back to article BOFH: We want you to know you have our full support

BOFH logo – telephone with devil's horns "NGGGGAAARRRGGGHHH!" the PFY says, slamming his mouse onto the desk several times. "Problems?" I ask. "Yes, I'm trying to get pre-sales support for a product but I'm just going round and round in the website which sends me to a Virtual Agent that can only interpret my question in …

  1. James 51

    Sounds like the PFY had to reboot Simon there.

    1. Alistair Silver badge

      I'm wondering if Rita and the PFY have decided that Simon needs a vacation. A long vacation. With white coats, wheel chairs and weeping willows by a stream, cool spring days with birds chirping....

      (Damn, that sounds like a *great* idea)

      1. sisk

        It's actually not so very long ago that the PFY tried - and failed, though he didn't know that immediately - to kill Simon. Having him committed seems like it's likely to be more successful.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Are the padded rooms and straight jackets implied? And the occasional tasering?

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      "And they're coming to take me away, ha-ha, ho-ho, hee-hee..To the funny farm, where life is beautiful all the time, ha-ha, ho-ho, hee-hee.."

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Compleately off topic, but the band Neuroticfish did a cover of that song on their album Gelb; it's actually pretty good. (as is the original version from 1966...)

  2. wyatt

    They need to speak to Rita, she'll remember the sales person and find a number for the business which will bypass support and get to the MD who'll get pre-sales to call them so they don't lose the sale.

    Especially as BOFH and PFY will have kept in chocolates/brews/flowers/etc * (delete as appropriate)

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      I tried deleting /etc but it did not make things any better...

  3. thosrtanner

    Maybe the PFY applied the prod to himself in despair. It's so unclear.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Maybe the PFY realized the BOFH was behind the convoluted virtual agent website thing all along...

    2. Hot Diggity

      I assumed that it referred to zapping the boss earlier. Agreed, so unclear. Perhaps it was a group zap.

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Deja Vu

    There is a frightening uncanny familiarity to this situation.

    1. getHandle

      Re: Deja Vu

      And many other comment sections on El Reg articles...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Deja Vu

        It's almost as if the BOFH had a short week and threw something together from reading comments on a Reg article...

        Anonymous in the vain hope it will be sufficient and he doesn't find me...

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Augie

    Oh the Irony... the irony

    The irony of reading this while trying to log support call with BT.. the similarities are somewhat frighting..

    beer time I think

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Oh the Irony... the irony

      I have been dealing with a similar system all morning - an infinitely configurable helpdesk system , that amounts to full on dev work but in a stupid GUI process map system that you cant google because virtually no one else in the world has used it.

      They do have a full support site full of out of date duplicates manuals , a log a call bit and - the community.

      Unlike the bofh's example answers in the community will be supplied by one dedicated and expert customer(reseller) very promptly - much quicker than asking the company themselves.

      I feel guilty asking too many beginner questions of the guy, so this morning (after reading all the documentation on the bit im struggling with) decided to make the actual company do it and logged a call.

      .... and all I want to do, in a normal high level language would amount to:

      binVariablename = 0

    2. Joe Werner Silver badge

      Re: Oh the Irony... the irony

      Hmpf. Sounds like O2. An internet provider without the possibility of contacting them by mail ffs!

  6. steelpillow Silver badge

    "Maybe the PFY realized the BOFH was behind the convoluted virtual agent website thing all along..."

    Certainly. The value being that a certain percentage of visitors will be desperate and foolhardy enough to click the pay-for option, which takes you to the second level of exactly the same game. This time the pay-for option is a phone number, which when called of course offers only spoken menus and haphazard voice recognition sending you round in an even harder circle....

    1. Steve the Cynic

      This time the pay-for option is a phone number, which when called of course offers only spoken menus and haphazard voice recognition sending you round in an even harder circle....

      Back in the mid-noughts I worked for a large finance-related outfit in London, and their telephone system didn't have any of that crap. It was a matter of company pride that any phone call to the company at any time of day or night on any day of the week was answered by a human who actually worked for the company. It might be picked up by an automatic "hold" system that played an audio news feed while you waited, but you *always* got to speak to a human.

      The human might be in another part of the world (Bombay, Singapore, New York, Tokyo, London, etc.) but whoever it was was an employee of the company, on site in one of the company's offices.

      But speech recognition systems on telephone lines are the worst. DTMF menus are bad(1), but speech recognition systems are infinitely worse.

      (1) My general habit with those is to hammer the zero, star, or tic-tac-toe key on the phone until the system gives up and just routes me to a human out of despair. It's brutally effective.

      1. iron Silver badge

        > tic-tac-toe key on the phone

        It's called the HASH key.

        Or if you come from the wrong side of the Atlantic, the pound key but that's just wrong.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Actually, I believe the name of the symbol and an octothorpe.

          1. david 12 Silver badge


            ... and it's called an actothorpe because the computer nerds who came up with that thought it was funny.

            before that, it was just the hash, pound, or number-symbol key.

        2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          It's called the pound key because of what you do do it in frustration after hours of endless twisting menus, all alike.

        3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Also referred to as the number key.

        4. Jamesit

          It's also called an octothorpe.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        to get human, is a good place to go

      3. jonathan keith Silver badge

        "hammer the zero, star, or tic-tac-toe key on the phone until the system gives up and just routes me to a human out of despair."

        I've found that voice recognition bots often respond to a loud shout of "Fuck's SAKE" by immediately transferring the call to a real life person.

    2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      And it also sound like something the Bastard himself will do.

      Anybody remember this episode?

      You are in a twisting maze of little support options all alike.

  7. earl grey Silver badge


    Beer time.

  8. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge


    Only too recognizable, alas. Put me in mind of the rant in the Travel Agent Sketch somehow

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Brilliant

      Have a pint of Watney's Red Barrel for your trouble.

    2. Servman

      Re: Brilliant

      I first parsed that as "Time Travel Agent" and all I could think was "what a cool job!"

    3. techdead

      Re: Brilliant

      man I haven't seen that in years..... fabulous

  9. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

    One might think

    that this will NOT end well for Steven - assuming he did not use the cattle prod on himself as suggested upthread

  10. nichomach

    This isn't even comedy any more

    It's just too bloody accurate.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: This isn't even comedy any more

      The majority of customer support systems work this way, keep you going in ever decreasing circles until you disappear up your own jacksie.

      1. nichomach

        Re: This isn't even comedy any more

        I'm there right now. Attempting to explain to a web filter support guy that the point is not to *block* an appliance from talking to its replication target but to *allow* it and that the slow throughput at said webfilter is what's getting in the way.

    2. fredds

      Re: This isn't even comedy any more

      Comedy mainly consists of commenting upon life's foibles; with a twist.

  11. Nick Ryan Silver badge


    Sounds almost exactly like my recent experience of logitech support. I generally like their (keyboard and mice) products but had to ask a question about one of their keyboards. Which for other keyboards would have been resolvable with a product sheet or possibly even good photos, but no... Lots of stupid redirections, missing products (disparity between what was listed on their website, what was in the market available to purchase and what products their support department admitted to), stock totally unhelpful responses and lots and lots of waiting.

  12. chivo243 Silver badge

    The BOFH knew

    that the software the PFY was seeking information on was *crap*. The next scene will be the BOFH, PFY and an HR ogre discussing the altercation... Cue PFY on mental health/stress leave...

  13. Florida1920


    Hurrah!!!!! Return Of The Cattle Prod!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge


      Ah yes! Cattleprods are the way to run your business. The customer is always unconscious. Or screaming...

    2. hplasm Silver badge


      From a NetMGR* Help point of view, i was expecting this to end with a resounding


      * If you know what I mean...

      1. J. Cook Silver badge


        @hplasm, re: Thwack.

        I see what you did there. (and their software is maddenly annoying to use as well...)

    3. TRT Silver badge


      Putting the 'prod' into 'productivity'.

  14. the.spike

    Speaking and saying nothing

    "." the PFY says wordlessly


  15. steelpillow Silver badge

    Choices, choices...

    You are in a long comments thread where all the best jokes have already been taken. Press:

    1 to crack a bad joke

    2 to comment on an existing joke

    3 to tell a workplace anecdote

    4 to purchase a BOFH-branded (sic) cattle prod. (Please have your PayPal credentials ready).

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Choices, choices...

      OPTION 4! By Cthulhu's glowing naughty bits, OPTION 4!

      *Mashes the 4 key until it catches fire*

      Gimmie my cattleprod! Shut up & take my money! =-D

      /wanders away happily triggering TheHappySparkyThing...

    2. grumbler

      Re: Choices, choices...

      Space-X have their own branded flame-throwers, why doesn't El Reg start making cattle prods?

      1. Phil W

        Re: Choices, choices...

        Also BOFH branded shovels, BOFH branded bags of quicklime and BOFH branded rolls of old carpet.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Choices, choices...

          And best of all, BOFH the doll. *tug* "it's in the airtight tape safe, right behind the currently open door with very easy hinges and no interior lock."

          Ain't he adorable?

  16. Jonathan 27 Bronze badge

    To get a second-hand vase to regain its lustre, don't you only need to wash it in dish soap and water?

    I could be wrong, I'm not a vase technician.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      No, you just give it to your wife/girlfriend/mother to clean it.

      <runs for cover/>

      1. BuckeyeB

        Also works for sandwiches.

  17. imanidiot Silver badge


    And a well deserved <KZZZZZRRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTTTT> too. Even if you are a BOFH, there's kicking a down man and there's taking a running kick at an unconscious mans head. One's petty, the others just lame.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Rightious

      One's petty, the others just lame.

      One's taking advantage and the other is a very good opportunity.

  18. Toltec

    This is the basis of about the only nightmare I cannot take control of now, it is so bad that when I am having one I can even anticipate what the next layer of despair is going to be. Which makes sense since it is happening inside my own head, but definitely makes me think I have been doing this too long. Could be time to change career to something low stress like cage fighting or maybe nude glass blowing.

  19. ma1010 Silver badge


    Thanks, Simon, for another great BOFH. Not only funny, but, as others have noted, this episode is more fact than fiction.

    Happy Friday! Have a virtual beer on me.

  20. Gnoitall

    Simon will look back on this

    with a degree of gratitude to PFY. When you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss reaches up and drags you into it. It really sounded like Simon had fallen into a fugue state, mentally trapped in the Support Maze. And PFY retrieved him, yanked him back into reality, with the best tool for the job.

    'Course, Simon will also zap PFY when he's not expecting it (any more), because you don't get away with that kind of s**t without consequences.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Simon will look back on this

      "'Course, Simon will also zap PFY when he's not expecting it (any more), because you don't get away with that kind of s**t without consequences."

      ISTR this is not the first PFY to try his luck against the Bastard. At this point I recall the Star Wars cycles-of-repetition theory of old plot lines history. But I'd better resist mentioning what might just be a spoiler for next episode.

      1. Number6

        Re: Simon will look back on this

        He doesn't usually retaliate in the next episode. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

  21. John 104 Silver badge


    Steam support.

    Reminds me very much of trying to get anyone from Steam to help you with an issue. it is the biggest joke of circular redirects I've ever seen.

  22. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Is there anybody...

    Is there anybody who hasn't been through support hell like that?

    What I find surprising is that companies will spend millions on marketing, advertising, even having shiny new names and logos designed at enormous expense to polish their image. Then f*ck the customers about when we are actually considering buying the sodding product, or are having a problem with it.

    Add to the list of woes above the web page that has a link saying, "contact us" which takes you to a page of "FAQs" but no contact details, but which has a link that says "Question not answered?" that takes you back to the page that has a link saying "contact us".

  23. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    The Pointy Haired Bosses of a company with thigh I am familiar

    ...are positively wetting themselves in excitement over "Digitization" and having multiple orgasms over what they vcould do "on the Internet"

    Having had the misfortune to experience both their internet and intranet, this article is far, far too close to that grim reality.

    I bet Hell has a portal "designed" by the same team of cretins

  24. Ron Christian

    If I had a nickel...

    ...every time I heard something like this on a support forum:

    "please rate this comment with 5 gold stars to prove that I can regurgitate a support script without actually reading the question."

    ...I'd have a lot of nickels.

    I'm beginning to believe that these "people" are not people at all, but chatbots composed of a few lines of Prolog with made-up names and avatars that are all missing kid photos from India. You'll, for instance, write an article with a very specific description of a problem, including log files and data dumps, and the official company response, from someone purporting to be named Arjun, who by his photo looks about 15 and has "genius level support" and "staff scientist" after his name, is "please to be updating your video drivers to their latest version", when the issue is as far away from a video issue as you can get and still be in the same galaxy.

    1. Joe Werner Silver badge

      Re: If I had a nickel...

      Have an upvote (and a beer) for mentioning Prolog. I need (still, after so many decades) something stronger to get that out of my system (again). I learned it in grade 12 in our CS class in school...

    2. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Re: If I had a nickel...

      "please to be updating your video drivers to their latest version", when the issue is as far away from a video issue as you can get and still be in the same galaxy.

      I recently had a Dell "tech" suggest that I update the system firmware on a Dell laptop when the complaint was that the microSD card reader wouldn't eject the card (standard MicroSD thing where you push it in a little against a spring and it pops out. In this case, pressing it did nothing; it didn't move at all).

      After I told him I already had done the update, he wanted me to install a remote access program so he could poke around on my PC. How disappointed he must have been to learn that the laptop no longer had Windows on it and could not run his little thing.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: If I had a nickel...

        Been there. Not tech support, but pre-purchase support. Twice.

        In the Summer I bought a Dell laptop with an SSD.. I did a chat, because I've never had an SSD machine before and the storage is adequate but not exactly generous. I asked if there was space inside the chassis, and a free connection, so that I could put my old HDD in there alongside the SSD. I was told there was. I double checked and he confirmed to me that this was correct. There isn't. I like the machine, but that pissed me off no end. Last month, for my daughter a Dell seemed the best bet for a late 'A'" level into uni laptop. On the web page there was a number to call for pre-sales inquiries. Very specifically for that. When I called the agent refused to answer any questions. he just repeated "I'm here to take your order" and I kept repeating "I'm not calling to place an order yet". I just got nowhere.

        I did a complaint in writing to Dell. And got an apology. Nothing more. No offer to make things better in any way.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If I had a nickel...

          > pre-purchase support. Twice.

          > I bought a Dell laptop


          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: If I had a nickel...

            I know. But dammit, I like their machines. My desk top jobbie is brilliant for my needs, and so are the laptops otherwise.

  25. Number6

    Website Guide to IVR

    What would be ideal is for companies to have a web page with the entire script to their IVR on it, so you could go browse it in advance and then when you hit the voice prompt just key 14235 and get immediately to your chosen point. If there wasn't a suitable endpoint for your query then you'd know in advance and instead of wasting time on the phone, could try writing a letter, wrapping it round a brick and delivering it to their offices in person via a suitable window.

    1. Montreal Sean

      Re: Website Guide to IVR

      We have a menu system for our multi purpose phone line at work.

      The line is used for customers to open tickets and check progress, as well as used by our techs for support and ordering parts.

      I programmed the menu numbers to get to the support/part order section (including adding the pauses) into the contact entry on my cellphone so it would do it for me. :)

  26. RonWheeler

    Sad but true

    Senior look-at-me blue cloud chimps will witter about AI making this useless crap better.

  27. Timo

    All true

    Amazon product reviews mimic this exactly, as do everything on the Microsoft web page.

    I haven't figured out the ones that come back with "I don't have the problem you describe and I don't even own this product, but it seems like it might/should work for you."

    I think it is because there is some sort of community pissing contest where people are ranked based on the number of comments, regardless of their helpfulness.

    You did miss the usual Microsoft support site canned reply of "I can't/won't help you unless you spend the next 5 hours dumping all of these logfiles and tracking down a long list of details." Those copy/paste-tards usually are able to do everything EXCEPT actually help.

    1. John Presland

      Re: All true

      No, it's Amazon's poxy system which, if a potential purchaser of the product X submits a question about it,asks everyone who recently bought an X whether they can answer the question. Too many of us are so polite that instead of thinking they've nothing useful to say they answer with something close "I don't have the problem you describe and I don't even own this product, but it seems like it might/should work for you" and Amazon's demented bots publish that.

  28. harmjschoonhoven


    I regularly receive emails in very large font, for the visual impaired you know, with at the end the text Think about the environment before you print this mail., which gets printed on a single new page if you dare to do that.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    OK, now we know the background to the question of contacting Virgin support.

  30. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Contacting EE

    I've been getting the usual spammy calls about upgrading by oil or LPG fired boiler if I'm in receipt of benefits. Having pressed "9" a few times to be removed from their list, I eventually succumbed and pressed "5" for a call back. A few days later (yes, they really are in a hurry to contact me!) a scottish woman phoned up. About halfway through trying to explain to her that I have neither an oil or LPG fired boiler, am not in receipt in benefits and that their "press 9 to be removed from our calling list", she hung up on me. A few hours later, another recorded/robocall for the same fscking "deal". So I called back the mobile number the Scottish woman's call came from. It's an EE mobile account with the default EE answerphone message and a full voicemail box. But can I contact EE and complain about one of the customers abusing me causing "alarm, harassment and distress"? Not on your life. They don't do email. At all. I have to use an AI webchat or sign up to their commuity forums. The Contact Us page requires me to enter my EE account number. So I can't complain to EE about an EE customer unless I'm an EE customer. Phoning them takes waaaay too long to get a human.

    I've reported the number to OFCOM and TPS, but I doubt much will happen.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Contacting EE

      Ah. John Brown ( no body). You've just highlighted another room in customer service Hell. That's the one when you can't contact them unless you enter a customer number in the automatic switchboard or the online form ( mostly it's the online form), but that leaves you screwed when you do need to contact them but haven't got a customer number*. For example, because there's been a problem setting up the account that would create a customer number.

      *Even with a background in Psychology I still can't understand the mindset that lets someone create that kind of illogical obstacle. Are they incapable of imagining a use case that requires contact without a customer number? (Needing to find out your customer number if it's been mislaid seems an obvious one).

  31. Andy Non Silver badge

    They simply don't want you to call support

    After a fruitless visit to a well known department store to buy a particular jacket (they'd sold out) the sales staff informed me I could buy one from their online store. Great. Order placed online. Hermes were supposed to deliver the jacket a couple of days later. I got an email which had a tracking link showing how much longer the delivery driver would likely take to arrive. Finally, I got an email saying the jacket had been delivered. But, but, nobody has been! Tried to contact Hermes via their website. Nightmare. Their site hung at any attempt to submit their contact form. Finally gave up and looked on the department store's website. Eventually, in a way reminiscent of something Douglas Adams said, I found details of how to contact their support staff embedded at the bottom of a webpage in a disused lavatory with a sign on the page saying ‘Beware of the Leopard'".

    I phoned the support number. Waded through a huge menu, made a mis-step and got disconnected. Phoned again, menu system again. Then stuck in a queue. "Your call is important to us" repeated ad-nauseam amid repeated suggestions to look on the FAQ page of their website instead. After 20 minutes stuck in the queue and my phone battery and patience starting to falter, I got to speak to a human being, with barely intelligible English. Went though details of order number, name, address etc. "Yes your parcel has been delivered." "No it hasn't." "Were you out?" "No, been here all day, waiting." According to the Hermes tracking system my parcel was "handed to reception". "Yes?" queried the support bod. "There is no reception. This is a private residence." "Ah, I take your point. I'll contact the carrier and find out what's happening". Another ten minutes stuck on hold. "We're unable to contact the driver, so we'll send you another jacket, next day delivery." "Great" I say. "Oh just a moment, we've sold out of your size". "Arggghhhh!". "OK, sir I'll give you a full refund."

    A random stranger knocked on my door the following day, from a house a mile up the road. "I think this parcel belongs to you. I found it in my garden shed."

    I was about to phone the department store customer support to tell them I'd finally got it, so could cancel the refund. Then I thought about their phone menu system and another twenty minutes stuck in a queue to speak to someone. Bugger it. I'm not going through all that again.

    I notice the department store in question recently posted poor Christmas turnover results. Hmmm.

    1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      Re: They simply don't want you to call support

      "A random stranger knocked on my door the following day, from a house a mile up the road. "I think this parcel belongs to you. I found it in my garden shed." "

      My understanding is this is the current nature of disruptive delivery technology. Forget all this warehouse to customer nonsense, your parcel will get delivered to someone closer to you than the delivery center, and by a process of elimination end up at it's destination.

  32. Peter Skilton

    You think its a joke? I had a reply from the Kogan Co Australia support when I complained about a toaster, asking me if I had tried turning it off and on again.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    nobody goes through that cycle of pre-sales support - unless you are a complete tard. pre-sales support is either simple and helpful or you don't buy the product.

    Who writes this shit... oh...

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: WTF

      Lack of pre-sales support has stopped me from buying from various companies over the years. I once nearly bought an expensive high spec, custom Dell computer, but had a query and emailed them. I got a reply that stated it was written by an artificially intelligent bot. It went on for the equivalent of 6 pages of A4 answering various questions, none of which related to the one I'd asked. I thought to myself that if this is their pre-sales support before they've got your money, I don't want to find out what their post-sales support is like.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many times have you heard this one?

    You have an issue - something you know is probably solvable if you have the correct information - you go to Microsoft support or the product support site/page - and you get told to go to system restore and select the last system restore point?

    And if you do, all changes/new software/updates you have installed since that system restore will be lost.....

    And if you so, there is not guarantee it will fix the problem....

    And the update you did since the last Microsoft update did not create a system restore point that is usable.....

    You start thinking impolite things.....

    So you open TOR, search and find an obscure page with decent suggestions, make a selection and follow the suggested steps and YEAH! it works. You then post the solution to the produce support forum and get the HAMMER described in this article, you get ridiculed for a stupid suggestion and...

    You close the tab and breathe deeply not saying the impolite words rushing around in your head.

  35. Faster Better Greener

    Call centres and the concept of purgatory

    “This item of yours, Sir, can you describe it?” asked Vicky, or more likely Vikki, the call centre ‘adviser’, not bothering to hide her boredom. Minimum wage employees in low-prestige jobs where 90% of recruits leave within a year have a particular way of intoning the word ‘Sir’, which conveys both resentment and the cast-iron assurance that, whatever your question, complaint or suggestion, it (and you) will be:




    deleted; and/or

    passed to ‘technical support’.

    Technical Support is simply the concept of purgatory, updated. Technical Support used to mean Fat Dave from IT. Although always slow, obstructive, incompetent, unwashed, aromatic and covered in crumbs, Fat Dave was at least borderline human. Technical Support has now evolved into a disembodied process, a global machine whose function is to bring slow, obstructive, incompetence to a world-wide customer base.

    You may have signed up for ‘services backed by our award-winning technical support’, but they never tell you which. You’re expecting their speed, service and solutions to have been recognised by juries of their peers, but instead they’ve romped home with:

    the dead cat behind the fridge prize;

    the unexpected dog shit exactly the same colour as the pavement prize;

    the month-old Chinese takeaway rediscovered under the sofa on returning from an overseas trip prize; and

    the overflowing toilet because the U-bend’s blocked with the fat from ten years’ worth of cooked breakfasts tipped down the drain every day prize.

    But don’t let me put you off. There is a remote chance that Technical Support may not, on this occasion, live down to its reputation and might just stumble upon an answer to your question. They might just solve your problem. They might just be able to advise you exactly what you need to do, in order to perform exactly the task you needed to carry out, in order to achieve exactly the result you had in mind. Just how remote is this possibility? Well, perhaps you’ll get lucky, but you’re more likely to see:

    irony in the Deep South;

    a Belfast Republican wearing a bowler hat, an orange sash, and playing the flute; or

    a Taliban delegation at an inter-faith workshop organised by the liberal wing of the Church of England.

    But don’t let me put you off. You may elect to hold the line. You may decide that, because you do indeed have a push-button telephone, you might get lucky with ‘one of the following five options’. On reaching the fifth you will, however, realise that none applies to you. No, no, you’re not:

    calling about problems setting up a new account;

    calling about problems accessing an existing account;

    calling about problems making a new booking;

    calling about problems canceling or refunding an existing booking; or

    calling about problems with terminating an account.

    You are, in fact, simply calling because some imbecilic (yet award-winning) system has yet again insisted that there is only one train a day from Birmingham to Manchester and that it goes via Peterborough. So you go for Option Six.

    Option Six, let there be no mistake, is Room 101. It is the sum of all fears. It is the dark, gelatinous, evil heart of the global incompetence machine. Option Six is merciless. Option Six is the destroyer of souls. Option Six is relentless. Option Six rips all hope from the human spirit. Option Six knows no pity. Option Six administers only grinding, limitless, frustration. From now. For ever. Until the end of time. Option Six is:

    ‘Please hold if you would like to speak to an adviser.’

    You had a choice. You, yourself, the human being, quite unaided by the internet, really do know there are several trains an hour between Birmingham and Manchester. And you also know, with absolute certainty, that they go nowhere near Peterborough. But you wanted the internet to tell you whether the Family Fun Price-Buster Weekend SupaSaver ticket was cheaper than the Super Special Daysout Megarover. You’d seen the advert somewhere: something about £5 off, or something like it.

    So now you’re holding for Technical Support. ‘You are now in a queue for the first available adviser.’ But, don’t you realise, there isn’t one. There will never be an adviser available. No matter how long you hold the line (and you’re just passing £5 in phone bill already) you will never, in all eternity, ever, ever, get to speak with a person who you would consider suitably qualified, precise, accurate, articulate or informed enough to give you advice.

    Advice comes from doctors, lawyers and other people with clean fingernails. Inspiration comes from artists, writers, composers. Astonishment comes whenever you contemplate the spectacular achievement of your species:

    tool use;






    space travel;

    the capacity to imagine conditions a billionth of a second after the birth of the universe;

    the desire to construct a machine capable of replicating those conditions;

    the ability to actually build it; and

    the capability to share its results with every sentient human being on the planet.

    But you are not in the queue for a sentient being. You are in the Option Six queue for Technical Support. ‘Your call is valuable to us,’ the holding-voice said. Then, over and over again, every 30 seconds, ‘we apologise for the delay in taking your call’.

    They do not mean it. They are lying to you. Every minute’s more delay makes the call more valuable to the evil global incompetence machine, You are paying to listen to their lies and endure hold-music which sounds as if it was played against her will by a terminally melancholy employee in an animal research laboratory.

    Then finally.

    “Hello this is Technical Support, my name is Dave, how can I help you today?”

    No. Don’t fall for it. He is not called Dave. He’s Sanjay, Raul or Yvgeny; somebody out there in the fringelands of the global economy. Anywhere in the right timezone, anywhere where it costs less to employ him than it costs to keep a prisoner locked up back here. They are compelled, all of them, to call themselves Dave, so that callers may imagine the appearance and aroma of Fat Dave and take comfort from his crumbs.

    You explain the problem. Yvgeny’s grasp of the relative geography of Birmingham, Manchester and Peterborough is, you rightly suspect, incomplete, even when you’ve tried, really tried, to make it local for him. “You see, that would be like trying to go from Moscow to St Petersburg via Kiev.”

    “That will be stupid. Why want go not in straight line?”

    “Indeed Yvgeny, why want go not in straight line indeed? In my country, we call straight line from Birmingham to Manchester West Coast Main Line.”

    “And Piotrsburgh, he is not on West Coast?”

    “No, Peterborough is in East.”

    “Like Vladivostok, yes?”

    “Yes, a bit like Vladivostok, but with less vodka.”

    “And where Kiev?”

    “Capital city of Ukraine, I think? Why do you ask.”

    “Because first you say that your Piotrsburgh he is Kiev, but now you say he is Vladivostok. Which is right?”

    “It doesn’t matter, I was just trying to explain that Peterborough is not on a straight line between Birmingham and Manchester.”

    “Why it not matter? Kiev is only big detour. Vladivostok is giant detour taking many days and nights on Trans-Siberian railway. Is your Piotrsburgh just big inconvenient or giant waste of time.”

    “Oh Peterborough is definitely a giant waste of time.”

    “Yes. Now I understand this, I see why you not want go there, but you say website forces you go Piotrsburgh?”

    “Yes, and I don’t want to go to Peterborough at all”.

    “But you are the one forcing website to send you Piotrsburgh. You ask website for SupaSaver and MegaRover, yes?”

    “I just wanted to know about those tickets, yes.”

    “Some tickets not valid straight line way. Not technical issue, so I put you back Customer Service.”

    Now’s your chance to escape, you could just put the phone down. Cut your losses – which are running at about £27 by now, by the way, given the premium rate line. But you’re too deep into hold-hypnosis.

    The melancholy lab technician is back with her mournful drone. Your call is once again valuable. You will again be transferred to the first available adviser. You are in a queue and your call will be answered as soon as possible.

    “Hello this is Customer Service, this is Nikki speaking, how can I help you today? Sir.”

    Things have come full circle. If you’re honest, the only way Nikki, Vikki , Shazz or Cazzie could help by this stage is by giving you hints on assisted suicide. But you’re too far gone to think that positively. So you just hammer it out all over again.

    “You don’t want to go via Peterborough then?”

    “No, I don’t. Neither do I want to go via Kiev or Vladivostok.”

    “There’s no need to be rude. Sir.”

    Despite the razoring sneer of her ‘Sir’, despite your overwhelming, caveman-adrenaline, urge to slaughter and feed to the dogs the Bollinger-swilling Spawn of Satan who own and who are profiting (right here, right now) from your misery, your last ounce of humanity helps you resist smashing the handset through the computer screen. So you just sit there and take it when Nikki tells you that it was your own fault anyway, because SupaSavers and MegaRovers are only valid on indirect routes.

    She gives you the prices and times of the direct trains. But you’re too overcome with that seething mix of anger and impotence brought on by call centres. You don’t care anymore. You can’t even remember why you wanted to go to Manchester in the first place. It doesn’t matter anymore. Nothing matters. Nothing.


    “Oh yes, thanks for your help.”

    “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

    “Yes. There is. Please just tell me why everything nowadays is so shallow, so hateful, so insincere.”

    “That’s not an issue I’m trained to address. Sir. Have nice day.”

    And with a click the pain, and £42.37 in call charges, is gone. It’s over. You know nothing more than you did £42.37 ago. You are filled with hate. You wish to kill.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Call centres and the concept of purgatory

      I don't get it. Why would you want to go via Vladivostok when the Birmingham-Kiev-Manchester route is quicker?

    2. quxinot Silver badge

      Re: Call centres and the concept of purgatory

      That was a rant worthy of a bastard himself. Have a beer, you need it.

  36. Lotaresco Silver badge


    The entire rant sounds like my average experience with QNAP. Although Simon missed the rant about the one "PowerUser" who for some reason is valued by the manufacturer as a useful contributor, but whose "advice" consists only of telling people that they are "newbies" who don't deserve to own such a magnificent product as the Bambleweeney SubMeson 142 and who therefore are beneath his contempt and if only the ignorant user would realise it, the reset switch is on the base of the unit under a sticker that is marked "DO NOT REMOVE, WARRANTY VOID IF REMOVED" and can only be operated using a security pentalobe Torx driver. If the user dares to point out that they aren't asking for help with the reset switch but rather understanding how to create a storage volume, a subject that is both fundamental to operation and not covered in the user manual, the PowerUser will rant that they are clearly a congenital idiot, the product of fifty generations of inbreeding and they should run and sit in a pig sty for the next six weeks until the desire to pester PowerUsers with stupid questions has gone away.

    Yes, "Schumaku" I'm looking at you.

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