back to article Angry user demands three site visits to fix email address typos

Welcome again to On-Call, our week-ending wander through readers' tales of horrible problems they've been asked to fix at horrible times. This week, reader “Jack” explains that in desperation he once took a job with a small integrator that specialised in small businesses and won a deal to implement just about the full …

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Re: Ah the memories...

I'm led to believe that Kiwi nurses can be pretty determined.

At least the one that caught me is, not that I played terribly hard to get.

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Who ever had an user with two email accounts on two different system (mailbox A and mailbox B), with forwarding enabled from mailbox A to mailbox B, and from mailbox B to mailbox A?

And one of the mailboxes got an out of office message enabled...

Moar fun. Yay.

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Oh yeah, loads of fun. Especially when you're the one getting blamed for the cock-up.

Happened to me a few times, but thankfully every time the boss above the nitwit actually had a brain and could understand the situation, so I never got too roasted about it. Had that not been the case . . I prefer not to think about it.

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@Anonymous South African Coward

Internal mail group, many people on vacation at the same time, everyone of them had out of office reply enabled, message sent to the group.... 30,000 messages later~ Just call it a mailbomb!

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Many years ago I worked for a company that used Groupwise. It only took the mail server to go down once for the "2 users out of office" feature to be drilled into the entire company. For some reason the box for "only send out of office for the first email" was NOT the default option back then...

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Unhappy

Nightmare!

The worst of the lot are primary school teachers.

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Primary teachers

I know a few. They spend so much time with the dribbly end of the pupil cadre that their brains turn a little bit mushy. But they always have a spare tissue in their pocket, which can be handy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nightmare!

You: Have you ever posted anything to Mumsnet?

Them: Yes.

You: I'm sorry, I will be unable to help you with any IT problem ever.

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Facepalm

Re: Nightmare!

A primary school teacher asked me if electricity went uphill.

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Re: Primary teachers

"I know a few. They spend so much time with the dribbly end of the pupil cadre that their brains turn a little bit mushy".

Poor buggers. It's usually having to deal with the more "special" parents that inflicts most of the brain damage these days.

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Re: Nightmare!

You: Have you ever posted anything to Mumsnet?

Them: Yes.

You: I'm sorry, I will be unable to help you with any IT problem ever.

Simon, is that you?

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Re: Nightmare!

One asked me if apple crumble was vegetarian!!

She is allegedly has a degree !!

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Re: Nightmare!

"A primary school teacher asked me if electricity went uphill."

Ahh, like water. You did explain about the electrical pumping stations?

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Re: Nightmare!

Was it a question of "Is all apple crumble vegetarian" - answer "no" - or "Is this apple crumble vegetarian?"

Apple crumble can be vegetarian if the crumble topping is made with margarine or butter. It can be vegan if the fats are entirely vegetable in origin. But it can also be neither if it is made with lard.

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Re: Nightmare!

Of course electricity naturally flows downhill. Geez people. I thought it was obvious how the high voltage lines were really high up, local street distribution tends to be about 10m up and within homes most power points are waist height or even lower down near ankle height. Why do you think it costs so much to move electricity supplies underground?

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Re: Nightmare!

To be frank, electrons *are* affected by gravity, it is just that they are so much more affected by electric fields.

To overcome the force of earth gravity on an electron requires an electric field of 5.6e-11 V/m . Which is truly not very much. Practically speaking a voltage difference of a single mV will be sufficient to lift an electron tens of thousands of kilometers up in earth gravity.

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Re: Nightmare!

Apple crumble can be vegetarian if the crumble topping is made with margarine or butter. It can be vegan if the fats are entirely vegetable in origin. But it can also be neither if it is made with lard.

Unless the vegetarian querying is an "ovo-lacto-vegetarian", butter is not vegetarian, as it is a milk product. It also needs to be disclosed if the asker is keeping kosher, as butter (milk) or lard (meat product) may not be consumable until a suitable length of time elapses from the person's last meal.

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Anonymous Coward

So you didn't fix root cause

It's trivial to edit the registry to permanently disable the autocomplete of email from a cache (which includes typos). Its simple to add a Contact with the persons real name mapped to their email address and have this used by the user instead.

The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different outcome.

Yes the user was a dick, but you fixed the symptoms rather than the cause. You can't fix them being an ignorant dick, but you could have made it easier for them to not make the mistake.

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

"Yes the user was a dick, but you fixed the symptoms rather than the cause."

I don't think IT support is allowed to fire the bursar.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So you didn't fix root cause

"Yes the user was a dick, but you fixed the symptoms rather than the cause."

"I don't think IT support is allowed to fire the bursar."

The cause is the stupid feature of Outlook trying to be helpful by auto-completing email addresses it's seen before even if they are wrong, when the user starts typing a few of the letters of that email address.

So the fix is to turn off that stupid feature in Outlook.

Now this leaves the user having to type the email address in every time without making a typo, usually from memory. However, if you make it a 'Contact' in Outlook, then the user only has to remember the friendly name of the contact not 'zxjduerad@sadrjys.co,uk.com.xys' - which has the opportunity to be entered wrong. It's the same reason we have DNS for web site names, rather than ask users to type 212.58.246.95 when trying to look at the news.

So, as an IT technician, fix the cause - the stupidity of Outlook - rather than trying to fix the user.

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

Let's be clear on one thing : fixing the user is impossible. Either the user can learn, or he can't.

If you disagree, you obviously have not encountered enough users.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So you didn't fix root cause

I'd have gone for creating a template message with the destination email, subject and half the message pre-filled in. And linked to a button/menu so they could just click to launch it. I'd describe it to them as "saving you time since you have to send this report so often"*.

*always use this description for any improvements to workflows where the user has a habit of cocking up but doesn't admit to fat-fingers or not understanding as being the problem. Working with anyone who admits to having difficulties due to their own limitations and is apologetic about calling you out, you can say something like "I think I have a trick that will save you needing my help. "

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

Hey, stop posting my email address on the internet

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So you didn't fix root cause

You sound like a user that rings up IT with solutions you've dreamt up yourself.

Sadly, it gets political... Yes, that would 'work', but the root cause is user input. You're avoiding the issue just like everyone else does.

User input doesn't just trigger the issue, it IS the Issue. The answer is training, or some other intervention that modifies the user's behaviour. Of course, that doesn't happen in reality. 'I am too IMPORTANT to be taught as that means I am wrong.'

I recently contracted with IBM as a deskside engineer. They were in the midst of pushing Lotus Notes on their new users (newish service contract). The user base absolutely balked, and an arrangement was made where some users could opt to keep Outlook but not get email support off us deskside techs (well, on the client).

I joined after this, and was amazed - no, i wasn't 'allowed' to touch Outlook (I hate Lotus Notes as both a user and tech, and sympathised with those users), but as I was deskside, I'd see plenty of evidence of users helping each other. It was so weird. There was no official support unless you wanted to 'upgrade' to Notes.

My point? I think the safety net of having IT bail you out precludes learning and self education. One thing I'd suggest all good techs have had, is the needy user who twigs you're good and congratulations you're now, psychologically, their personal safety net.

Another place I worked had an on site trainer. She wasn't IT but we could refer people to her. That offset some of the needier users.

The problem is there's nowhere else for these issues to go. As much as the user is causing something, realistically you're the only person 1) able to do something and 2) willing.

Methinks if the bean counters thought this way, they'd roll training into the deskside roles for no extra pay and widen the support scope. Shudder.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So you didn't fix root cause

recently? Lotus Notes? wasnt that that office suite we used to run in DOS 6.22 before windows came along?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So you didn't fix root cause

The Lotus Notes story was a good one.

Another part of "user reality" is that almost every clump of users has an early adopter/computer enthusiast in the group.

While these types can often be a massive pain as they press for upgrades and teach their co-workers dodgy tricks, they can be an asset if one invests the time to make friends with them. Then one can feed them good info and let their natural tech-enthusiasm disseminate it. The trick is to build a sufficiently positive relationship that they ask before "just doing stuff".

The other type of user who can be a great asset is the one who has the attitude "my computer is a tool". Usually with no interest in tech, but not prone to panic. The sort of person whom one can calmly and patiently talk through a problem on the phone, and who will then go and sort our her co-workers' machine (yes, it is usually a she).

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

"Lotus Notes? wasnt that that office suite we used to run in DOS 6.22 before windows came along?"

Sadly, it evolved and mutated. And not in the "awesome super powers" way either.

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

Lotus Notes? Still got it where I work. God, I hate it. God, I hate it.

The miserable part of my life is porting the applications written for that system so we can eventually put a stake through its miserable, shriveled heart.

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

"fixing the user is impossible."

Perhaps decommissioning the user is the answer?

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

"So, as an IT technician, fix the cause - the stupidity of Outlook - rather than trying to fix the user."

11 downvotes. It looks as if the MS marketing crowd have paid a visit again.

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

"Lotus Notes? Still got it where I work. God, I hate it. God, I hate it."

I escaped from it last year. There are many government offices and financial institutions that have invested so much in Notes that they can't disentangle themselves. I also hate it with a passion. As someone said to me once, "It's not that it's bad in the sense of massively bad in a way that makes one unable to use it. It's like a series of tiny insults to one's person, like being slapped in the face with a sardine. Once or twice is not pleasant but you'll live. However Notes is like being flicked in the face with a rank sardine every five minutes. It gets old quickly."

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

"11 downvotes. It looks as if the MS marketing crowd have paid a visit again."

No. The feature isn't stupid, it is just fine. The root cause was a stupid user, not Outlook. Outlook has many failings but the inability to fix the bursar's dyslexia isn't one of them.

It is plain faster to start typing the name or email address in the To: field than clicking the To: button and selecting the recipient from the list. A mistyped autocomplete address can be removed from list by highlighting it and clicking the X or pressing delete.

Creating a contact in Outlook also has a chance that the recipient address in it is wrong. The bursar wouldn't still admit her fault and Jack would have had to fix the problem.

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

So, as an IT technician, fix the cause - the stupidity of Outlook - rather than trying to fix the user.

Exactly, fixing the user is a job for the veterinarian.

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

Exactly, fixing the user is a job for the veterinarian.

Or it's for someone with a Walther PPK and license to "fix" with extreme prejudice. Where's the Mr. Bond icon?

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

Anyone working with Notes, take comfort that they may soon end up migrating to a SharePoint based system and then all your problems will be over!

Oh... wait....

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Re: So you didn't fix root cause

"Perhaps decommissioning the user is the answer?"

Which can be tough if the user is on tenure or has friends on the board.

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I know some professional people that would add in the charge to the customer for the four hours driving on top of the work they do and when their customers complain about that quote they are bluntly told beforehand "take it or leave it" but since they are highly skilled and very good at their job they still invariably get the work order as its still cheaper getting it done right compared to previous contractors that maybe have right royally stuffed things up and then cost them a lot of money to rectify.

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"I know some professional people that would add in the charge to the customer for the four hours driving on top of the work they do and when their customers complain about that quote they are bluntly told beforehand "take it or leave it" but since they are highly skilled and very good at their job they still invariably get the work order as its still cheaper getting it done right compared to previous contractors that maybe have right royally stuffed things up and then cost them a lot of money to rectify."

Or the client can counter, "I'll leave it, AND I'll consider this not fit for purpose, so don't expect my next payment." Which can put companies with razor-thin margins on the spot, as noted elsewhere in this thread.

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Anonymous Coward

Moving from XP to Win7

Refusing to go from XP to Windows 7 because you think it'll be too difficult? From a user perspective, that's just about the easiest transition you can do with Windows.

If you're struggling with that, then you have no right to even have access to a PC.

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Facepalm

Re: Moving from XP to Win7

Easily said with hindsight. At the time there was a monumental amount of FUD being shouted on the subject, quite a lot of it around here.

Too many gobshite MS haters around...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Moving from XP to Win7

"Refusing to go from XP to Windows 7 because you think it'll be too difficult? "

And when using a PC all day is not your primary job, having something that works and you are familiar with replaced with something new, just because it makes 'IT Support' better, not unsurprisingly pisses off users. Especially since that transition will not be seamless for them - apps missing/different, layout/shorcuts gone, documents/email lost.

I'm in IT so I have no issue with adopting and learning new operating systems and apps - but it would piss me off as a user if someone took my PC away and brought it back different and missing stuff without any consideration that doing so will impact my ability to do my day job on it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Moving from XP to Win7

If your PC is a tool of the job, surely it is in your own self interests to know how to use your tools?

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Re: Moving from XP to Win7

@DrLifecandy

Of course you are correct, but the point being made I feel was that the old tools worked perfectly fine for them.

I work in FE and moving away from paper to online systems etc is a huge problem. It takes a long time to become adept in a new system, time that simply isn't there anymore. Some of us try and support where we can but the calendar doesn't stop ticking along because we're moving to a cloud based portfolio or whatever. Add into the mix a lot of staff are simultaneously being quality assessed on their work (now input online) and it does get rather stressful for lots of users. It would be wise to remember this.

Saying that, a transition in OS and MS Office versions isn't anywhere near as onerous.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Moving from XP to Win7

bollocks ... most users as just plain effing lazy and can't be arsed .. people with a "that's not in my job description attitude" which again is bollocks as most business roles / public service provider roles are in part IT jobs. If you can't do your job without IT you are in part an IT worker and should at learn the basics of how this shit works. We get people all the time who basically refuse to learn how to use a very simple order admin tool in their website (essentially no harder to use than ticking a few boxes in yahoo or hotmail and clicking delete or whatever - you can tell if a customer is going to be div more or less just from their email address) and yet they appear to have no problem using an iphone or facebitch etc.

Health is a bad a sector as teaching if not worse.

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Re: Moving from XP to Win7

Teachers don't do change. Doesn't matter if what they are moving to is the greatest piece of software ever written and it's for free. It's a change therefore wrong.

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Re: Moving from XP to Win7

"If your PC is a tool of the job, surely it is in your own self interests to know how to use your tools?"

They do. Until somebody comes along and changes everything "because".

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Re: Moving from XP to Win7

"Refusing to go from XP to Windows 7 because you think it'll be too difficult? From a user perspective, that's just about the easiest transition you can do with Windows."

Unless, of course, your computers has ISA slots that are used to control proprietary (and VERY expensive) hardware that is critical to your business. Remember the article about the lathe?

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Re: Moving from XP to Win7

I had to track down a dot matrix printer which could provide some very specific emulation options (via DIP switches no less) to keep a customers very expensive optical measurement system running. The software was running on a 486 PC, running DOS, connected through a bespoke ISA card to the equipment.

This was in 2015.

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Re: Moving from XP to Win7

Impact printers are also essential if you're printing on copy-through paper (carbon or carbonless), since in many cases printing multiple copies is not legally an option (that's why the copy paper, after all). Since it takes a physical impression to make the copies, you have no choice but impact printers. That's why OKI, Epson, et al still make impact printers.

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Re: Moving from XP to Win7

If your PC is a tool of the job, surely it is in your own self interests to know how to use your tools?

OK, I just took your regular automobile away this morning, and replaced it with a Learjet, no training period, no warning, and MAYBE I left a pilot's manual, which only makes sense to somebody who has a background in aviation, in the cockpit. You HAVE to get to work this morning, or you will be fired. See, I just gave you a much better, much more expensive vehicle to do so, with many more features and capacity, and you're complaining?

I am a computer user but not an aficionado. I know just enough to do what I need to do. It is not rewarding. financially or otherwise, to learn more than necessary to get my job done.

You wear clothes, for comfort and propriety's sake, but you are not forced into learning every detail about how to construct your clothing, how the fabrics and other components are produced and how they interact to make up each garment.

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