What Should I Do? (from Chaz Larson)
Years ago, when I worked the phones, I got a call from a guy who opened up with, "let's just clear something right away: I'm a tech, too, and know what I'm doing." After a bit of back and forth, it turned out that he needed to reinstall the fonts that shipped with our product. This was just a plain old Mac install on about a dozen floppies, and he wanted me to walk him through it.

"Okay," he said a few minutes into the install, it says 'Insert Disk 1'. What should I do?"

"Ummm," I responded, "insert disk one?"

"Thanks," he replied. A second later, he added "that worked; the message went away."

He wouldn't let me go until he had navigated the entire process. I got really good at Tristan pinball that day.

 

So Many Spreadsheets (submitted anonymously)
A few years ago, I had the misfortune to train a really nice, but really dim employee on our accounting system. I sat with her for several days, showing her the ins and outs of the admittedly complex system, but she could never quite figure things out on her own. I recommended that we have someone else do what she was supposed to do, but management insisted that she do those things.

Fast forward a year and several big screw-ups later, and management decided that she was better off as the receptionist, after all. Fortunately, we were able to get a really competent gal to take over her tasks.

When I was chatting with the new girl, she told me about all these spreadsheets that she had been sorting through from the previous employee. Dozens of them named things like Customers1.xls, Customers2.xls, and Customers3.xls. She said that she stared at these things for the longest time, trying to figure out why they were in separate documents, since they seemed to be continuations of the same data.

And then it dawned on her. Each of the documents had about 23 rows of data. 23 rows is what was fitting on a screenful in Excel on that computer. The previous employee didn't know you could scroll down.

 

Help, 911! (from Justin Jones)
One of my regular clients sent me an email with the subject line "911 - Computer is Broken." The rest of his email explained that an online service they were using for storing inventory wasn't working, and that it was critical that it work.

Now I've known this client to be a bit over-exaggerating, but I called him immediately to see if I could help. He explained that he was clicking a "spinning fox" button on his desktop and that there were twelve tabs up top that were all loading. No matter what tab he clicked on, the online inventory page wouldn't load.

While I was on the phone, he closed the window again and double-clicked the shortcut again. Now, there were now thirteen tabs. I asked him how he was closing the window, and he responded that he would "hit the X in the top right, then hit ENTER when some window would pop-up."

I had him click the "X" again and then read me the window. "It says something about saving my tabs," he responded. "Oh, I guess I shouldn't save them, eh?" After not saving all of his tabs, the inventory system loaded up just fine.

 

How to Lock a Computer (from Jessica)
 

I received the following support email a few days ago...

From: B---- C-----------
Sent: Friday, March 06, 2009 10:28 AM
To: Jessica --------
Subject: Lock Computer

Is there someway that I can lock my computer without going 
into the Control Panel and setting the time?

Since I have access to some confidential data and I have 
someone coming out here 3 times a day to cover for me; it 
would be good if I could just click on one thing and it 
would lock instantly.  As it is now, I have to set the 
screen saver to 1 minute and wait for it to pass and then 
lock up, before I leave my desk with someone else.

Our users' ingenuity never ceases to amaze me.

 

Broken/Deliberately Destroyed (from Jeffrey Vikeon)
Freshly minted out of college, I had the good fortune of getting an entry level help-desk position at a large company.

One of my first calls was from Anna, a receptionist who wanted me to come down and look at her monitor. I walked to her office and, to my surprise, discovered that her monitor was perfectly fine. She, however, was suffering from a case of "monitor envy" as the person who sat across from her had a bigger one.

"I'm sorry I can't give you a new monitor," I informed her. "Well why not?" she snapped at me, "go and look at his monitor! It's at least a 19 inch and I want one like he has!"

"There is currently a spending freeze," I stated, "no new equipment can be purchased."

"I just talked to Debbi in accounting," she said, "and she got a brand new monitor just yesterday!"

"Debbi's monitor was broken and no longer worked; your monitor is fine. I am sorry, we can't help you," I said as I walked away from her desk.

Not fifteen minutes later, my manager stopped by my desk. "Anna just called me," he stated, "she said can't work right now because her monitor is broken."

"Really," I asked, "I was just down there, are you sure?"

"She sounded pretty sure it was broken," he replied, "please go downstairs and take look."

I walked down to Anna's desk and, lo and behold, she had a monitor that was not functioning.

"What a coincidence," I said, "you want a new monitor and yours just happens to break? Not that the large amount of water dripping out of the back would be any indication as to why it failed, how exactly did this happen?"

"I'm not sure," she smirked, "I was away from my desk and I came back to find it broken."

"Well, I will have to talk to my boss, he is the only one who can be buying new monitors" I said.

Not thirty seconds into the conversation with my boss, he got a phone call from Anna's manager, screaming up and down about his receptionist not being able to do any work. Anna's manager also reminded us that we are supposed to be supplying working equipment for them, not "cheap, defective crap" that we were "pawning off" on his staff.

As it turned out, Anna's manager had a lot more clout than my boss, so the end result was that Anna got a brand new monitor and we never got a satisfactory explanation as to why her old monitor suddenly sprang a leak. Oddly enough, her scanner, keyboard, and printer magically started springing leaks, too.