in it," traded it out, and I got my computer back.

The scariest thing about that call was what I left out. There were about four other things wrong with the computer at the same time -- and each garnered about the same level of response.

I overheard a conversation between the assistant manager of a PC repair place and a customer.

The following is a three-way conversation between customer support for a company that sells computers, a customer of said company, and a technician that was called in to repair the hard drive of a machine from said company. There's one brain among the three of them, and it's not hard to figure out which one has it.

Hours go by.

Dead silence.

I know just enough to get myself in big trouble. Long story, but I managed to trash the BIOS and remembered that jumping two pins on the BIOS would reset the BIOS to a preset level.

Once I called my local phone company to see if they were offering ADSL in my area.

Many years ago I was having problems with my miniframe lab computer. I called tech support, and after some time of discussing the problem, the guy told me to format the disk into two 795 megabyte partitions. When I told them that the disk was only a 300 megabyte disk, he replied, "I can't help you if you refuse to cooperate."

I noticed that the CGI scripts on my web site had spontaneously ceased working, so I contacted the tech support for the ISP that was hosting the site. It's important to note that, since I had set up the site, I had moved to a different city and, hence, only used telnet to connect to them. The tech needed to ask a few preliminary questions.

I had to agree.

There's this quite major company called Time Computers over here in England. I bought a system from them, and then five months later I hear a "Pfoo!" noise, and my display went all fuzzy and strange. After some troubleshooting, I opened up the case and discovered that the video card had a little, remarkably Wile E. Coyote-esque soot explosion mark centered around a burnt chip in the middle of it.

Here's the conversation I had with tech support about it, with a lot cut out:

I sighed, gave up, rebooted into Windows, and right clicked on the desktop.

After a while, "we" determined that, no, it isn't my resolution, and installing new drivers won't help. After a very long discussion, I learned that to replace my video card, they would "have to" (or so policy dictates) take the entire computer away (monitor and all) for 5-7 business days to replace the faulty video card. I protested this, because the computer was being used in a business. They told me there was "nothing they could do." This seemed bad enough, but then:

After about an hour of arguing, we didn't get anywhere. I am living with the video card up to this day, months later, and was not refunded in anyway.

Turns out to be rather more tragic than funny, actually.

I'm a Linux user, and I prefer keeping Javascript turned off in my browsers. Up until December 1999 or so, I did not need it for using Hotmail, but then that changed. So I sent them an email to ask why:

Why is it mandatory to use Javascript now? It was not necessary until recently (a couple months).


The response I got was this (I swear this is verbatim):

Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail.

This feature is mandatory since some sites require Javascript in order for the computer to read their codes. You cannot browse a site unless the Javascript is disabled.

For further information, contact the Help Support of the browser you are using.

We hope that this email has provided you with the assistance you needed.


MSN Hotmail Customer Support

...Which confused the heck out of me! It not only doesn't make any sense, but it's not about the question I was asking. So I mailed them again:

Thank you very much for this information.

> This feature is mandatory since some sites require Javascript
> in order for the computer to read their codes. You cannot
> browse a site unless the Javascript is disabled.

But as you can see, it is insulting and makes no sense. First of all, "You cannot browse a site unless the Javascript is disabled" is erroneous. Never mind, I do not have time to flame you. Allow me to clarify my question; I do not think you understood it and would like at least a level three technician please:

Since I have used Hotmail, it has used cookies, but when I first used Hotmail I did not have to turn my browser's Javascript on. Now I do. Please tell me why. I do not like having Java and Javascript enabled (in fact I would prefer to use Lynx, a text-based browser under Unix).

Thank you.

Ok, so it was a little harsh, but at least I thought they would answer the right question and/or refer it to Level III. Here's what I got:

Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail.

MSN Hotmail also requires your Javascript feature to be enabled so that you can access your account more effectively. In order to enable your Javascript settings, kindly go to your Tools menu, Internet Options, Advanced Tab folder. From there, check and enable the Javascript settings in your PC. Please be guided accordingly.


MSN Hotmail Customer Support

Internet Options? Tools menu? I'm using Netscape!

I gave up writing to them. I gave up my Hotmail account.

Some years ago I decided to buy a WDC 730MB hard drive. So I went to a central store of our city, Athens, and bought it. Less than a year later the drive slowed down and finally failed to complete booting (this coincided with my attempts to change my controller to a VLB one, so at first I thought I did something wrong). Those days backup machines were still expensive and floppies were rather boring to use regularly, so my last backup was over two months old.

So there I am in the central store's service, trying to explain that I wanted my data saved. It seemed to me that the disk surfaces didn't have problem, and, since the data hadn't been erased, it must have been the electronics that prevented the communication, something quite possible, especially if the strange initialization sound is taken into account.

At the "lab" they told me they would send the drive to Thessaloniki, over five hours away, to see what their co-workers could do. I agreed, and we swapped phone numbers so I could hear some news. After this day, I stopped shaving my face.

After a week I called them to hear what was going on. They had no news, so they gave me the phone number of their co-workers.

He had confused me with another customer. A week later I called again.

Thinking about complexity of the situation, my father and I decided to say goodbye to some files and do the lost work again instead of waiting and paying a lot of money.

We canceled the whole process and asked for a new hard drive. The central store told us we had to wait until they received the new drive. One of the things I worried about was the size of the new drive. WDC didn't ship any more 730MB disks, so I might have to take an 850MB disk -- at my expense, of course. It was annoying to know they wanted more money even though the original price of the smaller drive was greater than the current price of the bigger drive.

One week after the last phone call, I dropped by the central store and asked about my new drive. By that time I already had a beard.

At least I wouldn't have to pay extra money. When I arrived at the "lab" I learned, to my frustration that the drive was on the way to the place I just left an hour before.

Back at the central store, I was finally able to hold in my hands my long-awaited new drive. Then I noticed a scratch on its surface. Upon closer inspection, it reminded me of a scratch my OLD disk had. NO! IT COULDN'T BE! AAAAAAAARRRGGGHHH!

I started yelling.

Although I had already felt like fainting, that last one sentence was too much. I got so angry, I hit my hand to draw an assistant's attention. I called my father. He came. We yelled together. We talked to the manager. After a couple of days a new 850MB hard drive was delivered to us at home.

The story is now over, but I still wonder how the company managed to calculate the difference in price between an accessory in production and another that wasn't. If economy was based on such hypotheses, I would have been rich by now, bought the store, fired the offending technicians (although in the above written conversation they probably seem fine, they were offensively neglecting me), bought WDC, redesigned the drives, etc, etc, etc.