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This is more in the nature of a rant than anything worthwhile. Periodically, on /. or via e-mail jokes you read screeds by tech support staff about what a hopeless collection of losers those in need of their help are. You've surely heard about the woman who called to say that the cup holder on her computer was broken. The punch line being that she thought her CD drive was for holding her coffee. I'm sure this urban legend was a big laugh among the folks answering the phone before their jobs moved to Bangalore. Of course, legends of clueless tech support personnel abound among the folks on this end of the phone also.
I don't consider myself a hopless case. I've been using and programming computers for longer than I care to admit. I even ran computer center in my misspent youth. I only go to support as a last resort. I would rather spend three hours on google than pick up the phone. Maybe it's just me, but it seems the state of tech support, at least among ISPs and their fellow net providers, has droped to a new low.
Case 1: Since the beginning of August, I have been having e-mail problems. Stuff doesn't show up. People tell me their messages are being rejected, the account is not available. I don't even get spam some days. Many years ago I used an ISP called Global2000.net. They were great, a little outfit from Albany, NY. Great service if you had a problem, which was seldom, you could talk with the head geek and it was fixed. They were bought by an outfit called BiznessOnline. This was painless because I still hardly had any problems and again there always seemed to be someone on the other end of the phone who at least had a clue. BiznessOnline became VeriNet. They never touched the sides. Whatever they did, didn't affect me, my e-mail worked. Sometime recently, VeriNet became Cleartel. Stuff stopped working. I had billing problems. I went to the support page and filed a ticket. Nothing happened. I called.; "Yes, we're having e-mail problems. They'll be resolved soon." Nothing happened. E-mail to tech-support. Nothing happened. More e-mail to tech-support. Today, finally, I get an automated response. Still, test messages that I sent hours ago to this account from another haven't showed up.
Case 2: I called a web hosting service about a question with the hosting account. The guy on the phone couldn't access my account, couldn't tell me what the problem might be, there was no one there who could. That would be one thing if it had been a complicated problem, but it was just about finding some free software they offered.
Case 3: My wife and I are members of the ACM
. The ACM is a wonderful organization. Join them if you are a computer professional. We both have e-mail forwarding accounts with them. My wife had two accounts with them. One of these seemed to accumulate an enourmous amount of spam. The account was unused, so she tried to kill it. She sent repeated messages to the acm.org e-mail folks asking them to delete the account. Nothing happened. Finally, she found an e-mail link on an ACM page to someone who had nothing to do with the ACM forwarding accounts, but she sent this person a message detailing the lack of service. She got back a message expressing sympathy and a promise to forward her message to someone who could do something. Shortly, she received a message from someone else saying the problem was fixed. Unfortunately, the original e-mail didn't describe the problem so there was no way tech support could have fixed it. It wasn't fixed. After messages explaining this to the original contact and now the tech support contact, it was resolved.
I could go on, but all of these are just minor anoyances in the scheme of things and I shouldn't be bitching. After all, I have plenty of e-mail accounts and I'm still on-line. It's not the problems, it's the feeling that tech support has been sucked into a blackhole. It's my impression that it's become a game of "let's pretend", a bit like TV news - a semi-lifelike re-creation of the real thing. Either that or there have been so many cut-backs and outsourcings that the folks on the frontline are overwhelmed and minor problems have to be blown off. Either way, it's likely to get worse.
I do have to say something nice about tech support however. I just installed Mandrake Linux on my laptop. I had probles, I sent messages to Mandrake and got useful responses. Thank goodness the blackhole hasn't gotten them.
posted at 21:04:00 on 08/25/04
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