We all have them, let's share some stories about them. What kind of support person are you? Kudos to explanations of how you [un]civilly dealt with them!

EDIT: Ok, let's hear some more. Really I just need to know I'm not alone today after dealing with some of my "favorite" people....

  • 1
    a ha ha, this should be interesting (if it doesn't get closed) – username May 15 '09 at 22:54
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    I like it (fully appropriate for it to be CW, of course) – David Z May 16 '09 at 3:05
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    Just about all of the stories posted here can be copied straight to thedailywtf.com :) – Niels Basjes Jun 27 '09 at 12:00
  • Most of these stories would be more at home at NotAlwaysRight.com or TheDailyWTF.com (or, in some cases, both). – TRiG Aug 6 '11 at 2:39

31 Answers 31


I once had a client go on a rampage when his internet failed. He grabbed me by the arm, pulled me into the server, and started hollering about how he was going to tear everything out and throw it away and how we were the worst technical services people on the planet etc etc

Believe it or not, this ranting went on for the better part of a full hour. The man got a full head of steam.

I itemized it on the invoice we sent him, "1 hour of insane uncontrollable ranting" at our highest rate ($90/hr).

Remarkably he actually paid the bill...

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    +1 AWESOME... by any chance do you have a printed copy of that bill? I'd frame it ;-) – David Z May 16 '09 at 3:05
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    Hmmm... I think I can resist people yelling at me, but physical contact should be something completely unacceptable. Now, how about posting that copy of the bill ;) – l0c0b0x May 16 '09 at 18:21
  • Tru dat, hands off. Reminds me of a pair of resin dragon bookends that my uncle sold on Ebay for a hundred bucks ($12 cost). The best part is the letter she wrote him (that he framed) explaining how thrilled she is with her bookends and extolling the virtues of his company. – squillman Jun 16 '09 at 2:59
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    If a client or boss ever touched me like that, it would be coma-ville for him. Seriously, if he doesn't like the internet's connectivity maybe he'd like some facial connectivity with the switch rack. =) – Wesley Jun 22 '09 at 15:36
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    @squilman. You need to change career - mortgage adviser, hedge fund manager, or investment banker sounds like they'd suit you. – gbjbaanb Jun 27 '09 at 13:46

True story;

We've got a user here who works with the military, training them primarily how to use ecological engineering "databases". We lovingly refer to her as The Evil Olive Oil, because she greatly resembles the cartoon character. Her antics so far have been;

(No embellishment, or kidding on any of these. This is actually how she is.)

  • Calling my boss at 4:45am, (curiously, she called his office line and not his cell or the on-call admin cell) and leaving a 3-minute message that begins in a normal tone but rapidly reaches a fever pitch, where she begins literally screaming into the phone the word, `Unacceptable! Unacceptable! Unacceptable!' over and over. No kidding, repeated about twenty times or so. At the end, her voice is hoarse and she's sobbing, overcome with emotion. The problem; a malfunctioning printer. The irony; there was a perfectly functioning one she was aware of, less than 15 feet away.

  • Engaging in enormous email arguments with tech staff where she refuses to follow specific instructions, claiming she "doesn't have time for this" and "she doesn't see the point in this" and how "she's smart enough" and believes that our instructions won't fix her problem, shortly followed up with an almost vicious, `you've exceeded my personal time expectations for a solution, WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY FOR YOURSELF??!!!' email.

  • Claims she needs, (again, no kidding) 4 versions of MS Office installed on her computer because she doesn't believe that any docs, excel files, etc. of them are backwards-compatible with each other. FULL VERSIONS. Each and every one of us has proved forwards and backwards that she does not need this, but she refuses to believe anyone.

Here's my favorite part of this though..

After a week's worth of completely crazy email trails between her, myself, the rest of the staff, her boss, her boss's boss, mine, etc. All attempting to resolve an issue that she was convinced was a network problem and couldn't be dissuaded from, I found myself leaving work the exact same time that she was, (exiting the parking garage.)

She turns right and I follow, which is my normal route home. I haven't noticed that I'm inadvertently following her at this point, `cause I'm mainly keeping an eye on traffic.

As we continue down the parkway, her vehicle starts to act erratically. Speeding up, slowing down, attempting to force it's way into another lane in a bullying sort of manner and that's what made me sit up and take note.. I realized that it was HER!

Looking into the vehicle, I notice that she's rapidly moving her head back and forth, glancing into the rear-view mirror and back out the windscreen. It's obvious that she's looking at what's behind her, (me in my vehicle) and freaking out.

In addition to it being a fairly well-used parkway and a heavy traffic time of day, she's unable to maneuver her way out of my lane and she remained in front of me. Weakly I wave to her, to try and assuage any fears or assumptions that she might have, wondering if she's just believing the worst and that her life is beginning to resemble a horror movie, (the killer was BEHIND HER the ENTIRE time! :) or something. She does not return the wave.

As we approach an Albertson's grocery store, she SUDDENLY and UNEXPECTEDLY whips the steering wheel around to the right, cutting into the parking lot, narrowly missing two pedestrians and wildly careening down a sharp dip into the lot.

As I drive past, I watch as she madly continues her run into the parking lot and slams on her brakes, again narrowly avoiding t-boning another car that's pulling out. Horns abound, voices are raised in the parking lot and I continue on my merry way.

The next day I relay this story to my co-workers who laugh and we all share a humorous, (if not slightly scary) thought that hopefully she doesn't think that I'm stalking her.

Two days later, while the helpdesk is up working on her computer and she's out on a business trip to a military base, one of the guys calls me, from her extension and in what I can only describe as a VERY, VERY good impersonation of her voice starts to accuse me, LOUDLY of stalking and saying that she's going to call the police, etc. The color drains from my face and I'm stammering apologies on the phone for almost a full minute before I hear the rest of my team trying to stifle their laughter.


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    Is this girl smoking hot?...because I have been wondering what happened to my crazy exwife.... +1 for awesome story. I would totally love to read more about this woman, please write more – cop1152 Jun 12 '09 at 22:12
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    Oh dear lord in heaven.. smokin' hot? She's pushing 60 and in addition to resembling a cartoon character, she also kind of looks like.. Well, a mole, really. :) – Greg Meehan Jun 12 '09 at 22:50
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    Dude, that's crazy. You should start piping some "voices" into her office. – squillman Jun 16 '09 at 2:35
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    squillman; Dude, TOTALLY! In USAF electronics tech school we learned how to make these little, "noisemakers". Basic circuits with a speaker and some capacitors and I think there was a transistor in there or something, anyway, you could set them to "BEEP!" every X amount of minutes. Build one to dust off the old soldering skills, set to beep every 23 minutes, hide in ceiling tiles. :) – Greg Meehan Jun 16 '09 at 2:52
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I overheard a great call between one of our first-line techs and a remote user giving a presentation elsewhere in the country. She was freaking out because she couldn't get her laptop's VGA output to display on the projector, despite having screwed the cable in really tight. Turns out that, with enough brute force, you CAN screw a 15-pin VGA plug into a 9-pin serial port. Just don't count on using the cable or port for anything else, ever. Or the laptop.

I think it was the same user who reported "phantom documents" appearing on the multifunction printer in her office. Nobody printed them, they "just showed up". She kept complaining about this, no matter how many times we told her that the printer was also a fax machine.

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    HAHA the fax story was hilarious – pauska Jun 15 '09 at 22:49

Back around 2002, I was working for a manager who was about as technically clueless as they come. One day he was giving a tour of the data center to some higher-up political types and was describing the amazing virtues of RAID. While standing next to a rack of production servers, he decided to demonstrate by opening the rack and removing one of the drives from a mission critical system running a single RAID 5 array. If he had stopped there, the story wouldn't be very good, but he didn't. He went ahead and removed a second disk from the array.

Let's just say thank god for backups. We also immediately ordered new locks/keys for the rack doors and didn't bother giving one to our lovely manager.

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    Not to mention, just going and pulling a drive from a perfectly good array for the heck of it isn't exactly the greatest idea to begin with. – Justin Scott Jun 12 '09 at 21:14
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    It's my understanding that you should test your fail safes every once in a wile... You could coordinate them with a higher-ups tour to let them see how well you work, or how much yelling and hard work IT really is. ;) – voyager Jun 15 '09 at 22:55
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    Testing is a good idea. But on a mission critical system, PLANNED testing is normally preferable – pipTheGeek Jul 27 '09 at 11:40
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    The hotswap bays should lock themselves in appropriately whenever the array is critical/rebuilding imho... where are those smart bays? :) – Oskar Duveborn Sep 1 '09 at 12:14

New corporate CFO wants to watch TV in his office. Offensive at the $500/hr he makes, but that's not IT's problem. Purchasing approves a 52" plasma (this is when they were $15k), the cabling guys wire it up and a carpenter custom-builds a beautiful cabinet for it out of some rare wood to match the furniture.

IT gets called for a network problem - as in TV network. Deskside IT guy shows up to see what's up and gets screamed at for 4-5 minutes about how much IT sucks, etc. Then comes the problem: the TV is broken and stuck on channel 1. Actual problem? The individual hit the "VCR" button on the remote, and the TV channels won't change!

Solution: Program the TV to automatically go to CNBC when powered on and take the remote away. Up until the time I left a trouble ticket was submitted by his assistant when the channel had to change.

  • Oh my goodness. – Ben Dunlap Jun 19 '09 at 21:52
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    O.O! jawdrop I seriously can't believe that I believe you. – voyager Jun 20 '09 at 2:21
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    I provide this technical support every time I go to my father-in-law's house. :( – Ernie Jul 20 '09 at 19:21

After doing Windows and AD system administration in a small company (150 employees) for one year, I found that these are the typical customers.

It's based on an earlier list of academic types relevant to sysadmins. The earlier list is not by me.

  1. The Mystery Maker

    “I disconnected five computers in one of the buildings. Go and find them.”

    Advantages: User probably didn’t break anything except temporarily.

    Disadvantages: User creates a lot more work than a user who breaks something for good.

    Symptoms: User will expect computers to be on the network without a network connection or to work without electricity.

    Real Case: Temps have very quickly figured out that if they disconnect a computer, they don’t have to work for two days and their manager will call IT and complain.

  2. The Electrician

    "I disconnected the computer from the network, then connected it to a random port in the wall, the floor, or a piece of paper; now it doesn’t work."

    Advantages: User will try to do the work himself.

    Disadvantages: User doesn’t know what is involved in the work to be done.

    Symptoms: User has connected the network port of a computer to an analogue phone line or possibly an electrical outlet; doesn’t understand why it doesn’t work as (he) expected.

    Real Case: All cables are pretty much the same to a user.

  3. The Sherlock

    “The mail server is down.”

    Advantages: User will point the admin to the problem.

    Disadvantages: It won’t be the real problem.

    Symptoms: User cannot read mail; assumes mail server is down before any other alternative.

    Real Case: User’s laptop computer is not connected to the network or user has no actual email account at the company at all. Specifics vary.

  4. The Elephant

    “The Internet is down.”

    Advantages: Uses very short sentences.

    Disadvantages: Will make an elephant out of a mosquito and a mountain out of a molehill.

    Symptoms: The user has started the wrong Web browser or no Web browser at all, cannot access one or two Web sites; shows complete inability to understand the difference between his Web browser and “the Internet”, and what the Internet is.

    Real Case: Several users could not access a non-existent Web site.

  5. The Mover

    “I have moved desks. Can you tell me why my computer and phone haven’t been moved yet?”

    Advantages: Has great confidence in IT’s ability to foresee the future and react instantly.

    Disadvantages: Will not accept that communication is what should happen before the action.

    Symptoms: User has moved desks three times in one month.

    Real Case: At least one user moved his computer to one desk, himself to another, disconnected his phone without writing down the port number, and doesn’t understand why his (new) desk computer and (new) phone don’t seem to be his any more.

  6. The Nihilist

    “When I logged on to my computer today, nothing worked.”

    Advantages: Believes he ought to log on to his computer every day, as he was told to. Gives a clear picture of what is wrong.

    Disadvantages: Doesn’t log on or off ever, uses absolute terms to describe relative incidents.

    Symptoms: User cannot understand why “nothing worked” is not a correct description of reality in some cases.

    Real Case: Every now and then a user will ring the administrator to inform him that “nothing works”. This often refers to nothing but a missing icon on the desktop (that the user has probably moved).

  7. The Time Traveler

    “We’ve had this problem for months. Why has it never been solved?”

    Advantages: Appears to have a valid cause for a complaint.

    Disadvantages: Doesn’t really.

    Symptoms: User refers to any problem as an old problem that IT simply never felt like working on.

    Real Case: One user found a months-old problem with a system installed a week ago.

  8. The Phantom

    Informs IT about a problem he has, then vanishes.

    Advantages: Can make it to a cave in Canada with no access to a mobile phone network within 23 seconds.

    Disadvantages: Will use that ability.

    Symptoms: User describes the problem fairly well and creates an overall positive impression at first.

    Real Case: Several users call IT and then apparently go to lunch.

  9. The Patrician

    “Fix this problem now, cable carrier.”

    Advantages: none

    Disadvantages: Behaves like a prince or princess.

    Symptoms: User doesn’t quite understand that the IT department are real people and colleagues with their own managers rather than service droids or everybody’s subordinates.

    Real Case: In every company there is one manager who believes the IT department reports to every other department.

  • In the typed text, the numbers go from 1 to 9. In the preview, they all remain "1". Is this a bug? – Andrew J. Brehm Sep 1 '09 at 11:31
  • The markdown processor automatically converts lines with leading numbers to lists. Indent text to make it part of the same list item. Otherwise each number is the start of a new list. – outis Sep 1 '09 at 13:06
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    8's the best... – Derek Adair Jan 4 '11 at 16:18
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    I have an entire department that does this with n. 7, repeatedly... "you still haven't fixed it!!! when are you going to fix it!!!" (um, when you get around to informing us it was broke to begin with?) – Avery Payne Jun 29 '11 at 17:47
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    That sounds like my company!!! – Jeff Jan 28 '13 at 19:56

Friend of mine working for an MS Consulting place.

He gets sent to a company to remove their spyware and set them up on a domain with ISA as a proxy, Windows XP Desktops.

He goes through and uninstalls everything people weren't supposed to have according to the business owner, installs and runs all the AV stuff, and then joins them all to a domain.

Comes back the next day and a lady is violently angry and crying about her "Cocoa" is gone. Demands that he lets her re-install Bonzi buddy. He says no, she rages, the boss also says no.

The next day he is still there as support and the lady has brought in a Sony Vaio she bought at Best Buy to get her Bonzi buddy back. She was equally irate when she could not put this laptop online due to the proxy server only allowing computers on the domain.

  • That's sick. I almost voted this down because it made me feel deeply unwell. Thanks :) – Tom Newton Jun 16 '09 at 7:14

We had a customer who kept insisting her wireless wasn't working. We made at least four trips to her house to investigate the problem. We became suspicious during a phone call that went like this:

"Look on the desktop, what do you see?" "Well... there's a pen."

On the final visit, we figured out that she thought wireless meant that you didn't need to plug in the laptop to charge the battery.


We get people blaming us whenever videos they like get deleted from YouTube or when Google falls over. Another common occurrence is people complaining to our director when we refuse to help them break the law.

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    One of our techs got a call from a user on the shop floor; something about her printer not working. When the tech got there, she tried to make him promise not to reboot her PC, as she was nearly at level 8 in the crappy flash game she was playing... – RainyRat Jun 15 '09 at 22:29

This was in the days of ILoveYou.exe. I was doing web development for a small company that sold refurbished hardware.

Let me introduce the main character. There was this one lady who worked as a salesperson there, basically her job involved her being on the phone 8h a day. In those days mobile phones were a bit more expensive, but still; I learned she had a FRF1000 (~ €150) mobile phone bill, while probably making only 10000 a month. Indeed, she was spending all of her break time on the phone. And who was she calling all that time? Her roommate, whom she saw every evening in person. FWIW she was not gay, so it wasn't even hot phone sex; just random chatter.

She was the type of person who would pass around every single chain letter. You know, Ericsson will give you a free phone if you forward this mail to 1000 persons? I was one of her recipients. I told her it was BS. I showed her a web site explaining it was BS. She proceded to call Ericsson and get laughed at as soon as I turned around.

So she forwarded every email. Enter ILoveYou.exe. I read about it no Slashdot; and I quickly wrote an email to all employees, and the boss of the company printed a dozen posters saying "DO NOT OPEN ILOVEYOU.EXE" and posted them around the office.

Only one person in 50 employees got infected. Guess who.

A few weeks later, she calls me complaining that I had broken the printer. I was just doing web development, but obviously I had become the computer guy since there was no one else to do it. I ask her what the problem was.

"The printer is broken" she says.

"Why do you say it's broken?"

"Well, duh, I'm trying to print but nothing's coming out."

"Ok, do you see a message on the screen?"


"What does it say?"

"It says the printer is broken."

"It says that? Exactly those words?"

"Yes, exactly those words, do you think I'm stupid, that I can't read or what?"

That's a strange message, I thought. Well not as strange as "lp0 is on fire" but I was pretty sure I had never heard of Windows calling the printer "broken." So I go to her desk on the open floor.

I glance at the screen quickly, shocked. I stare at her while putting my finger on the alert box that had popped up. I wait a few seconds. She says nothing. So I ask her.

"What does it say?"

"It says it's broken."

"No. These words here. Read them aloud. READ THEM ALOUD."

"Huh. ... Out of paper."

"So what does that mean?"

"That there's no more paper?" she replies shyly.

"So what should you do?"

"Err ... I don't know ..."

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    +1 Classic. As pointed out many times, users just don't read messages. – sleske Sep 2 '09 at 10:57
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    I actually created the Dialog of Evil(tm, pat. pending) to slow users down and force them to read an important message. The dialog can only be cleared by clicking 1 of 4 buttons labeled "Ok". Now the evil part: The position of the "Ok" and the 3 others is randomized, so it is never in the same spot. The other 3 say "Read Again". Clicking "Read Again" pops up the dialog all over again with new random positions. And the default focus is always on a "Read Again" button, never the "Ok" button. All of this because they refused to read a message... (sigh) – Avery Payne Jun 29 '11 at 17:58
  • @AveryPayne: Forcing them to enter randomized text to a text box, or simply "YES" is even more effective. – Hubert Kario Jan 6 '12 at 0:00
  • @HubertKario I even considered that, but the problem with single text entry is (a) I have to generate a dictionary of words and attach it to the dialog, yada yada (b) I am trying to break their mode of thought, which is "monkey see, monkey do"; i.e. they will simply parrot the screen without thinking about things. The purpose of forcing them to spatially navigate is to break their concentration. Still, it's a good idea :) – Avery Payne Jan 6 '12 at 18:04

A marketing lecturer once came to me screaming and promising every kind of humiliation and such. She said she knew the rector of the university and she would bring me to him to get me fired and punished, because I "sabotaged" her computer.

It turned out that her mailer displayed an alert that her inbox was full, and it's necessary to free up some space. When I first asked her to read it she refused of course, saying that it's not her job to read stupid messages. Then I read it out loud for her. Her answer: "I give lectures in 4 languages, there's no space left in my brain for this! I don't know what it means and I don't care! Don't bombard me with these stupid messages!"

Apparently her mailbox was full of not exactly work-related stuff, so I deleted a lot. Luckily I quit the department before her inbox got full again.

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    When in doubt, flog the downtrodden. – kmarsh Jul 9 '09 at 12:07
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    Wow...4 languages, and yet she doesn't have room for the language that she normally uses... – Avery Payne Jun 29 '11 at 17:49

I don't know if it's "worse", but it's a case I'll forever remember and cherish.

I used to work at as a Jr. sysadmin and Help-desk for doctors at a medical center in Israel, where doctors call me for immediate problems (usually as retarded as "my screen doesn't work! oh, oops it's off bye" and the like), nothing really serious.

Ever since I started, a woman called every day at exactly 17:00 just to chat. It didn't bother me, but I think she had no one, as when I quit and moved to the US, she cried over the phone. We didn't have any relationship and we have never saw each other face to face, I only saw her desktop through remote-control software once in a while helping her with word documents and the like.

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    +1 We all have a moment when we realize that a big part of our job is to be the psychological counselor. – kmarsh Jul 9 '09 at 12:14
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    I used to goto people's homes to fix their computers, I had one or two clients that would call me a few times a week with some sort of computer related freak out. Normally the computer wasn't the problem, but they just needed to calm down or have a friendly ear. I think I broke some hearts when I moved my business to more commercial support. In the end though, our job is still about the users. – reconbot Jul 27 '09 at 14:48
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    The sentence "we never saw each other face to face, I only saw her desktop through remote-control software" has a kind of strange, wistful geek-romance feel to it. +1 for the unexpected emotion. – RainyRat Jan 6 '10 at 0:12

There was an important user that complained a lot about an inconceivable security breach: when he turned off his computer one day, and turned it on the other day, everything would be the 'exact' same way. Every open app, every open document, his user still logged on!!

When after a few uncomfortable complaints, one technician went to see what the real problem was, the user was asked to repeat his every step to turn the computer on and off. Sure enough, he headed right to the monitor, leaving the computer untouched.

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    Even my 7 year old knows that turning the monitor off doesn't shut the machine down.... – squillman Jun 17 '09 at 1:17
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    Sounds like your 7 year old is well ahead of a good portion of the working world, on tech savvy. – Ben Dunlap Jun 19 '09 at 21:47
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    When I was working as a helpdesk support for doctors, I dumbed down the conversation and verified that the "box" doesn't have "blinking lights" in it, as well as the "tv". – LiraNuna Jun 22 '09 at 19:53
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    Squillman, I'm sorry to break it to you, but your kid has.... the knack. – Tormod Jun 27 '09 at 13:05
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    Ben, good work on the tech savvy upbringing, just be careful your progeny does not grow up to be a SysAdmin. Have him or her be something easier, more profitable and less stressful, like NeuroSurgery or Hedge Fund Management. – kmarsh Jul 9 '09 at 12:03

So, I was working on a project that using an Oracle OCCI connection to access a database that was newer than the integrated driver. The manager, who used to be a DBA, insisted that "he was an Oracle DBA" and there was no chance that using a 9i driver to connect to a 10g database would cause the issue we were seeing, which was random dropped connections between the client and the server. Replacing the driver was the first thing that a coworker of mine at the time and I suggested as a possible solution - seeing as when we connected to the 9i database on the same machine there were no errors at all.

Long story short, 6 months and about 800 man hours of stupid human tricks later, after we've eliminated every other possibility (I'm surprised I didn't have to prove the errors weren't being caused by solar flares), he finally relents and lets us switch out the driver. Problem solved.

How long did it take to implement the actual solution? 15 minutes, including the software rebuild.

And no, I couldn't make this up even if I tried.

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    +1 for the massive waste of time. – Ernie Jul 20 '09 at 19:29

My favorite was when I first started out in desktop support. I had an admin who was constantly hollering about how crappy her PC was, regardless of how good a mood she was in.

One day, though, she was in a particularly foul mood at the end of the day and something one her machine was fanning the flames when I got there. She again used the opportunity to "explain to me" how the "temp at the end of the aisle gets state of the art equipment and she, who has been working here for years, gets this POS sitting in front of her."

That did it for me. Since it was the end of the day, anyway, I stayed a few minutes longer to inspect this "state of the art" equipment, which turned out to be a 486 33mhz (compared to her 486 100mhz) with half the RAM and disk space and no CD Rom drive. The temp's monitor was a year older, as well. The thing that made it state of the art was the new shiny white case it came in.

I sent her an email detailing this and, oddly enough, after that I was her best friend...

  • 16
    I would have switched the cases – Factor Mystic May 16 '09 at 1:59
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    Or the pc's entirely – benPearce Jun 15 '09 at 22:48
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    +1 benPearce - sometimes when people ask for foolish things and are rude about it, it's fun to give them what they actually ask for. And it isn't like you're giving them bad service! – Rob Moir Jun 16 '09 at 6:41
  • Half the time when people complain to me it's to see how I react, if I agree with them they're justified to complain, if I don't they defer complaining. When I take the time to explain how not bad off they are, they're happy to learn something.... even when I lie... – reconbot Jun 22 '09 at 20:40

This is from Reddit, but I think its funny:

So today I had our spam filters updated, tweaked a bit, and yeah the spam is way less than usual now. I get an email from the president of our company complaining that there is not enough junk in the junk folder so something must be wrong... You may proceed to be as flabergasted as I am.

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    Time to lie: tell him you just got a call from CERT thanking you for taking down a major botnet. – kmarsh Jul 9 '09 at 12:06

My boss tells an amusing anecdote about one of my coworkers, a Chinese man with a thick accent. Smart guy, but hard to understand on the phone sometimes (I'm an expert in Engrish). So one day he gets a tech-support call from an Indian guy, and is having a hard time getting the guys name and problem description. After about 5 minutes of listening to the Chinese guy on the phone, my boss, native English speaker, offers to help. He gets on the phone "Can I help you?" to which the poor Indian goes, "Oh thank God!"


"Your program isn't working" was the distress call over the phone.

When we arrived we learned that it wasn't our custom built program after all, but rather the "mainframe" that was down. In this case the mainframe was an old Gateway 2000 desktop PC, but the user had heard the term mainframe and thought it applied to her POS computer.

If I recall the issue had to do with cords coming loose from the PC (oh sorry, mainframe) after she had vacuumed nearby.

alt text

Photo by alex_lee2001

  • I've gotten a million "your program isn't working" calls--the majority of which were due to not logging into the network. – Loren Pechtel Oct 4 '09 at 22:53

There was one problematic user who used to call every single day to support. One day, I answered the call. She was having problems to log to the network, and she said that there was a problem with her computer, that it wasn't her job to know, that we were making a lousy job, that we had to send someone right up.

When I finally get there a big Incorrect Password message was on screen. ¬_¬'


We had a customer who had some sort of weird balloon/rubber fetish. It was bad enough when he talked on the phone about it. Then one day he bought in his PC for us to fix. His desktop was... him naked with his balloon fetish stuff just barely hiding his yarbles. This guy was a fat, balding 60+ year old. Disgusting.

But he did have a sense of humour.

His username was "imapopper2".

  • 6
    +1 for using the word "yarbles". – RainyRat Jul 1 '09 at 23:38

Many years ago I worked in a 5 sided building in DC doing office automation. I was a contractor. Our contract said that we started at 8:30, and, regardless of how much the phone rang we ignored it until 8:30, exact. Normally the person calling was, if we were unlucky, a Colonel. If we were really unlucky it was a 1 Star. Let me tell you, they were very used to not being ignored by 25 year olds. And many of them were quite steamed because they had a 0900 meeting, and, they came in at 0500 to work, and, the ^&%%^&$%^ system was down. It's quite hard to trouble shoot a system while someone is screaming inches from you and spitting all over you. I was quite happy that side arms were banned except for the guards.

Along those lines, the screaming that went on when there was some markup on a bill due to Congress at say 1600 and, for what ever reason, the word processor style sheet was doing the wrong thing was impressive to watch as well. Bills have exacting standards for markup, the details have been suppressed at this point, and when the funding is billions of dollars people don't take a very zen attitude. I just got to watch those fights since I did system support, not software support.


I work at an ISP, and when you're dealing with any member of the public with $10 and a dream, believe me the tech support line gets to use the phrase "But we didn't sell you that equipment/software/website, so we can't support it" on a regular basis. Most of the worst story ever stories I've heard here and elsewhere are so routine to me (since I used to work that line in ages past) that I've basically come to expect that kind of behaviour from humanity.

But the ones that are the very worst, high maintenance clients here are the deadbeats who don't want to pay, who think that they're entitled to complain to the BBB because we cut them off for lack of payment (ever), or try to sweet-talk us into giving them free service forever (and yes, I've seen people try all three tactics, sometimes all at once).

Our very best customer in this regard called us today in fact, to complain that her internet wasn't working. It wasn't us that cut her off this time, so we asked if anything had changed on her phone line (she has ADSL), to which she answered "no". Well, that means a trouble ticket and lots of fun diagnostics, so we told her we'd call her back in 15 minutes instead of tying her up on the phone. 15 minutes later, we call the number she's had in our database for years, and get the message "This number is no longer in service."

[Adam Savage] "Well there's your problem!"

  • 2
    I worked dialup (and crappy wireless broadband) tech support for years, so I feel your pain. The trick is to get out of it before you keel over and die or kill someone else – Matt Simmons Aug 13 '09 at 18:37
  • Stories from working in Tech Support never leave you. Had one lady call a coworker in frantic rant barely breathing and partly crying. When he finally calmed her down, the problem was that a video was stuck in the VHS player and had to be back in the shop in 15 minutes. – Ryaner Oct 4 '09 at 20:38

I once got to rollout some software we'd developed to 110 of my company's offices, literally all around the world. Everyone we met was wonderful except this one woman in Frankfurt. After the initial deployment she would stamp her feet and complain about the smallest of details, she'd never do anything over the phone, so we had to keep revisiting. I had to return back to that city five further times in the space of a month just to change the odd thing here and there!

  • 5
    How was the beer? You should cultivate that user relationship. – kmarsh Jul 9 '09 at 12:04
  • 1
    It's very important to find the silver lining in these things. – Broam Nov 19 '09 at 20:36

Got a call from one of our "Client Support Administrators".

The printer won't print in color. It only prints in black and white.

I go over there. Look at the printer's display. It says cyan and yellow are out of toner, and it would only print in black and white. Replace the toner cartridges, and it prints in color. Apparently he was so busy that he neglected to look at what the printer was telling him.

  • 18
    At least it was a colour printer. I've seen that one before. – RainyRat Jun 15 '09 at 22:30
  • 2
    And as for "neglecting to look what the printer tells you", let me just say: "PC LOAD LETTER"... :-) – Michael Stum Jul 9 '09 at 9:48
  • PC LOAD LETTER is even more confusing when you have paper called Letterhead (which is, of course, A4) and people try to load it into the printer instead of going and correcting the page size on their PDF to A4 instead of letter. – Richard Gadsden Oct 9 '09 at 13:59

OK, a real simple one that happened to my boss a couple of weeks back...

A new user, having just transferred in from another branch and being given a new desktop, rings to ask, "Can IT please install Windows Explorer on this computer? I had it on my last one and need it to organise my photos..."

  • 3
    I would have replied that installing Explorer would require an entire system rebuild, as it is a necessary system component and must be installed from the beginning. Then, explain how to open My Computer, click View>Explorer Bar>Folders and get something that looks exactly like Windows Explorer. – phuzion Jun 22 '09 at 15:53

The marketing department at one of our clients had some videos made for a viral(-ish) campaign. Nice videos made, sent to affiliates with orders to put on their websites ASAP.

Immediately, we had one of the users on the phone, telling us the website was broken. She'd uploaded the video - worked OK - inserted the right HTML - worked OK - and published the page - worked OK. But not a single customer could see the website!

It turns out posting 300 MB DVD-quality MPEG2's isn't really a good idea. Especially not when it is only showed in a 320x200 px window. Oh. The average connection speed in country of said affiliate is around 512 kbit...

They later outdid themselves in creating a website for a global product launch that could only handle three (!) simultaneous users. The product manager DEMANDED that we took blame for the incident, even though he himself had insisted on micro-managing all aspects of the development (he had hand-picked a one-man shop to design/development) and setup.


Another one, this from my old dorm:

Being called at 1:30 AM. While it might have been me half asleep, I hear some deep voice/noise in the other end.

  • Excuse me!?
  • !?

After a few minutes of slowly awakening, it turns out to be "internet not working!". As our dorm had a internet quota system (fantastic against P2P!), I got his username (after a few tries).

  • I'm terribly sorry, but you have exceeded your quota. Your internet will be re-opened at so-and-so date.
  • Exceed kota? Innnernet closed?
  • Yes, you exceeded your quota, your internet is closed!
  • Exceed kota - innnernet closed?
  • Yes, you exceeded your quota, your internet is closed!
  • Exceed kota - innnernet closed?
  • ...

After we've achieved consensus that his internet is closed, I go back to sleep. ... Only to have the guy calling again half an hour later... After that conversation (left to imagination), I pulled by phoneplug from the wall and went on to sleep yet again.


"The e-mail is broken."

A quick look at the error box shows the problem--no such user. Since it's in-house e-mail the offending message isn't being accepted by the mail server at all. A look at the mail--that's not how to spell her name. Repeat a few dozen times, sometimes with minor variations.

In his world computers have only two states: Working or broken. Any message box that he doesn't expect is broken.

I've even had one call because he punched the computer and it quit working. A big dent in the side panel but once I plugged a power cable back in it continued to work.


We all have a boss that good at something, but never at IT. Then mine is the best worst boss ever.

About 1 year ago, with my collegue we worked our ass off to have a stable network with security policy, (ldap, proxy, internet quota, mail accout, and so on).

We were really happy and proud that our work was over around june. The problem is, our boss thought that just installing an air conditionner for the server room was good enough. But unfortunatly you have to refuel the gas. So the air conditionner was venting hot air.

I report the problem, his solution stopping all servers. Well good idea, no one was there for the next week, so a good solution until the air conditionner is fixed. I'm going to the server room, start to shutdown the server.... no, my boss find to long, and shut down the breaker of the server room.

In result 1 year of work destroy, all drive didn't support the electric shortage. Fortunatly, we were still having the previews server, so we put them online ASAP. But still after destroying our work, our boss said to us "Well, it's your fault. It's your job to fix the air conditionner! It's not my fault!"

Since then we let him be when he got some virus from porno website.


On a Wednesday I got asked to do some work downtown. I live very far from downtown and the company didn't pay mileage for jobs in that area, so I turned it down. "Ok, we'll send someone else." The someone else showed up and then disappeared from the site. Shortly before lunch I get a phone call informing me that the client is very upset and they desperately need me to do damage control. Knowing that I hate going downtown, they offer to pay my mileage and travel time.

Upon arrival at the site, I find the site crawling with tradespeople. There's no power to the server room, but the electrician says it will be up shortly. All the equipment is tossed in a corner or a rat's nest inside the biggest box I've ever seen. I manage to find enough components to build the first server and got it powered up. The second server is supposed to be attached by KVM, but the keyboard and mouse are not compatible with the KVM. My technical contact across the country tells me the next step is to bring it on-line so he can remote in. I try plugging the ADSL modem in but can't find an active phone jack. None of the trades know anything about it. Technical contact agrees there's nothing more I can do.

I inform the store manager that I cannot proceed and am leaving the site: "Are you coming back tomorrow." "No." "The next day?" "No. Someone will be dispatched for Monday." "But we are reopening on Monday!" "No, you're not." (None of the tradespeople were going to be done on time either.)

He was pretty outraged at this point and asked for my supervisor's number. I wrote it on the back of the business card he gave me when I had arrived and gave it back to him, which made him even more upset. (I had earlier refused to give him my own business card because I was working as a contractor and was not allowed to give out business cards.)

On my way home I get a phone call from the technical contact: "Can you go back tomorrow?" "No." "How about the next day?" "No. I'm not going back." "Ok, thanks."

A few months later I met up with the regional manager at another site. He didn't remember me, but when I asked him about the first site he told me they didn't reopen for several weeks after that. He also mentioned that site had tried to reopen several times and failed. They did eventually reopen though (it's a restaurant).

  • 1
    So, was the room wrecked by the first "someone else"? Or was it already in unusable condition? – BradC Jun 16 '09 at 14:55
  • Hard to say. So many tradespeople running around that it may have just gotten that way from constantly being moved around. – Scott Jun 18 '09 at 18:22

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