back to article All good, leave it with you...? Chap is roped into tech support role for clueless customer

Have you got that Friday feeling? Well if not, there's only one way to get it: reading this week's instalment of On Call, where readers share tech support triumphs and frustrations. This time, a story from “Trent” caught your Vulture’s eye. Now, at the time, Trent categorically did not work in tech support – but that didn’t …

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        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "This will only take a second..."

          One of the real upsides to Windows 10.

          "I've never used Windows 10, it's completely different and I don't know what to do."

          1. Killfalcon Silver badge

            Re: "This will only take a second..."

            My parents and sister use Macs, my brother Linux, I'm the only one who does Windows. Helpful, this means none of us can do tech support for any of us, and so peace is preserved in the Falcon house.

          2. Andrew Moore

            Re: "This will only take a second..."

            "I've never used Windows 10, it's completely different and I don't know what to do."

            I’m happy to find out I’m not the only person to do this.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "This will only take a second..."

          When pressed to fix someone's PC I used to ask for whiskey. If I took money, somehow, in their minds, any further issues would be tagged onto the first payment and support at no extra cost expected. If whiskey was bartered, it seemed to act as a full stop to the transaction.

          1. Hazmoid

            Re: "This will only take a second..."

            Scotch was a good transfer of monetary value, only problem is that as I've got older I've stopped drinking. (I can't handle the hangovers now, they seem to last 3 days)

            1. Demosthenes Locke

              Re: "This will only take a second..."

              Speaking of trading whisky...

              If I were to get roped into doing tech support (again) for someone's computer, I'd tell them my rate is a CROCK of Tullamore Dew (the crock, not the bottle, dangit!) PER HOUR. That works out these days to around $30-40 an hour, a VERY reasonable rate, but like has been said, it just sounds so much more expensive that they usually just take it to Geek Squad in the morning.

          2. hoopsa

            Re: "This will only take a second..."

            Back when I lived in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands, I did some work for a local shellfish business who paid me in lobsters. Happy days.

        3. BebopWeBop
          Meh

          Re: "This will only take a second..."

          MY gather a very keen user of a laptop but at his advanced age, totally bloody useless fixing self generated problems,. The number of evenings I spent on the phone attempting to remote fix (my parents are 300 miles away) were episodes I lost count of. My partner could always get a reaction buy answering the pghone and relying 'you Dad has a problem' message).

          Once he asked what my hour rate was - and never ever asked again.

          But on the positive side, we always got a very nice case ion Wine Society vison every Christmas :-) So mixed blessings.....

      1. usbac Silver badge

        Re: "This will only take a second..."

        My dad's PC was always getting dropped off at my house, virus infected as hell. This was happening every few weeks. About the fifth time I told him that I will not fix it again. Period!

        One of my best friends owns a local computer store. So, when the inevitable happened, I told my dad to take his PC over to Al's shop.

        The next day I get a call from my friend Al that goes something like this...

        Al: "Why is your dad bringing his PC to my shop?"

        Me: "Because I told him I will not fix it anymore. This is the sixth time in three months he's got it infected."

        Al: "Well... Okay, but I will give him a big discount because he's your father..."

        Me: "NO!! If anything charge him a little extra. You'll hope you did when he brings it back infected in a week or two. Also, he needs to learn his lesson that behaving recklessly is going to cost him money from now on..."

        Al: "Ummm.. I'm not sure I would feel right about charging him my full hourly rate..."

        Me: "Well, suit yourself."

        Al changed his mind about the third time my dad brought the PC in virus infected as hell!. I even tried to put him on Linux, but he just complained that he couldn't run this or that software.

        I haven't seen his PC since this all went down, so I don't know he is doing these days?

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: "This will only take a second..."

          My method when I eventually became too tired to continue disinfecting the machine of a family member was to take their admin rights away. They really didn't complain too much. Then, they decided to upgrade from windows 7 to 10, didn't like 10, and downgraded via the 7 install disk, creating many problems and incidentally creating a new admin account. I was called in to help them find their critical documents, and I made it clear that I would not be working on this computer anymore if they intended to continue using it like that.

        2. herman Silver badge

          Re: "This will only take a second..."

          I was a bit nicer. I bought my wife and mother in law Macbooks. Problem solved.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mum Support

      My mother refused to believe that I could actually sort out her PC's and relied on 'a friend' to sell her a laptop at full retail price that was 3 years old and less powerful than the spare I would have given her for free. Used 'the guy down the road' to sort out her broadband connection, refusing the gift of a router 'because xxx said it's not compatible' only to be sold the same router for twice the retail price. Unfortunately the guy was right and it was not compatible until it was reconfigured. Fast forward 3 months and I'm visiting for the evening to be told she has never managed to log in to the internet after the first few days. Guess who got the joy of rebuilding the crap laptop, deleting all the malware that has been installed and removing 20+ viruses, re-configuring the router and getting the broadband connection working, sorting out the password to her isp account etc, and needless to say installing AV and a firewall not to forget installing windows and office service packs which should have been on the PC when it arrived.

      Did I get a thank you? of course not, she told me that it was now running slowly, to be honest it probably was because it was such a crap machine, I could have bought her a brand new machine for what she paid or a really nice spec refurbished one, this was at the time where laptops were significantly more expensive than desktops and she only ever used it on the same desk, a desktop with a bigger monitor would have been a much better purchase but hey her 'friends' company only sold laptops.

      My other family members were not much better but would at least say thank you (but wouldn't stop their son from disabling AV to make games run faster rather than spend £40 to upgrade the memory)

      1. Petergwilson

        Re: Mum Support

        Yep, that sounds familiar. All my friends ignore the fact that I work in IT. They buy loads of rubbish that just won't work together then turn to me to fix it. If only they had come to me before purchase I could have saved them lots of cash AND got something that would actually do what they wanted.

        1. BebopWeBop

          Re: Mum Support

          My dad, having used a Mac for donkeys tears was persuaded by some fuckwit in Dixons to buy a new laptop - a PC (running windows 200 I seem to remember). It lasted all of four weeks before I got him to listen to sense and I sold it off for him at a small loss (for him).

      2. paulf
        Thumb Up

        Re: Mum Support

        Mum and I have an agreement when it comes to tech support. If she wants my tech support then she uses my recommendations on software/hardware/ISP etc. As soon as she does her own thing she gets tech support elsewhere as I pick options that are generally easiest to use while also being easiest to support. It’s worked pretty well for the last 20 years when her first computer (for email and web browsing) was my old 486 laptop!

        In fairness she’s reasonably good at figuring stuff out for herself and can even help her brother with simple problems. She’s also a (relative) pro at checking windows updates for Microsoft malware like GWX.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "This will only take a second..."

      "And you can't refuse to do support for said person because it's your Mum"

      If it's a family PC it gets Linux if they want me to support it. If it isn't I don't.

      1. Andy Taylor
        Devil

        Re: "This will only take a second..."

        I've said this before - when I worked for the Fruit store, I told my mother I was contractually forbidden from working on PCs. Got her to buy a Mac with AppleCare and pointed out that she'd paid for support already, so it was better to call them than me :)

      2. Swarthy
        WTF?

        Re: "This will only take a second..."

        I recently had a call from my father-in-law, wherein his girlfriend's wifi password had been changed. It seems that her "tech guy" (it might have been her son, I wasn't really paying attention) had set it up, including getting her phone on it, but some time later had been doing configuration, and now nothing could get on the wi-fi.

        I told them to call her ISP for support, because I could guess at solutions, and have them poke at things until it either worked, or would never work again; but her ISP would (presumably) know the solution off-hand and if they needed a tech on-site, they would be a lot closer than 4 states away.

        I actually got thanked for being helpful, because her tech guy would always tell "Don't call them, I'll fix it."

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: "This will only take a second..."

      My brother has a Linux machine. He asked me for a computer, I gave him one. Initially had XP or something, he managed to pick up something on it. I told him he was getting Linux.

      I love my brother, but I don't want the only time I spend with him to be fixing his computer. Since I got him on a Linux machine, no more problems.

    4. Mookster
      Childcatcher

      Re: "This will only take a second..."

      bought them a new PC as a present, before the old one got too smelly

    5. CountCadaver Silver badge

      Re: "This will only take a second..."

      I solved that issuer retorting with some home truths of my own, then blocked calls on mobile, text and emails - not heard a peep in weeks, despite home line being available. Speaks volumes frankly and made me realise I should have done it years ago.

  1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse
    Happy

    (Jokingly) I have no sympathy...

    Any project coordinator worth his salt should have been applying the concept of scope management.

    1. PM from Hell
      Thumb Up

      Re: (Jokingly) I have no sympathy...

      I'm used to be a tech support manager and if anyone outside the family wanted a 'favour' I would tell with disdain that I only worked on 'Big Boys Computers', Nothing less than am IBM ES9000 lol ( and doesn't that show my age). If I want my pc fixing I use a professional I'd tell them.

    2. Anonymous Custard
      Joke

      Re: (Jokingly) I have no sympathy...

      Any project coordinator worth his salt should have been applying the concept of scope management.

      Although of course in certain cases when you get parachuted into an existing project or issue to "fix it", said scope may be mounted on top of the requisite sniper rifle...

  2. big_D Silver badge

    DIY Server Support

    At a previous employer I worked for, they resold server kit from a national PC manufacturer.

    You could certify yourself as a hardware engineer for their hardware and you got a discount, because you were then responsible for repairs on the hardware. You could also earn extra money by repairing the manufacturers hardware from other dealers.

    We didn't want the second part, but the company was very into shaving the margins on the hardware and, well, the hardware usually ran for years without problems.

    Only they brought out a new range of servers that had teething problems. The IT (and combined customer IT support) department had not been informed by management or sales, that they had done a deal about the hardware support. So a customer called with a sick server. No problem, we thought, just call the manufacturer and get an engineer sent out. The server was on the other side of the country, behind Berlin.

    Not so fast, the manufacturer then informed us that we had taken on responsibility for the hardware support, they would ship us the spare parts (CPU, cooler and PSU), but our certified engineer was responsible for actually carrying out the repair. The problem was, the one certified hardware engineer we had, had left the company 10 years earlier! All that was left were sys admins that never dealt with more at the hardware level than sticking network cables into servers!

    One poor apprentice was then given the spare parts, when they arrived per express courier, and stuffed in a pool car and directed to drive to the other side of Berlin to perform the repair, pronto! (The parts arrived around 16:00, the drive was 5 hours and the customer needed the server working again by midnight)

    Cap off to the apprentice, I don't know how many screws he had left over after the repair, but the server was back online in time for the next shift at midnight.

    1. shedied

      Re: DIY Server Support

      but the server was back online in time for the next shift at midnight

      Did your apprentice come back -- ever?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: DIY Server Support

        Who cares, it's just an apprentice.

  3. Kevin Lomax
    IT Angle

    "While you're here, could you just..."

    Words to strike fear into the heart of any ICT engineer.

    Was doing a network equipment audit around the campus we supported and ended up doing the office of the legal department.

    Got the usual "oh, you're from IT", followed by "the date and time on our fax machine isn't right...could you just sort it for us while you're here"

    Yes...of course...it has a plug so it MUST be IT's responsibility!

    So I dug out the manual (which they could have just done themselves) and sorted the darn thing. And therein lies the problem - we're too nice. Should have told them to log a ticket!

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

      Yes...of course...it has a plug so it MUST be IT's responsibility

      Having worked for smallish companies for many years I can attest to that.

      I also get to make signs (need one for a meeting room doing today as it happens), sort out CCTV and phone systems, etc.

    2. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

      "Yes...of course...it has a plug so it MUST be IT's responsibility!"

      I tell the guys in IT without irony, "if it plugs in the wall and doesn't make food it's IT equipment".

      1. defiler

        Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

        Entirely this. Bleeding radiators turned into IT's (my) responsibility in a previous job.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

          Is than an invective, or were you actually bleeding the radiators?

          1. SminkyBazzA

            Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

            Most radiators are convective, aren't they? ;)

          2. defiler

            Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

            Actually, literally bleeding air out of the radiators.

            Also rewiring plugs, setting clocks, changing labels on the entryphone, moving furniture and clearing out cupboards.

            Basically the crap jobs that everyone else thought they were too good for.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

          Had to change a toilet seat as part of my job of tech support - possibly because I had my on screw driver?

          1. Montreal Sean

            Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

            Toilet seats are related to IT.

            Core dumps and all that. :)

      2. error 13

        Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

        you're lucky. Rule here is simply "if it has a plug on it".

        Guess who descales the coffee machine, unblocks the pinhole at the back of the fridge that ices up.

        1. Fading
          Thumb Up

          Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

          Coffee machine descalers are true heroes.

          1. Lilolefrostback

            Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

            Do not ask me to "fix" your coffee machine. I don't drink coffee so, as far as I'm concerned, fixing the coffee machine entails putting it in the dumpster. You want coffee? take care of your own needs.

        2. RockBurner

          Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

          I once took the (broken) coffee machine home, repaired it, realised I'd never actually use at home, so brought it back and reinstalled it in the kItchen. Everyone was happy the machine was working again but did I get any thanks?

          1. CountCadaver Silver badge

            Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

            Lesson learned - leave it broken, that or get a chit from management saying you can remove it from site, fix it and punt it on ebay.

            Plus had anyone gotten electrocuted at any point in the future you'd likely be held criminally liable - no PAT test, no current testing qualifications, no calibrated test kit, no public liability insurance etc.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

              "Plus had anyone gotten electrocuted at any point in the future you'd likely be held criminally liable - no PAT test, no current testing qualifications, no calibrated test kit, no public liability insurance etc."

              Once went to a site to quote for replacing a broken network cable from one end of an office to another. Had a look and quoted then £300. They gasped. I pointed out that we don't run network cables under carpets that people walk on and we would be installing and routing trunking up and down walls and through the ceiling void. We'd also not be going anywhere near the old cable as it ran parallel to a main cable that was so worn you could almost see the copper showing through the coloured wires (the outer was already gone in places.) and we'd not even be able to start the job until that mains cable was removed what with it being it being a safety hazard and all. This was a fairly large company. The owner had his own helicopter. At least we figured out how he could afford it. Bloody penny pinchers.

              1. CountCadaver Silver badge

                Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

                Issue is, all too often someone is willing to ignore H&S, wiring regs and more and then your seen as "obstructionist", which is a pain, but when the poo does hit the fan, your glad you didn't go down that path.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

                  Occy Health and their ilk are the worst.

                  Went into their office(s), and found cables across the floor. Office next door had a network cable across the middle of the office at waist height. They wanted me to remove a old CRT monitor that was on a high shelf - on my own.

                  In another part of the hospital, they wanted me to move a printer from one end of a reception desk to the middle so that both receptions can access it - and it was made as a high priority. Two weeks later, walked past and the users had moved it back because there was no space on the desk.

                  Or the network that went from a desk to a column that was a trip hazard. The gap was less than six inches across.

      3. usbac Silver badge

        Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

        "if it plugs in the wall and doesn't make food it's IT equipment".

        Not true here. I had to install the new dishwasher, microwave vent hood, and the new range in the break room.

    3. Nick Kew
      Mushroom

      Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

      This jolly well ought to build up to a return of the BOFH.

    4. CountCadaver Silver badge

      Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

      Same for electricians, whats worse is when your SE people often decide they would rather not pay the full amount and find myriad excuses not to pay. You quickly learn you only do whats in writing, signed by the customer AND accompanied by a signed waiver of their 14 day cooling off rights.

      I got burned a few times as I'm too nice and got out of that game (plus there are all manner of unspeakable horrors lurking under house floors, in lofts etc.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

        "ND accompanied by a signed waiver of their 14 day cooling off rights."

        I doubt that would have any standing (I'm assuming this is for UK consumer rather then B2B or anything in that lawless place over there) other than to make them thing again before you go ahead. As has been said here when discussion EULAs, statutory legislation overrules contract law and consumer rights are statutory.

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

      It's really sad how many people take pride in not understanding "technology". Especially sad when it's something in the *user* manual and they are the *users*.

    6. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

      "Should have told them to log a ticket!"

      Yup.

      Or logged one yourself - I'm _constantly_ on at our group about this and they think I'm being anally retentive about it but the reality is that by logging all these kinds of requests you either have something to point at when the PHBs start asking you to justify your existence or something for an edict from "on high" to be sent down telling staff to stop abusing the IT geeks' better nature.

      (In the case of customers, it's also useful to show how much extra billable work you actually do as an involuntary upsell when onsite)

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