back to article Thank you, FAQ chatbot, but if I want your help I'll ask for it

Do you need help? Oh dear, is this what it has come to? I skipped past my youth, trudged through middle age, and now I'm evidently wheezing into my autumnal years. The website knows it and is offering to walk me safely across the information superhighway. All I did was land on the web page after following an organic search. …

  1. Warm Braw

    I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

    Two sentences that grimly guarantee you're about to waste at least an hour of your life.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

      They are the slightly more modern equivalent of the telephone menu system, although usually of less help.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

        I really, really love the sites for big companies that tell us "they have AI to help serve us better". I had some problems with a cell phone company, all the AI ever did was waste my time with circular questions.

        Even better are some that allow you to chat with a human, who start asking you lots of questions to "help locate your account information". After that, they transfer it to another agent that... asks you lots of questions to "help locate your account information".

        At least its customer discouragement strategy does not include Muzak and "this call is very important" statements every 30 seconds for hours.

        1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          "All the AI ever did was waste my time with circular questions."


          * Can you tell me why the chatbot asks circular questions

          > Do I hear you saying that you want me to be able to tell you why the chatbot asks circular questions?

        2. Joe W Silver badge

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          A phone manufacturer or a service provider? If the latter (by some stretch of the definition) - Was it o2 (or however they are called now)?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

            A provider. And it wasn't O2, we have crappy ones in South Bananistan too.

            I've upgraded my data plan and keep receiving messages inviting me to upgrade my data plan... to the one I already have.

            1. RockBurner

              Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

              Must be using the same 'AI' that Amazon use that sends you emails suggestion that you might like to buy the very article that the delivery guy threw over the fence into the ornamental pond that very morning.

        3. nichomach

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          When I'm on a support call with someone and having to wait for something to complete I've taken to whistling "The Girl From Ipanema" on the basis that they'll be expecting hold music.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

            "The Girl From Ipanema"

            My word that damn song follows me around... probably my fault for marrying a girl from Copacabana :)

            Lifts, lobbies, hold music, the thing's everywhere. The most egregious offence was probably the time I was having breakfast in the second most expensive hotel in Kiev. A gent walked into the restaurant dressed in white tie and tails, pulls a string to remove a curtain revealing a white grand piano, sits down on the stool (flipping his tails in the approved manner), cracked his knuckles, and started playing the girl from bloody Ipanema.

            1. Martin

              Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

              Nevertheless it's a wonderful song, especially in the Stan Getz/Joachim Gilberto version.

              Quite an interesting article here about the English translation of the lyrics, and how they are different from the original Portugese.

              1. NITS

                Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

                My favorite support call was the time I called Symantec tech support a couple of decades ago. The music-on-hold started out with the Stones' "You can't always get what you want". I burst out laughing at this attempt to soften me up.

                On the other hand, I find it infuriating to have an elevator-music version of "If it takes forever / I will wait for you" come up in the MOH rotation.

        4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          ""this call is very important" statements every 30 seconds for hours."

          Worst one I ever came across not only made that statement every 30 seconds, but it restarted the same effing music again after each cycle. That was worse than the announcements!

          1. molletts

            Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

            You think a 30-second loop is bad? The Volvo Insurance line had about a 10-second muzak loop last time I called it. I had to wait ages (and boy, does the short loop make it seem even longer) to activate the free "drive away cover" when I last bought a Volvo.

        5. EricB123 Bronze badge

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          "At least its customer discouragement strategy does not include Muzak and "this call is very important" statements every 30 seconds for hours."

          Really? That sounds a bit like a good day to me.

      2. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

        "They are the slightly more modern equivalent of the telephone menu system"

        In recent years, I find I have become quite fond of telephone menus. They are usually fast, efficient and do not waste my time displaying gaudy, but useless imagery, and annoying ads. Neither do they leave me stranded when some step in the process I'm engaged in fails to render or won't accept my input without explaining why.

        Unfortunately, telephone menus have increasingly been replaced in recent years by computer driven garbage that wants to TALK to me. Those rarely work worth a damn. My policy has become NEVER, EVER make the mistake of talking to a computer. At least not one one that purports to be speech capable. If you stubbornly refuse to say anything, they'll usually fail you back to the old telephone menu or route you to an actual person (Although with some companies -- Comcast for example -- the latter is not much of an improvement.)

        1. molletts

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          The type of phone auto-attendant I hate most is the bastard child of the two - a limited selection of options which you choose not by pressing a number but by saying a word or phrase. Someone invariably comes and hangs around by my desk just as I'm navigating one of these and gives me odd looks when I start saying seemingly random, disjointed words separated by long pauses. "Support"... "Business"... "Networking"... "Yes"... It's even worse if I have to say a long serial number or something: I know from experience that I can't just read it out naturally - for it to be reliably recognised, I have to say. each. digit. as. if. it. is. a. separate. sentence.

        2. trindflo Bronze badge

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          Dell no longer gives you that option from what I can tell. If you press buttons or otherwise refuse to play ball they will just hang up.

          I really object to all the voice print information being collected: I don't think it works all that well and have no trouble seeing it show up in a courtroom regardless.

          1. mikecoppicegreen

            Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

            Good reason just to buy from someone else!

            1. EricB123 Bronze badge

              Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

              "Good reason just to buy from someone else!"

              You have found either a company selling goods or services that doesn't do this????

              Do tell!

        3. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          Telephone menus are great when they contain the item you want , actually take you there and get answered.

          Absolute hell when they

          *only provide options they expect you to want ( i.e. there's no "other" option if your issue doesn't fit),

          *dump you into totally different department from the one you selected who hear your long explanation and then say, "Sorry you need to phone back and speak to the X department" which was the one you'd selected or

          * just give you a recorded message then hang up:"Sorry we are far too busy to speak to the likes of you" brrr.

          Best example is BA: They do *all* of those. And the hang-up message is "Sorry we are busy dealing with calls from passengers who's flight is in the next few days". But they obviously aren't because they don't answer the fucking phone so they don't know if your flight is in the next few days or not!!!

          1. WanderingHaggis

            Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

            I remember a conference speaker who had worked on creating these systems describing them as satanic. Looking at it now he would have it not answer the call if there were not enough operators available to handle the load. Avoid winding people up and wasting time.

        4. Fred Daggy Silver badge

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          Your point is well made and stands. Just, I'm not sure talking to a meat bag is any better. My father is struggling with an issue with a well known asian airline at the moment. Thier web site is unable to take his date of birth and yet somehow still has his booking, and certainly his money. There have been at least 10 calls to the call center in Manilla, the longest for nearly 4 hours and still no signs of a resolution. Promised call backs never happen, no one wants to take an escalation and now the representatives just tell him "We are terminating this call".

          He's an intelligent person but unused to social media. However, I hear the pages being ruffled on a book of "Twitter for dummies". Mega-billion dollar company versus grumpy old man with time on his hands ... I don't like their chances. It's now personal and he's out for revenge.

          It may be a great way to fly, but that bird has flown and I think that he'll be taking a middle eastern one instead.

    2. Chris G

      Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

      The majority of websites that have a chat function seem designed only to get you to 'chat' with the bot/entity that is usually at least as dysfunctional as the website.

      Even when I am trying to spend my own money, sometimes I find it extremely difficult simply because there is no way to find the correct product and the means to buy it.

      A case in point, recently I wanted a resin based cement to repair my rainwater deposit, the product I needed was one of three similar so I went to the company web site and determined the correct one, the company doesn't sell direct so I clicked on the 'suppliers near you' button which defaulted to anywhere in the World but Europe aside from giving the European head office postal address.

      Went to the chat box who after a lengthy description of the product I wanted, told me to click on suppliers near you!

      The chatter was obviously someone in a country far, far away and could give me no other answer.

      Now my deposit is repaired with a system using lime that the Moors invented centuries ago, cheaper but only good for two seasons.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

        "usually at least as dysfunctional as the website."

        Invariably more dysfunctional, just to disprove your assumption that nothing could be worse than the website.

      2. herman

        Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

        Most American web shops thing Central Europe is somewhere south of Chicago.

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

        Cement. I should be s lucky.

        I'm trying to buy a new multifunction home scanner/printer to replace my trusty, now ageing, Pixma TS6150. Which does all I need, as would have its successors, I gather, until recently. When they replaced them with- something different.

        Should be easy, yeah?

        Not any f***ing more it isn't. All the printer companies' web pages tell you everything you don't need to know- written from the marketing dept's perspective, who all seem to think that their machines will be used to print from mobile phones to only 1 type and size of paper, on only one side, mostly by people who don't care about the cost of ink.

        Stuff I need to know; is there a second place to put paper, can it double side, even how many ink cartridges it takes and what size they are is hidden away in small print at the arse end of three links. You have to do this individually for every sodding printer you think might be the one you need.And, despite this being their sales pages they provide no help whatsoever to help get you though the morass. Even the dratted "help" pages give no guidance. And the chat bots boot you back to the generic sales page. Grrr

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          Or on a completely different subject, offspring has been filling in UCAS forms (university applications for those not familiar with the term). Back in the day, a university prospectus was a glossy, possibly colourful book with a welcome from the head honcho on page five, three or four pages describing the location, the laundrette in the student union and the seedy nightclub in the town which has the cheap beer, and then section after section from each individual university department listing all the courses they run - maybe one page per course - what the requirements are for entry, what sort of careers you could go on to and maybe some testimony from a current student or "industry" about how good the thing is, topped off with the occasional "former student, 'Z', went to work for the Jensen car company and now owns his own engine-tuning business supplying power to half the teams in National Karting".

          I was surprised to find you can still get paper propspectuses posted to you, but their content is the same as the woeful online version (other than a lack of drone video and scrollable 360 degree views). Plenty of gloss and colour, testimonials, photographs of the student accommodation, sports facilities, the thirty three onsite cafes, restaurants, bars, swimming pools, gyms and burger vans, the vibrant city nightlife and lots of stock photos of models posing as happy, smiling students (there's no way those people are actual students) relaxing in the summer sun on a grassy bank outside the new Arts block with 1,000 seat theatre and subsidised performances by the local schools orchestra (leaving aside the fact that when there is summer sun in the UK it's likely either to be exam time or home-for-the-holidays time)...

          ...and if you are lucky, about four pages of dense type with a simple list of departments and courses. Possibly standard offers. No idea at all of anything special the particular university offers. You can go to do "History" at any one of a hundred different institutions, and unless they offer some kind of open day (open days this year are mostly 'online' and timed for just after the UCAS deadline) you are unlikely to learn that the senior lecturer at university 'A' was once chief archaeologist to the Queen, or that research carried out at university 'B' conclusively proved that William didn't conquer anything more than a pebbly beach in Dorset.

          Yes, offspring wants to know that the student flats are well looked-after, and that there are plenty of them, but after that some way of distinguishing between Developmental Psychology courses at universities 'C', 'D', 'E' and 'F' would be very welcome instead of reliance on teachers saying "we hear that university 'H' is best for History after Oxbridge but we don't know why Oxbridge is still thought of as the best given that the Grauniad rates Suffolk as the best in the country". (no, really, Suffolk - a university I'd never heard of - is apparently the best in the country for History according to the Grauniad. Or maybe it was the Torygraph. Or perhaps the Stun.

          We're doomed.

          1. Stoneshop

            Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

            and lots of stock photos of models posing as happy, smiling students (there's no way those people are actual students)

            A decade or so back The Inquirer had taken to spotting one particular young woman who appeared to have been enrolled in at least a dozen universities at once, while doing promotion for at least another dozen or so, and also for numerous commercial companies. They tried to get her a Wackypedia page as "Everywhere Girl", but it was deleted as being for someone not famous enough.

            Her German counterpart is 'Emma' who is (or was; I rarely see her any more) holding oodles of jobs as helpdesk telephone operator. Probably got replaced by AI[0] chatbots.

            [0] Absurdly Inane.

            1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

              Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

              The TeamViewer website had this image a while back before that had a makeover...


              One of the commentards here (@Michael Strorm) identified her as "Rebecca (AKA 'Ariana') Givens"...


              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

                Wow, she got around a bit..

                ( preferred this image of her from that link )

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

            "given that the Grauniad rates Suffolk as the best in the country"

            So is that Norfolk or Sussex?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?


              They're a bit desperate for students...

              (yeah, 4th, not 1st)

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

                I think even for the Grauniad that would be a bit too much of a misprint.

            2. ashdav

              So is that Norfolk or Sussex?Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

              You're not in the UK are you.

        2. Tim99 Silver badge

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

 replace my trusty, now ageing, Pixma TS6150. Which does all I need...
          Good luck with that. I've been trying to replace an MX516, which was a distress purchase after my previous 10 year old Canon failed three days before I was moving house nearly 10 years ago. It seems to be almost impossible to avoid buying a multifunction that doesn't want you to install hundreds of MBs of software and "help you" print over the internet.

          I'm retired, so I am wondering if I can manage without one when this one packs up. I thought that my main use would be to scan the occasional document, but I have discovered that my iPhone makes a reasonable job except for the paper not being flat (laying a sheet of glass over it fixes that). For the 4 pages or so that I print every couple of months, a USB stick and the local library and will probably do...

          1. Nifty Silver badge

            Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

            Install the scanner Pro app. You can take a photo of a page at an angle and the software converts it into a correct rectangle for saving to your cloud drive or locally as PDF, job etc. Can also make multi page PDFs.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          "Even the dratted "help" pages give no guidance."

          The best tactic when buying anything even vaguely technical is to find out if you can download the user manuals. Eliminate those that don't from consideration. The rest should give you some guidance as to what they can do. Remember that if something you'd expect the product to do isn't mentioned in the manual assume it can't actually do it.

          1. the Jim bloke

            Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

            Make sure its the manufacturer that is providing the user manuals.

            3rd party providers of manuals just seem to be fronts for malware slingers..

        4. veti Silver badge

          Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

          "It looks like you may be thinking about buying ink refills from a third party. Have you thought about just f***ing off and not wasting our time, you deadbeat?"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

      I'm not sure if it because I'm getting a bit older or that UI design has gone backwards so fast that any education on that front is apparently now again chiseled into stone tablets, but I must confess I have frequently felt the urge to help whoever designed the layout and flow of some websites with making their next enema a lot easier, mainly with the help of a cactus.

      Is it really so hard to use your own website for a bit on a low throughput connection to see if the flow is sensible, people can back off and/or restart and you haven't added so much crap that even a 2GB circuit has trouble coping with the flow?

      To be honest, what astonishes me most is that these people get repeat work. I'd stick them in a padded cell and make them read War and Peace.

      Via a 300 baud modem on wet string, a telex and no flow control.

      1. Coastal cutie
        Thumb Up

        Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

        Upvote for the cactus, even though it did make me shower the keyboard with Diet Coke (other beverages are available)

      2. skeptical i

        Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

        "If it won't load within a minute on dial-up, it's too big."

        "If your Aunt Minnie can not find what she's looking for, your navigation is too complicated."

        Just as true today as in my Web Design 101 class lo these many years ago. (The Aunt Minnie directive was more eloquently stated, but I can not recall the exact phrasing.)

        What should be done to these oh-so-clever web "designers" who can not resist the urge to add every single bit of javascript shiny to what should be a simple HTML page -->

      3. swm

        Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

        I manage a square dance website. I had many arguments with the officers of the federation who wanted "flashy and shiny". My ground rules are:

        1. No scripts

        2. Must be viewable over a low-speed link

        3. No fonts or preformatted text

        4. Minimal number of clicks to get to where you want

        5. etc.

        The website is for users not web designers.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: I manage a square dance website.

          Surely you want your visitors to go round in circles, backwards and forwards, ending up where they started (and with the correct partner)?

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

            Re: I manage a square dance website.

            .....then lead them back to the start & dozy D'OH! your site visitor!

      4. Stork Silver badge

        Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

        I leaned some web design over 20 years ago. The problem then was that far too many designers did their stuff on huge (21" monitors those days), tested locally, and were early 20es with perfect eyesight.

        This resulted in impressive stuff that decision makers wanted right away, order in!

        What we did then to simulate bandwith was to run static stuff from a floppy.

        It got more interesting around 2000, it was very difficult to explain the client that the design they had decided for, based on a PowerPoint presentation, could not be implemented to work for someone with a VGA and would be slow with a 14.4 modem (that was reality in parts of Africa and South America then)

    4. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

      Unless it's preceded by the words "I'm from the Government and"

      In that case you're not going to see your loved ones for a while (or ever again).

    5. styx-tdo

      Re: I am here to help. What can I do for you today?

      let me fix that for you:

      what can i do you for today?

  2. Sam not the Viking Silver badge


    "I'm addicted to collecting Beatles records."

    "You need help."

    "No. I've already got that one."

  3. Pen-y-gors

    Intelligent websites?

    You know you're getting autumnal when...

    You go to a certain website named after a big river and under 'top picks' it offers you Adult defibrilator pads. True.

    I prefer their other option (under clothing) of 'women's bottoms'

    1. Rufus McDufus

      Re: Intelligent websites?

      Just a few minutes ago on the same site I got a recommendation for nail clippers with attached magnifying glass for the elderly.

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Intelligent websites?

      Before I learning the art of installing uBlock in my browser, a login in the facebork (shut up hissing at the back there) would reveal all sorts of ads from electric guitars, various sports bikes/cars and such.

      However as my age went past 50 (yeah I'm old and grumpy now damnit git orf ma grass!), the ads changed to retirement homes, pay for your funeral now and incontience pants ads.

      Needless to say my high speed all action lifestyle does'nt need any of the above and ublock was duely installed after it showed a bike rider wearing harley davidison incontience pants.....(which kinda sums up harley owners in the first place some might say)

      Anyway.. must go... time for my shout at the gas supply people "Your call is important to us, please wait another 40 mins...." "If my call was important to you , you'd answer it straight away damnit!" <throws phone across the room>

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge


      2. Chris G

        Re: Intelligent websites?

        An upvote for the Harley remark.

        Although I do have a couple of friends who in spite of riding agricultural implements on the roads and calling it sport, are nice people.

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Intelligent websites?

        It's the "we're experiencing unusually high volumes of call at the moment" that puts me in phone throwing mood. As in, it's in the middle of the morning, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the month. If you can't handle the call volume now you never* can you lying bastards.

        *And yes, you do always get that message- any time, in any day in any week.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Intelligent websites?

          That's because they use CCaaS (Call centre as a Service). It works just like on-demand cloud computing. They only pay for the level of service they need at any one time. And they cheap out and only buy not quite enough to service the volume of calls, no matter the volume. If you are No. 1 in the queue, it can still take 10 minutes to get through because they had no operative on the clock. Your call is "unexpected" and the system has to hold an auction amongst the call centre suppliers to find the cheapest available operative, hence the "unexpected call volume" :-)

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Intelligent websites?

            Thanks, I didn't know that. Interesting.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Intelligent websites?

              Neither did I until I made it up :-)

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: Intelligent websites?

                Sounded right though.

              2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

                Re: Intelligent websites?

                Pretty sure it is a "thing" (CCaaS). That's how I believe the robocallers do their thing...hire a cheap call center in India/Pakistan (from "Bob's" accent) and one center services several businesses; they just use whatever script the computer pops up...

                I once had one of the call center employees start off on a different script ("lower your credit card interest rate") than the original call ("your car warranty is about to expire")!

      4. PRR Bronze badge

        Re: Intelligent websites?

        > a bike rider wearing harley davidison incontience pants.....

        A quality pee-pant could be useful here. However I believe you completely missed the point of that ad(*).

        AFAICT, Harley sells the "water proof pants" for riding in the rain. Not the "water proof pants" for your personal golden shower.

        (*) Of course if you miss the point of an ad, the ad buyer has totally screwed-up.

      5. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: time for my shout at the gas supply people...

        Trying to book our annual gas service a couple of weeks back, they gave Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday as possible days. None of those was convenient for me, so asked for the next date - expecting Thursday. Next date was halfway through January 2022.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: Next date was halfway through January 2022.

          So I waited from November through to the Date-In-The-Diary: the B's cancelled on the morning of the appointment and I had to wait till today - nearly a week later - before they came. The one thing I stipulated that needed to be done he couldn't ("I'm a contractor and I only do services"), so I had to moan at them again. To their credit I did squeeze some compensation out of them for the missed appointment, and the BG engineer that turned up promptly the same day was top notch.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Intelligent websites?

      I bought some cartridges for a Brother printer a few weeks ago. It's now offering me more cartridges for a different Brother printer. The web site seems a bit too busy at the moment what with it being "holiday" peak buying season but it often tries to greet me by name, at least I think it's trying to but the name field is empty.

  4. Grouchy Bloke

    How about Toast?

    Are you sure you wouldn't like any Toast?

    1. MrReynolds2U

      Re: How about Toast?

      this deserves more than 1 upvote, so have a pint on me, too :)

    2. theOtherJT Silver badge

      Re: How about Toast?

      My question is this: Given that God is infinite, and that the universe is also infinite...... would you like a toasted teacake?"

      1. SuperGeek

        Re: How about Toast?

        "would you like a toasted teacake?"

        Or if you live in Yorkshire, their own breed of golden bread known as a "terst"ed teacake!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: How about Toast?

          Or if you live in Yorkshire, their own breed of golden bread known as a "terst"ed teacake!

          You seem to be offering a southerner's pronunciation. Would you like any help with that?

    3. My-Handle

      Re: How about Toast?

      I don't even need to click that link to know exactly what it is. I'm already hearing the voices.

      Having a mother who taped or bought those episodes pretty much as soon as they were available ensured that I got an extremely thorough exposure to them all the way through my childhood.

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: How about Toast?

        So, do you regularly thank your Mother for your wonderful education?!?

        1. Steve K

          Re: How about Toast?

          Or raise a toast to her?

          1. My-Handle

            Re: How about Toast?

            I once threatened to build a version of Talkie Toaster for her. Does that count?

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Having failed to find any appropriate options on the website you try phoning only to be told by recorded message, after finding no useful options on the ACD, that it might be quicker to go to the website.

    I can only assume that every CEO has a nephew who's good at games on a console and therefore knows so much about computers that they can be put in charge of the company's entire IT operation.

    1. VonDutch

      I absolutely detest being on hold and the messages telling me it might be quicker to go to the website. Particularly when the website has told me I can't do what I need to do online and I need to call.

      Believe me, if I could complete what I need to do without picking up the phone I'd have done it already and it's just rubbing it in.

      1. Franco

        Particularly when it's an ISP telling you that and the reason you are calling is that you have no internet access.

        Had it with Vue yesterday, 35 minutes on hold with them spamming me about new films and telling me I can cancel bookings online, except I can't when there is no booking there but their website has charged me anyway.

      2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: I absolutely detest being on hold

        I needed to ring a bank the other other week. One of the suggestions was to press X on your keypad where I was assured my place would be held in the queue and they would ring me back when I got to the head of the queue.

        Being an eternal cynic on this type of thing I don't normally choose that option, but this time I did. Within seconds of me hanging up I got a call with a similar number to the one I'd dialled (flagged as Suspected Spam by my phone). I answered the call to find I was still in the queue at the position I was originally at. I suppose at least now they were paying for the call but... technology appears to be at breaking point.

    2. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

      I get dismayed by websites that don't help and by phone calls that persistently advise me "We are experiencing a very high number of calls at the moment". And/or "Your phone call is very important to us". Clearly it isn't because it's always the same clause.

      I am sure the CEO's, never, ever test their own system to see if it is customer-friendly.

      I once asked a bank to compensate me for my wasted time at the same rate they paid their chief of IT. They laughed, but I did get £100 which I donated to charity, via my bank account.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I am sure the CEO's, never, ever test their own system to see if it is customer-friendly."

        I am aware of at least one case where an executive tested their own system. Back in the early days of e-Commerce, one of the big tech stores in the US was launching a version of their website that would allow you to actually order a product online and get it shipped to your home. As the self-imposed deadline for go-live approached, the techies at the coal face protested that things weren't ready, and they needed more time to resolve issues. The powers that be decreed that the site looked good enough, and they went live as planned.

        Day one of the spiffy new site, a company bigwig ordered himself a brand new big screen TV from their site, and promptly got double-billed due to one of the unresolved bugs. Suddenly there was a willingness to roll back the site and wait until they got it correct.

      2. Medieval Research Council

        I am sure the CEO's, never, ever test their own system to see if it is customer-friendly.[

        I had a company chairman complain about our on-hold music, so he must have listened to it. Miles Davis bebop, noisy club, bootleg. I explained that I had had to put my own CDs in the phone switch and perhaps he could supply me with something he thought more suitable.

        Nothing arrived so Miles Davis it remained. Hmmm, did I reclaim that disc when the company fell as the bubble burst?

      3. skeptical i
        Thumb Up

        re: "I once asked a bank to compensate me for my wasted time .... They laughed, but I did get £100"

        Wait, you got anything at all besides a sardonic "yeh, right, pull my other finger" smile? (Even over the phone, you know they're doing this at you.) Will miracles never cease. Good on ya'!

        1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

          It was to do with paying in a cheque on-line. Having received an unsolicited message saying I could use their app but when it didn't work I got an error code saying to ring the helpline...... I was assured my call was very important to them. Three days later..... it transpired that because I was using an unexpected operating system (Android, latest version, at the time), no, I had to go into the high street bank, peak pandemic time. I was really unhappy, elevated the complaint and didn't let go without compensation. At least they didn't send me a cheque.....

  6. Winkypop Silver badge

    Why bother building a useful website

    When you can deploy a cheap bot?

    Management win again.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Why bother building a useful website

      Jesus wept. A management win again with an epic class fail? The world is/has gone mad.

      [Subsequently, after a slight ponder]

      That’s a world of sane opportunities to explore amongst the ranks of the totally unhinged and currently ignorant. The riches to be mined and/or plundered there are without compare and absolutely priceless ie worth all the Chi in China.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Why bother building a useful website

        "Jesus wept. A management win again with an epic class fail? The world is/has gone mad."

        It's a management "win" because query volumes both web and phone go down. That's a KPI win. It also mean they need fewer people to deal with the reduced volume. Another KPI win. Of course, they also get fewer orders, but that's only a single KPI loss against two KPI wins. Bonuses all around, then leave and repeat at another company, being careful not to glance in the rear view mirror, avoiding the sight of the smoking ruins.

  7. ColinPa

    HR Tool could be used as an anti- pattern - or how not to design a tool.

    We had a new corporate tool where you had to enter your achievements for the year. There was no save button, so I assumed this was (like gmail) an auto save. I spent a few hours entering my data, etc and clicked the close window button, and "send to manager".

    My manager came back saying it was empty.

    I did it again (another 3 hours) , and could see no save button. I used the pop up "do you need help" to ask where the save button was. They said it was on the bottom right of the screen - but only if you make it full screen! I made it full screen and there was the button. I was told "read the help for more information". I clicked the help button - and it was not very helpful... it didnt say "use full screen". I go back to my data entry page, and find it has been reset. Pressing help - wipes the page.

    I told my manager. A little while later he sent an email. "Create your feedback in a document. Then go into the tool and paste it. Then make your window wide enough - then save. Do not use any other features."

    I was given the email contact of the HR manager responsible for the tool, who said they had thoroughly tested it before deployment and yes, they would like feedback. I gave them over 100 points (eg what is the icon that looks like a dog - and why is there no hover text to tell me?, no I cant use Internet Explorer on Linux; why is there a picture of me at the top of the screen (non scrollable) I know what I look like, and it wastes valuable space). I said I thought the tool should be used in classes - for education. HR were pleased with this, till I said on how not to design a tool.

    1. Outski

      Re: HR Tool could be used as an anti- pattern - or how not to design a tool.

      Sounds a lot like a product that's recently been sponsoring Sky's F1 coverage. The firm I work for uses it as well. Not good.

    2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: HR Tool could be used as an anti- pattern - or how not to design a tool.

      They didn't mean that kind of feedback. They were looking for suggestions likr maybe the same light gray text but on a different shade of blue.

    3. DJSpuddyLizard

      Re: HR Tool could be used as an anti- pattern - or how not to design a tool.

      Well, I did a rewrite of an app at work, and the web interface was quite nice, if I may say so.

      After deployment and running for months, I had an occasion to visit a remote office where they used it.

      They all had 4:3 flat screen monitors years after anyone had stopped making them.

      Turns out the users thought I wanted them to have to keep scrolling left and right all the time to see the whole page....

      The managers had OKed everything, but never thought to mention the non-widescreen monitors in that office (with 50% of the users!)

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: HR Tool could be used as an anti- pattern - or how not to design a tool.

        You failed.

        Web interfaces must work at all reasonable aspect ratios.

        Half-your-screen is reasonable. As are portrait, landscape, and mobile.

        This is why most of the layout options must never be used.

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: HR Tool could be used as an anti- pattern - or how not to design a tool.

        On my widescreen, I usually size windows to approx 8:9, ie about half the screen

    4. Chris G

      Re: HR Tool could be used as an anti- pattern - or how not to design a tool.

      It seems there are a lot of tools in HR.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: HR Tool could be used as an anti- pattern - or how not to design a tool.

        But never the sharpest in the box.

  8. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    "Please enter a few details to confirm you account id ..."



    "Account number"

    clack click tap


    Clickety clack tap

    "First dog's inside leg measurement"

    ffs ... paper rustles ... Aha, the sheet cunning disguised with the heading "memorable data" ... click click click

    "Weight of left testicle"

    click ... at least I remembered that one ...

    Thankyou Mr Person. We will pass you to the webchat operator

    <time passes>

    "Hello. Can I have your name please"

    clickety click

    "Account number"

    Clickety click


    Where's the "bloody off" button?

  9. Andy Non Silver badge

    Shell energy

    I changed to a new email address for dealing with such entities and had no problem updating most websites as they have a feature for that purpose. Not Shell energy. I clicked the link that would allow you to update your details, except it didn't include email address. Tried their AI bot, which directed me to the part of the website that didn't include any means of updating my email address. Phoned their customer services number where I joined a queue at position 98. An hour later after being lobotomised by inane muzak and "your call is important to us" crap I'd got down to 7 in the queue at which point the line dropped. No contact form or email address on their website. Had to google search to find one. Sent them an email and they replied suggesting I update my email address via their website, which I'd already discovered didn't have such a feature anyway. Grrr. Sent them a snotty email back and they updated the email address for me at their end. So much faffing about to do a trivial thing.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Shell energy

      "So much faffing about to do a trivial thing."

      It was probably a key field for them with all sorts of other data linked to it. It should have been trivial but bad system design made it not so.

      1. usbac Silver badge

        Re: Shell energy

        At my previous job, we had some planning meetings for the design of our new e-commerce website. It was decided that email address would be a "primary key" for the customer part of the database.

        I raise my hand and ask "what happens if the customer changes their email address?". At his point I get a room full of blank stairs. Then someone asks why a customer would do such an unthinkable thing. I answered "changed jobs and used a company email address, changed ISP, changed cell phone carrier, changed from to gmail, etc." Still more blank stares.

        The idiots went ahead and used email address as a primary key anyway. Then later came to me when the first users asking to change their email address started calling in. Management wanted to me to magically fix the issue with some program code. I told them that I brought it up during the design phase, and was overruled, so no there is no fix.

        I'm glad I'm out of there. The new company is much more professional about the design process.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Shell energy

          "I'm glad I'm out of there. The new company is much more professional about the design process."

          I hope that's a non sequitur.

  10. NotArghGeeCee

    The Two Ronnies called...

    ...they would like their Mastermind sketch back please

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: The Two Ronnies called...

      Bang to rights.

  11. Barry Rueger

    HSBC France

    Dear god. Nothing compares. NOTHING.

    I will in general state that I have never found a chat bot anywhere that actually accomplished anything useful. And with HSBC, phone drones that were even less useful.

    Believe me children, but there was a time when you could telephone any company, have the phone answered by a human - IN THE SAME COUNTRY AS YOU - and solve 95% of problems in four of five minutes.

    I now routinely spend five times that long on hold.

    And wind up despising the company, which does honestly cost them in terms of business, and customer loyalty.

    1. Dr_N

      Re: HSBC France

      Using a non-French bank for banking in France? Very brave. I guess the charges you pay will help fund that £64million fine though.

      1. Barry Rueger

        Re: HSBC France

        HSBC France us very French. HSBC in general us just incompetent.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: HSBC France

          So, HSBC France is both incompetent AND French. You're dooooooomed!

    2. JimC

      Despising the company/customer loyalty

      I think that's the key. In the age of comparison web pages etc many companies place little value on customer loyalty, other than by hoping that time poor and vulnerable customers won't notice that they are paying a premium for nothing.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Despising the company/customer loyalty

        This is CEO-grade stupidity. Properly thought though, customer churn is an opportunity to win customers. Banks, telecoms, whatever all assume they'll gain as much as they lose on churn so don't care enough about those they lose. If one was to invest in customer services they'd lose less and pick up the churn from their competitors for a net gain.

        Where does the money for improvement come from? Easy - cut the marketing budget. In fact stopping pissing off existing customers with marketing spam is a customer service win in itself.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Despising the company/customer loyalty

          I'm kind of guessing that there are targets for gaining new punters, so these are heavily pursued. That's the marketing dept's fishing pond. But not so much, if at all, for retaining them. That's customer support and is a cost centre.

          It would fit with my experience of Virgin. I'm on a rolling month-by-month ISP/Landline/TV package. 200Mb.

          I'd like the faster 1Gb internet of their new packages. They'd like me on a contract. But not enough to offer me a package anything like as good as they offer new customers. Currently I'm still with them because I've not found anything I like better and they've not pissed me off enough for me to jump ship. Yet. because I am pretty pissed off with that attitude.

          And I've always been pretty happy with VM- my service has been full speed and mostly reliable. But the attitude- and the way they try to confuse matters with bullshit promises and complicated packages that make VFM impossible to determine does really annoy me. They used to be OK with customer service. Until they were bought by Global or whatever they're called. Now their attitude is like that of a vampire to a blood transfusion centre.

          1. Dog11

            Re: Despising the company/customer loyalty

            Ah, Virgin has adopted the American way. Our big vendors of consumer services (in this arena, ATT, Verizon, Comcast, CenturyLink or whatever name they're going by this week, etc.) are pretty much all like that. Your only hope is to find a small company that has not yet achieved monopoly or arrogance.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: HSBC France

      And wind up despising the company, which does honestly cost them in terms of business, and customer loyalty.

      But what if all banks are all the same...? Where are you going to then? Eh?

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: HSBC France

        This seems to be a universal issue. Company A is the worst in the world, until you try B so you go to C.....and so on until back to A.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HSBC France

          "and so on until back to A"

          Echoing the words of prophecy "... which brings us back to D'oh!".

          All those years ago the pieces of the jigsaw were being laid out for us and only now - too late - do we see how they fit together and show that the world is governed by an unholy alliance of The Sound Of Music and The Simpsons.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Mobile Phone Companies....

        No matter for what reason you have to contact them you immediately get an email or text asking "based solely on your recent contact with us, how likely are you to recommend/use us as a supplier" type thing.

        You wanna know something? It takes a lot more than one fecking contact with you to make me decide something, maybe, just maybe, reliability of network, coverage, price, corporate attitude, etc., might just come into it. And the fact you just spammed me almost certainly counts against you.

        1. My-Handle

          Re: Mobile Phone Companies....

          The only time I ever filled in one of those forms was when I went to my server hosting provider's website for support. I used one of their widgets to request a support call. In all fairness I got a call within 5 minutes, but the phone rang exactly once and then stopped. When I tried to ring back, I got sent into a bloody IVR system with no relevant options.

          Then they sent me an email asking me to rate the support I'd received.

          My feedback started: "There's a critical assumption in that question that you may need to revise". I only got more sarcastic from there.

        2. A K Stiles

          Re: Mobile Phone Companies....

          Those "Please rate your recent experience on a scale of 1(bad juju) to N(blessed by a holy being)". Actually the interaction was straightforward and my relatively basic question/request was handled efficiently and appropriately, so I give it a rating of n-1 - perfectly adequate but it's not like you've just given me the winning lottery numbers (or a discount for future business etc.).

          Next question: "We're sorry our performance was so poor, please explain below what the problem was with our service". The service was fine, your bloody survey is ridiculous and the scale doesn't match your expectations!

    4. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: HSBC France

      "I have never found a chat bot anywhere that actually accomplished anything useful."

      The chat bot is sometimes the only way to get the customer service number. My primary interaction with the chat bot is not to get help from it, but to get it to admit it cannot help me. Then we can start making progress.

      When (if) you get someone on the line and they advise you to use the web page, you can point out "been there" and the chat bot sent you here. At which point they sigh and start doing something useful.

      As for wasted time, El Reg is always good for a laugh, even while on hold.

      1. Adrian 4

        Re: HSBC France

        For the same reason, I always avoid pressing any buttons or make any voice response. In most cases, this is the quickest way to get a near-human operator. In a few cases, it just leads to an indefinite loop.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: HSBC France

          "I always avoid pressing any buttons or make any voice response. In most cases, this is the quickest way to get a near-human operator"

          And in other cases, the person who picks up listen to your problem and then tells you they can't pass you to the relevant department and tells you to call again, this time choosing from the phone jail menu options.

  12. Franco

    It's less common these days, but the 2 largest OEMs in the computer world (I think you can probably work out who they are) used to popup fedback surveys as soon as you landed on their pages, before you'd even had a chance to look for what you wanted (usually device drives in my case at the time). This used to really get on my nerves, sure fire guarantee of a terrible website if you are being asked to rate it before you've used it.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      In the last couple of weeks I've stopped in three different UK hotels, two of them twice (it's complicated...). Each of them - three different groups - sent me a 'how did you enjoy your stay' email before I even got there...

      1. Franco

        I've had this on ebay in the past. Sellers begging for feedback (PLEASE leave me feedback as I have done for you type messages) before the item has even shipped never mind arrived. One time the item arrived after 2 of these emails and was broken, so the seller got it with both barrels

        I think the only thing that annoys me more is "we saw you on our wesbite, do you still want to buy these items" type emails, with the obvious answer being "if I wanted them I would have bought them but someone else is cheaper"

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          I stopped doing ebay feedback except to give negative responses to these spam being negative customer service and sometimes the spam would arrive after I'd given a positive response.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I often get this survery spam via email after interacting with a vendor.

      I have two template responses for survey emails.

      One sends them a request for a billing address. Given that they didn't provide products/services for free, I don't see why I should give my time and opinion time for free either.

      Another one notes that the use for surveys was not explicitly stated during the collection of my personal details and this email is thus a violation of GDPR or DPA, whichever applies and I request the details of their privacy controller to file a compliant. They never do, which is what I want because then I can send it on to the relevant regulator - and they DO act (except when in Ireland, but I'm guessing that's not news to anyone on this site).

      Unwanted surveys are spam. Simple. If you want to know if you're doing a reasonable job you should have started by leaving a normal, human route open to complain.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "sure fire guarantee of a terrible website if you are being asked to rate it before you've used it."

      True, but they discovered they got better ratings that way.

    4. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Ah! I know an outsourcing service company who sends feedback surveys if and only if the ticket was closed successfully and on time. If one of these two conditions isn't met, no survey. It's a great way to get positive feedbacks, which is one of the metrics used to evaluate them.

  13. AndrueC Silver badge

    Applying the latest update to my Toyota sat nav (currently free, but I doubt I'll pay for any more) reminds me just how shite some sites can be. First-off at the top of the page is a socking great image that conveys no information and takes up more space than my laptop screen (and I have a 17" screen). The entire process of getting your update is awful. At no point does it actually tell you how to download the update. You have to spot the download link on the order confirmation page. You also have to copy the ridiculously long license code while you're there. Both are actually available from your order history but neither is well messaged at time of purchase.

    The best bit though is the invoice you get emailed to you. Even though I'm currently in the free subscription purchase I still get an invoice for £0 and £0 VAT.

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge

      Hear, hear!

      Toyota just doesn't get it. They're making things deliberately this hard so that people would opt for a service call. For several years they peddled their own Toyota app store accessible from the in-car-entertainment system and was about as empty ASDA toilet paper shelves during the covid panic last year. There was perhaps 5 apps in total.

      A year or two ago they've at least made map OTA updates possible for the latest models - only if first you update the 23GB (kid you not) software package into the car entertaintment system in a multihour session with several nerve-wracking reboots. Finally you gained Android Auto and iPhone Carplay - after about five years all other cars had them. (except Tesla and Lada)

      The maps cost more than a Tomtom unit, so I'm not going to pay a penny for Toyota once the 3-year free subscription ends, and besides there's the aforementioned Android/iPhone avenue for satnav anyway.

      With something like a Skoda you just remove the SD card from its reader in the top of the glove box, unzip latest map zip file from their website into it and insert it back in the car. Job done.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Never actually done the update in our Berlingo, but the manual states it could take between one and three hours (files on USB stick in console) and that because the stupid car has a hard-off on everything electrical after 20 minutes with the engine off, the only way to complete the update is to leave the engine running. I am not wasting that amount of Diesel for anyone, and it's not even as if it'd be possible to do it while driving - I don't drive anywhere that takes three hours, and so I'd have to find somewhere secure at the other end to leave the car idling while the update completes.

        The 20 minute thing is dire. In the Dacia or the Renaults we used to have, hanging around for child to finish a music lesson wasn't a problem. After 15 or 20 minutes the radio beeped, quick press on the power button and you get another 15 or 20 minutes.

        In the Berlingo, at 20 minutes it switches off. As does the internal light, so you can't even read a book, as do all the "accessory" sockets so you can't even power something independent. You can switch it back on again, but it says "power save" and goes off as soon as it's booted.

        If you drive around the block for five minutes and park up again, you get five minutes, then it switches off again. There's a socking great battery under the bonnet and the car regularly does long trips and the battery is always well charged. It should power the radio and internal light approximately until the End of Civilisation, so why the 20 minute hard limit?


        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          The full map update takes an hour and a quarter for Toyota but if you only opt for the UK maps (available over the air for later versions) it's quicker. But it's a ridiculously tortuous process via their website and does nothing to encourage me to start paying from next year. Quite the opposite.

          We can also edit our maps because they use Here maps but I've yet to see any major benefits to that.

        2. whileI'mhere

          Had similar issue with a Volvo map update. But it does carry on where it left off when you turned the engine off, so over a few journeys it was finally done. As you've never done it, are you certain yours will start from the beginning again every time the engine is started again?

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Nope, not certain, but I'm not sure I can be bothered to find out. It's my wife's car and although she does use the map, it's not often. I try not to use it when I'm driving as I've found the navigation to be worse than useless (i.e. positively dangerous as I've recounted somewhere around here recently) and I don't think there have ever been any updates offered for the actual operating system of the thing, so it would only be maps. Oh, and if it does work like that then I presume it means having to use a different USB stick to the one which is normally present and filled with hundreds of Radio 4 shows.

            I think the Berlingo has free updates for a few months more, so perhaps I should do it before that period ends.

            Never tried updating the maps in the Dacia either, but that car has never had free updates and as I won't use navigation in that car either, I'm not sure it's worth the money.


        3. Andy A

          If it is any consolation, it is not just the Berlingo. The facelift C5 I had behaved identically. My earlier C5 worked perfectly. There was even a 12V socket which was not switched. Once they abandoned the good suspension, they threw common sense out.

          It was probably forced upon them by their PSA manglement,

      2. Andy A

        Toyota have decided that several features which were installed when new, such as heated seats and use of the features on the key fob, were not purchased, but rented, and that the first 3 years were given away as a special introductory offer,

        The car literally phones home, and if you have not paid your subs, tough.

        You could well find them deciding that a working engine, or brakes, was an "optional extra".

        It is the logical step in "everything as a service".

        All your base are belong to us.

      3. Bogbody

        Scatty Nav on Astra K

        You can download and install a scatty nav map for free! Wow!

        A 2016 GM/Vauxhall/PSA Astra K --- no new maps available, latest is dated 2017 and is several years out of date. They charge about £80/£90 for an out of date update.

        No firmware updates for the radio, Android Auto works at the moment - until the next feature rich AA update I suspect.

        On SWMBO Fiesta - grand! FOC update (currently free).

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        $20 used Garmin with "stick to windscreen" mount and lifetime map updates from eBay.


        Auto manufacturer nav systems are a mug's game.

  14. newspuppy


    This browser plug in would connect each AI chatbot hell system with another companies hell system.. Allowing user entertainment at least as the two overly hellfull systems compete with each other....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I once got so fed up with advertising spam from a supermarket chain that I logged in to my account and changed my email address to that of their help desk.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge


        Only eight out of ten, I'm afraid. You should have looked up their CEO's email address instead. There's a useful website for that.

  15. DJV Silver badge

    I'm not so old that I can't scroll downwards without assistance

    Some people can't!

    I was once in an office where another member of staff (let's call him Colin, for that was his name and this isn't a Who Me?) was trying to explain to a customer on the phone how to scroll down a long drop-down menu list in order to view the items that were off the bottom of it. Colin was the utmost in polite helpfulness, which didn't disguise the fact that the person on the other end of the phone line was someone who obviously had problems with computers (and possibly thinking and breathing at the same time). I was in stitches laughing by the time (many minutes later) Colin had finally got the customer to realise what those bars were for on the right of the screen or drop-down menu and how to move them - maybe he'd previously thought they were just random decoration or something. What Colin said AFTER the customer had finally got a clue and was off the phone was far less polite!

    1. JassMan

      Re: I'm not so old that I can't scroll downwards without assistance

      Admittedly it has only happened to me a few times when I had a Netpad (1024x768 screen), but I have fallen into websites obviously designed by someone sitting in front of an Apple Retina screen and thinks every one should have one. They have massive amounts of whitespace at the top and left and NO SCROLL BARS which makes them generally useless, until you discover that at least tabbing from field to field helps get around the screen. I once came across one which had so much blurb that you couldn't read it as it immediately scrolled to the bottom of the page to the "Save" button. God knows what you couldn't fill in in the middle because they had somehow also disabled the normal tab action.

      I am just waiting for the day a website defeats my 2560x1440 screen which I know is chicken feed to those Apple screens with their 6016x3384.

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: I'm not so old that I can't scroll downwards without assistance

        NO SCROLL BARS which makes them generally useless,

        Someone authorative in the W10 UI design team at Microsoft has apparently taken offence with scroll bars, and decreed that they should be hidden unless hovering over the three nanopixel wide area where one might expect to find them. Or the two nanopixel wide area quite somewhere else without any visual reference that this might be such an scrollbar-revealing area. Where the scrollbar as revealed doesn't offer any indication of the currently displayed area vis-a-vis the entire length of the available lack of information.

        Although there appears to be a setting, even accessible via the control panel instead of one that you have to fiddle the registry for, keeping the scrollbars visible. If the fscking program you're running honours that setting of course.

        I fear that rectally applying my work laptop to that W10 UI designer would be frowned upon. In which case I'll gladly substitute a 4U rackmount Itanic for it, even though that one doesn't run Windows.

        1. Andy A

          Re: I'm not so old that I can't scroll downwards without assistance

          ,,, and when the scrollbar DOES appear, it has horrible contrast, such as Dark Grey on a Slightly Darker Grey background, with a Slightly Lighter Grey marker.

          By the time you have realised that this magical item has appeared unexpectedly from nowhere, it has faded from view, even though your mouse cursor was hovering over it.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: I'm not so old that I can't scroll downwards without assistance

            This is merely the follow on from the charmless "charms" in Win 8. Key controls concealed somewhere near the corner of the screen so that you had limited chance of finding the damned things when you needed them ( a little game of "Hunt the Thimble" anyone?) But would pop into sight at the wrong moment if you happened to make an incautious movement with the mouse.

        2. DJSpuddyLizard

          Re: I'm not so old that I can't scroll downwards without assistance

          Wait, you're not enraptured with joy by "discoverable" interfaces?

        3. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: I'm not so old that I can't scroll downwards without assistance

          It's part of the ongoing Apple-isation of Windows.

          macOS has long had scrollbars that vanish when not scrolling. I presume it's to "encourage" you to buy a Magic Mouse or touchpad.

      2. deep_enigma

        Re: I'm not so old that I can't scroll downwards without assistance

        One of the first things I do on the increasingly rare occasions I have a completely new browser install is to go into about:config and turn off the ability for a web page to disable the title bar, menu bar, address bar, scroll bars, etc. These are UI elements that belong to the browser and the page has no business monkeying with them.

  16. JClouseau


    Vous me devez un nouveau keyboard, M. Dabbs.

    But I guess just a fishing license should do as well.

    Happy Holidays to this (mostly) fine community !

  17. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    ta for that...

    I can't believe that no-one has yet complimented Alistair on his wonderful off-by-one conversation. Bloody marvellous, I thought.

    1. Dante Alighieri
      Big Brother

      Re: ta for that...

      Messrs Barker and Corbett have already had a hat tip above.

      If you've never seen it, you really should look up the Mastermind sketch

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did you subscribe to their newsletter? Did you allow all cookies, or review your settings then manually untick everything and confirm your choices?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just keep saying "I need to speak to a human being" to the phone versions of the chat bots until they give up and send me to customer service...

    If I need to call in for help, it is because I'm dealing with an abnormal situation and I know bloody well the chatbot can't deal with anything that isn't bog-standard.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      You're in luck if it can deal with anything that is.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      I know bloody well the chatbot can't deal with anything that isn't bog-standard. Or that some dickhead in a marketing department thought that the users ought to want to know about.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "If I need to call in for help, it is because I'm dealing with an abnormal situation and I know bloody well the chatbot can't deal with anything that isn't bog-standard."

      That's exactly the problem I've had with every chatbot. They are a long winded was of presenting a FAQ. Most people with a problem could solve it faster by reading a well formed FAQ document. The chatbot can't handle anything more complex and is effectively redundant other than..."oooh shiny, everyone else has one, we must have one too"

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        well formed FAQ document

        Unfortunately, most FAQ web pages seem to be written before the item was even sold. Answering questions no one ever asked and with answers that are either blindingly obvious or too convoluted to help, missing the key issue in verbiage written to promote the item

        Your ABC Super Widgit comes with advance de-grommiting controls in the anterior apex to help deswazzelise the vertigial mond-switcher

        Yeah but that still doesn't explain how to find the manual "on" switch if the remote isn't working.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: well formed FAQ document

          This is true, but if there are any Qs that are FA, then the correct response is to change the product so that they aren't, not to arrange the answers in a pretty document.

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: if there are any Qs that are FA

            KH: Your comment stopped me dead in my tracks.

            So blindingly obvious, and yet FAQ's are everywhere, signifying abject failure to help people to navigate their site.

            A more humble approach to FAQ's would be to replace it with a "Pending Suggestions for Improving Our Site"

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: if there are any Qs that are FA

              A proper FAQ, well done and based on the real world is useful because people are people and will always be people. Some smarter than the average bear, others dumber than a box of frogs. Or maybe they just lost the manual, or it's a complex product with a large manual so a quick summary, ie a FAQ is useful for many.

              But, as mentioned above, FAQs are often created based on what the suppliers think might happen, not what actually happens.

  20. Gene Cash Silver badge

    AT&T disconnected my phone service to try to sell me a new phone

    I had a problem where my calls would get routed to AT&T customer support, but rebooting the phone fixed it, until one day recently when that didn't work, and no one could call me.

    "You have been rerouted to customer service because your phone has been determined to be incompatible with AT&T's new 5G service, coming in February. Please hold for a representative."

    So I waited on hold to speak with someone. I was rather steaming because I was trying to dial into a meeting to fix someone's computer issues.

    The guy started off repeating that my phone was incompatible with 5G, then went into "would you like to purchase a new compatible phone..."

    I said "wait, you disconnected my service to try to SELL ME A NEW PHONE? SERIOUSLY?" and continued with my opinion of his customer service, and possibly his genetic heritage, and his mother's service to the local army battalion.

    He made some clicky-click noises and informed me that my phone service had been restored.

    And yes, I filed an FCC complaint. The "President's office" has emailed me to call them. I replied that I have no interest in calling and speaking off the record. If they have a statement or questions, they can email me. I've also switched to T-Mobile, for whatever slight good that might do.

  21. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Mme Dabbs...

    Has she cheered up?

    Is she getting enough... sunlight during these winter months? Only another week to go, then the days will get longer.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Mme Dabbs...

      We live by the Mediterranean coast. You wouldn't believe how much sunlight we're catching up on.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Mme Dabbs...

        Must be better than around here. I have some batteries running a pump for my rainwater system. I have 4x30W solar panels on the shed roof which will produce 50W easily even at this time of year, if they get some direct sunlight, and the thing hasn't had a power-related outage since I installed it.

        The batteries haven't had any serious amount of charge for eight days straight - it has been overcast for that long - and we've been running on bypass for five days now.

        Finally finished installing my solar hot water tubes last week. They had about 2 hours of sunshine on one day, since when they can't get beyond about 30C which isn't enough to put any heat into our hot water cylinder.

        In the summer, we're self-sufficient.


        Personally I don't often miss the sun - I burn very easily and it hurts my eyes, especially when driving - but I'm beginning to miss it now that it's not helping reduce the bills!


        1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

          Re: Mme Dabbs...

          I've just had an EPC done, and got a B with 90 points. An A comes in at 92 points, but it'll cost me in excess of £5k to get the solar water heating system I need to get those extra 2 points!

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Mme Dabbs...

            In my case I plumped for solar water instead of solar PV because I simply don't have the roof space to make PV viable and I didn't have the budget for PV anyway. 50 tubes and associated control and pumping equipment was considerably less than £5k (about half?), though that doesn't include the cost of the cylinder as I installed a rather complex bespoke cylinder rather than a "normal" one with an extra coil for solar.

            Thermal lost me a few EPC points because it can't be counted all year around*, though I still made B87 which got me a discount off the mortgage. Adding PV - if I had been able to - would have taken me to an A and further discount off the mortgage.


            *PV overgenerating in the summer is counted as "stored in the grid" and then used in the winter when generation is low. Thermal isn't counted like this because it's impossible (domestically) to store heat for more than a couple of days.

      2. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: Mme Dabbs...

        I spent winter in Sicily a while back. The days aren't much longer, and the air temperature is low, but when the sun is up you can sit on a sunny terrace with a bar, wearing just a t-shirt and trousers. (Shorts would be possible, but you might shock the locals in their duvet jackets. I had my duvet jacket for when I wasn't in the sun.)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rang HMRC today to give them a scrupulous tax update on last year's pittance of savings interest. Thirty seconds of actual data exchange I guessed.

    Usual obstacle course of automated questions - plus many repeats of a long recording about using their web site instead of queueing.

    Finally a person answered - "Who are you, inside leg, etc" even though the automated preamble had apparently done all that same rigmarole. He asked what I wanted - and then he said "Can I just put you on hold". Twenty minutes of silence later I gave up waiting for him to finish whatever was more important than doing his job.

    By then I had logged into their web site using my old DVLA login - corrected my out of date email address plus the demand for some new verification words -- and fielded two different transient pass codes sent to text and email. It then took a while to guess which page and which link would allow me to enter some presumably common data about plebs' savings and Gift Aid.

    Finally ended up at the right place - with a pro forma generic 500 character blank text form. I carefully laid out the details of my ancillary tax ins/outs and hit "Send". It then asked me to confirm my input - by displaying my text without any of my carefully helpful formatting. Plenty of opportunity for error if that James Joyce-ian format has to be unpicked by someone to update my tax code.

    Oh - the pages have a little icon saying "Beta".

    In this IT age - why can't building societies send the interest data to HMRC - and why can't they correlate charities claiming Gift Aid against me?

  23. steviebuk Silver badge

    Fucking chat bots

    Annoy me. All the automated bollocks. They get a full load of my sailor language until they agree to put me through to a human.

    Having said that, I was semi polite to the Nespresso one the other day. Lucky I was as appeared it was actually a human :)

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