Anyone who has worked on a help desk knows exactly who these people are. My help desk actually keeps a list of these people, so we can be aware of them (ARE YOU LISTENING GEAE?!?!?). These people will call tech support and begin telling us not only what is wrong but how they think it should be fixed. In fact, some go so far as to hang up on us because they know how to do it better. Which leads to the question: "Why did you even bother calling?"

Spotting one of these lusers is simple. Use the following checklist:

  • Does the user ever say "Here's how I think we should fix this."?
  • Has the user already stated his/her qualifactions as a geek (i.e. "I have a MSCE")
  • Are you having trouble fixing the problem because the user won't shutup?
  • Does the user talk down to you ("Well, if you guys had proper documentation, I wouldn't have to call.")?
  • Did the user begin the call with "Yeah, I don't normally need to call tech support, but..."?
  • Once you solved the problem, did the user say "Oh, I knew that, but I didn't bother to try it."?
If you said yes to two or more of the above questions, you may have a PWTTKMACTTTTJC!!! In this horrific event, simply do the following:
  1. Go slow. REAL slow.
  2. Give over-simplistic directions. ("Ok, so go got that? Ok, now go programs...let me know when you're there...")
  3. Don't solve the problem quickly.
  4. Put the user on hold/mute a LOT.
  5. Keep saying things like "Oh wait - my trainer just told me to try this..."
  6. Be happy - you are ruining their day.
Don't forget: you are the one with power. The user has called you, and needs your help. So if they act all high and mighty, rip 'em a new ass-hole by following the simple instructions above. People who really enjoy this can also read the BOFH stories for more good ideas.

On the other hand, when I call my DSL provider to say that a nameserver or router is down, I want them to believe I might know what I'm talking about. When I give the IP address of a downed piece of network hardware and ask them to ping it, I don't want to be asked to reconfigure my network settings or to reinstall my DSL software.

Lest you misunderstand me, it is not especially difficult for that helpdesk tech to check whether I'm right in saying that a given nameserver is down. A simple nslookup, or the Windows equivalent, will do nicely. It would take less time than to tell me to reboot and read off my network configuration.

See, fact is, I actually do know more about computers than the tech I just called. I realize that many of the people who say this to helpdesk technicians are pulling it out of their asses -- which is why I don't get overly annoyed while talking to the technician -- but it would be nice if you folks would listen once in a while.
The "problem" with most help desks is that first line support is usually crap. The people who answer your phones first have usually no knowledge about their systems and answer your questions by reading a check list.

You can tell them exactly what is wrong, as long as it is not on their checklist, they will tell you to reinstall everything...
the best thing you can do is to persuade them to connect you with second line or third line support. With these guys you can usually talk about the problems and tell them what is wrong.

Last time I called my DSL provider, the second line guy understood what was meant by Your SNMP server is not RFCxxxx compliant and the problem was gone two days later...

Something along the lines of what ixs complains about actually happened to me a couple of weeks ago. My flat-mate and I were thinking of installing a LAN and connecting to our national Telco’s ADSL experimental service. Now, because I know what I know (i.e., not much), I called to check if there should be a problem configurating this – the ADSL modem connects as if through a LAN to the switchboard, and different things need differently assigned IP addresses, etc.

So I call their support line, and say I have a question – I want to know if a configuration like the one described above should work, if they’ve done it in the past, and so on and so forth. Well, the young lady talking to me (I asked her if she does sales or tech, and she said tech) says it can’t be done. While disappointed, I still want to know why, and when I ask her she answers by saying that what I need in order as to connect to the new service is:

  • A Pentium computer running windows 95/98 or NT/2000
  • The computer can’t be a lap-top
  • It must have at least ??MB free on a hard-disk…
To cut a long story short, it’s clear she didn’t understand the question, yet she won’t admit it, ‘cause she’s supposed to know how to handle the question “can I connect to the service?”, so she’s reading stuff to me off a list. I thank her kindly, and as I disconnect inspiration strikes me.

A half-hour later I call again. “How may I help you?” asks the telco representative. “I need to know if sending TCP-IP packets over an Ethernet network is possible while one of the nodes connected to the hub or switch is…” in short, I ask a not very well formed question, but loaded with every bit of technical jargon I can think of that is even remotely related to the topic. Flabbergasted, of course, the support-person tells me to hold while she calls for a technician.

The moral of this story is true for many situations in life - the way to wherever you may be going is often smoother if padded with bovine excrement...

As a side note, I had a short conversation with an ISP tech-support to get their POP3 and SMTP server names:

Me: “Hello.“
Tech: “Hello.”
Me: “Could I please have the name of your POP3 server?”
Tech: “What?”
Me (understanding I’m speaking to a dim-wit): “Can I have name of your mail server – you use it when configuring outlook express”
Tech: “Oh! Would you like the incoming mail or outgoing mail server?”
Me (relieved): “Well, actually I’d like both”
Tech: “Well, they’re both the same…”

Yeah but unfortunately I work with one of those techs who actually knows very little. Erm, when I think about that its not strictly true... He does know a lof of stuff about certain things, for example printers but absolutely diddly about the sort of day to day stuff we have to deal with.

The thing that's even scarier is that he's supposedly a senior technical support analyst. I think the only thing senior here is that he's nearly old enough to get a bus pass. Genuinely though, there are problems. He tries to be ever so efficient but just ends up being annoying as hell. We live and work in a modern society full of technology. The paperless office? Pah, not when Bungle is about... he insists on printing everything, even if it is a stupid one-line email that has been sent to all-users (like all 3000 of them!) so the message header takes about 4 pages then there's this poxy little 13 word message at the end.

We produce crib sheets for just about anything you can think of in our line of work, and true to form Bungle prints them all out and sticks them in a folder. But lo and behold, he never looks at them. So the next time he comes to do something, whoever happens to be in the office gets bugged senseless with 'how do I do this?' type questions. And not just once or twice, but over and over again.

I'd hate to think its just sour grapes because he gets paid an awful lot more than I do, but its not just me who notices it. I have no doubt that with certain types of job he is perfectly competent (I wouldn't and don't hesitate to ask him about HP printers for instance) but he just seems to lack a grip on the basic stuff like how to partition a hard drive.

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