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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Post for Mirty

My kids are home for the summer, and that can mean only one thing:

I've become tech support for the home network.

Yes, I have to work all day and also field frantic calls from home:

"The network is down!"

"The internet doesn't work!"

"Man overboard!"

"Someone stole my underwear!" (as D2 would say: "You people have some serious problems!")

Yesterday, the internet did indeed go down, so no one could check email, visit Homestarrunner.com, or, most importantly, frag random strangers online with Call of Duty.

I eventually received a call from Perel telling me that we had the little icon that said "Limited or no connectivity" in the tray on all the XP computers, and none of them would load up the internet. Although, apparently, the computers could interface with each other (so Son3 could have his village obliterated by D2).

I ran her through the steps I usually take when this happens, which to be honest, is just unplugging the rooter/rowter from the wall and then plugging it in again and watching all the lights freak out. I've learned the professionals call this "power cycling the router." I call it "shock therapy." Anyway it usually works.

It didn't.

So then I had her do a whole bunch of other things including checking the phone lines and "power cycling" the DSL modem. To no avail. I was beginning to understand the frustration that real tech support people must have trying to help people over the phone. We never got to the point of, "Mam, do you still have the original box the computer came in? Pack it up and ship it back and never buy another one again," but I really felt that if I had been able to man-handle the beast myself I could have fixed it.

So I came home and everyone was getting internet withdrawal so I went downstairs to work my magic on the router before dinner. No dice. I disconnected one computer from the network and plugged it into the DSL modem. Still no dice. "Aha!" I said. Everybody turned around. "Never mind, I'm talking to myself." "Aha!" I thought. "The DSL is out."

I called SBC and eventually got on the phone with "Nancy" who was in "The United States" and we went through her script. She complimented me on allowing her to skip half of the script by doing all that troubleshooting on my own. Then she had me create a new profile on my computer and promptly connected me to the internet.

"I hope this has resolved your problem, please remember to fill out your satisfaction survey--"

"Hey hey woah wait!!" I yelled (everybody turned around). What did you do?

"You cannot connect directly to the modem. You need a protocol with your user name and password. That is why it didn't let you on. I hope this has resolved--"

"Ohhhh, I see, but it doesn't explain why it didn't work from the network. It was working fine last night, and all of the sudden it stopped."

At this point, she attempted to sell me a $49.99 yearly network service package that she assured me would fix up my home network woes. I told her that I didn't need that, I had had the network up and running for 3 years now. I just needed to know what had changed.

She must have taken some pity on me at this point, because she let me in on a little inside information.

"The computers and the routers are all electrical devices."

Deep, I thought.

"So sometimes they accumulate a static charge, that needs to be released by depowering them and then repowering them."

"You mean 'power cycling'?" I quickly asked.


Feeling a bit like Kirk talking to Spock (look, Spock had all the answers. He was just spoon-feeding Kirk. I don't know why he needed Kirk in the first place...) I said, "But I just did that."

"Yes, but sometimes the internal settings on the router get reset to their defaults."

"So...my password is gone?"

"I'm not permitted to respond in this area."

At this point the light bulb went on over my head and I tried very hard to thank her and hang up, but she needed desperately to finish the script (which included repeated inquiries of "And did this resolve the matter for you adequately?" and "Is there anything else I can help you with?").

Eventually I got her off the phone and called up my router's setting page and sure enough, everything was set to factory defaults. A little reentering of passwords and WEP encryption and we were back to killing strangers on the internet.


Anonymous said...

I'm such a geek. I actually enjoyed this post (and spotted the problem before you finished). :)


Mirty said...

When all the computers go belly up at once, you just know it's "that damned router." (All routers are damned. Sad but true.) But you are clearly a genius of wireless networking. We hail you, as we should! ;)

My home has CAT5 cables running through the ceiling - wired, not wireless - due to my husband's firm opposition to having any smidgen of data broadcast down the driveway to our neighbors. The ones who raise goats and chickens. Sitting on their front porch with a computer, these yokels would cleverly decrypt our signals and read the "deep thoughts" we IM to each other all day: "There's no ice in the icemaker" and "Did you get the Diet Coke?"

PsychoToddler said...

We actually CAN get internet access from the neighbors across the street. It comes up as an option on my wife's computer when our own access is out. I've told them to encrypt their network, but they don't listen. I should probably just be neighborly and go over there and set it up for them.

But then I just know they'd be calling me at work all the time when the darn thing goes out...

Yes, Mirty, I am a genius, thank you for acknowleging me.

Wickwire said...

I hate it when they feel the need to finish the script. You and your Captain Kirk. Although that was a good one.

Jack's Shack said...

I still like Kirk better than Picard. Not that it matters.

Doctor Bean said...

Thank you for reading this comment. We hope you found it amusing. To help us acomodate your future posts with comments your readers may enjoy, please answer the following brief questions.

(1) You would best describe this comment as
a. extremely funny
b. sligltly funny
c. neither serious nor funny
d. slightly serious
e. the worst waste of my time in weeks

(2) You would best describe the connection between this comment and the original post as
a. precisely on topic
b. somewhat tangential
c. related to the topic like Al Sharpton is related to Marcel Marceau
d. what post?

(3) You think this comment affects other readers by
a. entertaining them
b. encouraging further comments
c. inspiring posts on other blogs
d. inducing crampy abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting

Thank you, sir or madam. Have a pleasant morning or day or evening!

PsychoToddler said...


If you're like the SBC satisfaction survey I was just sent, whenever you enter a negative rating, you will be asked WHY:

"You answered question 1 as e)the worst waste of my time in weeks.

Please explain fully."

Ralphie said...

Sometimes SBC will kick me out for some random reason and I just have to log onto the router and re-enter my SBC password (as opposed to all of the router settings). But of course I usually don't remember this until my wife has nearly killed me.

PsychoToddler said...

Actually the main reason I wrote this was to remind myself (or others) what to do next time this happens.

parcequilfaut said...

Don't get too mad at the CSRs for insisting on finishing their scripts. I work call center and if you don't do the last-minute things like offering additional assistance, you can lose your job. With all-call-recording pretty much required now for legal reasons, we can get fired for the tiniest detail (back when they listened to calls in real time, they didn't grade as harshly because they had to give us our results at end of call, but now they listen to graded calls 4-5 times to make sure that every tiny bit of individual response to customer needs gets punished) and improperly ending the call (not using corporate name in last sentence, not offering additional assistance, not ensuring that the customer has no additional ?s, etc.) has been an autofail at every call center I've ever worked at, unless the customer hangs up on you. And when that happens, you feel like crap anyway.

I know it's obnoxious. If you don't like it, let the companies know...not the CSRs. Believe me, we'd be happy to just let y'all go when y'all are ready, if it didn't mean our jobs. Ask to speak to someone in Quality Assurance or closest equivalent. Tell them the CSR did great, but the end of call crap means we're both wasting our time. Their research tells them that those things are a good idea, but they care what y'all think, not what we think. Believe it.

PsychoToddler said...


I'm curious about your take on the outsourcing of techsupport to India. Both of my recent tech support encounters (SBC and Dell) were handled by people in India (if I couldn't figure it out from the accent and the time delay, the survey they sent me afterwards clinched it).

To be honest, script issues aside, both were the most effective encounters I'd had with tech support, and both times I got my problems resolved.

Are you worried that your job will be outsourced?

parcequilfaut said...

Nope. I'm in in-call sales and customer service, not tech support, and my company isn't likely to outsource us; they prefer to set us up to work from home, which keeps their overhead very low, and have us do flex work where we are crosstrained to do both jobs depending on call volume on any given day. Sales jobs aren't usually outsourced because of real or customer-perceived security issues, and the practice is basically only cost-effective if you have a company the size of Dell, where there's no cross-training at all, even between types of sales. We're a much smaller subsidiary of a larger media company, and if outsourcing was in the cards any time soon, they wouldn't be training us to handle the parent company's online customer service for all their sales sites, I don't think.

When I worked briefly for Dell during one holiday season, I had the same positive experiences with the outsource workers; the Indian call center did some internal support on second shift around the holidays, and they were far more likely to get things done quickly and efficiently. But the call scripting QA stuff goes across departments, affecting tech support, CSRs, and sales reps equally, and it's been equally draconian at every call center I've ever worked.

I'm about half-sick of the industry, and am looking to get out. The job is basically thankless no matter what particular company you're working for (there's high turn-over in every call center, and my rate of working in 3 of the major 7 local call centers in five years is incredibly low), and I'm tired of being a professional verbal punching bag. Even my doctor is encouraging me to find something else, because he's worried about my stress tests, which have been dangerously high for two years or more and which he attributes in large part on the nature of my work (he says he's seeing an endemic of call-center workers coming in with serious stress issues leading to anxiety and depression). I know that psychiatry and therapy aren't your medical specialty, but have you seen similar issues?

I'm hoping (G-d willing) to get my old job in the court system back sometime soon, maybe keeping the CSR/sales stuff as a very part-time sideline so I can start paying off my student loan instead of living hand-to-mouth and commission check to commission check. But the fear of outsourcing has probably influenced the decision to stop relying on my experience in that area as a future reliable source of income. State job is definitely more secure, and then there's a bailiff to handle the people that think you get paid to be cursed and belittled. :)

PsychoToddler said...

I don't see that many people in call-related industry here--just not the nature of our local workforce.

But I hear that it is an incredibly stressful occupation. You get chewed-up and spit out alot.

I'm also in a business where I take some verbal abuse. People complain to me about a lot of things that are not under my control, whether it's scheduling, or hospital staff, or the cost of their meds, or their insurance companies.

If it helps them feel better by unloading, I'm happy to help. But it gets old after a while.

parcequilfaut said...

Being in the industry has made me a nicer person when I'm being a consumer...I'm much more patient with f2f salespeople, cashiers, etc. (And I do not hesitate anymore to call people on being buttheaded in public, like the lady we shamed out of Wal-Mart the other day after she started smacking a clearly out of order usacan unit, then berated the cashier for not knowing how to fix the uscan unit.)

I don't think I have a habit of complaining to doctors about stuff outside of their control. I'll make sure I never do it again if I ever did.

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