back to article Hold horror stories: Chief, we've got a f*cking idiot on line 1. Oh, you heard all that

Once again, Monday has put an end to the weekend's fun – and Who, Me? is tagging along, as always. This week, El Reg's regular column of cringe-worthy reader errors comes from "Trevor", who wrote in to tell us about a facepalm involving a telephone call. Back in the late '90s, Trevor was working for a major UK ISP selling …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I live in fear of the day…

    … when the phone mic stays on for five seconds after hanging up.

    1. ARGO

      Re: I live in fear of the day…

      (insert facetime joke here)

      1. Brigadoon
        FAIL

        Re: I live in fear of the day…

        a few years back we had Orange SPV 'smart' phones that would do exactly this....some sort of firmware issue..hanging up the call looked successful but wasn't always.

        Not good if the call was a conference .....rest redacted to protect the guilty

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: I live in fear of the day…

          First law of politics - all microphones are live microphones

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Oooops, dropped

    Having been in similar situations myself (having a "dotted line" via pre-sales, to customer support, even though I was a developer) I would occasionally get support calls put through. Whether by accident or design. While it is considered rude to cut a caller off while they are speaking, it does not occur to people that you would deliberately terminate the call while you were speaki

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oooops, dropped

      A technique I still use to great effect now...

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge
      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oooops, dropped

        Pull the lead at the back of the phone. There's no key press logged by the system.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oooops, dropped

      That was straight out of the BOFH archives......

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Oooops, dropped

        We were using the technique long before the BOFH fiction existed.

        1. Antonius_Prime

          Re: Oooops, dropped

          We all were. Simon just put it down in writing.

    3. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Re: Oooops, dropped

      Something similar- we got our phone system upgraded and I didn't realise the new system auto answered internal intercom calls. So my boss got to hear me say "Now what does he f*cking want?"

      1. Alan_Peery

        Re: Oooops, dropped

        Auto-answered intercom calls makes a pretty hostile working environment -- even if you know that it has been enabled.

      2. zuckzuckgo
        Joke

        Re: Oooops, dropped

        Didn't know that Apple made phone systems. Actually Apple Computer back then.

    4. STOP_FORTH
      Happy

      Oooops, dropped by the network

      Also works on trains. "We're just going into a tun.........."

    5. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Oooops, dropped

      While it is considered rude to cut a caller off while they are speaking, it does not occur to people that you would deliberately terminate the call while you were speaki

      I guess some tech types didn't read the manual. Or fell asleep during training. If the irate caller calls back, rinse, repeat.

    6. Great Southern Land

      Re: Oooops, dropped

      The trick is to hang up while YOU are talking, not while the client is talking, assuming of course that you are able to get a word in.

  3. TonyJ Silver badge

    I've been on the receiving end of this

    Many years ago I had a Sony camcorder.

    It developed a fault, so I took it to the local Sony shop/repair centre.

    Many weeks and different stories later, I was "on hold" when I heard the muppet in the store say "It's that c**t again asking about his poxy camcorder, what shall I tell him this time?"

    As you can imagine, that conversation took a turn for the worst for them.

    They never did repair it but I seem to recall I got some form of compensation and the normal costs to investigate a non-warranty fault were waived.

    We've all wanted to say these things but let's face it, whatever the provocation, it's not exactly professional. And, I feel, we've all been the caller at some point, boiling over with frustration at the endless drones who cannot or will not assist.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

      "It's that c**t again asking about his poxy camcorder, what shall I tell him this time?"

      That made my day, it's grubby and wet here at the moment, but that line brought a little sunshine into a rather crappy monday morning...

      1. Kobus Botes
        Paris Hilton

        Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

        @Khaptain

        Sir Archibald, is that you?

        We all feel like that, Khaptain, now and then...

        Paris, because, well duh!

    2. Tigra 07 Silver badge

      Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

      Where i work, whether in the right or not, customers tend to get what they want (generally) if they complain for long enough. It's frustrating, but some people do have all day to waste calling constantly over the most stupid of things.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

        Contrary to popular belief, the customer is NOT always right ... and yes, you CAN fire a customer! All you have to do is make a business case for it ... show that the customer is costing more than they are paying. The costs can include employee downtime due to frustration, time to get back into the swing of things after dealing with said customer, time OTHER customers are on hold while dealing with said customer, etc.

        1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

          Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

          Generally we just add charges onto customers like that. Their trade prices disappear first, then we charge more for effort of dealing with them. If their behaviour still doesn't improve they'll face higher and higher prices until they decide to buy from someone else.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

          This. I have to admit that I've fired more than one customer in my day. In my own businesses, not as an employee in someone else's.

        3. 9Rune5

          Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

          Ah yes, been there...

          Support staff at my former employer finally had enough. They sent the customer a nice letter offering to PAY the first month of subscription to a competitor's system.

          The customer replied that he was actually quite happy with our system and stayed on as a customer. I believe he even promised to call less often.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

            "They sent the customer a nice letter offering to PAY the first month of subscription to a competitor's system."

            The letter I sent offered to send staff out to set the customer up on the competitor's system.

            It wasn't just support issues. This one was being abusive on several IRC networks and caused our ISP to be banned from them, which affected other customers, caused knockon support issues and directly cost income.

          2. holmegm

            Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

            And there are ways to fire a customer gracefully.

            You can just be so, so sad that you are unable to help them. It grieves you so much that you just can't even try anymore.

            You care about them so much that you are sure they can get better help elsewhere. You are so sorry to have failed them. No no, you really can't risk failing them any longer.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

      "It's that c**t again asking about his poxy camcorder, what shall I tell him this time?"

      I don't know you personally, so can't comment upon whether you're actually a "c**t" or not... However, it certainly doesn't say much about Sony's camcorders if even their own dealers think they're "poxy", does it? ;-)

      Mind you, they're probably on the money. My Dad bought a Sony hard drive camcorder for my brother's wedding circa 2007. After a couple of years of light use the articulated LCD screen stopped working. Looking it up on Amazon there were numerous complaints from other people who'd had the same problem, which was due to the crappy ribbon cable breaking.

      Then again, he'd already had two Sony cassette Walkmans in a row fail and get replaced under warranty a few years prior. (Don't even know how long the third one would have lasted if he hadn't dropped and broken that one himself first. He replaced it with a Panasonic that he still owns).

      Despite this he still bought a Sony TV a few years back. The external power supply died a few months short of four years, but at least it worked after that was replaced.

      From what I've heard, Sony's reputation for quality started seriously slipping during the 1990s. Evidently after I bought my 14" Trinitron portable TV in 1993, which has been in use- with brief gaps- for well over twenty of its twenty-five year lifespan, has *never* been repaired and still looks great. Wouldn't expect that from a modern Sony.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

        "...I don't know you personally, so can't comment upon whether you're actually a "c**t" or not... However, it certainly doesn't say much about Sony's camcorders if even their own dealers think they're "poxy", does it? ;-).."

        Oh I can be. But that time, I wasn't being, for once. :)

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

        "From what I've heard, Sony's reputation for quality started seriously slipping during the 1990s."

        You heard right, but it was the late 1980s.

        I'm not talking about reputation, but build and design quailty. Failure rates went through the roof compared to earlier generations.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've been on the receiving end of this

      I nearly got turned over by my employer on a slightly different take on this.

      I was dealing with a customer and while waiting on hold for a transfer I had a conversation about the management with a fellow jockey. I was pretty angry that day but finished the call and happy customer.

      Came in the next day to find TL waiting for me and to go and listen to call from the previous day. The call was great since I had solved a problem that had resulted in 5 callbacks on the same ticket. Fortunately I had been at it a while so recognised the problem and knocked it out. However, there was 53 seconds of me "f&*in' this. . . . . ." and "that f&$in' uselss c&^t that " about a management situation. Since we were an outsourcer being audited this was presented to me as a big problem. Chances of the call being pulled was about 400-1 I worked out later.

      This went full disciplinary (witness statements, suspended on full pay) and at my interview they went on about me not showing "remorse". I find it hard to show remorse for swearing since I am Scottish but asked the question "How many calls did you listen to . . to find that one?" They wouldn't answer

      HR then recognised a potential constructive dismissal claim in the offing so told them to tone it back to a final written warning instead of sacking me for gross misconduct. 1 year later all that ream of management were gone. Something to do with fraudulently inflating performance figures to clients. Me? I survived swearing in the heat of frustration on mic.

    5. Jedit
      Devil

      "It's that c**t again asking about his poxy camcorder"

      I've heard it used to describe people who keep calling about devices without taking the advice you gave them the first time, as an acronym for "Complaint: User Not Tested".

  4. Julian 8

    id10t

    ID Ten T is far safer

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: id10t

      PEBKAC.

      Or, if I'm having to be polite "user interface issue", as in, "I want to interface the user's head with a baseball bat".

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: id10t

        PICNIC also works quite well.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Pirate

          Re: id10t

          Mouse or keyboard driver issues are also usefully subtle ones...

          1. Russ GI

            Re: id10t

            I've become more partial to this one:

            Computer User Non-Technical

      2. Shugyosha
        Devil

        Re: id10t

        OSI layer 8 fault

      3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        Re: id10t

        "user interface issue" as in "I want to punch the user in ter face"

  5. Oengus Silver badge

    Help desk

    Recently I was required to log a call with our helpdesk to try to get an issue escalated. The Helpdesk numptie insisted on trying to help when I knew that he would be way out of his depth but for the fun I decided to humour him. After 1 hour and 30 minutes (and the helpdesk weenie making things worse by deleting things without asking for permission) I eventually asked to be put through to a supervisor or someone with a clue. The helpdesk idiot came back (in writing as this was a text chat session) that "there is no one here with a clue". My response was "damn right".

    I did manage to get the call escalated and now 3 weeks later I have a response from the level 4 team.

    1. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: Help desk

      Welcome to the fun world of outsourced L1 support where agents are graded depending on how many issues they resolve compared with how many are dispatched to L2/L3 support. Result is sometimes an agent receiving a bollocking for having a poor RAL1 score (Resolved at L1), and then faffing about with calls like yours to try and avoid having to dispatch them up the chain...

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Help desk

        if that was a L1 idiot it must be a far from standard system if he has 90 mins to piss about on one call

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Help desk

        "agents are graded depending on how many issues they resolve compared with how many are dispatched to L2/L3 support"

        Also, graded on number of calls taken / mean time spent on call, thus promoting an attitude of "Lets get rid of this customer as quickly as possible".

        Meanwhile, Advertising / Marketing / Sales - people are inventing ever more creative ways of "engaging" with and retaining customers, increasing customer loyalty and brand awareness / attractiveness, attracting new customers. Somehow none of that desire / effort ever seems to make it to actual customers who are contacting you themselves and WANT to talk to you.

        I guess solving actual customers' problems isn't as sexy as a new ad campaign, is it?

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Help desk

          I guess solving actual customers' problems isn't as sexy as a new ad campaign, is it?

          Support is a cost center. Marketing/Sales is a profit center. So figure out which department is actually a priority for the board.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Help desk

            I know that's the perception, but I think it's wrong. Support is both a profit center (increasing the likelihood of future purchases by the customer) and a loss-prevention center.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Help desk

              "Support is both a profit center (increasing the likelihood of future purchases by the customer) and a loss-prevention center."

              You'd think so, but it's clear that most companies see it as a cost centre they'd rather do away with.

          2. Olivier2553

            Re: Help desk

            If you go that way, the board is even a bigger cost center!

          3. DuchessofDukeStreet

            Re: Help desk

            Marketing/Sales in NOT a profit centre - it's a fecking liability.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Help desk

        I used to be first level support for Crapita's local council software. At my annual review I was told I wasn't pulling my weight as my three colleagues had resolved more calls than me, got better feedback from the customers. And frequently worked unpaid overtime.

        The fact was I resolved the really sh@tty calls left over after my three colleague's various shifts. Ether issues too difficult for them, or involving the most difficult customers. Like the Malaysian head of It of a Welsh council, with an almost impenetrable accent. And phenomenally bad tempered with it, and terrible at explain issues. She once tried once to read out to me the ingres log over the phone. Too much effort to photocopy it so it could be faxed...

        My colleagues, although very nice people were more decorative than useful. Work was their social life. I don't do unpaid.

        I soon quit. I'm now, 30 years later a very happy grumpy techie.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Help desk

      "try to get an issue escalated"

      Escalation? Does that still exist? Any company I deal with seems convinced that what failed before is good enough to fail next time as well. The idea that they should be succeeding seems to be something consigned to the remote past.

    3. sum_of_squares

      Re: Help desk

      So let me get this straight:

      You mocked one of those poor underpayed phone bastards who barely see the sunlight and never get promoted thoughout their entire miserable lifetime of level-1 tech support for no less than one and a half hour, making fun of him because apparently he was this (one in a million) employee with dedication and a will to help and ended the call with a "funny" remark about his skills?

      Yeah that's.. uh.. totally awesome.

      I guess.

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: Help desk

        One could argue that if he was so dedicated he could:

        A) Just escalate the call and get onto the next L1 issue

        B) Get some training so they know both how to handle things, and what they know how to handle

        1. cob2018
          Facepalm

          Re: Help desk

          Excuse me, but what is this "training" you speak of ?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Help desk

            "Excuse me, but what is this "training" you speak of ?"

            In my experience, it's what they expect you to have absorbed through osmosis while sitting in reception waiting for the job interview.

      2. BigSLitleP

        Re: Help desk

        If the guy was trying to fix a problem for an hour and a half, he's not helping himself, the company, or the customer.

        "Dedication"? Hardly. Sounds like he was trying to waste as much time as possible. People in that job can take as many as 20 calls in an hour. Taking one call for an hour and a half feels like a lunch break. All the while his team mates are getting hit by more calls than usual.

        "Sorry boss, not my fault. Customer kept me on the line....."

        1. sum_of_squares

          Re: Help desk

          Excuse me, but what about the original poster?

          Apparently he had to waste 90 minutes as well, didn't he?

          "Sorry boss, not my faul. I had to make fun of tech support.."

          1. doublelayer

            Re: Help desk

            I suppose that's possible, as we don't know all the details. However, it sounds as if the original caller needed a problem solved by a higher level of support but the helpdesk operator believed that he could fix the problem himself and did not agree to escalate the call. Having had that happen before, I am willing to believe it could have happened this time. In that case, the operator refused to do as the customer asked but also could not fix the problem, stranding the person with the problem and wasting both of their time, and I can see anger after a long session of this as reasonable. It could be as you describe, but it is described as a perfectly possible situation.

            1. J. Cook Silver badge

              Re: Help desk

              One of our system admins has dealt with the vendor of one of the apps he administers so often that when he calls for support, the L1 techs all know his voice and pretty much pipe him directly to whomever is taking level 3 escalations that day, because they already know he's tried everything they would run him through. A rare case of an intelligent support desk on the vendor side. (to be fair, most of those issues are a case of "we've sent that over to the developers to figure out just WTF happened and HTF to fix it.")

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Help desk

                "A rare case of an intelligent support desk on the vendor side"

                There _are_ quite a few of these out there, thankfully.

                Unfortunately if you let people know about them the problem numptys with coffcup holder problems pile onto them and make things impossible for everyone else.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Help desk

            Apparently he had to waste 90 minutes as well, didn't he?

            "Sorry boss, not my faul. I had to make fun of tech support.."

            More like "Ok boss, now we've got some documentation of how utterly fecking useless their tech support is, for legal"

  6. Bloodbeastterror

    True story. I worked in a sales office a very long time ago with an intellectually-challenged individual who had on the phone a customer who wanted to speak to me. He put his hand over the phone, told me who it was, I shook my head, and he told the customer "He says he's not here."

    Duh...

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Are you sure he was "intellectually challenged"? Maybe he was fed up with you treating him as if he is, and did it deliberately? There's a subtle difference between being obtuse, and being deliberately obtuse...

      1. Bloodbeastterror

        @Loyal Commenter

        "did it deliberately?" No. I try to cut people slack and am unkind only when at the end of my tether. This guy had a long history of dimwittedness, though he was a very nice bloke.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not since the days of bakelite phones has covering the mouthpiece with your hand worked. I know!!

  7. Mongrel

    Working support for 2nd worse UK computer builder, acting as Team Lead;

    I once told an agent that the customer should get a a "...proper F***ing ISP", he then pointed out that he had a hot mic. We had to send a written apology.

    In my defence it was AOL...

    **We'd been back and forth with the customer, whose ISP insisted that the modem was at fault, despite us getting the customer to connect to at least one 'normal' ISP and our old BB (that we kept for this reason)**

  8. Fred M

    Nicely done

    "The company's policy was that staffers couldn't hang up unless the caller was abusive"

    Called customer an idoit. Customer got abuse. Can now hang up. Problem solved.

    1. Giovani Tapini

      Re: Nicely done

      sometimes, unfortunately that is the only way to get accounts closed. This was a particular issue with, but not limited to, certain mobile companies that would lock in contracts.

      Certain acquaintances of mine (but not me - yet) have yelled abuse at the poor sod in the call centre just to get a contract terminated. An effective, albeit probably unethical, way of getting the job done when the proper channels simply don't care or are deliberately resistant to being straightforward.

  9. Bob Wheeler

    Careful of what you write

    Some years ago management decided to allow the end user to view our call management system and therefore see what the support staff write about the problem.

    Apparently a lot of call logs got a substantial re-write.

    Bob (Retd)

    1. Chris Hills

      Re: Careful of what you write

      Back in the day we used RMS Service Desk. There were two notes fields, one for the customer to view, and one for the technicians.

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: Careful of what you write

        And next Monday, that time when that mate of a mate put the *cough* technical notes into the customer notes field by mistake.

        1. Nick Kew Silver badge

          Re: Careful of what you write

          You mean ECHAN, of IRC fame?

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Careful of what you write

        A friend of mine is a veterinarian. She uses a red paper dot with a number from one to ten on the patient's folder for a fractious critter, one being difficult to (for example) get a temperature on, and ten meaning "will try to kill you at any opportunity". Details are listed in the folder.

        She uses a cute pink dot for a fractious owner ... Those details are in a little book kept in the dispensary, where customers aren't allowed "for insurance reasons". Apparently some people go absolutely ballistic of you call their breed of choice a "bitchin' frizzy" ... How the hell was I supposed to know that? I was just there to update the computers!

      3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Careful of what you write

        The one we made ourselves did this (in 90s).

        Seems unthinkable now , it was just that abusing the customers seemed important in I.T. back then.

      4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Careful of what you write

        There were two notes fields, one for the customer to view, and one for the technicians.

        Never ever assume that anything you write won't make it back to the customer. The software our support desk uses has a 'private notes' field. Our staff have been told in no uncertain terms not to put anything in there you wouldn't want the cutomser to see.

        "Why", you ask? ther are any number of ways those notes can "go wild" - from a copy/paste mistake, to a customer visiting the office.

        The one that got me a number of years ago was the way that an email chain, which starts of as being very "internal" to an organisation, can get replied to and forwarded until it hits some numpty in the sales department who then just CC's in the customer contact without trimming the email first...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Careful of what you write

          "from a copy/paste mistake, to a customer visiting the office."

          Or a request for any data you hold on them under the DPA, a right that backdates GDPR. Data includes written notes.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Careful of what you write

          "The one that got me a number of years ago was the way that an email chain, which starts of as being very "internal" to an organisation, can get replied to and forwarded until it hits some numpty in the sales department who then just CC's in the customer contact without trimming the email first..."

          That's actually been instrumental in a couple of lawsuits I'm aware of - where that mis-CCed internal email made it very clear that what the vendor was denying was indeed the case.

          And in both cases, if the vendor hadn't insisted on trying to cover things up for a prolonged period they wouldn't have ended up in court.

    2. Stuart Castle

      Re: Careful of what you write

      Back when I were a green, young, student, I worked in our local Blockbuster. The system we used was actually quite impressive for the time, but was unusual in that it was only partially menu driven. Basically the reporting and management side of the system was menu driven, but the side that the cashiers used was command line driven. Scanning a membership barcode or a product barcode worked as you'd expect, with the membership code bringing up the customers account, and the product barcode logging a sale or rental, but we also have commands like Cash, AMEX, Visa, (and for each of the card companies) to complete the transaction, hold (to hold the account), commands to query the account and a "Note" command.

      The Note command allowed you to enter one line of text but there was no limit on the amount of notes you could enter. These notes were displayed every time, along with any holds, a member of staff accessed the account, together with who made them and what time/date they were made on. They were intended so the staff could do things like remind the customer about something next time they were in. They were not used for that.. Some of the more troublesome customers had some impressively long lists of notes attached to their accounts, not all of which were polite.

      I am extremely thankful that no customer that had any long list of notes ever asked me if they could see their account.

    3. Locky Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Careful of what you write

      Of course, you could just request all the information that the company holds on you under the Data Protection Act, that often shows up some very interesting results

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Careful of what you write

        "you could just request all the information that the company holds on you under the Data Protection Act, that often shows up some very interesting results"

        It's even more interesting when what they give you clearly shows that they've withheld some bits.

        The classic being emails referring to other emails that weren't supplied.

        Courts really don't like that. (This applies to discovery and DPA compliance)

    4. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Careful of what you write

      I used to work for a UK-based company that had our own Fault Logging system, running on a DEC/VAX cluster. Someone decided it would be a good idea to put all the Division's Helpdesk calls through to the head office site in northern England, which meant that the people taking the calls no longer knew who everybody calling them was.

      Which lead to some amusement when a poor helpdesk person took a call from someone who said that a particular system was down and that the systems programmers were doing such-and-such to get it back up and running, and it should be back by a certain time.

      The poor helpdesk person didn't recognize the caller's name - or even more worryingly the system name - so recorded the call as a waste of time as "the system named doesn't exist" and ended it with the comment "This idiot doesn't know what he's talking about".

      Unfortunately for the helpdesk person, "this idiot" was the System Manager at our site and he had full access to the fault logging system, so decided not to bother ringing the helpdesk with an update as he could put it on there himself...

    5. Vinyl-Junkie
      Mushroom

      Re: Careful of what you write

      It's not just IT Helpdesk systems, either. Back in 2005 I took responsibility for the library management system covering over 50 local libraries. The customer entry had a free text field for notes. Not only did this have some extremely rude comments regarding customers in it but an upgrade (from a thick-client interface accessible only by library staff to a web-based system) meant that the field became visible to customers who could now manage their account via the Internet. I had to get the developer to write me a script to purge the notes field!

  10. STOP_FORTH
    WTF?

    e-mail trails

    A similar thing can happen with e-mail. I was once copied in on an e-mail epic that had something like 30 messages in it. Early messages in the chain referred to the customer's competence/intelligence in very unflatterring terms. By the time I was copied in the whole chain had already been sent to the customer with some form of explanation/resolution.

    The person who sent said explanation to the customer was the one who had been most abusive/uncomplimentary in the early e-mails.

    Unbelievable.

  11. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Best thing to do

    keep having the 'normal' conversation, and with your finger just disconnect the call in the middle of a word. Rinse, repeat until there are no more calls from the irate customer.

    Troll because... there is no BOFH icon? Or should I have gone with the Spawn of Satin? tough call?

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Best thing to do

      I'm now trying to image a spawn of satin.. But all I can think of is satin ladies wear...

      1. Groaning Ninny

        Re: Best thing to do

        I think it's what Clinton was trying to achieve with Lewinsky...

  12. MiguelC Silver badge

    The danger of conference calls

    Once my boss got a call from a vice president of something-or-another, put the call on speakerphone and called me to listen to the conversation as it would deal with a project I was working on.

    When I was getting there my boss was telling his counterpart 'glad it's just you and not idiot [redacted name] or we'd be here all night explaining stuff'

    To which [redacted name] replied, in a somewhat gloomy tone, 'hey man, that's not funny'

    That day I learnt to always ask who's on the other side of calls before calling any names :)

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: The danger of conference calls

      The further danger of conference calls when you're on a mobile phone working from home when you spot next-door's cat shitting on your lawn and discourage it from this activity with a full and frank extempore account of its near future, your and its arse.

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Re: The danger of conference calls

        Ahem. "your boot and its arse".

        1. KittenHuffer

          Re: The danger of conference calls

          You're assuming that he's not a zoophiliac!

    2. Criggie
      Devil

      Re: The danger of conference calls

      I remember a mega conference call - with at least 30 people on it from India through to Scotland.

      Someone had put the call on hold and perhaps forgotten about it. So we went through this 4 hour coordination epic changeover with some easy listening station playing quietly. Thankfully it was quiet.

      The call was deemed too hard to move to another conference room given the setup time and number of people, and timeliness.

      -----------------

      So ... whenever there was a customer conference call involving them, we'd quietly play some music in the period leading up to the scheduled start time. "Oh no not again!!" was a common cry when people joined the call - much hillarity.

      Of course we'd stop the music when the conference started for real - I'm evil, not nasty.

  13. GreggS

    The old Reply-ALL

    Had a colleague once hit the reply-all to another colleague to say the customer was being a muppet. Unfortunately for him, customer was in the original CC list. Needless to say, he didn't last until the end of the day.

    This is exactly why the reply-all should be either greyed out or an optional added field!

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      Re: The old Reply-ALL

      Oh, but this can get even worse than that.

      Picture a business conference in the early nineties where the attendees of one conference all have Apple Macs, complete with cameras and good video cameras (as opposed to the frankly stone age tech on Windows laptops of the time).

      One female attendee decided that she really liked a different attendee, and that this "really liked" would best be discussed one to one in her hotel room. So, she sent a video invite to her intended guest, which included a video of her wearing just a towel, dropping the towel and giving what was later described in court as "a little shimmy"; the email subject was "Come to my room and this is what you'll get".

      Unfortunately, the email somehow went to <company_all> and quite a large number of happily married techies got an entirely unexpected eyeful. The court case was essentially a result of that extremely American habit of airing one's dirty laundry (not that she was wearing any) in public, and consisted rather of a public slanging match with very high expenses.

      The take-home message here is when using email, keep it formal, keep it polite and above all don't say anything that the other party, ANY other party, could possibly take the wrong way. Unless you happen to be Pressdram's lawyers and wish to inform a disgruntled businessman that the story in Private Eye checks out as true and that their threats will not be going anywhere much.

      1. 9Rune5

        Re: The old Reply-ALL

        Wait... There was a court case?

        Even if an unattractive woman sent me an e-mail like the one you describe, I would simply ignore it. No need to get the courts involved..?

    2. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: The old Reply-ALL

      Sometimes I think reply-all should be the default - the number of times an email chain falls silent because someone just hit reply, so vital info just ends up going to the last one to make a reply to the chain.

      Sender thinks he sent it, one receiver got it, the rest remain unaware.

      It would also be the usual behaviour, so you would be used to checking who the email is going to, rather than just reply, type, send.

      1. GreggS

        Re: The old Reply-ALL

        That's what email groups or distribution lists are for! I'd much sooner create a group and have an email replied to that group then have the reply-all.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The old Reply-ALL

          In a former company they blocked the Reply-All function after a member of staff emailed to all that he wasn't impressed with a proposed incentive plan. What shocked me was that the email vanished from my mailbox (being me I had a text copy of it, but it was interesting to see it happen).

          The person in question was marched out of the building and went on to become a millionaire (which, given circumstances and ethics involved I found a good turn of fate).

          Now for the fun bit: they may have blocked the Reply-All, but each department had a full dept mailing list. When I left, my goodbye message did indeed still go to All - after all, what good is being an evil IT specialist if you can't work your way past trivial limitations?

          :)

      2. PM from Hell
        Facepalm

        Re: The old Reply-ALL

        I have a number of colleagues who agree with you, I ignore virtually all their emails as they tend to include me in long rambling email exchanges I simply don't have the time to read. Unfortunately the unintended consequence of this is that they now need to IM me or call me to tell me that they have actually sent me an email I need to read.

  14. DailyLlama
    FAIL

    We've all done it

    I put someone on hold once to complain about them to my manager, and even though the LED on the hold button lit up, it did not mute my mic.

    Forunately, I didn't call them names or anything, just complained about how slow and unhelpful they were, but she didn't say anything, and just emailed my manager after the conversation. We all got "retrained" after that. And I got a new phone :-)

  15. jake Silver badge

    About a billion years ago ...

    ... in Internet time, call it roughly 1985, my Boss and I were in my office talking to the company owner on the speaker phone. The guy in charge of Advanced Manufacturing slammed into the office, making all kinds of demands, threatening us with firing and worse of we didn't drop everything to do his bidding. Until the owner's voice came out of the telephone, saying three magic words: "Dave, you're fired." ,,, My Boss was given the newly vacated AdvMan seat the following morning, and I took over his position. The owner cautioned both of us separately "Play fair with everybody, I don't like assholes". Needless to say we took him at his word.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: About a billion years ago ...

      Jake, you're well and truly redeemed for that too-soon-repeated anecdote a couple of months ago.

      This is well and truly the kind of anecdote that makes reading comments here worthwhile!

  16. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    I have a friend who was getting rather fed up with his job as tech support at a London computer shop in the mid 80s. The final straw came after someone sent him a floppy disk with a note stapled to it. He resolved to leave as soon as possible. The next customer who rang said he was having trouble with the sprocket holes aligning in his printer and could the procedure for putting paper in be explained to him. So my friend tried to explain but the person on the end of the phone was getting more and more irate with him. My friend just gave up shouted down the phone: “why don’t you work it out for yourself you ignorant cunt?”. He was fired pretty quickly after that.

    1. Giovani Tapini

      I believe the stapled floppy disk story was genuine from the Commercial Union insurance techies in Croydon IIRC from the distant 80's. I recall an interesting memo from the then equivalent of the dis-service desk with lots of do's and dont's...

      1. Vinyl-Junkie

        Oh I can vouch for stapled floppy disks!

        Many, many years ago, long before anyone had heard of data protection or privacy BR used to have a mainframe based personnel system named PEARLS (I forget what it stood for). BR being one of the first to get involved with networked PCs with interfaces to mainframes they were able to update records from any depot, office, etc that could get access to the mainframe. Offices that did not have mainframe access could still submit changes using a standard form; the output from which was saved to 5.25" floppy disk, sent to the nearest depot or office with a mainframe connection and processed there. In the early days it was not at all unusual to receive a batch of change forms (for filing) with the relevant details on and the floppy disk all stapled together!

      2. PM from Hell
        Facepalm

        Floppy Disks and staples

        In my first role I was a technical support trainee, although I took the job to get trained up on mainframe systems I ended up getting lumbered with building and supporting the new office systems networks. Not On;y did I get a floppy disk with a acknowledgement slip stapled to it same user also sent me a photocopy of a floppy when I asked her to copy the boot disk. She was the departmental IT rep and was paid about twice what I was. She actually complained to my boss because it took me so long to resolve the issue she was having, which was actually that she kept corrupting boot disks because she insisted in leaving them in the floppy drive and just powering the machine off when she went home. (yes this really was that long ago)

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "I believe the stapled floppy disk story was genuine from the Commercial Union insurance techies in Croydon IIRC from the distant 80's"

        I've seen it myself. It's one of the stupid things that users do, along with fridge magnets holding floppies to the filing cabinet. Nobody TOLD them they couldn't do it and they don't know about magnetic fields, nor did they get any training or look at the (cryptic) warning graphics on the disk envelope.

        One of my staff took both a "coffee cup holder" call AND several "I can't use my computer, the power's off" calls whilst in a previous university helpdesk job - and that was _after_ he'd read about them on the nascent internet of the early 1990s.

        About half the calls we took about dialup problems were due to frustrated other members of the household picking up the phone and pushing buttons or whistling at the modem until it hung up. It never seemed to occur to the users that nobody could phone out and in a lot of cases nothing was actually said about the problem until after we'd sent someone out to diagnose.

        (Most of the rest were due to dodgy phones that relied on line power to keep their memories intact starting to change the impedance of the line as their internal capacitors ran down - this was easily fixed by plugging in a "privacy adaptor" - which was simply a bridge rectifier and zener diode to keep such phones locked out when another one was using the line.

        Only about 10% of such calls were down to genuine line faults and the telco got to the point of fixing them fast when we called even if they'd been ignoring customer complaints in an area (or linesmen were writing off faults as "fixed" when they weren't) - our account manager made a point of forcing the telco helldesk to tabulate complaints linkable to cables and the clustering made it quite clear where trunk cables needed replacement.

        This made us unpopular with linesmen in some towns as it reduced their callout rates by 90% - they'd been milking the system for all they were worth - which brings us back to email trails as it became clear that these problems were known about for some time but not dealt with until we - as a customer with a large number of customers using telco lines and able to identify clusters of problems - started making noises about the issue. I'm quite sure that telco customers in those towns to this day never knew why their lines which had been crackling, humming and randomly cutting off for decades even after the switch to digital exchanges suddenly all started working perfectly.)

        FWIW:

        It's not just computers where users do stupid things even when you tell them not to:

        One of the "never ever do this" rules about handling liquid gases is putting them into unvented containers - back in the 1980s if you used a thermos instead of a dedicated dewar flask it _had_ to have a 1/4" hole drilled in the lid to make sure of this. This is a safety precaution drilled thoroughly into new students - so one day a 3rd year biochem student wandered casually into the workshops (bottom floor of the 6 floor biochem tower block) asking for assistance opening his thermos. "Hang on, this is cold. What's in it?" "Liquid nitrogen" - a small scream, rush for the door and toss into the adjacent duckpond later, the tech was still thanking his lucky stars when there was a loud but dull "thud" and the contents of said pond (including most of the mud from the bottom) deposited themselves along the entire vertical surface of the block (which being brutalist 1970s architecture with recessed windows made it a bitch for the cleanup crews). Legend has it that it took 2 years for ducks to return.

        Understandably, materials handling rules were changes after that to absolutely and completely ban the use of commercial thermos containers for moving liquid gases around (uncertified containers of any kind actually) and banning the transport of liquid gases in non-dedicated vehicles using any kind of container (someone managed to nearly asphyxiate themselves with a dewar of LN2 in the boot....Darwin in action). Photos of the building were used as part of the safety training for students at that univeristy for a long time afterwards.

        1. jake Silver badge

          "the nascent internet of the early 1990s"

          Nascent? In the early '90s?

          By the early '90s, TehIntraWebTubes had left Uni, got a job (commercial dial-up ISPs) and was approaching middle-age (the fat & lazy WWW) ...

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: "the nascent internet of the early 1990s"

            "Nascent? In the early '90s?"

            It depended where in the world you were. Out in the unfashionable fiinges of the western spiral arm in the plural z quadrants the Internet was only making baby steps outside universities and commercial dialups were a rarity even into the mid 1990s. That probably had a lot to do with access costs exceeding US$25/MB well into the mid 1990s (Compuserve and IBM was even more pricey but the local hacking crews all worked out how to breach security and have "free" logins)

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: "the nascent internet of the early 1990s"

              "It depended where in the world you were."

              Horseshit. I didn't visit Stirling for the first time until 1974. That doesn't mean that people hadn't been living there for the prior 4,000 years (or thereabouts).

              "access costs"

              The cost of access is immaterial to its existence.

  17. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Have you ever made a fool of yourself by failing to use the most basic piece of office kit properly?

    It's considered basic kit now, but back in the day when the company I worked for upgraded its email system from an ancient Vax/VMS to a shiny new GUI-based client thingy (technical term -- I honestly can't remember the name of the software now 'cos it was before I got involved in any form of email admin), we had a play with the new toys it offered. One of these was an out-of-office function, so I called across the room to a couple of my mates telling them to email me, delighting in their reactions when they got an automatic response saying "Piss off, arsehole!"

    You can probably see where this is going.

    A couple of weeks later I went on holiday for a week. Yes, I did remember to switch the out-of-office on. No, I didn't remember to change the message to something a tad more professional. Fortunately few people in the company used email at that time, and fortunately it was summer so a good number of them were also away on holiday. Very fortunately the one senior manager who was a tech enthusiast and had seen my message also had a great sense of humour, and laughed himself nearly into a coma after calling me in for a supposed carpeting.

    1. Stuart Castle

      When I first started using Outlook, it had a "nickname" field (it still does, but you need to add it manually to a contact). Partly as a joke, and partly messing around to learn Outlook, I gave a few friends of mine nicknames. I sent an email to one about something totally random. Next time I saw him, he asked why I'd addressed his email to "fatboy". I didn't realise that Outlook used the nickname, and labelled the send to field as <first name>"fatboy"<Surname>, with <first name> and <Surname> being his actual first and surname..

      Then there was the time I sent a "Happy Christmas" email to all students at my Uni. I left read receipts turned on, got roughly 18,000 read receipts, which blocked my mailbox, and earned me a telling off from the technicians, and a surprising amount of email abuse from those students who didn't celebrate Christmas for whatever reason, as well as those who did celebrate Christmas, but got offended on behalf of those who didn't. All I wanted to do was wish everyone well.

      1. Tony Jarvie

        Sounds very similar to a few years back when it suddenly became known that the company (of 24,000 employees worldwide) had a previously unknown group that included EVERY employee. I can't remember the original email, but it started off the inevitable "why am I getting this email" Reply-to-all scenario followed by some-one kicking off a whole chain of "never mind, it's nearly Christmas so Merry Christmas everyone" followed by 15,000-odd people all deciding to wish each other seasonal greetings... It was a complete mess!

        1. Criggie
          Mushroom

          Bedlam DL3 !

  18. Andy Non

    I'm not compatible with phones

    Many years ago, between 'A' levels and starting university I had a summer job working in the office of one of the largest supermarkets in the UK. My social skills were notable by their absence. Some bright spark decided to put me on the telephone switchboard. A job I hated but I did the best I could. However, one day a call came in from some senior bod at the UK head office. He asked to speak to the store manager. I buzzed through to the manager and told him there was a call for him from XYZ. His response was "I'm not in". I flicked the switch back to the incoming caller and said "He says he's not in." After a long silence on the other end of the line there was a verbal explosion with the caller shouting that somebody or other will hear about this! Thankfully, my summer job ended a few days later. It is quite possible the store manager's job ended too. Oops.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: I'm not compatible with phones

      His response was "I'm not in". I flicked the switch back to the incoming caller and said "He says he's not in."

      Beautiful.

      And this is why you can't put any person on a switchboard... not everybody's capable of doing that job.

      Unless your name's Simon, of course, then you'll have a grand time!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1) Why can't you put them through to support?

    2) Why is your support phone line so poor they can't even answer a phone, which is their one, primary and sole purpose?

    3) What do you expect users to do when they can't get through on the line they are supposed to? Write you a letter to solve their support problems?

    4) Why are your sales staff - when they get a call and can't get even through to support themselves - not able to have the most basic of support functions available to clear your sales lines for what THEY are intended for. Even if this is a limited checksheet, filing a ticket direct to support on the customer's behalf, etc.?

    Your sales line is your money-maker. If people are coming through it to get through to support, they are COSTING YOU MONEY. Therefore, it makes sense to get them off those lines in a way that they WON'T ring back and complain. The best way to do this is to connect them to where they were supposed to go, and have enough people there to deal with things, and spend money to make sure they don't cost you money.

    People coming through to sales because support was busy is your overflow warning. It means something's wrong. Fix it. And you can do that by being polite, filing support tickets direct through backchannels, and making those customers happy so they go away.

    Yeah, it's "not your job". But you're also a representative of a company. Therefore you need to a) be polite, b) solve their problems, c) work to prevent those problems happening again. Not just, as in this case, call the customer an idiot and try to fob them off.

    It would take literally seconds to say "Yes, sir, no, I realise that the support lines are busy... I've just tried to ring through to them myself and they are experiencing a high call volume. If I can take the details of the problem, I can't help you with it myself, but I'll be sure that you're in their list of problems to resolve."

    P.S. It is a literal tactic of mine to jam up your sales lines if your support lines don't answer (for hours!), or refuse to do what they are obligated to do.

    This has involved, in the past, a manual re-dialling of a number some thousands of times. It worked. I got through. We got our order shipped. The company went bust the week after and all those people who didn't do that and get their orders shipped lost all their money.

    Also, I did this to a gas company. The result was them paying a newsagents to stay open past midnight so we could top up a meter key.

    It's also involved - where legal obligations were not being met, a company was refusing to talk to me despite me being very reasonable, where I was hung up on multiple times by multiple people (including "It's him! Hang up!"), and they then blocked my number - dialling a number so much I jammed up an (admittedly small) high-street office's switchboard for 20 minutes until they spoke to me. They literally said "Please stop, we're losing customers because all the phones are ringing and we can't hear ourselves think".

    Maybe you should answer them, then. And speak to the very patient guy at the other end? They knew that if they took it further, it would come out that they hadn't met their legal obligations which were much more serious than "Well, I was just trying to get through to them and they kept hanging up on me, so I put them on an auto-redial... I just forgot it was connected to a 100-line SIP trunk..." (It was quite satisfying though, to lose my patience, press the auto-redial and just sit in silence carrying on with other things while occasionally glancing at the phone lights, imagining the sheer cacophony at the other end...)

    (P.S. I later, as part of that experience, reported them to Companies House for failing to display the correct company information and they were required to reprint all their stationary, pay someone to change their website to redo all the contact details on it, and display the mandatory company information in their offices. It does not pay to annoy paying customers.)

    Customer service is an EXPENSE. You pay money to it in order that it doesn't cost you money elsewhere. Just because "Lost custom because of poor service, or I couldn't get through to sales" doesn't appear as a line in a spreadsheet doesn't mean it's any smaller an amount than "Support Costs".

    1. jake Silver badge

      "despite me being very reasonable"

      Why, after reading the rest of your diatribe, do I very much doubt that?

      1. Mongrel

        Re: "despite me being very reasonable"

        Sounds like another super entitled customer who doesn't understand the problem.

        Moaning that there aren't enough people aren't answering phones is something that the support desk is well aware of, generally they're not the people who have any say in the decision.

        Trying to short circuit by going to sales is just entitled "I'm too important to get in the queue with everyone else!!"

        Trying to swamp their incoming lines is a serious dick move that helps absolutely no-one.

        1. 9Rune5

          Re: "despite me being very reasonable"

          Trying to short circuit by going to sales is just entitled "I'm too important to get in the queue with everyone else!!"

          Or put differently: hampering the sales dept will make it more difficult for the company to add more customers, thus helping to limit the problem of an overwhelmed support dpt.

          All within reason of course. There's a difference between having to wait five minutes midday and being put on hold for half an hour (or more...) no matter when you try calling. "Your call is important to us, you just have to wait for an hour while we answer other calls that are also important to us"

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "despite me being very reasonable"

          "Trying to swamp their incoming lines is a serious dick move that helps absolutely no-one."

          On the contrary, swamping their sales lines prevents them signing up more customers and if the sales people are on commission (which most are) it will eventually lead to heated screaming at whoever operates the support side to fix the bloody problem "right bloody now"

          In most companies "sales" vastly outtrumps "suppport" in the food chain, so whilst support might be ignored when complaining loudly about not having enough resource, if the knock on effect of that is that it's impacting sales things tend to "get done".

          It's not illegal to swamp a company's phone lines. Just keep it polite enough that they can't invoke the section 127 of the Telecommunications act and don't go after a single person as that could be construed as harrassment.

          Far too many companies still treat support as "mwa ha haaa, we have your money now sucker, and you're locked into a binding contract. Whatcha gunna do?" - without realising that social networks are allowing more and more people to collate that behaviour and draw conclusions. (They can also coordinate action if they really wanted and the likes of TalkTalk haven't yet seen what can be done if they really piss off their customers.)

          It took Ofcom, the ICO and friends quite a while to realise that the high level of complaints they've started seeing since 2003 isn't going to go away and that the complaints had existed for a long time but reaching the regulators was not an easy path for the victims.

          (BTW, for a lot of shit that Ofcom claims fiefdom over, the Competition and Markets authority needs to step in. Ofcom needs to stick to its knitting as a technical regulator and leave misleading advertisiing/market manipulation issues to the people actually trained to deal with it. Take a leaf out of New Zealand's book - it was only when their version of the CMS (the Ministry of Commerce) stepped in that Telecom New Zealand's blatant market abuse got stomped on and the company broken into lines and services companies - that was the point where true competition emerged and NZ went from being the poster child of how NOT to privatise your telco to a good example of things done right)

    2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      "2) Why is your support phone line so poor they can't even answer a phone, which is their one, primary and sole purpose?"

      Have you considered that some numpty with a 100-link SIP trunk might be tying up all their phones?

    3. doublelayer

      Sometimes, those questions reveal good answers. However, usually the answers are these:

      "1) Why can't you put them through to support?"

      I can. Support is backlogged. They'll be on hold with them. That's why they're ringing me, because they're angry about being on hold.

      "2) Why is your support phone line so poor they can't even answer a phone, which is their one, primary and sole purpose?"

      Either there are not enough support staff (not my responsibility if I'm answering another phone), some are sick, some other customer has a major problem and they're fixing it, it's a time of day where support has ended because we don't run 24 hour support but I'm working late, ...

      "3) What do you expect users to do when they can't get through on the line they are supposed to? Write you a letter to solve their support problems?"

      Per the answer to 1, I expect them to wait on hold. Then, perhaps, send a letter to the responsible party (I.E. the head of support or their superior) complaining about having to wait on hold. They should not complain about that to me, as that's not my job and I can't do anything about that.

      "4) Why are your sales staff - when they get a call and can't get even through to support themselves - not able to have the most basic of support functions available to clear your sales lines for what THEY are intended for. Even if this is a limited checksheet, filing a ticket direct to support on the customer's behalf, etc.?"

      Because sales is not support. You don't hire sales representatives for their ability to support customers, because that's not their job. If there is a convenient page that they can give you, that's always nice to have, but many users will either refuse to read it or have a problem that is more complex. In that case, it is not the job of sales to support the systems. I also don't expect that a customer that calls the HR department will get IT help.

      By assaulting a sales office when support is bad, you are punishing the wrong people. The people responsible for the problem, assuming that there is a problem, are not the people answering the phones. Those people are trying to do their job, and you are preventing them from doing that without any good reason. As fun as your autodial story was in a BOFH way, it's not the right way to deal with the problem you faced.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        By assaulting a sales office when support is bad, you are punishing the wrong people.

        Up to a point, Lord Copper.

        You're also putting pressure on the company, by what may be the only means available to you. Especially when a company has gone to great lengths to make it impossible to contact support.

        1. jtaylor

          In a similar vein, I once bought tires, and double-checked my receipt while walking over to my car. They had charged me the extra warranty which I had carefully refused multiple times.

          I returned and the salesman was busy and asked me to wait in the rather long line.

          I parked my car across both of their bays, walked back inside, and told the salesman I was in no hurry and would wait for the manager. I sat down with some brochures.

          The store manager was very helpful, promptly fixed the charge, and apologized for the trouble.

          Sometimes it helps to establish a mutual interest in solving the problem. Sales is one way to do that.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Per the answer to 1,"

        In other words "I'm alright Jack. Fuck off"

        "By assaulting a sales office when support is bad, you are punishing the wrong people"

        The sales office are the people who sold the service which doesn't work as promised. Seems like the right people to me.

        Your response is a classic narcissist one. "Not my problem, I washed my hands of it the minute I made the sale"

        Are you a narcisstic psychopath willing to push blame for your faults onto other people in real life too?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > 2) Why is your support phone line so poor they can't even answer a phone, which is their one, primary and sole purpose?

      Is speaking to you after answering the call part of their "sole purpose" or are they required to immediately hang-up?

  20. mix

    Common courtesy

    No matter how angry you are, no matter how much you've been messed about other times, when you call a support line asking for help, you treat that person with the common courtesy which they deserve.

    If they're then useless feel free to ask to be passed to someone with a clue. :)

  21. stevo42

    I was once put on 'non-hold' when the person went to go get my file (I'd been ringing about a support issue every monday morning for a few weeks now. "We're busy, we're busy, we'll get round to sorting your issue as soon as we can."). While she was gone I could hear 2 colleagues of hers in the room discussing how absolutely smashed they got on the weekend, staggering down the high street at 4am, and now too hung over to do anything at work. When she got back, she got quite an ear full for what I thought of their work ethic, and the necessary level of productivity increase required to get my issue sorted.

  22. Simon Harris Silver badge

    Telewest

    Back in the pre-Virgin days when Telewest were laying fibre across London (that'll be the 1990s) they were doing door-to-door visits to sell connections to their network.

    At the time I had a girlfriend who was some years older than me, and one day their marketing-droid turned up at her house and went through their spiel of what they could offer with service. Not being so technically minded, she asked if they could come back later when I would be home.

    True to their word, he came back, I answered the door and he ran through their spiel and I probed him with a few questions about their network, and their cable TV which seemed reasonable enough. Then to finish off, trying to gauge which pay-TV channels they might be able to sell, he said "And what sort of films does your mother like to watch?"

    Momentarily confused, since my mother lives 50 miles away, I paused and then it clicked...

    The way the colour drained from his face when I said "That's not my mother you talked to before..." was a sight to behold.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: Telewest

      Never done that job, but learned the lesson not to make assumptions

      a "what sort of movies do you all watch?" would have worked a lot better here.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Telewest

        Ugh, I still get referred to as Mr 'wifes surname' instead of my own. (for the record she's a professional and its an arse to get certificates re-issued with married name on top of coming from a culture where keeping your name is perfectly normal).

        There's no finer way of pissing me off in a sales call.

        1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

          Re: Telewest

          "Hello, am I talking to Mr WifeysName?" happens to me from time to time, I don't see the problem. I usually answer someting like "No, but I'm the person you want to talk to". What's the matter ?

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Telewest

      Heh, that reminds me of the time when I was sitting in an ice cream parlor with my (then high-school-age) daughter and someone decided to publicly scold me then and there for "robbing the cradle".

  23. Stuart Castle

    Friend of mine, years ago, in a job that beyond the fact he used a computer from time to time had nothing to do with IT, had a particularly grumpy customer on the phone, and was getting angry, so needed to compose himself. He put the phone on hold (or thought he did), making an excuse he needed to check something with his manager, put the receiver down, then said "Fuckwit" ,only to hear a tinny voice on the other end of the phone say "Who are you calling a fuckwit?".

    Not sure if the customer complained, but that is almost irrelevant as his manager was standing in the office, and asked to have a polite word with him.

    I never found out exactly what was said, but he left the firm a few weeks after, deciding to move back to retail (which, in fairness, he was more comfortable with anyway).

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same story ...

    ... happened to me 20 years ago.

    New company, I was calling a vendor support, discussing with a lady. But the 2 lads in my office were laughing very loudly, making the discussion very difficult.

    I don't remember the details but I covered the phone's handset to tell my buddies "shut up, I'm with a chick from $vendor !". I actually used the french term "gonzesse" which is ok, but just not politically correct.

    Only when resuming the call, she took offense of my words. I was livid.

  25. N2 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Had I been your boss

    I'd have agreed with you, the caller was an idiot.

    The only error was in failing to put the phone on hold correctly

  26. Timo

    What, no three way call faux pas?

    I'm sort of surprised that nobody has offered up this one: it was common to "tap" someone into a call, making it a three-day call. And by "tapping" again you usually dropped the third party.

    But not this time. We were in a meeting, calling anther office, when it came up that we needed some information from a co-worker who was not particularly fit for her job. Tapped her on, asked the question and got a response, then boss tapped to drop her from the call and said something to the effect of "man I hate working with her she is such a pain to work with", only to hear a response of "hey Bob I'm still on the line". Much backpedaling ensued.

    From then on it was determined that it was better to hang up completely and redial the first call then to risk getting caught with the third party still engaged.

  27. DuchessofDukeStreet

    Handset error

    A good few years back I was supposed to go to a meeting in Hampshire which got changed to a meeting in London which I couldn't then get to so agreed to dial into alongside a few other remote attendees, whilst everyone else sat round a table with the audio coming out of the ceiling speakers. I couldn't find a meeting room/quiet office where I was so dialled in on my Blackberry with wired earphones plugged in and listened.

    About 30 minutes in, the PHB introduced the latest consultant who launched into his spiel about what a GENIUS he was and what changes he was going to make to how we managed comms (which was actually one of the few things that worked REALLY well on that programme, as we'd already hooked into all of the longstanding effective channels the company had and people looked at) and what BRILLIANT new tools he was going to introduce and how we would LEVERAGE these ASSETS to make a PARADIGM SHIFT (you get the idea, right? Dilbert would have had a field day).

    No idea how this was being received in London but I had the Blackberry face down on my desk and my head in my hands, muttering "you ****ing idiot, what ****ing planet are you on?" or words to that effect.

    The sounds from London stopped abruptly and a voice said "who said that? who's dialled into this call?"

    At which point I spotted the microphone on the earphone cord which was still only a few inches away from my lips...

    More recently I have typed a comment about a meeting attendee into the meeting chat window rather than the 1-2-1 chat window I had open with another attendee. Fortunately the offending person was so busy pontificating he wasn't looking at the chat. If he was, he's never mentioned it anyway.

  28. An0n C0w4rd

    Hardware mute buttons which didn't mute

    At a previous job the support and sales teams had headsets (sorry, cannot remember the brand but I'd recognise them if I ever saw them again) which had a headset which could be disconnected from the adapter box and a mute button on the headset adapter box that sat on the desk next to the phone (there were 3 controls on the box, can't remember what the other two did)

    Turns out that the mute button didn't actually mute the mic, it just made it quieter. People with good phones could still make out what was said. Can't remember how this was discovered, but I bet it was similar to the stories above. Agents were instructed to physically disconnect the headset in future and not use the not-quiet-a-mute button

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Hardware mute buttons which didn't mute

      "not-quiet-a-mute button"

      I see what you did there

    2. Down not across

      Re: Hardware mute buttons which didn't mute

      At a previous job the support and sales teams had headsets (sorry, cannot remember the brand but I'd recognise them if I ever saw them again) which had a headset which could be disconnected from the adapter box and a mute button on the headset adapter box that sat on the desk next to the phone (there were 3 controls on the box, can't remember what the other two did)

      Plantronics had adapter box like that that plugged betwen handset and phone. If I recall correctly one button was to switch between headset and handset, one was mute, and one was volume control.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Hardware mute buttons which didn't mute

        "Plantronics had adapter box like that that plugged between handset and phone."

        They also have a plugthrough adaptor for the headset with a big red toggle switch that _physically_ disconnects the mic. (27708-01 In-Line Mute Switch - for the curious)

        It's a godsend in noisy environments.

  29. Soderbok

    A few years ago when I was working in Telecoms support, a few calls came in about loss of phone and broadband service to an estate in Dublin.

    A ticket was logged, the engineers drove out to have a look and reported back that a large Guinness truck had crashed into the small mini exchange, completely trashing it.

    The truck was there, a fire brigade engine, an ambulance and 3 police squad cars, along with a small but growing crowd of lookie loos and media.

    Sure enough a message was added to the support line, that if you were calling about service in *insert estate here* it's effecting several customers and engineering are aware of the problem, there's no need to stay on the line to report a fault we're aware of it.

    Repeat the message every 20 seconds while callers are in the queue, that should sort it out.

    But we still had plenty of people who were prepared to hang on the line for 15 minutes to scream at us that their phone was dead.

    Demanding to speak to a Super.

    So we asked the Super for what we should tell them.

    "Check local radio or the evening news"

    Sure enough first story on the evening news, Guinness truck destroys local exchange.

    We then got people ringing in to complain it was ridiculous we couldn't just magic up a new one, from people who weren't even in the effected area, who just wanted to vent their spleen.

    Moral: Some people really will do anything to have someone to scream at.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @soderbok

      "Moral: Some people really will do anything to have someone to scream at."

      If you want some fine examples of that check out some of the stories on the Not Always Right sites.

  30. MonkeyCee Silver badge

    Mute button

    At one role for a bank the mute button stopped the customer from hearing what you said, but it still went on to the recording.

    Reviewing problem calls was always entertaining, since you couldn't tell, except by recall or lack of reaction, when mute was on.

    One thing I did learn was that the people calling on the VIP* lines were much more respectful, polite and friendly than those on the regular lines. Even when someone had made a serious cockup, while they were very clear that while they wanted it fixed ASAP they did not consider me at fault, but rather that I was part of the solution.

    The business clients were fine too. Since they actually used the system a lot they often knew exactly what they needed doing, or at least had a good idea of what the problem might be. Since 90% of things that went wrong involved payroll there was again the focus on solving the problem first, tidying up the resulting messes, then only doing the blame game to try and prevent things in the future. Also showed me that quite a lot of employers take their responsibilities seriously, so if a payroll batch failed halfway they'd run it again and pay some people twice and sort it later rather than risk anyone not getting the pay on time. Or when there wasn't enough to cover a full second run before overnight clearing deadline, so all the C suite and department heads pay got held back for a few days.

    My ex works for the tax department. The list of things she's been called, either directly or on an unmuted phone, are far worse than anything I've had. Best is that it's in three official languages, plus whatever else the caller has. She's Dutch, so is pretty direct about it, so when one client said "oh, it's that cunt from the tax department" when someone in the room with her asked who she was on the phone with, when the client picked up the phone again my ex cheerily said "hi, it's the cunt from the tax department here, do you have that reference code now?". After sorting the client out, she even got a sincere apology, which is pretty rare here in the Netherlands :D

    * private banking and share trading, people who would describe themselves as comfortable rather than rich...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Mute button

      "Even when someone had made a serious cockup, while they were very clear that while they wanted it fixed ASAP they did not consider me at fault, but rather that I was part of the solution."

      Manglement should _always_ work on the basis that the helpdesk is mostly there to fix problems caused by sales overpromising/underdelivering and secondarily there for actual technical problems.

      If the helpdesk is there to make it harder for the customer to get things fixed, then they're part of the problem, not the solution.

      One of the more classic sales psychopath approaches when hauled into a meeting with an irate customer is to engineer the customer into an angry outburst, then take offence and refuse to work with said customer anymore - these are the most toxic salespeople in an organisation as they end up costing the company far more than they ever made for it (stories of "buying something so he'll go away" are commonplace, as are promising the moon in order to make a sale). Senior management usually only find this kind of thing out long after the toxic person has well and truely embedded themselves into an organisation and it's fairly common for this kind of person to work their way up the organisation over time due to having utterly _no_ shame about conning people. (Sound like a US president we all know?)

      This kind of person will treat anyone who calls them out as a personal enemy and is highly likely to engage in vendettas for what they perceive as even a minor slight. This can persist even after changing companies (particularly if they see the target as responsible for them being forced out)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That would have been beer in my department

    We all make mistakes, and I'm pretty sure we would have bought the guy several beers afterwards.

    When we'd finished laughing, of course. After hearing of this I would have been found on the floor, howling with laughter - my sense of humour is admittedly not very customer compatible...

    :)

  32. Paul Cooper

    Oops!

    I was once working on a dataset provided by some Spanish colleagues. It had been created in a totally different system from ours, and I was converting it for use in our systems - theirs was Microstation; ours was ArcGIS for those who know their GIS software! And as anyone familiar with the systems will know, the differences in representation between the two are enormous. Anyway, I'd been working on it for a while when I discovered that one class of features had been duplicated in a manner that meant I was going to have to manually select and delete several hundred features. At this point, I boiled over and yelled "Bloody Spaniards!" Unfortunately, at just this point, our Spanish colleague who was visiting passed by our work area... Fortunately, I think he had a sense of humour and ignored my outburst! We collaborated many times over the years after that and got on quite well, but I learnt that day to keep my mouth shut!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hold button - The glue that makes IT work

    I worked in IT and the Sales floor had a genius who liked pressing hold, making a abusive/sarcastic comment and then unmuting and carry on fairly flawlessly (no music on hold). He was beloved by the Sales floor as a bit of a character.

    Until he annoyed someone in IT and then someone adjusted his button to not work properly (screwdriver and painted on sticky substance), this resulted in even more hilarity when he came a cropper, and considerable less hilarity when he was escorted to a HR meeting about the complaint and call recording.

    This was more of a PFY action than a BOFH and it wasn't me, i just had to pull the recordings and was the one refusing to "claim" the recording system had glitched on his call. He couldn't understand how "glitched" recordings put me in a bad position even if it got him someway out of his problem.

    1. KillStuffMount
      Alert

      Re: Hold button - The glue that makes IT work

      Our workplace phones record what you say while on hold. Everyone learns very quickly to use the mute button (which does work), even if a call is on hold.

      Belt and braces :)

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Hold button - The glue that makes IT work

      "He couldn't understand how "glitched" recordings put me in a bad position even if it got him someway out of his problem."

      Welcome to the world of dealing with narcissists.

  34. juice Bronze badge

    Mute... or loudspeaker?

    Many years ago, back when I still had a physical phone and headset on my desk, I took a phonecall from someone who's technical knowledge and skills were somewhat lacking. During the conversation, I hit mute to double check with someone about the finer details about how this person's request was completely impossible and then carried on with various repetitions of "Nope. Nyet. Nein, No.".

    It took a while to twig I'd hit the loudspeaker button, and that everyone nearby could hear both sides of the conversation. Thankfully, they all agreed with what I was saying ;)

    A few years later, I rang someone up who got confused and thought he was talking to someone /about/ me, rather than directly to me. Luckily, it turned out that he didn't have anything negative to say about me :D

    In general, the company in question was very keen on the pushing people to be home-workers (cheaper than paying for office space) and making use of conference calls to reduce travel and expenses costs. Between the two, it wasn't uncommon to spend the entire working day glued to a phone, while listening to people dealing with their babies, pets, house alarms, etc.

    And on a few notable occasions, you'd get someone who'd spent a little bit too much time on the phone, fallen asleep and started snoring...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Mute... or loudspeaker?

      "on a few notable occasions, you'd get someone who'd spent a little bit too much time on the phone, fallen asleep and started snoring..."

      Completely off topic on this one:

      This is a classic indicator of sleep apnea or other sleep disorder and the employee concerned should be encouraged to see a GP for screening.

      Apnea is one of those "silent killers" that takes 30-40 years to do its job (weight gain, heart stress eventually requiring a heart transplant, increasing susceptability to/severity of illnesses). Despite perceptions of only happening in older/overweight people the weight gain is usually a _symptom_ not a cause and they've been suffering it since their teens. Mine was picked up when I was 32, but looking back it'd been with me since around 15-17 and manufacturer-sponsored studies of sports teams have shown 1/4 to 1/3 of teenage participants were sufferers (they were expecting 5-10%. the results were fairly shocking).

      There's no "cure", but early (and lifelong) symptomatic treatment (a CPAP blower and mask strapped to the face when you sleep) is dirt cheap compared to the medical costs incurred in later life if not treated (NHS figures are a few hundred pounds over a lifetime vs hundreds of thousands for major medical interventions). Beware of internet quack remedies offering miracle cures. If they worked the medical establishment would be all over them (especially the NHS, for cost reasons)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    April fools

    Few years back I decided to cause much mirth by inverting the blf (lights indicating line state, and other "soft button" functions on desk phone) logic on the pbx, much confusion caused by having to enable dnd to get calls etc.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was working for the telephone company when....

    We had a product called Remedy. This was the Unix version. They had a Windows vs ported to Windows and new NOTHING about portability, such as how to handle multi-threading in Unix. Needless to say, the app constantly crashed on the latest version we installed. We were on the phone while this person rambled for three long hours, and finally he stated he would come out and see what was going on. I kept going on mute, thought the button was still muted, and stated "Just shut up and do it already." I was absentmindedly listening as I was working on a database application, and vaguely heard him say OK and the call ended. Then my co-worker who was on the call came over and said do you realize what you just said? I had a sinking feeling as I saw my boss leave his office, but he just looked at me and grinned. Ever since then, been REALLY careful with that button!

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I was working for the telephone company when....

      "We had a product called Remedy. "

      it's still around - and it's still just as bad on *nixen

  37. Mr. Flibble

    German Bastards

    Our HQ was in Germany, so were usually an hour ahead of us in the UK.

    Once we had a network problem, so I rang them up at about 4.25pm (UK time) to let them know. The phone rang, and then silence.

    So I rang again, same thing. I thought they'd all disappeared off home early, and muttered "Bastards!" as I hung up.....

    ....

    A few minutes later, someone rang my number and said "er... hello.... you called us bastards?"..... It turned out they were still in the office, it was just they could hear me, and I couldn't hear them... oops!

    I apologised profusely, and they were surprisingly OK about it.

    For several weeks afterwards they signed off their emails to me with "from the German Bastards" :)

    1. Criggie

      Re: German Bastards

      Been there - its always wise to say something like "Hello - if you're talking then I can't hear you sorry." and hang up. Bonus if you call them straight back, knowing who it is from the CID info.

  38. Cihatari

    More mute button mayhem.

    Many years ago, an insurance call centre selling products for the over fifties market.

    Cue a nice elderly gentleman of eighty five summers seeking a car insurance quote for himself and his nineteen year old female "co-driver".

    Deano (it's always someone called Deano) is taking the call. He is amused by the massive age difference. Finger skims the mute button on his phone. Utters the immortal words "Bit of a paedophile, are we sir?"

    Mute button was not engaged as assumed.

    Cue explosion from the other end of the call.. (And trouser explosions two milliseconds later!)

  39. dmacleo

    years ago was involved with initial rollout and testing of pc upgrades to major airline.

    systems were locked down, software needed to certify aircraft could not be used.

    when asked my thoughts on conference call (base personal in my office) I said a fking idiot planned this.

    did not know it, VP of company (at time largest carrier in world) was on call and spoke up said I am that idiot.

    I said I stand by my statement and in my primary job (records) may ground most of your regional fleet due to this.

    issue was fixed in less than a week.

    could have heard a pin drop when I refused to apologize for calling him a fking idiot.

    but...I was sweating a few days LOL

  40. usbac

    Many years ago I was the service manager for a local computer store (remember them?). My best friend owned a competing computer store across town. We always had a good matured rivalry going on.

    One day my friend calls about a PC he got in for repair. He tells me that the customer said that we had worked on the PC last. He asks me some questions, and I told him that I would have to ask the tech Jeff about the repair. I go and find the work order. I tell my friend that the major problem we found with the PC was that the customer is a total idiot.

    It turns out that my friend had me on speakerphone (which he seems to have an annoying fascination with), and the customer was standing right there. He learned not to do that again. Me, I really didn't care that much. The customer was pain in the ass, and a total jerk in general, so I wasn't upset to see him gone.

    We always tried to take great care of customers, especially ones that need a lot of hand holding. But when you get someone that doesn't understand computers, and they act like a total ass when you try to help them, what can you do?

    My friend later regretted trying to help this guy also...

  41. Compuserve User
    Childcatcher

    Getting Bogged Down

    Back in the day when we had YTS (Youth Training Scheme) I was working for an IT outfit, up North of the UK that recently hired a young girl to answer the phones. When one day the managing director of our glorious entity called in looking for the Supervisor (Tim). This young girl (17 years old) poked her head around the door asking where Tim was. I told her "he went to his secondary office to do some paper work" (the warehouse) she made a face and went back to the phone and said "he's on toilet".

    1. KittenHuffer

      Re: Getting Bogged Down

      Wow! I always thought that meant Young Trapped Slave!!!!

  42. herman Silver badge

    Oh Canada...

    In Canada, the standard way to handle an issue with Telus or Shaw, is to call the help desk and immediately swear blue murder at the poor sod who answers the phone. The call then gets promoted to a supervisor right away - then apologise to the Sup for swearing at the poor first line numpty and they are always super polite and get the problem fixed immediately.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh Canada...

      I had the joy of managing a team who had to deal with abusive calls. I implemented a process where the caller was put through to me but I would never accept an apology. They had the option of calling back to the staffmember they abused ti apologise and follow the normal process or just f***ing right off.

  43. chrishansenhome
    Unhappy

    Workers aren't "resource"

    A cow-orker of mine at a previous job was on the phone to another cow-orker in an office in another country. The far-off gentleman referred to my co-worker as "resource". The "resource" immediately shouted on the phone "I'm not a f*cking resource! I'm a worker!" The remote co-worker had the call on speakerphone and the entire office, including clients, heard the outburst.

    My co-worker was terminated the next day, sadly, as he was one of the few sane people in the company.

  44. IGnatius T Foobar !

    End users *are* idiots.

    I'm so glad that my career moved beyond the point of having to deal with end users decades ago. They really are idiots. All of them.

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