back to article Helpdesk Heroes or unappreciated geeks?

The helpdesk has always been the most visible part of the IT support operation. It is here that the “my password isn’t working anymore” and the “computer says no” calls are taken by valiant members of the IT team. As we move into an era when the help desk may become more of a ‘service centre’ and less of fault reporting point, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Oh so many..

    " Have you had a user call in about problems with an application or service that you did not even know was being used?"

    Thought that was standard practice...

    Along with, "I've moved desk and now pc (aka screen thingy) / phone / mobile charger is not working."

    "I'm working from home and xyz is not working". Then find out after 30 minutes they don't have any type of remote working set up.

    And the dreaded....

    "I received an email and opened the attachment like it said to do....."

  2. adnim

    Two incidents...

    immediately come to mind;

    Asked user to ship computer for upgrade... I received the monitor.

    User called helpdesk, PC would not power up. User informed me that PC showed a light when powered up but would not boot. I went to visit user and found monitor switched on and the PC switched off. I switched on PC... User was very embarrassed.

    I think there were quite a few others but I have purged my mind of much of the pain I suffered as a 1st line support person.

    A common issue If I remember correctly were users not knowing right from left... right click/left click.

    Nowadays I would rather be unemployed than sit at a helpdesk, The frustration of dealing with ill educated and/or untrained users is too much to bear. I hope things have changed, not everyone had a PC at home when I started in IT.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is the most recent...

    I was called to the boss to explain to him why HIS mobile phone bill was so huge. I enter his office and there he is, watching YouTube videos on his iPhone. Even though there's a perfectly good top-of-the-range laptop attached to a large LCD monitor with a gigabit ethernet connection on his desk.

  4. Owen Smith

    its Luser with a silent L

    Of the many stories I've told the therapist:

    whilst earning my stripes doing ISP support back in ’99 (dialup rocks) I had a rather grumpy customer phone up moaning that the internet was broken (the “im going to cancel, your crap, im off to freeserv” rants) after a few mins of calming down the punter, they start moaning “this is costing me a fortune in support calls, im on my mobile” and a quick check of the notes and this one has 2 phone lines, the follow up question was “are your phones working?” “no? best phone BT and order some more dialtone”


    *thanks for dragging that memory back, im off to hide in the server room till the shaking stops

  5. Matt Linin

    YOUR mistake is not MY emergency

    Many years ago, I worked on a Helpdesk in an Insurance company. I received a phone call from a very frustrated and angry 'Customer' regarding their financial spreadsheets. I duly attended. This person had single-handedly managed to lose all of his business-critical financial data. Being deeply untrusting of the network and the people who administered it, 'charmless boffins' I believe we were collectively referred to as, he had decided to keep all of the spreadsheets off the network and on floppy discs instead. Bit dodgy, I thought. Apparently none of the discs could now be read on the PC. I listened to the ranting with a sense of growing horror, as I had spotted the cause straight away. There wasn't any point in trying them on another machine, that had been done and they still couldn't be read. I let the rant blow itself out, as I needed to get straight in my head how i was going to break the sad news. Around the inside of the cubicle was a small sea of discs, in date order and labelled nicely...................all lovingly held in place with novelty fridge magnets.............obviously procured by family members, which although nice, didn't help.

    I then had to deliver the bad news and highlight the dangers of bringing discs into contact with magnets etc and that the data was gone......forever.

    He went through all the stages; incredulity, panic, fear, anger and rage.

    I've never seen a face turn that many different colours.

    Obviously, this was my fault, so received the post bad news rant as well.

    I still look back on this and laugh though.

  6. Dave 145
    Paris Hilton

    Serial Number

    My Favourite at the moment is, when asking a user for the serial number off the sticker on her machine we got the response. "I'm sorry but I'm not Technical and cannot do that".


    Paris because well, errr.... yeah sums it up quite well really

  7. Jason Togneri

    "To know your enemy, you must learn to think like your enemy."

    Communication is, indeed, the first line of tech support. Most of the time it's a simple, common problem that is well known. Easy to fix. The problem is, YOU are the tech expert - not the luser at the other end. They won't know the right words, terms, or acronyms. Asking them about IP addresses will be met with blank silences, while their gibbering on about "numbers with dots" might cause a few blank expressions at your end. You have to think like them. You have to think: "If I didn't know anything about IT, and I were six years old, and I were slightly retarded, how would I describe this problem?" Bingo.

    There has to be more empathy in both directions. Lusers must try to take the vagueness of their description into account - no more of "There was an error box, yes, but I just clicked OK and don't remember what it said!" from the users; if you want respect, you have to earn it by being helpful and showing at least a little common sense. In the other direction, less of "Does the flargle connect to the splange, or do you get a #1682?" (for this is how it sounds to the luser) from the tech guys, arrogantly asserting their knowledge and expertise over the mere mortals up in the offices. Empathy, people, empathy.

  8. Bernard Mergendeiler


    I deal with external customers. They often ask "Where are you located?", fishihg for overseas outsourcing, despite the fact that my native language is the unaccented American English used in broadcasting. I answer truthfully. Sometimes though, an early morning customer is not yet fully awake.

    Customer: Where are you located?

    Me: Outside Philadelphia, near Valley Forge.

    Customer: Oh! Your English is very good!

    Me: Vielen Dank, gnädige Frau! Englisch ist meine Muttersprache. (Thank you very much, Madam! English is my native language. -- in German)

    Customer: I'll call back after I've had more coffee.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple tasks

    While asking one user to insert a CD into the drive so I could install her printer she tried to put it in the floppy drive... Later she cried after I apparently made her feel dumb all I said was "no, it's the one above it that it'll actually fit into" . . . You've got to wonder how people like this get through life.

  10. Rat

    Sometimes They Lie

    I once took a support call from a user complaining that her keyboard had stopped working. Since her office was only a couple of doors down from mine, I duly strolled over to take a look.

    Upon arrival at the desk, I pressed a couple of keys - CapsLock, NumLock, the usual suspects. I took a look around the back to check that the keyboard was still plugged in and it wasn't some wag playing a joke - and indeed, the PS/2 connecter was still connected. I unplugged it, checked for bent pins, put it back in. Still nothing.

    I then asked the user if anything had happened recently that she could think of that might have caused it; she said no. I asked if she'd spilled anything on the keyboard - again, the answer was no. I told her that I'd get a replacement for her, and then unplugged the keyboard, picked it up, and put it under my arm.

    At which point, a stream of cola poured out of the keyboard and ran down my trouser leg. She looked at me, sheepishly, and said "Oh. Sorry.".

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Something changed here... the ip address and domain name of the network's primary domain controller, without anyone being informed about the move. Then wondering why any service (including ones you happen to be responsible for) that attempts to authenticate against the ldaps directory it provides has suddenly stopped after years of uninterrupted working (and just before 3 weeks of annual leave).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Small minded attitudes...

    From my only experience in an IT support role being 1st line through to 3rd line in most cases (there were only 8 of us) I found it wasn't the customers who were surprisingly the most idiotic; it was the management of the team and beyond that.

    It was a small company and it seemed small minded, with the Support team being given any job that simply wasn't development and expected to drop everything we had logged as errors and just get on with it - this ranged from server setups to unit configurations and on site support. That then ranged from dodgy testing jobs, last minute installs and a whole host of paperwork and crap jobs like setting up the boss' kids PC on the weekends we were required to work.

    This was all of course for as little as they could pay you while squeezing as many hours out of you as possible. Then there came the ritual visits from the MD (a wanker like no-other) who basically gave us a rollicking for not being able to handle the crap that got dropped on us by the Teflon-coated middle managers that pissed off the customer so much they called him directly. This was after they'd been lying blatantly to them since they met them.

    I finally found a way out (to a Dev position thank god) shortly after they decided they were able to change our contracts at will and make us do pretty much what they wanted with us; from support hours for whenever they wanted and forcing you to work overtime instead of having a day off (with the treat of being sacked if you didn't).

    I only hope that for the larger companies that are around that they are having a better time than I did. It did make me treat any support staff I talk to with more respect than I used to, especially the 1st line ones.

  13. Pete 2 Silver badge


    The main role of the hell desk is to limit users access to the talent.

    In any organisation there are a very small number of technical staff who actually know what's going on. What things work, what things can be made to work (with a smack in the right place) and what parts are irredeemably broken. Sadly, the number of people who want and/or need to tap these individuals' experience far outweighs their ability to deal with the demand. So,. apart from the VIPs, every other victim of a companies IT system is tested for their will and resolve before getting through to someone who actually knows what they're doing.

    The first hurdle is the time spent on hold, including touchpad entry of pointless information - which you will be asked for again, many times. This hurdle also includes arbitrary cutoffs and recorded messages telling you how important your call is (answer: not important at all).

    The second hurdle is when you're put through to an actual person. You know it's a person as no AI could be so obtuse. They will ask you to repeat all the previously entered information, including facts that you simply don't know - including the famous dialog:"what's your password?" - "what password?" - "your online password" - "for what" - "for contacting us online" - "but I'm not contacting you online" - "but we need your password" - "but I've never received a password" - "well I can't help you without one" - "so where can I get one" - "fom our online system" - "but I need a password to access that" " - "yes <click>".

    If you get past this step the third hurdle is to not garrot yourself using the phone cord (hint: avoid this by calling from your mobile - at extortionate call rates)" after you've lost the will to live, by answering the rote questions, such as "have you tried rebooting" - "but its a vacuum cleaner". Or "what have your changed?" - "nothing, I was watching <name of programme> and it suddenly told be my account had expired" and the killer: "what software version have you got?" - "<answer truthfully>" - "ahh, well, that isn't supported anymore". If you do get any advice from this stage, it's the stuff that was written in Appendix A of the user manual, which you've already tried, failed and tried again to implement.

    The final phase to the successful use of a helpdesk is to use the time you spend waiting, explaining and on hold (between cut-offs) to search the internet for the real answer to your problems - which is exactly what they want you to do in the first place. The modern day truth is that most organisations don't have the small number of talented staff any more. they all got hacked off with answering support questions all day, or got head-hunted by a competitor. So really, helping yourself through the medium of the 'net is the only practical solution. Of course if it's your network connection that's the reason you need to call the helpdesk - then, my friend, you're truly screwed.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Support calls

    One member of a support desk I used to work in had a call from a remote site's manager saying his "green screen" was no longer working. My colleague duly spent the next 15+ minutes running through the standard questions and answers such a cabling, power, power-cycles etc...

    He then resorted to more general questions such as "did *anything* happen since the last time this worked?".

    "We have had some building work done..."

    "What work?"

    "They have removed a partition wall in this office"

    "The one the network socket was on?"

    "Yes, but it is ok, they left it for us to use"

    "Oh? OK, so where is the socket?"

    "In my hand"

    "In your hand!"

    "Yes, but I have the screen plugged into it"

    "Are there any other wires going into the socket"

    "Err, no, why?"

    The support tech no longer works in IT or lives in the UK.

  15. Iftikar

    Oi Remember.....

    In my early IT career I was working on a telephone helpdesk on an early morning shift...

    I received a phone call from a customer wanting to know why they were unable to log in to the computer system - I asked the nice old lady if she could go to the server for me and nice as pie she told me "oh no, we've been flooded, it's under 3ft of water", she then proceeded to complain to my supervisor when I told her that we would not be able to get them up and running in the next 5 minutes!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To laugh or cry?

    A customer rings up and says they can't print. After much diagnosing and trying to coax information out of them we (grudgingly) admit defeat...

    Customer: "but we've had this printer less than a year"

    Us: "hmmm, it might still be under warranty, we'll speak to HP and see what they say"

    HP: "sorry that printer was out of warranty 3 years ago"

    Us: "oh, ok"

    Back to the customer...

    Us: "sorry, HP say it's out of warranty, but you said you bought it last year?"

    Customer: "yes"

    Us: "er, where did you get it?"

    Customer: "e-bay"

  17. Dr Insanity


    and then you have the users who, instead of calling up when a problem first occurs, they have a go themselves - oft making the problem worst, or even causing irreparable damage.

    And on the occasion they do actually sort the problem out, forget to tell anyone (he says, following a 10 minute walk in the rain to un-jam a printer that some helpful soul has already unjammed for me)

  18. Skinny

    A few recent ones

    I don't man the help desk anymore, I managed to somehow move away from that, however I still work in IT, so I do still have to help people on occasion. Just a few simple ones that I've encountered recently..

    1. Pressing more than one button at a time is difficult - Ctrl-Alt-Del? Oh man, 40 minutes to get someone to do that over the phone. After trying not to insult their intelligence for the first 30 minutes, I had to resort to the old, put a finger on this key, leave it there, now get another finger put it on this other key, whilst keeping the first on the first key type deal. They were actually very happy I went to that low level, as in their own words 'I learnt a lot - Thank You' so all was good that day.

    2. Laptops that have a keypad on the keyboard - I can't type in my password / password not working, I can't type letters, I get numbers instead. Stupid laptops that think it's great to ahve a mode they can go into that make the middle of the keyboard a number pad. See #1 for the fun of getting FN + F7 key pressed together. (Actually this person could manage multiple buttons just fine, so it wasn't that bad)

    3. New user, sent instructions on how to use one of those RSA password token things, where the numbers keep changing. User couldn't login, when asked what they were doing, checking the account, usual stuff, it turned out that in the instructions was an example to show how you used the token. The example had a dummy password in it to be able to show the process. The user was using the example password rather than the numbers on the token.

    Those were from the last couple of weeks, another thing I've noticed is that issues come in seasons. You can go months without a particulat issue, and then suddenly it's all you encounter for a week.

    Oh one the most usefule trouble shooting tools are :

    1. Remote Control - Once you manage to establish a connection, it's the single best invention ever. You don't even really need to talk to the user from that point. They can't lie about whats on or missing from the screen.

    2. Mute Button on the Phone - Getting Stressed? Can't insult the user directly, hit mute, have a good swear about them, calm down, carry on with the call. You really do de-stress a lot for a 5 second rant, and you can usually get on with the call in a much faster / professional manner.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    user issues....


    User: This laptop i purchased off you keeps failing. I can't get intop windows.

    Me: please try Safe mode etc etc

    User: nope. still broke

    Me: Can you do a product recovery from HDD image ?

    User: failed, no image

    Me: Sir, this is the 3rd time you have deleted every file you can. Please stop it.

    User: But I want more space.

    Me: These are critical system files. They need to be there.

    User: oh :(


    User: My pointer is in the middle of the screen, but my mouse is at the edge of the mat. Can you help?

    Me: pick up mouse move to centre of pad.

    User: Slams down phone.


    User: How do I use this USB flash drive?

    Me: Plug it into a USb port. it will show as a new drive letter.

    User: It doesn't have a USB port on it.

    Me: the PC or the USB flash drive ?

    User: The flash drive.

    Me: Quickly looks at picture. You will need to take the cap off.

    User: How ?

    Me: Take the cap in one hand and the USB drive in the other, pull in different directions.

    User: Thank you.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    User Arrogance toward IT staff

    During a serious bout of flu in the IT dept, I was helping out in the desktop support team. We got a call from one of the customer team who was actually a student on a years work placement.

    As I started looking at the problem he started spouting about how bad IT support was, and how thick, useless and stupid all the IT staff were, as if I wasn't there.

    After a couple of minutes of listening to this crap, I shut down his PC, stood up and calmly but firmly said to him that I had 2 degrees and was Head of Information Security, while he had even graduated yet, and that if he wanted better IT support, the first thing to do is start treating hardworking staff wth a bit of respect.

    The round of applause I got from his fellow workers suggested that they had also had enough of his arrogance. Didn't see him around after that, can't think why?

  21. Nate Phillips

    Numpties aren't always Users

    Last weekend, I got a frantic call from a good friend of mine. Our old boss went out of the country, and the VM server that he assured "is working perfectly, there won't be any problems" died. It's a linux box, and my friend has no linux experience, so he asked me to take a look. Unfortunately, he didn't have physical access to the server, so I had to tag along with another tech.

    It is critical to note: This guy has already spent 10+ hours PHYSICALLY in front of this server.

    I got in, poked around for a little while...the server was up and running, but the switch was unplugged from the wall. Shockingly, plugging it back in and giving the server a reboot (no root access!) fixed all of their problems. I would have had it fixed in less than 5 minutes, if I hadn't assumed he could manage a standard cable-check.

    10 hours, and the kid never looked at the backside of the box. It's not always the users who are the dumb ones.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    what not to do

    When dialing in using a modem, don't enter your own phone number in the dial-to box, that's why you keep getting busy all the time.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes you just want to slap them..

    I had one of "those" just the other day....

    User : My mouse has stopped working

    Me: OK, have you changed anything

    User: No

    Me: OK, when did the mouse stop working

    User: Just a minute ago, everything was fine and then it just stopped working.

    Me: In mid use?

    User: Yes

    Me: OK, I'll take a look

    < a minute later at users desk >

    Me: Why is the USB mouse plugged into the network (RJ45) socket?

    (Really, it's quite a convincing fit)

    User: Is that what the problem is?

    Me: Yes, you said nothing had changed

    User: Well, I did do that.

    Me: *vision starts to mist over in a kind of red shade

  24. Anonymous Coward

    True story...

    User called me to request "A wireless cable" so they could plug their laptop docking station into the network.

  25. Jay Castle


    Back in the days of Windows 3.11, I had one user screeching at me to help me find her 'very important document' that had 'just disappeared' from her screen.

    Duly found it nestling as an icon on the desktop. 5 minutes of patiently explaining the concept of 'minimising a window' was to follow.

    And more recently, I did a bit of IT support in a call centre for a well known cable tv\broadband tentacle. I remember the day when I overheard one of the poor phone-monkey's patiently explaining to a very angry moron why plugging his set-top box into his computer was not a viable stop-gap for a broken modem.........

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why you need to be nice to tech support.

    Many years back, while working at the helpdesk of a major industrial compagny, I get a call from one of the midle managers working in the corporate office.

    He as just deleted a presentation from his home folder, but he as to give it in an hour. Screaming (literally) at me that this was my fault, as the recycle bin should work on network drives (this was in the win nt 4/win 95 area) and I better have it back inside the next 2 minutes or else.

    I explain that I will send the call to the backups team and hopefully, they can restore it quickly. However, if the tape as been sent to the vault, it may be a few days and I can do nothing to change that. Some more obsenities later, he finally hangs up.

    I fill my ticket and send it to the proper team. Next call, a sweet old lady who can't stop appoligising and asking if I can please help recover her document she accidently blanked in word. I tell her I'll call her back in a few minutes and call the backup guy.

    I tell him about the litle old lady and he gets her file back right away. He tells me he's ready to do the other one I sent as well and after a few hints, he tells me "well, doesn't look like the file is on this morning's tape. guess we'll have to wait till I get yesterday's tape ... tomorow".

    I called back the lady and she was extatic her file was back. Presentation guy had to wait 3 days to get his file back.

    Moral of the story: When you ask someone else to fix your stupid mistake, be nice to them.

  27. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Pay Peanuts, You Get ...

    Sorry to say, as an engineer who has to work with helpdesks, a lot of them are overworked, underpaid and untrained.

    On the other hand, a lot of them are morons who are only interested in hitting targets and getting rid of the call as quickly as possible. How many times a day, do I have to chase a call due to poor data capture or sort out their mess due to not listening.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    ... and sometimes they don't lie

    I got a phone call after hours from a user saying the computer had "eaten" her CD-ROM. My first reaction was that sinking "OK, another one of 'these'" feeling, but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. My side of the conversation went something like:

    - Please close the drive.

    - OK.

    - Please give the side of the computer a sharp knock.

    - OK, great.

    - Now please open the drive once more.

    Hey presto, the unstuck ROM appeared in the tray! One more satisfied customer. My only regret is not asking her to say "abracadabra" before re-opening the drive. Alas, a lost opportunity to be legend.

    Anon to protect the anonymity of my login.

  30. Tim Ling

    Lovely old lady

    I worked doing support for Windows 98, IE and OE for a couple of years, along with a few M$ games. Apart from one lad who decided the files in one of his program folders could be better organised if he moved them, one little old lady sums up the "communication" issue for me.

    She couldn't send emails through Outlook Express, and part of the fix meant I had to get into IE. I was told by an increasingly irate elderly lady that she was unable to open OE and IE at the same time, and not to be so rude!

    After 5 minutes I finally realised that she had no idea that windows could be re-sized, and didn't know OE was still open behind the IE window. At least this customer sheepishly apologised.

  31. Dan 10


    A slight twist for this one, I, working 2nd line on a company HD, received a call from a colleague in London whose job was on-site IT support at head office.

    Him: "This user's PC won't boot, it says 'error - IRQ conflict: x" (x = I can't remember the IRQ number)

    Me: "IRQ x? I think that's the CD-ROM. Have you changed anything?"

    Him: "No."

    Me: "Odd. Before you start to open it up and tinker with the internals of the machine, just reboot it and check this isn't a one-off"

    Him: "The user tells me his password is out of sync on the Manchester AS400. Could that be the cause?"

    Me: "??!!?"

    My tone must have betrayed my astonishment that this IT Support tech could think that a PC wouldn't even load the OS due to an incorrect password on a mid-range box at the other end of the WAN, and he hung up. He then called back an hour later, rather angry:


    He appeared to have missed the fact that he did indeed reboot the PC in order to resolve this, but I was left so speechless that he made a few smug comments about him being right and me being useless before never speaking to me again.

    Fail icon, obviously.

  32. Ian Sawyer 1

    Helpdesk fools

    That makes me laugh. Our helpdesk is retarded compared to the users. They do no first line and may as well be call loggers. I can tolerate this from users who have a good excuse for being thick but I cannot take it from a so called IT professional. I have never come across a helpdesk that knows its arse from its elbow. You only need to ring any major ISP (BT, Virgin etc) to realise you have to de-evolve a couple of thousand years and scrape your knuckles on the floor as you walk to be considered an ideal candidate for a helpdesk engineer.

  33. Tweets

    My modem isn't working!

    I've worked in a helpdesk environment solidly, from 1994 til now.

    Things are improving these days, with users finally getting a clue, but I'll never forget the call received while I worked in dial up support for a large ISP...

    "Hi, My modem doesn't work"

    "OK, and what's the make, please?"

    "US Robotics?"

    "Perfect, is it a 9600 baud modem, or a 14400?"

    "A what?"

    "If you turn the case upside down, what does the decription say?"

    "Oh... 14400... I think"

    "OK, and can you tell me what happens when you try and use it."

    "It doesn't get any power."

    "You mean none of the lights come on?"


    At this point, all I can hear is uncertainty in her voice. And I've got this sinking feeling of dread.

    "So, you plug it in to the power socket and lights come on?"

    "No lights"

    "Ah, OK. No lights. Can you check the back of the case and make sure that nothing is bent where the power cable goes in?"

    "Ummm... hang on, I'll go get the case."

    "Wait, you said you have the modem in front of you?"

    "Yes, but the case is still laying at the bottom of the stairs where I dropped it!"


  34. Edward Noad

    Had all the obvious ones...

    ...the cables kicked out, the keyboards / laptops full of congealed liquid, but the real problems come from managers and users of all kinds treating us more like the emergency services rather than employees just like them, or as their personal IT gurus for all their home problems.

    But the biggest problems come from mentioning you've done or can do something that's relevant to the company in some way. I have designed, programmed, tested and implemented fairly complex new systems and pieces of software, but somehow it's always been covered by the word support* so I've never had a pay raise or bonus for any of this extra work, no matter how far outside my job description it's been. I sat down once and checked through what I'd spent my time doing for the last month then looked up the going rate for it on recruitment websites. Imagine my surprise when I found out I was being underpaid by £6-8k/yr.

    *some strange new usage of the word "support" I wasn't previously aware of

  35. Peter 1

    Come Back Darwin....

    I worked in IT support in the City in the 1990's. Best ever was the Chairman of a "well known High St Bank" (cuurently broke) who called me in to "fix" his PC. The fault was that it was switched-off at the mains, the socket being clearly visible and easily reached (not the usual floor crawling job). Stupidity or idleness. How do you differentiate?

    Whilst I have every symapthy with the notion that as "Experts" IT support staff should be polite and sympathetic, there are certain Darwinian constraints.

    I too have frequently been a victim of the lying response to "Have you changed anything" and\or "Have you spilt anything.." School children are les prone to lying under these circumstances than many a "Corporate Executive".

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    this one wasn't in our support database...

    A long, long time ago I had the misfortune to get stuck on the weekends covering the support line for the companys only big client - a high street chain that used our specially made program to prepare and print out 3 copies of a work order for their customers - one for the customer, one for the subcontracted company that did the work and one for filing. Unfortunately back then the printer they chose to install in all these shops was a really terrible HP inkjet that caused no end of problems - so much so that we made our own support database just to cope with these problems.

    Most of the shops had a problem now and again but there was this one branch with some very 'special' staff - they made up over 70% of all our calls alone! This fateful day I was actually in a good mood when they called - and recognising the voice immediately (she'd been working in the shop for years and had plenty of experience with our program... I thought) I settled down for another long stint of slowly working through the problem.

    It was a doosie! The printer was making a terrible noise and the paper wouldn't print. I had her move to the phone beside the printer and sure enough it was making the same sort of noise your engine does when it's runing out of oil. So we started into trying to fix it....

    Almost an hour later having exhausted all the suggestions from the support database and a few others I'd just invented I finally decided to throw in the towel - knowing fair well my boss would be onto me for having another printer sent back. I'm just about to tell her to pack the printer back in it's box when she says:

    'Hold on a minute!! I have an idea! Instead of putting in the pages already stapled together why don't I staple them AFTER they've been printed'

    When I had picked myself up from the floor I finally agreed that it might JUST work, but just to be safe to send the printer back anyway and use the other computers printer until the new one arrived.

    When the printer arrived we found the rubber wheels had been torn to shreds.

    I think they kept that printer as a reminder - I will NEVER forget :D

  37. Anonymous Coward


    Like the nevrotic woman who once burst in tears because her printer was jammed and she thus couldn't read any email.

    The same also who did train the Helldesk to always flush the printer spooler before fixing her printer. Or face 200 same print jobs eating all paper.

    Also, the "my password doesn't work" girl, who in fact had never been able to change it successfully in 2 years times (expiration was 2 months).

    Also the "shortcut delete" girlie: she would erase each now and then the shortcut to her main application, causing her to stall. Noone did ever discover how. The same Helldesk tech was each time summoned to recreate it.

  38. Paul Naylor

    Here's one

    Thankfully, I got out of support a long time ago but because I "know about computers" (I'm a designer/developer) I usually get asked support questions when our IT manager is not around. My favourite was a woman in accounts: "Is the network down? My keyboard isn't working." Yes love, we plug keyboards straight into the server... She'd kicked the cable out, which I told her when I ran upstairs and plugged it back in. She denied it of course: USB cables just drop out of the hole.

    Having worked on support I always try to be nice with support staff. Be nice to them and they'll help you. Rant at them, they won't.

    Keep up the good work guys!

  39. jam
    IT Angle

    Just because it uses electricity

    Picture the scene. There I am researching Microsoft dynamics and how I intend to role out the training program and adjust the program as I go. I get a phone call.

    "Hello support"

    "Hello I've got a problem"

    "OK whats the issue"

    "The kettle has stopped working, it doesn't switch on"

    "The kettle!?!?" I query?

    "Yeah" said the anxious phonecalleee


    "Well I asked the boss and he told me to come see you"

    So I walk into the bosses office and give him the broken kettle. What exactly do you want me to do with this? I enquire.

    "Well its your area isn't it?" My boss asks

    "No" I reply rather sarcastically trying to hide my outrage at being insulted.

    "Well it uses electricity doesn't it" My boss retorts



  40. Dan 7
    Paris Hilton

    All information is required

    When I used to work on the frontline for IBM we had a lot of wierd phonecalls. Such as:

    The gentleman ringing demanding to know where his Giro cheque was, and could not be persuaded that we were not the DSS. He was utterly convinced I was lying to him.

    The many many many customers who rang irate that their Aptiva PC or Server wasn't working, and getting more and more huffy that I was asking them such an obvious question as "is it plugged in and turned on".......only made better by the quiet swearing and scuffling as they finally checked after several minutes of assuring me it was.......and then the mumbled "err its not plugged in" :)

    My favourite though is the woman who rang to log a faulty server. Their companies main server and her MD was standing right next to her (said obviously to try and impress upon me the importance of the situation.) She huffily gave over the company name, address, and her name. She almost didn't give over the machine type number but she flat out refused to give me the serial number. I had to politely tell her that we needed the serial number so as to check her maintenance status. She refused angrily and rudely again and again. Eventually she said she was putting her MD on. The MD gruffly said "Right, can we stop all this buggering about and just get this fixed." To which I assured him that we would however we needed the serial number. He asked why ?? I told him that we needed it to check his maintenance contract status otherwise he would be charged, and I told him I had told his employee this several times but she refused to give it to me. Silence.........then a lot of muffled shouting in the background at the employee. I couldn't help but smile when the now sheepish woman came back on and gave me the serial number :D

    Paris coz.......well clearly she was one !! :)

  41. John 90
    Dead Vulture

    ah, memories

    One user rang the helpdesk to complain that there was a smell of bacon coming from under her desk. Baffled, I went down to have a look, but by the time I got there the smell had gone. The answer was never found, but the real mystery was why a smell of bacon prompted her to call technical support. Surely catering should have been first on the case?

    In another company, a user rang comlaining that she had to change her password every month. She'd worked there almost a year, and she'd "run out of words."

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "After trying not to insult their intelligence for the first 30 minutes, I had to resort to the old, put a finger on this key, leave it there, now get another finger put it on this other key, whilst keeping the first on the first key type deal."

    It took you *30 minutes* to think of that? Really? Wow. No wonder you're not on the helpdesk any more.

    @AC 14.38 :

    "Me: Why is the USB mouse plugged into the network (RJ45) socket?

    (Really, it's quite a convincing fit)"

    Yup - learned to bother to pull the PC out and look rather than feeling around the back after doing that myself. Next time the connector I feel might be a bit less friendly ...

  43. Anonymous Coward

    If you cant do it .....

    ...then teach !!!

    A Teacher had a persisant problem with logging on. Ended up setting his username exactly the same as his name - ie Fred Smith... to help him out.

    I then was asked - " Hang on a second while I write it down so I don't forget. That is the truth...

    No wonder this Country is bolloxed !!

  44. Owen Smith

    "just read me whats on the screen"

    another 'user' i had back in the dark days, calls saying his "internets broken"

    as i go through the normal stupid questions (pc or mac, windows 3.1/95/98/nt, installed dialup networking blah blah blah) the user is flumuxed by all of the questions so we try the old faithful "right click on my computer and read what it says on the screen"

    time passes (slowly)

    "i cant right click"

    "ok, your clicking the other mouse button?"

    "im clickin on the right side of the mouse"

    "ohhhkay, what colour is the pointy arrow thing?"

    "ohh, its black"

    "ok, so you have a dirty mac, i'll ring you back (maybe)"

    im not saying anything... but i never found out what they where trying to click on

  45. Jamie Kitson

    My Favourite

    The company I work for supplies bespoke software to local government. I took a call once from a guy asking me how he could create an auto-run CD, he went on to describe his IT department in disparaging terms and was very flattering about us.

    A less favourite call involved about an hours investigation before I managed to get out of the caller that that morning they'd had a power cut.

    And my favourite bug report:

    Who would believe a user who said that OpenOffice would not print on Tuesdays?

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A user called to say that her report was not showing the correct information when printed. Sure enough, she was correct, so the fault was fixed and tested and the user was informed. She called back immediately to say that the problem was still there, so we went away and investigated. We could no longer recreate the problem, so we called her back. She explained that we had definitely not fixed the problem - she was holding the printout in front of her and the information was still incorrect. We were stumped. Finally we asked when she had printed off the new copy of the fixed report.

    "New copy?"

    Cue us explaining that while we had updated the electronic report, our IT skills were yet to evolve to a level where we could manipulate the ink absobed into the paper itself from a distance of 160 miles, and that maybe printing off a new copy of the report would fix the problem. This took a depressingly long time to get across.

    Oh, and which genius decided to make a USB connector look basically exactly the same both ways up, yet only go in one way up?

  47. Anonymous Coward

    It's not always the users... It just is most of the time.

    We had a user who was having trouble fitting disks in the floppy drive... the PC had been installed on the desk upside down.

    And don't get me started on the number of users who believe the likelihood of recovering a file from a FUBAR'ed floppy disk is directly linked to how badly they need it...

    ...and of course, it's their only copy.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a few...

    Many years ago when I was new to all things IT, I was working in a 4 man support team when a call comes down from the head of finance literally screaming that her floppy drive was broken and it needed to be replaced so she could look at the spreadsheet she had.

    I asked a few basic questions... are you sure that the disk is the right way round/upside down ect..

    I was shouted at "I’m NOT stupid you know"

    So I duly run up the stairs take one look at the disk hanging out the drive, pull it out turn it over and with a nice click push the disk in to the drive.

    I looked up and smiled at her as I walked off stifling a giggle.

    Many moons later....

    I'm now a hardened IT support specialist and have pretty much seen and heard them all..

    Or so I thought....

    I am now working in the public sector for a local authority, believe me people when I tell you that never in all the years have I come across blatant stupidity and unfortunately most of that has come from the stream of IT contractors that have come and gone.

    1 who was asked to replace a faulty mouse couldn’t be bothered to trace the cable so proceeded to cut the lead with a pair of scissors.

    Another who whilst on the phone actually asked me if he could give our network admin password out to a 3rd party software supplier.

    Another who was so completely inept figured that the only way she could keep her job was to sleep with one of the senior techies... good for him... still didn’t work though she still got sacked.

    Then the piece de resistance being the people that make the decisions for the borough who regularly spout down the phone "do you know who I am!!! " when you ask them to reboot the laptop.

    I could go on and on and on... maybe another time I need to take my pills now

  49. Jamie Kitson

    Re: Helpdesk fools

    There is one exception to this: O2 Broadband, don't know whether it's a hangover from Be Unlimited, but their mobile help line is awful, twice I've had the representative tell me that they do not know what to do.

  50. Anonymous Coward

    supidity isnt just the user

    I was in a small tech team (3 people) one of them had only just been moved into tech (from the call centre) and he came to me panicking that there was a message that the usb ports were not working as fast as they could (a usb1-2 thing) and turned and asked me what a usb was. i felt like slapping him. but saying that, he got the job by answering the question "what do you do when something goes wrong?" and the answer being "turn it off and on again" (the big boss is stupid too)


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