Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The End

This job was supposed to be a quick stop-gap solution while I looked for something with dignity that paid well and was ethical. It lasted about six months. Now I've got a better job. Yesterday was my last day.

I never did hear any sort of acknowledgement from supervisors that I was leaving. I emailed all the HR staff yesterday to make sure they were planning to send appropriate paperwork, and got a curt note that they would.

Over the course of the six months the job went from harrowing and miserable to just tiring. The first few months, with non-stop calls from customers who were all angry from being on hold, were about as bad a work experience as I've ever had. The last month or so, in which the pace has been relatively slow and a large percentage of the customers actually pleasant, has been pretty decent and occasionally almost fun.

But yesterday was my last day. My first call of the day was someone who had been transferred to me inappropriately and got angry when I explained that I couldn't help them without a paid subscription. In the middle of the day I got a call from someone whose computer was totally destroyed beyond help (not because of us; the damage was done before she first called us) and who then sobbed and wept and demanded that we pay for it; and my last call was an hour and a half long and at the end of it I had to explain to the caller that his problem was that his computer was badly damaged and there was nothing I could do about it.

I told one of my coworkers by chat that I was leaving. He seemed incredulous that anyone could want any other job.

Two last thoughts:

The company I worked for provides white-label tech support for other companies. They seem like a decent enough organization. The ISP they contracted with, however, does not. All my experiences have led me to believe that this company thoroughly despises its customers.

Some of my co-workers were themselves customers of this ISP, and said they think the company provides great value (mostly these are people with extremely, extremely fast internet connections, which I just don't see the need for). For my part, I went into this job thinking they were a terrible company to do business with, and I feel even more certain of that now.

And yet... many of my customers talked about how great this ISP was compared to their previous one (including most of the big players). Far more told me how awful 'we' were. Maybe once you account for the fact that folks who call are already having a problem, this evens out statistically. There is a significant percentage of people who are getting a good experience. But there's also a significant percentage of people who are being very badly failed by their ISP.

Also... this country is filled with interesting people. I talked to a lot of folks from all over the compass points, in just about every age, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Many of the people I talked to were delightful. Many, of course, were not delightful.

Some calls began with a long silence, followed by a guarded, suspicious, "WHO IS THIS?"... some calls began with a maniacal three-minute-long babble of everything the customer had to say, all in a rush. Some began with the sound of the customer cursing.

The job did not enhance my faith in humanity. It may have actually damaged it a bit.

I'm the sort of person who wants to treat everyone with dignity no matter what, because we're all one and we're all worthy of love. And I still believe that. And I had a lot of very sweet and pleasant customers. But a lot of my callers were so blinded by resentment, or so convinced they already knew everything they needed to know, or so intent on proving a stranger wrong, that they kept themselves from being able to get what they needed. A lot of people didn't seem interested in listening to advice. (Which sort of defies the point of paying for tech support). Some were suspicious and paranoid. Some seemed like they had an amazing amount of anger stored up. I feel bad for these folks, but I also feel bad for their loved ones, neighbors, and coworkers.

Anyhow, thanks for reading. May each of you do work that has some dignity and is for a good cause. Be cautious about viruses, back up your files, and be nice to strangers on the phone.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Too Many Questions

Me: "Ma'am, is this computer a wired or a wireless computer?"
Customer (all in a rush): "well, it does have wires but i don't know if they're wireless wires it's plugged in like the other computer and it has wires but i think it's a wireless wire, the computers are connected to each other you know? it's a wired wireless wired computer that's wireless but with a wire."
Me: "Um, okay. Do you know if it's a desktop or a laptop?"
Customer: "Well, it's a squarish sort of box, it's more like a desktop than a laptop but it's square, it's like a rectangle but with sort of even sized shapes and it's not too big or too small but it's sort of square."
Me: "...okay. Do you know if it's connected to a wire that's connected to your wireless router?"
Customer: "Oh I just don't know... do I have to answer all these questions?"


Customer: "Thanks for calling back on the land line. That little Obama phone wasn't cuttin' it."

Which Which

Me: "So we know that the laptop won't work wirelessly, because the desktop computer we're looking at, which is connected with an ethernet cable, isn't working."
Customer: "Well, yeah, I think the desktop computer won't work either."
Me: "So... there's another desktop pc?"
Customer: "No, just the one main computer."
Me: "Isn't the desktop the main computer?"
Customer: "Yes, I carry the laptop around from room to room."
Me: "So which one have we been working on all this time?  I thought it was the desktop."
Customer: "The laptop."
Me (biting tongue): "Well, let's take a look at the desktop then."
Customer: "This is the desktop."
Me: "The computer that we've been looking at: is it the desktop or the laptop."
Customer: "Yes, it is."
Me: "The desktop?"
Customer: "Yes, the laptop."


Me: "Can you open Internet Explorer for me?"
Customer: "What do you want me to do"?


Customer: "Can you spell support for me?"
Me: "sure, that's s-u-p-p-o-r-t".
Customer: "ok, i typed s-u-p-e-r-t".
Me: "that's s-u-p-p-o-r-t, actually."
Customer: "ok, i've got s-u-p-p-e-r-t, is that right?"


Sometimes a customer whose computer is already damaged beyond repair will call back just to vent.

Ticket notes tell me that this customer already cried on the phone extensively while talking to the last tech, who had to explain to her that her computer was completely inoperable due to viruses damaging her Windows installation. Then she called back again, to shout and sob at me.

The worst thing? Her scrabble game... she spent months on her score.
She sobbed "Oh, God... please help me. Why me? Why me?"

And then demanded that I make someone at my company pay for her computer.

Information Deficit

Me: "So, what's the issue that you're calling about?"
Customer: "I don't really know. My son was having trouble with his computer connecting to wifi, but he's not here today. He called Saturday and you told him he needed me to call to verify him on the account. So I called and I guess I verified it."
(I look at ticket... the customer has just purchased $98 worth of tech support, usually associated with virus removal).
"Do you know what's going wrong on that computer?"
Customer: "No, I'm just calling to verify the account."

Last Day

Today's my last day on the job.

I'm pretty happy about that.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Plugging It In

Customer quote (imagine shoutiness, and imagine that I've just politely explained how in order to check on wireless router settings we need a temporary wired connection):


(meek and polite attempt on my part to re-explain why this is necessary. And silently say to myself, why, yes, I think I do understand what wireless means.)


(at this time I'd like to point out, as a public service announcement of sorts, to any men who may not be aware of this.... that being asked to connect an inexpensive cable, is not equivalent to rape.)


Customer: "I've talked to Chad... and Fred... and Mary... and Jeff... and now YOU."


It can be hard to explain to a customer that, yes... it matters that the thing they're calling "an iPad" is actually an off-brand e-reader.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Customer: "What is this thing called... you know... the pluggy thingy?"


Me: "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but from what you're telling me it really sounds like the hard drive in your computer has failed, and that's why your computer won't start."

Customer: "Is this because of my modem?"


A lot of customers hang up.

Cellphones drop calls midway through important sentences. Modems that also handle phone connections fail while we're working on the internet connection, and so the call drops too. Or, sometimes, we reset the modem without checking to make sure the customer's on a different phone. Whoops. And sometimes our phones drop calls mysteriously- they're an elaborate software mishmosh of different programs that work together more or less and sometimes get erratic. Or we screw up transfers, so that customers get dropped that way.

But sometimes customers just hang up. Maybe they fixed it themselves; maybe they just got sick of being on the phone.

The customer I just didn't talk to, for instance, was on hold about 45 seconds, but hung up before the transfer could complete. I tried to call back and couldn't get through. So I don't know what she wanted.

I'll never know.

The Indirect Approach

Me: "Can I have you show me how you log into your email?"
Customer: "What, do you want me to turn off the computer?"

(a little later... while trying to help customer login to her Hotmail account online)

Customer: "See, it doesn't remember my password."
Me: "Okay, why don't you try typing in the last one that worked."
Customer: "Oh, I've never typed one in."
Me (stupefied): "'ve... never typed... in... your password?"
Customer: "No, I just ask them to reset it each time."


Customer: "I was going to try to remove the virus yesterday, but Hotmail told me it'd cost me $195, so I just took more Xanax and went to sleep instead."


Me: "Is this a Windows computer or a Mac computer?"
Customer: "It's a laptop."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bad Call

My last call of the day... a simple wireless network setup. I've done hundreds and hundreds of them.
I solved the immediate connectivity issue, and went to establish a remote connection, as I always do.

The customer ran our remote connection software. His screen went black. The mouse froze.
Nothing could unfreeze his computer. So he restarted it.

After restarting, no video, no display whatsoever. Not just after Windows loaded, but even before: no startup info, no BIOS info, no hardware check info. The screen stays black.

I had him check the monitor cable, turn the computer off, turn it back on. Nothing.
I had him leave the computer unplugged for several minutes, then retry. Nothing.

The thing is, software can't do that. The only thing that could completely hose video like this is a hardware problem: a bad video card, a bad motherboard... maybe bad RAM.

But the customer refused to believe that such a coincidence was even possible. And was understandably convinced that I broke his computer.

And, that's all. There's no real recommendation I can give. As it is I probably said too much: by suggesting that his video card might be to blame I stepped well outside my allowable scope of work. So not only is the customer angry... but there's a good chance I'll be scolded by my supervisor too.

Admitting It

Customer (a mom): "We did have a laptop, but my son broke it."
(in background, teenager voice: "I did not!")
Customer: "All right, all right, I broke it. I admit it... I threw it over my head and it smashed."


I was on the phone for twenty-four minutes trying to guide a customer through checking her internet connections. Finally she said something odd that led me to the truth: instead of connecting one end of the network cable to her wireless router, and the other end to her laptop... she connected one end to her laptop, and the other end to her desktop PC.

Once she corrected this, suddenly it became easy to see what her problem was: her wifi wasn't connected because she'd accidentally turned it off, using the giant 'wifi on/off' button on her laptop.

"Well", she said philosophically. "Now at least I know what that button is for."

A moment later, while reconnecting the network cable to her desktop PC, she accidentally pushed the network card off the motherboard, so now the desktop PC can't get online anymore.

Cheaper Isn't Always Better

Today's heartbreaker of a call:

The guy with a sick kid, who wanted to buy the kid a laptop for school. He wanted to save money, so he bought it used. From someone his neighbor warned him against. But the price sounded good... he got two laptops for only "hundreds of dollars". Then he called me for help getting them online.

Except, when I looked up the make and model of the laptops... they dated back to about 1997, and had no networking capabilities whatsoever. Which makes them, for all intents and purposes, completely useless.

When I asked if he could get his money back, he said, "no, but thank you for telling me the truth about my fucking worthless laptops. Now I can smash them with a hammer."

Monday, May 7, 2012


(Frazzled and frustrated customer):
"WHY AM I HAVING THESE PROBLEMS? My phone works fine, and it's on the internet."
Me: "Is that phone connected to your wireless network?"
Customer: "Yes, the internet's in it."
Me: "Let me rephrase. Does that phone get the internet by connecting to your wireless network? The wireless network in your home?"
Customer: "I told you, the internet is inside this phone."

All the Porn

Customer quote of the day:
"I use my AOL email for all the porn."


Customer: "That password's the one I've been trying all morning. I know it doesn't work."

Me: "Hmmm, well, let's try it one more time....(typing)...(waiting)... Okay, looks like we're connected."

Customer: "What, you mean I just needed to type a capital A instead of a lowercase A?"


Me: "Okay, so the first thing we'll need to do in order to reset your wifi password, is have you plug your laptop into the wireless router with a network cable."


Me: "I understand that, but in order to get those wireless settings set up in the first place we'll need to use a wired connection for a few moments."

Customer: "Gosh DARN I hate this. Why do I even NEED a wireless password?"


Me: "Okay, before we start testing your internet speed we'll want to close out of ĀµTorrent, because it's using a lot of your bandwidth".

Customer: "What does that have to do with anything?"


After a few minutes talking pleasantly to my elderly customer (he talked about his service in World War II) about exactly how we would go about setting up his new wireless router, I asked him to go ahead and plug it in.

"I can't do that!", he hollered. "I'm in a wheelchair!"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reefer Madness

My last customer had trouble coming up with a wireless router password. Finally he suggested:
"let's put in 'most high', but all one word".

I typed in "mosthigh".

He said "most... thigh? No, no, take out the extra T."

I took out the T. Now it said "moshigh".

He started giggling.

Problem-Solving Skills

Customer (after connecting me remotely to a computer):
"The other computer's the one that's not working".

Me: "Ah, okay. Well, let's talk about that computer. Is the other computer a laptop or a desktop?"

Customer: "A desktop".

Me: "Does it have the ability to connect wirelessly?"

cx: "No. It's not plugged in either."

Me: "That might be why it's not working".


Customer, after revealing complete ignorance of her (complicated and incorrect) network setup:

"How long exactly is this going to take?
...Also, I don't really understand computers. Can you just tell me what to do and not ask so many questions?"

The Breaks

Central command just sent a detailed spreadsheet telling all employees exactly when they're allowed to take breaks.


Customer, typing:
"WHOOPS! I hit a comma by accident....
...I'm no computer specialist."

Remote Control

Near the start of most calls, I try to set up a remote access program to a customer's machine. I do this by asking the customer to go to a website.

Often though, customers assume I can already control their computer from the moment I'm on the phone with them. Like just now: After a couple opening questions at the start of the call, I asked a customer to open Internet Explorer.

She said "Aren't you going to do that for me?"

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Awkward Moments

Customer (on speakerphone): "OK, my mother says you have a very sexy voice".

Me: "Um. Thank you very much."

Customer: "She's totally serious. She's walking over here to talk to you."


Me: "Okay, so I'd like you to type the word 'support'".

Customer: "Support. That's s... p... o..."

Me: "No, support, like s..u..p..p..o..r..t".

Customer: "Damn, I got too many Ps up in here."


In order to help people remotely, I need to connect to a computer. Not a cellphone or an iPad but a laptop or a desktop computer.

Twice today I've had people transferred to me who weren't told this, and have only an iPad in the house.

One of them, upon finding out that I couldn't help her, calmly decided to call back later.

The other flew into a rage and demanded a refund and blamed the "incompetent Indian salesperson", and then demanded to be transferred to someone who could cancel her account with the ISP.

I guess people have different ways of dealing with disappointment.

C'est la vie

Since sending in my resignation letter, I've intentionally begun to err more on the side of being nice to customers at the expense of being a "good employee". I was kind of doing that already, but I'd been trying to stay in scope for paid services and trying not to be too slow in my ticket times. Both of which sometimes necessitate not solving a customer's problems. Or, transferring a customer when it might be better for the customer not to be transferred. So, anyway, during the last couple workdays I've been extra-nice to customers.

The unfortunate truth is, customers aren't extra-nice back. They're just as rude as ever.

Hang up the phone!

When dialing a customer back on his land line, a tiny frail voice is heard.


Then my customer shouts in a deep, hoarse voice, at the top of his lungs:

again, in a tinier voice:




This morning's first customer has a lot of issues.

She wants me to uninstall Internet Explorer.

Also, Mozzarella Foxfire.

And DirectX, which she's heard "can let people get into my computer and do things".

And, she wants me to remove all those extra folders in the Program Files directory, because she has too many folders there.

Lastly, she's concerned about all the errors she gets, and wants me to stop her from getting so many errors.

When I ask what kind of errors, she says "CSS".

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I emailed a resignation letter to my supervisor today.

But my supervisor didn't respond.

I asked around, and found out that my supervisor's on vacation.

I emailed my former supervisor, but she now works for a different department and isn't available.

A third supervisor said he'd take care of it.

But I can't help but think that this symbolizes something.