Circuitous Support

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  • Larry 2012-12-20 08:12
    Multitrode decided to roll out some fancy new web application for submitting insurance claims and somehow Initech got hired to support it.

    Of course, Multitrode didn't write this new application themselves, a development firm did that for them. Initech just managed the servers
    Back when I was your age, spaghetti code was the curse of the industry. Random gotos pointing anywhere. Branching into the middle of subroutines, or out.

    Then came lasagna apps. Layer upon layer of abstraction so deep nobody knew how it really worked -- if it did. Before you could dig down to the meat you had to scrape aside tons of moldy cheese.

    Now we have onion corporations. No one really does anything. They just contract with someone else to do it. And if you peel away that shell (tearfully) you find another contact handing off responsibility but skimming some of the dollars.

    It's turtles all the way down! Recursion FTW!
  • Recursive Reclusive 2012-12-20 08:16
    "lasagna apps" - I like that. Good metaphor.
  • QJo 2012-12-20 08:21
    Or a moussaka application.

    On the surface, crispy well-cooked and nicely-browned bechamel UI potatoes.

    Under the cover a chaotic, steaming brown stew of completely unknown composition, complete with a few stout black pubic hairs full of bugs.
  • QJo 2012-12-20 08:24
    Hang on a minute, here's TRWTF:


    Client: "So... when can I expect to hear back from you?"
    SJ: (mumbled) "No idea."
    Client: "Pardon?"
    SJ: "They should get back to you within a day or two."
    Client: "The form's due on Thursday, will it be done by then?"
    SJ, completely winging it: "Well if it takes too long to fix, we can put an exemption in the system for you."


    That's a customer on the other end of the phone there. Just because of the management cockup that has led to this situation is no call to be flippant with them.
  • Smug Unix User 2012-12-20 08:30
    Most customers don't like it when you tell them communication is one way. Every customer hates being lied to.
  • Remy Porter 2012-12-20 08:32
    I think it's safe to say that the dialogue features some artistic license.
  • GettinSadda 2012-12-20 08:41
    Why didn't he just take to answering the phone with something like "Hello, Support Line, how can I help you?"
  • TheSHEEEP 2012-12-20 08:43
    Okay.
    That procedure is not optimal, but... where is the WTF?
  • Meep 2012-12-20 08:57
    It was easy but meaningful work.

    Multitrode Insurance was one of the Initech's bigger clients - a state insurance firm that did data tracking and risk analysis and whatever else big insurance firms do, for a bunch of other insurance firms.

    So, TRWTF is that for this guy work has to be "meaningful," but if it's a big company, he's not going to ask anyone what it is they're doing.
  • Andrew 2012-12-20 09:02
    TheSHEEEP:
    Okay.
    That procedure is not optimal, but... where is the WTF?

    I don't get it either. Many of us have worked on shitty corporate apps before, and everyone outsources their customer/client support to India. Unless I'm not seeing something, this is not a WTF.
  • LoremIpsumDolorSitAmet 2012-12-20 09:03
    Nope... I can't see the WTF either.

    I was going to guess that there was some process at Initech that was supposed to convert and send the support tickets to Multitrode, but it stopped working, nobody noticed, and the developers never fixed any of the bugs.

    Instead, it turned out to be a tale about someone who got an extra responsibility, they dealt with it, and the product eventually got better over time, and everything was back to normal. Sounds far too happy to me.
  • foo 2012-12-20 09:08
    Remy Porter:
    I think it's safe to say that the dialogue features some artistic license.
    Well, are we supposed to comment on what's written or read the editor's mind?
  • Balu 2012-12-20 09:08
    Larry:
    Back when I was your age, spaghetti code was the curse of the industry. Random gotos pointing anywhere.


    In The World According To SpectateSwamp this is the wet dream of any Desktop Search developer! Random is the key!

    (Captcha: ludus - yes, it's a game)
  • @Deprecated 2012-12-20 09:31
    For SJ, and others, one question remained: "Why can't the customers call the developer directly?"


    Development Rule #1: Never give your contact information directly to customers if it can at all be avoided.

    That only leads to 2 am calls:
    "Mister Smith-uh san, pleees?"
  • daef 2012-12-20 09:32
    click on "why can't the customers..." :-)
  • Buggz 2012-12-20 09:36
    For SJ, and others, one question remained: "Why can't the customers call the developer directly?"

    Because you need some with people skills. Someone who is good at dealing with people. Can't you see that? What the hell is wrong with you people!?
  • Pista 2012-12-20 09:37
    TheSHEEEP:
    Okay.
    That procedure is not optimal, but... where is the WTF?


    The WTF is that the above situation tends to become a standard.
  • ubersoldat 2012-12-20 09:49
    ActiveX is TRWTF... or TWTF since there are none in this story.

    What a crappy way to end your existence thedailywtf.com. You've got until tomorrow to get even with us Alex.

    BTW, does any one know at what time/timezone is the world supposed to end? Because if I'm not mistaken, in New Zeland is already Dec. 21st by now.

    Addendum (2012-12-20 10:25):
    New Zealand you grammar nazis.

    TRWTF is Chrome's spell checker.
  • Maya 2012-12-20 10:00
    ubersoldat:
    BTW, does any one know at what time/timezone is the world supposed to end? Because if I'm not mistaken, in New Zeland is already Dec. 21st by now.
    And do you have any proof that New Zealand still exists?
  • campkev 2012-12-20 10:01
    Andrew:
    TheSHEEEP:
    Okay.
    That procedure is not optimal, but... where is the WTF?

    I don't get it either. Many of us have worked on shitty corporate apps before, and everyone outsources their customer/client support to India. Unless I'm not seeing something, this is not a WTF.


    If this was story was a porno, it would go like this:

    Pizza delivery guy knocks on door.
    Scantily clad woman opens door.
    PDG: Here's your pizza ma'am. That will be $15.00
    SCW: <seductively putting the money in his shirt pocket> I'm so glad you're here, I've been dying for some sausage.
    PDG: Then why did you order the veggie lovers?<shakes his head in confusion and walks away>

    End of movie
  • OldCoder 2012-12-20 10:01
    QJo:
    Hang on a minute, here's TRWTF:


    Client: "So... when can I expect to hear back from you?"
    SJ: (mumbled) "No idea."
    Client: "Pardon?"
    SJ: "They should get back to you within a day or two."
    Client: "The form's due on Thursday, will it be done by then?"
    SJ, completely winging it: "Well if it takes too long to fix, we can put an exemption in the system for you."


    That's a customer on the other end of the phone there. Just because of the management cockup that has led to this situation is no call to be flippant with them.

    Er, no. Multitrode is Initech's customer, not some random Insurance guy.

    Granted, he should have perhaps been more polite to the guy but perhaps being polite involves paying him more money.
  • operagost 2012-12-20 10:08
    Larry:
    Multitrode decided to roll out some fancy new web application for submitting insurance claims and somehow Initech got hired to support it.

    Of course, Multitrode didn't write this new application themselves, a development firm did that for them. Initech just managed the servers
    Back when I was your age, spaghetti code was the curse of the industry. Random gotos pointing anywhere. Branching into the middle of subroutines, or out.

    Then came lasagna apps. Layer upon layer of abstraction so deep nobody knew how it really worked -- if it did. Before you could dig down to the meat you had to scrape aside tons of moldy cheese.

    Now we have onion corporations. No one really does anything. They just contract with someone else to do it. And if you peel away that shell (tearfully) you find another contact handing off responsibility but skimming some of the dollars.

    It's turtles all the way down! Recursion FTW!

    Well, you just gave me a great idea for dealing with this whitespace truncation problem I have.
  • campkev 2012-12-20 10:11
    OldCoder:
    QJo:
    Hang on a minute, here's TRWTF:


    Client: "So... when can I expect to hear back from you?"
    SJ: (mumbled) "No idea."
    Client: "Pardon?"
    SJ: "They should get back to you within a day or two."
    Client: "The form's due on Thursday, will it be done by then?"
    SJ, completely winging it: "Well if it takes too long to fix, we can put an exemption in the system for you."


    That's a customer on the other end of the phone there. Just because of the management cockup that has led to this situation is no call to be flippant with them.

    Er, no. Multitrode is Initech's customer, not some random Insurance guy.

    Granted, he should have perhaps been more polite to the guy but perhaps being polite involves paying him more money.


    Er, no. That's the customer that he's getting paid to take calls from and support. If I was SJ's supervisor and overhead that conversation, I would have had a talk with him about how to speak to the customer and creating unrealistic expectations. SJ's handling of that conversation was as big a WTF as the supposed WTF in the story.
  • camelotbob 2012-12-20 10:14
    Where is the wtf?
  • m 2012-12-20 10:19
    Did anyone else notice that SJ's name changed to CJ?
  • TheSHEEEP 2012-12-20 10:20
    What is that New Zealand you speak of?
  • eVil 2012-12-20 10:34
    "Why can't the customers call the developer directly?"

    Given that the vast majority of users of this site are developers, what percentage of visitors reading this line don't immediately answer along the lines of:

    "Because we've got important and difficult shit to do, which doesn't involve discussing the technological difficulties of luddites."


    The real wtf is that some companies have the customers interupting their developers.
  • eVil 2012-12-20 10:38
    QJo:
    Or a moussaka application.

    On the surface, crispy well-cooked and nicely-browned bechamel UI potatoes.

    Under the cover a chaotic, steaming brown stew of completely unknown composition, complete with a few stout black pubic hairs full of bugs.


    Hmm... you should probably upgrade your chef/wife/mother, if you're finding their pubic hairs in your dinner... with or without the crabs.
  • neminem 2012-12-20 10:38
    campkev:
    Andrew:
    TheSHEEEP:
    Okay.
    That procedure is not optimal, but... where is the WTF?

    I don't get it either. Many of us have worked on shitty corporate apps before, and everyone outsources their customer/client support to India. Unless I'm not seeing something, this is not a WTF.


    If this was story was a porno, it would go like this:

    Pizza delivery guy knocks on door.
    Scantily clad woman opens door.
    PDG: Here's your pizza ma'am. That will be $15.00
    SCW: <seductively putting the money in his shirt pocket> I'm so glad you're here, I've been dying for some sausage.
    PDG: Then why did you order the veggie lovers?<shakes his head in confusion and walks away>

    End of movie


    You've never seen PG Porn? That's sort of how it goes, and it is *hilarious*. So no, this story wasn't like that, it wasn't as amusing.
  • Rodnas 2012-12-20 10:41
    TheSHEEEP:
    What is that New Zealand you speak of?


    Never mind, it is probably gone by now. The 12-21-2012 doomsday hits New Zealand first I imagine.
  • Rodnas 2012-12-20 10:44
    Rodnas:
    TheSHEEEP:
    What is that New Zealand you speak of?


    Never mind, it is probably gone by now. The 12-21-2012 doomsday hits New Zealand first I imagine.


    Oops, I should have read all the comments before posting. This is very much like RTFM. We apologize for inconvenience.
  • ASalazar 2012-12-20 11:22
    Even if it wasn't a link, I did as you said. I wholeheartedly approve.
  • Boomer 2012-12-20 11:26
    Multitrode = mib.com
  • (i|=J7}Y&.`Gb) 2012-12-20 12:02
    So what do you call a network of daemons that interact with each other over multiple machines. Where each daemon is 5 lines of code and 1000 lines of boiler plate and you can tell what each daemon is doing but don't know who's telling him to do what?
  • Jim 2012-12-20 12:22
    [quote user="Larry"][quote]
    Now we have onion corporations. No one really does anything. They just contract with someone else to do it. And if you peel away that shell (tearfully) you find another contact handing off responsibility but skimming some of the dollars.

    It's turtles all the way down! Recursion FTW![/quote]

    I don't know about onion corps... onion at least make you cry, and taste good in burgers... I thinks it more like Matryoshka corporations, they all look good on the outside, but look deep enough and you just have a another dol....
  • jay 2012-12-20 12:47
    foo:
    Remy Porter:
    I think it's safe to say that the dialogue features some artistic license.
    Well, are we supposed to comment on what's written or read the editor's mind?


    How long have you been in this business? Have you ever SEEN a real requirements document? Of course you have to read the author's mind and not go by what's written.
  • Steven 2012-12-20 12:48
    I don't have any proof that New Zealand ever existed.
  • jay 2012-12-20 12:54
    Wow, the pickings must be getting light.

    IT company is presented with a mildly difficult problem. They muddle through and everything turns out basically okay. Nothing dramatic or funny or even mildly amusing happens. The End.
  • jay 2012-12-20 12:55
    Steven:
    I don't have any proof that New Zealand ever existed.


    You have to look it up under "Kiwi".
  • da Doctah 2012-12-20 12:58
    Andrew:
    TheSHEEEP:
    Okay.
    That procedure is not optimal, but... where is the WTF?

    I don't get it either. Many of us have worked on shitty corporate apps before, and everyone outsources their customer/client support to India. Unless I'm not seeing something, this is not a WTF.
    Maybe SJ stands for Satyanatha Jaharwalal.
  • HowItWorks 2012-12-20 13:04
    Buggz:
    For SJ, and others, one question remained: "Why can't the customers call the developer directly?"

    Because you need some with people skills. Someone who is good at dealing with people. Can't you see that? What the hell is wrong with you people!?

    Plagiarism !!! You have failed English Composition 101 and are expelled for presenting this as yours without properly quoting and attributing the source material.

    (Great movie, still watch it occasionally.)
  • Matt Westwood 2012-12-20 13:05
    (i|=J7}Y&.`Gb):
    So what do you call a network of daemons that interact with each other over multiple machines. Where each daemon is 5 lines of code and 1000 lines of boiler plate and you can tell what each daemon is doing but don't know who's telling him to do what?

    Um ... a dollop of spunk?

    Sorry, that's "jizm" for you across the water.
  • HowItWorks 2012-12-20 13:14
    ubersoldat:
    BTW, does any one know at what time/timezone is the world supposed to end? Because if I'm not mistaken, in New Zeland is already Dec. 21st by now.

    My understanding is Winter Solstice (for those of us in N, Summer Solstice for S)

    That is at 21 Dec 2012 11:12 UTC
  • HowItWorks 2012-12-20 13:21
    HowItWorks:
    ubersoldat:
    BTW, does any one know at what time/timezone is the world supposed to end? Because if I'm not mistaken, in New Zeland is already Dec. 21st by now.

    My understanding is Winter Solstice (for those of us in N, Summer Solstice for S)

    That is at 21 Dec 2012 11:12 UTC
    fyi, your reading this so you are not among the enraptured.
  • Steve Holdoway 2012-12-20 13:35
    Maya:
    ubersoldat:
    BTW, does any one know at what time/timezone is the world supposed to end? Because if I'm not mistaken, in New Zeland is already Dec. 21st by now.
    And do you have any proof that New Zealand still exists?


    Yup, I'm looking at it through the window as I type. Rumors of demise are grossly exaggerated.

    So far...
  • Yet Another Steve 2012-12-20 13:38
    Steven:
    I don't have any proof that New Zealand ever existed.


    of course you do... It's where the LOTR and The Hobbit were filmed... (What do you mean those weren't documentaries?)
  • Daniel 2012-12-20 14:10
    ubersoldat:
    BTW, does any one know at what time/timezone is the world supposed to end? Because if I'm not mistaken, in New Zeland is already Dec. 21st by now.

    Addendum (2012-12-20 10:25):
    New Zealand you grammar nazis.

    That would be grammar zealots.
  • nonpartisan 2012-12-20 14:47
    HowItWorks:
    fyi, your reading this so you are not among the enraptured.

    In case of rapture Community Server will still exist.
  • neminem 2012-12-20 15:00
    ubersoldat:
    BTW, does any one know at what time/timezone is the world supposed to end? Because if I'm not mistaken, in New Zeland is already Dec. 21st by now.

    I would assume, given the whole thing started as the result of (misinterpreting) the Mayan calendar, and given the Mayan empire extended from parts of Mexico through parts of Central America, which is in Central time, that if the world really were going to end at that date, it would be reasonable to use Central time for the timezone.
  • A Nerd With a View 2012-12-20 15:24
    Sounds more like Italian food all the way down... FTW!

    I just had a delicious meatball sandwich for lunch, too. Yum!
  • A Nerd With a View 2012-12-20 15:30
    TheSHEEEP:
    Okay.
    That procedure is not optimal, but... where is the WTF?


    Apparently, it's "WTF? Nothing to see here?"


    Honestly, this sounds pretty typical. A 2-3 month period after rollout to get things stable is not bad at all, and outsourcing phone support is very common.

    As a developer, I don't want my customer's customers calling me. This setup sounds ideal from my perspective.

  • somebody 2012-12-20 15:57
    a bit of investigation by one of SJ’s coworkers revealed how to get into the application's client database from the server, so they could actually check whether someone had an account, what their login information was supposed to be, and even reset passwords themselves (which until then was an unheard of amount of transparency for them).


    They got into the customer's database and nobody got fired. That's the WTF.
  • Chris 2012-12-20 16:11
    "..For SJ, and others, one question remained: "Why can't the customers call the developer directly?"..."

    Because they don't have people skills! They are not good at dealing with people! Can't you people understand that!
  • GoatCheez 2012-12-20 16:15
    Where's the WTF? This is just normal process. No WTFs here. Nothing even close to one. Very disappointing.
  • Kasper 2012-12-20 17:04
    campkev:
    If I was SJ's supervisor and overhead that conversation, I would have had a talk with him about how to speak to the customer and creating unrealistic expectations.
    Roughly the opposite happened to me once. I received a call from an unsatisfied user.

    Me receiving a call from an unsatisfied user would have made a lot of sense, if it had been a user of the system I was responsible for. However the system I was responsible for was only used in-house. This user was from outside the company, and the application he was complaining about was not supported by me, rather it was supported by a different division of the company on another continent.

    But since I did know about the application in question I tried to get him to explain what the problem was. If I was able to reproduce it and I could see the problem with my own eyes, I would be able to file an appropriate bug report.

    He could explain what steps he took. I tried the same steps on my computer, and got the result I would have expected. So I asked him what result he got and what result he was expecting. He couldn't answer either of those questions and complained that we were making things so complicated.

    At this point I had to remind him, that he was not talking with the right person, and I asked where he had gotten my number from so I could get it corrected. He told me he got it from our homepage, but the number listed there wasn't mine. The only way he could have gotten to me was by dialling my local extension. So this guy must simply have dialled a random local extension expecting whoever answered the phone would help him.

    When I finally got off the phone with him, the manager two levels up, who had overhead the conversation, said I was way too patient.
  • bar 2012-12-20 17:18
    foo:
    Remy Porter:
    I think it's safe to say that the dialogue features some artistic license.
    Well, are we supposed to comment on what's written or read the editor's mind?
    perhaps we're not supposed to comment at all. No, that couldn't be it!
  • Matt Westwood 2012-12-20 17:29
    Kasper:
    campkev:
    If I was SJ's supervisor and overhead that conversation, I would have had a talk with him about how to speak to the customer and creating unrealistic expectations.
    Roughly the opposite happened to me once. I received a call from an unsatisfied user.

    Me receiving a call from an unsatisfied user would have made a lot of sense, if it had been a user of the system I was responsible for. However the system I was responsible for was only used in-house. This user was from outside the company, and the application he was complaining about was not supported by me, rather it was supported by a different division of the company on another continent.

    But since I did know about the application in question I tried to get him to explain what the problem was. If I was able to reproduce it and I could see the problem with my own eyes, I would be able to file an appropriate bug report.

    He could explain what steps he took. I tried the same steps on my computer, and got the result I would have expected. So I asked him what result he got and what result he was expecting. He couldn't answer either of those questions and complained that we were making things so complicated.

    At this point I had to remind him, that he was not talking with the right person, and I asked where he had gotten my number from so I could get it corrected. He told me he got it from our homepage, but the number listed there wasn't mine. The only way he could have gotten to me was by dialling my local extension. So this guy must simply have dialled a random local extension expecting whoever answered the phone would help him.

    When I finally got off the phone with him, the manager two levels up, who had overhead the conversation, said I was way too patient.


    "Hey! You got real good people skills! You're wasted in that dead-end programming job! As from next week you've been transferred to our call center! You're just the guy we want to take all the awkward calls from users who don't know squat and shout at you all the time! Clear your desk and you'll be on the next plane out to Poona!"
  • Matt 2012-12-20 17:51
    So this is why everything customer support tells me is a lie. I would rather the no idea answer than being fobbed off with "a couple of days".
  • SJ 2012-12-21 00:25
    It's turtles all the way down! Recursion FTW!


    Wow, this actually got run... must've been a slow day. The writing isn't my best, and as has been pointed out, there is no real punchline, but I think this comment provides it. :-)

    As far as I was concerned at the time, TRWTF was that these customers called us hoping for their problems to be solved and we couldn't. We were in the business of solving problems for our customers; this sort of onion support contract was very atypical, and extremely half-assed. We had no idea what we were doing, next to no communication with Multitrode, and there was literally nothing that I could do about any of it except half-ass the best I could on my own and hope that someone I never met, talked to, or heard from took care of these poor schmucks. It made me rather bitter.

    As for the various professional conduct comments, yes, the transcript is closer to what went through my head than what went past my lips. But still, is it more professional to try to make up some sort of answer which is going to be a complete lie no matter what, or to say "I have no idea what's going on, I can't really help you"? I generally veered towards the former, but they're both rather bad choices.
  • Coyne 2012-12-21 01:16
    Larry:
    ... but skimming some of the dollars.


    Any financial whiz will tell you that's all that matters, right? Money making money, everything else is not real...

    Larry:
    It's turtles all the way down!


    Very apt: Not only the reference, but also the related attribute of slowness...
  • Nakke 2012-12-21 02:37
    > Client: "So... when can I expect to hear back from you?"
    > SJ: (mumbled) "No idea."

    This reply is the real WTF of this story. If you can't handle the simplest rules of customer service, go work somewhere else.
  • minime 2012-12-21 04:56
    For SJ, and others, one question remained: "Why can't the customers call the developer directly?"

    Well, SJ, simply because the developers get paid ten times as much as you and their time is just too valuable to bother them with stupid tasks as to deal with customers and the forth and back of getting the actually needed information...
  • Mary Davey 2012-12-21 05:22
    I remember the spaghetti model, then the lasagna model. After that came object orientation and encapsulation - the ravioli model. People still wonder why only the Mob can make sense of it.
  • vfxGer 2012-12-21 06:09
    This seem doesn't seem like a wtf but a more business as usual, or maybe I have become very jaded.
  • Founder 2012-12-21 06:16
    As a developer, I want to know when my software is not working. I would rather be directly in contact with the customer than try to interpret whats wrong off a support ticket.

    I don't want to be bothered every time someone can't log in, but if there's a real problem, I will contact the customer and work with them to resolve it.
  • Kasper 2012-12-21 07:16
    Matt Westwood:
    You got real good people skills!
    Nobody has ever accused me of that before.
  • Kasper 2012-12-21 07:18
    Matt:
    So this is why everything customer support tells me is a lie.
    If that was true, it would be much easier to communicate with customer support. In reality I think it is more like 50/50.
  • duis 2012-12-21 07:46
    That's how we do things in Spain.

    End customer (usually the government or another big company) pays >500,000€ to one of the big companies, they take half the money and hire a smaller company, and the process is repeated until we reach the half-dozen inexperienced programmers who get paid 1200€ (OMG that's almost two times minimum wage!) to do whatever they have to do.

    I might be exaggerating, but just a little. Our "software industry" should explode and burn ASAP.
  • anon 2012-12-21 09:23
    m:
    Did anyone else notice that SJ's name changed to CJ?

    I assume a pseudonym, like many outsourced support companies. SJ, or "Steve Johnson", is probably actually Chakrapani Jaabir.
  • Tom 2012-12-21 09:26
    Larry that is one of the best explanations of the evolution of programs I have ever heard.
  • Tom 2012-12-21 09:27
    Larry that is one of the best explanations of the evolution of programs I have ever heard.
  • Ryan 2012-12-21 11:01
    Well that was a bit anti-climatic wasn't it. Sounds like a pretty typical enterprisey/consultanty support/dev relationship to me.
  • Kuba 2012-12-21 12:00
    (i|=J7}Y&.`Gb):
    So what do you call a network of daemons that interact with each other over multiple machines. Where each daemon is 5 lines of code and 1000 lines of boiler plate and you can tell what each daemon is doing but don't know who's telling him to do what?
    An Erlang system, except that it's easy to tell where the messages come from, and the boilerplate is all in the OTP (runtime library) and the virtual machine.
  • coyo 2012-12-21 13:03
    Recursive Reclusive:
    "lasagna apps" - I like that. Good metaphor.


    Give me the spaghetti over the lasagna, honestly.
  • campkev 2012-12-21 17:50
    SJ:
    It's turtles all the way down! Recursion FTW!


    Wow, this actually got run... must've been a slow day. The writing isn't my best, and as has been pointed out, there is no real punchline, but I think this comment provides it. :-)

    As far as I was concerned at the time, TRWTF was that these customers called us hoping for their problems to be solved and we couldn't. We were in the business of solving problems for our customers; this sort of onion support contract was very atypical, and extremely half-assed. We had no idea what we were doing, next to no communication with Multitrode, and there was literally nothing that I could do about any of it except half-ass the best I could on my own and hope that someone I never met, talked to, or heard from took care of these poor schmucks. It made me rather bitter.

    As for the various professional conduct comments, yes, the transcript is closer to what went through my head than what went past my lips. But still, is it more professional to try to make up some sort of answer which is going to be a complete lie no matter what, or to say "I have no idea what's going on, I can't really help you"? I generally veered towards the former, but they're both rather bad choices.

    No, you simply tell the truth while making it sounds as good as possible. "I'm sorry, sir, but I can't provide a resolution estimate." If pressed for more, "How quickly it gets resolved will depend on the prioritization assigned to it by the development department. I have noted the urgency of the issue in the case notes." etc

    Giving a bogus time estimate is just screwing the guy who has to answer the call from the pissed off customer two days later.
  • Enduriel 2012-12-21 19:08
    Your post is so full of win, you simply win at the internet. Congratz to you.
  • katastrofa 2012-12-23 09:12
    Larry:

    Now we have onion corporations. No one really does anything. They just contract with someone else to do it. And if you peel away that shell (tearfully) you find another contact handing off responsibility but skimming some of the dollars.


    That's how you make the big bucks - by being the middleman.
  • GNU Pepper 2012-12-26 06:52
    vfxGer:
    This seem doesn't seem like a wtf but a more business as usual, or maybe I have become very jaded


    No, you're not jaded, there is no WTF here. I was a bit shocked when I got to the end and there had been no punchline or WTF.

    This is a dull story about a fairly routine support contract with one slightly difficult aspect.
  • Cbuttius 2012-12-27 06:25
    Customers should not talk to developers, the support desk is there for a reason: to handle the customers and to report bugs.

    Developers are there to fix bugs.

    Being asked for an estimated time for a bug fix though is always a WTF. It's fixed when it's fixed. I remember being called by someone on support continually being asked for "estimated time for fix" a long time ago. My answer at one point was that if he let me get on with it it would be fixed a lot quicker.

    What is good from the customer point of view is being able to remain updated as to the status of the bug, i.e.

    1. Been reported.
    2. Developers are investigating.
    3. Developer has reproduced the bug and is working on a fix.
    4. Fix has been made, tests are being carried out
    5. Fix implemented.

    An online ticket system will enable users to be able to track the bug without having to continually call. In addition it may be a "known" bug, i.e. already reported.

    Sometimes there is a known workaround solution.

    Most online support systems now take you all over several FAQs before you can raise a ticket or call anyone. Often annoying when the "contact us" page has no contact details but it does act as a filter for some of the more basic questions that get asked time and again.

    It's also useful for an online site to have "known bugs" so you can check if yours is listed before calling up.

    Bug-tracking / customer care software is not a trivial thing. A good system is a big development project on its own. Fortunately there are lot more good ones available nowadays than perhaps there used to be at the time of this incident.
  • Mark the Botcher 2012-12-27 15:44
    Remy Porter:
    I think it's safe to say that the dialogue features some artistic license.

    Ryan:
    Well that was a bit anti-climatic wasn't it. Sounds like a pretty typical enterprisey/consultanty support/dev relationship to me.

    TheSHEEEP:
    Okay.
    That procedure is not optimal, but... where is the WTF?

    I think it's safe to say... Mark bowytzed it again.
  • Randy Snicker 2012-12-29 15:16
    Larry:
    Now we have onion corporations. No one really does anything. They just contract with someone else to do it. And if you peel away that shell (tearfully) you find another contact handing off responsibility but skimming some of the dollars.


    Onion corporations beat spaghetti support every time.
  • Martin 2013-02-15 16:34
    When times get tough in the onion corporation, you fire the handful of guys at the bottom who are the only ones doing any real work. All the others are important managers: you can't fire any of *them*!