Monday, December 17, 2007

Hell is for Help Desk, Part 2

Back in 1990, when I was still in college, I worked in the Electronics Department of Sam's Club. In addition to hawking personal computers, TVs, VCRs, camcorders, etc., I was responsible for providing technical support.

So one day, while I was enjoying my nice, relaxing 20 minute lunch break*, I heard the call on the PA: "Hardlines, customer needs technical assistance on Line 2. Customer needs technical assistance on Line 2." So I wolfed down the rest of my Twinkie and picked up the call.

The customer in question was a woman who was, I'm guessing, roughly the same age as moveable type. The following is the conversation I had with her, verbatim. (Or at least as verbatim as I can recall 17 years after the fact.)

Me: This is Chris. How can I help you?
Her: Chris, my son bought me a VCR for my birthday last week and he set it up to record my stories.
Me: Uh huh...
Her: But somebody took the tape out of it yesterday, and now I'm afraid it's going to turn on when my stories start and break because there's not a tape in it.
Me: Oh, that won't happen. It may flash a message telling you to insert a tape, but it won't break the VCR.
Her: Well, I don't want it to try and record without a tape.
Me: It won't. It's smart enough to know there's no tape.
Her: I just want to stop it from recording.
Me: Okay. Easiest thing to do is just make sure the VCR is turned on. It won't do any automatic recording if you have it turned on.
Her: But can't I just go in and delete all that stuff he put in there?
Me: Sure. I can walk you through that.
Her: Good. I just hate for it get broken. I just got it last week.
Me: Right. Okay, first thing you need to do is press the Menu button on your remote.
Her: Menu button?
Me: Yes. Should be in the upper left corner of the remote, near the power button.
Her: Okay.
Me: Okay, that should bring up a menu on your TV screen. You see it?
Her: Yes.
Me: Okay, now press the menu button again until you've highlighted Program Review.
Her: Okay.
Me: Now, press Select.
Her: Okay.
Me: Okay, you should now see a list of all the stuff your VCR is recording. Do you see it?
Her: What?
Me: You should see a list of dates and times. That's what your son entered to tell the VCR to record your shows.
Her: I don't see it.
Me: Okay, what do you see?
Her: Just the TV. The news is on.
Me: Okay, let's try it again. Press the Menu button.
Her: Okay.
Me: Okay, do you see the menu on your TV screen?
Her: Yes.
Me: Okay, press the Menu button until you've highlighted Program Review.
Her: Program Review?
Me: Right. Second item on the list. Once you've got it highlighted, press Select.
Her: Okay.
Me: Good. Now, do you see a list of programs?
Her: Um, yes?
Me: Okay, press the Cancel button. Should be close to the Select button.
Her: Okay.
Me: Now you should see a message telling you to press Cancel again to delete the selected program.
Her: What?
Me: Do you see a message that says "Press Cancel again to delete the selected program?"
Her: No.
Me: Do you see anything at all?
Her: Just the TV. The news is still on.
Me: Okay, let's try again. Your TV is on, right?
Her: Yes. The news is on.
Me: And your VCR is on?
Her: I think so. How can I tell?
Me: The numbers on the front are brighter when it's on.
Her: Hang on... yes, it's on.
Me: And the VCR is connected to the TV?
Her: Yes.
Me: All right. Let's give it another try. Press the Menu button and it should bring up a menu on your TV screen.
Her: Okay.
Me: Is there a menu on your TV screen right now?
Her: No.
Me: Anything on your screen besides the news?
Her: It's a commercial right now.
Me: Anything besides that?
Her: No.
Me: Let's make sure you're pressing the right button. It's the Menu button, in the upper left corner of your remote, just under the red power button.
Her: What?
Me: The button that's labeled Menu. It's in the upper left corner of your remote, just under the red button.
Her: The remote?
Me: Yes.
Her: Hang on. Let me go get it.

To this day, I still have no idea what the hell she'd been mashing for the past 20 minutes, or what she was looking at when she told me she could see the menu. When she finally came back with the remote, we tried once again to delete the programs, but by this point I had given up any hope of actually succeeding. After our fifth or sixth attempt, I finally moved on to Plan B. I had her unplug her VCR and told her to leave it unplugged for four hours (well past the end of my shift). I told her when she plugged it back in, the programs should be gone. And if she needed help setting the clock, she could call back and *somebody* would walk her through it.

*The management style at Sam's Club was passive-aggressive, to say the least. My manager would constantly chide me for the number of customers who went unhelped when I was at lunch or on my break. So I'd ask him if he wanted me to skip my breaks, and he'd say that wasn't allowed and that I should always clock out. In effect, what he wanted me to do was clock out, but remain on the floor and keep on working. My manager sucked and I hope he's dead now.


Professor said...

This is hilarious. I love it! And I'm afraid there's a story about me out there when I was trying to install Microsoft Office... um, well... anyway... (And death to the manager at a Sam's Club? OOOOO harsh!)

Farrago said...

Irb, I checked. The manager is now the national vice president of sales at Nintendo USA. He's hit a bit of a rough patch lately and had to downgrade from his Bentley GT Convertible to a Bentley Flying Spur.

Poor guy.

Irb said...

Professor: Microsoft Help Desk sucks titanic monkey wang. I'd rather fill Katheryn Hepburn up with black coffee and let her shave my ass with a bolo knife than ever place another call to Microsoft.

Farrago: Remember that news story a couple years back where Wal-mart was locking its employees in the store overnight? I remember hearing that and thinking, "Oh, wow. Mike must still be with the company."