back to article BOFH: We want you to know you have our full support

BOFH logo – telephone with devil's horns "NGGGGAAARRRGGGHHH!" the PFY says, slamming his mouse onto the desk several times. "Problems?" I ask. "Yes, I'm trying to get pre-sales support for a product but I'm just going round and round in the website which sends me to a Virtual Agent that can only interpret my question in …

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Re: Choices, choices...

Also BOFH branded shovels, BOFH branded bags of quicklime and BOFH branded rolls of old carpet.

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Re: Choices, choices...

And best of all, BOFH the doll. *tug* "it's in the airtight tape safe, right behind the currently open door with very easy hinges and no interior lock."

Ain't he adorable?

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To get a second-hand vase to regain its lustre, don't you only need to wash it in dish soap and water?

I could be wrong, I'm not a vase technician.

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Mushroom

No, you just give it to your wife/girlfriend/mother to clean it.

<runs for cover/>

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Rightious

And a well deserved <KZZZZZRRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTTTT> too. Even if you are a BOFH, there's kicking a down man and there's taking a running kick at an unconscious mans head. One's petty, the others just lame.

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Joke

Re: Rightious

One's petty, the others just lame.

One's taking advantage and the other is a very good opportunity.

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This is the basis of about the only nightmare I cannot take control of now, it is so bad that when I am having one I can even anticipate what the next layer of despair is going to be. Which makes sense since it is happening inside my own head, but definitely makes me think I have been doing this too long. Could be time to change career to something low stress like cage fighting or maybe nude glass blowing.

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Pint

Thanks!

Thanks, Simon, for another great BOFH. Not only funny, but, as others have noted, this episode is more fact than fiction.

Happy Friday! Have a virtual beer on me.

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Pint

Simon will look back on this

with a degree of gratitude to PFY. When you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss reaches up and drags you into it. It really sounded like Simon had fallen into a fugue state, mentally trapped in the Support Maze. And PFY retrieved him, yanked him back into reality, with the best tool for the job.

'Course, Simon will also zap PFY when he's not expecting it (any more), because you don't get away with that kind of s**t without consequences.

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Re: Simon will look back on this

"'Course, Simon will also zap PFY when he's not expecting it (any more), because you don't get away with that kind of s**t without consequences."

ISTR this is not the first PFY to try his luck against the Bastard. At this point I recall the Star Wars cycles-of-repetition theory of old plot lines history. But I'd better resist mentioning what might just be a spoiler for next episode.

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Re: Simon will look back on this

He doesn't usually retaliate in the next episode. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

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Steam

Steam support.

Reminds me very much of trying to get anyone from Steam to help you with an issue. it is the biggest joke of circular redirects I've ever seen.

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Is there anybody...

Is there anybody who hasn't been through support hell like that?

What I find surprising is that companies will spend millions on marketing, advertising, even having shiny new names and logos designed at enormous expense to polish their image. Then f*ck the customers about when we are actually considering buying the sodding product, or are having a problem with it.

Add to the list of woes above the web page that has a link saying, "contact us" which takes you to a page of "FAQs" but no contact details, but which has a link that says "Question not answered?" that takes you back to the page that has a link saying "contact us".

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The Pointy Haired Bosses of a company with thigh I am familiar

...are positively wetting themselves in excitement over "Digitization" and having multiple orgasms over what they vcould do "on the Internet"

Having had the misfortune to experience both their internet and intranet, this article is far, far too close to that grim reality.

I bet Hell has a portal "designed" by the same team of cretins

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If I had a nickel...

...every time I heard something like this on a support forum:

"please rate this comment with 5 gold stars to prove that I can regurgitate a support script without actually reading the question."

...I'd have a lot of nickels.

I'm beginning to believe that these "people" are not people at all, but chatbots composed of a few lines of Prolog with made-up names and avatars that are all missing kid photos from India. You'll, for instance, write an article with a very specific description of a problem, including log files and data dumps, and the official company response, from someone purporting to be named Arjun, who by his photo looks about 15 and has "genius level support" and "staff scientist" after his name, is "please to be updating your video drivers to their latest version", when the issue is as far away from a video issue as you can get and still be in the same galaxy.

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Re: If I had a nickel...

Have an upvote (and a beer) for mentioning Prolog. I need (still, after so many decades) something stronger to get that out of my system (again). I learned it in grade 12 in our CS class in school...

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Re: If I had a nickel...

"please to be updating your video drivers to their latest version", when the issue is as far away from a video issue as you can get and still be in the same galaxy.

I recently had a Dell "tech" suggest that I update the system firmware on a Dell laptop when the complaint was that the microSD card reader wouldn't eject the card (standard MicroSD thing where you push it in a little against a spring and it pops out. In this case, pressing it did nothing; it didn't move at all).

After I told him I already had done the update, he wanted me to install a remote access program so he could poke around on my PC. How disappointed he must have been to learn that the laptop no longer had Windows on it and could not run his little thing.

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Re: If I had a nickel...

Been there. Not tech support, but pre-purchase support. Twice.

In the Summer I bought a Dell laptop with an SSD.. I did a chat, because I've never had an SSD machine before and the storage is adequate but not exactly generous. I asked if there was space inside the chassis, and a free connection, so that I could put my old HDD in there alongside the SSD. I was told there was. I double checked and he confirmed to me that this was correct. There isn't. I like the machine, but that pissed me off no end. Last month, for my daughter a Dell seemed the best bet for a late 'A'" level into uni laptop. On the web page there was a number to call for pre-sales inquiries. Very specifically for that. When I called the agent refused to answer any questions. he just repeated "I'm here to take your order" and I kept repeating "I'm not calling to place an order yet". I just got nowhere.

I did a complaint in writing to Dell. And got an apology. Nothing more. No offer to make things better in any way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If I had a nickel...

> pre-purchase support. Twice.

> I bought a Dell laptop

Stunned.

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Re: If I had a nickel...

I know. But dammit, I like their machines. My desk top jobbie is brilliant for my needs, and so are the laptops otherwise.

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Website Guide to IVR

What would be ideal is for companies to have a web page with the entire script to their IVR on it, so you could go browse it in advance and then when you hit the voice prompt just key 14235 and get immediately to your chosen point. If there wasn't a suitable endpoint for your query then you'd know in advance and instead of wasting time on the phone, could try writing a letter, wrapping it round a brick and delivering it to their offices in person via a suitable window.

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Re: Website Guide to IVR

We have a menu system for our multi purpose phone line at work.

The line is used for customers to open tickets and check progress, as well as used by our techs for support and ordering parts.

I programmed the menu numbers to get to the support/part order section (including adding the pauses) into the contact entry on my cellphone so it would do it for me. :)

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Sad but true

Senior look-at-me blue cloud chimps will witter about AI making this useless crap better.

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All true

Amazon product reviews mimic this exactly, as do everything on the Microsoft web page.

I haven't figured out the ones that come back with "I don't have the problem you describe and I don't even own this product, but it seems like it might/should work for you."

I think it is because there is some sort of community pissing contest where people are ranked based on the number of comments, regardless of their helpfulness.

You did miss the usual Microsoft support site canned reply of "I can't/won't help you unless you spend the next 5 hours dumping all of these logfiles and tracking down a long list of details." Those copy/paste-tards usually are able to do everything EXCEPT actually help.

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Re: All true

No, it's Amazon's poxy system which, if a potential purchaser of the product X submits a question about it,asks everyone who recently bought an X whether they can answer the question. Too many of us are so polite that instead of thinking they've nothing useful to say they answer with something close "I don't have the problem you describe and I don't even own this product, but it seems like it might/should work for you" and Amazon's demented bots publish that.

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Flame

Related

I regularly receive emails in very large font, for the visual impaired you know, with at the end the text Think about the environment before you print this mail., which gets printed on a single new page if you dare to do that.

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Flame

OK, now we know the background to the question of contacting Virgin support.

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Contacting EE

I've been getting the usual spammy calls about upgrading by oil or LPG fired boiler if I'm in receipt of benefits. Having pressed "9" a few times to be removed from their list, I eventually succumbed and pressed "5" for a call back. A few days later (yes, they really are in a hurry to contact me!) a scottish woman phoned up. About halfway through trying to explain to her that I have neither an oil or LPG fired boiler, am not in receipt in benefits and that their "press 9 to be removed from our calling list", she hung up on me. A few hours later, another recorded/robocall for the same fscking "deal". So I called back the mobile number the Scottish woman's call came from. It's an EE mobile account with the default EE answerphone message and a full voicemail box. But can I contact EE and complain about one of the customers abusing me causing "alarm, harassment and distress"? Not on your life. They don't do email. At all. I have to use an AI webchat or sign up to their commuity forums. The Contact Us page requires me to enter my EE account number. So I can't complain to EE about an EE customer unless I'm an EE customer. Phoning them takes waaaay too long to get a human.

I've reported the number to OFCOM and TPS, but I doubt much will happen.

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Re: Contacting EE

Ah. John Brown ( no body). You've just highlighted another room in customer service Hell. That's the one when you can't contact them unless you enter a customer number in the automatic switchboard or the online form ( mostly it's the online form), but that leaves you screwed when you do need to contact them but haven't got a customer number*. For example, because there's been a problem setting up the account that would create a customer number.

*Even with a background in Psychology I still can't understand the mindset that lets someone create that kind of illogical obstacle. Are they incapable of imagining a use case that requires contact without a customer number? (Needing to find out your customer number if it's been mislaid seems an obvious one).

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They simply don't want you to call support

After a fruitless visit to a well known department store to buy a particular jacket (they'd sold out) the sales staff informed me I could buy one from their online store. Great. Order placed online. Hermes were supposed to deliver the jacket a couple of days later. I got an email which had a tracking link showing how much longer the delivery driver would likely take to arrive. Finally, I got an email saying the jacket had been delivered. But, but, nobody has been! Tried to contact Hermes via their website. Nightmare. Their site hung at any attempt to submit their contact form. Finally gave up and looked on the department store's website. Eventually, in a way reminiscent of something Douglas Adams said, I found details of how to contact their support staff embedded at the bottom of a webpage in a disused lavatory with a sign on the page saying ‘Beware of the Leopard'".

I phoned the support number. Waded through a huge menu, made a mis-step and got disconnected. Phoned again, menu system again. Then stuck in a queue. "Your call is important to us" repeated ad-nauseam amid repeated suggestions to look on the FAQ page of their website instead. After 20 minutes stuck in the queue and my phone battery and patience starting to falter, I got to speak to a human being, with barely intelligible English. Went though details of order number, name, address etc. "Yes your parcel has been delivered." "No it hasn't." "Were you out?" "No, been here all day, waiting." According to the Hermes tracking system my parcel was "handed to reception". "Yes?" queried the support bod. "There is no reception. This is a private residence." "Ah, I take your point. I'll contact the carrier and find out what's happening". Another ten minutes stuck on hold. "We're unable to contact the driver, so we'll send you another jacket, next day delivery." "Great" I say. "Oh just a moment, we've sold out of your size". "Arggghhhh!". "OK, sir I'll give you a full refund."

A random stranger knocked on my door the following day, from a house a mile up the road. "I think this parcel belongs to you. I found it in my garden shed."

I was about to phone the department store customer support to tell them I'd finally got it, so could cancel the refund. Then I thought about their phone menu system and another twenty minutes stuck in a queue to speak to someone. Bugger it. I'm not going through all that again.

I notice the department store in question recently posted poor Christmas turnover results. Hmmm.

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Re: They simply don't want you to call support

"A random stranger knocked on my door the following day, from a house a mile up the road. "I think this parcel belongs to you. I found it in my garden shed." "

My understanding is this is the current nature of disruptive delivery technology. Forget all this warehouse to customer nonsense, your parcel will get delivered to someone closer to you than the delivery center, and by a process of elimination end up at it's destination.

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You think its a joke? I had a reply from the Kogan Co Australia support when I complained about a toaster, asking me if I had tried turning it off and on again.

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Anonymous Coward

WTF

nobody goes through that cycle of pre-sales support - unless you are a complete tard. pre-sales support is either simple and helpful or you don't buy the product.

Who writes this shit... oh...

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Re: WTF

Lack of pre-sales support has stopped me from buying from various companies over the years. I once nearly bought an expensive high spec, custom Dell computer, but had a query and emailed them. I got a reply that stated it was written by an artificially intelligent bot. It went on for the equivalent of 6 pages of A4 answering various questions, none of which related to the one I'd asked. I thought to myself that if this is their pre-sales support before they've got your money, I don't want to find out what their post-sales support is like.

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Anonymous Coward

How many times have you heard this one?

You have an issue - something you know is probably solvable if you have the correct information - you go to Microsoft support or the product support site/page - and you get told to go to system restore and select the last system restore point?

And if you do, all changes/new software/updates you have installed since that system restore will be lost.....

And if you so, there is not guarantee it will fix the problem....

And the update you did since the last Microsoft update did not create a system restore point that is usable.....

You start thinking impolite things.....

So you open TOR, search and find an obscure page with decent suggestions, make a selection and follow the suggested steps and YEAH! it works. You then post the solution to the produce support forum and get the HAMMER described in this article, you get ridiculed for a stupid suggestion and...

You close the tab and breathe deeply not saying the impolite words rushing around in your head.

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Call centres and the concept of purgatory

“This item of yours, Sir, can you describe it?” asked Vicky, or more likely Vikki, the call centre ‘adviser’, not bothering to hide her boredom. Minimum wage employees in low-prestige jobs where 90% of recruits leave within a year have a particular way of intoning the word ‘Sir’, which conveys both resentment and the cast-iron assurance that, whatever your question, complaint or suggestion, it (and you) will be:

misunderstood;

ignored;

lost;

deleted; and/or

passed to ‘technical support’.

Technical Support is simply the concept of purgatory, updated. Technical Support used to mean Fat Dave from IT. Although always slow, obstructive, incompetent, unwashed, aromatic and covered in crumbs, Fat Dave was at least borderline human. Technical Support has now evolved into a disembodied process, a global machine whose function is to bring slow, obstructive, incompetence to a world-wide customer base.

You may have signed up for ‘services backed by our award-winning technical support’, but they never tell you which. You’re expecting their speed, service and solutions to have been recognised by juries of their peers, but instead they’ve romped home with:

the dead cat behind the fridge prize;

the unexpected dog shit exactly the same colour as the pavement prize;

the month-old Chinese takeaway rediscovered under the sofa on returning from an overseas trip prize; and

the overflowing toilet because the U-bend’s blocked with the fat from ten years’ worth of cooked breakfasts tipped down the drain every day prize.

But don’t let me put you off. There is a remote chance that Technical Support may not, on this occasion, live down to its reputation and might just stumble upon an answer to your question. They might just solve your problem. They might just be able to advise you exactly what you need to do, in order to perform exactly the task you needed to carry out, in order to achieve exactly the result you had in mind. Just how remote is this possibility? Well, perhaps you’ll get lucky, but you’re more likely to see:

irony in the Deep South;

a Belfast Republican wearing a bowler hat, an orange sash, and playing the flute; or

a Taliban delegation at an inter-faith workshop organised by the liberal wing of the Church of England.

But don’t let me put you off. You may elect to hold the line. You may decide that, because you do indeed have a push-button telephone, you might get lucky with ‘one of the following five options’. On reaching the fifth you will, however, realise that none applies to you. No, no, you’re not:

calling about problems setting up a new account;

calling about problems accessing an existing account;

calling about problems making a new booking;

calling about problems canceling or refunding an existing booking; or

calling about problems with terminating an account.

You are, in fact, simply calling because some imbecilic (yet award-winning) system has yet again insisted that there is only one train a day from Birmingham to Manchester and that it goes via Peterborough. So you go for Option Six.

Option Six, let there be no mistake, is Room 101. It is the sum of all fears. It is the dark, gelatinous, evil heart of the global incompetence machine. Option Six is merciless. Option Six is the destroyer of souls. Option Six is relentless. Option Six rips all hope from the human spirit. Option Six knows no pity. Option Six administers only grinding, limitless, frustration. From now. For ever. Until the end of time. Option Six is:

‘Please hold if you would like to speak to an adviser.’

You had a choice. You, yourself, the human being, quite unaided by the internet, really do know there are several trains an hour between Birmingham and Manchester. And you also know, with absolute certainty, that they go nowhere near Peterborough. But you wanted the internet to tell you whether the Family Fun Price-Buster Weekend SupaSaver ticket was cheaper than the Super Special Daysout Megarover. You’d seen the advert somewhere: something about £5 off, or something like it.

So now you’re holding for Technical Support. ‘You are now in a queue for the first available adviser.’ But, don’t you realise, there isn’t one. There will never be an adviser available. No matter how long you hold the line (and you’re just passing £5 in phone bill already) you will never, in all eternity, ever, ever, get to speak with a person who you would consider suitably qualified, precise, accurate, articulate or informed enough to give you advice.

Advice comes from doctors, lawyers and other people with clean fingernails. Inspiration comes from artists, writers, composers. Astonishment comes whenever you contemplate the spectacular achievement of your species:

tool use;

language;

writing;

art;

music;

mathematics;

space travel;

the capacity to imagine conditions a billionth of a second after the birth of the universe;

the desire to construct a machine capable of replicating those conditions;

the ability to actually build it; and

the capability to share its results with every sentient human being on the planet.

But you are not in the queue for a sentient being. You are in the Option Six queue for Technical Support. ‘Your call is valuable to us,’ the holding-voice said. Then, over and over again, every 30 seconds, ‘we apologise for the delay in taking your call’.

They do not mean it. They are lying to you. Every minute’s more delay makes the call more valuable to the evil global incompetence machine, You are paying to listen to their lies and endure hold-music which sounds as if it was played against her will by a terminally melancholy employee in an animal research laboratory.

Then finally.

“Hello this is Technical Support, my name is Dave, how can I help you today?”

No. Don’t fall for it. He is not called Dave. He’s Sanjay, Raul or Yvgeny; somebody out there in the fringelands of the global economy. Anywhere in the right timezone, anywhere where it costs less to employ him than it costs to keep a prisoner locked up back here. They are compelled, all of them, to call themselves Dave, so that callers may imagine the appearance and aroma of Fat Dave and take comfort from his crumbs.

You explain the problem. Yvgeny’s grasp of the relative geography of Birmingham, Manchester and Peterborough is, you rightly suspect, incomplete, even when you’ve tried, really tried, to make it local for him. “You see, that would be like trying to go from Moscow to St Petersburg via Kiev.”

“That will be stupid. Why want go not in straight line?”

“Indeed Yvgeny, why want go not in straight line indeed? In my country, we call straight line from Birmingham to Manchester West Coast Main Line.”

“And Piotrsburgh, he is not on West Coast?”

“No, Peterborough is in East.”

“Like Vladivostok, yes?”

“Yes, a bit like Vladivostok, but with less vodka.”

“And where Kiev?”

“Capital city of Ukraine, I think? Why do you ask.”

“Because first you say that your Piotrsburgh he is Kiev, but now you say he is Vladivostok. Which is right?”

“It doesn’t matter, I was just trying to explain that Peterborough is not on a straight line between Birmingham and Manchester.”

“Why it not matter? Kiev is only big detour. Vladivostok is giant detour taking many days and nights on Trans-Siberian railway. Is your Piotrsburgh just big inconvenient or giant waste of time.”

“Oh Peterborough is definitely a giant waste of time.”

“Yes. Now I understand this, I see why you not want go there, but you say website forces you go Piotrsburgh?”

“Yes, and I don’t want to go to Peterborough at all”.

“But you are the one forcing website to send you Piotrsburgh. You ask website for SupaSaver and MegaRover, yes?”

“I just wanted to know about those tickets, yes.”

“Some tickets not valid straight line way. Not technical issue, so I put you back Customer Service.”

Now’s your chance to escape, you could just put the phone down. Cut your losses – which are running at about £27 by now, by the way, given the premium rate line. But you’re too deep into hold-hypnosis.

The melancholy lab technician is back with her mournful drone. Your call is once again valuable. You will again be transferred to the first available adviser. You are in a queue and your call will be answered as soon as possible.

“Hello this is Customer Service, this is Nikki speaking, how can I help you today? Sir.”

Things have come full circle. If you’re honest, the only way Nikki, Vikki , Shazz or Cazzie could help by this stage is by giving you hints on assisted suicide. But you’re too far gone to think that positively. So you just hammer it out all over again.

“You don’t want to go via Peterborough then?”

“No, I don’t. Neither do I want to go via Kiev or Vladivostok.”

“There’s no need to be rude. Sir.”

Despite the razoring sneer of her ‘Sir’, despite your overwhelming, caveman-adrenaline, urge to slaughter and feed to the dogs the Bollinger-swilling Spawn of Satan who own ZoomTrains.com and who are profiting (right here, right now) from your misery, your last ounce of humanity helps you resist smashing the handset through the computer screen. So you just sit there and take it when Nikki tells you that it was your own fault anyway, because SupaSavers and MegaRovers are only valid on indirect routes.

She gives you the prices and times of the direct trains. But you’re too overcome with that seething mix of anger and impotence brought on by call centres. You don’t care anymore. You can’t even remember why you wanted to go to Manchester in the first place. It doesn’t matter anymore. Nothing matters. Nothing.

“Sir?”

“Oh yes, thanks for your help.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Yes. There is. Please just tell me why everything nowadays is so shallow, so hateful, so insincere.”

“That’s not an issue I’m trained to address. Sir. Have nice day.”

And with a click the pain, and £42.37 in call charges, is gone. It’s over. You know nothing more than you did £42.37 ago. You are filled with hate. You wish to kill.

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Trollface

Re: Call centres and the concept of purgatory

I don't get it. Why would you want to go via Vladivostok when the Birmingham-Kiev-Manchester route is quicker?

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Pint

Re: Call centres and the concept of purgatory

That was a rant worthy of a bastard himself. Have a beer, you need it.

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QNAP

The entire rant sounds like my average experience with QNAP. Although Simon missed the rant about the one "PowerUser" who for some reason is valued by the manufacturer as a useful contributor, but whose "advice" consists only of telling people that they are "newbies" who don't deserve to own such a magnificent product as the Bambleweeney SubMeson 142 and who therefore are beneath his contempt and if only the ignorant user would realise it, the reset switch is on the base of the unit under a sticker that is marked "DO NOT REMOVE, WARRANTY VOID IF REMOVED" and can only be operated using a security pentalobe Torx driver. If the user dares to point out that they aren't asking for help with the reset switch but rather understanding how to create a storage volume, a subject that is both fundamental to operation and not covered in the user manual, the PowerUser will rant that they are clearly a congenital idiot, the product of fifty generations of inbreeding and they should run and sit in a pig sty for the next six weeks until the desire to pester PowerUsers with stupid questions has gone away.

Yes, "Schumaku" I'm looking at you.

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