Tech Support Urban Legends

For some reasons, Snopes doesn’t seem to have any of the following, but I’ve seen them repeated over and over on various “tech support idiot error” web pages (always with the assertion that "this happened to me last monday):

• WHY DOESN’T MY COMPUTER WORK IN THE DARK? Caller calls with complaint of no boot, tech asks a couple dozen questions before the caller replies “I can’t tell, I can’t see the [whatever]” “Why not?” “The lights are out” “So turn the lights on!” “Can’t, the power is out”. Then the tech tells the user to put the computer in the box it came in and bring it back to the folks who sold it to him and tell them that he is too stupid to use a computer

• THE COFFEE CUP HOLDER Caller asks for a replacement for the coffee cup holder, which broke. Tech figures out that it is the CD loading tray.

• CD IN THE FLOPPY SLOT Caller is instructed to insert the installation CD and asks whether or not to turn the lever. Turns out the computer is so old it has no CD drive and instead the user has inserted the CD into a 5.25" diskette drive.

• THE ANY KEY Caller is confused by installation dialog that says “Hit any key to continue” and calls to ask where the hell the “any” key is.

• THE WRONG RIGHT CLICK Caller is instructed to right-click on something, but subsequently does not end up with the appropriate menu on screen. Techie gets increasingly frustrated then somehow determines that the caller has tried to “write click” [type the word “click”] on top of the item in question.
There are some other recurring events in tech support that I’m more inclined to believe may actually happen over and over–the person who, when told to "click on ‘My Computer’, thinks the tech means click on the tech’s computer; the person who thinks the tech can see and manipulate the caller’s computer from afar, perhaps via telephone; the person who thinks the monitor is the computer and has never really noticed the computer itself, etc.

But the ones cited above fit all the classic parameters for urban legend: the tech’s reactions are always pretty much the same, the dialog is almost verbatim, etc.

Anyone wanna nominate any others?

This is a true story, as I took the call.

User called up with a Non-System Disk error. I informed the caller that there was a diskette in the pc, and it needed to be removed, and we could continue.

She wasn’t certain where the diskdrive was, I told her to look for a slot with a plastic button by it. She found it, and I told her to push the button, and remove the disk.

She tried to comply, but the disk was stuck. I imagined that the label had peeled up, and I just asked to to try to pull the disk straight out.

She tried again, pulling on the plastic, then informed me that there wasn’t a disk in there, she could see it was empty. Turns out she was pulling on the cd-rom caddy (non removeable)

I worked at the helpdesk for 3 years on and off, and its actually where I derived my sig line from.

2 calls that actually happened to me working at Packard Bell (don’t blame me… they MADE us tell you to reinstall your software)

  1. a guy was calling trying to figure out why Prodigy didn’t work. I started asking questions about his computer and modem. He told me he’d have to check when he got home. I asked where he was and he said at a pay phone. he didn’t even have a phone line.

  2. (my favorite) A woman called up asking for a manager. I told her i’d be happy to help her out with any questions she had.
    She said she wanted a refund. I said we didn’t do that, but i’d be happy to fix her problem.

She said the problem is we are in cahoots with the devil and she wanted this evil computer out of her house.

I gingerly broached the subject of what made her think that and she said “this Autoexec thing is 666 bytes.”

And I said “yes”
And she said “That’s the number of the devil… and my kids have been acting in an unchristian was since we’ve gotten this thing and we’re always fighting and I want this evil presence out of my house.”

so being the quick thinking tech I was, I had her edit the Autoexec.vbat and put in the word “REM” and a blank line at the top. When she saved it i showed her that it was now 669 bytes. She said she felt better already and was relieved and was so happy that I could halp her.

My manager was listening in to the call and gave me a name plaque that said “the PC Exorcist”.

Good thinking BMU. Do you still have the plaque?

In all the moves I seemed to have misplaced it. :frowning:

As far as the OP goes, I’ve heard all of those stories but I don’t think anyone will admit that they were the person that used their CD drive as a drink holder, called while the power was out, or stuck a CD in the floppy drive if they were true (which I don’t believe) so verification is iffy. I wouldn’t doubt the “write” click one though and I personally have heard the “any” key while on tech support.

Other slightly off-topic personal tech support gems:
-Guy calls up yelling that our program is broken, he’s trying to type in a cell and he gets a message that the cell is already full, even though he says there’s nothing in there. After 15 minutes of him yelling and trying to troubleshoot, I figure out that he’s changed the font color to white. On a white background.
-Female calls in saying that our program isn’t working right- it’s only on half of the screen. “What’s on the other half?” “Clouds.” Guess who hadn’t learned how to maximize a window yet…
-A tech support call escalates to me as our program isn’t able to install on the WinNT machine. It turns out he doesn’t have the necessary permissions to install (registry issues). “How do I get permission?” “Contact your IT department.” “Oh.” I get off the phone wiith him and the co-worker that orginally handled the call tells me that guy was the head of the IT department. Of a large hospital. (I know it really doesn’t make any sense- someone had to set the permissions origianlly. I’m assuming he was brought in after that point).

We now return to the thread already in progress.

i want to make a plastic box that will fit into one of my 5.25 bays, so i can have a sandwich holder.

Here’s some old ones. Back 10 odd years ago I was working as a programmer for a company producing a financial package. We had 800+ customers running the software, many of them very small businesses and for most of them this was their first computer and financial software. The software went out on 5 1/4" floppys and we had a help desk that customers could call.

These then are all 2nd hand, as told to me by the techs who dealt with them:

  • The customer who had shoved disk 2 of 2 into the slot without removing 1 of 2.

  • The customer who have shoved the disk into the slot still in its paper packet.

  • The reverse of the above – the customer who had carefully removed the case off the disk… leaving it very floppy indeed and then attempted to get it into the slot.

  • Many customers who were putting the floppy disks in sideways. This happened with a particular batch of disks (from Wang IIRC) which had the label down one side rather than across the top, and quite a few user had be taught to put their thumb on the label before inserting the disk so as to orient it correctly.

  • The manager who showed one of our techs the ring-binder that his secretary had used for storing her photocopies of the disks believing that she was making backups.

As for 1st hand…

  • I watched somewhat incredulously as a fellow programmer carefully inserted a disk between the A: and B: floppies drives and lost it inside his machine.

  • I sent a disk out to a customer and then with them on the phone went through installing the patch. The customer was the bursar at an exclusive school and had been using our package for three years; I made the mistake of presuming that he knew what he was doing:

Me: “OK, so you have the disk, the computer is on and we’re all ready to go?”
Him: “Yes”
Me: “OK, type A:\run and push enter”
Him: “It didn’t work”
<this continued awhile, until…>
Him “<long pause…> Ummm, would it help if I put the disk in the computer?”

So, do I think these other stories are ULs?

No! I am certain that out there somewhere is the person who used their CD drive for drinks holder, or tried to operate their mouse as a foot pedal. Some of them are bright, intelligent people who just need a bit of training… but others really are too stupid to be allowed a computer. :slight_smile:


Here’s plenty for ya. and if you haven’t already checked out the BOFH, do so.

I’ve had a few Ha Ha’s but nothing so dramatic as to repeat, kind of “in joke” situations. But other techs I work with SWEAR by their stories. One woman claiming her “Footpedal” wouldnt work (the mouse) and people tapping the screen to “click” on things…

I agree that most of the so called “urban legends” are in fact true. Some people just lose all common sense when you put them in front of a computer. Here is a site to check out with an amazing collection of computer stupidities.

I particularly like the “role reversal” section. It’s truly amazing to me how stupid some of the people who make their living in computers are.

First hand:

Towards the end of the day a woman I worked with asked if she could use my computer for a few minutes before she left. I said sure and asked what she needed to do. She told me she just needed to make a few quick changes to a file on her desktop before she left. When I asked why she didn’t just do it on her own machine she said “oh, I already turned my computer off.”

Second hand:

One of my customers had a machine in his shop for repair. He quite casually asked me if I had ever seen a shortcut to the desktop on_the_desktop.

Just a couple of the funnier ones I can remember…

It does smell of urban legend, but if it were on Snopes, I’d guess they’d have a white dot: unverifiable source. In other words, entirely possible, but can’t be proven.

I teach in an area where about 90% of the population is at the poverty level. 17 of my 21 students get a free lunch. With those considerations, you can understand that my students have little to no computer experience–our classroom, with the ancient LCII Macs and my slowly dying Pentium I, is all the computer experience they’ve had. They’re so ignorant and inexperienced, it’s cute (at this age). Each student got to type up their 3 paragraph whale report on the PC and then print it out (a huge thrill for them), and I tutored each student as they began their project. One little girl raised her hand after typing a few sentences–there was a problem. Pointing at the screen, she said, “Teacher, it’s out of paper.” The screen was full of her first paragraph, and she didn’t know that the page would move down if she had continued to type.

See, in thrid grade, it’s adorable…

The first time my mother – who was a skilled typist – used a word processor, she complained that it had no bell. I wasn’t sure what she meant by this and watched her typing. As the cursor approached the end of a line she would slow down and then press <Enter> to go to the next line.

Word wrap came as a very pleasant surprise. :slight_smile:

True Story:
I once cracked the case on a PC to upgrade memory and had a 12 inch hognose snake crawl out. The end-loser fainted dead away.

Also, once found a penny inside the case of a PC with a dead motherboard. I threw it up on the end-loser’s desk and said “I thought you knew these things took quarters.” I then had to spend another 15 minutes explaining the concept of “Jokes”.

No matter how cynical I get, it’s never enough.

I went to the Computer Stupidities site (which both Gatsby and Soulsling posted links to), the last time someone (I forget who) posted a link to it in a thread.

Somewhat offtopic, but aside from the stupid tech calls, I recommend the “Things People said” stupid resume quotations, and classified ads, among others. Also the Computer Stupidities Keyboard story about the guy in the programming class, where the guy switches keyboard inputs on a pair of computers. I printed out some of these stories, and read them on my lunch hour. Chuckled about them the better part of the day.

RinkWorks kicks ass! Although I do feel slightly stupid for repeating a link. Oh well…

When I was working as a customer service/support agent taking orders for a Pinnacle Systems(they make high-end and consumer video editing products), we were taking orders for a new product.

I spoke to an older gentleman from the south once who wouldn’t order over the phone. He was worried about the security of the line, and wanted to mail in the payment. Instead of creating more paperwork for my department, I wanted to get the order on the line with a credit card.

Customer: Is this line secure?
Me: Secure?
Customer: Ya, I mean has your line been bug-checked lately?
Me: Bug-checked?
Customer: Are we speaking on a secure line?
[big pause]
Me[in a whisper]: Sir, hold on while I switch on the voice scrambler…[rustle rustle, whooshing sound]…Sir, we’re secure…
Customer: Great! My Visa number is [blah, blah, blah]

Off the OP-- at my last job, I was given the “Choke your chicken award”(I used to harass my techs). It was a rubber chicken on an award base, all engraved and everything!

I turned my combo 5.25/3.5 drive into an ashtray.

Let’s see.

I had one person ask me how he should reimburse the college for the long-distance charges for sending e-mail to Italy.

I’ve had people slide two floppies into the drive at one time.

Here are a couple from the helpdesk mailing list:[ST_rn=fs]/threadmsg_if.xp?thitnum=40&mhitnum=0&CONTEXT=959779190.1710686211[ST_rn=fs]/threadmsg_if.xp?thitnum=49&mhitnum=0&CONTEXT=959779190.1710686211

I’m sure some of the ones listed are urban legends (I have my doubts about the cupholder story and the “too stupid to own a computer”), but there are plenty of true stories to go around.

My former sister-in-law was a support tech for a national agricultural company several years ago. Her classic tale involved a branch office of the company who had constant ongoing problems with software updates that were sent to them on 5.25 inch floppy disks. Only the company software was affected - all other programs worked fine. At first, technical support tried an over-the-phone solution, but that failed immediately. So it was decided that the disk drive may be faulty. The branch office sent back their computer for repairs, but the problem emerged again when they got it back. Eventually it transpired that every major component in the box was replaced, over a period of several months, but to no avail. In desperation, a completely new system was installed alongside the old one, and it too developed the fault immediately.

Finally, a tech visited the office with an update disk. Upon arrival, the receptionist was given the disk in an envelope, as if it had been received in the mail. When asked to demonstrate what she did with the update disks, she explained that she was usually too busy to run the updates immediately. So, to ensure that the update would not be forgotten, she stuck the disk to the metal case of the computer with a magnet…

Not so much a support story, but we (I don’t do support, but have access to the support queue) had a very nice lady from India email us about her <insert well-known computer laptop name here>. She just wanted to compliment us on the construction of our laptops. It turns out her driver had run over her computer with the car. She said that despite the cracked screen, everything worked fine. :slight_smile: