dtaylor speaks the truth. I worked in a call centre and while I tried to adapt my information on a custie by custie basis (so, idiots get step-by-step instructions while experienced people get told the overall plan for trying to resolve their issue).

However, not all call centre monkeys are as flexible, as I discovered when my Dell laptop broke.

The tech line was closed when the display stopped working, so I mooched around Dell's tech area instead, where they offer a message board where you can post your problem and also read other peoples', y'know, to see if anyone else has had such-and-such happen. (Incredibly, they also put complete disassembly instructions on this page, I wonder how many idiots take their Inspiron to bits and then have to somehow package it off to Dell for reassembly)

The overall impression I got was the video card (a GeForce 4 mobile version, quite unusual for a laptop) had broken. My housemates, all computer science students agreed, so I tried everything I could think of.

RAM was removed and tested, the hard drive was hooked and booted with another PC, the battery was reseated and checked. Everything checked out, it must be the video card.

I phoned Dell and told them the problem, and also what I'd done. The guy on the other end, who barely spoke English, gave me about ten steps, two thirds of which I'd already performed. That I was able to say so quickly, "That didn't fix it," baffled him, and eventually he said he couldn't put me through to second line as their database was down. I was promised a callback fo Monday.

Come Monday, he calls back, tries a few more fruitless fixes (including some we'd already done on Friday) and finally said he'd arrange a collection for it to be checked.

It was fixed, and the work order indicated the fault I'd identified, the fault they'd identified and the part they'd replaced were all 'video card'.

All I needed done was to have them collect it and fit a new video card. But they had to run through their stupid script first of all. Of course it's meant to weed out the idiots who don't know what they're doing, ("Oh, the phone line has to be dialling?") but surely if you know exactly what is wrong and can provide a veritable shopping list of what you've tried yourself, you should get to bypass the script?

Consider this a proposal for a dedicated "Almost Certainly Identified Faulty Parts Needing Replacing" helpline.