back to article Blame everything on 'computer error' – no one will contradict you

Please pass on my regards to Mrs Cromwell for selling me her fig. What's that? You can't? Your email isn't working? Maybe that's because you are trying to log into Gmail with your Yahoo ID. That's right, they are different. They are supposed to be different. Yes, really. No, the computer isn't broken. You're broken, perhaps …

  1. Richard 81

    I'm not sure I believe you

    It beggars belief that someone can suffer so many separate technical problems in a single day.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure I believe you

      It beggars belief that someone can suffer so many few separate technical problems in a single day.

      TFTFY

      1. tfewster Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I'm not sure I believe you

        It beggars belief that someone can suffer so many few separate technical idiocy problems in a single day.

        TFTFFY

        1. tfewster Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: I'm not sure I believe you

          Bad form replying to my own post, and I'm not sure if this is original, but, extrapolating from a quote attributed to Albert Einstein "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former".

          "Stupidity" may also be called "denseness". Get where I'm going yet? Stupidity definitely has mass, you can feel it weighing you down.

          Dark Matter: Invisible, universal and massy. It fits.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm not sure I believe you

      I've had days like that, they usually end with a few beverages.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: I'm not sure I believe you

        I've had days like that, they usually end with a few beverages.

        Making it painfully obvious that fridges and drinks cabinets should never be computer-controlled.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I'm not sure I believe you

          "Making it painfully obvious that fridges and drinks cabinets should never be computer-controlled."

          Tell that to El Reg. The current plan is to build a beer delivery bot. What could possibly go wrong?

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure I believe you

      You are correct in statement, in that no "technical" errors happened... they were all "human" errors!

      (See name, I have qualifications in knowing what a technical error is, as I never make human errors! /s)

    4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure I believe you

      This column is mainly fictional or highly exaggerated i.e. "hyperbolics". HTH HAND

      1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

        Re: I'm not sure I believe you

        Unfortunately Robert, I fear you might be mistaken. I don't think it's exaggerated at all - I've had the same sort of encounters and would had many more but for the fact that I tend to hide away at home and only venture out when absolutely necessary...

      2. ' DROP TABLE users;

        Re: Only have one thing to say to Lenovo....

        Shirley, you mean "Hyperbollox"

  2. muddysteve

    I have always said...

    The main problem with computers is that they do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: I have always said...

      ...what you tell them to do

      Like with Cortana? Or siri? and what's that other woman's name? Lexie?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: I have always said...

        @Chivo243,

        No, no, Cortana and Siri and Alexa only do what they interpret is what you told them to do. Which is more often than not exactly the opposite of what you tell them to do.

      2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: I have always said...

        Alexa.

        Or as she think's she's called whenever the football is on the TV "Alexis Sanchez".

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: I have always said...

        Like with Cortana? Or siri? and what's that other woman's name? Lexie?

        And you don't get an 'are you sure?' prompt.

    2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: I have always said...

      Humans are no different. I frequently design/build/program according to the requirement spec only to find out when I sit down with the customer to conduct the FAT that what I've done is not what they wanted.

      If I do a second degree I'll ensure the course syllabus is curated by Doris Stokes.

    3. Alister Silver badge

      Re: I have always said...

      According to Ted Nelson...

      "The good news about computers is that they do exactly what you tell them to do. The bad news is that they do exactly what you tell them to do."

    4. rg287

      Re: I have always said...

      The main problem with computers is that they do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do.

      Making extremely fast, extremely accurate mistakes in the process.

  3. Mycho Silver badge

    One of those sounds like a computer error

    Surely the ATM should be able to distinguish whether the notes in each feeder look similar to the expected notes in those feeders? Even if all it does is to inform the users that £20 notes are unavailable today. Otherwise you can expect a lot more of this kind of thing.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

      Why would they be able to tell the difference? In some areas it may make more sense to dispense fivers and tenners, in others tenners and twenties. It's the tech's job to put the right money in the right feeder.

      And if it did do more thorough checking, a better idiot would come along and manage to mix notes in the feeder and it would be the cash machine's fault again because it couldn't cope with mixed notes in the feeder.

      1. rg287

        Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

        Why would they be able to tell the difference? In some areas it may make more sense to dispense fivers and tenners, in others tenners and twenties. It's the tech's job to put the right money in the right feeder.

        Given that your bog standard supermarket self-service till can scan notes and detect denominations (after it's spent half an hour complaining about unexpected items), it doesn't seem entirely improbable that an ATM could be fitted with a similar scanner on the dispenser to check that the notes it thinks it's dispensing are in fact what it is dispensing.

        Closed loop control is not an especially novel concept.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

          And be honest, in that scenario how many would try to take out just a tenner to see if they'd actually swapped the fill over accidentally and put twenties into the tenner hopper too?

          Then if a purple drinking voucher actually appeared out, spend the next several minutes slowly emptying it a "tenner" at a time...?

        2. lglethal Silver badge

          Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

          "Closed loop control is not an especially novel concept."

          No, but it costs money. And have you ever known a bank to spend money on anything except C-Suite bonuses?

        3. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

          You're missing a point there. Automated checkouts check the denominations of the notes to make sure the customer is not cheating the business. Where's the profit in making sure your company is not cheating the customer?

          1. onefang Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

            I used to work on the guts of ATMs here in Australia over two decades ago. Dunno about other brands of ATM equipment, but the ones I worked on did have fancy stuff for detecting the types of notes going in and out. All manner of checks. I know that sort of thing still exists in the ATMs I use today. When you hear the machine making the usual sounds it makes while it counts your money, then makes a kinda grinding sound, and does the counting sound once more, then you know it has detected something wrong, dumped the cash it was trying to give you, and tried again.

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

      Very simple to check with UK banknotes as I assume the feeder has some sort of sliding paper guide to accommodate the different sizes.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

        I guess that somebody in the banking sector has come up with the solution that i've seen, never fill the machine with anything other than £20 notes.

        1. Mycho Silver badge

          Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

          This is true. Why pay a programmer when you can just inconvenience the general public and have done with it?

        2. albegadeep

          Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

          "...never fill the machine with anything other than £20 notes."

          Yup, my bank does this. I'm in the US, and my bank's ATMs only allow cash withdrawals in $20 increments.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

            Because most places will take a $20 if pushed ($50 and up, another story), so an all-$20 fill maximizes the load as much as is convenient. Fewer trips = less need to pay couriers + better security.

            1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

              Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

              Because most places will take a $20 if pushed ($50 and up, another story)

              I remember reading somewhere that this is, in fact, exactly the reason that the $20 bill is (OK, was, but it probably still is) the most-commonly forged of the US bills.

              Big enough to be worth forging.

              Small enough to pass easily.

            2. DiViDeD Silver badge

              Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

              Hah! Here in Oz, everywhere takes $50s and even $100s (I've bought the odd bag of crisps with a $50, and back in the days before they put 'handling cash' into the too hard for bus drivers basket, I even saw someone use a $100 to pay for her $2.80 concession ticket.)

              I'm not sure whether willingness to accept high denomination notes is the result of the ruinously high cost of living in Sydney, or simply because our dollar is currently worth about fourpence.

              Either way, you almost never see cash change hands these days, it's all PayWave (not nearly as nice a phrase as 'Pay by Bonk', IMO)

          2. kain preacher Silver badge

            Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

            I've travel a lot in the US. Far as I've seen, USBank is the only ATM that I've seen that gives you some thing other than 20's.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bank note checker

        Either because they are US machines redone for the UK, or to put the responsibility on min wage employees you can sue easier than a billion dollar Cash machine manufacture... I can confirm no note checking mechanism in the machines I've seen... though I've only seen a few.

        The teller types in the type of note, the amount and the machine just counts out individual "pages" as far as its designed. Though no ink in this printer. ;)

        1. Olivier2553

          Re: Bank note checker

          In the (few) AT machines I have seen replenished, here in Thailand, not only the bank note were checked by drawer, but each note of each drawer is being checked too before the machine goes online. This allows to count the bills, check that there are no bill sticking, invalid, unrecognizable, etc. Rejected bills go to a reject drawer that will eventually go back to the bank to be treated by a human.

          More over, even if the person in charge of inserting the drawers in the ATM may be a low wages person, the one filling the drawers with thousands of fresh bank notes (10, 20, 30, more thousand notes in a drawer) is probably a bank employee. Why should they make error? And why a 10 pounds drawer could be installed in a 20 pounds slot?

          Laser printers solved the paper size 30 years ago...

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

      Here in the USofA, I once used an automated check-out machine at the home improvement store, gave it a $20 for a $17 purchase and received three $10 notes in change.

      Being an honest kind of guy, I went over to the "watcher" and presented her with my receipt, the three $10 notes, a smile, and told her, "No."

      I have never seen the staff at Lowe's move so quickly before, or after. Must have been a one time event.

      They opened up the machine, handed me my $3, and I left, while they attempted to figure out how many people before me had neglected to inform them of the error.

      Best Saturday morning fun I've had outside the bedroom in...forever.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

        Ah... confusion and chaos... your work there was done.

        Well done, sir. That deserves a frothy one.

  4. Steve Button

    only $11.99 this week only!

    Be quick though, Udemy only have these very special sales on days with a Y in the name.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    Best photo tagline!

    Sorry, I only have large denomination bills on me. Do you have change for a £403 note?

    This one deserves as many pints as £403 can buy!

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Best photo tagline!

      So...A pint then?

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Best photo tagline!

        Dabbsy I'm not sure what your complaining about - you got £398 change at the first stop!

        (Based on my personal experiences with cashiers - if the machine says they should give out £200 change on a £2 purchase, then the machine must be right. The machine is always right after all...)

        1. imanidiot Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Best photo tagline!

          Yup, run into that problem before.

          *me staring at the 50 and 20 Euro notes I just got handed*

          "uhhmmmm, I gave you a tenner"

          *Her, staring at her screen*

          "What is the problem?"

          *Me, fighting the urge to just walk away*

          "I gave you a 10 Euro note, you have now given me 70 Euro's in change. You may want to check you got that right"

          *Her, staring blankly at the till screen in front of her, then at me, then back at the till, then back at my hand holding out the bank notes to her, then back at her till*

          "..."

          I ended up waving down the shop owner/manager. 'Twas faster that way. The guy's been very friendly since then. And oddly enough the cashier is still working there too.

          I am honestly worried about the future sometimes. I might be a spring chicken at 30 laps around the sun, but today's youth....

          1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

            Re: Best photo tagline!

            In Costa Coffee in Inverness, an Italian tourist off a cruise ship was given change for her £2.50 coffee as if she’d paid with a £50, but she’d actually handed over a £100. (Yes, Scotland.)

            The assistant realised her mistake quickly but she had to wait for a supervisor to be able to open the till, which took a while. She was getting quite flustered. I’m not sure if my 3 words of Spitalin helped...

            The poor woman then went to the loo and managed to pull the disabled alarm cord instead of the flush.

            I didn’t hang around to see if things come in threes....

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Best photo tagline!

            I am honestly worried about the future sometimes. I might be a spring chicken at 30 laps around the sun, but today's youth....

            Learned helplessness.

            At my first (and, I think, only) job involving a cash register,1 the machine in question was an old mechanical model which could add and ring up the total. It did not compute change (or multiply, or know the price of anything, etc), so we counted out change by hand. It was an ice cream shop in a mall, so on weekends around the holidays it got very busy indeed, and we all got very fast at counting change.

            That was many years ago, but I can still usually figure my change before someone using a modern register reads the total and decides what to give me back. It's always pleasant when I run into a cashier who's as fast as I am. There's one shop I frequent where most of the staff can; I don't know if it's just practice or if they're actually trained in it.

            In any case, my point is that having the register tell the cashier how much change is due is unhelpful. Counting up change manually from the sale amount seems to be faster and more accurate than counting out an amount given by the machine. I suspect register vendors and merchants did not do much usability testing.

            1Similar to a till, but with more syllables.

  6. Aaiieeee
    Angel

    Don't give your opinion!

    If I'm out and about and I see somebody having an IT Moment at a cash register or terminal and the solution is obvious to me.. I usually do not say anything otherwise it becomes MY problem!

    An airy confirmation of how much of a nuisance computers are will do, possibly and a nervous laugh.

    In a lot of walks of life being helpful or a decent person is staight forward and worth it. When it comes to computers just stay well out of it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't give your opinion!

      "I usually do not say anything otherwise it becomes MY problem!"

      That is true of most situations.

      Our company noticed that many problems that were reported - didn't get followed up and resolved. So it was decided that anyone who reported a problem became its "owner". In that way more problems would be chased and resolved.

      The number of problems reported dropped. People no longer "saw" problems that didn't affect them seriously - even if they were problems that needed attention. As the famous author said "it's an S.E.P".

      1. doublelayer

        Re: Don't give your opinion!

        "Our company noticed that many problems that were reported - didn't get followed up and resolved. So it was decided that anyone who reported a problem became its "owner"

        No. Can something, even a company, be that stupid? They made "That's your problem" official policy? I need hope. I'm out of hope.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Don't give your opinion!

          " They made "That's your problem" official policy?"

          Indeed they did. It was all on the back of the Crosby "Quality is Free" programme. Initially the CARs (Corrective Action Requests) were being raised enthusiastically by staff - but in most cases nothing ever happened to fix a problem.

          Management saw the ever increasing catalogue of unresolved CARs. They decided that henceforth someone had to be responsible for the necessary pillar to post shuffle that most grey area interactions involved. Hence the formal decree that if you raised a CAR - you had to follow it through. So - where people previously would report something they noticed in passing - from then on they didn't "see" it.

          Another feature of that system was you had to find something in your job to regularly measure.

          Now Crosby pointed out that the resulting progress chart had to be completely private to the individual - as purely a form of self-assessment by them for themselves.

          What did management do? They insisted that everyone displayed their chart above their desk. Surprise surprise - at best the charts often showed wonderful progress on totally irrelevant measurements. At worst they were irreverent fictions.

          The only useful thing I remember was from the first lecture on the compulsory "Quality Education" course. The instructor explained there was a difference between "education" and "training". He said "Would you like your children at school to get 'sex education' lessons - or 'sex training' lessons.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Don't give your opinion!

      "When it comes to computers just stay well out of it."

      Computers now occupy the space that cars formerly occupied.

      In the past, offering help to a car owner staring vacantly under the bonnet by the roadside would end up obliging you to fix it and get it right or the responsibility for the fault would become yours,I think the same applies to computers now.

      Also like cars,if you do 'fix' a computer, any subsequent faults, no matter what they are will be linked to you and what ever you did to fix the original fault.

      A nervous laugh followed by a rapid retreat is probably a good thing.

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Don't give your opinion!

      For some problems there is a totally valid German management tactic called DELLE. Durch Einfach Liegen Lassen Erledigt.

      Don't do anything and the problem is solved.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't give your opinion!

        "Don't do anything and the problem is solved."

        The French call it "laissez faire". Beloved of some British politicians when it comes to them making money by whatever means. However - they rarely apply that principle when legislating on what voters can do in their private lives.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Don't give your opinion!

          legislating on what voters can do in their private lives

          Why would politicians want the public interfering with their private lives?

        2. The Oncoming Scorn
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Don't give your opinion!

          "Don't do anything and the problem is solved."

          The French call it "laissez faire".

          Didn't they try that tactic in WW2...

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge

    It's all because of IT

    The perfect scapegoat - even if the problem comes most of the time from the layer 8.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have days like this

    Person in front of me today trying to pay with NFC on their phone.

    A disturbing amount of bonking fails to release the goods, and requires manual attention before the payload is released.

    Finally I can pay for my rapidly cooling coffee...except that the other teller is shouting, the card readers just gone down.

    I reach into my pocket for change, lucky I am still old school and carry some real cash.

    And Dabsy, just be thankful you didn't get an e-ticket and the train with the broken charging points. the railways are all pushing for these now, probably so that they can fire the (albeit cheap) sour faced sloth behind the counter.

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: I have days like this

      "Finally I can pay for my rapidly cooling coffee...except that the other teller is shouting, the card readers just gone down.

      I reach into my pocket for change, lucky I am still old school and carry some real cash."

      You're using cash as the backup method - for me, it's the other way around. As a general rule, if I'm buying something over the counter in a shop, I pay with cash. The only exceptions are when I don't have enough cash on me (i.e. unusually large purchases - which is rare) or fuel. In the latter case, I always use pay at the pump at the filling station I use most often. I used to pay in cash, but a particular assistant there annoys me, and I just don't want to deal with him. (When I use other filling stations, e.g. when I'm away from home, I pay in cash).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I have days like this

      e-ticket "on" a Card with a bar/square-code. We've had that in french trains for more than a decade now.

      Works pretty well.

    3. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: I have days like this

      "I reach into my pocket for change, lucky I am still old school and carry some real cash."

      At times like that I think of the story I heard about Joseph Stalin:

      Uncle Joe only carried pocket change. Whenever he wanted something it was given to him by a grateful public. Except when he took his nieces for a walk around Gorki Park and bought drinks at the vending machine. Vending machines aren't afraid of being sent to the gulags, you see.

  9. Mage Silver badge
    Unhappy

    When I say I hate computers

    Really I mean I hate why it's been implemented so badly by other humans.

    Dabbs' experience reminds me slightly of a Оди́н день Ива́на Дени́совича Odin den' Ivana Denisovicha (I read it in English). No doubt Alistair Dabbs sat down that night and thought, "It could have be worse".

    One day it will be. I don't fear Zombie attack, but ALL POS, Stock, Wages, ATMs etc outsourced to Cloud and one day it will go down. Like Potato famines (not just in Ireland), the Cloud is becoming a dangerous monoculture, apart from the fact a failure affects FAR more organisations than an in house system. There is "No Silver Lining" (a fantasy story about Cloud failure).

  10. Simon 4

    This is just a normal day in England.

    Interesting that Cromwell is mentioned. Unless we revolt, all 55 million Victor Meldrews that we can all be when pushed, this will continue. (55 million cos I’m not counting the Euros. Nobody else is either!}

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Simon 4

      Dell Sales FAIL!

      I sent this to El Reg, but I guess they're not interested.

      Please enjoy this absurd Dell Sales chat fail in all it's glory. Feel free to distribute far and wide.

      Michael is the client.

      Michael Initial Question/Comment: Why is it when I add a PC to my basket, there is nothing IN my basket? I cannot buy from the website!

      14:14:28 System You are now being connected to an agent. Thank you for using Dell Chat

      14:14:28 System Connected with christopher_j_oliver

      14:14:34 christopher_j_oliver Welcome to Dell Business Sales & Finance, This is Christopher your Sales Advisor. Hope you are doing good!

      14:14:36 Michael Hi Christopher

      14:14:42 christopher_j_oliver Hi Michael

      14:14:48 christopher_j_oliver sorry about that

      14:14:52 Michael Frustrated by the Dell website that won't sell me a computer!

      14:15:02 christopher_j_oliver can i please have the link of the model your looking to order?

      14:15:12 Michael I've tried two browsers on two different PCs

      14:15:25 Michael Optiplex 7050

      14:15:31 Michael With Radeon card

      14:15:34 Michael And SSD

      14:15:56 christopher_j_oliver Would you like me to help you with the order ?

      14:16:27 Michael N033O7050MT02

      14:16:31 Michael I want to buy it myself.

      14:16:42 Michael I'm not buying £1200 of computer via chat

      14:17:00 christopher_j_oliver can i call and assist you ?

      14:17:15 Michael Can you just fix your website?

      14:17:19 Michael I can't be the only person

      14:17:29 christopher_j_oliver please let me check

      14:17:33 Michael How can Dell, of all companies, have a website that won't add a product to the basket?

      14:17:41 Michael Your website is totally F'd up

      14:19:24 christopher_j_oliver give me a minute please im checking on this

      14:21:11 christopher_j_oliver Thank you for your patience.

      14:21:23 christopher_j_oliver that one model is not in stock as of now

      14:22:20 Michael Website says "Ships in 3-5 business days"

      14:23:07 christopher_j_oliver it just got unavailable

      14:23:22 christopher_j_oliver needs to be removed from the website

      14:23:35 Michael So what is the new equivalent model then?

      14:23:59 Michael Why am I the only person here with any common sense?

      14:25:02 christopher_j_oliver http://www.dell.com/en-uk/work/shop/desktop-and-all-in-one-pcs/optiplex-7050-small-form-factor/spd/optiplex-7050-desktop/n044o7050sff02

      14:25:07 christopher_j_oliver please check this model

      14:25:32 Michael I don't want small form factor

      14:26:17 Michael I don't want Intel graphics

      14:26:31 Michael Should I just go buy Lenovo?

      14:26:40 Michael The Chinese will happily take my money

      14:27:24 christopher_j_oliver i would need to check on this and email you back

      14:27:45 christopher_j_oliver would need to check if we are having any new upgrades on the bundles

      14:36:19 christopher_j_oliver would that be okay ?

      14:42:00 Michael You just lost a sale to Lenovo. Congratulations. Please let your Sales director know that he is a numpty

      14:44:46 christopher_j_oliver sorry about that

      14:54:27 christopher_j_oliver are we still connected ?

      14:54:36 Michael We are.

      14:54:44 Michael And I don't mean to give you a hard time.

      14:54:48 Michael I know it's not your fault.

      14:54:53 Michael But I AM Serious.

      14:54:57 Michael I just bought a Lenovo.

      14:55:18 Michael That's a sale that Dell lost because the organization is ..... what can I say?

      14:55:23 Michael Not the Dell I used to buy computers from.

      14:55:28 Michael I always bought Dell.

      14:55:30 Michael Not this time.

      14:55:34 Michael You couldn't sell me what I wanted.

      14:55:37 Michael BIG LESSON

      14:55:47 christopher_j_oliver sorry about that

      14:56:22 christopher_j_oliver they is the new upgraded model that is getting update that is the reason that model is not available

      14:57:02 Michael it's pointless you telling me that

      14:57:07 Michael It's not 1996 any more

      14:57:24 Michael "we don't sell it any more but it's still on the website" - is a big fat FAIL

      14:57:39 Michael "We have a new model, but it's not on the website." - Big fat FAIL

      14:57:50 Michael It's not 1996

      14:58:00 Michael Ecommerce is not some newfangled fad

      14:58:10 Michael You're Dell, for crying out loud

      14:59:42 christopher_j_oliver il put this across to our team

      15:02:03 christopher_j_oliver would they be anything else i can assist you with ?

      15:02:09 Michael No thanks

      15:02:23 christopher_j_oliver you take care and have a good day

      1. tfewster Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Dell Sales FAIL!

        For a few months last year, O2 were unable to take phone bill payments from my Barclaycard. The first month I made a one-off payment, using the same card. The second month, I told them their systems were broken (they, of course, insisted there wasn't a problem and it must be Barclaycard) and wangled a credit for the month. The third month, when I rang and got the "How can I help you today?", I responded "It's more a case of how I can help you". In the ensuing stunned silence, I explained to the helldesk drone how bulk settlements were done and my scale of charges for consultancy. I settled for another free month.

        I don't actually know where the problem was. Apparently the back-room boys at neither O2 nor Barclaycard had noticed that settlement files (probably millions of pounds at a time) weren't working for months. One drone admitted that he'd had several other customers with the same problem "that day" and gave me an email address to escalate. Of course, the email address and website contact were out of date. So I carpet-bombed all the addresses and complaint channels I could find until I got an answer from someone who simultaneously denied the problem and promised to look into it & get back to me.

        Unfortunately my free service and entertainment ended on the fourth month, and I'm still waiting for my consultancy payment. Now what will I do with my spare time?

  11. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Blame everything on 'computer error' – no one will contradict you

    Unless it's known you work in IT. Then it's your fault because you touched it last or you work with computers so you should know.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Blame everything on 'computer error' – no one will contradict you

      Unless it's known you work in IT. Then it's your fault because you touched it last or you work with computers so you should know.

      So doing that to a colleague at present. He fiddled with a server - now it is giving problems, and I just kick the ticket(s) back to him. Let him sort his own messes out.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our local charity installed new POS machines in their shops. $deity knows what the UI is like but the previously competent volunteers struggled to register a sale. That was several years ago - and they still struggle with the incredibly numerous screen touches apparently needed for each transaction.

    My comment is the old "Someone had a nice lunch out of buying those".

    1. John Arthur
      Trollface

      Am I the only one

      who immediately thought Piece Of Shit when reading the first sentence?

      1. Chunky Munky
        Pint

        Re: Am I the only one

        You're not the only one - I thought it too. ----> Have one on me

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Am I the only one

        That's because often times point of sails systems are pieces of shit. I've ones that are all pictures. No words .

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Am I the only one

          "point of sails systems are pieces of shit. I've ones that are all pictures."

          Are they pictures of Norfolk Wherries?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ely Cathedral gave me the mental shivers. The internal architecture seemed to be a model for Mervyn Peake's "Gormenghast".

    The Lady Chapel is interesting - still showing the damage to the niche statutes from the time of the iconoclasts of Henry VIII's reformation. Puritan Cromwell only used the cathedral as a stable for his calvary's horses.

    The original builders showed some future IT characteristics. Build a large edifice on an unstable swamp - and then wonder why one of the twin towers collapses. That asymmetry then becomes a feature.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Unstable Swamp

      That reminds me of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNaXdLWt17A

    2. Alister Silver badge
      Pint

      Build a large edifice on an unstable swamp - and then wonder why one of the twin towers collapses. That asymmetry then becomes a feature.

      Classic!

      Quote of the week, right there.

      1. wayne 8

        The District of Columbia is built on a swamp. Asymmetry is the least of the problems.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          The District of Columbia is built on a swamp. Asymmetry is the least of the problems.

          So thus "we must drain the swamp" has a root in truth?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "So thus "we must drain the swamp" has a root in truth?

            There is a bigger swamp in Florida.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Build a large edifice on an unstable swamp

      The whole of the Queens Sqaure area in Bristol is built on a former swamp. With predictable results..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The whole of the Queens Sqaure area in Bristol is built on a former swamp."

        There is a famous painting by John Constable titled "Salisbury Cathedral From Lower Marsh Close". It is another one that was built on marshland close to a river.

    4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Pedant here:

      ...stable for his calvary's horses....

      Calvary = the hill on which Christ was crucified

      Cavalry = bunch of armed blokes on horses

      Same number of letters, same letters, different order, different meaning.

      Probably Microsoft spell correct. Check that you haven't got "evangelical (US)" mode selected?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Probably Microsoft spell correct."

        Yes and no. The WaterFox spell checker obviously didn't flag a posible typo - and my brain read what it knew should be there.

        Transposed letters are one of the effects of old age on two finger typing. Your hands hit their assigned letters in the right order - but the finger synchronisation is slightly out. So - "va" for the left hand - "l" for the right hand which got ahead of itself.

        Possibly an insight into the way the brain splits up a sequence of words into two strings of letters for left and right hands. Then it slips up on synchronising the actual keystrokes. It started many years ago with the common mistype of "teh" - which some word processors automatically correct on the fly. Then spaces started to be transposed with letters.

        Sometimes whole short words get lost - like: "in"; "on"; "of"; "a". The brain quite happily fills in the gaps on subsequent proof reading. I find you can have mental checking of meaning or spelling - but generally not both on the same reading pass.

        On the other hand it may be that the brain was doing subconscious validation - and decided that the religion associated word had a higher probability in the context of a cathedral. A sort of Freudian slip.

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Yes and no. The WaterFox spell checker obviously didn't flag a posible typo - and my brain read what it knew should be there.

          There's a point.

          Anyone know of a good spellchecker for a browser better than the current 'just underline everything it doesn't recognise but not help like a smug teacher'.

          I'm not using any grammerly stuff or anything that clouds the solution. There's a perfectly good dictionary on the system that should easily be able to provide corrections and not just 'mark my homework'.

        2. $till$kint

          Those kind of two-finger typos could get you into teouble if your name is Alan....

  14. Lee D Silver badge

    Helpdesk analysis:

    - "Faults" caused by not following instructions, switching things off, etc.: 20%

    - "Faults" that aren't faults at all but the system operating exactly as designed: 20%

    - "Faults" caused by literally performing obviously destructive acts (deleting files, rebooting and losing their work, clicking Don't save, restoring factory settings, etc.): 20%

    - "Faults" caused by third-party software / services that aren't perfect but that we have zero control over (e.g. Word decides to crash, "why doesn't Microsoft just make a button for that", or the web service goes down, etc.): 20%

    - "Faults" caused by users literally expecting miracles (e.g. why can't I edit this 50dpi scanned PDF as if it was just a Word table? Expecting their ID card (from the 20 other cards in their wallet) to magically open the door when it's 30 feet away from both the door and the card reader, etc.): 19.9%

    - Actual, real, physical hardware faults: 0.1%

    IT is a real shitshow of having to cope with other people's idiocy and inadequacies. Nobody expects the car salesman to be the guy ACTUALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR DESIGNING the new BMW or whatever, but in IT it that's exactly what they expect.

    I had one just now - why can't we log into <web service provided by third party which has zero integration with our systems and was bought independently of the IT department>.

    I don't know... have you tried their support line?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Yes, they bounced it back to you."

      And BTW, the other end of the line is someone from the board. The call is thus automatically DIE priority.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Sorry, it's still "not my problem, gov."

        If they are blaming me, they need to identify the action I need to take to resolve it. Which I can do for them. And then likely nothing will change.

        And, yes, had those conversations ANY NUMBER of times, for the big-boss and associates. Not once has it ever not been "They need to tell me what to do then". If it wasn't, it would already be fixed.

        (P.S. "Just open up all your firewall ports, disable all security, run as administrator" is not a valid course of action. And NOT ONCE has it ever resolved any problem an outside vendor has experienced).

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          You're lucky, then. You don't HAVE a workplace with DIE priority. DIE = Do It or Else, which automatically makes it the designee's problem. Their problem...or their ass, because it comes from someone over their head with the power to terminate with prejudice.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Helpdesk analysis:

      I get about 40% logging issues with other companies’ products with similar names.

      > not following instructions

      I don’t think I’ve ever had a support request from anyone who had even considered the possibility that there might be instructions, if they clicked on that big “? HELP” button on the main screen.

      Except for one guy, who wanted it in PDF rather than HTML.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "IT is a real shitshow of having to cope with other people's idiocy and inadequacies."

      I was repairing a couple of laptops the other day. An on-site call-out at a council IT helpdesk and I was there a couple of hours. Pretty much every call I overheard was a use asking how do do stuff. In other words, either they had not had enough proper training or possibly were just useless at using the tools provided. The IT support budget is being used to hide the cut-backs in the training budget.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Railway booking office staff are not necessarily as painted. Buying a ticket from our local station was nearly always a pleasant operation. It was often the apparently irrational customers ahead of me that seemed to prolong transactions unnecessarily.

    One day I wanted a train ticket that appeared to be going to cost me over £200. Unbidden the counter clerk offered me a discounted fare of about £40. Then he pointed out that I might find it useful to buy an annual discount card that would chop another third off that and future tickets. Well worth it.

    Try to be nice to people behind the counter of any business. They are a captive audience for the customers' foibles - like any IT support role. Make their day - and they will probably make yours too.

    1. Fred Dibnah

      My local station is staffed with people like that. They seem to have the entire timetable in their heads, along with the entire fares table. They usually beat the split ticketing sites on price, and always beat the main ticketing sites.

      It's good that trains attract a certain nerdy type that enjoys amassing lots of what looks like pointless information, but which when put together becomes a great example of big data.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Fred

        The problem is that the "good ones" are not seen as good to the organisations they work for. They are a sort of secret resistance or double agent.

        I applaud the few that do indeed know what is going on. They are a rare breed and constantly under threat from their own management.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: @Fred

          "I applaud the few that do indeed know what is going on. They are a rare breed and constantly under threat from their own management."

          I applaud the few that do indeed know what is going on. They are a rare breed and are a constant threat to their own managements jobs.

          FTFY. Sadly the people who are great at frontline work usually get either stifled or promoted. If promoted, they may or may not be good in the new position, but whoever replaced them seems rarely to be as good.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Railway booking office staff are not necessarily as painted

      Indeed not. But sometimes they do have their moments.. Many years ago in a place far, far away (Barnet) there was a ticket agent at the local main-line station who, while otherwise a splendid chap, seems consitutionally incapable of telling the difference between Plymouth and Portsmouth. Since I wanted to visit Plymouth (my then-girlfriend, now wife lived there) it was a tad disconcerting to realise that he'd sold me a ticket to Portsmouth..

      I got into the habit of watching which keys he punched and got fairly adept at realising that he was about to sell me the wrong one.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Joke

        Maybe he's a former sailor who still goes for any port in a storm?

    3. The Oncoming Scorn
      Coat

      I have lots of fun in a sad way, trying to get any long UK railway journeys cost down, by the booking the whole trip online into three stages, utilising as many off-peak tickets & as few peak tickets as available.

      I brought the Glasgow to Exeter St Davids fare down to about 88 quid from 190 in a recent exercise to show Yanks at a convention.

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "If ever you need someone to hold down your computer while you give it a kicking, he's your man."

    Thanks for the offer, but the day I'll need help with this will be the proverbial "that'll be the day" day.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "computers are bastards"

    I cannot argue with that one!

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      "computers are bastards" I cannot argue with that one!

      I have just one comment: "I have no mouth and yet I must scream". Read it and have nightmares..

  18. Dazzz

    Only tenners?

    If it was dispensing tenners instead of 20's I would have given it another go to see if requesting a tenner got me a 20 quid note in case the got the dispenser cassettes the wrong way round...

  19. davemcwish

    Ely Cathedral

    Dabbsy must have been really unlucky. I was at Ely Cathedral last month, staying on a boat. No problems at all with the Cathedral queue, it was a walkup for me. Went all in on the trours as it was a treat for the Mrs, payment was a quick swipe.

    The 2 tours were very good although the Mrs didn't like the West Tower so much.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ely Cathedral

      I'm not sure but its just conceivable that Dabsy was bigging it up a bit for journalistic effect.

      Been years since I last went to that part of the country though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ely Cathedral

      "Went all in on the trours as it was a treat for the Mrs, payment was a quick swipe."

      The Lady Chapel has a nice acoustic for lunch-time concerts.

      Unashamed promotion:

      The boychoir Libera are giving an evening concert on the 12 May - probably in the Ely main nave. Their music and lights performance in that sort of Gothic ambience makes your spine tingle - and many of their fans are confirmed atheists.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ely Cathedral

        and many of their fans are confirmed atheists

        As (or so the rumour goes) a number of the clergy..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ely Cathedral

          "As (or so the rumour goes) a number of the clergy."

          A cousin married a trendy CofE vicar in the early 1960s. We lost touch until a couple of years ago. On hearing that I had been a declared atheist since I was 14 - she said she couldn't countenance any of her many children being atheists. Her younger sister would have done everything possible to inure her own son against religion.

  20. russsh

    When it’s their money...

    IIRC when there was a minor run on an ATM that had fifties in the twenties drawer, the bank was quite well able to run a report and debit the customers’ accounts for the difference. One would hope that the same happens in the reverse scenario...

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: When it’s their money...

      If you owe them, as in they overpaid... yes automatically fixed. If they owe you, you'll need to fill out 10 forms in triplicate, attach a sample of your spleen, and wait until hell freezes over.

  21. Trygve Henriksen

    You actually use paper tickets still?

    Even here in Norway we can buy railway tickets on the mobile, and show them to the conductor.

    (Though, I wouldn't be surprised if one of those tried to punch a hole in my phone... )

    Frankly, if I worked as a teller on a trainstation, I'd be a lot more interested in doing great service, because most of the job can be replaced with an app...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You can buy mobile/online tickets for Dutch trains...

      if you happen to have a Dutch bank account to start with. So when I go there I have to buy paper tickets from the machines at the station.

  22. Steve Jackson

    I spent all day yesterday trying to enter my password and it wouldn't have it, yet today it's gone straight in.

    "Probably a keying error" *tired sigh*

    No, the damn thing was just being temperamental.

    "OK" *smiles and takes proferred biscuit*

  23. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Inused to have a technique when calling banks, airlines etc, to complain about errors and/or delays in fixing same.

    On being told “It is a problem with our computer system” I would quicly reply “Your luck is in. I happen to be a rather brilliant computer programmer and my rates are very reasonable. I can have your computers working properly in a trice,”

    “Rather brilliant?” you may ask, incredulously. Well, they were lying to me.

  24. Daedalus Silver badge

    Cometh the bozocalypse

    Too much technology, not enough technologists.

    Designed by marketeers, built by techies, sold by sales droids, used by bozos.

    Wur doomed I tell ye, doomed.

  25. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Should be a Screenplay.

    Saw a movie like it once, but the main character managed to get a hold-all full of guns after a few scenes.

    At least you didn't start or end in a car and some confusion over left and 'right!'.

  26. maret77

    Thanks for a great article and the chuckles.

  27. Thomas Steven 1

    Oliver Cromwell?

    Surely Ely is better known as the birthplace of Andrew Eldritch?

  28. wayne 8

    fig?

    Is the fig in the jar a literal fig or slang for something else?

  29. Tom Paine Silver badge

    There's just the one scene in this episode of This Country that has any relevance to this week's piece, and as they don't seem to have pulled it out as a clip in it's own right, you'll just have to watch the whole thing if you can be arsed.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05zf9xq

    (Marmite klaxon.)

  30. Graham Dawson

    I hope you bought some Ely Gin while you were there

    It's rather strident, but goes well with a slice of lime.

    Is the abomination that causes desolation still residing in the lady chapel? Talk about utterly missing the point.

    An interesting place, Ely. The Cathedral is rather famous for being lost for several years after the civil war, because the Roundheads kept walking around it. It only they'd missed it a while longer instead of enacting a prototype for the Taliban on its statuary. I have to admit, the sight of that place, so utterly destroyed by small-minded bigots working for an state-sanctioned Iconoclast, was one of the more sobering moments of my life. The fact that we're living through an era where that urge is again trying to infiltrate public life makes me wonder if our species will ever get past the need to destroy everything that diverges from contemporary dogma.

    Probably a computer fault. Get the dynamite.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I hope you bought some Ely Gin while you were there

      "[...] because the Roundheads kept walking around it. It only they'd missed it a while longer instead of enacting a prototype for the Taliban on its statuary."

      On seeing the literally defaced statues in the Lady Chapel that was my assumption too. However - apparently that damage was done by the earlier iconoclasts after Henry VIII's reformation.

      Cromwell's Puritan army were blamed for destroying cathedrals' music books and organs*** - at Ely they used the nave as a stable.

      Cathedral naves were once covered public gathering places used by the common people for many non-religious purposes. The daily religious rites took place hidden behind the rood screen. As long as the priest had a choir with him for the liturgical responses he didn't care what the public were doing in the nave. As far as he was concerned his religious duty was to communicate with his god - not with the public.

      ***See the fictionalised telling of the history of the English choir in "Peter the adventures of a chorister over a thousand years"

      1. Anonymous C0ward

        Re: I hope you bought some Ely Gin while you were there

        Interesting, considering the story of Jesus and the money changers in the Temple.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn
          Coat

          Re: I hope you bought some Ely Gin while you were there

          DId they give him the wrong change as well?

          Icon - Wheres me wallet!

      2. Graham Dawson

        @AC Re: I hope you bought some Ely Gin while you were there

        >apparently that damage was done by the earlier iconoclasts after Henry VIII's reformation.

        Which just goes to show, you can pick any era you like and someone will be destroying every beautiful thing they can find.

        @Anonymous C0ward

        The difference is that the money changers were charging people to buy special temple money that could only be used to purchase animals for sacrifice in the temple. They were emblematic of the corruption of the temple, acting to prevent people from atoning in a place where they should have been free to enter without hinderance. I'm not sure that the church requires a special scrip for sacrificial gin. Not now, anyway.

  31. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    Livin' on Edge: Modern Geek Rules - Part 1

    Develops inverse law of magnetic attraction to unknown difficulties due to dubious hardware combinations. (Except girls).

    Shoulders blame for all known problems as all roads lead to the computers fault.

    Acknowledgement that no matter how terrible the circumstance or ridiculous the situation the end-user may face, money will not be forthcoming.

    Poised. Should disaster prevail and the magic happens. N.B. Wise heads gain favour in this scenario, much as an oil well gushes, until the next discovery, opportunity to upspend and sell equates to length of malign PR. (Misanthropes Law).

    Alert at all times. When the dust settles, retires to favourite watering hole, to reminisce of past careers saved and trouble diverted. Solace gained for secret mitigation planning with underhand diversionary tactics. #publicholidayweekend

  32. Herby Silver badge

    Ely (Cathedral)??

    While I haven't seen the Ely Cathedral, I Have been to Ely, Nevada.

    Word to wise: Just gas (petrol) up and pass through. It is the original inspiration for the phrase "Nothing to see here, please move along".

    Names ARE curious.

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