back to article When customers see red, sometimes the obvious solution will only fan the flames

Friday has arrived, and with it the promise of a weekend free of workplace distractions. It also brings another tale from one of the unfortunates who will be spending their Saturday and Sunday awaiting the dreaded phone call. Welcome to On Call. Today's story comes from "Harry", who, at some point in the last decade, was …

  1. Mr Dogshit
    FAIL

    Dolt

    And Harry could have saved six hours if he'd gone to the user's desk in the first place or got a sodding screenshot.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Dolt

      Agreed. When I am faced with a presumed error that I cannot replicate, it's the first thing I ask for : show me how it goes wrong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dolt

        I once worked in a new building which still had its share of snagging and bugs. The IT help desk was still in the old site, about 200 yards and a couple of security gates away, so getting them out to fix any problems was nigh-on impossible until the obligatory ping-pong had completed. One of the engineers discovered that a certain proportional font in MASS11 (ancient word processor) caused the local printer queue to crash and it could only be reset from a local terminal by someone with admin rights. Since the high-paid-help used the printer it was a priority and IT had to schlep over immediately to reset it whenever it crashed. So, if we ever needed hands-on IT help we just crashed the queue. Eventually the simple threat of crashing it was enough until they finally found room for our very own support bod.

        1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          @AC mind if I borrow that anecdote?

          It'll be good for explaining the "while you're here" form of IT support request, where the system is preventing the user from having logging a request to say "this is fucked in a way that clearly needs an eyeball" without knowing why it's fucked, leading to a catch-22 situation.

          The solution is creating "canary" kit, that requires a physical visit to fix. Hence your canary printer queue :)

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Dolt

        1) Can I reproduce the problem? No: then it's specific to the user / computer.

        2) Does the problem occur for that user on other machines? No: then it's the machine in question, Yes: then it's the user account or user themselves.

        3) What exactly is that user doing / typing / clicking to make it do that?

        Not saying that it's 100% infallible, but pretty much every single ticket that falls through that path on those questions will end in the results listed.

        If I have spent my life in IT and learned anything, it's that 1) on its own usually means the user is doing something really dumb, and every "actual problem" fails that first test (i.e. I can reproduce it).

        I also have it well-documented and advertised to all users: I cannot fix a problem if I cannot reproduce it. It's that simple. Telling me that last week something funny happened and not be able to tell me what that was or show me it again means I can often do absolutely nothing about it.

        Sure, maybe I need to be you, sitting in your chair, on your user account, using your computer to reproduce it. But if I *cannot* reproduce the error, I cannot fix it for you. If you, as a user, *can* reliably reproduce it... then I can probably fix it. Or tell you why I can't (e.g. "Microsoft didn't write it that way").

        File a ticket. If I can't reproduce it elsewhere, I may well ask for a screenshot, or take remote control. Or walk to your office next time I'm passing. Pretty much, at that point, you just *know* it's going to be something the user's doing, absent other flags (i.e. "The computer is saying the hard drive is failing").

        1. Daedalus Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          Logic goes out the window when manglement get involved. Team Leader was clearly a mangler rather than a promoted worker bee.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          Whatting other flags?

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: Dolt

            Welcome to English.

            "absent other X" means "without anything else X".

            Google examples and you things like "In other words, it is considered to be true or at least adequate on first appearance, absent other information or evidence." from law sites and all sorts.

            I didn't just make it up.

        3. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Dolt

          Sure, maybe I need to be you, sitting in your chair, on your user account, using your computer to reproduce it.

          Had to do that quite a bit at times. Sometimes it was stuff like language settings, sometimes it was a browser or email extension, sometimes something screwy with their screen or graphics drivers putting windows off the screen- and the user didn't know they could right-click on the icon in the task bar and select 'move'.

          Given few users have a decent grasp of the same language as us, sometimes you really do need to be standing behind them or sitting with them to see what happens.

          But when the user is hundreds of miles away, perhaps on another land mass... :( (Loved it when Skype was quite common and had a "share screen" function that could be easily demonstrated to a user so they could share their screen with me).

          Sometimes the "what are you typing" breaks when you have regional spelling differences, and letters that sound very much alike unless you try a phonetic alphabet - which takes ages if you have a long phrase!

          As to 'user error', way too many decades back a neighbour who was quite intelligent had a TV stop working in their house. I took it to the repair shop where I worked but we couldn't reproduce the problem for a long time. One of our techs even tried to make out that the customer simply did not know how to operate their TV - which they'd been using for some 4 or 5 years without problem before that. Eventually turned out to be a dry joint in the remote control receiver circuit that had been knocked into a more cooperative position by moving the TV, hence our difficulty in replicating it. Knew the neighbours wouldn't both suddenly fail to be able to use their TV, knew I'd seen them doing the right stuff, so learned not to always assume idiocy until I see what the user actually does.

          I have had users explain that their way is the only way that's ever worked, even though their way is something that could never possibly have worked and they have developed an internal memory error and may wish to be speaking with a doctor - we're talking stuff like (example only) "Oh, in Firefox I click File, then New Tab, then type "Make all the words RED" and if sends an email to my husband reminding him to get the milk on the way home".

          TL;DR - Yup, you have to see it first hand to see what is happening. Sometimes you can be surprised by odd little things.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Dolt

            "Oh, in Firefox I click File, then New Tab, then type "Make all the words RED" and if sends an email to my husband reminding him to get the milk on the way home"

            I wonder if something this far out ever actually happened? Where someone did something nonsensical, and the next thing you know the right thing happened...right next to you?

        4. Disk0

          Re: Dolt

          “Let’s see your screen.” Tends to go a long way...

        5. matjaggard

          Re: Dolt

          If your company has produced software with a (for example) timing bug which can't be reproduced at will by the user, you're still responsible for fixing it. Just because you can't reproduce it doesn't mean it's not a major PITA for your customers.

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: Dolt

            "If your company has produced software with a (for example) timing bug which can't be reproduced at will by the user, you're still responsible for fixing it. Just because you can't reproduce it doesn't mean it's not a major PITA for your customers."

            And the first question they're going to ask me on the support line? Can you reproduce that for us, because we can't.

            Again *I* cannot fix a problem that I cannot reproduce. Others may be able to - and if it's a supported piece of external software, that's up to them.

            Yes, in my career, I have had to say "I'll call the company. You know their turnaround on things like this is about 10 weeks, don't you? No, I'm sorry, I can't recode their program for them. They have to fix it. That means we have to wait for them to fix it. I'll try to find you a workaround, but other than that, it's out of my hands." In fact I've said it on a regular basis.

            Just because it's a major PITA for my customers doesn't mean I can reproduce it, and even if I can reproduce it, actually fixing it is often someone else's problem.

            (Say Word crashed every time you opened a particular file - no matter what you do, that file never opens, even on a clean install, even on an up-to-date install, on every computer, every test, it crashes - do you think you can *do* anything about fixing that? I don't just mean "recreate that file" but actually fixing the problem? No. Only Microsoft can. And even if you recreate the file, what if it's what you want to do that causes the crash, i.e. it doesn't like the data pulled from the production database? IT are not programmers - actually some of us are - but we're certainly NOT programmers with full development environments, complete source code to every program we deploy, and the ability to create patches for every problem as part of our normal working day.

            The reason we pay for support contracts is for others to fix the problems they cause. I currently have at least three support contracts and one of them has something like 20 outstanding and reported issues, one of them from 4 years ago, that has never been fixed. There's *nothing* I can do about that, while the company wants to continue to use that software. In this case, the upheaval of removing that software is orders-of-magnitude worse than the outstanding issues, and the outstanding issues I cannot fix - I even produced an Excel that, using the data in the associated database, and after much churning, produces the output we desire. They still haven't added that function into the database themselves, and they probably have no intention to. And, yes, we have threatened to leave. They do nothing.

            Sometimes, all IT can do is say "That doesn't work, don't do that."

            1. rskurat

              Re: Dolt

              :Doctor, it hurts when I do this!"

              "so don't do that."

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Dolt

                But if I don't, I get an even worse hurt in my head. I once passed out from the pain.

        6. rskurat

          Re: Dolt

          "Telling me that last week something funny happened and not be able to tell me what that was or show me it again means I can often do absolutely nothing about it."

          I have to say this to my parents all the time. How they can not know even the most basic vocabulary is an ongoing puzzle.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Dolt

            "Telling me that last week something funny happened and not be able to tell me what that was or show me it again means I can often do absolutely nothing about it."

            I have to say this to my parents all the time. How they can not know even the most basic vocabulary is an ongoing puzzle.

            Tell me about it!

            I get that from so many other people. Just some vague "the computer isn't right" and an inability to articulate what is off.

            But...

            Sometimes when I am riding my bike (or even stuck in a cage) I can tell at times when something is 'wrong' even though it may take a bit to work it out. Might be a slightly different smell coming through letting me know something is a bit off, or a tiny bit of sluggishness telling me there's a problem with the carbs, the plugs, tyres are a little low or something. Sometimes I can't really say what it is, just that she somehow feels different. How? That takes some testing and maybe actually requires breaking out some real tools and looking at things.

            I can do all my own work (though sometimes I am happy to pay others - eg mounting a tyre is a pain I'd rather not go through!), have rebuilt the carbs and done extensive engine work, know the ignition system intimately and know things like plug specs like the back of my hand, yet sometimes still cannot articulate what 'feels wrong' other than to say 'something is off'.

            But I still find it infuriating when someone says their computer 'was acting funny last week' and cannot say how :)

      3. Billa Bong

        Re: Dolt

        In my role I have to play the "user" in some scenarios, and what gets me time and time again is support ops who ask if we can have a screen share session so that I can show them the problem even before doing _any_ investigation (assume PANIC position). Example: a site I maintain was pulling data from a database, which went down. Site starts throwing connection errors. I confirm the database is down in multiple ways from multiple locations and raise a ticket "the database is down". What do I get back? Please share your screen with us. I happily shared my screen with all the attempts laid out, arranged before the call started. I think my record in getting off a pointless "investigative" screen share is about 8 seconds :)

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Dolt

          In my role I have to play the "user" in some scenarios, and what gets me time and time again is support ops who ask if we can have a screen share session so that I can show them the problem even before doing _any_ investigation

          Oh I so love "standard support scripts"!

          Some time back a friend had an email problem. I couldn't fix it (not his end from what I could tell) so I got in touch with his ISP.

          They insisted I go and check the internet connection. I told the support person the connection was working fine. They insisted, and said that I needed to reboot the modem. I again said I know it's fine. They said "also check the ADSL splitters". I re-iterated the connection was fine. They said until I confirm the internet is working properly they could go no further.

          I asked to speak with someone more qualified - and pointed out that this was an online chat not a phone call. So yes, the net must be up and working (also, my mate's work and his wife's gmail/hotmatil/whatever account all worked fine, just the ISP account).

          Love standard scripts.

          1. TotallyInfo

            Re: Dolt

            "I got in touch with his ISP"

            Ah yes, hit that one many times. The answer is simple though. I pause for a bit, maybe make a bit of noise. Then come back and say "OK, tried that, still no joy"

            :)

    2. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

      Re: Dolt

      I must admit I'd had the same thought.

      At first I thought 'Harry' might be remote from the Team Leaders location, however (and this may have been glossed over to aid the narrative, but) that later he was able to go to the team leaders desk so easily indicates they were on the same site.

      Sorry, but isn't this just basic customer service? If you can't replicate the issue, surely you go and visit the user who can, or, as the previous commenter says, get them to screen grab it for you. Yes, the team leader is clearly an idiot, but Harry could have closed out the situation far more quickly and without all the shouting.

      1. joeW Silver badge

        Re: Dolt

        Yes, especially when it was (in Harry's own words) a nice quiet morning to begin with.

    3. Olivier2553 Silver badge

      Re: Dolt

      Sure, he should have gone to see by himself earlier. But also, the team leader bear a lot of responsibility, him who was going ballistic after he was told he cannot spell: if your spelling is disastrous, you know it and you better act like a grown-up and admit it.

      And do you really expect that one that is dumb enough to not notice that it is spell checking errors will know how to grab a screen shot?

      1. R3sistance

        Re: Dolt

        While I don't disagree, I'd toss up the possibility that it was just the wrong Dictionary, like a UK dictionary for somebody who is US or a US dictionary for somebody in UK. Just as some words are spelt differently like color(us) colour(uk).

        Also expects that said dictionary has every word like antidisestablishmentarianism and they aren't using technical words like kvm... still it's a HUGE failing on the team leader as being able to replicate it, it should be fairly obvious to see that the issue only occurred on certain words...

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Dolt

          Yup, my work machine keeps reinstalling the US keyboard layout and I keep sodding locking myself out because of it, always after the last attempt when I notice at the bottom of the screen ENG has re-appeared.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          "Also expects that said dictionary has every word like antidisestablishmentarianism"

          I just checked the UK English dictionary on Seamonkey. It includes antidisestablishmentarianism. Maybe it's a Dr Johnson thing - they expected someone to be looking for it.

          1. R3sistance

            Re: Dolt

            antidisestablishmentarianism is usually quoted as being the "longest word in the dictionary", altho that isn't always true, it was just a bit of a joke on my part :).

            1. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: longest word in the dictionary

              For such an expert on dictionaries you still managed to mis-spell "althrorough".

              pfft.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: longest word in the dictionary

                "althrorough"

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: longest word in the dictionary

                  I thought the longest English word in the dictionary was pneumoultramicroscopicsiliconevolcanconiosis.

                  1. Baldrickk Silver badge

                    Re: longest word in the dictionary

                    That's the name for a health issue caused by breathing quartz dust, isn't it?

                2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                  Re: longest word in the dictionary

                  "althrorough"

                  Either deliberate or Muphry's Law.

          2. Bob the Skutter

            Re: Dolt

            Yes but does it include sausage?

            1. AceRimmer1980
              Headmaster

              Re: Every word, sir?

              I'm anaspeptic, frasmotic, even compunctuous, to have caused you such pericombobulation.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Every word, sir?

                "pericombobulation."

                I think that might be the first word Colin Bakers Dr Who said immediately after regeneration.

                PS. I'd like to log a ticket. pericombobulation has a weird red line under it :-p

        3. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          Or it was a plural. I am constantly amazed spellcheckers cannot handle the obvious plural form of words (adding an s on the end). The problem is, you type a word which is a plural, it gets flagged and you ignore the flag because it's a plural . . .

        4. Montreal Sean

          Re: Dolt

          For the dictionary comment, try spell checking something in Canada.

          What dictionary to use? UK English spelling is what we most often use, but we also use the US English spelling for certain words too...

          1. Ian Emery Silver badge

            Re: Dolt

            Ré Canadian spell check.

            To be polite, you write all the alternatives, and let the reader pick the one they want to read.

    4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Dolt

      Remote Desktop (or equivalent) to take over the user's session and see the problem first-hand as user's are almost invariably unable to take a screenshot. Unless you want them to take a photo with their phone and send it to you by whatsapp...

      1. Fat_Tony

        Re: Dolt

        send it to you by whatsapp...

        Giving a dense user your mobile number cannot possibly end well - you'd be their personal support monkey for work and home issues til the end of days (or until you got a new number)

        1. R3sistance

          Re: Dolt

          Seen many an engineer make this mistake, I learnt after once handing out a MSN Messenger Handle, was working in DC ops and the fact that the customer in question had been priorly sat on the DC for 6 hours trying to figure out why their network configuration didn't work should have been a sign; after telling em that gateway has a T in it... it worked. Q the next day when the guy asks for advice cas the server already got pwned and taken down by the reseller as it was pinging military hardware of another country... I quickly realised I had made a mistake.

        2. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

          Re: Dolt

          ... or until you block their number.

          FTFY

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Dolt

        Unless you want them to take a photo with their phone and send it to you by whatsapp...

        I see this surprisingly often, but at least they're sending the pics to some service desker's phone, not mine[0].

        [0] which is utterly incapable of running WhatsApp, but instead offers five days of running without needing to be recharged. Okay, four, now that the battery is getting a bit crappy.

    5. Martijn Otto

      Re: Dolt

      Queue incoming Microsoft Word document with an embedded jpeg.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Dolt

        My personal record is a Powerpoint file full of BMPs of terminal windows screenshots. It would have been so nice to have been able to copy and paste the text.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          While not in the same league (picture taken of text using a phone covered in Moiré patterns is the superior way of diagnosing issues, preferably not including all the text, only the irrelevant part), terminal copy and paste from Macs is entertaining because it seems the default must be to copy the user's terminal colour settings.

          If only <span> was allowed, this comment would have been in fashionable white on black.

          1. Baldrickk Silver badge

            Re: Dolt

            https://xkcd.com/1814/

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Dolt

              https://xkcd.com/1814/

              BASTARD!

              I have the absolutely perfect ear bug in mind, and one of these days I am going to unleash it on you lot. It's catchy, repetitive, and OH NO! Now I've done it to myself! :(

      2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Dolt

        Cue correct spelling but incorrect word.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cue correct spelling but incorrect word.

          I think there were so many cues that they needed to be kept in the right order ... in a queue.

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          Possibly in tench anal.

          "A freshwater food fish, Tinca tinca, of Europe and Asia that can survive short periods out of water", appears to be not in my computer's dictionary. Perhaps a lack of local colour - ah yes.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dolt

        Had one emailed to me just this morning!!! I just need to know the name of the PC on the network, we have some software that overlays the IP address and hostname of the PC on the desktop. So open the email, open the 320KB Word document, zoom in to the lower right hand corner of the JPEG.... to find the info that took up - what? Something that would have taken six bytes and mere seconds to put on the original call????

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Something that would have taken six bytes and mere seconds to put on the original call????

          It will have been mistyped.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          The whole world seems to be dumbing down and bloating up.

          Just a couple of days ago I was trying to find how to extract data from an Access file without using Access. Surely just the text sentences: run obdsadm, delect dns source, browse to and select file, etc...? No. EVERY SINGLE SEARCH RESULT was for a frigging VIDEO.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge

            Re: Dolt

            The whole world seems to be dumbing down and bloating up.

            Mate worked with a woman who used to order various parts for the shop he worked in.

            When ordering a replacement laptop screen, she'd send in the text of the email that she needs a screen - maybe. Maybe it was some convoluted waffle about.. Well we never could decipher her texts (but she was one of the first people to use email after it was invented in the lab she worked in back in 1998 - she was there when it was invented so she knows all about it!) . Over the following emails there'd be one or more pictures of the damage to the screen to prove it needed replacing. Then there'd be the laptop from several angles, including the sticker of the model #, pics of the job sheets including customer personal details (despite her being told by the company owner that such was a breach of NZ privacy law and was not to be done!) , pics of the lid....

            My mate got a blasting from her for doing it wrong. He sent "Hi Jim, I need a replacement panel, original 15" Akai THX42K59 - going into a HP DX205567K15". Suffice to say, 'Jim' much preferred to deal with him. [Model numbers obviously made up]

            (Sunday morning, very long night, should probably go outside for a while and give my keyboard a rest.... Before the combined El Reg Comentariat wrests it from me! :) )

            1. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

              Re: Dolt

              "....but she was one of the first people to use email after it was invented in the lab she worked in back in 1998 - she was there when it was invented so she knows all about it!) ..."

              ---

              Uhmmmm NO! Email was invented at ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency!) in the 1960's!

              I was using email in the 1980's! We had Project Athena at MIT in the 1980's which had awesome XGA-resolution graphics for data/email/graphic exchange even back then! So NO! Email was NOT INVENTED in 1998 !!!

              You are DECADES LATE !!! Or you're some Millennial who knows NOTHING ABOUT how the Internet even came about. (i.e. as a means to route attack vectors, system commands and personnel orders between U.S. missile silos, military installations and command/executive personnel via a multi-try, automatic network packet re-routing protocol. aka ArpaNet aka TCP/IP in the 1960's!)

              Read up on ACTUAL HISTORY next time!

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Dolt

                Nice to meet you, Stargate. I would like to introduce a good friend of mine, named sarcasm. Sarcasm likes to say things that aren't correct to make points. For example, if a person isn't very intelligent about how to use a system, sarcasm might tell you that that person claimed to be around when email was invented to indicate that this person didn't know what they were talking about.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Dolt

                Why is it that whenever someone incorrectly "corrects" someone else, they always act like a nob in the process?

                I suppose it's like Trumpism, needing to brag about how much of a "stable genius" you are when you're clearly not!

                Still, if makes good popcorn time reading the responses to facepalm-shotfoot-mouthfoot guy!

              3. Kiwi Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Dolt

                Hey twit.

                Actually you really are wrong. The other posters pointed out the correct response.

                I guess you and her would probably have a lot in common. As thick as a dozen half-bricks....

                And to put you out of your misery (wish we could put you out of ours!) - she was invited to take part of a test in her companie's 'new email system' - therefore, and you should understand this as you have the same mentality level, they invented email and she was one of the first users - as far as she's concerned. No amount of evidence to the contrary would convince her otherwise - something I am sure you're very familiar with.

              4. jfm

                Re: Dolt

                I'm assuming the Gold status is for quantity, not quality.

                1. Kiwi Silver badge
                  Pint

                  Re: Dolt

                  I'm assuming the Gold status is for quantity, not quality.

                  That's bronze, and yes - a certain number of posts in a year:

                  From https://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/01/register_comments_guidelines/

                  Bronze More than one year members and more than 100 posts in the last 12 months.

                  Silver Silver badge holders meet bronze requirements and have more than 2000 upvotes.

                  Gold This discretionary badge is awarded by Reg staff to commentards who have been very helpful - to us, through news tips and beta testing, for example - and to their fellow readers, through their posts.

                  'twould be interesting to see the effect if there was a 'black badge' awarded at a certain ratio of downvotes/upvotes (and a 'block black-badge posters' function... :) )

          2. Mike VandeVelde

            Re: EVERY SINGLE SEARCH RESULT was for a frigging VIDEO.

            I wonder if the alphabet will end up like cursive writing or roman numerals. Anyone can video chat with anyone at any time so why ever write anything down. Text to speech and speech to text and automatic translation, knowing how to read will be as useful as knowing how to fletch an arrow or drive a stick shift internal combustion engine vehicle.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: EVERY SINGLE SEARCH RESULT was for a frigging VIDEO.

              I doubt it. Reading will still be useful for things like signage or searching through things (skimming isn't so useful when being read to). It also allows reading more privately, as one has to have headphones to listen privately but just has to block their screen to read privately. In addition, it requires those with sight, the vast majority of people, to entirely change their workflow to stop using their primary sense. I wouldn't count on that happening.

          3. Jamie Jones Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Dolt

            Damn, I hate when you google a query and get videos as a response, even though the response doesn't require visuals.. I skip them all.

            youtube is just for kittens damnit!

      4. dvd

        Re: Dolt

        We had a customer that insisted on sending us massive word documents containing one or two screenshots for diagnosis.

        We thought for ages that they were just being obtuse but it turned out that their desktops were so locked down that word was pretty much the only way that they had to save a screenshot.

        So they were actually being quite smart.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          Bah and double Bah on screenshots!

          I have a Service Now "staff liaison" who bombards me with witless requests to 'update the following' - with a screenshot of his widescreen browser window.

          List the change numbers giving you (and no-one else) piles: OK.

          Screenshot the offense-to-Azathoth change numbers with the fitted-as-standard Windows Snipping Tool: OK.

          Screenshot it so the important info can only be read by electron microscope eyeballs and zooming to human-readable sizes pixelates the info into gibberish: idiotic. Go boil your e-paperwork-for-its-own-sake bottom, son of a silly person.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dolt

            Christ did you have to mention Service Now!

        2. keith_w

          Re: Dolt

          I used to get screen shots in Excel spreadsheets. That was all the user used, she had never launched Word.

      5. This post has been deleted by its author

      6. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Microsoft Word document with an embedded jpeg.

        With the image resized to fit the margins of the document at the settings they're using.

        So you can't load it in a viewer and zoom in to see the actual error at a resolution better than 3pt FlySpeck

      7. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Dolt

        But if you don't process the queue it will just stay there and never be seen.

    6. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Dolt

      Harry could have saved six hours [elapsed]...But by holding out, he got to send a status update to the GM & Board of Directors that showed the user was an idiot.

      Totally worth it.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Dolt

        Not only the user, as that is par for the course, but also the team leader, who just flunked as both a team leader and a potential manager.

        I see a great career for that team leader as auditor.

      2. Loud Speaker

        Re: Dolt

        Unless said idiot is a close relative of one or more board members (incest could be involved here).

        In some cases, it would appear idiocy is a required characteristic of all board members.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          I've seen a board where loud voices seemed to be the requirement (to enable eviction of toys from perambulator).

        2. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          (incest could be involved here)

          Eewww, nepotism, one hopes, although a shallow gene pool might explain the idiocy

    7. Spacedinvader
      FAIL

      Go to the users desk

      "random lines were appearing on the website for a customer"

      Yeah, just nip along to the users desk, in Auchtermuchty (wear the fox hat?) ...

      1. 0laf Silver badge

        Re: Go to the users desk

        Even if he was a continent away picking up the phone could well have solved the issue more quickly.

        But then possibly the user was an ass as well and it's worth the wind up.

        My oft repeated stupid user story is being shouted at down the phone then having to march across campus from one building to another 10min away, being shouted at again in person to find out the reason the printer wasn't working was because it was out of paper. No apology for being yelled at.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Go to the users desk

          I've probably told the story here before of being paged at 5.30 on Saturday morning by an irate journalist who couldn't compile the morning bulletin for the radio station because the IRN printer wasn't working. "Is the power on?", "Is it "on line"?", "is the paper jammed?" etc. etc. No, everything was fine and all the lights were lit just as they should be, according to said (very junior) journo.

          Get dressed, 20+ minutes in the car, wander into the news room, press "online", and printer starts spewing out reams of fanfold.

          M.

    8. tip pc Bronze badge

      Re: Dolt

      if i'd have sussed the issue quickly i think i'd have let them know as Harry did and then let them run round in circles and then gone for a walk through late in the day and let them know it was what i said at the start of the day and if they still didn't get it explain in very clear simple terms that the spell checker is making the squiggly lines and explain how to turn it off. Hopefully they'd get the point and not ask stupid questions again in the future.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Dolt

        "Hopefully they'd get the point and not ask stupid questions again in the future."

        Triumph of optimism over experience.

      2. Disk0
        Coat

        Re: Dolt

        No amount of monetary compensation could entice me to overlook that a “team leader” is unaware of the existence and appearance of a spellchecker. The only justifiable course of action is to set their keyboard to an Icelandic Dvorak layout, and to put a sticky note over the offending screen area (..the text box...).

    9. hplasm Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Dolt

      "And Harry could have saved six hours if he'd gone to the user's desk in the first place or got a sodding screenshot.2

      And spent 10 hrs waiting for them to return to their desk, or 240 he=rs for them to send the screenshot...

    10. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Dolt

      And Harry could have saved six hours if he'd gone to the user's desk in the first place or got a sodding screenshot.

      Exactly , unusually I couldnt translate the "userspeak" coming through in this story to work out what was wrong, but once the Team leader said he's looking at the same thing it should be game over .

      Dont even wait for idiot #2 to send a screenshot , just remote his pc and have a look .

      They never gave me the engineers supervisor role though so what the fuck do i know.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Dolt

        "Dont even wait for idiot #2 to send a screenshot , just remote his pc and have a look"

        The original fault description was "random red lines across the screen". Being more hardware oriented, that would indicate to me, with just that information, an LCD panel fault, GFX RAM or controller fault, main RAM fault (if shared RAM/onboard GFX). Remoting in or a screenshot might not show the fault, depending on the cause.

        If the fault description had been "some words on the screen are underlined in red" then I'd probably have got it straight away.

        1. Vincent Ballard

          Re: Dolt

          No, the original fault description was "random lines were appearing on the website for a customer". I interpreted "lines" as "product lines" and thought it was about a database issue until halfway through the story.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Dolt

            "No, the original fault description was "random lines were appearing on the website for a customer". I interpreted "lines" as "product lines" and thought it was about a database issue until halfway through the story."

            Good point, I mis-remembered or mis-read. We all interpret it based on our own areas of expertise :-)

          2. Captain Obvious

            Re: Dolt

            Heck, I read it as random lines as in straight lines going across the screen in various areas.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge

              Re: Dolt

              Heck, I read it as random lines as in straight lines going across the screen in various areas.

              That's what I read it as myself - and wondered initially if first it was a monitor/ram issue. Then began to wonder if something was screwing with the site layout in some way (like a failed attempt at a plugin/toolbar that added advertising to the page not rendering properly and just showing as a red line - or a tracking picture (those ones that used to be rendered as a 1x1pixel dot so they wouldn't show up but still give information about the IP and browser) - if someone got it wrong as 1x500 it could show up as a line. Something where the browser was interpreting a red background and the lines of text were being rendered with a little above/below space....

              Users are seldom aware of the terms we use, and we are usually so far removed from their world we struggle to correctly interpret their descriptions... Any number of things can be the cause of an issue...

              Ever come across someone who has weird lines on their screen but only at certain times of the day? Ever gone in to see them even at the right time and not been able to see the problem? Ever noticed on the 3rd or 4th time you're leaving that 1) it's a partly cloudy day and 2) there's Venetian blinds on a small window opposite where their desk is? (No I haven't, but I've heard it told by someone who is just trustworthy enough that I believe the story is only slightly exaggerated)

        2. keith_w

          Re: Dolt

          It could have been a fan beside a CRT, at least until the error was reproduced by the help desk.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Dolt

        Dont even wait for idiot #2 to send a screenshot , just remote his pc and have a look .

        Yes.. Because encouraging random website users in diverse non-local locations to install software that allows you to "just remote" their computers is always such a wonderful thing.

    11. Floydian Slip

      Re: Dolt

      Ah yes, the screenshot.

      The last time I asked for a screenshot (about 5 days ago) I was emailed a picture that had been taken using a phone from about a 30 degree angle. Not only were there scan lines but the angle of the photo made a key part of the screen almost indecipherable.

      No, I couldn't just visit the desk seeing as it was on the other side of the country so am anticipating the need for remote access

      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        Re: Dolt

        "The last time I asked for a screenshot (about 5 days ago) I was emailed a picture that had been taken using a phone from about a 30 degree angle. "

        Yep, get those. The problem is you assumed your "correspondent" understands what you mean by a screenshot...

    12. Yes Me Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Dolt

      "...got a sodding screenshot"

      And the user of course knows how to take a screenshot and email it? Don't bet on it.

      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        Re: Dolt

        "And the user of course knows how to take a screenshot and email it? Don't bet on it."

        No, bet against it. Send instructions with the request. Instructions in short sentences. Using small words.

        1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

          Re: Dolt

          What is that you have with small words?

          Not you, you. But a certain part of the world population.

          Like if a world is more than 2 syllabes long it is too difficult to understand and remember.

          OK, I admit I have my moments of wallowing in the vulgarity (Google translate, I admit) and I enjoy watching the Amazing Race. In last week episode, a guy was complaining that "municipality" was a complicated world to remember. That's fecking complicated!

          Some people seems to be regressisng to grunts.

        2. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Dolt

          "And the user of course knows how to take a screenshot and email it? Don't bet on it."

          No, bet against it. Send instructions with the request. Instructions in short sentences. Using small words.

          As Dr Syntax said... The triumph of optimism over experience...

          No matter how clear the instructions, the user will find a way to foul it up beyond belief.

    13. This post has been deleted by its author

    14. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: Dolt

      And Harry could have saved six hours if he'd gone to the user's desk in the first place or got a sodding screenshot.

      Yup.

      So easy to do.

      Especially with external customers who may be in another suburb, or city, or country! Why, you can just jump on a train or plane and go see them!

      "...Harry was enjoying a quiet morning when the shenanigans began. A ticket was raised by a team leader within the company complaining that "random lines were appearing on the website for a customer".

      A borked customer-facing website is never a good thing so Harry quickly navigated to the site to take a look..."

      I'd say a screenshot would've been great but.... Have you ever tried talking a customer through the difficult practice of doing that? He's still be on that bloody call right now!

      No idea when this occurred, but perhaps it was back when home/SO users seldom upgraded software and red underlines for spell checking in text entry fields had just started? And perhaps, especially when these things first started, the customer was spelling most words perfectly correctly but the language was insisting on using that yankee bastardisation of the English language? :)

      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        Re: Dolt

        "I'd say a screenshot would've been great but.... Have you ever tried talking a customer through the difficult practice of doing that? He's still be on that bloody call right now!"

        I used to do it regularly. Never took more than about three minutes even with senior management and most people said "oh is that how you do that!" at some point in the process. It helps to have written instructions handy to follow along.

        "No idea when this occurred,"

        The article says it was a company website, so some time after Firefox (?) introduced a spell check plug-in. I'd guess late 2000s from hazy memory.

        But all that is beside the point: a screenshot would have shown exactly what the "problem" was...

  2. macjules Silver badge

    EBCAK Error code: #id 10T

    Recall several games of ‘pass the hot potato’ over silliness such as Harry experienced.

    “Would you ask the minister to open Word/Outlook/IE etc and tell me what the error is?”

    “No, he does not feel comfortable doing that and he wants someone to come here and sort it out for him right now”

    “But it’s the middle of the night here. Just tell him to restart his laptop”

    “How does he do that?”

    [sound of phone being put down]

    1. Bernard M. Orwell
      Pint

      Re: EBCAK Error code: #id 10T

      Oho! Do we work together?!

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Happy

    My fav

    Everything I type is not what I type! Roll up to find a binder sitting on the control key... Move the binder and get the stink eye! What would Simon and Stephen do?

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: My fav

      What would Simon and Stephen do?

      [_] tour of the windows on the 13th floor

      [_] tour of the basement

      [_] tour of the canteen

      [_] make a deepfake of said user saying Very Naughty Things about the CEO

      [_] test a new remote control in said user's car

      [_] see what the various flags and switches are for on homeland's security's database on said user

      [_] visit the user at his desk with a ginormous stink bomb

      [_] other (specify) : __________________________________________

      __________________________________________________________

      __________________________________________________________

      __________________________________________________________

      __________________________________________________________

      __________________________________________________________

      1. Dave K Silver badge

        Re: My fav

        No over-voltage cattle prod? No black-market Halon?

        First thing Simon/Stephen would do is to amend your questionnaire :)

        1. Terje

          Re: My fav

          Definitely lacking the correct alternative, If I know the PFY the deep fake would probably involve either the family golden retriever or farm animals, possibly both...

      2. chivo243 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: My fav

        I'll add the classic: Roll of Carpet and a bag of Lime! Works every time!

      3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: My fav

        And not one mention of a roll of carpet...

      4. Antonius_Prime

        Re: My fav

        We have, at my work, depending on who you ask, a:

        * Emergency Use Tool - Work Colleague

        * User Expectation Recalibration Tool - I call it this

        * Claw Hammer with fingerprint resistent handle

        Work Colleague says tool is used when Emergency Users are around.

        Many ask "What User Expectation does a hammer recalibrate?"

        To which I answer:

        "The expectation of continued use of fingers and or kneecaps, with the extended support option of other limbs as required to correctly calibrate the user..."

        It's all a matter of branding to remove the negativity and replace it with positivity. And I'm so nice, I'll let 'em choose what nipple will be positive and which will be negative. The branding occurs if they get past that...

        1. Outski
          Pint

          Re: My fav

          We have an Assistant Director in our office. It's about 2 foot long, weighs about five pounds, is made of steel, has a claw at one end and a point at the other.

          We often send the Assistant Director off on user education sessions...

          Friday, obv... --------->

    2. Disk0

      Re: My fav

      “Help my computer is broken and has a virus! Word is scrolling uncontrollably! I can’t stop t!”

      “Ok here is what you do. Pick up the binder that is in front of you on the desk”

      “But what does the binder have to do with anything!?!? ....Oh.”

      “In order to complete this call, I will take that as a confirmation that the binder was resting on the Enter key. I will be closing this ticket now”

      ...

      1. Captain Obvious

        Re: My fav

        Only problem is you have to wait for the buffer to clear as it will continue to scroll for some time.

  4. Kevin Johnston

    Once again the bad memories resurface

    I was doing Mail support back in the ooooold days and Mr Very Senior Person had his EA raise a ticket (he was too busy) about problems with his emails. Because he was Mr Very Very Important Senior Person I do the decent thing and go up to the Penthouse to investigate only to be told I am not allowed to look at his mail because he is a VVVISP and has private mails that I am not allowed to see. I explain that the only way to resolve the issue is to check the local setup but am rebuffed again at which point I very politely respond that since she will not allow me to investigate I cannot assist, leave my details and walk back to my coffee.

    Didn't find out how that got resolved but I did get a lot more respect around the building after that

    1. Andy Taylor

      Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

      Back when I was supporting software that searched bibliographic databases on CD (e.g. Medline), we often had tickets about specific searches. Researchers would write complicated queries to run against each database update and then complain when they didn't provide the expected results. Our standard response was to ask for the exact query and database edition so we could attempt to recreate the issue to see if it was a problem with the database or the query itself.

      One customer refused to provide his search query because it was "secret", so we refused to help him wifh his issue.

    2. Mooseman Silver badge

      Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

      I had something similar - MD of a site belonging to a famous shipping company complains that his computer is misbehaving. "Can I log in and have a look? Or would you like me to come up there and you could show me the problem?" (since he was unable to actually articulate the issue. "No", he said, "I'm far too busy" . I then asked if I could access the errant machine during his lunchbreak/afternoon's golf, but was told this was impossible as he too was a VVVISP and I might steal vital information. Well, thanks. Upshot of all this is that his PC remained unfixed that day. Next morning I get carpeted by my manager who has got it in the ear from the VVVISP because his PC wasn't repaired.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

        MD of a site belonging to a famous shipping company complains ....

        When they are that high up , just go when they are at golf - you can guarantee his PA knows every password.

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

        Re: "Can't - it's a secret" variations above: whilst we all know most of the VVVISPs were really trying to hide contact with their extra-marital other / purchases of "specialist" online porn and/or "specialist" equipment (for use with their extra-marital other and/or specialist porn), some may actually have taken note of security briefings. The number will be small, but not non-zero, so there is a small positive to take away from this :-)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

      EA. Executive Assistant?

      1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

        EA. Excuse Authority

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

        Very likely she realised it was something she'd done. VVVISP's are too important to do their own email.

      3. Aussie Doc
        Joke

        Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

        Obviously a gamer of some sort.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

      When the subject has come up in the past of me going access to other user's emails (for fault finding etc), my responses have either been -

      What makes you think you are that interesting?

      or

      What are you hiding????

      Have a feeling these originated from reading BOFH?

      1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

        Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

        I remember that episode. Something along the lines of: "With the whole of the World Wide Web at my fingertips, what exactly would lead you to believe that whatever it is you are doing is worthy of my attention? If it is I already have backups of your browser history, personal folder and that folder that you think is hidden on your local hard drive. Should I continue or are you going to go away?"

        Lots of paraphrasing there because my memory chips are pretty creaky.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

        I had a similar situation. I worked as a senior IT person at a large Hotel/Casino.

        Our director of security called me to his office to look at a problem he was having. One of my colleagues went along with me (we really didn't trust the guy - he was a former cop). Somehow through the conversation with him it came up that we had access to any of his data that was on the network servers.

        He sort of freaked out at the thought of us having access to his data. He asked us to take away our access to his data, but we told him that to be able to admin the servers, we couldn't have data on there without us having access to it. He asked about storing it on his local PC, but we told him that we had, and needed to have, administrative access to his PC to maintain it, patch it, etc. He still insisted we "do something"

        Later in the day my colleague and I returned to his office with a form to sign. He asked "what's this?" I replied saying "this is a memo accepting that you are taking complete responsibility for your data and for the maintenance of your PC along with all patching and updates that are required." I then gave him another form and told him "here is the purchase order for a new internet connection for you PC since we can't allow you on the corporate network without having the ability to manage your PC. Oh, and here is another PO for a new printer, since you can't access the big network printer anymore..."

        Needless to say, the whole thing ended right there. Our boss was a complete ass, but he did back us up and explained to the owners that the Director of Security couldn't have it both ways.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re Director of Security

          That’s nonsense, you don’t need access to his data at all. You could have provided him with a Truecrypt volume or separate drive, or bitlockered it. That way you could still maintain his PC.

          1. Disk0
            Devil

            Re: Re Director of Security

            How about “company information must be stored on designated servers in order to ensure access, compliance oversight, information security and data integrity protection.”

            Any encryption key would have to be a part of the backup and restore procedures. All other encrypted files are assumed to be either malware or illicit content and will be quarantained until a key is provided, and the files are verified to be safe and legal, as per security regulations.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Re Director of Security

            Not sure why you got the downvote for that. All true.

            Or he could've had encrypted USB drive etc, and a reminder to back it up.

            All that fluff about a memo for this, then a memo for that etc just reeks to me of someone who doesn't have it in their blood to be helpful, they just want to be right.

            Perfectly reasonable that a high-up in any company doesn't want a member of IT staff poking around in their stuff.

          3. Cpt Blue Bear

            Re: Re Director of Security

            "That’s nonsense, you don’t need access to his data at all."

            No, I do need access to that data. It does not belong to him, it belongs to the company and that being a casino will be subject to all sorts of legal oversight and auditing*. If I am instructed to present an investigator with a copy of his data it will not go down terribly well if I present a Truecrypt volume.

            * This is why they are so popular for money laundering.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Re Director of Security

              "No, I do need access to that data"

              I'm sorry, but that's not always the case. This is a flaw of some IT professional's believing they're God.

              Unless encrypted volumes or hiding anything away from the eyes of IT is banned, then you do not need access to it. Your problem isn't beyond providing the disk space and backing it up.

              If an investigator wants the data, you'd then refer them on to who's locked it.

              The IT department is not God.

              1. Cpt Blue Bear

                Re: Re Director of Security

                "I'm sorry, but that's not always the case. This is a flaw of some IT professional's believing they're God."

                We don't want to read your super-secret-squirrel thoughts, mate. Frankly, they are duller than dog shit. When something happens we have to be able to deal it. Nothing to do with thinking we are god (small letter as I am an athiest), everything to do with have a job and responsibilities that trump your self importance.

                "If an investigator wants the data, you'd then refer them on to who's locked it."

                You have clearly never been through a serious investigation or its post mortem.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Re Director of Security

                Are you perhaps missing the "This is a casino" part of this person's comment?

                The rules and regs for casinos are generally even more stringent than bank regs these days.

                "Director of Security" being "guy in charge of cameras, doors, guards, etc." is not on the "gets to keep company data private from the people in charge of compliance with financial regulations" list.

                (Totally aside from that, Walmart in the US has a certified computer forensics lab near the corporate office.)

      3. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

        Have a feeling these originated from reading BOFH?

        I've been there. They can't articulate the problem. They won't bring the machine in because - despite the dozens of other clients to deal with and having a life outside of work - I'll want to go through all of their data. I can't come and view it at their location because privacy/importance etc (which means I couldn't even fix the fault anyway without access to the machine). In one case, they wouldn't even tell me which ISP they were with so I couldn't talk them through making sure things were working or do a test email exchange.

        There are some really terrible users out there.

        (Didn't we used to have a BOFH icon???)

      4. Cpt Blue Bear

        Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

        "What makes you think you are that interesting?"

        A colleague used to point that she managed the email server and thus had already read all your email. What she didn't see was the frenzy of deleting that followed her visit.

    5. kev4d

      Re: Once again the bad memories resurface

      I had almost exactly the same experience with a Colonel once. Email issue, but not allowed to access his email. The difference is that I got a clue 6 months later as to the nature of the secret... that's when I heard that he was indicted.

  5. Chloe Cresswell

    We had a call out to a client's site due to the son of the MD being unable to send emails.

    Arrived, were told he was emailing the person on the desk opposite him.

    Looked at the screen... "you've spelt the company domain wrong" and walked out again.

  6. ColinPa

    Ive been the dumb user...

    Ive been the dumb user end of a problem ping pong. We had a new web based tool to document how well we had delivered over the past year, and if we had met our goals. I assumed that as this was a new application, it would be leading edge with autosave etc - like gmail.

    I duly spent an hour entering data, and clicked the 'next' button, to send it to my manager. He said it was empty. I did it again, with the same result. I raised a problem with the help desk. "Did you press the save button", "there is no save button", "can you try it on Internet explorer?" "no Im on Linux", "can you get a Windows machine ", etc. I was the only person with this problem, so it must be me.

    Eventually someone got fed up with my swearing, and said "try making the web page full screen" - (this sounded a bit like turn it off and on again) and magically a "save" button appeared.

    After this I was given the name of the manager of the tool to make any suggestions I had. I gave her about 50 suggestion - from

    "when I use it from a hotel in China, with slow wifi, it takes about 10 seconds to display a screen - I can see this from the performance tools in Chrome", "why do I need a picture of me at the top of the tool - it just slows it down",

    These so called "intuitive" icons - what is the one of a picture of Grommit meant to be, can you provide hover text over it to give us a clue.

    "When I click on the help button, it displays the help information, when I come back - it has lost all of my changes". The help desk said "did you press the save button first before clicking on help?" "what save button" "make your window full screen, you should now be able to see the save button" - so they had learned from this.

    When I left, 2 years later, very little had changed.

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Ive been the dumb user...

      At my local Registrars, trying to register a marriage notice.

      My (now) wife is from a country where the surname comes first.

      (so Jane Doe would be Doe Jane)

      The government's electronic form HAS an option to set surname first, right at the very end of the multi-page form.

      If you click it, it deletes all the information you entered, and send you back to the beginning of the form.

      First time, the registrar though it was a glitch.

      3o minutes later, after it did it again he was swearing under his breath.

      3rd time he admitted failure, so on the fourth attempt, we just entered her surname as her first name, and her first name as her surname, and left the "Surname first" option alone.

      Best part of 2 hours to complete a form that shouldnt have taken more than 20 minutes.

      That was 9 years ago, any bets they have fixed it yet?

      1. John Styles

        Re: Ive been the dumb user...

        A couple of friends had the first slot at the registrar on the first day you could convert civil partnerships into marriages, the registrar had allowed a double spot in case of IT problems - which there were.

        Also bizarrely the certificate they were given had that day's date but their ages on the day they had the civil partnership so the ages didn't make sense.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Ive been the dumb user...

        Only a fool would take that bet. By the way, are you *sure* she is now your wife?

        1. Ian Emery Silver badge

          Re: Ive been the dumb user...

          "Only a fool would take that bet. By the way, are you *sure* she is now your wife?"

          Since we got married in China, we have the little red books to prove it.

          https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D9K8tzQXoAUn1Bb.jpg

          Still not sure the UK gov recognises it, half our official UK bumpf arrives with "Mrs", and the other half with "Miss"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ive been the dumb user...

      Their response -

      "Works fine on my machine"

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Ive been the dumb user...

      @ColinPa

      You seem to be a natural born software tester although it doesn't help if developers are natural born ignorers of feedback.

      1. Lilolefrostback

        Re: Ive been the dumb user...

        You're assuming that

        1. Feedback actually gets to the developers.

        2. The developers actually have the authority to make changes based on feedback.

        Sadly, neither of those assumptions would be a good bet.

        1. Aqua Marina

          Re: Ive been the dumb user...

          Bank websites are the bane of my life. I’ve had an issue with Yorkshire Bank now for over a year. If you perform a search using either the online banking website, or IOS app, the transactions returned are in random date order. The issue has been confirmed many times but a year later still not fixed. Each time I ring them up, I have to go through the whole troubleshooting procedure I did last time, to prove that there is an issue. Then 15 minutes later they finally believe me and log a fault and I get an email confirmation telling me so. A month later same procedure all over again.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Ive been the dumb user...

            I guess that's better than most online banking, which has no search functions at all beyond a date range.

            I just export it all and process it locally.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I know of a rather gruesome example...

          Back in the day, one of our 'inhouse apps' (Lotus 123 Spreadsheet with lots of formulas ) was in sore need of being taken out back and buried in a dumpster...

          So the department that 'owned' the app got hold of a company that did custom SW, and had them write it up.

          It was fancy, VisualBasic with an ACCESS DB on a network share...

          On a server accessiible over a 128Kbps link...

          Yeah, stable and fast... nope...

          But that wasn't the worst...

          The project manager gave the users strict orders that all bug reports, request and sugggestions had to go through him.

          Unfortunately, he 'evaluated' the bug reports and decided what was or wasn't important enough to pass on to the developers.

          He was also the one who decided what reports were to be created and the layout of the input forms.

          The users went back to Lotus 123...

          These days we DO NOT allow the departments to run such projects without at least one IT person in the group, and we have strict rules about which tools to be used, what server specs are used, rules for testing and so on.

          Most developers hate us. Manglement in the departments really don't like it, but the users seems a bit happier.

          1. Captain Obvious

            Re: I know of a rather gruesome example...

            Worse yet, how about developers not understanding connection pooling, and every stupid field on the screen had their own connection? Developer puts it into prod and wonders why the app that was on his desk is running slow with simply 15 users on the system.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ive been the dumb user...

      Eventually someone got fed up with my swearing, and said "try making the web page full screen" - (this sounded a bit like turn it off and on again) and magically a "save" button appeared.

      I've played helldesk for that sort of thing - our site for issuing 2FA tokens has its own built-in popup system it uses for setting up the token and giving you a QR code to scan. Trouble is, you had to click a button confirming the token was imported before the system would register it to you - and that button was on the bottom of the popup and would get hidden on smaller screens(it can be dragged up, but it's not the most obvious feature in the world). The best part is that it's very easy to close out of this popup without hitting the button - in which case you have to start the process over from scratch. They've apparently fixed this, but now the site's crash-happy instead. Progress!

      1. Captain Obvious

        Re: Ive been the dumb user...

        Had a situation where even when I expanded the screen, the buttons below were STILL off the screen at the bottom. Of course, clicking on the screen and hitting enter does not do a default of save.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Ive been the dumb user...

          Had a situation where even when I expanded the screen, the buttons below were STILL off the screen at the bottom. Of course, clicking on the screen and hitting enter does not do a default of save.

          At least with Linux you can generally hold the ALT key and drag windows with the left mouse button. Have had to do that a few times when I've pushed stuff outside of the normal display size (or gone from my large TV to my tiny laptop screen, but the browser or other program still wants to be on the big screen size and the max/min controls are off the screen)

  7. Terje

    I prefer PEBMAC

    I think the term PEBMAC (Problem exist between monitor and chair) has more of an IT ring to it, and sadly I run into them far to often.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I prefer PEBMAC

      I always preferred PEBKAC (Keyboard and Chair), but since I dont work in any sort of Helldesk role (thank f%&k for that!), I dont get to use it very often. I do regularly get to write that the System has gone TITSUP again, although I'm careful not to use that in any email likely to go further than my boss...

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: I prefer PEBMAC

        I very much like the one another commentard came out with recently.

        "Loose nut on the keyboard"

        1. SunfflePungus

          Re: I prefer PEBMAC

          And if they ask, "Which nut?"

          You reply, "The c-nut"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I prefer PEBMAC

            "I don't see a C-nut. I see a round nut, a pine nut, OH and here's a P-nut. Oh, excuse me, my friend from the C-suite's calling."

      2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: I prefer PEBMAC

        I carelessly used TITSUP in a meeting recently. The result was a storm of "Oooh-er, mustn't say that" etc.

        Interestingly, none of the objections came from those people at the meeting who were actually equipped with tits. I conclude from this that it was all virtue-signalling.

        1. LordHighFixer

          Re: I prefer PEBMAC

          I once told someone that I name all my servers after strippers. That didn't go over well in the board meeting. ((actually they were just alphabetical, Alyssa, Brandi, Candi, Debbie, Erin, but the stigma remained.))

          1. OssianScotland Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: I prefer PEBMAC

            Can I be the first to say "Pictures, or it never happened"

            Paris, for obvious reasons...

          2. Vincent Ballard
            Joke

            Re: I prefer PEBMAC

            I once spent a day at work stripping models. Afterwards they rendered much faster, because the graphics card didn't have to recalculate nearly as much as when we previously sent individual triangles.

          3. Myvekk

            Re: I prefer PEBMAC

            Back when I was an avionics tech at a national airline, we had a new system & terminals for ordering, logging work etc. As the new PC was being installed, I saw a sticker on the back & asked, "So, we have seven servers, right?"

            To which I received the reply, "Yep!"

            The sticker read, "YOUR SERVER IS GRUMPY"

      3. Terje

        Re: I prefer PEBMAC

        I used to use that, but after an actual case with a bad keyboard masquerading as PEBKAC I changed to PEBMAC and it somehow rolls of the the tongue better as well.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: I prefer PEBMAC

          But what happens when you get a REAL bad monitor disguised as a PEBMAC? In fact, ANYTHING in front of the chair can become an actual problem indistinguishable from user error. That includes the desk.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: I prefer PEBMAC

            That is why I nowadays prefer PICNIC: Problem In Chair, Not In Computer.

            Unfortunately, it seems like we all will have to come up with something else again, as more and more users prefer to work standing at their (elevated) desk.

      4. Fabrizio
        Devil

        Re: I prefer TITSUP

        I use Total Inability To S U P regularly in emails to management though I never abbreviate it...

        I only got a sinlge comment on that in the last 3 years and then went on to explain that in British English "tits" is not a rude word and just means the nipples of an animal and a dog goes TITSUP in British English which translates to BELLY UP in American English...

        Never heard back anything afterwards...

        1. Myvekk

          Re: I prefer TITSUP

          Well, technically it should probably be spelled as 'teats', but the pronunciation is the same.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I prefer PEBMAC

      Faulty knob on monitor

      1. Aussie Doc
        Facepalm

        Re: I prefer PEBMAC

        I often see the faulty knob IN FRONT OF the monitor as the problem.

        Especially the Very Important Person Who Doesn't Have Time For IT.

    3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: I prefer PEBMAC

      I think the term PEBMAC (Problem exist between monitor and chair) has more of an IT ring to it, and sadly I run into them far to often.

      Its systematically wrong though - the keyboard is the input device, not the monitor.

      Input comes from the user to the keyboard to the system .

      1. RockBurner

        Re: I prefer PEBMAC

        "Problem Exists Between Mouse And Chair"

        More relevant these days anyway.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I prefer PEBMAC

        "Its systematically wrong though - the keyboard is the input device, not the monitor."

        I deal with users who have touchscreens. Some use tablets with an on-screen keyboard :-p

      3. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: I prefer PEBMAC

        It's also, as the user above describes, more likely to actually break AND disguise itself as a PEBKAC. You actually need something unlikely to actually break on its own or YOU get the blame for misidentification.

  8. Gomez Adams

    TBH Harry could have been a bit more tactful in telling the user that is what the spell checker does when it detects what it thinks is a wrongly spelt word.

    1. dnbattley

      "a word it doesn't recognise" softens the blow further...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >TBH Harry could have been a bit more tactful in telling the user that is what the spell checker does when it detects what it thinks is a wrongly spelt word.

      My browser regularly tries to correct the spelling of words because of the wrong version of English. For example, in the above sentence it is highlighting "spelt" as wrong - The Americans use "spelled" for some strange reason, and Chrome doesn't recognise it as the name of a type of wheat grain.

      So the person might not even have a problem spelling, but an incorrect locale configuration.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        So Harry's fix should be "Let me know what language you prefer, so I can configure your system to accommodate it".

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Probably foul in the case of the shouting match.

      2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
        Trollface

        There is no such thing as 'American English'. There is English and there are mistakes.

        1. Mog_X

          American English - also know as English (Simplified)

          1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

            Simplified?

            Improved, yes. Not necessarily through simplification.

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Simplified?

              Not necessarily through simplification.

              I heard somwhere there was one guy reposible for a lot of the simplifications - just to be different from England

              Harbor , tire, Neighbor etc

              I think it was on QI

              1. Outski

                Re: Simplified?

                It was Noah Webster, of dictionary fame. While there may have been some political animus in his lexicography, some of it merely replicated spellings used in English previously, for example, by Shakespeare

                1. Lilolefrostback

                  Re: Simplified?

                  First book I ever threw in the trash was Webster's dictionary when I discovered they considered imply and infer to be synonyms. I'll stick with the two-volume copy of the Oxford dictionary I inherited from my father.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Simplified?

              Improved, yes. Not necessarily through simplification."

              didn't you mean "simplificationizationism"

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > American English - also know as English (Simplified)

            American English - also known as English (Simplificated)

            FTFY

            1. Sureo

              American English - also know as English (Simplified)

              Don't forget Canadian English - American words, UK spelling

        2. Ian Emery Silver badge
          Trollface

          Actually, it is Traditional English and Simplified English.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Trollface

            Actually, it is Traditional English and SIMPLETON English

            FTFY.

            YW.

      3. ibmalone Silver badge

        The Americans use "spelled" for some strange reason

        Due to the high prevalence of magicians.

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Or they might confuse grains with grammar?

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            Emmer not going to comment.

            1. Gnoitall
              Trollface

              C'mon, it's like you're barley trying!

              1. Steve Aubrey

                Wheat did you say??!!??

                1. moiety

                  It's the amaizing banter I come here for.

          2. Aussie Doc
            Joke

            My grammar wouldn't approve. She was strict on stuff like that.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "For example, in the above sentence it is highlighting "spelt" as wrong - The Americans use "spelled" for some strange reason"

        And yet, here in jolly olde Blighty, I was taught at school in the 60's that the correct spelling is "spelled". Spelt is a type grain used to make flour. Seeing people misspell "spelled" as "spelt" grates on me even it does appear to be an accepted way of doing it these days.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Then just ask why it's "houses" and not "hice" when compared to a mouse or a louse.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            The Queen lives in a large hice :-)

            1. JJKing Silver badge
              Facepalm

              The Queen lives in a large hice :-)

              :rollseyes: NO, she lives in a freaking PALACE!

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Is Windsor Castle a palace? What about Sandringham? Or Balmoral Castle? or most of the others?

            2. Myvekk

              No, she lives in several large hice, often referred to as palaces. Hice is the plural not singular!

              Fools! *Wanders off shaking head & muttering*

          2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Then just ask why it's "houses" and not "hice" when compared to a mouse or a louse.

            I suggest you try the same with "spouse" ;)

            (And no, I didn't come up with this one, it is already quite old.)

            1. Myvekk

              Is that like the chinese character for noisy being 3 copies of the character for woman? Or so I have seen written...

            2. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Makes for an interesting read, actually. It all seems to go back to Old English (recalling that most of English's roots are Germanic) and whether or not the noun in question was originally masculine, feminine, or neuter. Turns out mouse and louse in Old English were feminine while house (and apparently spouse) was neuter.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Spelled is the past tense of ‘to spell’.

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Had my share of userness here as well. And, yes, it included a wifi switch (for onboard wifi on a craptop) that was in the off position.

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Oh hell yes. We had a set of clients who liked the (then new) XPS 13. And liked slip cases for them. And the wifi switch was on one of the sides. Ever time they took the laptop out the case the tightness of the case pulled the switch to off...

      1. JJKing Silver badge

        Had a tech designated as my "boss" who could not figure that out. His solution was to send the Notebook back to the supplier to get the motherboard replaced coz the Wi-Fi was faulty. I had put the solution on the Helpdesk software but he didn't appear to read it. We worked different shifts so we didn't get any face time and I could not be stuffed phoning or emailing the twat about it.

        I eventually educated all the staff as to why the Wi-Fi would stop working and machines stopped being returned to the supplier.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      The "which of these meaningless symbols is for the wifi key" problem. Seen that.

      1. Loud Speaker

        Up yours mate!

        As I have spent the last 30 years pointing out to anyone in earshot:

        The disadvantage of written descriptions is that, being in a specific language, only speakers of that can understand them. With pictograms/icons/pointless squiggles, no one can understand them. (Although, now, with Google translate, almost everyone can misunderstand).

        Hell, if we do have to learn symbols instead of written language, please make it Kanji - at least the symbols have stayed the same of 4,000 years, and are not replaced every 3 months.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Up yours mate!

          My version is "incomprehensible in all languages".

  10. caffeine addict Silver badge

    Dev Tools

    I once had a client phone up in a complete panic because he'd discovered the browser dev console. More importantly, he'd discovered that he could change the content on the page by fiddling with content of the "Elements" tab.

    Took an hour to convince him that he was only affecting what was displayed in his own browser. And another hour to convince him that we couldn't stop other people doing it to their own browsers, and that he wasn't responsible if they changed it to something libellous.

    Clients with a little bit of knowledge are bloody dangerous.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Clients with a little bit of knowledge

      @addict: I've been that client. Recently one of my mail accounts mysteriously stopped working and a bit of digging showed it to be an SSL problem. Knowing bugger all about mail and SSL didn't stop me raising a support ticket to tell my ISP that they had a problem at their end and had they checked their port settings, certificates, etc.....

      About an hour into the ping-pong while typing the obligatory "...it must be your fault cos I haven't changed anything my end and everything else works...." reply I got a bouncing mail icon and discovered that my other other mail account on a different ISP had got SSL problems too.......

      I did apologise profusely and I'd like to think I learned a lesson from it.

      1. Andy Taylor

        Re: Clients with a little bit of knowledge

        Was the time wrong on your machine?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Clients with a little bit of knowledge

          @Andy. Not a time problem. The ISPs wouldn't accept incoming SSL. The BT smtp error message said something about the line being insecure and the account not be accepted. I turned the modem off, made a cup of tea, turned it on and everything worked fine. I assume that the IP address (BT assigned, not fixed) had been flagged in a spam database for something dodgy.

  11. John 110

    Good old days

    Waaayy back when Excite was the homepage of choice (and 286s ruled the Earth), we had one user who was typing intranet addresses into the Excite search box and getting really shirty when they couldn't be found. She also got really irate (turned red and everything) when I suggested that perhaps she would like a little bit of training on how to use a browser...

    I did try to explain the difference between the Intranet and the Internet, but...

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Good old days

      usually it was the other way round - people typing searches into the URL box , until eventually the browsers gave in and made them dual prupose

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Good old days

        I'm quite capable of expressing my wishes in the wrong form box onscreen. I did enjoy an early-ish copy of Opera where the URL box would take (g hedgehog diet) as code to use Google (g) to look up The Hedgehog Diet. Otherwise its default was, and maybe still is, to autocomplete (iwantsomething) to iwantsomething.com, with a configuration choice if you preferred iwantsomething.co.uk instead.

        Warning that these are all probably sex things except for the hedgehog one, on which anything I ever heard or will ever hear, or see, about it being a sex thing will be firmly forgotten as much as I possibly can.

        1. Myvekk

          Re: Good old days

          I don't know about the hedgehogs, but apparently* the hamsters are NSFW...

          *I've never had the need, nor desire, to go check it myself.

  12. ZenCoder
    Holmes

    Just video chat with them and ask them to point the camera at the screen.

    If for any reason I can't share their screen via Team Viewer or similar ... I just ask people to take a picture, video or just put me on some sort of video chat and point the camera at the screen while reproducing the problem. Seeing what they see rarely requires a walk unless your workplace bans cell phones.

  13. Agent Starling

    I received a support request for a user who insisted that they had been able to read someone else's private messages briefly after the cat had walked across the keyboard. The user was adamant that the forum software was faulty and demanded I fix it. I eventually closed the ticket with "Unable to replicate the issue using a different cat and user would not supply the original cat."

    1. baud Bronze badge

      https://www.xkcd.com/583/

      1. Aussie Doc
        Pint

        I laughed waaaay more than I should have at that. Have one >>>

        1. baud Bronze badge

          I did! (well a few glass of wine to start, but finished with some beer)

    2. tiggity Silver badge

      bloody cats

      Last night cat made several phone calls and composed an email (fortunately did not send) as it managed to click open the cover on partners phone and touch the screen - partner had been using phone & forgot to lock phone afterwards - always a bad idea with pets around.

      In teh past had a cat manage to do the rotate 90 degrees trick on a Windows laptop by walking on it - I was impressed.

      .. Cats have cunning IT skills whenever the time is most inconvenient

  14. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge

    PICNIC (Problem In Chair Not In Computer)

    Often caused by the Computer User Not Technical

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: PICNIC (Problem In Chair Not In Computer)

      But what happens when you have to deal with a SUPER (Supervisory User--Proceed with Extreme Reluctance), where it's basically DIE (Do It or Else), even if ICU (Instructed to Chase Unicorns)?

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: PICNIC (Problem In Chair Not In Computer)

        In that case you just have to channel Simon T. and go full BOFH. A roll of carpet and some lime may be indicated.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: PICNIC (Problem In Chair Not In Computer)

          Except I believe these people able to give DIE orders come from lower circles of Hell than BOFH's. Hell is a local call for them.

  15. BigSLitleP Silver badge

    Good ol' "have you checked the cable?"

    So once upon a time, i was helping to cover a short staffed service desk. I received a call from a laptop user on a hot desk. They were getting very annoyed, they had been in since 8am and hadn't managed to do anything due to a lack of network connection. We didn't have a decent wifi connection where they were but the desk did have a network cable. I asked them to check all the cables were plugged in and got a string of four letter words to the effect of "Of course I've checked the cables!"

    After much swearing from user, i decide to trundle round to her desk. It's only round the corner from where i'm sitting, so the deskers won't miss me. I get there to see her red faced and full of piss and vinegar. Lots of swearing, angry gesturing, comments like "IT never bloody works" etc etc.

    Taking it in my stride, I walk over to the desk, check the laptop. No network cable. I make a big gesture of plugging the cable in. Keep in mind, this is a big company and we have an open plan office. She stares at me, goes quiet.

    "Next time i tell you to check the cable, CHECK THE FSCKING CABLE".

    Her boss sitting next to her calmly says "I told her to check the cable as well".

    Working for a company wear swearing isn't just the norm but classed as obligatory can be very therapeutic.

    1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: Good ol' "have you checked the cable?"

      Well and good, but if the boss was at the next desk, why didn't he have a look to see?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Good ol' "have you checked the cable?"

        At a guess: Wanting someone else to humiliate her.

        1. BigSLitleP Silver badge

          Re: Good ol' "have you checked the cable?"

          More or less. She wouldn't listen to anyone and he was fed up with trying. I think she was moved to another team less than a year later. Happened a lot in that company, moved sideways to "widen their skillset" was the usual line. Translates to "no one likes them in this team, you have a go instead"

          1. Aussie Doc
            Coat

            Re: Good ol' "have you checked the cable?"

            Ah, yes. The type of person who receives a glowing reference when they try for another job elsewhere merely to ensure that they go.

            I have a copy in my pocket, somewhere.

  16. Valerion

    Had to implement a spell-check once

    It was in our in-house "do-everything" system, which included sending emails out to customers.

    CTO dictated that it must be done, and must NOT allow a message to go out to a customer unless the spell-check agreed there were NO mistakes. No exceptions, no overrides.

    So I did it, QA signed it off, it went live, and within about 10 minutes the complaints came flooding in. Turns out there were a lot of things that we needed that weren't actually words and, unless they wrote ridiculously worded emails they basically couldn't send anything.

    Luckily I had implemented an override anyway which I had just configured to be turned off... Naturally it took me all day to "get the emergency fix out".

  17. Alister Silver badge

    We provide web hosting for a number of clients in the rail transport industry. They generally own their own domain names and just point the A records at our servers IPs.

    I was on call one weekend, and at 3AM on Saturday morning I got a pager alert that one of the client sites wasn't responding. I jumped onto the server, but the site was up, just not receiving any traffic. I checked the registration details of the domain, and sure enough the domain had lapsed.

    I sent an email to the client's internal IT, and the "Digital Experience Manager", and copied in my boss and various other interested parties, explaining that there was nothing we could do, and the client needed to re-register the domain, then I went back to bed.

    By 10 o'clock on Saturday morning my inbox was filling up nicely with emails from various high-ups at the client, demanding that we fix the issue, and decrying our "useless" support, questioning our SLA's and all sorts of threats. I then had a phone call from the chairman of our company, asking what the hell was going on and why we didn't fix it.

    So I explained to him what the problem was, and he calmed down and told me to ignore all the flack that was flying, and enjoy my weekend...

    Come Monday morning, the site is still down, the domain is still unregistered, and the client is threatening legal action if we don't do something...

    We have a very shouty conference call, where again, we explain that there is nothing we can do, they are responsible for registering the domain, and only they can fix the problem. It transpires that following a number of staff layoffs, there was nobody at the client who knew the registration details of the domain, or the login for the registrar account.

    It took them until about Thursday to sort it out, and they reckon they lost about 18 million in online ticket sales, but get this, they STILL tried to say we were liable for those losses!

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      they STILL tried to say we were liable for those losses!

      "Do you wish to terminate the contract or shall we?"

      Some customers just aren't worth having.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Some customers just aren't worth having."

        I see your point, but a rail company who can lose £18m of sales from their site being down for just under a week is a pretty big customer to retain, whatever shit they throw.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          And how much of that money is coming your way? And how much of that is profit? Does that really make up for this attitude and associated problems?

          Besides that, think of the signal value when people find out the customer was cancelled because of attitude. Depending upon your reputation, some of the best competitors might refuse such a customer just for that.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      "Come Monday morning, the site is still down, the domain is still unregistered, and the client is threatening legal action if we don't do something..."

      IANAL but I *think* that is basically an instruction from them for you to register the domain, which means you have their permission to domain squat.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        We did consider that, and had they been a nicer client, we might have done it, but we thought, no, let them suffer... :)

        In point of fact the domain was still in the grace period, so I don't think we would have been able to register it ourselves.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahh, spelling errors

    Had a user raise a ticket because they couldn't send email to an account they had on another domain. Looked in the mail logs and could see they were spelling the domain part of the address incorrectly (it had a double "L" and a single "L" in different places and the user put them in the wrong place). Sent them a log extract to prove this, and they claimed the machine must be changing it somehow...

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

      Re: Ahh, spelling errors

      That is actually possible: The sender used a wrong domain part, and the email programs learns it. Try to get a once-typed-wrong email address out of the suggestion cache or various email programs.

      In a perfect world wrong sender addresses won't get delivered since the sending server is supposed to block it. But in the real world this is easier to achieve than you might think.

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Re: Ahh, spelling errors

        Auto-complete in my place causes hell for folks with common names. Once you're emailed the wrong John Jones once, it'll start preferentially completing to their name... and since autocomplete is so useful most of the time, it catches folk out a lot.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Ahh, spelling errors

          and since autocomplete is so useful most of the time, it catches folk out a lot.

          Because of that problem in combination with customer confidentiality, functionality was disabled (world wide) at a previous place of employment. Anybody wish to guess which category complained the most?

        2. irrelevant

          Re: Ahh, spelling errors

          I once received an email from a largish computer security company that was sent me in error due to autocomplete..

      2. Outski

        Re: Ahh, spelling errors

        This is why auto-saving recently used addresses is blocked in my company, too much scope for PII to go to the wrong people

  19. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

    Why not asking for a screenshot

    Any problem which cannot be reproduced must be dealt with a screenshot and, if possible, a remote support session to see what is going on. So the actual error might have been human(e), handling it this way was unintelligent.

    In this specific case you would have a screenshot proving your point instead of a wild guess what might be. Or, when doing your remote support, taking your screenshot for documentation where the problem lies.

    In another case a GFX card driver or some similar issue can be the reason as well.

    1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Why not asking for a screenshot

      As stated earlier, some work machines are locked down so hard, that even screenshots aren't allowed.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

        Re: Why not asking for a screenshot

        In such environments the administrators get other means of access since it is _their_ environment they have to support. That does not necessarily apply to the case in the article since it is "a customer having a problem with a website" issue, but still asking for the screenshot and then getting the answer "My company does not allow screenshots" is different from just saying "we cannot reproduce, problem does not exist" before knowing what the real issue was. And even if the answer is "My company does not allow" then the administrators of both company must start to work together.

        The type of escalation in the article is common for people fresh in support, still lacking experience in handling human errors or the behaviour of their superiors.

  20. swm Bronze badge

    Long ago on the Dartmouth Time Sharing System we would get calls from distressed users wanting to have deleted files restored.

    "What is the name of the file?"

    "Can't I do it myself?"

    "No - but I can do it for you?"

    ...

    The name of the file was NSFW

  21. GordonScally

    Unsupported issues

    At a previous job I had someone raise a ticket that other users were not getting out of office messages from the users previous (temporary placement) employer. Needless to say we couldn't legitimately raise a ticket with other organisation. User (VIP) would not let us close the ticket as would not accept our explanation and they could not do this as no longer working for them. Issue fixed by a careful bit of cross organisation cooperation (I knew who ran the other organisations Servicedesk). Intentionally a bit vague as this was UK gov help desks!

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Unsupported issues

      User (VIP) would not let us close the ticket as would not accept our explanation

      In other words, User (VIP) rose through the ranks by sheer lack of weight.

  22. Anonymous Tribble
    Facepalm

    "We can't connect to your service! Oh, by the way, our internet connection has been down for the last 4 hours. Could that be anything to do with it?"

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Just be very glad they offer that extra bit of information immediately without even prompting. It shows their level of expertise (totally clueless) and their correct knowledge of same, makes them a lot easier to work with.

  23. Anonymous Tribble

    Other issues I've had to deal with were:

    "The printer prints out 99 copies of all our reports from the server, but prints normally when I use it from a local PC".

    The printer had been serviced and the engineer set the default number of copies of each page to 99 and didn't put it back afterwards. The software on the local machine set the number of copies to print every time. The software on the server assumed the default was 1 and didn't bother to specify it.

    "The reports aren't coming through to the printer. I know it's a problem your end because I can ping the printer and it replies."

    Cleaner had unplugged the printer, which wasn't directly connected to the network, but went through a print server. The print server was replying to t he pings.

    1. Robert Sneddon

      Printer buffer

      I got a call to deal with a "haunted" laser printer once -- it wouldn't stop printing copies of a big document. Switch it off, switch it on, it would start up again. Offline, online, more copies, flush the print queue, no luck. After some questioning it turned out an EA had requested 22 copies of this document for an important meeting, accidentally typed "222" and then tried to cancel the print run when she realised her mistake.

      After some digging I found a long-forgotten printer buffer wired into the muchly-renovated office cabling structure behind a cupboard. It was one of those semi-smart types, send it a document file in EPS or similar and the number of copies required and it would spew them out to the printer independently. I power cycled the dusty box to exorcise the ghostly data stream and closed the ticket by recommending the printer buffer be removed from the system (messing with cabling structures was above my pay grade at the time).

  24. gnarlymarley Bronze badge

    I have been on both sides of the equation. My first experience was with someone who refused to give any information or a call back number so I could find out anything. My second is one that took six years until they would finally accept my screen shots. Once they saw the screen shots, they closed the issue as "too costly to fix."

  25. ricardian

    I'd been using MS Word for some time when I complained to my colleague that words that I had correctly spelled were being underlined as spelling errors. It was only then that I discovered that spelling errors and grammar errors are underlined with different colours - the perils of being red/green colour blind!

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