Sometimes it's pathetic what people will try to pull and apparently think they'll get away with. Nice try. Better luck next time.
I work for Iomega tech support. One day, when I was answering the AOL message board questions, I ran across a letter complaining that this person's zip drive had ejected a zip disk clear across the room and hit her dog in the eye. The dog supposedly lost vision in that eye and wanted Iomega to pay for the vet bill. I wrote back asking for a picture of the injury. I got back a picture of a dog wearing a pirate patch.
One of my duties as a teacher at a respected university's computing department is to assess students' practical laboratory exercises. One day, a student proudly asked me to mark his work, a short programming exercise involving the development of around ten lines of code. Upon inspecting the code listing, it was very difficult not to notice the considerable preamble which was present at the top of the file. It consisted of a lengthy email header which had originated from a friend of the student and was followed by the line: "Here is the stuff you need to pass the exercise." He didn't.
My friend and I were walking to school one day when this guy tried to impress us with his computer knowledge. He launched into this big discussion about how he wrote all these cool programs for nuking people on IRC and that sort of thing. I had a feeling he was lying, so I asked him, "What language did you write them in?" His reply was, "English, of course."
I have been working at a local national chain computer store for the past few summers as a salesperson in networking hardware.
• Me: "How can I help you today, sir?"
• Him: "Hi, I'm looking for a router."
• Me: "Ok. What are you looking to use it for?"
• Him: "Actually, I was looking to tap into a network"
• Me: "You mean in hotspots?"
• Him: "No, my neighbor three houses down has a network that I want to get into."
• Me: (blink) "What? Uh. What you would need is an adapter."
• Him: "Yeah, I have one of those, but I can't get the signal from my house. I can only get it when I'm standing right outside their wall, but if I move away I don't get it."
• Me: "Sir, without knowing what kind of router your neighbors have, I can't definitively tell you if you can tap into their network, assuming it's insecure."
• Him: "Oh, it's unsecure. I got into it and figured out what they have. They have a 54mbs G router."
• Me: "Ok, sir, you're not going to be able to get into their network."
• Him: "But what if I get this card?" (grabs a Pre-N card) "Don't I get more range?"
• Me: "Yes, but you're still not going to get into their network."
He proceeded to ask about four more wireless adapters until he got it that there was no possible way for him to get into their network. Then came the topper.
• Him: "Maybe you should give them a new router for a present."
• Me: "That would be just a little creepy, sir."
• Customer: "I got this problem. You people sent me this install disk, and now my A: drive won't work."
• Tech Support: "Your A drive won't work?"
• Customer: "That's what I said. You sent me a bad disk, it got stuck in my drive, now it won't work at all."
• Tech Support: "Did it not install properly? What kind of error messages did you get?"
• Customer: "I didn't get any error message. The disk got stuck in the drive and wouldn't come out. So I got these pliers and tried to get it out. That didn't work either."
• Tech Support: "You did what sir?"
• Customer: "I got these pliers, and tried to get the disk out, but it wouldn't budge. I just ended up cracking the plastic stuff a bit."
• Tech Support: "I don't understand sir, did you push the eject button?"
• Customer: "No, so then I got a stick of butter and melted it and used a turkey baster and put the butter in the drive, around the disk, and that got it loose. Then I used the pliers and it came out fine. I can't believe you would send me a disk that was broke and defective."
• Tech Support: "Let me get this clear. You put melted butter in your A: drive and used pliers to pull the disk out?"
At this point, I put the call on the speaker phone and motioned at the other techs to listen in.
• Tech Support: "Just so I am absolutely clear on this, can you repeat what you just said?"
• Customer: "I said I put butter in my A: drive to get your crappy disk out, then I had to use pliers to pull it out."
• Tech Support: "Did you push that little button that was sticking out when the disk was in the drive, you know, the thing called the disk eject button?"
• Tech Support: "Sir?"
• Customer: "Yes."
• Tech Support: "Sir, did you push the eject button?"
• Customer: "No, but you people are going to fix my computer, or I am going to sue you for breaking my computer?"
• Tech Support: "Let me get this straight. You are going to sue our company because you put the disk in the A: drive, didn't follow the instructions we sent you, didn't actually seek professional advice, didn't consult your user's manual on how to use your computer properly, instead proceeding to pour butter into the drive and physically rip the disk out?"
• Customer: "Ummmm."
• Tech Support: "Do you really think you stand a chance, since we do record every call and have it on tape?"
• Customer: (now rather humbled) "But you're supposed to help!"
• Tech Support: "I am sorry sir, but there is nothing we can do for you. Have a nice day."
Email from a customer:
My birthday is in a few weeks. Could you maybe send me one of your CD-Rewriters as a present? If not, then could you please send me the technical specs of them so I can decide on which one to buy?
A client brought in a computer with a hard drive problem.
• Customer: "The computer crashed. I had five years' worth of work on this computer, and you have to save my data."
• Tech Support: "Well, we don't have any data recovery services, but I can suggest a few local businesses that do."
I gave him a list of several places he could go to get his data back. He left, but later he called back.
• Customer: "I called those places. They're all too expensive, so you have to do it for me."
One day a customer walked into our store and wanted to buy a new motherboard for his computer. He bought one, but the next day he brought it back.
• Customer: "I want this board replaced."
• Me: "Ok, what's wrong with it?"
• Customer: "Take a look at the bag the board is in. It's got these little holes all over it."
• Me: "Oh, these holes? They come from the ends of wire on the bottom of the board. Take a look at the board, you'll see there's lots of short wire ends poking out."
• Customer: "Yeah, whatever. I just want one without the holes."
• Me: "Umm, I'm not sure if we have one--"
• Customer: "Well, you'd better find one or I'll go and buy the board from somewhere else."
• Me: "Ok, how's this: I'll bring out all the boards we have of that model and you can choose the one you like?"
So I brought out ten or so motherboards, and he started going through them, finally finding one with only one or two holes in its plastic bag.
• Customer: "Ok, this is better, but there's still holes in there. Can I get a partial refund for a faulty product?"
• Me: "Umm, no. The board will work just fine, trust me."
He looked at the board for a while, weighing his options, and finally accepted the board, left the store, and mumbled about lousy products.
• Customer: "Hi, I recently bought a computer, and I seem to be having problems."
• Tech Support: "What type of problems?"
• Customer: "Nothing seems to be working at all."
• Tech Support: "Hmmm, what kind of computer is it?"
• Customer: "[brand]."
• Tech Support: "Actually, we don't sell that brand of computer here."
• Customer: "I know, I bought it from a friend of mine."
• Tech Support: "May I ask why you are calling us for support?"
• Customer: "Aren't you a computer store?"
• Tech Support: "Yes."
• Customer: "Well, I was in there yesterday."
• Tech Support: "And you bought something from us?"
• Customer: "No, but you sell computers so you should fix them."
• Tech Support: "Did we sell your computer to you?"
• Customer: "No."
• Tech Support: "Did we sell anything to you?"
• Customer: "No."
• Tech Support: "Why should we be supporting something we didn't sell you?"
• Customer: "Well, who should I be calling?"
• Tech Support: "Probably your friend, or the manufacturer of the computer."
• Customer: "You are not very much help, you know."
• Tech Support: "I am sorry but there is not much I can do for you, unless you would like to bring the computer in and pay a fee for fixing it."
• Customer: "Why should I have to pay for you to work on my computer?"
• Tech Support: "Sir, I am hanging up now."
A client was having a problem where the software could not find the correct directory. I asked what directory he had typed. Then I directed him through Windows Explorer to make certain that the directory existed. It did. At a loss to understand why this was happening, I finally sent him a version of the software that created a log of its actions. I asked him to try it and mail the log file back to me. Viewing the log, I noticed he had misspelled the directory name.
• Tech Support: "The problem seems to be that you're misspelling the directory name. When you type the directory name in, you have to be very careful to spell it correctly."
• Customer: "I was. But after I pressed Enter, the software removed the letter 'i'."
While working for a small PC shop, we got all sorts of requests. For one, a system that was brought in with the assurance that they had not opened the case or done anything inside. But after opening the case, we found their screwdriver, which we returned to them with the bill for the now out of warranty replacement of the motherboard.
• Tech Support: "Welcome to [manufacturer] tech support. Can I get your customer number or serial please?"
• Operator: "I'm the operator, and I have a lady on the line. She's got some really bad trouble, and she's crying and needs help."
Um. What kind of problem could this be if the operator is getting involved?
• Tech Support: "Uh, ok."
The operator puts the customer through. She didn't sound the least bit hysterical or sound like she'd been crying.
• Customer: "My husband called here yesterday becuase we had a problem with the hard drive. He was told to order a new hard drive, and now it doesn't work."
• Tech Support: "The hard drive failed, and the new one is bad? Did you get the new hard drive from us?"
• Customer: "No, you don't understand. We haven't ordered a new hard drive yet. The system's out of warranty by only a couple days, and I want you to replace it for free."
• Tech Support: "I'll need to get your customer number. If it's only a few days, it's possible, but I'll still have to talk to my supervisor to get it approved."
• Customer: "I don't want you to talk to your supervisor. I want to talk to your supervisor. When I had my refrigerator repaired, it was out of warranty by three months, and I didn't have to pay a cent. I want my hard drive replaced."
After lots of ranting, I finally got her serial number. I discovered that the system was four months out of warranty, not just a couple days. Furthermore her system was trouble-free until yesterday. I told her that my supervisor was on the phone and asked if I could have him call her back. She reluctantly gave me her last name (only) and her phone number.
I approached my supervisor and told him the story. He loves bursting the bubbles of this kind of customer. He said he'd wait an hour and call her back.
I checked the customer notes forty-five minutes later, and she'd called back complaining to customer service about me. It made its way up the food chain until the director of customer service ended up promising to call her back.
Finally, my supervisor called her back, telling her exactly what I told her (and what all the customer service reps told her). No out of warranty pro bono replacement of her hard drive. I overheard a piece of the conversation he had with her:
• My Supervisor: "...No, ma'am, we do not sell microwave ovens or refrigerators. We sell computers, and the warranty has expired. You will not get a new hard drive for free."
When I quit the company in July 1997, I checked back and discovered that the director of customer service had never called her back.
The only thing scarier than when someone tries to get away with something obvious is when it works.
• Customer: "Will this card make Windows faster?"
• Salesman: "Yes, well maybe, if not just bring it back, and we'll give you a full refund."
• Customer: "But doesn't the store have a no-return policy on opened products?"
• Salesman: "Well, yes."
At this point the customer preceded to standup and walk to the counter with the product under his arm.
• Customer: "Hi, I need some help."
• Tech Support: "That's what we're here for. How may I help you?"
• Customer: "I've heard of people getting on the Internet and using it to hack into their banks and change account balances, and I was wondering if you could walk me through that."
• Tech Support: "No sir, that's strictly illegal. We can't do that here."
• Customer: "No, don't try and pull any fast ones. There's nothing illegal on the Internet."
• Tech Support: "Yes there is, sir. You can break the law on the Internet."
• Customer: "Look, son, don't you go making up any stories about laws on the Internet. If you don't know how to do what I want you to, put me on the line with someone who does!"
• Tech Support: "Sir, there is no way anyone here will help you with that or any other illegal activity."
• Customer: "That's IT! If you don't know what you're doing, I want to talk to your supervisor now!"
This would be the first and only time I ever heard a supervisor call a customer an idiot over the phone.
My old boss spent some time writing statistical analysis packages for the Archimedes. One of them got fairly popular for Archie software, and he started a small business selling it. For those who don't know, Archie software usually came as source code and was executed through an interpreter.
One day at a scientific meeting, he noticed that another company was showing Archie software with remarkably similar functionality to his own, so he wandered over. The longer he watched, the more familiar it looked. Eventually, when the sales representative had gathered a good crowd, he asked in a loud voice:
• My Boss: "Are you using my copyrighted code for this?"
• Sales Representative: "Of course not."
• My Boss: "So what happens if you press [key combination]?"
• Sales Representative: "Nothing."
• My Boss: "Do it for me."
• Sales Representative: "Ok sir, but I can assure you it does--"
The screen displayed my boss' copyright notice. All they'd done was remove the front end.
It widely accepted as the biggest laugh of the show.
The music giant Thomas Hesse, president of Sony BMG's global digital business division, responded with the following in an NPR interview about complaints that anti-copying technology on some of Sony's CDs create serious security vulnerabilities.
"Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"