Help-Desk Horrors

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I’m not really trying to laugh at anyone’s pain — on the IT pro or the customer side — but sometimes a conversation with the help desk is just plain hilarious. Take a moment to appreciate the men and women on the front lines of trouble, and then breathe a sigh of relief if you’re not the one laboring there.

Over my years at Certification Magazine, I’ve heard the usual tales of irate callers, clueless customers and odd occurrences. Although it’s hard to remember the details of them all, the varmint in the server room was a highlight (enter “possum” into the CertScope search engine on Quoth the possum story: “Previously, I’d faced down hardware failures, power outages and blue screens of death, but my MCSE training had never prepared me for wildlife encounters.”

I was recently paging through the CertMag discussion forums ( and came across a rather robust thread sharing some tales from the help desk. Consider these urban legends for the IT world, only in this case the tall tales really are true. At least that’s what my cousin’s neighbor’s best friend’s teacher said.

Here are some highlights:



  • “We actually have a user that believes that there are aliens out there. She insists on shutting her computer down at night because this will decrease the chance of them accessing her system when she is not around.” (If that’s familiar, it’s because we used it before, but found it worth smiling about again. How silly; everyone knows aliens have administrator access.)
  • Consider this the quote of the week, from a slow-responding customer: “Yes I’m here, just give me a few minutes. My morphine is just starting to hit me.”
  • Time for some creative problem-solving. How do you explain to a user that their PC doesn’t work because their part of town has a power outage? How about explaining options to a user who wants to connect to the network, but doesn’t want to use a CAT5 cable because of a fear of an accident, or wireless because fear of what the radiation of wireless will do to his head?
  • “Me: Can you read me the HFC mac ID on the bottom of your modem? Caller: I don’t see anything like that. Just see a big M. Me: look on the other bottom side of the modem.”


I could go on about call-center conversations, but with CertMag’s focus on professional certifications and IT job roles, I don’t want to scare anyone off. In this issue, we’ve got a job-role feature on call-center managers, and I’d urge you to read that article and consider the career if that fits your talents and credentials. One thing is for sure: You’ll always have interesting stories to tell.

Tim Sosbe
Editorial Director

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