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From a Friend of the Desk See Below


(What the tech weenie on the other end of the phone is REALLY thinking.)

©02 Assigned to The Media Desk

Computers are getting too big for the average home users and I can speak as an expert on that because I am a Technical Supervisor in a Technical Support Call Center for a major computer manufacturer. If you ask for a supervisor because you think you know everything- or feel the tech is somehow wrong- you could get me.

You might not want me.
Are you sure you want me? Let me bend your ear a minute- then you can decide if you really want me, or just want me helping your tech.

Are you going to get special treatment just for demanding a supervisor? No. We have a "Scope of support" we are required to follow. We make sure the hardware is working, the way we shipped it. After that, the rest is USER responsibility. You add hardware- it is your responsibility. You add software- it is your responsibility. If we didn't ship it- contact the people who made it. I don't support it!

I have the same limits in the warranty that the tech has. I have the same tools and same policy constraints. The difference is that I know my product so well that I can listen to what you are telling me has already been done and suggest a new course of action- off the top of my head. I am here because I was among the best when I was on the phones.

Be reasonable with me and I will do the same for you.

Will I tell you up front that I could tear down your computer and rebuild it... and ten others like it... in my sleep? No.

Don't ask for my boss- he's clueless about computers. He's a manager. Don't worry- his boss is worse.

Will I tell you all the gory details of what the company has coming out in the next 4 months? Oh, no.... that is confidential.

I will tell you (here) I tore down a Pentium 4 prototype machine 2 months before Pentium 4 debuted to the public by any manufacturer. I stripped out every cable, every drive, every removable memory stick, fan, card, and even the processor. I put it back together and it worked the first time. No manual- just me and a screw driver. I had a blast.

I know the latest drive types, sound systems and media formats, I know how they work and I know what the limitations are on them. The latest CD technology is not DVD- it's Blue Lasers- but the researchers are still developing it.

I can reinstall and network every Windows operating system since Windows 3.1 and have lost track of how many times I have done it. Yea... that includes Nt3.5 and NT4, all the way up to XP and MCE. But- I'm sorry, we don't support your network, just your machines. We can prove your Network card works without configuring your network. Sorry about your luck- go buy a book.

What could really challenge me? A server tower would be fun, Dual or stackable Processors and a SCSI drive array- or two. "SCSI" is pronounced "SCUZZY" and instead of 4 drives, like a standard IDE configuration, you can get up to 15. It also works for other devices, like scanners, and it's faster. Hot Swappable Hard Drives and a few other goodies would be good to play with. Some of the new video configurations would be fun.

Of course- if I went all out on a single "power system" that I could put together, we would be looking at a $50,000 price tag, but that includes a 60" plasma monitor. I already own 4 computers- and my big play toy is 3 months old- it dual boots, has 2 monitors (yes, you can do that and yes, I use both of them, but no- I won't support it for you.) a 1.7 ghtz0 processor, 1 Gig of memory, and 80 Gigs of Hard Drive space. I want more memory, another hard drive, a DVD +RW drive.

Don't worry- it makes perfect sense to me.

This is not to say that standard home machines with Windows are not a challenge. I happen to like MS-DOS from old machines- lots of power- no FLUFF. But, DOS was written for processors that most calculators today will laugh at. I've done UNIX and Linux but chose to specialize with Windows. I'm still running a small laptop with Windows 3.11- I enjoyed the old ANSI and needed a portable Notepad- it keeps my skills fresh. The old File Manager is hard to beat in 3.11

Did I just speak GEEK to you? Well... Do I have your attention?

Of course, if you get nasty with me, I could wipe out your hard drive and convince you that your computer will run better than ever. Chances are- I would be right.

NOW I have your attention... Right?

We get calls from customers who have become very angry and have unreasonable expectations of the service and warranty. I talk to them every workday. Sometimes, they have become angry for a reason- like the computer will not power on correctly and complete a self test. Well- sometimes it happens and that is why we have a warranty. I will do for you the very same thing I have done on my own machines and my friends systems- strip it down. I happen to think this is fun and it's the fastest way to find the root cause. I wrote the technical document we use on this floor about stripping a system. You have the absolute BEST person in this entire call center to do this.

Other times, the customer has no technical skill at all and could care less that there are certain operations that have to be controlled by the software- ZIP drives CD-RWs and DVD drives. Because of Hackers, the software will no longer do certain things- thank the politicians for that. I didn't write the software, it was loaded as a courtesy and you can contact the company that wrote it. Yes- there are other applications that will do it on the Internet but our conversation will be over because we don't support it.

I saw that- you are nodding your head. I talked to you yesterday, didn't I?

I'll be honest- if the knucklehead on the other end of my phone deserves to be poked fun at, then I have no problem MUTING the line and saying exactly what I think of Pea Brained mentality. At least my tech enjoys it and gets to relieve some stress with a little laughter.

Lucky for me- my techs are not afraid to tell management they have an irate customer. I will tell you- and I strongly believe- that my techs are good. They deserve every respect as people and my first thought when I jump on the phone is that I am defending my tech against you, not vice versa. I have worked very hard to establish that rapport with my techs on the floor and I am keeping it!

I get customers that lie to me. See, my techs are good and are documenting what you are saying because any last detail could be important. If damage is caused by the user- you will get the bill if I replace the part because it is a non-warrantable repair. My tech's call logs are legally admissible in court- are you sure you want to try to tell me there was no storm? Storm damage is very obvious. It leaves little burn marks on the chips and if they open a chip and discover it- WE WILL SEND YOU A BILL.

On occasions, the root cause of me getting on the phone is because the customer is a moron. There are people who refuse to talk with a tech that has any "foreign" accent (American citizen or not) and they want A REAL AMERICAN that speaks REAL ENGLISH. Well, when I encountered that one, I put on one of my techs that was born in Fort Worth but just happened to spend most of his life in England. Hey, he fit both criteria, did he not? Don't get stupid with me... and be careful what you wish for... I just might give it to you.

Where are we going to go from here? You have to work with tech support. We have to know what part we are replacing. No, I won't send a tech to troubleshoot- what are you thinking? I will bet money that we are more likely able to fix the issue in a few minutes and won't need to send parts at all. Trust me- I want you off my phones. I have many reasons to be interested in protecting your machine.

Right now... if you were to buy a top of the line home machine with all the bells and whistles, you would spend about $4000. Would you like to toy with my idea of "power"? I don't care what you spent on it or how many of them you bought- I don't have immediate access to the "financials". Sure- I could see it... but I don't care.... and I can't change anything... so no- I won't apply a credit for your time. It is possible that a $29.95 charge would be billed to your account if you continue to demand assistance for something that is not our realm of support.

But... you want the truth about the computer industry from my point of view?

What are all the machines that are currently retailing for about $799? Hey- they aren't bad- for Grandma or the kids... or a cheap work terminal. Challenge it with a compiler or more than 3 Internet Explorer windows and you are going to get lockups. No- I am not kidding. Part with a little more money, get more memory and some better video and it will last a little longer and do more for you. Plain and simple.

So... are the computer manufacturers ripping off consumers? No. There are two types of home buyers. "Terminal" types don't want to do anything to the system, and "expandable" buyers want a little room for the bigger and better. Terminal users are lightweight users who want economy over price (you get what you pay for, remember that) and they have no clue what the machine could do for them. And there are the rest who could expand on a system. Be careful of your expectations- there are limits on all systems, know what you need.

Fifteen years ago computers were out of reach for an average consumer. If you had a bright shiny new credit card at the local electronics store, you could do it. The mentality then was that a good computer would last about 3 years and work well during that time, without having to do too much to it. It is no where near that today. Most manufacturers consider a system to be fully depreciated at the end of two years. Worthless. Doorstop. Boat anchor. Yes, your warranty extends to 3 years... if you are lucky. Most large companies that are dependant on computers will recycle computers after a year or two.

Does this mean that a computer you buy today will be worthless in two years? No, not at all. My little laptop work horse is 4 years old and runs Windows 3.11 like a champ. I can run a lot of older software on it. But I have NO expectation of running anything that came out recently on that machine. It still manages text documents, a calendar and some of my favorite OLD applications. I can take the data from it and transfer to one of my new machines for fancying up the information. It sits in my kitchen and displays recipes and passes notes to my housemates when I go to the store.

Software comes out that really uses extended memory and enhanced video capability, so the computers today will run the software of today like the old computers ran old software. It doesn't mean your old software or old printer will run on the new systems- or vice versa. What are you thinking when you are trying to run Office XP on that machine from 1998? And why you are calling me to complain?

There are the users that know a little too much, too. Are you one of those? Come on- the system you have was designed to hold your video card and 3 other PCI cards. Yes- you have 4 PCI slots and an AGP Video slot (Do you have a PCI or AGP Video card?). But your 200 Watt Power Supply will not power them all. Use your 2 Watt brain.

And you...yes- you have 4 USB ports. Hot swap the nine devices or get a powered USB hub. Yes, theoretically you can chain out 127 USB devices on the same port but there is a huge bandwidth issue and everything will run considerably slow but it is performing as designed. Make sure they are all powered correctly or you're going to have problems. All those devices need power and signal.

Unfortunately we as a society cannot let go of old ideas. Computers are TOOLS, not investments. To get the most bang for your buck, rent or lease your system and invest some time in learning how to use it. When you opt for the lease, if it messes up- it's not your problem. You can upgrade on a whim. I've done it. I now spend an average of $3000 on hardware and software a year. Someone else can have the headaches I have everything I need. The investment is YOUR TIME.

Yes, your information is valuable. BACK UP YOUR DATA TO REMOVABLE MEDIA. If you are smart, you will do it a lot. You are also going to want to develop my habit of doing a "Nuke and pave". Wipe out the drive and reinstall everything about every 6 months, minimum. Windows becomes corrupt for reasons other than viruses or stupid user mistakes. Hard Drives crash for reasons we don't understand, they are machines and your letter to Aunt Martha is not written in stone until you save to something less prone to failure. If it's really important- back it up again.

Do you juggle? Windows gets errors when it has too many things to juggle. Take a look by your clock in the task bar- how many icons do you have down there? Do you know every icon is an open program Windows has to juggle, in addition to the programs you want to run? It's not our fault you have downloaded every knuckleheaded program that offers to save you money or make you loose weight. Yea... we can take them out of here- but you will have to access them from the programs menu- no they are not gone so you won't loose your precious AOL Instant Messenger.

Don't download it if you don't fully understand what it does. Are you on the internet? Did you just access a web page? You just DID download something. Can a virus be sent with files in a web page- YES! Go to sites you respect. Don't download everything your buddies send you in email- your buddy could have a worm virus that just ate his hard drive and now it wants yours. Don't worry- your buddy didn't send it to you maliciously. He is completely oblivious to the fact that the worm software has opened his email program and is sending itself to all the contacts in his address book. The programmers of these things are banking on the fact that you think "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" is cute, too. Don't call me- we didn't ship the virus; call your AntiVirus software provider. No- formatting the drive will not always fix it and could do damage to the hardware. Why do people write viruses? I don't know- probably the same reasons others watch soap operas or crochet doilies.

For the record....No- Windows is not a virus. Viri are small and efficient. Yes, I have a collection of floppies with viruses on them. Would you like for me to send any to you?

You want my advice? Back up your data often. Be very pessimistic about the information you read on the internet. Be prepared to format your machine at any time. Be prepared to upgrade at any time. Don't pinch pennies on your computer equipment if there are things you do on the internet or with your computers that means anything to you.

Now... I am going to go do my job of training MY techs and I am trying to teach them to think and work like I do and be GOOD with the hardware and software they are working with. I am good. You could monopolize me or let me teach others to be as good as me.

In the break room, we do tell the jokes about what we really would like to do to your machine. Are we serious? Do you want to take that chance?

So... do you wish to continue to monopolize my time?

No parts of this document may be used without the express permission of the Author. People wishing to get in touch with the Author may state the purpose of doing so to the management of this website who might consider forwarding your contact information to me.

end of submitted article
[NOTE: The Opinions Expressed Above are solely those of the Author. While the Desk does agree with some of them, it has no cause to complain since it Does Not Own a name brand computer and its own laptop was formally declared 'Salvage'. Any Emails about this article will be forwarded to the writer. Include TECHSUP Article in Email Subject.
      Further Note: It will do NO GOOD AT ALL to ask who the author works for, where they live, or anything else. The Desk ain't tellin. Yes the writer appears to be a little arrogant, and with reason, they ARE that good, at least with the machines and systems they are talking about. Who are they? The Desk Ain't Tellin! If you write and they decide to directly answer you, that's their business. If you offer them a better job, that's your business.
        Thank You]

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