back to article BOFH: What's your point, caller?

"Well I'm... pretty sure I didn't get it!" the PFY says, motioning his mouse aimlessly around the screen for a bit while lazing back in his chair. "Have you tried rebooting your machine?" So it's going to be one of those problem-resolution-free afternoons... "Really? What about the network connection, is it plugged into the …

  1. A K Stiles

    Gaffa tape

    They should make sure to order some more Gaffa ( Duct / Duck / pick your own flavo(u)r ) tape. That would solve the problem really quickly, or they could use it to hold the broken battery cover in place...

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Gaffa tape

      I'm sure the BOFH has a few rolls of duct tape around, and that they might well be used to hold the battery securely...somewhere.

      1. Chris King

        Re: Gaffa tape

        Or how about using it for some... ahem... "gift wrapping" ?

        I particularly like the advice in the last frame.

        1. ShadowDragon8685

          Re: Gaffa tape

          Have an upvote for a Schlock Mercenary link. Ahhh, Schlock. :)

        2. Quinch

          Re: Gaffa tape

          Upvoted for a fellow Schlock reader.

      2. Jedit Silver badge

        "... they might well be used to hold the battery securely...somewhere."

        Call yourself an IT support expert? Everyone knows gaffa tape isn't a hardware solution. Used properly, it's part of the user interface.

    2. 27escape

      Re: Gaffa tape

      Surely for problem callers, they always have the carpet tape ready to hand.

      And the carpet of course, and the bag of lime, shovel etc

    3. AustinTX

      Re: Gaffa tape

      We call it "gaffer tape" because, well, the gaffer uses it.

    4. comb_ridge

      Re: Gaffa tape

      Naaaaa, super glue plenty of it ; hold here for (enough time to leave and dissapear).

    5. quxinot

      Re: Gaffa tape

      They should make sure to order some more Gaffa ( Duct / Duck / pick your own flavo(u)r ) tape. That would solve the problem really quickly, or they could use it to hold the broken battery cover the user's breathing orfices in place...

      FTYF. HTH. HAND.

      (Also, why on earth was the phone on the hook?! Slow day in mission control?)

  2. TRT Silver badge

    How do I order a new keyboard online if this one is broken?

    I've had a similar thing.

    Called the helpdesk by phone on a number that they didn't know I had:

    Yes, I know that's not the procedure... all jobs have to be submitted either by web portal or to the automated email address which logs it in the job system... the ability to log jobs taken by phone has gone from the ticketing system?... Which grand muppet dreamt that one up? ... The problem? Well, the network appears to be down in our building... Yes, it's the whole building... As it happens there IS a mini digger outside... they're installing a beach bar for the students... yes, it's non-alcoholic - this IS the medical school building you know... Yes, I know doctors are one of the worst groups for alcohol abuse, but more than half the students are Muslims and they took a vote. Anyway, to get back to the problem, no network in the entire building... No, I don't have a VOIP phone obviously... I don't CARE if the policy was to replace POTS with VOIP to save costs. I like my POTS phone and I managed to hide it in a drawer when I saw your "engineer" coming down the corridor with a trolley and a wheelie bin... You still want me to log the job on the web portal... without a functioning network... Yes, even the wireless is down... So how do I?... The Learning Centre? That's in our building too... The Learning Centre on YOUR campus... Yes, I do have a travel card...

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: How do I order a new keyboard online if this one is broken?

      "no I can't log a ticket - the ticketing system is down."

      "Yes I'm calling about the phones on my mobile which you don't recognise the number for - the phone network is down."

    2. theOtherJT Silver badge

      Re: How do I order a new keyboard online if this one is broken?

      I like to play this game with our Telecoms department. "Please call us on $NUMBER to report any problems" - um... how? My phone hasn't worked since you switched it to the NEW (not the old new, or even the old, or god forbid the analogue one we had before that) VOIP system.

      ...actually, I'm fine with them not fixing it. It means users have to use the ticketing system because they can't call me.

      1. Franco

        Re: How do I order a new keyboard online if this one is broken?

        Right up there with BT when you call to report a DSL fault. "Have you tried visiting our support webpage?"

    3. Alien8n

      Re: How do I order a new keyboard online if this one is broken?

      Are you sure you didn't work for the same company as me? I remember having almost the exact same conversation with a colleague when they had a network issue in their office.

      They also had an IT policy that stated that it was a sackable offence to be sent a virus. I could understand sending one being a sackable offence, but receiving one?

    4. Adrian Jones

      Re: How do I order a new keyboard online if this one is broken?

      The first company I worked for sold my keyboard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How do I order a new keyboard online if this one is broken?

        The wife worked, as an accountant, for a company which was going through some financial struggles. They ended up being forced into bankruptcy, and the bankruptcy court had their assets, including their e-mail servers, auctioned off. The day after the auction, the FBI and SEC showed up, with a subpoena for the e-mail server, in an investigation of financial crimes. They weren't real pleased when they discovered that the servers were gone!

        What really made things a little interesting is that the wife had just recently moved to the US from Canada, and had retained her Canadian citizenship.

        You really can't just make this stuff up!

      2. TomPhan

        A company I worked for would use the IT departments equipment for customer spares. Customer needs a specific lightbulb and my test equipment has one - ok, let's use that one.

      3. channel extended

        Re: How do I order a new keyboard online if this one is broken?

        I stole, yes stole, an AT&T keyboard almost twenty or more years back. Off of some redundant kit that was being disposed of. It has the best feel and response ever! Most modern keyboards are of pitiful quality and it shows. One of my quick/quirk judgement of a laptop is if it has full height arrow keys, if not then it is sh!te. I don't care how super duper the screen is, how light weight the kit is, or how touchable the lcd is. As a CLI touch typest, maybe that should be a type (of) pest? The feel of the keyboard is of prime interest. This means that I am often reduced to 'business' level computers rather than 'gaming' level power.

        It is interesting to note where some of the 'quality' manufactures cut corners.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge

    ex-Boss who was himself resolved within 48 hours

    Details Simon! I want details. I'm compiling a compendium of "job site accidents" and would love to add this to my repertoire.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: ex-Boss who was himself resolved within 48 hours

      re-solved with a strong re-solvent.

  4. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    This the crap I have to deal with:

    Sometimes something goes wrong when doing a blah blah operation in blah blah system that i only do once in a blue moon . I cant reproduce the fault or even the operation i am trying to perform as there are no test users in the system so i have to wait until blah blah operation comes up for a real case , which is not often , and just sometimes it dosent work .

    Also I only work half a day a week.

    and no you cant have a login for the system , data protection you see.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      reading back its not clear the above is the user talking

      them was them to me yeah, so I'm all like yeah but no , but , whaddya want me to do about it, and why are you the only one complaining , and, oh yeah but thats how its ssiupposed to be' that was me to them yeah but then theyre all 'its always been like this remember when it did that thing that time , you never fixed that either , and once it went slow ...'

      there , thats clearer

  5. Kydoimos

    Outsourced IT

    I once logged a ticket to complain my email client wouldn't open (in the awesome days of 2007 when I was still forced to use Lotus Notes). We had outsourced IT support, since the company IT guy had managed to turn himself into a project manager for something else about 6 months earlier.

    I didn't hear anything back for 4 hours or so. Eventually in frustration I logged into the web-app (on someone else's PC because it wouldn't work on mine) to get access to my emails... the idiots had sent me an email asking me if I had tried rebooting my computer (and no, rebooting hadn't fixed it the first 3 times I tried).

    I may have complained. A bit. Loudly. With four letter words.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They should work for Camden

    I put in a a parking appeal, online.I get an automated message back. It says I should hear in 10 days. After 12 days I go back to the website and send a new message to find out why I haven't heard. I get an automated message to say I should get a reply within x days.

    I wait. I then go to the site and look for contact details.

    It says I need to send a message from the website. This does not seem too fruitful. I look for a phone number and find one. I phone, and the recorded message says that they can only take calls if I am registered disabled or a tenant with estate parking and should then choose the disablement/tenancy teams' phone extensions.

    I am neither. SO I go back to the web form. And tell them I still haven't heard. And that I did try to phone. I get an automated reply saying......

    And that's where I left it. But I have a record of the messages for if they try to pursue me. In fairness they haven't tried to ask me for payment either.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: They should work for Camden

      "But I have a record of the messages for if they try to pursue me. In fairness they haven't tried to ask me for payment either."

      It's probably cheaper to just cancel the ticket and ignore any further contact about it than to try to resolve the issue and, maybe, get a payment out of you.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    48 hour SLA?

    Damn, for half the things where I work it's an hour.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: 48 hour SLA?

      That's the 48 hours a day that they want you to work when they doubled your shift length. They're sadists, not mathematicians.

    2. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: 48 hour SLA?

      For the last two places I have worked, it was more like "SLAs? We've heard of those." I move on to the next big thing in a couple of weeks. ITIL certification was on the list of job requirements which probably means... Who am I kidding? It means an HR droid had a box to check and I will never have to worry about an SLA at the new place either.

    3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: 48 hour SLA?


      When I were a lad we had to solve every problem before the ticket was logged

      </Yorkshire accent>

      1. Blitheringeejit

        Yorkshire accent? Excuuuuse me...

        "When ah were a lad we 'ad ter solve every problem afore t'ticket were logged"


        1. Charlie van Becelaere

          Re: Yorkshire accent? Excuuuuse me...

          and we liked it!

    4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: 48 hour SLA?

      The operative word is "should" - if it ain't "shall", it ain't a requirement!

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: 48 hour SLA?

        "The operative word is "should" - if it ain't "shall", it ain't a requirement!"

        Stand over here please. There are a bunch of RFCs writers who'd like a word.

        No, don't worry about the anvil that your testicles are draped over, or the hammers in their hands.

    5. Borg.King

      Re: 48 hour SLA?

      Working hours right? 8 hours a day, 48/8 = 6 (business days of course). No problem.

    6. Rol

      Re: 48 hour SLA?

      We had one hour to remedy certain faults before we got fined.

      Once the staff realised which faults carried that level of response it became an avalanche and our teams got run ragged.

      For my part, I tried mitigating things a little, by stepping in to point out to senior management that their staff were abusing the system.

      Well, for an example, one of our team had to race half the way across South Wales to open a pedestal containing "important documents", as the user had left their keys at home, only to find the pedestal was empty bar a lone banana. It was the users lunch left over from the day before and they were peckish.

      Suffice to say, it was a government organisation and management was perhaps the most inappropriate use of the word I have ever encountered.

      I eventually got some leverage out of this by pulling all the staff off the managers pet schemes, which didn't have any response time penalties, explaining how the increase in banana retrieval had necessitated a redeployment of resources.

      Seemingly, that managed to shock the otherwise unresponsive management team out of their catatonic state and start to issue diktats left right and centre, demanding their staff respect the outside contractors or Elsie. No, it was Elsie, apparently the most feared, and hence most competent supervisor a government run doss house could employ, without breaching human rights (too much)

      I got on well with her. My life depended on it.

  8. Chika

    Oh this brings back memories!

    "I should be able to email any size of file I like! It's <insert year here> not the dark ages!"

    (as if the calendar year has any relevance to trying to max everything out at the expense of other users and such)

    "But I'm a very important person. Surely you can expand my mailbox just this once!"

    (usually from somebody with an overinflated sense of importance and a habit of never clearing their mailbox because "they might need it one day")

    As for SLAs, we had a temporary hatchet person brought in by upper management with the remit to slim down the IT section, improve the efficiency of the section and get all the SLAs sorted out. Oh yeah, people got made redundant alright but did anything else get done?

    Not by that person anyway, and not until long after they had left and the mess left behind was sorted out.

    1. Triggerfish

      I'm very important and my security clearance is high, do you have clearance to see my emails? (I'm in your exchange server mate for the whole flipping department lets assume yes), I'm not happy about the risk of people seeing emails they are not cleared for..... etc etc until you understand they are really important and their ego is suitably inflated.


      Yes my problem is I would like my secretary (who btw does not have that level of clearance) to be able to access all my emails from outlook on her own PC.*

      *The upside to this conversation is that it was policy when someone showed such a fuckwitted understanding of clearance and requested something like that we could lock their accounts while someone had a word with them.

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon

      One place I worked at I heard that some people (Salesy/Marketting types) were getting around the mailbox limit not by archiving their emails, but by storing them in the deleted folder (which hadn't had a limit set on it).

      When the mail server finally ground to a halt and the deleted folders were purged of anything more than a week old, well, I wish I'd recorded the screams - they would have come in handy as a burglar alarm >:-}

      1. NotWorkAdmin

        Exchanging stories

        Never claimed to be an Exchange Administrator, just got lumped into doing it when I joined the company.

        Over a decade later the true nature of limits learned include the maximum number of iPhones a single user can register his mailbox to (it's 10 if your boss hasn't clocked up this "achievement" yet). Also the default KB limit size of the blocked senders folder, and of course most obviously, just why MS suggest 2GB as an adequate amount of capacity for an Exchange mailbox. There are more, don't want to bore you any more.

        Of course, the primary lesson learned is that user behaviour that crashes systems is the administrators' fault for not predicting their lunacy.

        1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

          Re: Exchanging stories

          When we moved from Groupwise to Office365 two years ago, I discovered there was an ongoing bug with the Android email client. It seems that if it was using imap against a Groupwise GWIA, then every time it checked for new mail, it would put another copy of every single mail sent from that device into a "Sent" folder it created on the server, (not into the "Sent Items" folder that Groupwise uses). And if a user had multiple Android devices, yep, each of them would do that with whatever locally-sent emails they had. Every 5 or 10 minutes, all day and all night. So when I start doing the final GWCheck's before the migration (and am actually paying attention to something other than error messages and orphaned attachments), I noticed lots of accounts with 400,000+ messages to be migrated. Once I figured out what had happened, it took a while to figure out a way around it. Deleting those Sent folders was going to take forever since the GW client liked to barf at more than 5000 messages in a folder, and even trying to delete that many emails slowed the POAs to a crawl. To top it off, the migration software didn't seem to honor my request to skip any folders named "Sent". In the end, I just had to let the migration jobs run for months trying to get most of the stuff migrated over.

          I don't ever want to migrate an email system again.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: Exchanging stories

            5000? So you were on GW 6 or possibly 7 (can't remember which was the last version with that limit) Anyway it was only a limit on what it would *display* per folder at a time.

            I had a whale of a time ditching 170,000 emails from a logs folder filled by a few over enthusiastic cronjobs. I deleted the folder, waited for a short while for the POA to get the message and crashed out the client. ofcheck: struct. 'n' fix followed by expire/reduce.

            To be fair, I know exactly where you are coming from: migrating any email system to another, great or small, is a bloody pain. I've done a lot of them GW -> Exch, IMAP -> Exch, Exch -> Office363, GW NetWare -> GW Linux, GW NetWare -> GW Windows, OK we'll try Linux -> GW Linux, Notes -> GW ... three years ... -> Exch on prem + Office362. There's always a 30GB, partly broken mailbox and endless archives somewhere in the mix.

    3. Stoneshop

      Mail size

      "I should be able to email any size of file I like! It's <insert year here> not the dark ages!"

      Back just before Y2K, the Helldesk punted me a call from a guy in the Plant Facilities department, who wanted to know if his message had been received by the construction company who he wanted to construct something.

      Him: "How long does it take for a message to reach the recipient?"

      Me: "Anywhere between a few seconds and several months (I had not long before that received a message that had been stuck on a server somewhere for nearly ten months).

      Him: "That's ridiculous."

      Me: "It is not"

      Him: "But can you tell me if it's received already?"

      Me: (well, why don't you call them and ask?)

      Me: "Is it <message of several tens of MB, sent 2 hours ago>"?

      Him: "Yes"

      Me: "It's about halfway done in the Sent queue on the server, because of the 256k link that handles all mail. From there it goes into <parent company>'s mail system, which means I can't trace it any more. Then it'll get handed off to the recipient's provider, and I don't know if they have push email or just poll regularly. In other words, I have no frigging idea if and when your mail will arrive, nor do I have any control over it."

      Him: <protestations>

      Me: "If you want it delivered now, burn it on a CD, get on your bike and hand it to them. It's two blocks away; even if you walk they can have it half an hour from now for certain."

      Him: <grumps>

      1. Borg.King

        Re: Mail size

        Bedlam DL3 - that is all.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Equipment? Never heard of it.

    Anybody else turned up to be told you'll be working with no phone, no PC and no desk. Oh and we expect you to close as many calls as anybody else. Unfortunately this wasn't only a one off either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Equipment? Never heard of it.

      I was once attached to a project transfer mission, which transferred an important piece of software from one side of the North American continent to the other side. Management was in a terrible rush to get this accomplished, so I was told to report to the new location on a certain date (We'll call it 15 October.). Well, I made the travel arrangements, booked an apartment out there, and moved across the continent for the six month assignment. Only, when I got to the new location, I found that all they had reserved for me was an empty office (No desk, no chair, no computer, no telephone, not even pencil and paper!!!). It took them two weeks for the computer to finally show up. I manage to steal a chair out of someone else's office (I wasn't going to sit on the floor for two weeks.). Swiped a table from a conference room to use as a desk. I think the phone showed up a week later (probably so rapidly because it was an outside contractor assigned to install it.).

      You really can't make these things up.

    2. AustinTX

      Re: Equipment? Never heard of it.

      I briefly trialed a support position at, let's call it "Winger Nixderp" where I was given a cash register to use as my work PC. Yep, a refurbished touchscreen cash register running windows underneath the merchant app. Soft kbd and no mouse.

      My voip application wasn't set up right, so my calls were dropped when I rang my co-workers or xferd calls. The co-workers quietly held a grudge for me walking up to them with questions, and I was about to be terminated for that (!!) when the mgr finally tried using my phone himself. With hard feelings exposed and bridges burned (not my fault) I let that 'career opportunity' go. A shame, since it was only 6 blocks from home.

  10. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

    "Suppose for a moment you're a lazy IT bastard"

    I'm sorry. I can't... I'm trying as hard as possible , but that's just too alien a concept for me. Can't wrap my mind around it.

    (That obviously is NOT related to the fact that I'm reading this article on business hours)

  11. Florida1920

    Most fun I ever had on the phone

    Yes, sad, but it was the time someone called me thinking they were calling Tech Support. Use your imagination.

    1. AustinTX

      Re: Most fun I ever had on the phone

      Oh if you work for an ISP, you get other ISP's customers calling all the time.

      1. Marshalltown

        Re: Most fun I ever had on the phone

        "Oh if you work for an ISP ..." you get every kind of screwball call that can be imagined.

        "Hello? [I am in Hell] here."

        "Ever since I got my computer, my toaster doesn't work."

        "Your toaster????"

        "Yes, I think my computer is interfering with it."

        "[??????????] Ah - is the toaster plugged in?"

        "Mmmmh, no."

        "[!@#!#@!] Ah - perhaps it would work IF you plugged it in?"

        "Oh, OK, but now the computer doesn't work."

        "R-e-a-l-l-y? Maybe you could make your toast and then plug the computer back in?'

      2. Unicornpiss

        Re: Most fun I ever had on the phone

        Reminds me of when I was in my 20s and managed a pizzeria. A 'customer' walked in to pick up an order that we didn't have. After he lambasted us for losing his order, he presented a coupon from one of our competitors. In full view of crew and other customers I flung it back at him (I was rather irritated by now) and suggested that he might try picking it up where he'd actually ordered it. It was satisfying to see him shut up abruptly and do the walk of shame back to his car.

  12. Gnoitall

    It's a shame to have to work so hard just to avoid work.

    Of course, Simon's in the good. He has delegated, so all's right as rain with him. All that hard work-avoidance work is rolling right by him like a flash flood, as viewed from the hill above.

    But poor PFY. Have a nice pint.

  13. imanidiot Silver badge

    The boss and the PFY have become rather patient of late... What is going on here? Has the boss secretly switched their coffee supply to decaf? Tranquillizer aerosol into the mission control air vents?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ....The boss and the PFY have become rather patient of late

      If you live long enough and work in IT eventually you realise that, like entropy, human stupidity continues to increase without limit and there is nothing you can do about it. At which point the only thing you can do is chill out (just ensure you're not legally liable for anything.)

      1. Number6

        Re: ....The boss and the PFY have become rather patient of late

        Just let it wash over you, while grabbing the occasional item of interest from the flow for further examination and entertainment. Plus there's the concept of the long game, it might be that the PFY needs to put in a month of effort but thinks that the end result will be spectacular and worth the effort.

      2. comb_ridge

        Re: ....The boss and the PFY have become rather patient of late

        Just think if they all suddenly "got it" we' d be out of a job.

  14. xehpuk

    From the other side of things

    Many years ago, before everybody had mobile phones. I needed something from IT department. They never answered. But then I dialed 0 then full number to make it look like an external call. The call was answered immediately. I do not remember the rest but think I got what I needed after some complaints about calling her "private" number. At that time calls from outside where likely not work related.

    I only now realise what risk I took.

  15. Unicornpiss

    Our Helpdesk...

    Has done the classic of emailing the company to alert them of an email outage. Seriously.

  16. Havoc

    a civil servant?

    Just got an email this week from the civil service looking after the pensions that hte remarked they hadn't send any response to my email from 19 march 2015. Probably got stuck in some folder or other...

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