Computer Help Desk Errors

Compaq's computer help center in Houston, Texas, is inundated by some 8,000 consumer calls a day, with inquiries like this one related by technician John Wolf: "A frustrated customer called, who said her brand new Contura would not work. She said she had unpacked the unit, plugged it in, opened it up and sat there for 20 minutes waiting for something to happen. When asked what happened when she pressed the power switch, she asked, 'What power switch?'"So many people have called to ask where the "any" key is when "Press Any Key" flashes on the screen that Compaq is considering changing the command to "Press Return Key." Here are a few of the other help desk problems as reported by several of the major computer manufacturers and documented on the Oracle Services Humor Archives Web page. The exasperated help-line caller said she couldn't get her new Dell computer to turn on. Jay Ablinger, a Dell technician, made sure the computer was plugged in and then asked the woman what happened when she pushed the power button. "I've pushed and pushed on this foot pedal and nothing happens," the woman replied. "Foot pedal?" the technician asked. "Yes," the woman said, "this little white foot pedal with the on switch." The "foot pedal," it turned out, was the computer's mouse, a hand-operated device that helps to control the computer's operations. Only two years ago, most calls to PC help lines came from techies needing help on complex problems. But now, with computer sales exploding, PC makers say that as many as 70 percent of their calls come from computer novices. This adds to the general confusion and the potential for outlandish errors. The questions are often so basic that they could have been answered by opening the manual that comes with every machine. One woman called Dell's toll-free line to ask how to install batteries in her laptop. When told that the directions were on the first page of the manual, says Steve Smith, Dell director of technical support, the woman replied angrily, "I just paid $2,000 for this damn thing, and I'm not going to read a book."Indeed, it seems that these buyers rarely refer to a manual when a phone is at hand. "If there is a book and a phone and they're side by side, the phone wins time after time," says Craig McQuilkin, manager of service marketing for AST Research, Inc. in Irvine, Calif. "It's a phenomenon of people wanting to talk to people." At AST, another customer dutifully complied with a technician's request that she send in a copy of a defective floppy disk. A letter from the customer arrived a few days later, along with a Xerox copy of the floppy. And at Dell, a technician advised his customer to put his troubled floppy back in the drive and "close the door." Asking the technician to "hold on," the customer put the phone down and was heard walking over to shut the door to his room. The technician meant the door to his floppy drive. The software inside the computer can be equally befuddling. A Dell customer called to say he couldn't get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of troubleshooting, the technician discovered the man was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the monitor screen and hitting the "send" key. Not realizing how fragile computers can be, some people end up damaging parts beyond repair. A Dell customer called to complain that his keyboard no longer worked. He had cleaned it by filling up his tub with soap and water and soaking it for a day, and then removing all the keys and washing them individually. Computers make some people paranoid. A Dell technician, Morgan Vergara, says he once calmed a man who became enraged because "his computer had told him he was bad and an invalid." Mr. Vergara patiently explained that the computer's "bad command" and "invalid" responses shouldn't be taken personally. Besides help desk humor stories, Steven Willoughby's Oracle Services Humor Archives contains other topics such as political and sports humor, a joke archive, and this Web site has links to over 100 other humor-related home pages on the Internet. Oracle Services Humor Archives has won several awards, including Magellan's Four-Star Award, and they claim to have over 10,000 visitors (or hits) per day. Willoughby has generously placed the information found within these text files in the public domain so visitors can use them without any potential copyright violations. You can reach the Oracle Services Humor Archives at http://www.synapse.net/~oracle/Contents/HumorArch.html

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