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Sarah (aka Chaobell), fellow techie and creator of the web comic /usr/bin/w00t recently posted a very good description of a tech support call of the type that drives us techs nuts.

Rather than describing it using technical jargon she used a mundane subject to illustrate the point. I think it describes things quite nicely…

Let’s say you do technical support for, say, Peter Pan Peanut Butter. A customer calls in, who’s supposedly been making peanut butter sandwiches for five years, having some trouble. The conversation goes something like this:

“Good morning, thank you for calling Peter Pan technical support, my name is Sarah, how can I help you today? … … …ooookay, your child is throwing his peanut butter sandwich back at you because there’s no peanut butter on it. Can you open up the sandwich for me? …. … …could you take one piece of bread in each hand and pull them apart so you can look inside the sandwich? … … …there’s no peanut butter on the outside of the sandwich. No, ma’am, it’s supposed to be like that. I need you to look INSIDE. THE. SANDWICH. …yes, like that, thank you. Do you see any peanut butter INSIDE THE SANDWICH? … … …peanut butter looks like light brown sticky stuff smeared over one or both pieces of bread, and it may or may not have peanut chunks in it. ………you do see peanut butter? Good, now–you see shiny translucent purple stuff. No, ma’am, that is not peanut butter, that is jelly. DO YOU SEE BROWN STUFF IN THE SANDWICH? …no! Okay, you’ll need to put peanut butter on the bread. … … …you put peanut butter on the bread by scooping peanut butter out of the jar with a knife and smearing it onto the bread. … … …you can’t get the peanut butter on the bread. Can you elaborate for me? …do you see a jar in front of you that says “Peter Pan Peanut Butter?” …no. …….you see such a jar in the pantry on the other side of the kitchen. Please go and get the jar. …….the knife won’t go in. Did you remove the lid? ……..you remove the lid by grasping it in one hand, holding the jar in the other hand, and twisting the lid in a counter-clockwise direction. ……no, ma’am, that’s clockwise. Turn the lid so that the edge facing away from you moves to your left. …..YOUR OTHER LEFT. Is the lid off now? Good. Dip the knife in th–there’s a paper thing in the way. Peel the paper thing off. NO, DO NOT PUT THE PAPER THING IN THE SANDWICH. IT IS NOT EDIBLE. THROW IT AWAY. …..IN THE TRASH. NOW. SCOOP PEANUT BUTTER OUT OF THE JAR WITH THE KNIFE. THE OTHER END OF THE KNIFE. …the peanut butter won’t go on the bread. Press the peanut butter on the knife against the bread. … … … …then get another piece of bread out of the bag. Now wipe the knife on the bread until the peanut butter that is on the knife is on the bread. …..now, is there peanut butter on the bread? Good! We’re almost done. Now take the other piece of bread with the jelly on it, and put the two pieces of bread together with the peanut butter and jelly on the inside. … … …there! You’re done! Tha…. … …the sandwich is sticking to the plate and there’s jelly all over your hands. Look at the sandwich and tell me exactly what you see. …..there’s jelly on top of it, and peanut butter smushing out from under it. …no, ma’am, remember what I said about how there wasn’t supposed to be any peanut butter on the outside of the sandwich? …yes, that’s right. Peel the bread off the plate. Turn it so that the peanut butter is facing UP. Got it? …up. NO, UP. DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE SKY IS? THAT’S UP! TURN THE PEANUT BUTTER TOWARDS THE SKY! …good! Now turn the bread with the jelly so the jelly faces down. …DOWN. TOWARDS YOUR FEET. GOOD. NOW PUT THE BREAD WITH THE JELLY ON TOP OF THE BREAD WITH THE PEANUT BUTTER. … … …GOOD! NOW GIVE THE SANDWICH TO YOUR CHILD. …Ma’am, I don’t know which child, the one that wanted the peanut butter sandwich… was it a girl or a boy? … …DID THE CHILD HAVE A PENIS? YES? THAT IS YOUR SON. GIVE THE SANDWICH TO YOUR SON YES THAT’S IT YOU’RE DONE OKAY THANKYOUFORCALLINGPETERPANPEANUTBUTTER
HAVEANICEDAYGOODBYE!”

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Tech support frustration demystified

2 thoughts on “Tech support frustration demystified

  • January 25, 2006 at 1:39 pm
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    Ah, there’s that oh so familiar eye twitching pain… The most beautifully accurate decription of a support call I’ve ever had the pleasure to read!

  • January 26, 2006 at 10:51 pm
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    That was beautifully written, accurate in every detail!

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