In Response offers a weekly roundup of feedback from TechRepublic members, intended to help inform you and your peers about critical issues in the world of IT. This week, I’m going to give TechRepublic members a preview of the upcoming 2000 Dumbest User stories.
What’s your funniest user story?
We started this contest in 1999 and received an overwhelming response. TechRepublic members inundated us with stories of end users who just didn't have a clue. Click here to download the entire list of 1999 Dumb User stories. In August of this year, we once again began the search for the best dumb user stories of 2000. Unfortunately, due to the volume of feedback (over 900 e-mails), it's not possible to publish every response. However, this preview sampling offers what I believe is the best balance of all the submissions. Thanks to everyone who responded, and keep sending those stories. You’ve only got until Dec. 31st!
I know that it’s not politically correct to make fun of or tease dumb users, but every support tech has a funny story about someone who just didn’t get it. IT professionals often take themselves and their work too seriously. Sharing these humorous stories helps lighten the mood and reminds us that all support techs go through the same struggles.
Submissions for the 2000 Dumbest User award
The squeaky wheel gets the grease
“We see some pretty strange things sometimes, but this one ‘took the cake.’ I work for a lumber manufacturing company in the southern U.S. And I guess you have to work around some of these folks to understand, but down here, if something is squeaking, then you grease it. Period.
“I kept having a lot of problems with one of the PCs—strange things with the software, just odd stuff. I decided to pop the case one day, and there was oily gunk everywhere! I was puzzled as to where all this oil came from, so I asked the supervisor who used the machine. He replied, ’It was squeaking, so I oiled it.’ This is the honest truth. The fan motor was making some noise, so he sprayed it several times with WD-40!”
Those things could be deadly
“I had a client who said her keyboard didn't work right. She would try to type, and it would type all the wrong letters. I replaced the keyboard, and then she said that one did the same thing. So I started thinking it was possibly a bad motherboard, but she said that when other people logged on to the network and were using the computer, it worked just fine, but for her, it typed garbage. Now, I know that there is nothing in a login script that will do this, so I asked her to show me what it was doing. While she was typing, I noticed her lovely sculpted fingernails, which were over an inch and a half long. So of course as she would try to hit one key, her fingernails were hitting the keys above. I recommended that as the office manager, maybe she should delegate typing tasks to her secretary.”
It’s raining cats and dogs
“Arriving at a private home to fix what was described as the erratic behavior of the family PC, I tried to question the owner as to exactly what was happening. ’Well, the only thing I know for sure,’ she said, ’is that every time our dog starts barking at the neighbor’s cat, the computer goes crazy.’ It took me a few minutes to shake off the stupid look I must have had on my face and start the troubleshooting. I avoided asking any more questions fearing the answers would be as strange as that last one. About a half hour into the job, the monitor started flickering and the system hung up. Almost immediately, I heard the barking of a dog and had a hard time coping mentally with what was happening. At this point, the lady entered the room and said, ’Yes, that's what it does.’
“I was about to pack it in and for the first time give up when her husband came in and said, 'It's a good thing we have that electric fence or that cat would be a goner by now.' After making some inquiries, I discovered that when the dog spotted the cat, it would run to the edge of the property and activate the electric fence, which was controlled by a transmitter that was very conveniently located on the corner of the desk, beside the computer.”
Clean as a whistle
“I was working with Gateway at the time of this call. A customer stated that he had followed the previous tech’s suggestion on cleaning his system up prior to formatting his system. He further stated that he felt that this might have made it worse. I asked in which way. He stated he took the box outside, opened it, washed out the dust with the hose, and let it dry. ‘But when I plugged the thing back up,’ he said, ‘nothing happened.’ This is a true story.”
Beta or VHS?
“I work at a company that provides support for a number of different titles, one of which is a CD-ROM multimedia presentation that contains many AVI and video files on how to perform certain tasks. I received a call from a woman who was quite upset and complaining that the videos were not working at all. After a few minutes of gathering some information from her, I asked about her computer system information. The woman replied, ’Oh, my computer isn't working right now. I put the disk into my VCR so I could watch the videos.’ This is truly one of the most unusual calls I've received in almost 10 years of doing technical support for software.”
The Corsican monitors
“I got a call from a user who informed me that she and another user had decided to rearrange their office and that after doing so, their PCs no longer worked. I investigated and found that when she turned on her PC, there was nothing on the monitor (it did have power). I asked them if they had disconnected anything during their move and they said no, that they had just moved their desks and then the PCs without disconnecting anything. Their only problem was that when they moved their PCs, they put their monitors on the wrong desks. I didn't see anything on the first monitor because it was connected to the PC on the other desk. When they turned on their PCs at the same time, they thought their computers were working but their keyboards and mice were bad!”
At least she’s loyal to her brand
“One day, a lady called and wanted me to check her dial-up networking settings. As I talked her through TCP/IP settings, I asked her to put a checkmark beside Use Default Gateway On Remote Network.
“’I can't do that,’ said the lady.
“’Yes, ma'am, just put the cursor on the small box next to Use Default Gateway On Remote Network and press the left mouse button.
"’I can't do that,’ she replied again.
"’Do you see the small box next to Use Default Gateway On Remote Network?
“’Yes,’ she said.
"’Why can't you select it?
"’I don't have a Gateway; I have a Packard Bell,’ she explained.”
Share your story
Can you nominate someone (anonymously, of course) for the Dumbest User award? E-mail me your story. If I choose your story as the winner, I'll send you a TechRepublic T-shirt.
By submitting a response, you agree to let TechRepublic publish your thoughts on its Web site. You also agree that TechRepublic may adapt and edit and authorize the adaptation and editing of each submission, as it deems necessary. TechRepublic may or may not publish a submission at its sole discretion.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.