Networking

Stupid Tech Support Tricks: IT Calls of Shame

Stupid Tech Support Trick No. 4: The Runaway Mouse

You work for an IT support group -- specifically, the escalation team that deals only with the toughest of cases. You get a call from a customer who can't get her mouse to click. What do you do? That's the seemingly simple question Ryan Palmertree faced a few years ago.

Palmertree, now a product support manager for Bomgar, was supervising a technician when the call came in. Palmertree and his tech went through all the usual paces and quickly found that the customer's mouse worked fine in every regard except for clicking. Puzzled, Palmertree put on his detective cap and started to listen extra closely.

"I noticed that whenever she tried to click something, I'd hear this faint little plink sound," he explains.

Thinking fast, Palmertree told the tech to have the customer put her phone near her screen and click a few more times. Knowing that the woman had a CRT monitor, he began to formulate a crazy theory.

"The next click, it was clear as day -- a hollow plastic-hitting-glass kind of sound," Palmertree says. "From there, it was just like, 'OK, we're done here.'"

The woman, if you haven't figured it out, was physically touching the mouse to her screen every time she wanted to click -- a scenario no amount of technical troubleshooting could solve. Thankfully, good old-fashioned sleuthing (not to mention some supersharp hearing) helped Palmertree crack the case.

"It was one of those things where you say to yourself, 'Wow, did that just happen?" Palmertree laughs. "I was definitely pretty shocked."

Stupid Tech Support Trick No. 5: A Bittersweet Jam

One of the most common tech support complaints has to be the office printer jam. Let's face it: Even in an ideal environment, those things are practically made to break. Throw in high-volume use and low-care users, and you have a made-to-order recipe for disaster.

Keith Brooks thought he'd seen every type of printer jam possible -- until one day when he was working as a network support engineer for a large Wall Street firm. After a series of frantic calls -- "OMIGOD, WHY CAN'T WE PRINT ANYTHING?!" -- Brooks journeyed to the office to see what was causing the trouble.

He got to the problematic printer and ran through the standard series of troubleshooting steps. Toner in place? Check. Cables properly connected? Done. Paper's all where it should be? Uh huh. So what next?

"The only thing left to do was to shake it to see if some bit of plastic [was] clipped off or loose," Brooks says. "And sure enough, I heard something rattling around. It sounded rather big, too, [with] loud clanking noises."

As Brooks quickly discovered, hearing something and finding something are two very different things. He rocked the printer gently and managed to force out some hair, some dust, and a couple of staples -- but those lovely ingredients were far too light to be the culprit.

So Brooks got back to shaking. He turned the printer upside down and rocked it harder. Still nothing. Where was this damn thing? Finally, he heard a piece moving closer to the printer's edge. A little more shaking, and -- at last! -- the beast behind the jam popped out and rolled to the ground.

Brooks set down the printer and looked to the floor, expecting to see something the size of a boulder. Instead, he saw -- wait for it -- a tiny jelly bean.

"Who would have thought?" Brooks asks in bewilderment. "That thing was sitting in there, probably stuck to some piece of metal when it got too hot. When the printer was in energy-saving mode, it probably cooled and got dislodged, then did that all over again every day."

On the plus side, that area of the office always had a delightful tutti-fruitti-like smell.

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