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Uber-user moment

In this reminiscence, Kevin describes "one of my most memorable calls":

Every story in our blooper series comes to us directly from a reader. For obvious reasons, some contributors choose to remain anonymous. For this story, our contributor prefers that we use only his first name.

This blooper comes to us from Kevin, a technical analyst for an application service provider that develops Web applications and employs approximately 40 people (70% of which work remotely). Two years ago, during a period of companywide growth, Kevin volunteered to assist the network service engineer. Kevin said, "This helped me take a break from development every now and again." And, as any network person knows, this throws your name into the hat for anyone to call when there is a computer-related problem. In this reminiscence, Kevin describes "one of my most memorable calls":

"While coding one day, the phone rang and, as soon as I answered, I knew it would be a long call. Every network services person has a select list of uber end users [see Kevin's amusing definition of "uber user" below] that, just from the mere sound of their voice, sends an electric charge up your spine. Well, this was one of those calls.

"The call started with the normal, 'Hello,' 'How you doing?' and 'How is your day?' small talk. Mind you, the last question should have been answered. 'Fine, until now.' The small talk was immediately followed with 'I have a problem with my printer, do you have a minute?' I figured, sure, why not? Printer problem, driver, software, unplugged (from power source or from computer) or dead printer. Fifteen minutes, tops.

"I proceeded with the fundamental questions:
Q: Is the printer plugged in, and is it getting power?
A: Yes. The power light is on.

Q: Is the printer cable plugged into the computer and the printer, and is it tight? Check the screws and the clips.
A: Yes, they are as tight as I can get them.

Q: Is the computer set up? Can you see it as a usable printer, and is it your default printer?
A: How do I check that?

(Well, after some instruction, the printer was in fact set up as the default printer.)

Q: Has anything changed with your computer and/or printer since yesterday when it worked?
A: No.

Q: You haven't installed or uninstalled anything since yesterday?
A: No.

"After going through this, I got the assistance of the network service engineer. I described the problem, what was tried, etc. From there, we walked the virtual user through uninstalling the printer drivers and corresponding software and reinstalling it again, with no luck. We had the user plug into another printer (he had two) and it worked just fine. So we had the user swap printer cables. Still no luck.

"So after two hours of instruction from both of us (that we could have been charging customers for), we decided that our time was more valuable than a new printer. We told the user to get approval to replace the printer.

"The next day, the user sends an e-mail to management, the network engineer and me, stating that he saved the company $400 because he found his printer problem and that no one else could. So he returned the $400 printer he had purchased the day before.

"He failed to mention, when he was checking and swapping the printer cables, that he had his Jazz drive set up between the computer and the printer and that it wasn't powered on. But when he tested his system with his own printer, it was directly connected. Of course, at the time we were charging $200 per hour for our services, so for the two of us to attempt to troubleshoot his problem was at least $800 (not counting his time). So I ask, what money was saved?"

Kevin still jokes with this uber user when he comes to the office -- they both still work there, although Kevin says he has had fewer "ID-10-T moments" since then.
Kevin also describes some other entertaining uber-user issues:

  1. Kicking the cord and claiming the need for a new system (then plugging it in and finding it works fine).
  2. Concluding that something is wrong with the operating system because it won't start (while there is a floppy disk in the drive).
  3. Overloading a power strip and wondering why the printer and system turned off by themselves when the power strip /tripped/ (with sparks coming from it).
  4. Not plugging everything back in after moving the computer and wondering why they couldn't get into their /H:/ drive (which is on the network).
  5. Using whiteout to hide the time when the system time is incorrect. (This is also seen done with electrical tape; I had previously thought that was only for the oil light in the car.)

"Thanks for giving me a place to vent and see others having issues with their uber users." - Kevin

Uber user: Kevin defines 'uber user' this way: "A word used among technical folk. It's nicer than saying 'idiot user' or 'ID-10-T user.' (If you ever want to joke with someone that has to fill out some form that has some glorified alphanumeric name, such as 1040-EZ, tell them to go fill out an ID-10-T form See how long it takes them to get it.)"

This was last published in July 2003

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