SYSTEM PROBLEM REPORT FORM
This is a form to make the reporting of problems consistent, to allow
records of problems to be kept, and to discourage users from reporting
problems in the first place.
1. Your name: __________________________________________________
2. Your login name: ____________________________________________
3. The date: ___________________________________________________
4. The date the problem first occurred, if different than above:
5. Problem severity:
Minor ___ Minor ___ Minor ___ Minor ___
6. Which machine: ______________________________________________
7. Which area appears to be at fault:
Communications ____ Disk ____ Base unit ____
Network ____ Keyboard ____ Screen ____ Mouse ____
Everything ____ Don't know ____
7.1 Is it plugged in: Y/N
7.2 Is it switched on: Y/N
7.3 Has it been stolen: Y/N
7.4 Have you tried to fix it yourself: Y/N
7.4.1 If `Yes', Have you made it worse: Y/Y
7.5 Have you read the manual: Y/N
7.5.1 Are you certain you've read the manual: Y/N
7.5.2 Are you *absolutely* certain you've read the manual: Y/N
7.6 Did you understand it: Y/N
7.6.1 If `Yes', why can't you fix it yourself:
7.7 Is the equipment unexpectedly noisy: Y/N
7.7.1 If `Yes', what sort of noise:
Grinding ___ Rattling ___ Whirring ___ High pitched whine ___
Sound of disk head scouring disk ___
Strange, out of tune, whistling, or humming _______
7.8 Is there a burning smell: Y/N
7.8.1 If `Yes', is the equipment on fire: \YN \par
7.9 Is the fault repeatable: Y/N
7.10 What were you doing (with the equipment) at the time
the fault occurred:
7.10.1 If `Nothing', explain why you were logged in:
7.11 What are the 39 steps:
7.12 Are you certain you aren't imagining the problem: Y/N
7.13 Do you have any independent witnesses of the problem: Y/N
7.14 Describe the problem:
7.15 Now describe the problem accurately}:
7.16 Speculate wildly about the cause of the problem:
7.17 Can't you do something else, rather than bothering me: Y/N
GREAT TECH SUPPORT:
Customer: "I've just installed Windows 98!"
Tech support: "And...?"
Customer: "The computer stopped working!"
Tech support: "You already said that!"
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.
One woman called Dell's toll-free line to ask how to install the
batteries in her laptop. When told that the directions were on the
first page of the manual the woman replied angrily, "I just paid
$2,000 for this damn thing, and I'm not going to read the book."
Tech Support: "I need you to right-click on the Open Desktop."
Tech Support: "Did you get a pop-up menu?"
Tech Support: "Ok. Right click again. Do you see a pop-up menu?"
Tech Support: "Ok, sir. Can you tell me what you have done up
until this point?"
Customer: "Sure, you told me to write 'click' and I wrote 'click'."
(At this point I had to put the caller on hold to tell the rest of
the tech support staff what had happened. I couldn't, however, stop
from giggling when I got back to the call.)
Tech Support: "Ok, did you type 'click' with the keyboard?"
Customer: "I have done something dumb, right?"
Customer: "I received the software update you sent, but I am still
getting the same error message."
Tech Support: "Did you install the update?"
Customer: "No. Oh, am I supposed to install it to get it to work?"
Customer: "I'm having trouble installing Microsoft Word."
Tech Support: "Tell me what you've done."
Customer: "I typed 'A:SETUP'."
Tech Support: "Ma'am, remove the disk and tell me what it says."
Customer: "It says '[PC manufacturer] Restore and Recovery disk'."
Tech Support: "Insert the MS Word setup disk."
Tech Support: "Did you buy MS word?"
Tech Support: "Ok, in the bottom left hand side of the screen, can
you see the 'OK' button displayed?"
Customer: "Wow. How can you see my screen from there?"
Customer: "Uhh...I need help unpacking my new PC."
Tech Support: "What exactly is the problem?"
Customer: "I can't open the box."
Tech Support: "Well, I'd remove the tape holding the box closed
and go from there."
Customer: "Uhhhh...ok, thanks...."
Customer: "I'm having a problem installing your software. I've
got a fairly old computer, and when I type 'INSTALL', all it
says is 'Bad command or file name'."
Tech Support: "Ok, check the directory of the A: drive-go to A: \
and type 'dir'." Customer reads off a list of file names,
Tech Support: "All right, the correct file is there. Type
Customer: "Ok." (pause) "Still says 'Bad command or file name'."
Tech Support: "Hmmm. The file's there in the correct place-it can't
help but do something. Are you sure you're typing
I-N-S-T-A-L-L and hitting the Enter key?"
Customer: "Yes, let me try it again." (pause) "Nope, still 'Bad
command or file name'."
Tech Support: (now really confused) "Are you sure you're typing
I-N-S-T-A-L-L and hitting the key that says 'Enter'?"
Customer: "Well, yeah. Although my 'N' key is stuck, so I'm using
the 'M' key ... does that matter?"
At our company we have asset numbers on the front of everything.
They give the location, name, and everything else just by scanning
the computer's asset barcode or using the number beneath the bars.
Customer: "Hello. I can't get on the network."
Tech Support: "Ok. Just read me your asset number so we can open
Customer: "What is that?"
Tech Support: "That little barcode on the front of your computer."
Customer: "Ok. Big bar, little bar, big bar, big bar . . ."
Customer: "I got this problem. You people sent me this install disk,
and now my A: drive won't work."
Tech Support: "Your A drive won't work?"
Customer: "That's what I said. You sent me a bad disk, it got stuck
in my drive, now it won't work at all."
Tech Support: "Did it not install properly? What kind of error
messages did you get?"
Customer: "I didn't get any error message. The disk got stuck in the
drive and wouldn't come out. So I got these pliers and
tried to get it out. That didn't work either."
Tech Support: "You did what, sir?"
Customer: "I got these pliers, and tried to get the disk out, but it
wouldn't budge. I just ended up cracking the plastic
stuff a bit."
Tech Support: "I don't understand sir, did you push the eject button?"
Customer: "No, so then I got a stick of butter and melted it and
used a turkey baster and put the butter in the drive,
around the disk, and that got it loose. Then I used the
pliers and it came out fine. I can't believe you would send
me a disk that was broke and defective."
Tech Support: "Let me get this clear. You put melted butter in your
A: drive and used pliers to pull the disk out?" At this
point, I put the call on the speaker phone and motioned at
the other techs to listen in.
Tech Support: "Just so I am absolutely clear on this, can you repeat
what you just said?"
Customer: "I said I put butter in my A: drive to get your crappy
disk out, then I had to use pliers to pull it out."
Tech Support: "Did you push that little button that was sticking out
when the disk was in the drive, you know, the thing
called the disk eject button?"
Tech Support: "Sir?"
Tech Support: "Sir, did you push the eject button?"
Customer: "No, but you people are going to fix my computer, or I
am going to sue you for breaking my computer?"
Tech Support: "Let me get this straight. You are going to sue our
company because you put the disk in the A: drive, didn't
follow the instructions we sent you, didn't actually seek
professional advice, didn't consult your user's manual on
how to use your computer properly, instead proceeding to
pour butter into the drive and physically rip the disk
Tech Support: "Do you really think you stand a chance, since we do
record every call and have it on tape?"
Customer: (now rather humbled) "But you're supposed to help!"
Tech Support: "I am sorry sir, but there is nothing we can do for you.
Have a nice day."
One day while returning to my desk after a routine call, a young lady
flagged me down and asked for help.
"My floppy drive won't work, can you help me?"
I told her I'd take a look and proceeded over to her machine, where I
found shredded up clear plastic Baggie-like stuff hanging out of her 3.5"
floppy drive. While I spent the next 20 minutes getting her disk out and
digging out the plastic, I noticed two guys in the corner of the office
trying awful hard to keep a straight face.
Suspecting some mischief, I asked her how the plastic got into
"Oh, you mean the condom!"
"Yes, John & Dave over there told me to always put a condom on my disk
before inserting it, to prevent catching viruses"
By this point John & Dave were roaring and it was all I could do to
keep from joining them. The "condom" turned out to be a standard 3.5"
plastic sleeve. I delicately explained to her that a practical joke
had been played and she shouldn't do that anymore, when she asked (as
serious as could be)
"Does that mean I don't have to stroke it ten times or blow on it
THE POWERBOOK THAT LEAKED
(A True Story)
In 1993, sometime in December, a customer walks in with a dead
PowerBook 165. Fault description: hangs on startup. An
additional symptom provided was: whilst being carried from the
customer's site to our service center, a 'sloshing' noise was
heard within the machine.
"Has anything been split on this computer?" I inquired, but no,
nothing of the sort had happened, protested the client
vehemently. Taking this with a grain of salt (no-one's going to
admit doing something that totally invalidates their warranty
and effectively wrecks their computer) I went about filling in
the repair order.
Back on the bench, I started the PowerBook up. Sure enough, an
address error on startup, just after 'Welcome to Macintosh'. I
lowered my ear to the keyboard, at which point I heard a
crackling noise (couldn't hear any sloshing noise though)
and became aware of a rather 'sharp' odor which seemed to
emanate from the inside of the machine. Flicking the computer
off and unplugging the adapter, I removed the battery from
its compartment, only to observe that the entire battery
casing was soaked in a fluid which appear to have a rainbow-
like sheen (kind of like what a puddle of soapy water would
look like -- oily and colorful). I also noticed that the
same fluid was leaking out of the battery compartment onto
the static mat, but appeared clear rather than multi-colored.
My first thoughts were that the battery had somehow leaked
acid out into the guts of the PowerBook, which would account
for the sharp smell (which reminded me of ammonia), yet the
battery terminals were about the one part of the battery that
was dry. No, upon closer examination, I ruled the acid theory
out. The battery was wet, but not leaking.
Tipping the machine on its side, I watched more fluid run out
and coagulate on the bench in a puddle about the size of a
compact disc. It was definitely clear, and I observed that
the 'rainbow' effect had been caused by the reaction of the
plastic battery casing to this 'mystery liquid'. I then
unscrewed the computer and separated the two parts of the
PowerBook. The smell suddenly became a LOT stronger. The hard
disk looked like a solid lump of rust, and the daughterboard
appeared to have about three barbecued chips. Although I was
quickly forming my own opinions on what had happened, I
invited several of my workmates in to take a sniff and offer
We were unanimous in our decision. I rang the customer, who
seemed surprised when I asked the question: "Do you have a
cat?" As it turned out, he didn't have a cat, but he did
have a lovely fluffy bunny rabbit who was seen in the
vicinity of the PowerBook only the day before. Yes, there
was no doubt about it, little fluffy had hopped up onto
the keyboard and downloaded some incompatible data. I
checked the warranty form, but there was no provision for
failure due to rabbit urine anywhere.
I advised the customer to get in touch with his insurance
company. In the end, the PowerBook was biffed and the
customer upgraded to a 180c. I cleaned up the static mat
and sprayed the service department with a healthy dosage
of "Fresh Field of Flowers." I checked in with the customer
about a week later, asked how was he enjoying the 180c,
asked if he'd managed to restore his data, and, of course,
asked how was his rabbit?
"Delicious," he said.
Etch-A-Sketch Technical Support
Q: My Etch-A-Sketch has all of these funny little lines all
over the screen.
A: Pick it up and shake it.
Q: How do I turn my Etch-A-Sketch off?
A: Pick it up and shake it.
Q: What's the shortcut for Undo?
A: Pick it up and shake it.
Q: How do I create a New Document window?
A: Pick it up and shake it.
Q: How do I set the background and foreground to the same color?
A: Pick it up and shake it.
Q: What is the proper procedure for rebooting my Etch-A-Sketch?
A: Pick it up and shake it.
Q: How do I delete a document on my Etch-A-Sketch?
A: Pick it up and shake it.
Q: How do I save my Etch-A-Sketch document?
A: Don't shake it!
Weird Tech Support Calls
"Actual" dialog of a former WordPerfect Customer Support
TECH: "Ridge Hall computer assistant; may I help you?"
CUST: "Yes, well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect."
TECH: "What sort of trouble?"
CUST: "Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden
the words went away."
TECH: "Went away?"
CUST: "They disappeared."
TECH: "Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?"
CUST: "It's blank; it won't accept anything when I type."
TECH: "Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out?"
CUST: "How do I tell?"
TECH: "Can you see the "C" prompt on the screen?"
CUST: "What's a sea-prompt?"
TECH: "Never mind. Can you move the cursor around on the screen?"
CUST: "There isn't any cursor: I told you, it won't accept
anything I type."
TECH: "Does your monitor have a power indicator?"
CUST: "What's a monitor?"
TECH: "It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like
a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it's on?"
CUST: "I don't know."
TECH: "Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find
where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?"
CUST: "...Yes, I think so."
TECH: "Great! Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's
plugged into the wall."
CUST: "...Yes, it is."
TECH: "When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that
there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?"
TECH: "Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and
find the other cable."
CUST: "...Okay, here it is."
TECH: "Follow it for me, and tell me if it's plugged securely
into the back of your computer."
CUST: "I can't reach."
TECH: "Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?"
TECH: "Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?"
CUST: "Oh, it's not because I don't have the right angle-it's
because it's dark."
CUST: "Yes-the office light is off, and the only light I have
is coming in from the window."
TECH: "Well, turn on the office light then."
CUST: "I can't."
TECH: "No? Why not?"
CUST: "Because there's a power outage."
TECH: "A power... a power outage? Aha! Okay, we've got it
licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and
packing stuff your computer came in?"
CUST: "Well, yes, I keep them in the closet."
TECH: "Good! Go get them, and unplug your system and pack
it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back
to the store you bought it from."
CUST: "Really? Is it that bad?"
TECH: "Yes, I'm afraid it is."
CUST: "Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?"
TECH: "Tell them you're too stupid to own a computer."
Why we should feel sorry for tech support people:
A woman called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer.
The tech asked her if she was "running it under Windows." The woman
then responded, "No, my desk is next to the door. But that is a good
point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window,
and his is working fine."
Tech Support: "OK Bob, let's press the control and escape keys at the
same time. That brings up a task list in the middle of the screen. Now
type the letter 'P' to bring up the Program Manager."
Customer: "I don't have a 'P'."
Tech Support: "On your keyboard, Bob."
Customer: "What do you mean?"
Tech Support: "'P' on your keyboard, Bob."
Customer: "I'm not going to do that!"
Overheard in a computer shop:
Customer: "I'd like a mouse mat, please."
Salesperson: "Certainly sir, we've got a large variety."
Customer: "But will they be compatible with my computer?"
I once received a fax with a note on the bottom to fax the document
back to the sender when I was finished with it, because he needed
to keep it.
Customer: "Can you copy the Internet for me on this diskette?"
I work for a local ISP. Frequently we receive phone calls that start
something like this:
Customer: "Hi. Is this the Internet?"
Some people pay for their online services with checks made payable
to "The Internet."
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."
Tech Support: "All right...now double-click on the File Manager icon."
Customer: "That's why I hate this Windows -- because of the icons --
I'm a Protestant, and I don't believe in icons."
Tech Support: "Well, that's just an industry term sir. I don't
believe it was meant to --"
Customer: "I don't care about any 'Industry Terms'. I don't believe
Tech Support: "Well...why don't you click on the 'little picture' of
a file cabinet...is 'little picture' OK?"
Customer: "My computer crashed!"
Tech Support: "It crashed?"
Customer: "Yeah, it won't let me play my game."
Tech Support: "All right, hit Control-Alt-Delete to reboot."
Customer: "No, it didn't crash -- it crashed."
Tech Support: "Huh?"
Customer: "I crashed my game. That's what I said before. I crashed my
spaceship and now it doesn't work."
Tech Support: "Click on 'File,' then 'New Game.'"
Customer: [pause] "Wow! How'd you learn how to do that?"
The one where the idiot was inserting disk one, disk two, etc until
install crashed at disk 5... turns out he wasn't removing the first four
disks (that one actually happened on the WordPerfect helpline).
The brain surgeon who recorded a country-western song off of his
CD-ROM drive, and named it ding.wav - then called tech support when
he "had country music playing during games for no good reason..."
Of course, the old story about the user who thought that the mouse
was a foot pedal...
The obligitory call about the user who "broke their cup holder"
(CD-ROM drive)(which actually happened as well) ...
The elderly man who kept on buying stuff for his new computer, and
called tech support to learn how to install it (but was too afraid to
take it outta the box)...
The idiots who bought Corel Draw!, Quark Express, and other high-end
graphics programs who didn't know (and didn't want to know) how to run
a Windows computer
The user who swears that they didn't do anything to put a virus on
their computer (the immaculant infection?)...
The user who downloads ANTI-AOL.EXE from an AOL chat room and then
runs it ("Uh, could you help me reload my software?")
Like a user in our company who called the help line to get someone
to empty her hard drive. When the helpdesk asked her to explain, the
user reported she was getting a "hard drive full" message.
An anecdote from IBM's Yorktown Heights Research Center. When a
programmer used his new computer terminal, all was fine when he was
sitting down, but he couldn't log in to the system when he was standing
up. That behavior was 100 percent repeatable: he could always log in
when sitting and never when standing. Most of us just sit back and
marvel at such a story; how could that terminal know whether the poor
guy was sitting or standing? Good debuggers, though, know that there
has to be a reason. Electrical theories are the easiest to hypothesize:
was there a loose with under the carpet, or problems with static
electricity? But electrical problems are rarely consistently
reproducible. An alert IBMer finally noticed that the problem was
in the terminal's keyboard: the tops of two keys were switched.
When the programmer was seated he was a touch typist and the problem
went unnoticed, but when he stood he was led astray by hunting and
Another that did happen to me and I swear it's true. As a student
I was working in the computer shop nearby to make some pocket money.
One day came an old man who asked, "I don't know about computers but
I'd really like to learn. How do they work?" The vendor didn't know
where to begin since there is so much to explain and says, "Well...
the computer is a machine and you speak to it to make it do things,
like graphics, games.." The the man bend over the keyboard of the
nearest computer, examine it and says, "Well?? Well??" and after a
minute says to us, "Well I'm talking to it and it's not responding!"
No, it was not somebody who wanted to make a joke. He eventually came
back a few times and then bought a computer having learn the very few
steps of basic (how to insert a tape and type LOAD then press PLAY).
There is a story that a few months after the British government decreed
that all schools should have a BBC micro, an engineer was called out to
one school that had just got a disk drive. They arrived to find a tape
cassette jammed in the drive and an eight-year-old standing there saying,
"I told her not to do it" (of the teacher).
However, let's be fair about this. I'd also like the 'stupid techie
tricks' as well. My own favorite is the time I spent all day training
a group of managers how to do advanced dbase programming then had to
ask the secretary for help because I couldn't figure out how to use
her phone to call my office. Just proves, everybody's stupid in
A friend who was in field service for Burroughs, and is currently at
Unisys, tells of the time he went to do some routine PM at a customer
site. As he was getting ready to button up the hardware, he asked the
girl who was the operator for the machine in question to queue up the
system status report to the printer so he would have it by the time he
was ready to leave. The silence, nothing printing, was quite noticeable.
Seeing that the printer was off line, he asked again if she would run
"Oh, yes," came the response, "it'll be printing in a moment. I'm
just waiting for the phone to ring."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I'm waiting for the phone to ring so the report will print."
Mildly curious, he inquired what arcane influence the telephone had
over the system printer, and piece by piece the story emerged. About
6 months previously, when she was a new hire, the DP manager had asked
her to queue up a report. He was going to another building, and for
some reason didn't want the thing to print until he got there, so he
told her to keep the printer off line so that he could phone her when
he was ready. "As soon as the phone rings, press the online button,
there, and let 'er rip." This she had duly done, and from that day
forward, whenever anyone had called asking for a report, she had taken
the printer off line, queued up the report, and waited for the phone
to ring. No-one at the customer site realised what she was doing,
because whenever anyone would call the machine room to ask where a
requested report was, she would say, truthfully, "It's printing right
Users do not have a monopoly on ignorance. About a year ago, I
was in a university computer lab that contained both SPARC Stations
and Macintoshes. I was working on a SPARC Station. Some non-computer
type came into the lab wanting to use a Macintosh (which he knew
how to use). There weren't any Macs available, so the lab monitor
told him to use a SPARC Station, claiming they were essentially the
same thing. The guy sat down at the SPARC Station, stuck in his
disk (the SPARC Stations there had 3 1/2 inch drives), and stared
dumbfounded at the login screen for a few minutes not having any
idea what to do. I had to get his disk out for him by logging in
to the machine and running the eject program, then I sent him back
to the lab monitor to demand a Macintosh.
People who use a mouse for the first time are very puzzled: it's
moving too quickly, not acurately enough and there is never enough
space on the desk to reach the end of the screen. I even saw once
a secretary (yes...Yet Another Woman Narration) having not enough
space on her desk continuing dragging the mouse on the wall!
I heard this story from someone who worked for a French company,
they had a problem with a program on punched cards written for them
by a US subsidiary. The programs never worked when loaded in France
but the US systems house swore blind that they did at their end.
Eventually, in exasperation, someone followed the working set of
cards from the US to France. At French customs, they observed a
customs official remove a few cards at random from the deck.
Apparently, the french customs are entitled to remove a sample
from any bulk item (such as grain), so a few cards from a large
consignment shouldn't matter, should it?
Then there's a former supervisor who sat down to use a Mac in the
office. Put his floppy in. Didn't mount. Put another floppy in.
Same problem. Tried three or four times before asking for some help.
You guessed it. No floppy drive. All the floppies were just falling
into the Mac, where they had to be retrieved later by the guy the
supervisor called. They taped up the hole.
On a related note, the MicroLab I work in has a weekly problem with
our Mac SE's. Some user will fail to notice that there's already a
boot disk in one of the two floppy drives, and manage to stuff their
disk in there with it. Sigh...Once a week. Not kidding.
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
The "foot pedal," it turned out, was the computer's mouse, a
hand-operated device that helps to control the computer's operation.
Some people can't figure out the mouse. Tamra Eagle, and 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 Zieschan 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.
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.
The software inside the computer can be equally befuddling. 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.
Not realizing how fragile computers can be, some people end up
damaging parts beyond repair. 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 the removing all the keys and washing them
Computers make some people paranoid. A Dell technician, Morgan
Vergaran says he once calmed a man who became enraged because,
"his computer has 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.
These days PC-help technicians increasingly find themselves taking
on the role of amateur psychologists. 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
There are also the lonely hearts who seek out human contact, even if
it happens to be a computer techie. 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.
TECH SUPPORT PRICE LIST
(these fees are *not* negotiable)
$10 Calling me with a question
$25 Calling me with a stupid question
$100 Calling me with a stupid question you can't quite articulate
$500 Saying I'm incompetent because I can't interpret your
$750 Asking how to force a program to do something it obviously
isn't intended to do
$1,000 Complaining about my surly attitude
$100 Calling me when the answer is in TFM
$250 Starting a call with "I'm helping this other person"
$500 Insisting that the logically impossible problem you're describing
is, in fact, happening
$500 Self-diagnosing your problem and telling me what to do
$750 "Fixing" the problem yourself, then calling me to bail you out
$1,000 Failing to inform your cow-orkers that I bailed you out
$50 Telling me your hard drive is dead, when you mean floppy drive
$100 Calling the monitor by any other name (i.e. CPU, TV, etc.)
$500 Complaining that the system is not accepting your new password,
when the password manager tells you exactly what the problem is
(i.e., password too short)
$1,000 Referring to the Windows Desktop as the "home page" or
$5,000 Questioning the above rates
Waiter: Hi, my name is Bill, and I'll be your Support Waiter. What seems
to be the problem?
Patron: There's a fly in my soup!
Waiter: Try again, maybe the fly won't be there this time.
Patron: No, it's still there.
Waiter: Maybe it's the way you're using the soup; try eating it with a
Patron: Even when I use the fork, the fly is still there.
Waiter: Maybe the soup is incompatible with the bowl; what kind of bowl
are you using?
Patron: A SOUP bowl!
Waiter: Hmmm, that should work. Maybe it's a configuration problem;
how was the bowl set up?
Patron: You brought it to me on a saucer; what has that to do with the
fly my soup?!
Waiter: Can you remember everything you did before you noticed the fly
in your soup?
Patron: I sat down and ordered the Soup of the Day!
Waiter: Have you considered upgrading to the latest Soup of the Day?
Patron: You have more than one Soup of the Day each day??
Waiter: Yes, the Soup of the Day is changed every hour.
Patron: Well, what is the Soup of the Day now?
Waiter: The current Soup of the Day is tomato.
Patron: Fine. Bring me the tomato soup, and the check. I'm running
[waiter leaves and returns with another bowl of soup and the check]
Waiter: Here you are, Sir. The soup and your check.
Patron: This is potato soup.
Waiter: Yes, the tomato soup wasn't ready yet.
Patron: Well, I'm so hungry now, I'll eat anything.
Patron: Waiter! There's a gnat in my soup!
Soup of the Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5.00
Upgrade to newer Soup of the Day. . . . . . . . $2.50
Access to support . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1.00
If People Bought Cars the Way They Buy Computers...
Helpline: General Motors Help Line. How can I help you?
Customer: I got in my car and closed the door, and nothing happened.
Helpline: Did you put the key in the ignition slot and turn it?
Customer: What's an ignition?
Helpline: It's a starter motor that draws current from your battery
and turns over the engine.
Customer: Ignition? Motor? Battery? Engine? How come I have to know
all of those technical terms just to use my car?
Helpline: General Motors Help Line. How can I help you?
Customer: My car ran fine for a week but now it won't go anywhere!
Helpline: Is the gas tank empty?
Customer: Huh? How do I know?
Helpline: There's a little gauge on the front panel, with a needle and
markings from 'E' to 'F:' Where's the needle pointing?
Customer: It's pointing to 'E. What does that mean?
Helpline: It means you have to visit a gasoline vendor and purchase
some more gasoline. You can install it yourself or pay the
vendor to install it for you.
Customer: What! I paid $12,000 for this car. Now you tell me that I have
to keep buying more components? I wanted a car with everything
Helpline: General Motors Help Line. How can I help you?
Customer: Your cars suck!
Helpline: What's wrong?
Customer: It crashed, that's what's wrong.
Helpline: What were you doing?
Customer: I wanted to go faster, so I pushed the accelerator pedal to
the floor. It worked for a while, but then it crashed. Now
it won't start!
Helpline: It's your responsibility if you misuse the product. What do
you expect us to do about it?
Customer: I want you to send me one of the latest versions that doesn't
Helpline: General Motors Help Line. How can I help you?
Customer: Hi. I just bought my first car and I chose your car because
it has automatic transmission, cruise control, power steering,
power brakes and power door locks.
Helpline: Thanks for buying our car. How can I help you?
Customer: How do I work it?
Helpline: Do you know how to drive?
Customer: Do I know how to what?
Helpline: Do you know how to drive?
Customer: I'm not a technical person. I just want to go places.
I used to work in a PC retail store that specialized in Apples.
Apparently, when the Apple III came out, it had a small problem
with ventilation and when the chips would overheat, they would
pop partway out of their sockets. When people called up to
complain that their computer had broke, we would tell them to
pick it up about an inch off the desk and drop it.
A person has just gotten a new printer. She plugs in the printer,
walks across the room, tries to print something with no connection
to the printer, and then wonders why it doesn't print.
Person turns on the computer without a keyboard plugged in. When
she turns on the computer, the computer finds out that there is no
keyboard attached and it gives a "Keyboard Error" message.
She then asks, "Why did it give me a keyboard error? There isn't
even a keyboard attached?
While trying to diagnose a problem over the phone I told the user
to type out his autoexec.bat file.
He said it said "File not found".
I told him to do a 'dir'. I asked him if he saw autoexec.bat listed.
He said, "Well it says autoexec, then there's some spaces, but no
dot, and then it says bat."
I said type this in "type autoexec.bat".
Again, he got "File not found".
I asked him to tell me exactly what he typed.
He said, "I typed just what you told me: 'type autoexecdotbat'."
When we were in training in one of the vet tech shared this story
Caller: Hi. My tapes don't fit into the tape drive anymore.
Tech: Well, look in to the tape drive and see if anything is blocking
the path of the tape.
Caller: Yes, some plastic, should I get out a file and file it down?
Tech: It's generly not a good idea to put anything metal into a tape
drive. Can you tell where the plasic came from?
Caller: Well, looks like it might of melted when I drilled the holes
Caller: Yeah, it was getting kind of hot and it doesn't have a fan,
so I thought some holes would help keep it cool.
We replaced this drive, he was under warranty
I saw a lady at work today putting a credit card into her floppy drive
and pulling it out very quickly. I inquired as to what she was doing
and she said she was shopping on the internet, and they asked for a
credit card number, so she was using the ATM "thingy."
I worked with an individual who plugged his power strip back into
itself and for the life of him could not understand why his computer
would not turn on.
1st Person: "Do you know anything about this fax-machine?"
2nd Person: "A little. What's wrong?"
1st Person: "Well, I sent a fax, and the recipient called back to
say all she received was a cover-sheet and a blank page. I tried it
again, and the same thing happened."
2nd Person: "How did you load the sheet?"
1st Person: "It's a pretty sensitive memo, and I didn't want
anyone else to read it by accident, so I folded it so only the
recipient would open it and read it."
I recently saw a distraught young lady weeping beside her car.
"Do you need some help?", I asked.
She replied, "I knew I should have replaced the battery in this
remote door unlocker. Now I can't get into my car. Do you think
they (pointing to a distant convenience store) would have a battery
"Hmmm, I dunno. Do you have an alarm, too?", I asked.
"No, just this remote 'thingy,'" she answered, handing it and the
car keys to me. As I took the key and manually unlocked the door,
I replied, "Why don't you drive over there and check about the
batteries...it's a long walk."
Tech Support: "What does the screen say now?"
Person: "It says, 'Hit ENTER when ready'."
Tech Support: "Well?"
Person: "How do I know when it's ready?"
Several years ago we had an intern who was none too swift. One day
he was typing and turned to a secretary and said, "I'm almost out of
typing paper. What do I do?"
"Just use copier machine paper," she told him.
With that, the intern took his last remaining blank piece of paper,
put it on the photocopier and proceeded to make five blank copies.
One of our servers crashed. I was watching our new system
administrator trying to restore it. He inserted a CD and needed
to type a path name to a directory named "i386." He started to
type it and paused, asking me, "Where's the key for that line
I asked what he was talking about, and he said, "You know, that
one that looks like an upside-down exclamation mark."
I replied, "You mean the letter 'i'?'".
He said, "Yeah, that's it!"