Computer Help Desk Calls (actual calls to Help Desk)

User’s new notebook PC has a wireless network card. He loves it – for a day or so, until the battery goes dead. “Did you plug it into a power outlet to charge it?” asks systems administrator. “No,” says sales guy impatiently. “It’s wireless, why would I?”

Accounting department reports that the backup tape for a server won’t stay in. Tech geek tries, and runs a backup without a problem – but the next day the complaint is back. “We asked them to show us the problem, but they were too busy to stop and work with us,” tech says. “This went on for weeks until accounting submitted a purchase order to hire a consultant. He came out and watched as our accountant inserted a cleaning tape into the drive – and a few seconds later it popped out. Consultant made a big label that said CLEANING TAPE, explained to the accountant that she needs to back up her data on one of the tapes that does not say CLEANING TAPE on it, and billed us $150.”

Help desk worker gets a puzzling question from a user: Can she send e-mail to a company in the U.K.? She explained that she tried to e-mail some people in the U.K. and the e-mail came back. She was under the impression that e-mail was like the phone system, and since she couldn’t make an international call, she couldn’t send an international e-mail.”

I can’t connect with the network, remote user tells help desk. “After several minutes of troubleshooting, it was clear that the problem was the user’s modem, which basically died,” tech reports. Impatient user’s next question: “Where can I download another modem?”

User’s PC hard drive is damaged, but support tech manages to recover the files in key directories and copies them to a new drive. Still, user is furious: “Where the @#$%! are all my files?” “Where were the files that are missing now?” technician asks. “I used to save them in that cute can. I use those files a lot, and that icon says ‘Recycle,’ so I thought it was a good place to put the files that I reuse often.”

Newly hired user to IT manager: “My mouse pad is missing. Do you have another?” No, but you can get an office supply catalog from purchasing, pick out one you like and have them order it. New hire leaves, only to return minutes later: “My boss says you have to order me a mouse pad. She says you’re the only one who knows what kind is compatible with our system.”

Power user creates an image of his signature to be added automatically to his outgoing e-mails. Other users see it and ask for his help creating their own. “One day, I get a message from a clueless user, asking to have a signature created for her e-mail.” I replied back with mine showing, and asked her if she would like one similar to mine. Her reply? “No, I want my name on it.”

Trouble ticket: “When my computer is turned on, the person sitting behind me gets shocked. My computer makes a buzzing noise, and then she yells. Please help.” Support crewmember can’t find the problem with the PC, but he does get an additional request from the user at the next desk back: “If you can’t fix it, can you at least make it shock somebody else?”

User says: “My monitor did not pass the drop test during our department move. I would like to get another one.”

New user calls support staff early one morning, complaining that his computer won’t power up even though everything is plugged in just as it was the night before. Tech walks down to check it out, finds the user pressing the power button on his empty laptop docking station. Tech asks: “Where’s the laptop?” User: “I left that at home. Do I need that to get on my computer here?”

Systems Admin is browsing among the digital cameras at a big discount store when he overhears another customer complaining about the cost of the digital film for her camera. “She said it was too expensive to keep buying memory cards because she filled them up so quickly.” He explains to her that she can copy her pictures from the cards onto a computer, then erase the cards and reuse them. The customer is delighted for a moment, then she frowns and asks, “Now what am I going to do with those 25 extra cards?”

New employee complains to help desk that there’s something wrong with her password. No, it’s not CAPS lock. “The problem is that whenever I type the password, it just shows stars,” says user. Those asterisks are to protect you, tech explains, so if someone were standing behind you, they wouldn’t be able to read your password. “Yeah,” user says, “but they show up even when there is no one standing behind me.”

Helpdesk: “What kind of computer do you have?” “A white one.”

Customer: “Hi, this is Rose. I can’t get my diskette out.” Helpdesk: “Have you tried pushing the button?” Customer: “Yes, sure, it’s really stuck.” Helpdesk: “That doesn’t sound good; I’ll make a note.” Customer: “No. Wait a minute. I hadn’t inserted it yet. It’s still on my desk. Sorry.”

Helpdesk: “Click on the ‘My Computer’ icon on to the left of the screen.” Customer: “Your left or my left?”

Helpdesk: “Good day. How may I help you?” Male customer: “Hello, I can’t print.” Helpdesk: “Would you click on start for me.” Customer: “Listen pal; don’t start getting technical on me! I’m not Bill Gates, you know!”

Customer: “Hi, good afternoon, this is Martha, I can’t print. Every time I try, it says, ‘Can’t find printer’. I’ve even lifted the printer and placed it in front of the monitor, but the computer still says it can’t find it.”

Customer: “I have problems printing in red.” Helpdesk: “Do you have a color printer?” Customer: “Ah. Thank you.”

Customer: “My keyboard is not working anymore.” Helpdesk: “Are you sure it’s plugged into the computer?” Customer: “No. I can’t get behind the computer.” Helpdesk: “Pick up your keyboard and walk 10 paces back.” Customer: “Okay.” Helpdesk: “Did the keyboard come with you?” Customer: “Yes.” Helpdesk: “That means the keyboard is not plugged in. Is there another keyboard?” Customer: “Yes, there’s another one here. Ah, that one works!”

Helpdesk: “Your password is the small letter ‘a’ as in apple, a capital letter ‘V’ as in Victor, and the number ‘7’.” Customer: “Is that ‘7’ in capital letters?”

Customer: “I have a huge problem. A friend has put a screensaver on my computer, but every time I move the mouse, it disappears!”

Helpdesk: “How may I help you?” Customer: “I’m writing my first e-mail.” Helpdesk: “Okay, and what seems to be the problem?” Customer: “Well, I have the letter ‘a’ in the address, but how do I get the circle around it?”

No more floppy disks from home, Systems Administrator tells user whose PC keeps getting re-infected with viruses. A week goes by with no problems – then user’s machine is infected again. Yes, she used a disk from home, user admits. “But I let the diskette sit on my desk for a whole week. Who knew that the virus could live that long?”

New computer room is state of the art, beautifully laid out and stuffed with useful tools for systems management. “But the feature we’re all proudest of is the fact that the card-key reader to get in is located much lower on the wall than in the old room,” says Systems Administrator who works there. “Nothing to do with accessibility requirements – the sys admins were around when the electricians were hooking it up, and we requested it that way. You just bang your butt up against it, with the access key still in your back pocket, and it clicks. A great time-saver.”

Computer guy, getting ready to leave for a conference, requests a company laptop so he can stay in touch with e-mail while he’s on the road. “Our department has four or five high-end laptops for visiting staff,” says helpdesk, “so I figured this would not be a problem.” Request denied, say the laptop keepers: “Our IT department policy is that company laptops cannot be taken out of the building.”

After a chain e-mail makes the rounds at this company, Sys Admin sends e-mail to all users reminding them that this is against company policy, quoting from the employee handbook about appropriate e-mail use. But this Systems Administrator receives an extra copy with a directive at the top: “Please print and distribute to all those employees without e-mail access.”

Working on the requirements for a new version of an order processing application, developer gets a very specific request from a user: “On the accounts receivable screen, I want the system to tell me when I have checks that I haven’t deposited.”

Help desk gets the call from a receptionist whose tab key on the keyboard isn’t working. “I told her to shake the keyboard upside-down and tap one corner on the desk.” No luck. “I then told her to pick up one end about two or three inches off the desk and drop it. Hearing a loud thud, I asked what she was doing. She said, ‘I am dropping one side of the laptop they just got fixed for me yesterday.”

This university has a new voice-mail system, and tech aide watches as a vendor rep trains staffers to use it. Rep: “The first time you use your mailbox, you’ll be prompted to choose and enter your password using the phone’s keypad.” Support staffer: “Can it be letters and numbers?” Rep: “Well, sure.” Staffer: “Is it case-sensitive?”

“When the air conditioning goes down, it gets hot in the server room – climbing to over 100 degrees. The infrastructure guys get the bright idea of opening the window – yes, this server room has a window – to cool off the room. Great idea, right? However, the lawn sprinklers go on causing two brand-new high-end servers to get wet and bringing an entire project team of over 30 people to a grinding halt.

A user calls the support desk and reports she’s having trouble powering up her new laptop. She says the battery is good; she used it last night. The tech desk asks, “Is the laptop plugged in?” The user says, “How do I determine if it’s plugged in?”

A user with a problem calls the help desk, saying “An error message just popped up. It’s asking for me to hit OK or cancel. What should I do?” The tech rep says, “Click Cancel.” The user promptly states, “Well, I already clicked OK!”

“I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but Elvis keeps crashing my computer,” this user tells help desk. And she’s right – when she takes a CD-ROM out of the drive, Elvis starts singing. It was finally figured out: Apparently, she put an Elvis CD in the drive on top of another CD, and it got stuck on the plunger of the CD-ROM drive. When she took out a CD, Auto-run would start the audio CD (stuck on the plunger), and Elvis started singing!

User tells support tech that she knocked a key off her laptop. She replaced it, but now it won’t work. Tech asks, “is the key loose?” “Not now,” user replies. “It was loose, but I fixed it. I used super glue.”

Phone system administrator reports a problem to vendor: He can’t connect to the system remotely for monitoring and maintenance. Help desk: “Fine; a technician will remote into your system and fix the problem.” Admin: “But I’m reporting that we can’t remote in.” Help desk: “Yes, that’s on the ticket. I’ll give it to the tech and he’ll remote into your system and fix the problem.”

Compaq is considering changing the command “Press Any Key” to “Press Return Key” because of the flood of calls asking where the “Any” key is.

A manufacturer generates bar codes for different departments, and though no two formats are alike, they all get done, until one manager’s sample bar code doesn’t scan. “Even our best scanner beeped back an error,” tech says. So he calls the manager, who admits he created it with a drawing program. “We don’t really use bar codes,” he confides. “We just thought it would look professional.”

Employees who travel are literally destroying their laptops, technician says. So when one vendor rep says his laptop can be thrown to the floor without damage – “try it,” he says – tech is impressed and asks the agency head to come see. “The head guy walks into this office without a word, picks up the laptop and slams it to the floor, just as my assistant informs him we are in the office next door.”

IT tech rep sends a report to several accountants in two parts – he has to break it up because it’s bigger than the 1,500KB size limit on attachments. But one user says that’s unnecessary. “Quit sending me kilobyte files”, she says. “Send megabytes. The file will only be 1.5MB – much smaller than the 1,500 system limit.”

A lady was putting a credit card into her floppy drive and pulling it out very quickly. I inquired as to what she was doing and she said she was shopping on the internet, and they asked for a credit card number, so she was using the ATM “thingy.”

“Everything on my laptop is turning blue,” user complains. Support rep hustles to the scene and finds user has attached the laptop to a video projector. The wall you’re using as a projection screen is painted light blue, support rep patiently points out. “I know that!” user snaps. “I’m not stupid. Just fix the thing so it projects white!”

Layoffs are coming, so an insurance company ranked all employees for future termination. “To maintain secrecy, they shredded the printed spreadsheets with the ratings,” says an employee. “Unfortunately, the spreadsheets were printed in landscape mode, so the shredder blades separated each employee and rating, by name, on his own strip of paper. After I came across them in the recycling bin, I knew each person’s rating – all 126 of them.”

An individual who plugged their power strip back into itself and for the life of them could not understand why their computer would not turn on.

A user’s PC is flickering and rebooting. It checks out fine for support tech assistant so he tells the user, “Do what you normally do.” She sits down and goes to work – and the system soon reboots. “The fourth time, I noticed she was tapping her foot to the music on the radio”, tech says. “Her foot was hitting the power strip on/off switch just enough to cause the system to reboot.”

Important HR reports must be shredded – they have confidential data, boss tells IT rep. Since most of these reports are just for reference, why not just save the printing and keep them on disk? rep suggests. “No, they must be shredded,” boss insists. Well, why don’t we hook the shredder to the back of the printer for the unnecessary reports? rep jokes. “Sounds great!” says the boss. “How much will it cost?”

A distraught young lady weeping beside her car. “Do you need some help?” She replied, “I knew I should have replaced the battery in this remote door unlocker. Now I can’t get into my car. Do you think they (pointing to a distant convenience store) would have a battery for this?” “Hmmm, I don’t know. Do you have an alarm, too?” I asked. “No, just the remote ‘thingy'” she answered, handing it and the car keys to me. As I took the key and manually unlocked the door, I replied, “Why don’t you drive over there and check about the batteries as it’s a long walk.”

It’s a tech’s first day on the job as a quality control analyst in the operations center. She boots up her workstation, and the splash screen proclaims the department’s slogan: “Comitted to Excellence.” She points out the misspelling to her boss. “Yeah,” boss says, “it’s close enough. Everybody knows what they mean.”

When this executive’s PC stops working, support tech patiently explains that the executive really shouldn’t have deleted critical Windows system files. But a week later, it happens again. And when tech asks why, executive explains, “Oh, I needed to make room for some big spreadsheets, and my files are much more important than those. Why doesn’t the computer still work?”

This Army hospital commander likes voice-recognition software for dictating notes, so he assigns three IT staffers to get it working. “One was from India, one from the Far East and one, though born in the United States, had a strong Southern accent,” reports support crew member. “They took turns reading the training paragraphs to the system. For some reason, it never worked right.”

For two years, this company’s purchasing agent has bought printer supplies from the same outfit: Tech rep says “the prices are high, a third of the refurbished toner cartridges are no good, and she never sends them in for credit.” So tech finds a better, cheaper supplier and management declares to be the preferred provider. So why are invoices still coming in from the old outfit? Purchasing agent admits it’s because she likes the candy the first supplier sends with each order. “For this invoice alone, that bag of candy cost us an additional $204.”

Tech Support: “What does the screen say now..” Person: “It says, ‘Hit ENTER when ready’.” Tech Support: “Well?” Person: “How do I know when it’s ready?”

Several years ago we had an intern who was none too swift. One day he was typing and turned to a secretary and said, “I’m almost out of typing paper. “What do I do?” “Just use copier machine paper,” she told him. With that, the intern took his last remaining blank piece of paper, put it on the photocopier and proceeded to make five blank copies.

One of our servers crashed. I was watching our new system administrator trying to restore it. He inserted a CD and needed to type a path name to a directory named “i386.” He started to type it and paused, asking me “Where’s the key for that line thing?” I asked what he was talking about, and he said, “You know, that one that looks like an upside down exclamation mark.” I replied, “You mean the letter i?” and he said, “Yeah, that’s it!”

User calls the help desk to ask if something is wrong with the mail server. “My e-mails are coming in with next week’s date. This is March 31, isn’t it?” No, says tech support, it’s April 7. That’s when the user realized she forgot to change her calendar.

Network techs at this manufacturer are surprised when they get a poor evaluation – the networks are running fine with few user complaints. “That’s the problem,” says IT guy. “Their metric is how many trouble tickets they resolve and how quickly.” So techs take to randomly unplugging a hub, waiting for trouble tickets to come in, then restarting the hub. Rep says, “They were rated ‘excellent’ on their next review.”

1st Person: “Do you know anything about this fax machine?” 2nd Person: “A little. What’s wrong?” 1st Person: “Well, I sent a fax, and the recipient called back to say all she received was a cover sheet and a blank page. I tried it again, and the same thing happened.” 2nd Person: “How did you load the sheet?” 1st Person: “It’s a pretty sensitive memo, and I didn’t want anyone else to read it by accident, so I folded it so only the recipient would open it and read it.”

IT guy is fed up with executives who say they need the latest technology, so he comes up with an idea. “Every six months, we have people turn in their laptops for a technology refresh,” he says. “Their laptop cases and keyboards are cleaned and fitted with new, upgraded “Intel” stickers. They love their “new” laptops, and never catch on that all they get are new stickers. And this frees up considerable budget for users who actually do need the power but who are too far down the ladder to actually get it.”

AST technical support had a caller complaining that her mouse was hard to control with the dust cover on. The cover turned out to be the plastic bag the mouse was packaged in.

Another Compaq technician received a call from a man complaining that the system wouldn’t read word processing files from his old 5 1/4″ diskettes. The customer had stuck labels on the diskettes, then rolled them into his typewriter to type on the labels.

Support rep gets a call from a user whose new PC is shutting down at random. User suggests the cause might be a virus-laden e-mail but then mentions that the monitor, printer and fax machine are shutting down, too. Are they all plugged into the same power strip? rep asks. “Yes, but that couldn’t be it,” user says. “I’ve had that for years.”

Another customer was asked to send a copy of her defective diskettes. A few days later, a letter arrived from the customer along with photocopies of the floppies.

“The bottom half of all my printouts are blurry,” user complains to support crew. He orders a replacement drum for the printer, but it doesn’t help. Neither does a new printer. So he goes to her desk and asks her to print something. As the paper starts to emerge, she yanks it out of the printer and says, “See what I mean? Look at the bottom of this printout!”

A Dell technician advised a customer to put his troubled floppy back in the drive and close the door. The customer asked the tech to hold on, and was heard putting the phone down, getting up and crossing the room to close the door to his room.

Another Dell customer called to say he couldn’t get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of trouble-shooting, the tech 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.

Yet another 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 the keyboard for a day, then removing all the keys and washing them individually.

Boss’s fast new CD burner needs the right media, so tech assistant asks the office secretary to order some recordable CDs rated at 40X. “Imagine my surprise later in the day,” assistant groans, “to hear the water-cooler discussion about my trying to acquire 40 X-rated CDs for my department!”

A Dell technician received a call from a customer who was enraged because his computer had told him he was “bad and an invalid.” The tech explained that the computer’s “bad command” and “invalid” responses shouldn’t be taken personally.

User has gotten her third replacement monitor in as many months, so support tech checks it out – and finds water under the monitor, but no source of a leak. The next day, he’s walking by and catches the user’s new secretary in action. “I explained to her that watering a plant on top of any electronic equipment is a bad idea, and that maybe watering an artificial plant wasn’t the best use of her time either.”

A confused caller to IBM was having troubles printing documents. He told the technician that the computer had said it “couldn’t find printer.” The user had tried turning the computer screen to face the printer, but that his computer still couldn’t “see” the printer.

An exasperated caller to Dell Computer Tech Support couldn’t get her new Dell computer to turn on. After ensuring the computer was plugged in, the technician asked her what happened when she pushed the power button. Her response, “I pushed and pushed on this foot pedal and nothing happened.” The “foot pedal” turned out to be the computer’s mouse.

Another customer called Compaq Tech Support to say her brand-new computer wouldn’t work. She said she unpacked the unit, plugged it in 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?”

True story from a Novell NetWire SysOp: Caller: “Hello, is this Tech Support?” Tech: “Yes, it is. How may I help you?” Caller: “The cup holder on my PC is broken and I am within my warranty period. How do I go about getting that fixed?” Tech: “I’m sorry, but did you say a cup holder?” Caller: “Yes, it’s attached to the front of my computer.” Tech: “Please excuse me if I seem a bit stumped, it’s because I am. Did you receive this as part of a promotion, at a trade show?” Caller: “It came with my computer. I don’t know anything about a promotional. It just has ‘4X’ on it.” At this point the Tech Rep had to mute the caller, because he couldn’t stand it. He was laughing too hard. The caller had been using the load drawer of the CD-ROM drive as a cup holder, and snapped it off the drive!

Another IBM customer had trouble installing software and rang for support. “I put in the first disk, and that was OK. It said to put in the second disk, and I had some problems with that disk. When it said to put in the third disk – I couldn’t even fit it in….” The user hadn’t realized that “Insert Disk 2” meant to remove disk one first.

Network admins decide all users should move their files to network folders. But after 15 minutes of copying, one user complains to support crew about how long it takes. Rep explains that she has lots of documents and a slow network connection, and all the other users are uploading files too. But user points to the Windows animation of documents floating from one folder to another and says, “Well, wouldn’t it go faster if they just moved these two folders closer together on the screen?”

Big electronics company is building a factory for a joint venture. But the locally hired IT manager is a little fuzzy on some details, says a lackey working there. “The general manager told him to build a raised floor in the computer room. A month later, we saw it – he literally raised the floor six inches by pouring a cement slab six inches thick.”


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