Friday, March 21, 2008

A True Story From One Of My Jobs

Hey, kids! It's time for another True Story From One Of My Jobs!

This story goes back to my days in tech support. Fortunately, I did not have to support the general public. I worked for a large organization, and was internal support for one large building and its staff.

As in most offices, everyone who worked in this building used a computer all day, every day. You'd think that they'd all have some basic computer literacy - in fact, it was usually listed as a requirement and sometimes tested during the hiring process - but that proved not to be the case. I remember once speaking to an employee who had absolutely no idea what to do when confronted with a computer that had been turned off for some reason. When I told her to just turn it back on, she didn't know how. I tried to explain that she only needed to push the big round button on the front - she couldn't find it. I finally had to go to her desk and push the big round button for her. "Oh, that button!" (Our PCs had only the power button and a very small eject button, right on the CD-ROM tray, on their front panels.)

She's not the subject of today's story. Today's story is a short play in three acts, about another lady who reported having trouble with her mouse. She couldn't be more specific, so I went and had a look, and it seemed fine. As was my custom, I opened up the bottom and cleaned the rollers, but there wasn't much else I could do with it. (Anybody else out there remember having to clean mouse rollers? It made my job a whole lot easier when my office finally went to optical mice, about three years after everyone else in the world.)

I asked her to let me know if it gave her any more trouble. It did, almost immediately. Again, she couldn't tell me what the problems were or demonstrate them, so I took the easy way out and replaced her mouse. Thus endeth Act One.

This brings up a trade secret that I'll reveal for non-tech staff: when your office techs replace a mouse / keyboard / etc. like that, they're giving you the last one that was complained about but with which they couldn't find any problem. And that "bad" one of yours will just be given to the next person who reports a nonspecific, non-reproducible problem. 99% of the time, the recipient is thrilled with their "new" equipment, even though the last user swore it was defective.

Act Two came a few days later, when the same user reported that her new mouse "would not go straight across the screen." I was intrigued. I first asked her to explain. "When I try to move the mouse" - by which she meant the onscreen cursor - "straight across the screen, it won't go. It curves down."

I had to go check this out. I went to her desk and asked her to demonstrate. She anchored the heel of her palm firmly against her desk, held the mouse with her fingertips, and pivoted her hand, leaving the heel down against the desk. Sure enough, the cursor moved in an arc. "See?!?"

Yes, I had to explain that she was moving her hand in a curve, and that she'd get better results by lifting the heel of her palm from the desk. She was very pleased with this solution.

Her happiness didn't last long. Act Three came within a very few days.

She reported that her new mouse (from Act One) "broke" a database program that our staff all used. When she entered a client's file number in the search field, the file would not come up. This obviously had nothing to do with her new mouse, but I humoured her and went to see if I could identify her actual problem ("ability to humour" should be listed as a requirement in any tech support job description).

She was adamant that the new mouse was the problem. Her program had worked before getting a new mouse, and now it didn't. I asked her to demonstrate. She picked up a client's file from her desk, and proceeded to type the file number incorrectly into the search field, missing a digit. Note that this process did not involve even touching her mouse. When after several seconds the program reported that it could not locate the file she requested, she turned to me triumphantly. "See?!? That new mouse doesn't work!"

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of those Beatles dolls my wife crocheted for me, this time displaying John's front and George's back.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Zirbert.

I want to share a TSFOOMJ with you and the other readers. For those who don't know me, I used to work for a major electronic retail chain, and had my share of morons come through the door. The area in which Zirbert and I (formerly) live is notorious for having its share of hicks. Anyhow, lets continue.

One evening a man came in. "I got me one of them printers at *local department store* for $50.00..." I'll stop here and note that at this store, the electronics department was usually handled by people who, for the most part, had no clue what they were doing. Anyhow, the customer went on and said " I need one of them there 'uzzbee' cables 'cause they don't have them there." Puzzled, I asked what he wanted again, and again he said an 'uzzbee' cable. I immediately said "you mean a USB cable." I sold him the proper cable, and when he complained about the cable not coming with the printer, I politely informed him that some peripherals don't come with the cable to connect them. I then took a "break" to check out this other store. Unsuprised, I found a row of 'uzzbees' in the cable and connectors aisle.

To close off this story, at the time our store was selling a slightly BETTER unit and cable together for about $17.00 more. The cable I sold to him at normal retail price was about $20, plus taxes. The same guy came in a few days before and didn't buy from us as we were "more expensive". If only he had a clue....

Happy Easter and best wishes.